Original Research

By Scripture and plain reason: A historical retrieval of the relationship between theology and philosophy to better engage with present-day secularism

Daniël J. Maritz
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 57, No 1 | a2908 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v57i1.2908 | © 2023 Daniël J. Maritz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 September 2022 | Published: 28 February 2023

About the author(s)

Daniël J. Maritz, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


The formal principle of the Reformation, sola Scriptura, has sometimes been thought to imply that the Reformed minister and church member need not concern themselves with the right use of reason and philosophy in matters of theology. Perhaps based on a misunderstanding of Paul’s warning to beware of philosophy (Col 2:8), many have supposed that the local Reformed church’s struggle with secularism and its progressive ideas could be resolved on purely exegetical grounds. This misconstrued understanding of sola Scriptura led to a low regard for reason and philosophy in matters of theology which also paved the way for fideism and anti-intellectualism in local Reformed churches. In time, this condition in the church left enough room for secularism and progressive ideas to infiltrate the local church. Before secularism can be thoroughly refuted, a historical retrieval within the Reformed tradition must take place. Fittingly this article commenced a historical retrieval within the broad Reformed tradition. Different Reformers and subsequent Reformed theologians were examined to retrieve the proper relationship between theology and philosophy together with other relevant themes such as natural theology and natural law. Through an historical retrieval, this article consulted the primary sources of figures in the Reformed tradition spanning from the early 1500s to the early 1700s. Modern interpreters and representatives of these figures have also been added to the study. Importantly, philosophy serves theology by defending it and assisting it in clarifying theological truths. Philosophy is also useful to prepare the unregenerate mind for the reception of higher theological truths. Certain philosophical insights, which are manifested in both natural theology and natural law, were also utilised to, on the one hand, demonstrate God’s existence against secularism’s rejection of the supernatural and, on the other hand, critique progressive ideas pertaining to sexuality and the differences between the sexes. This may be approached in the context of both insita and acquisita knowledge of God and reality. Although this article is the second article in a series of two, it nevertheless accomplished its own end to retrieve the role of philosophy in matters of theology, especially regarding natural theology and natural law.

Contribution: As a historical retrieval within the Reformed tradition, this article fits perfectly within the scope of In the Skriflig. It reminds the Reformed minister of the rich heritage within the Reformed tradition regarding the relationship between theology and philosophy, and brings it to bear on the challenge of secularism.


apologetics; faith and reason; natural theology; natural law; philosophy; progressive ideas; Reformed; secularism


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