Alright, get ready, we are going to cruise straight through the entirety of Part III, which include chapters seven and eight (pgs. 207-279). Chapter 7 is titled Scientific Foundations, of course his use of the word ‘science’ is not the way we use it in modern times. He jumps straight into a discussion of ‘Theological Prolegomena,’ which seems to be an explanation for the entirety of the book so far (over 200 pages). I guess when you writing is over 3,000 pages, it’s alright to have an intro that long. He even says ‘many theologians prefaced dogmatics with far-ranging introduction that had an apologetic thrust.’
He jumps back into what is his view of those foundations of thought – Rationalism, Empiricism, and Realism. I’m not going to write much about these because they for the most part are historical and apologetic in his treatment. Some aspects are obviously still important for today, but for the most part we have moved from Enlightenment thought, to Modernism, to now, Post-Modernism. Also, I just didn’t find them that interesting. Towards the end, he moves from Socrates ides of making knowledge the basis for philosophy, to the Augustinian idea that “God is the sun of the minds.” That is, we cannot see ‘any truth except in the light of God.’
Moving on to Chapter eight, he gets into the idea of the foundations of religion. Trying to find religion at its essence. He starts off, somewhat oddly, in the disputed etymology of the word ‘religion’ which is fairly interesting if you are geeky enough. Further on, he states ‘what makes human beings religious beings and drive them toward religion is the realization that they are related to God in a way that specifically differs from all their other relationships.’ The Reformed theologians made a better and clearer distinction for piety and worship. That is, piety is the principle of religion and worship is the act of religion.
Therefore, the ‘essence of religion cannot consist in anything other than that in it God is glorified and acknowledged precisely as God.’ He considers there to be no better description of religion than the answer to question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is important how we handle religion and worship, as to ignore or pay little attention to this assumes that God doesn’t care how he is served.
The next focus of the chapter is the head, heart, hand consideration of religion. What drives religion, the intellect, the will, or the heart. That is intellect being the focus on the knowledge of God. Obviously, we can’t go too far that way, or make that our only base, as that is Gnosticism; will being too deep a focus on morality, with religion having no other aim than loving your neighbor, but this leads to rationalism and deism; finally, the heart being religion as feeling. We covered most of this earlier in the impact of Schleiermacher. He finishes this section with the point that religion is not limited to one part, but it is the whole person.
The remained of the chapter is a quick discussion of the origins of religion. He first write of the belief that the origin is fear, that people fear a cruel and deadly work and seek God/religion as a means of protection. He critiques this stating that this views God as a servant to humans. God and religion become mystical, but this makes God not the first principle, but instead makes it mysticism. Therefore, humans occur first in the world, then find God. The foundation of religion is them that we acknowledge our need. However, this requires at some point a ‘religionless’ man. This reasoning is absurd, as it would require someone, with no assumption of the existence of God, ‘creating’ God and asking for his protection. Obviously, someone could find no comfort in a God he created and the idea collapses in on itself.
His answer to the question of origin is what Calvin called the ‘seed of religion’ and ‘a sense of divinity’. In this, there is something in human faculty and natural aptitude that perceives the divine. It is the objective God, ‘He creates not only the light, but also the eye to see it.’
Follow along with me, go buy the whole set here – Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volume Set)