Scripture, Francis Turretin – 21 Questions on The Doctrine of Scripture, Servants of GraceThe Necessity of Verbal Revelation

QUESTION 1: Was revelation by the word necessary? Affirmative.

I. Since the word of God is the unique foundation (principium) of theology, its necessity is properly investigated at the very beginning: was it necessary for God to reveal himself to us by the word? or, was the word of God necessary? There have been in the past, and are also today, some who maintain that sufficient capacity for living well and happily resides in human nature, so that they regard any revelation from heaven as not only superfluous, but even as absurd. Since nature takes care of the needs of people just as it does those of other living creatures, so, they believe, reason, or the light of nature, is fully sufficient for the guidance of life and the pursuit of happiness.

II. But the orthodox church has always believed very differently, declaring that the revelation of God’s word is absolutely and simply necessary to humanity for salvation because [the word] is the seed which causes rebirth (I Peter 1:23), the lamp by which we are guided (Ps. 119:105), the food by which we are nourished (Heb. 5:13 -14), and the foundation upon which we depend (Eph.2:20).

III. The following evidence proves the above: (1) the supreme goodness of God, communicative of itself; since he has created mankind for himself, that is, for a supernatural end, and for a condition far happier than this earthly existence, he cannot be conceived as willing that they should lack in this respect, but he made clear to them by means of the word this very happiness and the way for obtaining it, which [“natural”] reason did not know. (2) The extreme blindness and corruption of people, who, although after sin still have some residual light for guidance in earthly and mundane affairs, yet in divine and heavenly matters which concern blessedness (felicitas) are so blind and depraved that they can neither know anything of the truth, nor perform anything of the good, except through the initiative of God (I Cor. 2:14; Eph.5:8). (3) Right reason, which teaches that God can be known and worshiped for salvation only through the light of God, just as the sun can be seen by us only through its own light (Ps. 36:10). Nor would impostors who have devised new religions have invented their conversations with divine beings or with angels, as Numa Pompilius did with the nymph Aegeria, or Mohammed with Gabriel, unless everybody was convinced that the correct form of worship of the divine being depended on his own revelation. Thus the common opinion of all nations, even of barbarians, is that for the welfare of humanity there is needed, besides that reason that they call the guide of life, some heavenly wisdom. This [conviction] gave rise to the various religions that are scattered about the globe. In this connection those who maintain that these religions are merely ingenious human schemes for uniting people in civic responsibilities are not to be believed. It will be granted that it is certain that many clever men have manipulated religion in order to instill reverence into the common people, as a means of keeping their spirits submissive, but they could never have accomplished this unless there was already inborn (ingenitus) in the human mind a sense of its own ignorance and helplessness, by which the more readily people were led astray by those vagabonds and quacks.

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