H. Henry Meeter (1886-1963) on the books of Nature and Scripture in the Calvinistic worldview

H. Henry Meeter

 

“If God is the all-controlling thought in the Calvinistic system, then it is only natural that the Calvinist will want to see all things as God wants him to see them and aim to carry out His will in all things. From this fact one can readily infer the place the Bible will occupy in the system and life of the Calvinist. He will make God’s Word the canon, which means the rule, for his life. It will be the rule of faith (which guides his intellect) and practice (which determines his daily duty).

NATURE AS GOD’S REVELATION

In reality God had given two books, two revelations of Himself: the book of Nature and the book of Scripture. Although as revelations from God these two books are not equal as we shall see presently, it is an important Calvinistic principle to hold to both Nature and Scripture as revelations from God. Some maintain that Nature only is the book of god and ignore the Bible as a special revelation; others go to the opposite extreme and ignore Nature as a revelation from God. The Calvinist accepts both. A few like the Roman Catholics and the Quakers are inclined to add something as a special revelation to the Bible, either a church decree or pronouncement of the Pope, or some revelation which the Christian is supposed to receive.

By the book of nature the Calvinist understands more than the mere natural objects of God’s creation, such as, minerals, flora, fauna, and men. These natural objects are not only created by God, but He also directs them in their movements in history. Therefore, history, both natural and human, reveals to us many facts about God and shows us His finger. In addition to nature and history, moreover, we must also include man himself. The psalmist once said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Man himself as the image of God tells us much about God.

This book of nature tells us not only about natural objects themselves and their history; it is God’s book, in which the Calvinist sees spread out before him God’s ideas, something of His excellence and of His will. He deems it his duty to read this book of nature, study it, and to think God’s thoughts after Him. This is all the more necessary because these thoughts are not arranged in a ready-made system but imbedded in nature. God wants His creature to discover these ideas, find their unity and harmony, their essential nature and purpose. Thus, it can be seen how broad a view of life the Calvinist must take. He considers it his duty to investigate all of life and, as a matter of intellectual culture, to develop these implicit ideas, fit them into an harmonious, explicit whole, and use them for his God. If his God has given him the book of Nature to study, the Calvinist must develop a world and life-view. The whole of nature and all of life becomes a sacred court wherein he honors God.

THE BIBLE AS GOD’S REVELATION

But God has also another book, the Bible. Originally there was only one book, one revelation of God; namely, Nature. And in the next world there will again be only one book, the new Nature, in which man will see God and His will revealed. Adam saw, and redeemed man in eternity will see God’s will clearly revealed in his heart and in nature round about him, and will, therefore, have no need of a special revelation in a Bible.

That fact accounts for the existence of the second book, the Bible, or the special revelation as we have it today. This book became necessary through sin. When man fell, both he and nature changed. Man’s mind darkened so that he could not see things as they are; and nature was distorted, as the statement in Genesis about “thorns and thistles” suggests. Nature today still is a mirror in which the virtues of God are reflected, but because of sin it has become a decidedly curved mirror. Manifestly, a curved mirror makes things look grotesque, very different from what they actually are. How now is man with his beclouded mind and distorted nature to know God and the universe aright, or to know his true nature and the purpose of his existence? These are three fundamental questions at the basis of his whole outlook upon the world.

How is man to obtain the proper insight into ultimate issues under such conditions? The only solution is that God give him another book, the Bible, in which He clearly and unerringly reveals the truth about these matters to man, and then enlighten man’s darkened mind by His Holy Spirit, so that he will be able to understand this biblical truth.

Thus we see the relation in which the Bible stands to the book of nature. The Bible is not on a level with nature as a revelation of God, but it is rather a corrective of false impressions made by nature in its distorted condition. It presents to us views about God and the universe which nature today does not teach properly. As Calvin states it, we must look at nature through the spectacles of the Bible. So then, while God has indeed two revelations which He calls upon his creature to study, the Bible after all becomes the ultimate basis for the whole view of life for the Christian, since he needs the biblical outlook to properly interpret nature and life round about him.

However, the Bible does more than act as interpreter of nature, since it also contains a special revelation of salvation for the sinner. This important information nature cannot give us, for the simple reason that nature was already created before there was a way of salvation open to sinners. How, then, could nature tell us anything about it? Yet the saving of man is in fact the central theme of the Bible and is inseparably bound up with the view which it presents of the universe and human life.

Do not mistake the purpose of the Bible as if it were intended to be a textbook for the various sciences. It is not intended as such. One gathers the facts for the various sciences from the fields which he is investigating: nature, history, psychology, and related studies. However, when the student proceeds to interpret and correlate these facts, relating the truths of any particular science to the whole body of knowledge, then he needs the unifying interpretation of Scripture. We cannot have a proper view of God, the universe, man, or history without the Bible.

This book, therefore, besides teaching us the way of salvation, provides us with the principles which must govern the whole of our life, including our thinking as well as our moral conduct. Not only science and art, but our home-life, our business, and our social and political problems must be viewed and solved in the light of Scriptural truth and fall under its direction.

This is even true of philosophy. It might be supposed since philosophy is the science of fundamentals, that Christian philosophy will have to base itself ultimately upon reason, and try to explain all problems in philosophy upon a purely rationalistic basis without accepting Bible testimony as final; but even here the Calvinist does not base his acceptance of Bible truths upon his philosophy, but, rather, he begins with the basic truths of the Bible as his foundation. His is specifically a philosophy based on revelation. Just as all philosophic systems start out with their unproved basic assumptions, their hypotheses, so the Christians starts out with the truths of revelation as his basic assumptions. The Calvinistic procedure is not the Bible based on philosophy, but Christian philosophy based upon the Bible.”

– H. Henry Meeter (1886-1963), Calvinism: An Interpretation of its Basic Ideas, p. 41-45

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