Reason and Revelation: A Shift Between Turretin and Hodge?

Years ago, while at Westminster [East] I had the opportunity to take a semester long class on Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology with Dr. Scott Oliphint and Dr. Jeff Jue. Turretin’s Institutes served as the Systematic Theology textbook of the Academy at Geneva during the Third Wave of the Reformation. The text was in Latin and remained the standard Systematic Theology into the 1800’s where it was used at Cambridge University until Turretin’s Institutes were replaced by Charles Hodge’s three volume, Systematic Theology.

One thing that my professors pointed out was the amount of time Turretin spent on the relationship of faith and reason verse the amount of time Hodge spent on the same topic. As to amount of content, Hodge spills nearly three times as much ink dealing with rationalism and reason as Turretin spends dealing with the “rationalist” of his time and reason. Covering 10 pages Turretin’s topics are,

VIII. Is human reason the principle and rule by which the doctrines of the Christian religion and theology (which are the objects of faith) ought to be measured? We deny against the Socinians.
IX. Does any judgment belong to reason in matters of faith or is there no use at all for it?
X. May the judgment of contradiction be allowed to human reason in matters of faith? We affirm.

Covering 26 pages Hodge’s topics are,

III.1 Meaning and Usage of the Word “Rationalism”
III.2 Deistical Rationalism
III.3 Second Form Rationalism. – Its Nature, Refutation, History
III.4 Dogmatism
III.5 Proper Office of Reason in Matters of Religion
Reason necessary for the Reception of a Revelation. – Difference between Knowing and Understanding. – Reason must judge of the Credibility of a Revelation. – The Impossible cannot be believed. – Reason must judge of the Evidence of a Revelation
III.6 Relation of Philosophy and Revelation
III.7 Office of the Senses in Matters of Faith

There are at least two initial observations to make regarding this comparison:

1.) Clearly Hodge saw a greater need to address the rise of Rationalism or even the worship of human reason during his time. As such he chose to give nearly 3 times as much attention to the role of reason in matters of faith. But such threats where not wholly absent from Turretin’s time either given the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Fall and particularly the fall of the intellect at Adam’s first sin.

2.) Did Hodge place a greater emphasis and even impetus on the role of reason in matters of faith? That would have to be argued on a later post but suffice it to say that Hodge’s terminological emphasis seems to differ from that of Turretin’s. Consider in our examples above Turretin’s VIII and Hodge’s III.5. Turretin plainly states that Reason is not the principle by which the doctrines of the Christian religion and theology ought to be measured?” while Hodge plainly states that “Reason must judge of the Credibility of a Revelation” and “Reason must judge of the Evidence of Revelation.” For Turretin reason is not principle and for Hodge reason is a “must” and is therefore principle. At this point, I only wish to point out that Hodge places a greater emphasis on reason than Turretin. We will discuss meaningful differences at a later time.

Indeed, the times of these two men were different but the role, efficacy, and authority of human reason has not changed since the fall of Adam in the Garden.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: