The Puritan Passion for Philosophy and Science

One of the consequences of the Puritans’ commitment to natural theology was their unusual degree of interest in science. Instead of being opposed to it, the Puritans, says Marshall, were “markedly enthusiastic about the study of the natural world” and as a result they “befriended science.”

 

Yesterday I highlighted my surprising recent discovery that ”the overwhelming majority of Puritan theologians were firm believers in the legitimacy of natural theology and evidentialism,” resulting in their embrace of extra-biblical sources of knowledge in their pastoral counseling of believers.

I had come across this in a few of their writings–Matthew Henry’s and John Owen’s for example. But I had never realized how much this was a common core of Puritan belief until I read Wallace Marshall’s book, Puritanism and Natural Theology. He goes on to demonstrate how the Puritans’ enthusiasm for natural theology “went hand in hand with their adamant insistence that ministers not only be trained in the Scriptures and in systematic theology but also have ‘humane learning,’ as they liked to call it—the study of logic, philosophy and the classics.”

Passion for Philosophy

For example, the Puritan Charles Chauncy, who served as president of Harvard from 1654 to 1672,  pointed out:

“The Bible itself quoted pagan authors favourably, that all truth came from God, whatever its origin, and that since there were many excellent and divine moral truths in Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, etc…to condemn all pel-mel will be a hard censure.”

Thomas Manton sounded the same note:

“We should not despise the help of human learning, neither should we despise grace, as if it did make men dull, and blunt the edge of their talents….Religion hath never lost more than when outward helps have been despised, which men do to hide their own ignorance.”

Passion for Science

One of the consequences of the Puritans’ commitment to natural theology was their unusual degree of interest in science. Instead of being opposed to it, the Puritans, says Marshall, were “markedly enthusiastic about the study of the natural world” and as a result they “befriended science.”

Thomas Adams, for example, hailed nature as “God’s epistle to the world.” Alexander Richardson wrote that since God was the Creator of all things, “this teacheth man thus much, that he is to seek out, and find this wisdom of God in the world, and not to be idle; for the world, and the creatures therein, are like a book wherein God’s wisdom is written, there we must seek it out.”

Stephen Charnock “extolled the study of nature as one of the most satisfying human activities” and even saw it as a religious duty. “What a sweetness is there in knowing the secrets of nature, and the phenomena in the world,” he exclaimed, and went on:

“Study God in the creatures as well as in the Scriptures…The world is a sacred temple; man is introduced to contemplate it, and behold with praise the glory of God in the pieces of his art.”

He admitted that there was more clarity in the book of Scripture than in the book of nature, but because the Author of both has joined both together, we should not put it asunder. Charnock went on to say that it was a gross insult to God to pay so little attention to the things he had made and that “God must be read wherever he is legible.”

And here’s a thought-provoking idea to finish up. “Charnock though that since the complexity and richness of the created order could not possibly be exhausted by human beings in their brief lifetimes, this activity would continue in the world to come when the fountains of the depths of nature would be opened.”

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.

The post The Puritan Passion for Philosophy and Science appeared first on The Aquila Report.



from The Aquila Report http://ift.tt/2nMaloD
via IFTTT

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Build and Use a Logos Bible Software Library for Free

Where has all the discernment gone? Asking for a friend

Oklahoma Convocation on Discernment and Public Ministry