Heinrich Schmid


1 | Theology in General

The Introduction treats:

1. Theology in general.

2. The Subject of Theology, Religion.

3. The Source of Theology, Revelation in general (with an appendix, on the Use of Reason in Theology).

4. The Holy Scriptures, in which Revelation is contained.

5. The Articles of Faith, which comprise the contents of the Holy Scriptures.

And of the Symbolical Books, which contain the Confession of the Church.

Chapter I | Theology in General

2 | Meaning of the terms Natural and Revealed

By Theology we understand, according to the etymology of the term, the knowledge or doctrine of God and of divine things. [1] Such a knowledge we gain, partly in a natural way, by the use of reason alone, partly in a supernatural way, by special revelation; and hence Theology is divided into Natural and Revealed. [2] In both cases, however, Theology is not a mere outward knowledge, by which the understanding alone is enriched, but is of such a nature as to make man truly wise, and show him the way in which he can be saved; hence Theology, strictly so-called, must be defined: “An eminently practical science, teaching from the revealed Word of God all things which sinful man, who is to be saved, needs, in order to attain true faith in Christ and holiness of life.” [3] (Hollazius 1.) If, however, we leave out of view the influence which Theology exerts upon man, and consider only its subject-matter, Theology may be defined as the doctrine concerning God and all religious truths, the province of which is to instruct men concerning the means by which they can be saved. “Theology, viewed as a system and in a secondary sense, is the doctrine concerning God, which teaches man, from the divine Word, as to the true method of worshipping God in Christ, unto eternal life.” (Hollazius 7.) [4]

[1] Quenstedt (I, 1); “Theology, if you consider the force and usage of the word, is nothing else than λο̈́γυς περἱ τοῦ θἕοῦ καἰ περἰ τῶν θείων, what is said about God and divine things, as πνευματολογία is what is said about spirits, and ἅστρολογία, what is said about the stars.”

The word is sometimes employed in a wider and sometimes in a narrower sense. The different significations are thus stated by Hollazius (3): “The word Theology is employed in a fourfold sense; (a) most comprehensively, for every doctrine concerning God, whether true or mixed with error; (b) comprehensively, for true Theology, either in itself considered, or as communicated; either of men on earth or in heaven; either natural or revealed; (c) specially, of revealed Theology, that guides mortal man to eternal life; (d) most specifically, of the doctrine concerning the one and triune God,”

In all these significations, reference is had merely to the Theology of the creature, i.e., of the knowledge which creatures have of God, and not to that which God has of himself. Theologians distinguish also between these, and call the former theologia ε̈κτυπος (derived Theology), and the latter theologia ἁρχέτυπος (original Theology), by which they design to express that our knowledge of God, although derived and not original, is, nevertheless, absolutely correct, because it is derived from God, and is only the faithful copy of his own knowledge. Hollazius (3 and 4): “Archetypal Theology is the knowledge which God has of himself, and which in him is the model of another Theology, which is communicated to intelligent creatures. Ectypal Theology is the science of God and divine things communicated to intelligent creatures by God after the model of his own Theology, as a pattern. We prove our assertion; (1.) Man was made complete, in the image of God. But the image of God consisted in a knowledge of God conformed to the divine wisdom. Therefore its archetype was the infinite wisdom of God. (2.) Fallen man “is renewed in knowledge after the image of God,” Colossians 3:10. Therefore his prototype is the divine self-knowledge. For the knowledge of God and of divine things, which divine revelation communicates to the minds of men, is called by the Apostle knowledge after the image of God, for no other reason than because it is expressed in imitation of the knowledge which God has of himself and of all divine things.” Considered in its relation to Christ: “Archetypal Theology belongs to Christ essentially, and through his nature, inasmuch as he is eternal God; it belongs to him, as to his human nature, personally, and through the communicatio idiomatum, by virtue of the personal union.” Concerning Ectypal Theology, Quenstedt further adds (I, 5): “We have one Ectypal Theology in Christ, viewed as to his human nature, another in angels, and a third in men. (I. 6.) The Ectypal Theology of mere (ψιλῶν) men is either that of the Way, i.e., of this life, viz., of mortals, or that of the Home [cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8], i.e., of the other and the happy life, viz., of the finally saved. The Theology of the Way, or of mortals, is twofold, viz., that before and that after the fall. That which describes man before the fall, in the state of integrity, is called also the paradisaical, from the place in which man was placed.” But, in reference to all these divisions, Baier remarks (4): “As the usus loquendi does not allow us to call either God, or Christ, or men in heaven, or angels, theologians, it readily appears that that meaning must here be rejected, which obtains elsewhere, when we add to the definition, ‘the theology of the way.’

[2] Hollazius (6): “The Theology of the way is twofold, natural and revealed (supernatural). The former is that according to which God is known both by innate ideas, and by the inspection of created things. The latter is the knowledge of God and of divine things, which God communicates to man upon earth, either by immediate revelation or inspiration (to prophets and apostles), or by mediate revelation or the divine Word, committed to writing.”

[3] Still more frequently Theology is called a practical discipline (habitus practicus). As it appeared to the theological writers that the expression knowledge gave too much prominence to the mere acquaintance with the subjects concerned, they therefore sought a definition in which it should be distinctly expressed that by Theology there was meant a divinely wrought knowledge, such as urged its possessor to put to practice what he learned.

Quenstedt (I, 11): “We are here speaking of Theology, not as to what it signifies in a book, but as to what it is, subjectively in the mind.”

Gerhard thus defines (II, 13): “Theology, viewed as a discipline and concretely, is a divinely given discipline, bestowed upon man by the Holy Spirit through the Word, whereby he is not only instructed in the knowledge of divine mysteries, by the illumination of the mind, so that what he understands produces a salutary effect upon the feelings of his heart and the actions of his life, but so that he is also rendered ready and expert in informing others concerning these divine mysteries and the way of salvation, and in vindicating heavenly truth from the aspersions of its foes; so that men, resplendent with true faith and good works, are introduced into the kingdom of heaven.”

Quenstedt (I, 16): “A distinction is made between theoretical sciences, which consist wholly in the mere contemplation of the truth, and practical sciences, which, indeed, require a knowledge of whatever is to be done, but which do not end in this, nor have it as their aim, but which lead to practice and action. We think that Theology is to be numbered, not with the theoretical, but with the practical sciences.”

Hollazius (8) thus states the reasons for this distinction: “(1) Because the immediate aim of Theology is true faith in Christ, the operation (ἐνέργεια) of which is twofold, viz.: internal, which embraces Christ with his benefits, and external, which produces good works, the fruit of righteousness. The ultimate end of Theology is eternal happiness, which consists not only in the intuitive knowledge of God, but also in the enjoyment of God. (2) Because Theology treats of man, not theoretically, as the subject of its description, as certain qualities are ascribed to man in physiology, but as the subject of its operation, or how he, as a sinner, is to be freed from his misery and transferred into a state of blessedness … (3) Because Paul himself defines Theology to be ‘the knowledge of the truth which is after godliness.’ Titus 1:1.” [R. V.]

[4] Quenstedt (I, 11): “The term Theology is taken either essentially, absolutely, and as a mental habitude, for the knowledge which the mind holds and to which it clings, or in as far as it is a habit of the human mind; or accidentally, relatively, systematically, in so far as it is the doctrine or branch of learning which is taught, and learned, or contained in books. The former is the primary, the latter the secondary application of the term.”

As to the subject-matter of Theology, systematically considered, out of which it is drawn, Hollazius (11) states: “It consists of theological truth, i.e., of facts or conclusions known or deduced from the supernatural revelation of God.” In regard to the subject-matter concerning which it treats: “Theology in general, discusses God and divine things, in so far as they have been truly revealed through the divine Word to sinful man, to be believed and practiced. Specifically, it teaches by what ways and means mortal man, corrupted by sin, is to be introduced into eternal life.”

Theology is divided, according to Koenig (3) into: “Catechetical, or simple, such as is required of all Christians, and acroamatic or more accurate, which is the province of the learned and ministers of the Word. The latter is divided, according to the method of treating it, into exegetical, which is employed in the exhibition of the sacred text; didactic, strictly so-called, which discusses theological subjects in order and systematically; polemic, which treats of theological controversies; homiletic, which teaches the method of preaching to the people; casuistic, which solves doubtful cases of conscience; Theology of ecclesiastical government, which treats of church discipline, visitations, synods, etc., etc.”

In correspondence with these two definitions of Theology, we have (Hollazius 13 seq.): “The Theologian properly and strictly so-called; a regenerated man, firmly believing in the divine Word, that reveals the mysteries of faith, adhering to it with unshaken confidence, apt in teaching others and confuting opponents. A Theologian, in the general sense of the term, is a man well instructed in the department of Theology, whereby he is rendered prompt in expounding and defending heavenly truth. The Theologian in a wider sense is one who rightly discharges the office of a Theologian by expounding, confirming, and defending theological truths, although he be destitute of sincere holiness of disposition.” The “theological knowledge of a truly regenerated and renewed man” is described as “spiritual knowledge, by which the literal sense of the Biblical language is applied according to the use designed by the Holy Spirit, and produces spiritual and godly emotions of the heart;” the “knowledge of an unregenerate Theologian,” on the other hand as “a merely literal knowledge, which is applied to the investigation, developopment, and apprehension [of the sense of Scripture], and not to the use designed by the Holy Spirit.” Concerning this spiritual knowledge, we have the remark: “Far be it from us that we should assert, with the fanatics, that spiritual theological knowledge is derived either from the immediate illumination of the Holy Spirit, or from the internal light or mnemonic power of the soul, through introversion into the hidden recesses of the soul, or that it comprehends only the mystical sense! We know that the literal sense (logically so-called) of the Biblical language is primarily and immediately set forth in the words inspired (θεοπνεὑστοις) by the Holy Spirit.” Literal theological knowledge is, moreover, distinguished as “external, by which one treats the words of Scripture, in so far as they are analogous to human words, according to the rules of grammar and rhetoric, and searches out and extracts some meaning from them; and as internal, by which one properly estimates the words of Scripture as the truly divine receptacles (δοχεῖα) or vehicles of the mysteries of the faith, and adopts, as by common consent, their true literal sense, conformed to the mind of the Holy Spirit.” And, with an allusion to Quenstedt, he adds: “To understand the internal literal sense, which is spiritual and divine, the illumination of the Holy Spirit is needed; the illumination may be imperfect, of which the unregenerate are capable, or perfect, such as the regenerate enjoy.” This internal, literal knowledge is, therefore, not natural or carnal, but supernatural. “It is supernatural (a) by virtue of its origin, for it is derived from the light of supernatural revelation; (b) by virtue of its object, … for the mysteries of the faith are the object of literal knowledge (But what is a mystery other than a doctrine transcending the grasp of unaided reason?) (c) in view of the impotence of the intellectual subject, 1 Corinthians 2:14; (d) on account of the intimate connection between the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. For, if the literal internal knowledge of believers be not supernatural, the Holy Spirit is not perpetually and inseparably united with the Holy Scriptures. But the Holy Spirit is perpetually and inseparably united with the Holy Scriptures; therefore,” etc.

Chapter II | The General Subject of Theology, viz., Religion

3 | Religion, True and False

The subject of Theology is accordingly, Religion. [1] Religion is the way and manner in which God is worshipped. That is a false religion in which God is worshipped in a manner that does not accord with his nature and will; that is the true and right religion in which this is done in the manner which he regards as right and which he prescribes, [2] so that hereby man, estranged from God, is brought back again to him, and secures his salvation. This proper manner is taught in the Holy Scriptures; and thus the true religion, more accurately defined, is that in which God is worshipped in the manner therein prescribed, and therefore the Christian Religion is the true one. [3] The proper manner of worshipping God must, accordingly, first of all, manifest itself in that disposition of soul towards God which is agreeable to him, and secondly, in love toward our neighbor and the practice of all the virtues enjoined by God. [4] In the widest sense, therefore, Religion embraces all that God commands to be believed and to be done. [5]

[1] Hollazius (32): “Some suppose the term Religion to be derived from religando (Lactantius), others from relegendo (Cicero). According to the former derivation, religion signifies the obligation rightly to worship God, or that which imposes upon man obligations and duties. According to the latter etymology, religion is diligent attention to those things which pertain to the worship of God. The former derivation is more generally received.”—Quenstedt. “Synonymous are θρήσκέια, James 1:26; ἐυσέβεια, 1 Timothy 4:8; λογικὴ λατρεία, Romans 12:1.”

[2] Quenstedt (I, 19): “The Christian religion is the method of worshipping God prescribed in the Word, by which man, separated from God by sin, is led back to God, through faith in Jesus Christ (who is both God and man), so that he is reunited with God, and enjoys him eternally.”

Hollazius (33): “Religion, improperly speaking, signifies the false, properly speaking, the true method of worshipping God.”

Hollazius (60): “As opposed to the true Religion, we have not only false religion, but also atheism or irreligion. A false religion is that in which either false gods are worshipped, or the true God is improperly worshipped. Irreligion is that in which impious men regard all religion with contempt, so that, denying the providence and punitive justice of God, they boldly and recklessly do as they please.”

[3] Hollazius (34): “The true Religion is that which is conformed to the Divine Word.”

The characteristics of the true Religion are thus described by Quenstedt (I, 20):

“(1) Divine Sublimity. For its origin is divine, and it has been made known from heaven. It is of divine revelation, not of human invention.

(2) Unity. As there is one truth, so also there is but one way of coming unto God, John 14:6; Acts 10:43; 4:12; Ephesians 4:5-6.

(3) Truth. It is most true, with respect to its form, which consists in agreement and conformity with God’s will, revealed in the word of truth; or because it rests only on the word of God, which is truth, John 16:11.

(4) Absolute perfection. For it perfectly and sufficiently contains all things needful to faith and to Christian life.

(5) Holiness. For it teaches the knowledge of a holy God, the cultivation of a holy life, it gives holy precepts, it reveals holy mysteries; it neither teaches nor commands what is false, absurd, godless, or base.

(6) Necessity. For if man is to be led to God there must be a way whereby he may be thus led.

(7) Utility. It leads to God, opens heaven, consoles the conscience, and shows the way to true godliness.

(8) Antiquity. For it began immediately after the fall of the first man.

(9) Invincibility. For though attacked, it never succumbs, partly because of its immovable truth, which cannot be conquered, partly because of the constancy and faith of its professors, whom it renders unmoved or invincible.

(10) Perpetuity. Never as long as the earth exists, and men remain, will it perish; for it is upheld from destruction by Divine Providence.

(11) Spontaneity, i.e., it does not aim at being forced upon men, but seeks to be taught, constraining only a free assent.

(12) Variety of condition. Subject to various persecutions, it is obscured, but not extinguished; it is oppressed, but not suppressed.

(13) Unparalleled efficacy in manifesting the glory of God, tranquillizing the conscience, converting men, promoting godliness, promising a happy death.”

That the Christian religion is the true one is proved by Calovius 1:152 sqq.:

“(1) From the requisites of a true religion. A religion which is true and has proceeded from God, must have these elements: (a) Not to teach false, corrupt or absurd things, (b) Not to be new but to have been instituted for communicating salvation, as long as there have been men. (c) Not to have perished or hereafter to perish, (d) Not to leave men in their former errors, much less to sink them the more deeply, but to lead them to holiness. All these pertain to no other than the Christian religion; since every other religion teaches false, absurd, base things, has originated since men, etc.

(2) From the truth of Scripture. For since the Christian religion is comprised in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, its truth will be proved from the truth of these Scriptures, as elsewhere set forth.

(3) From the religion of the Hebrews. For the religion of the Christians and of the ancient patriarchs is one and the same.

(4) From the supreme dignity of its rewards. For the excellence of the Christian religion is displayed from the fact that in all ages and nations, none can be produced either more excellent in its rewards, more perfect in its precepts, more sublime in its mysteries or more admirable in the method in which it is to be propagated. For while among the Greeks some entertained the hope of life after the end of the present life, nevertheless they spoke with great hesitancy concerning it (Socrates in Plato’s Phædo, Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations, Seneca’s Epistles). Philosophers were divided into diverse opinions concerning the end of man, some making virtue the reward, others contending that pleasure is the highest good; the Christian religion, however, offers the true knowledge of this end, promising, after this life, a happy existence not only for the soul, but also for the body; nor are the joys it promises vile, as the banquets for which the Jews hope, or the licentious indulgence which Mohammedans expect, but true, solid, perennial. Lactantius has well said (Institutes, 1. iii., cap. xii.): ‘Virtue is not happy of itself, since all its force is expended in the endurance of evil.’

(5) From the supreme holiness of its precepts. The sacred rites of the heathen, almost throughout the whole world, were full of cruelty. The mysteries of Ceres and Bacchus abounded in obscenity. How profane and unworthy of God Mohammedanism, the Koran can testify. The Christian religion requires an absolutely holy worship of God, holy trust in Him, and all that is most worthy of God; and of like nature are the duties towards our neighbor which it enjoins. Mohammedanism was born in war, breathes nothing but war, is propagated everywhere by war, while Christianity prohibits every injury, and wishes good to all. Many of the most eminent Greek philosophers praised a community of women, and even did not disapprove of sodomy, which was commended by the example of the gods. But the Christian religion teaches marriage must be held most holy. In short, nothing excellent can be found in any nation which is not taught in the Christian religion with still greater purity, and under sanction of divine authority, as modesty, temperance, prudence, the duties of magistrates and subjects, of parents and children, of husbands and wives, the avoidance of sin, etc.; so that the sum of all its precepts is, to love God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves.

(6) From the sublimity of its mysteries. For whatever mystery other religions seem to have, easily brings to those better informed the suspicion of vanity. Only the mysteries of the Christian religion are entirely placed beyond the reach of man’s understanding, and can be convicted of no falsity or superstition.

(7) From the propagation of the Christian religion. For there is no religion so widely diffused. If Paganism be mentioned, you mention one name, but not one religion.

(8) From the mode of its propagation. For the Christian religion made such progress, not by violence or arms, or the example of kings and the powerful. The first teachers of Christianity were of humble rank, and yet, through their agency, within thirty years it not only pervaded all parts of the Roman Empire, but was extended to the Parthians and inhabitants of India, Rom. 15:19. Nor only in the beginning, but for about three centuries it was advanced without any threats, but even with the power of the empire arrayed against it, so that before Constantine professed Christianity it had conquered almost the greater part of the Roman world. Nor was this done by any elaborate preparation, whether of eloquence or the various arts whereby philosophers rendered themselves commendable to the Gentiles.

(9) From the multitude of its miracles. For as the faith of the Old Testament was attested by most remarkable miracles, both at other times and especially on the departure from Egypt and the entrance into Canaan, whereby its fame was spread abroad among the Gentiles, so far more numerous and more illustrious miracles proclaim the authority of the New Testament.

(10) From the magnanimity of its martyrs.

(11) From the testimony of other religions. ‘The Jews,’ says Augustine (De Civitate Dei, l. xviii., c. 45), ‘are dispersed throughout the earth, and by their scriptures give a testimony that we have not invented the prophecies concerning Christ. The Mohammedans acknowledge Christ as the greatest prophet; and among the heathen many things occur corroborating its testimony in historical matters.’

(12) From the efficacy and power of Christian doctrine, in arousing, swaying, and soothing souls, attested not only by Scripture but by innumerable examples of those converted to faith in Christ.”

[4] Quenstedt (I, 20): “The Christian religion may be viewed either μερικῶς (in part), or ὁλικῶς (as a whole). Taken in the former sense it signifies, first and principally, the immediate worship of God, viz, εὑσέβεια, or the piety which has regard to the worship of God according to the first table of the law; secondarily, it signifies those other duties by which God is mediately worshipped, which have respect to the second table of the law. The love of our neighbor presupposes love to God; hence, secondarily and by analogy, the duty of love to our neighbor comes under the name of religion.”

Baier (16): “The term Religion signifies, in a stricter sense, either the habit of the will by which we are inclined to the love, honor and worship due God, on account of his excellence; or, the acts themselves, of honoring or worshipping God on account of his excellence; and, at the same time, it signifies, on the part of the intellect, the true knowledge of God; on the part of the will, the other virtues (or virtuous acts) which aim at the honor and worship of God. But, in a wider sense, it denotes the whole circle of virtues or acts, that pertain to the worship of God.”

[5] Hollazius (43): “Under the name of the Christian Religion is comprehended whatever is to be believed and to be done by sinful man, in order to attain eternal life. As God is religiously worshipped by true faith and the sincere effort to perform good works, so religion, which is the form or method of worshipping God, embraces within its compass things to be believed and things to be done. In a general sense, the things to be believed are all things revealed in the written Word of God; in a more limited sense, those which are revealed in the Word of God in regard to the salvation of man; in the most specific sense, they are mysteries, above the comprehension of reason, and to be learned alone from the divine revelation for our salvation.” Hence, “the subject-matter of Religion is faith, and love to God and our neighbor.”

We observe further, that Gerhard and Baier do not treat of Religion as a separate topic. Baier has, under the head of “The Nature and Constituent Elements of Theology,” only the following proposition (14): “The means of attaining happiness in natural theology are the acts of the mind and will directed towards God, by which God is rightly known and worshipped. They are known by one name, Religion.” This is explained by the definition which the theologians give of Theology, for in accordance with this there is little material left for a special section on the subject of Religion.

Chapter III | The Source of Theology, viz., Revelation

4 | Revelation, not Reason, not Tradition

In order to understand what is true and correct Theology, we must inquire for the source from which we derive our knowledge of it. (“The source (principium) is that from which anything, in some manner or other, proceeds.”—Quenstedt 32.) This is the Revelation given by God. [1] By this divine Revelation we understand here, not that which is given in nature, but in the Word (supernatural, as distinguished from natural revelation). [2] More accurately, therefore, we say: the source of theological knowledge is the revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures, [3] and this is, moreover, the only source of Theology, [4] and neither reason, [5] nor, at a later date, tradition, or the appeal to the consentaneous doctrine of the ancient church, [6] is to be ranked with it; nor are supplementary revelations now to be expected from any quarter. [7]

[1] Calovius (I, 269); “Revelation is taken either in a formal sense, for the act of the divine communication, or objectively for that which is divinely revealed. The former sense is here intended.”

[2] Hollazius (61): “We speak here not of that general revelation or natural manifestation, by which God makes himself known both by the innate light of nature and by the effects conspicuous in the kingdom of nature. But we speak of the special and supernatural revelation, which is twofold, immediate and mediate. The Holy Spirit immediately illuminated the prophets and apostles, and suggested to them conceptions of things and of words concerning doctrines of faith and moral precepts. At the present day God reveals himself to men through means of the Word written by the prophets and apostles.” Revelation is, therefore, defined as: “The external act of God, by which he makes himself known to the human race by his Word, in order that they may have a saving knowledge of him.”—Quenstedt I, 32.

Calovius (I, 268) thus states the proof that this divine revelation exists. “It having been proved, if this should be denied, that God is, and that there must be some method in which God may be worshipped by men, we must teach, that it cannot be but that God has revealed that method, so that he may be worshipped properly; then, that God wishes men to be led to the enjoyment of himself, and also, that he has revealed unto men the manner in which they are to be thus led; finally, the fact that God has revealed himself, must be taught from history, which revelation God has seen fit abundantly to accompany with miracles and documents, by which we are rendered absolutely certain that it is truly divine. Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 12:12. But as one general revelation has been made in nature, Romans 1:19 seq., and another special one by verbal communication, it is first to be proved from nature that God is, inasmuch as God has revealed himself unto all by his works, in the formation of this world; and subsequently it is to be shown that God has revealed himself to the human race in a more perfect manner by the Word.”

[3] Quenstedt (I, 32): “The source of Theology is the written, divine revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures.” Hollazius (61) more accurately: “Christian Theology is derived from an infallible source of knowledge, viz., divine revelation, which, for the present state of the Church, is mediate, i.e., comprehended in the writings of the prophets and apostles.” As proof, John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:14, 15; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17. With regard to the different modes of revelation in ancient times, Baier (62): “Formerly God employed many and various methods in revealing those things which pertain to the salvation of man, Hebrews 1:1. Specifically: (1.) By articulate language, uttered in a supernatural way; thus revelations were made to the patriarchs, Genesis 18:2; 19:1; 22:1; to Moses, Exodus 3:2; Numbers 12:6; to the Israelites, Exodus 19:10. (2.) By dreams or visions, presented to the minds of the sleeping, Genesis 28:12; Daniel 2:19. (3) By ecstatic visions of the waking, Ezekiel 1:4; Daniel 10:5; Acts 10:10; finally (4.) By the immediate illumination of the intellect, without the intervention of dreams and visions, 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21. But now, since God has chosen to present, in certain books, those things which are necessary to be known with reference to revealed things, in order to salvation, and not to communicate any new revelations, the only source of Theology is to be found in those ancient revelations which were made immediately to the prophets and apostles and have been committed to writing.”

Inasmuch, however, as the religion of the Old and New Testaments is to be regarded as substantially the same, Quenstedt (I, 32) adds the remark: “As the divine revelation became more full, in the course of time, so also did Theology, which was based upon it; and as the former, just so the latter, gathered up its own additions in the progress of time, God meanwhile imparting new revelations. These additions did not relate to those things which constitute the foundation of faith and salvation, but to other things which render the statement and comprehension of these more complete, or which relate to various circumstances, rites, and ceremonies, and to ecclesiastical order and discipline.”

If, therefore, the Holy Scriptures are thus the source of Theology, we are authorized to draw the following conclusion: “Whatever the Holy Scriptures teach is infallibly true.” Hence the early divines speak of a twofold source, viz., the source indefinitely stated, i. e., by a single term; and the source more fully stated, i.e., by an entire proposition. The former is the Holy Scriptures. The latter, from which the doctrines of the Christian faith are deduced, and into which they are again merged, is this proposition: “Whatever God has revealed in his Word, that is infallibly true, and must be reverently believed and embraced.” From the Holy Scriptures, then, as this source, are drawn all doctrinal truths. “The source, whence theological conclusions are drawn, is but one, viz., the Word of God, or ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Theological conclusions are nothing else than truths concerning the faith, elicited and deduced from the Word of God. (E.g., from the passage 1 John 5:7, as a source, is proved the mystery of the most Holy Trinity, and the theological conclusion is drawn: Therefore there is, in the one divine essence, a trinity of persons.)”—Quenstedt, I, 32.

[4] Quenstedt (I, 33): “The sole, proper, adequate, and ordinary source of Theology and of the Christian Religion is the divine revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures; or, what is the same thing, that the canonical Scriptures alone are the absolute source of Theology, so that out of them alone are the articles of faith to be deduced and proved.”

Further (I, 36): “Divine revelation is the first and the last source of sacred Theology, beyond which theological discussion among Christians dare not proceed. For every doubt concerning religion in the mind of a true Christian is removed by divine revelation, and by this the faith of the believer grows so strong, and is so firmly established, that it frees his mind from all fear and suspicion of deception, and imparts to him a firm assurance.”

[5] Quenstedt (I, 38): “Human or natural reason is not the source of Theology and supernatural things.”

[6] Calovius (I, 304): “We (contend) that, over and above the written Word of God, there is at present no unwritten Word of God concerning any doctrine necessary to Christian faith and life, not comprehended in the Scriptures, that ever came forth from the apostles, was handed down by tradition, was preserved by the Church, and is to be received with equal reverence.”

Quenstedt (I, 44): “The consent of the primitive Church, or of the fathers of the first centuries after Christ, is not a source of Christian faith, either primary or secondary, nor does it produce a divine, but merely a human or probable belief.” In reference to this latter clause, Hollazius (71): “(The consent of the fathers) is not to be esteemed of little, but of great importance, as a ground of credibility, as a secondary source of theological conclusions (viz., because it furnishes opinions or conceptions that are probably true), and as a demonstrative and invaluable testimony that the early bishops of the Catholic Church understood and expounded passages of the Sacred Scriptures in the same sense in which the Evangelical Church of the present day understands them.”

[7] Hollazius (63): “After the completion of the canon of Scripture no new and immediate divine revelation was given to be a fundamental source of doctrine, 1 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:1.” Quenstedt (I, 48): “The opposite opinion is that of various fanatics who hold that the knowledge of God, and of all doctrines that are to be believed, is not to be sought from the written Word of God, but that a higher wisdom than that contained in the Sacred Scriptures is to be sought from a revelation especially made to each individual, and from innate light, from ecstatic raptures [cf. Smalcald Articles] dreams, angelic communications, from an internal word, from the inspiration of the Father, from knowledge internally communicated by Christ, who is essentially united with them, and from the instruction of the Holy Spirit, speaking and teaching internally.”

5 | Excursus. Concerning the Use of Reason in Theology

By the term Reason, we may understand either the capacity of intellectual apprehension in general, and this is essential to man, for it is only by means of this capacity, which distinguishes him from irrational animals, that he can comprehend the truths of religion. [1] Or, we may understand by Reason the capacity of acquiring knowledge and appropriating truths. [2] The knowledge, however, which one thus acquires is, even if true, still defective and unsatisfactory, [3] and therefore Reason is by no means the source from which man can draw the knowledge of saving truths, [4] but for these the revelation contained in Sacred Scripture remains ever the only source.

The question now arises, how is Reason related to this revelation, and what use can Theology make of Reason?

Inasmuch as Reason also derives its knowledge from God, Reason and Revelation are, of course, not opposed to each other. [5] This holds true, however, only of Reason considered per se., of Reason as it was before the fall of man. This would have remained conscious of the limits of its sphere; would not have sought to measure divine things by the rule of natural knowledge; would have subordinated itself to Revelation, [6] and would have known that there are truths which, although not in antagonism with it, are yet far beyond its reach. [7]

But the case is very different with Reason as it dwells now in fallen man; for we must concede that, by man’s fall, such a change has occurred that Reason now often assumes a position of antagonism to revealed truth. [8] It still, indeed, possesses some knowledge of divine things, but this knowledge is obscured in proportion to the moral depravity of man, and it now, more easily than before, transcends the assigned limits. If now Reason, already before the fall of man, had to keep within modest limits, with respect to the truths of Revelation, much less dare it now, in the fallen condition of man, assume to judge in regard to divine things, or subject the truths of Revelation to its tests; still less dare it reject that which does not seem to agree with its knowledge: its duty rather is to subject itself to Revelation and learn therefrom. If this be done, however, much will again become intelligible that previously appeared contradictory, and it will again approach the condition occupied before the fall. But this will be only an approach to that condition; for just as man, even through regeneration, never again becomes entirely sinless, so the Reason of the regenerate never attains its original power. [9] We may therefore say of Reason, even when enlightened, that it can have no decisive judgment in regard to matters of faith, and possesses in such matters no normative authority, all the more since this was true of Reason before the fall. [10]

As to the use, then, that is to be made of Reason in Theology, it follows, from what has been said, that Reason stands in the relation merely of a handmaid to Theology. [11] In so far as it is the capacity for intellectual apprehension in general, the use that is to be made of it will consist in this, that man, by its help, intellectually apprehends the truths of Theology, and accepts from it the means of refuting opponents. In so far, however, as it also conveys knowledge, one may also employ it in the demonstration of a divine truth; in such a case, Reason would contribute whatever of natural knowledge it has acquired. And just in the same proportion as Reason has suffered itself to be enlightened by divine Revelation, will it be able to demonstrate the harmony of divine truth with natural knowledge. [12]

[1] Calovius (I, 358): “Human reason denotes either the intellect of man, that faculty of the rational soul (Hollazius, ‘the intellectual faculty of man’) which we doubtless must employ in every kind of knowledge, since man understands alone by the reason or intellect.” … Hollazius (69): “Without the use of reason we cannot understand or prove theological doctrines, or defend them against the artful objections of opponents. Surely not to brutes, but to men using their sound reason, has God revealed the knowledge of eternal salvation in his word, and upon them he has imposed the earnest injunction to read, hear, and meditate upon his word. The intellect is therefore required, as the receiving subject or apprehending instrument. For, just as we can see nothing without eyes, and hear nothing without ears, so we understand nothing without reason.”

[2] Calovius (ibid.): “Or, reason denotes (philosophy itself, or) the principles known from nature (by the light of nature), and the discussion or ratiocination based upon these known principles.” These principles are divided “into organic and philosophical (strictly so called). The former (organic) relate to the mediate disciplines, grammar, rhetoric, and logic.”—(Quenstedt (I, 39): “These are to be employed in Theology (as the means of becoming acquainted with Theology), since without them neither the sense nor significance of the words can be derived, nor the figures and modes of speech be properly weighed, nor the connection and consequences be perceived, nor discussions be instituted”). The latter (the philosophical) are again divided into “philosophical principles absolutely and unrestrictedly universal (general or transcendental), which consist of a combination of terms essential and simply necessary, so that they cannot be overthrown by any argument, not even by the Scriptures; e.g., ‘It is impossible for anything to be and not to be at the same time;’ ” and “philosophical principles restrictedly universal (special or particular,) which are indeed true, to a certain extent, hypothetically, or so far as mere natural knowledge extends, but which, nevertheless, admit of limitation, and which may be invalidated by counter evidence drawn from revelation, if not from nature; e.g., ‘As many as are the persons, so many are the essences,’ etc.” Hollazius (68): “Through these philosophical sources we can also gain a knowledge of God, for there is a natural knowledge of God, innate and acquired [cognitio Dei naturalis, insita et acquisita] (of which the Theologians elsewhere speak more at length), knowledge which is also communicated by divine revelation.” Hollazius (69): “Thus from the principles of reason philosophers attempt to prove the existence and attributes of God, as subjects belonging to the sciences of Metaphysics and Pneumatology.”

[3] Calovius (II, 47): “Of the natural knowledge of God there is predicated, as to those things that are revealed in nature, imperfection; and as to the supernatural mysteries of faith, entire worthlessness [nullitas].

[4] Hollazius (69): “Meanwhile, nevertheless, human reason is not a fountain, or primordial element, from which the peculiar and fundamental principles of faith are derived.”

[5] Flacius, with his assertion, that “the knowledge of God, naturally implanted, is a light full of error, fallacious and deceptive,” and subsequently, Daniel Hofmann (“Philosophy is hostile to Theology; what is true in Philosophy is false in Theology”), gave especial occasion to dispute the antagonism between Reason and Revelation.

Calovius (I, 68): “That Philosophy is not opposed to Theology, and is by no means to be rejected as brutish, terrene, impure, diabolical, we thus demonstrate: 1. Because the true agrees with the true, and does not antagonize it. But what is known by the light of nature is no less true than what is revealed in Scripture; 2. Because natural and philosophical knowledge has its origin from God; 3. Because Philosophy leads us to the knowledge of God.”

As this antagonism was still asserted, the Theologians endeavored to prove it to be only apparent. Calovius (I, 74): “We must distinguish between a real and an apparent contradiction. The maxims of Philosophy and the conclusions of Theology do not really contradict each other, but only appear to do so; for they either do not discuss the same subject, or they do not describe the same condition, mode, or relation of it; as when the philosopher says that the essence is multiplied with the multiplication of persons, he declares this of finite and created persons, not of divine, of which he knows nothing; concerning the latter, the theologian teaches that this is not true. When the philosopher says, ‘Of nothing, nothing comes,’ i.e., by way of generation, he does not contradict the theologian, who teaches that by the way of creation something does come from nothing. Let Philosophy remain within the limits of its own sphere, then it will not contradict Theology, for this treats of a different subject. But it is not wonderful that those who confound Philosophy with Theology should find contradictions between them, for they pervert both.” Quenstedt (I, 43): “We must distinguish between contrariety and diversity. Philosophy and the principles of Reason are not indeed contrary to Theology, nor the former to the latter; but there is a very great difference between those things that are divinely revealed in Scripture and those which are known by the light of nature.”—As the Theologians here opposed those who asserted a contradiction between Reason and Revelation, they also controverted those who claimed too much for Reason, as over against Revelation, by maintaining that, because Reason came from God, that which opposes it cannot be true. This charge was brought against the Calvinists, Socinians, and Arminians. It was admitted, in opposition to them, that Reason in itself does not contradict Revelation; an inference, however, which might have become derogatory to divine truth, was obviated by explaining any seeming contradiction on the ground that Reason, in such a case, had overstepped its proper limits. To the proposition: “In nowise can that be true which is repugnant to reason,” Gerhard (II, 371) replies: “Not human Reason, but divine Revelation, is the source of faith, nor are we to judge concerning the articles of faith according to the dictation of Reason, otherwise we should have no articles of faith, but only decisions of Reason. The cogitations and utterances of Reason are to be restricted and restrained within the sphere of those things which are subject to the decision of reason, and not to be extended to the sphere of those things which are placed entirely beyond the reach of reason; otherwise, if they should be received as absolutely universal, and are found opposed to the mysteries of the faith, there arise oppositions of science falsely so called, ὰντιθέσεις ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως.” To the objection: “As a smaller light to a greater, so Reason is not contrary to Scripture,” Gerhard (II, 372) answers: “This contrariety is not necessary, but accidental. Reason restricted to its proper sphere is not contrary to Scripture, but when it wishes to overleap and surpass (μεταβαίνειν και ὑπερβαίνειν) this, and to pass judgment upon the highest mysteries of the faith, by the aid of its own principles, then, by accident (casually), it comes in conflict with Scripture which informs us in regard to the mysteries of faith. Just as the stronger light often reveals those things which were hidden in the weaker, so the light of grace, enkindled for us in the Word, makes manifest those things which were hidden in the light of nature. Just as any one, therefore, who would deny those things which are visible in the greater light because he had not seen them in the smaller, would fail to appreciate the design and benefit of the smaller, so also he who denies or impugns the mysteries of faith revealed in the light of grace, on the ground that they are incongruous with Reason and the light of nature, fails, at the same time, to make a proper use of the office and benefits of Reason and the light of nature.” To the proposition: “What is true theologically cannot be false philosophically, for truth is one,” Gerhard (ibid.) answers: “In themselves considered, there is no contrariety, no contradiction between Philosophy and Theology, because whatever things concerning the deepest mystery of the faith Theology propounds from Revelation, these a wiser and sincere Philosophy knows are not to be discussed aud estimated according to the principles of Reason, lest there be a μετάβασις εἰς ἅλλο γένος (a passing over to another sphere), lest there be a confounding of the distinctive principles of distinct departments. So when Theology teaches that Mary brought forth and yet remained a virgin, a truly sensible Philosophy does not say this assertion is contrary to its conclusion, that it is impossible for a virgin to bear a child, because it knows that that conclusion must necessarily be received with this limitation, that for a virgin to bring forth a child naturally and yet remain a virgin, is impossible. Nor does Theology assert the contrary of this, for it says, by supernatural and divine power it came to pass that a virgin brought forth a child. But when some philosophizer wishes his axioms and assertions to be so general that the highest mysteries of the faith are to be adjudged by them, and so invades other spheres, then it comes to pass, by way of accident, that what is true theologically is pronounced false philosophically; i.e., not according to the proper use of a sound Philosophy, but according to the miserable abuse of it. Thus, justice and the nature of law is everywhere the same, i.e., in its general conception, while, nevertheless, the law of this province is not the same with the law of that, but each government lives under its own special laws. So truth is one in its general conception, while each discipline has its own axioms which are not to be dragged before another tribunal, but to be left in their own sphere.”

[6] Gerhard (II, 372): “Sound reason is not opposed to the faith, if we accept as such that which is truly and properly so-called, namely that which does not transcend the limits of its sphere, and does not arrogate to itself decisions in regard to the mysteries of faith; or which, enlightened by the Word, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, does not follow its own principles in the investigation of the mysteries of faith, but the light of the Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

[7] Gerhard (II, 372): “The articles of faith are not in and of themselves contrary to Reason, but only above Reason. It may happen, by accident, that they be contrary to Reason, namely, when Reason assumes to decide concerning them upon its own principles, and does not follow the light of the Word, but denies and assails them. Hence the articles of faith are not contrary to, but merely above Reason, since Reason before the fall was not yet corrupt and depraved; but after the fall they are not only above but also contrary to corrupt Reason, for this, in so far as it is thus corrupt, cannot control itself, much less should it wish to judge concerning these by its own principles.”

[8] Gerhard (II, 371): “We must distinguish between Reason in man before and since the fall. The former, as such, was never opposed to divine Revelation; the latter was very frequently thus opposed through the influence of corruption.” GRH. (II, 362): “Natural human Reason since the fall (1) is blind, darkened by the mist of error, inwrapped in the shades of ignorance, exposed to vanity and error; Romans 1:21; 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 4:8; Ephesians 4:17; (2) unskilled in perceiving divine mysteries and judging concerning them; Matthew 11:27; 16:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14 sq.; (3) opposed to them; Romans 8:6; 1 Corinthians 2:11 sq., 3:18 sq., hence is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; (4) and we are commanded to beware of its seduction, Colossians 2:8. Therefore natural human Reason cannot be a rule for judging in matters of faith, and any one pronouncing according to its dictation cannot be a judge in theological controversies.” Quenstedt (I, 43): “We must distinguish between Philosophy (i.e., Reason) considered abstractly and in view of its essence, and Philosophy considered concretely and in view of its existence in a subject corrupted by sin: viewed in the former light it is never opposed to divine truth (for the truth is ever presented as uniform and in harmony with the nature of the objects successively subordinated to it), but viewed in the latter light, in consequence of the ignorance of the intellect and the perversion of the will, it is often preposterously applied by the philosopher to the purposes of perversion and hollow deception. Colossians 2:8.”

[9] Gerhard (II, 371): “We are to make a distinction between the reason of man unregenerate and regenerate. The former counts the mysteries of faith foolishness, but the latter, in so far as it is such, does not object to them. Then only and only so long is it regenerate as it follows the light of the Word, and judges concerning the mysteries of the faith, not by its own principles, but by the Scriptures. We do not reject Reason when regenerated, renewed, illuminated by the Word of God, restrained and brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; this does not draw its opinions, in matters of faith, from its own sources, but from Scripture; this does not impugn the articles of belief as does Reason when corrupt, left to itself, etc. We must distinguish also between Reason partially rectified in this life, and that which is fully rectified in the life to come. The former is not yet so completely renewed, illuminated, and rectified that it should be impossible for it to oppose the articles of faith and impugn them, if it should follow its own guidance. Just as there remains in the regenerate a struggle between the flesh and the spirit, by which they are tempted to sin, so there remains in them a struggle between faith and Reason, in so far as it is not yet fully renewed; this, however, excludes all opposition between faith and Reason.”

[10] Quenstedt (I, 43): “Reason is admissible as an instrument, but not as a rule and a judge: the formal principles of Reason no one rejects; its material principles, which constitute its rule for judging of mysteries, no wise man accepts. No material principle of Reason, as such, but only as it is at the same time a part of Revelation, produces faith theologically: that God is, we know from nature; we believe it, however, only through the Scriptures. It does not follow, because some parts of Scripture are axioms known by nature, that therefore Reason is the regulator of theological controversies.” Id. (I, 43): “Theology does not not condemn the use of Reason, but its abuse and its affectation of directorship or its magisterial use, as normative and decisive in divine things”

[11] Hollazius (71): “Reason is not a leader, but an humble follower of Theology. Hagar serves as the handmaid of her mistress, she does not command; when she affects to command she is banished from the sacred home.”

[12] Quenstedt (I, 42): “A distinction must be made between the organic or instrumental use of Reason and its principles, when they are employed as instruments for the interpretation and exposition of the Sacred Scriptures, in refuting the arguments of opponents, drawn from nature and reason, in discussing the signification and construction of words, and rhetorical figures and modes of speech; and the normal use of philosophical principles, when they are regarded as principles by which supernatural doctrines are to be tested. The former we admit, the latter we repudiate.” The following from Quenstedt explains and expands this idea; “It is one thing to employ in Theology the principles and axioms of philosophy for the purpose of illustration, explanation, and as a secondary proof, when a matter is decided by the Scriptures; and another to employ them for the purpose of deciding and demonstrating, or to recognize philosophical principles, or the argumentation based upon them, as authoritative in Theology, or to decide by means of them, the matters of faith. The former we do, the latter we do not. There must be a distinction made between consequences deduced by the aid of reason from the Sacred Scriptures, and conclusions collected from the sources of nature and reason. The former must not be confounded with the latter. For it is one thing to use legitimate, necessary consequences, and another to use the principles of Reason. It is one thing to draw a conclusion and deduce consequences from the declarations of Scripture, according to logical rules, and another to collect consequences from natural principles. A sort of illustration of heavenly matters can be sought for among those things which Reason supplies, but a demonstration can never be obtained from that source, since it is necessary that this should proceed (non ἐξ άλλοτρὶων sed ἐξ ὀικείων) from the same sphere to which the truth which is to be proved belongs, and not to a foreign one.”

This doctrine of the use of reason Gerhard develops in a manner somewhat different, although substantially the same; as follows, under the topic, “The Use of Reason in the Rule of Faith.” (I, 76, seq.): (1) The organic use is the following: When our reason brings with it, to the work of drawing out the treasures of divine wisdom hidden in the Scriptures, knowledge of the grammatical force of words, logical observance of order, rhetorical elucidation of figures and acquaintance with the facts of nature, derived from the philosophical branches. This use we greatly commend, yea, we even declare it to be necessary. (2) As to the edificative (κατασκευαστικός) use of reason, it is to be thus regarded. There is a certain natural knowledge of God, Romans 1:19-20, but this should be subordinate to that which is divinely revealed in the Word; so that, where there is a disagreement, the former should yield to the latter; and where they agree, the former confirms and strengthens the latter. In short, as a servant it should, with all due reverence, minister to the latter. (3) The destructive (ἀνασκευαστικός seu ἐλεγκτικός) use, when legitimate, is the following: Errors in doctrine are first to be confuted by arguments drawn from the Sacred Scriptures, as the only and proper source of Theology, but afterwards philosophical reasons may be added, so that it may be shown that the false dogma is repugnant, not only to the light of grace, but also to the light of nature. But when the truth of any doctrine has been clearly proved by unanswerable scriptural arguments, we should never allow our confidence in it to be shaken by any philosophical reasons, however specious they may be.”

Id. (II, 9): “Although some things are taught in Theology, which can be learned in some measure by the light of nature and Reason, yet human Reason cannot undertake to become thoroughly acquainted with the mysteries of faith, properly so called, by means of its own powers; and as to such things as, already known from nature, are taught in Theology, it need not seek for proof elsewhere than in their own proper source, the Word of God, which is abundantly able to prove them.… In this latter manner the Theologian becomes indebted, for some things, to the philosopher; not, indeed, as though he were not able to know them without the aid of philosophical principles, from Scripture, as the proper and native (οἰκειῳ) source of his own science, but because, in the course of the investigation, he perceives the truth of the proposition according to the principles of philosophy.”

That to which Gerhard here merely alludes, the later Theologians, such as Quenstedt, Baier, and Hollazius develop at greater length when treating of the pure and mixed articles; by the former of which are understood those which contain truths that can be known only by Revelation, by the latter such as contain truths which may, at least in part, be otherwise known. Hollazius (68): “Mixed articles of faith may, in some measure, be known by the principles of Philosophy. But the pure articles of faith can be learned and proved only from Sacred Scripture as the appropriate, fundamental, and original source.” But the remark of Quenstedt is well worthy of attention, that (I, 39) “in the mixed articles we grant that special (philosophical) principles may be employed; not, indeed, for the purpose of decision or demonstration, but merely for illustration, or as a sort of secondary proof of that which has already been decided by the Scriptures.” And here belongs also the statement of Quenstedt, concerning the formal and material principles of Reason, already quoted in the tenth note. This statement of Quenstedt conveys the same idea as the last, quoted from Gerhard , and is designed to prevent the assignment of the right of decision in the mixed articles to Reason, although it is to have something to do with them. Those Theologians who adhere to the distinctive arrangement, described in note second, of organic and philosophical principles, admit also the use of the absolutely universal principles in Theology. It may be questioned, however, whether these are so accurately distinguished from the restrictedly universal principles which are not admissible, that mistakes may not easily arise. In regard to this Baier (157) thus expresses himself: “The material principles of Reason are also with propriety employed; however, when they are particular or specific, they are subordinated to the universal principle (the grand source) of Theology; but the universal principles of Reason may be employed only when they are absolutely necessary, namely, when the demonstration of the opposite would imply a contradiction. For otherwise, if the principles of Reason were employed, not absolutely, but relatively, or, so to speak, universally and necessarily, it might easily happen that a conclusion would be reached repugnant to the mysteries or to the articles of faith, even to those of fundamental importance.”

Chapter IV | The Sacred Scriptures

6 | The terms Sacred Scriptures and Inspiration