Previous article in this series: June 2012, p. 398.
Since these articles have appeared over a number of months, I will summarize what has been said thus far.
Those who teach the relatively new “Reformational” theology¹ speak of a “Word of God” not found in the Scriptures. Denying that Scripture fully reveals to us the will of God, they say we must turn to the creation to discover many of the details concerning what God’s will is.
Yet when they speak of the “creation” they are referring to more than the animals, plants, and inanimate matter. Man is included in what they call the creation. In other words, their idea of learning from “the creation” involves taking ideas from human beings. For example, they speak of learning from the creation how to run a school. Yet what they are really doing is simply adopting many of man’s ideas regarding school administration, and then calling these customs the Word of God made known in “the creation.”
It should be evident that what they are calling “the Word of God” here is really the word of man. It is true, of course, that God does make Himself known by means of the creation. Yet what God tells us by this medium does not amount to additional principles of wisdom not found in the Scriptures. Furthermore, the ideas and theories man comes up with in areas of science, education, government, etc. are not the same as what God makes known by means of the creation. The former amounts to the word of man, not the word of God.
In a sense, what the Reformationalists are doing is similar to what theistic evolutionists have done for many years. The theory of evolution arises out of the sinful heart of man. Yet theistic evolutionists have often referred to this theory as though it were God’s Word made known in the creation. Reformationalists do something very similar. Yet in their case it is the ever-changing social customs of man that are referred to as “norms” made known in the creation to which we ought to submit.
That summarizes briefly what has been said thus far. Now we turn to consider one of the ways they attempt to prove their position.
They refer to the Wisdom of God mentioned in the book of Proverbs, and say that learning from the “creation” is the same as listening to the Wisdom spoken of in this book. Let us consider first of all what is meant by this Wisdom, and then go on to consider how the Reformationalists wrongly explain what it means to listen to Wisdom’s voice.
The Wisdom with God from the Beginning
The book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom. Some of the passages speak of what a wise person does. Other passages speak of Wisdom as a person who speaks to us. The very first chapter speaks of Wisdom crying out, calling us to hearken to her:
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you ().
So who is this Wisdom, and how do we hear Wisdom’s voice?
Let us begin by considering who this Wisdom is. The Wisdom that we read of inis spoken of in more detail in .
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth ().
Wisdom here is said to be a person who was begotten of God, and who also was with God when He created all things. There is only one person who fits this description—the second person of the holy Trinity. Wisdom is referred to in the feminine inbecause the Hebrew word for wisdom is in the feminine gender. But it is clear that the eternal Son of God is the Wisdom who is spoken of in Proverbs.
The Son of God is called the Word of God inand the Wisdom of God in the book of Proverbs. The references are to one and the same person. John starts his gospel narrative by saying that the Word was “with God” in the beginning. This is the same language that had been used previously to describe the Wisdom of God in the book of Proverbs. In the quote above we are told that the Wisdom of God was with God when He created all things.
Yet the fact that this Wisdom is said to have been “with God” does not preclude the possibility that He also is God Himself. The first verse of John says: “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . .”
The same can be said about the Wisdom mentioned in Proverbs.
This Wisdom is said to have been “brought forth” () before God created all things. From the viewpoint of His human nature, the Son of God was born many years after God laid the foundations of the earth. But from the viewpoint of His divine nature, the Son of God is eternally begotten of the Father.
The Reformational view of the “Creational Word”
The Reformationalists have a different explanation of this Wisdom of God. One writer calls it: “the law of creation before creation.”² Another writer speaks of this Wisdom as the “creational Word of God”: “In Proverbs the creational Word of God meets us personified as ‘Wisdom.’”³
We have talked about how the Reformationalists tell us to listen to what they call “the creation.” They then cite the passages quoted above from the book of Proverbs, and claim that the Wisdom spoken of in these passages is the law in the creation that they have been talking about.
speaks of the Wisdom of God and says that this Wisdom was involved in the creation of all things. From this they argue, rather obscurely I might add, that this Wisdom is “the law of creation” or “the normative creation order,”4 calling us to submit to it.
As we read on to see how they further describe this “creational Word,” we discover that the “Word” of which they speak does not harmonize with the Word spoken of in. Their creational Word is said to be neither God nor a creature:
The Word is the Word of God. It is therefore distinguishable from God himself. At the same time it stands transcendently above and holds for all creation.5
The inspired apostle John says that the Word is God Himself. He emphatically states “and the Word was God.”
The fact that He is called the Word of God, does not mean that He is not God. The church has confessed the truth concerning this many years ago. The Nicene Creed states that we believe:
in one LORD JESUS CHRIST, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father; by whom all things were made . . . .
The second person of the Trinity is God, and is also referred to as being “of God,” since He is eternally begotten of the first person. “God of God” is what the church has long confessed Him to be. This is the Word spoken of in, and this is the Wisdom that is referred to in the book of Proverbs.
Hearing the voice of Wisdom
It should be evident that a wrong understanding of who this Wisdom is will lead to a wrong understanding of how we hear Wisdom’s voice. Although they would deny it, the Reformational error really leads people to seek wisdom from a source other than the eternal Son of God. Proverbs speaks of Wisdom as the one who teaches us wisdom. If this Wisdom is not God Himself, then there is some other, non-divine source that we are supposed to turn to in order to find wisdom.
This serves to bring out how dangerous this error really is.
We and our children must listen to Christ, the true Wisdom. He speaks to us centrally through the preaching of the Scriptures, telling us the principles that we could never have known, if He had not revealed them unto us.
The natural man has no desire to listen to the voice of Wisdom heard in gospel preaching. He would much rather go out into the creation and claim to be listening to God there.
In, Christ is called “the wisdom of God.” says that His sheep hear His voice. They hear Him, they know Him, and they follow Him. explains that they hear Him through the official preaching of the gospel. That is where we go to hear Wisdom speaking to us.
It is true that Christ speaks to us through the Scriptures also when we search them on our own, or in communion with other saints. But Christ will guide us to understand what we are reading, only when we are submissive to His call to join ourselves to a faithful manifestation of the true church, and to embrace the word of Wisdom that is faithfully preached to us there.
A true instituted church of Christ—that is where we are to go to hear Wisdom calling out to us.says that this Wisdom cries out publically “in the city.” The church of Christ is the city of God, where Wisdom is heard. There is where Wisdom is proclaiming God’s Word, including passages found in the book of Proverbs, and promising His Spirit to those who joyfully embrace the words that He speaks.
Very important it is that we and our children know this. We must not be fooled by those who would lead us to go out into the creation and into the midst of this world, there to speculate about what “the creational Word” supposedly is telling us.
The Wisdom of God speaks clearly in words—words that we can understand. Following His voice, and not the voice of a stranger, we and our children will receive all the wisdom we need, and enjoy the nourishment and protection that He alone can provide.
¹ Reformational theology is not Reformed theology. The former is based on the ideas of Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894–1977), and is promoted by some of the professors at Calvin College, Dordt College, Trinity Christian College, and Redeemer University College.
² Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 31. Wolters is a professor at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario.
³ Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 81. Spykman was professor of religion and theology at Calvin College, where he taught for 32 years.
4 Wolters, 31.
5 Spykman, 79. The emphasis is his.