Hoedemaker and McAtee on the Relation of Reason to Revelation

“What is this (human) reason, to the guidance of which, in the opinion of the majority of our voters, we cannot surrender ourselves (to) in the area of statecraft?

The understanding is the ability to form correct ideas, to distinguish them, to compare them, and to join them together in new judgments, whether in the form of conclusions or of compound and generic concepts. Reason is sometimes regarded, in distinction from understanding, as the ability of man to come in contact with the transcendental world, to form and apply ideas. However, if, as happened in the debate of the Lower House, reason is set against revelation, then this distinction is lost, and besides that, everything that does not stem from revelation is attributed to reason, giving rise to confusion of concepts which with an eye to all kinds of Romanist errors, has it dubious aspects.

Here reason is 1) a capacity for knowledge: the eye of the spirit with which man perceives, and the hand with which he processes what he perceives; 2) an area of knowledge under which to allocate everything that a natural man, a heathen, an unbeliever, in a word, someone who does not allow himself to be illuminated by the light of revelation, becomes acquainted with.

Let us not for the moment forget that because one can also speak of general revelation, the word ‘revelation’ is equivocal and restrict the use of the word either to the speech of God, by which He makes Himself known, His plan and will, or to Holy Scripture, in which that knowledge is contained, for this word is used in all three meanings. It is purely Romish to make it (revelation) so independent of reason as the organ of all human knowledge that it falls outside the forms of thought of our understanding, is independent of the laws to which our thinking is subject, and that, with respect to investigation of Holy Scripture, reason has no function to fulfill.

Now then, if were to set everything that man comes to know apart from Scripture against the knowledge which is the fruit of special revelation, and thus obtain, as it were, two areas indicated by the contrast ‘reason or revelation,’ ‘nature or grace,’ then we would already be on our way to Rome. It is in this connection that the proposition ‘revelation corrects reason’ becomes very questionable: one forgets that it is not reason but the misuse of reason, not the natural knowledge of God but the mutilation of that knowledge, of which this can be said. Revelation supplements reason.

We confess, it is true, that the understanding has been darkened by sin, but add in distinction to the Roman Church and to Luther: just as much in the area of natural as of the spiritual life! Our fathers used to say that, with man as with a fish, the corruption caused by sin manifests itself first in the head. Consider the Dreyfus affair and the English with regard to South Africa.

How, then, does reason stand in relation to revelation? Article 1 of our [Belgic] confession of faith gives us the answer. According to our confession, there is a natural knowledge of God which nevertheless needs to be supplemented. ‘But God makes Himself known even more clearly in His Divine Word.’ Natural and supernatural revelation are not mutually exclusive. **Armed with the latter, man sees not differently, but only better and further.

With this view, now, both nature and Scripture come into their own.

It goes without saying that in our investigation into the realm of minerals and plants, it is not Scripture to which we primarily turn, although we do not neglect the data that Scripture offers us. We operate this way in the sphere of state life as well. There have been excellent regents, well-appointed states in ancient times, the former walking by the light of nature, that latter established according to the data that all men possess.

Now, then, what place does the Bible occupy in the entirety of this human knowledge? God reveals Himself, and the way of redemption. He acts in Israel as King, Lawgiver, Judge. This revelation spreads its light on man’s origin and destination, and on the various relations in which he acts. It teaches us to see that the state and life in the state are not supreme; that Christ founded His church, why He did so, etc.

All this compels us, then, not to give up nature, experience, or history to unbelief, not to have any part of a division between nature and grace, reason and revelation: and with regard to reason, only contest the sovereignty which leaves the most important part of our knowledge out of consideration. Like Groen (van Prinsterer), we do not fight against reason on the behalf of revelation, but against the philosophical systems that seek to fashion constitutional law after they have first mutilated and falsified the concept of God.

I conclude this part of our investigation with a quotation from Groen’s Verspreide Geschriften (Scattered Writings), where he says ‘Revelation opposes the supremacy of the understanding (Reason) which does not recognize a higher principle outside itself, and itself must oppose everyone who believes in Revelation…. The main question is: does one have to submit to a higher Being who desires respect for His own laws, or is one bound to nothing and no one but oneself, which must end in arbitrariness.’ 

We therefore run no danger of looking in the Bible for a handbook of constitutional law or of giving up the independence of science to which it is dedicated. What the Bible means for that constitutional law, we will discuss in the next chapter.”

P. J. Hoedemaker
The Politics of Antithesis; The Antirevolutionary Government of Abraham Kuyper 1901-1905 — p. 53-55

1.) Reason cannot operate apart from revelation of some God or god concept. Even if reason is said to be operating independently of some revelation at that point the revelation that reason is operating in submission to is the revelation of man as autonomously considered. At that point, man, serving as his own god, melds both his revelation that he provides for himself with the reason he uses to engage that self-revelation. Revelation thus, like reason, is seen as an inescapable category. It is never a matter of whether or not revelation is being appealed to. It is, instead, always a matter of which revelation is being appealed to. That revelation can be explicitly appealed to or it can be implicitly present. The Biblical Christian is more likely to explicitly appeal to Scripture as the basis of his revelation while the humanist will typically try to hide the fact that he has a revelation that his reason is pinioned upon. The humanist will typically say something like; “this is just the way things are.”

2.) Reason is thus only as good as the Revelation that it is based upon. Where “reason” gets matters right when based on a Revelation that is in hostility to the God of the Bible and His Word, that reason is only getting it right by way of coincidence. After all, very few people have been able to be 100% in error, 100% of the time. Also, we should say that sometimes pagan reason can get matters right because it is using borrowed capital from the Christian revelation it denounces generally speaking and it generally uses this borrowed capital without even realizing that it is doing so. One glaring example of this is when the haters of Christian revelation dare to talk about the categories of “right,” and “wrong.” Those who are haters of Christian revelation, were they consistent, would never use those categories.

3.) Hoedemaker points out the difference between Rome and Protestantism on this matter. Rome sees that “reason” and “revelation” are two paths to truth. “Reason” is used in non-spiritual areas whereas “revelation” is appealed to for truth in the realm of grace. This is where Natural law finds its logical appeal, though there have been many Protestants who have embraced this bifurcation of reason and revelation.

4.) The only place I take exception to Hoedemaker above is indicated by the **, where he offers, “Armed with the latter (supernatural revelation), man sees not differently, but only better and further.” I would contend that when fallen man is viewing natural revelation through the prism of a false “supernatural” revelation man does see differently. Conversely, the Christian does see not only better and further vis-a-vis those who despise God’s special revelation, but he does see differently.

5.) The Groen van Prinsterer quote gets at everything. We do not fight against  reason as it exists within a Christian construct. We only fight against “reason” so called as it exists in a God’s revelation hating construct. One can not genuinely call “reason,” reason if that pseudo reason is arising out of a philosophical system context wherein the concept of God has first mutilated and falsified. Any putative reason arising in that context is referred to as reason only out of politeness. Such a reason poisons everything that it engages.

6.) Of course this quote, especially the last Groen van Prinsterer quote completely demolishes R2K.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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