Furthermore, those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy. For of late, certain giddy men have arisen who, with great haughtiness exalting the teaching office of the Spirit, despise all reading and laugh at the simplicity of those who, as they express it, still follow the dead and killing letter.1 But I should like to know from them what this spirit is by whose inspiration they are borne up so high that they dare despise the Scriptural doctrine as childish and mean. For if they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, such assurance is utterly ridiculous. Indeed, they will, I think, agree that the apostles of Christ and other believers of the primitive church were illumined by no other Spirit. Yet no one of them thence learned contempt for God’s Word; rather, each was imbued with greater reverence as their writings most splendidly attest. And indeed it had thus been foretold through the mouth of Isaiah. For where he says, “My Spirit which is in you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed … forever” [Isa. 59:21 p., cf. Vg.], he does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s; rather, he teaches that under the reign of Christ the new church will have this true and complete happiness: to be ruled no less by the voice of God than by the Spirit. Hence we conclude that by a heinous sacrilege these rascals tear apart those things which the prophet joined together with an inviolable bond. Besides this, Paul, “caught up even to the third heaven” [2 Cor. 12:2], yet did not fail to become proficient in the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, just as also he urges Timothy, a teacher of singular excellence, to give heed to reading [1 Tim. 4:13]. And worth remembering is that praise with which he adorns Scripture, that it “is useful for teaching, admonishing, and reproving in order that the servants of God may be made perfect” [2 Tim. 3:16–17]. What devilish madness is it to pretend that the use of Scripture, which leads the children of God even to the final goal, is fleeting or temporal?
Then, too, I should like them to answer me whether they have drunk of another spirit than that which the Lord promised his disciples. Even if they are completely demented, yet I do not think that they have been seized with such great dizziness as to make this boast. But in promising it, of what sort did he declare his Spirit would be? One that would speak not from himself but would suggest to and instill into their minds what he had handed on through the Word [John 16:13]. Therefore the Spirit, promised to us, has not the task of inventing new and unheard-of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel.
—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.9.1
Monthly Archives: June 2016
The next in the series of rejections to Christianity that Russell offers is the rejection of the argument from natural law. The argument is typically framed in this way:
- Nature operates according to fixed natural laws
- If natural laws exist there must be a natural law giver
- We call that natural law give God
Essentially the argument observes that there is regularity in the universe and such regularity means there is a God who keeps control over nature. In other words if you have a universe that operates under certain natural laws then there must be a universal God who governs these laws.
Initially Russell offers something more like critiques of the natural law argument that wouldn’t qualify as a refutation. For example he says that the natural law argument is intellectually lazy because it simply states “God did it” which Russell says is easier than trying to find explanations. Else where he criticizes the use of the term “natural law” because he doesn’t believe there are these natural laws that exist in the natural world. Rather he says what we call “natural law” are more like conventions of thought and agreed upon by those in the field of investigation in question. I don’t want to get into the critique of Russell’s critiques which can be easily surmised. However, I would like to discuss the argument that he does offer.
Russell’s explains his argument in this way:
The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?” If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others — the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it — if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary.
This is the crux of Russell’s argument:
- If there was no reason for the laws which God gave
- Then not everything functions by laws
- If there was reason for the laws which God gave
- Then God Himself was subject to law
- Thus the God answer makes no progress in explaining natural law
This is the dilemma that Russell brings up. In this case we have a false dilemma since there is a third option that Russell does not discuss. The third option calls into question premise two. Within premise two there is a categorical error because God Himself cannot be subject to anything external. If God were subject to external laws then He Himself wouldn’t be God, but rather the law that He is subject to would reign over Him. To take this one step further such a being is not the Christian conception of God so any time Russell speaks of such a being who is subject to laws he is not addressing the Christian God and his argument wouldn’t be relevant.
In classical Protestant Theology we speak of the “asciety” of God is an attribute of His Being. This refers to the property by which God exists in and of Himself; without which He would lose His God like character. Thus God is not contingent upon anything outside Himself. Unlike you or me who are contingent upon God for it is He in whom we live and breath and have our being. God requires nothing or is contingent upon nothing outside of His Being.
In short Russell does not have the Christian God in mind when he makes his argument rendering his argument irrelevant to the reasons why he says he is not a Christian.