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Systematic Theology - Volume I
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§ 3. Knowledge of God not due exclusively to Tradition.

There are some theologians who are unable to believe that the knowledge of God can be referred either to the constitution of our nature, or to any process of reasoning. Not only the exalted view of the Divine Being presented in the Bible, but the simple and perverted apprehensions of his nature prevailing among the heathen, they say must be referred to an original supernatural revelation. Such a revelation was made to our first parents and from them passed over to their descendants. When the knowledge thus communicated began to die out among men, God again revealed himself to Abraham, and made him and his posterity the depositaries of the truth. Either, therefore, from the remains of the primitive revelation, or by radiation from the chosen people, all the knowledge of God existing in the world has been derived. The attempt is made to show that the more remote any people were from the Jews, the less did they know of God; and the more any nation enjoyed of intercourse with the people to whom God had committed his oracles, the more correct and extended was their knowledge.

This view, although arising from reverence for the Word of God, is evidently extreme. It is true that the further we go back in the history of the world, the nearer we approach the primal revelation, the purer is the knowledge concerning Him. It may also be true, as a general rule, that the more any people were brought under the influence of the truth as held by the chosen people of God, the more enlightened they became. It may further be conceded that those who with the Bible in their hands reject its teachings, and give themselves up to their own speculations, turn, as the Apostle expresses it, “the truth of God into a lie,” losing all knowledge of the living and true God. All this, however, does not prove that the knowledge of God is not written on the heart. Our intuitive perceptions need to be cherished, developed, and interpreted. We know from Scripture that the law is written in characters which cannot be obliterated, upon the souls of all men, and yet it has been perverted, misinterpreted, or disregarded by men in every age and in every part of the world.

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