A Confessional Phrase: “Light of Nature”

I don’t know if a scrupulous worldviewist has ever declared an exception on account of it, but the Two Kingdom-friendly idea of  “light of nature” is very much woven into the Westminster Confession of Faith.  That exact phrase is used five times, and the concept can be seen elsewhere.

We are told that, by the light of nature, men know enough about God to be inexcusable. Then, by the light of nature some circumstantial elements of worship may be ordered.  Men may well-order their lives by the light of nature and morality may be more or less consistent with the light of nature. Along the same line of thought, it is according to the “law of nature” that some time should be given to worship God, and the Christian magistrate may enforce “wholesome” laws.  See these in context below.

The Westminster Divines took great pains to choose these phrases and not others.  That’s at least five times that the worldviewist has cognitive dissonance when reading the Confession, and five times the Two Kingdom view is implied.  So whose view is novel?  What does the Light of Nature tell you?

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WCF 1:1 Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation…

WCF 1:6 …there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

WCF 10:4 Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious, and to be detested.

WCF 20:4 …they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, …they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the Civil Magistrate.

WCF 21:1 The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

WCF 21.7  As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God…

WCF 23:2 It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth…

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1 Comment

Filed under Presbyterian Vocabulary, Two Kingdom, Westminster Confession of Faith, Worldview

One response to “A Confessional Phrase: “Light of Nature”

  1. Richard

    This brings out the sound of crickets chirping from our theonomist friends.

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