After a rather lengthy hiatus from Scripture studies, I want to come back with some Muller. I want to start with what seemed to me one of the very strongest arguments for the Bible being foundational to the church, rather than the church being foundational to the Bible. I would especially welcome my Roman Catholic readers to respond to this, because Muller doesn’t indicate what the standard Catholic response to this argument is, and I would like to know.
Muller goes to John Owen, in volume 16 of his works, in the work entitled Divine Original, for an argument that moves from general revelation to special revelation in a “how much more” fashion. Owen starts with something that Roman Catholics, Reformed and even Rationalists all agree on: the divine origin of natural revelation “declares itself to be from God by its own light and authority…: without further evidence or reasoning, without the advantage of any considerations but what are by itself supplied, it discovers its author, from whom it is, and in whose name it speaks…common notions are inlaid in the natures of rational creatures by the hand of God, to this end, that they might make a revelation of Him…, are able to plead their own divine original, without the least contribution of strength or assistance from without” (Owen, vol 16, p. 311). Muller’s comment on this: “If such a view of natural revelation is assumed, how much more ought its logic apply to Scripture!” (vol 2, p. 268). Then comes the killer quotation from Owen:
Now, it were very strange, that those low, dark, and obscure principles and means of the revelation of God and his will, which we have mentioned, should be able to evince themselves to be from him, without any external help, assistance, testimony or authority; and that that which is by God himself magnified above them…should lie dead, obscure, and have nothing in itself to reveal its Author, until this or that superadded testimony be called to its assistance (Owen, p. 311, quoted in Muller, pp. 268-269).
The substance of the argument, then, is that if natural revelation is acknowledged to be of divine origin and authority without the support of the church, then why shouldn’t special revelation also be acknowledged to have divine origin and authority without the support of the church, especially since the latter is much clearer than the former, and is given by God a higher priority and authority than natural revelation? Why would God not make natural revelation depend on humanity, but then make a more important revelation depend on humanity? Revelation is of God from first to last. God requires no human crutch to make His revelation authoritative. It is authoritative because of its Divine Author.