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date: 09 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers in three stages the development of Presbyterian thinking on the interrelated issues of natural theology, philosophy, apologetics, and science. The first stage focuses on the Reformation and Reformed orthodox eras. Early Presbyterian theologians believed that God reveals himself in nature and thus that they could utilize philosophy critically, engage in natural theology for limited purposes, invoke philosophical insights and evidence from nature in their apologetics, and pursue scientific investigation as an honorable vocation. The second stage turns to Presbyterians’ response to the modern post-Enlightenment world of the nineteenth century, focusing on Princeton Seminary theologians who maintained their predecessors’ basic convictions in their new context. The third stage emerges in the wake of controversies about theological modernism. In the mid-twentieth century Presbyterians were heavily influenced by continental Reformed theologians who were more sympathetic to aspects of Enlightenment philosophy than the Princetonians had been, and who therefore rejected natural theology and reconsidered the nature of apologetics. The chapter concludes by suggesting that recent developments among Presbyterian theologians point to a renewed appreciation of the older approaches of the Reformed orthodox and nineteenth-century Princetonians, and that promising new ways of appropriating their tradition are opening up for future years.

Keywords: natural theology, Christianity and philosophy, Christian apologetics, Christianity and science, Princeton Seminary, Presbyterian history, Reformed orthodoxy

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