Francis Turretin’s Natural Theology: Francis Junius’s Influence | John Sweat

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Apologetics, Historical Theology, Systematic Theology

 

*Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a six-part series called “Francis Turretin’s Natural Theology.” As more installments are released, each part of the series will be linked to each post.

To read part 1 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-clearing-the-historical-record-john-sweat/

To read part 2 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-john-calvins-influence-john-sweat/

To read part 3 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-francis-juniuss-influence-john-sweat/

To read part 4 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-natural-theologys-definition-john-sweat/

To read part 5 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-natural-and-supernatural-theology-john-sweat/

To read part 6 of 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/francis-turretins-natural-theology-natural-theologys-use-john-sweat/

 

Francis Junius’s Archetypal and Ectypal Theology

The early Reformed scholastic Francis Junius influenced Reformed theology greatly in his work A Treatise of True Theology.[1] Junius is the first Protestant to employ the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology, laying the groundwork for a Reformed prolegomena that dispels rather than promotes rationalism. Junius’s distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology became the normative approach to the prolegomena of the Reformed scholastics, and not surprisingly, it is also used in Turretin’s Institutes.[2] Van Asselt notes that Junius’s categories impacted as far as the neo-Calvinist tradition of Kuyper, Bavinck, and Berkhof.[3] The distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology frames Christian theology as a “relational enterprise, determined by and determinative of the divine-human relationship,” in contrast to a theology that begins or deals only with an abstract generic deity.[4]

Junius’s treatise follows the scholastic questions of An sit? Quid sit? and, Quale sit, beginning first in theses one through four with the question of whether theology exists (An sit?).[5] In thesis three, Junius deals with false theology. False theology is subject to opinion rather than subject to truth. False theology is “the shadow of wisdom grasping at something or another in the place of divine matters,” exchanging the true God for idols and dreams.[6] False theology is the opinion of the creature that does not “rest in authoritative testimony.” Muller writes, “Theologica falsa is a depraved judgment of the soul, falsehood posing as truth, vain and erratic opinion concerning divine powers (numen), ignorance of God, fables about divine things.”[7] This is the characteristic of all unregenerate natural theology. The early Reformed orthodox described false theology as a “non-Christian form of natural, philosophical, or rationale theology” solidifying a distinction between a Christian and a pagan natural theology, “the former communicated by revelation, the latter resting solely on corrupted reason unable to grasp revelation.”[8] The category of false theology mentioned here in Junius is found earlier in Calvin in terms of unregenerate knowledge of God. False theology does not deny man’s real natural knowledge of God and man’s capacity to know first principles, such as God exists and he is to be worshipped. It affirms the former while recognizing in addition that man’s reason is corrupted, and he is bent toward idolatry and false imaginations.

This is an important point of confusion amongst some theologians in properly understanding what is meant by “false theology,” in relation to Junius’s treatise. False theology is often collapsed into a denial of a positive function of natural theology in the unbeliever. But a positive use or function of natural theology must not be confused with a saving or true (healthy) use. The unregenerate man possesses a positive use of natural theology, despite it being a “false theology.” Jeffrey Jue seems to confuse false and positive, arguing that unregenerate men do not have a positive use of natural theology since their natural theology falls under Junius’ category of false theology.[9] In contrast, Kevin DeYoung confuses the unregenerate’s positive use of natural theology with true natural theology. DeYoung attempts to argue that Junius distinguishes between the pagan false theology in thesis three and four from the true natural theology of “unregenerate man deducing principles from the light of nature” in thesis fourteen through sixteen.[10] This inserts a foreign distinction under Junius’s category of true natural theology that is not there.[11] Man’s natural knowledge of God must be held in tension with man’s depraved nature.

In contrast to false theology, Junius explains what true theology is (Quid sit?) in thesis five, and in the remainder of the treatise, he explains what true theology is like (Quale sit?). The focus here will be on true theology distinguished as archetypal and ectypal in order to further demonstrate its importance for Christian theology and Turretin’s natural theology.[12] Junius defined theology as “wisdom concerning divine things,” which consists of both the theoretical and practical.[13] Junius divided true theology into God’s knowledge of himself- “divine wisdom of divine matters,”- the creature’s knowledge of God- “wisdom of divine matters.”[14] The first kind of theology is archetypal, that is “essential and uncreated” theology that belongs to God alone and is incommunicable to creatures.[15] God’s knowledge of himself is identical to God’s being according to his simple nature. Archetypal theology is identical with God’s essence; if it were the only theology, then creatures would be unable to know God.[16]

The second kind of theology is ectypal. Ectypal theology is a copy or image derived from the former but is communicated to fit the creature’s capacity. Archetypal theology is the actual stamp, whereas ectypal theology is the impression or image created from the stamp. Junius maintains that archetypal and ectypal theology are distinct, and the latter is dependent on the former.[17] God is the “causal basis,” the craftsman of ectypal or “human theology.”[18]

God fashions ectypal theology, Junius writes, “by His most wise counsel,” and second, “externally by His most powerful work.”[19] The divine will of God, is the source for this internal form, while the external form communicated to men is the lake that is derived from the source. Nathaniel Gray explains that God’s revelation of that internal ectypal theology, which is “contingent on his [God’s] will,” adapts itself to the creature’s capacity. This revelatory accommodation is the proper object of creaturely theology. [20]

Junius’s categories help distinguish archetypal from ectypal. He maintains the communicability of revelation to the creature from God’s mind to the works of God while equally maintaining the distinction between the Creator and creature. Van Asselt notes that ectypal theology (theologia simpliciter dicta) fashioned in God’s mind is distinct from archetypal theology. The former is communicable, the latter is not. However, when ectypal knowledge is communicated to creatures- moving from the mind of God to the works of God- it becomes theologia secundrum quid.[21] This is a theology that is relational and dependent on God’s revelatory condescension, communicating himself to creatures in accordance with their finitude.[22] True theology born out of an ectypal theology demonstrates the relational nature of Christian theology,[23] keeping before the eyes of the theologian his dependence on God to reveal himself and his duty to him as creatures to the Creator.[24]

The schema and ordering of Junius’s prolegomena are seen in Turretin’s first locus as he deals with the question of whether theology exists and how it is to be divided. In distinguishing between true and false theology, like Junius, Turretin acknowledges that while false theology contains partial truth its “errors are fundamental.”[25] Further, Turretin follows Junius in recognizing “wisdom” as the most appropriate habit to “be attributed to theology.”[26] Turretin then echoes Junius’s archetypal/ectypal distinction as he begins to unfold the nature of true theology, and yet Turretin considers it improper to apply the term “theology” to God’s knowledge of himself.[27] Because Turretin defines theology as discourse about and from God, “theology” is not properly applied to God.[28] However, Junius attributes the term to God in reference to his archetypal knowledge without any impropriety because his definition distinguishes between the theology of God and the theology of the creature. God’s theology is divine wisdom, and man’s theology (ectypal) is creaturely wisdom.[29] In God’s knowledge of himself, there is no learning, acquiring, or receiving knowledge, but the creature receives, learns, and grows in his knowledge of God.

Another place Turretin departs from Junius is in his distinction within ectypal theology between the internal and external.[30] Junius’s distinction explains how ectypal theology moves from the mind of God to God’s revelation in his works. Turretin’s omission of this distinction may further account for his regarding the term “theology” as an improper term to apply to God. Nonetheless, the structure of Junius’ prolegomena is maintained and affirmed in Turretin. Last, and most significantly for this paper’s thesis, Turretin follows Junius in placing true natural theology under ectypal revealed theology, which will be further explored in the next section.[31]

About the Author

John Sweat is a marine veteran who serves as one of the pastors at Covenant Community Church in Lake Butler, Florida. He is a husband to Heather and a father to four girls. John has received an MA in biblical studies and an MA in Christian Thought at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

 

[1] Franciscus Junius, A Treatise on True Theology: With the Life of Franciscus Junius, trans by. David C. Noe (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). Kevin DeYoung, “Franciscus Junius, Old Princeton, and the Question of Natural Theology: a Response to Shannon’s ‘Junius and Van Til on Natural Knowledgde of God,’” Westminster Theological Journal WTJ 83 (2021): 251.

[2]  Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.2.6.

[3] Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology,” 321, 323-324. Van Asselt argues that Francis Junius is representative of the Reformed Scholastic view on theology. Willem J. Van Asselt, Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism, Reformed Historical-Theological Studies (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 130. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.1-2.

[4] Van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology,” 324.

[5] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 91–98. Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 1:161. Likewise, Turretin follows the scholastic pattern of questioning, though it is more loosely followed in some portions of the institutes. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3.1.2.

[6] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 95. 97, 156. While Junius does further explain the nomenclature of false theology in thesis four, the stated goal of his treatise is to lay forth a true theology not a pagan natural theology. Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 95. Van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology,” 325.

[7] Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 1:159. See also Theologica falsa in Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 362.

[8] Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 1:1160-61.

[9] Jue, Jeffrey K., “Theologia Naturalis: A Reformed Tradition,” 178–179.

[10] DeYoung, “Franciscus Junius, Old Princeton, and the Question of Natural Theology: a Response to Shannon’s ‘Junius and Van Til on Natural Knowledge of God,’” 255.

[11] Nathan D. Shannon, “A Brief Rejoinder to Kevin DeYoung,” Westminster Theological Journal 83 (2021): 268–270.

[12] The three parts of ectypal theology will be further elucidated in the next section.

[13] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 99, 101, 114.

[14] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 86. Turretin follows this exact structure showing his dependence on Junius. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.2.6.

[15] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 108.

[16] Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 357–358. Isaac Bronkema, “Archetypal and Ectypal Theology and the Christian Task,” Puritan Reformed Journal 14, no. 1 (2022): 73.

[17] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 104–106. Junius argues that there must be a “analogical equivocation” between the two kinds of theology where in one sense there is a point of similarity but in another sense there is a point of difference. Junius, A Treatise on True Theology: With the Life of Franciscus Junius, 103, 106.

[18] Van Asselt notes Junius’s use of Aristotelian causality in this section of his treatise as a “heuristic device” rather than an uncritical wholesale appropriation of Aristotelian philosophy. Van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology,” 328-329. Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 114–115.

[19] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 116.

[20] Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, “Two Theological Accounts of Logic: Theistic Conceptual Realism and a Reformed Archetype-Ectype Model,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 79, no. 3 (June 2016): 244.

[21] Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 328–329. For a visual conception of the archetypal/ectypal distinction see Sutanto, “Two Theological Accounts of Logic,” 247.

[22] Junius, A Treatise on True Theology: With the Life of Franciscus Junius, 329.

[23] Nathan Shannon argues that Junius and Van Til’s conception of natural theology are both shaped by the God-human relationship. Nathan D. Shannon, “Junius and Van Til on Natural Knowledge of God,” Westminster Theological Journal, no. WTJ 82 (2020): 300. See also Michael Horton for a discussion on Van Til’s Creator/creature distinction as paralleling the Reformed scholastic distinction of archetype/ectype. Michael Horton, “Consistently Reformed: The Inheritance and Legacy of Van Til’s Apologetic,” in Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2017), 134–139.

[24] Sutanto expresses this well, “This archetypal-ectypal paradigm curbs at every point any rationalistic desire to know God from the bottom-up, for God is unknowable apart from his revelatory will, while eschewing the mystical tendency to preclude the possibility of articulating a firm knowledge of God. Not only so, that ectypal theology finds its locus in God’s will (though grounded in his being) reminds the theologian that whatever knowledge he has of God from revelation must take into account a significant qualitative discontinuity between that knowledge and the divine archetype.” Sutanto, “Two Theological Accounts of Logic: Theistic Conceptual Realism and a Reformed Archetype-Ectype Model,” 244–245.

[25] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.2.5.

[26] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.6.7.

[27] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.1.9.

[28] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.1.7.

[29] Franciscus Junius, A Treatise on True Theology, 86.

[30] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.2.6.

[31] Franciscus Junius, A Treatise on True Theology: With the Life of Franciscus Junius, 135, 141.

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God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

Job mocks the repetitive irrelevance of the presentations of his comforters. He particularly derides the speech of Bildad for his restatement of the obvious that God is more powerful than his creatures. With seething sarcasm, Job quips, “How you have helped him who has no power!” Just telling me that God is stronger than I is neither enlightening nor particularly insightful in expanding our understanding of the ways of God with his creatures.

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