My odyssey through the creation controversy became an opportunity to encounter Jean-Marc Berthoud’s masterful work and his theology, which later would have such a decisive influence on all aspects of my work as a creationist. I wish to recount my personal experience in order to set the stage.
When I still was a student, I did not know much about the creation debate. In order to learn more about evolution, I purchased a book on the subject by French biologist Jean Humbert.1 Humbert had endorsed Henri Blocher’s2 framework hypothesis and the theory of evolution. As a result, after reading Jean Humbert’s book (which seemed very convincing to me), I began to believe in evolution. I was already a Christian and about twenty years old.
Several years later I became aware of Hugh Ross, whose books my American pastor suggested I read. Thanks to those works, I was pleased and amazed to see that there was a reasonable scientific basis to reject the theory of evolution. I thereby became a progressive creationist. However, I remained embarrassed by Hugh Ross’s assertion that death had existed before Adam’s fall.
It was only a few years later that I gained a more substantial knowledge of theology and exegesis, first through the discovery of classic revivalist writings, and second, through the works of Reformed theologians. Among the latter were John Calvin, Iain Murray, John Piper, Douglas Kelly, and last but not least Jean-Marc Berthoud, an independent Swiss Reformed scholar. In particular, the discovery of Jean-Marc Berthoud’s foundational theological writings would have an ever-increasing impact on my theological and spiritual insight on creation, Scripture, and redemptive history.
Through the years Jean-Marc Berthoud and I have had stimulating and rich email exchanges in which he shared with me his always thorough and acute reflections. It was then that I came to realize the foundational importance of the Biblical doctrine of six-day creation and its wide-ranging implications for all other Biblical doctrines.
In addition, I discovered the scientific works of high-level creationist scientists such as Henry Morris, Guy Berthault, Walter Brown, Robert Gentry, John Hartnett, etc. This was really decisive in completely changing and reshaping my mindset, making me fully embrace the Genesis creation account in six ordinary days which had been the prevailing view within the Church until Darwin’s century.
Apologetics and False Dichotomies
My personal experience definitely convinced me that more than a classic presuppositional approach was needed: we also needed an evidential one. Why both? Because both the heart and the mind cooperate in making us fully grasp God’s truths concerning either the spiritual realm or the physical realm. Even more to the point (as I would later discover), the Word of God and the facts of His world are inseparable.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons why many sincere Christians reject an evidential apologetics may be their implicit commitment to an extreme and unbalanced hyper-Calvinist theological framework. The following excerpt from Mark Duncan’s pamphlet The Five Points of Christian Reconstruction from the Lips of Our Lord3 is certainly significant in this connection:
Jesus employed a presuppositional apologetic method. Christian apologists today would do well to follow our Lord’s example. The Savior was perfectly consistent in His teaching. As outlined above, Christ taught the doctrines which have come to be known as the five points of Calvinism. These doctrines teach that man is a totally depraved sinner and therefore salvation is 100% by God’s grace. An evidential apologetical method is inconsistent with this Calvinistic doctrine, while totally consistent with the Arminian doctrine of free will. The Arminian evidentialist believes that if given enough compelling evidence, a man will reason that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He will then employ his free will to “accept Christ.”
This statement oversimplifies the true Biblical, historic Calvinist view of apologetics, but its merit lies in accurately describing the conviction of many Christians regarding apologetics. Indeed, as Jean-Marc Berthoud magnificently explains in his Pierre Viret: A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation. The Apologetics, Ethics and Economics of the Bible,4 a presuppositional approach should be sensitively combined with an evidential one and does not require exclusively starting from the Bible when communicating God’s truths to unbelievers:
To attain his end Viret does not limit himself to reasoning exclusively from Biblical texts as is often the case with those who hold to a Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics. Not that Viret believes that there exists an imaginary philosophical common ground between Christian thought and pagan thought…
Now, if Viret constantly maintains his thinking on the high ground of the fundamental presupposition of the total authority of the Bible, he nevertheless does not hesitate to use the created and cultural reality which he shares with his contemporaries in his presentation of God’s truth. He is thus at the same time presuppositional and evidential in his apologetics …
Viret has the considerable advantage over us of not standing historically in our post-rationalist, post-idealist, post-dialectical, and post-modern epistemological climate where the philosophical obstacles to the understanding of the God-given meaning of reality are immeasurably greater than they were in the middle of the sixteenth century. He can thus, more easily than we, make use of every aspect of the reality of his time to lead his readers and listeners to understand that the Scriptures, in the final account, reveal the ultimate God-given meaning of whatever matter may be under consideration. The knowledge of all reality is not to be found in Scripture alone, but inheres in the God-given meaningful facts (the substantial forms) of the creation and history where they may be clearly and truly discerned though this, in the final account, only by the Biblically-centered reflection of a Christian apologist and historian like Pierre Viret. Let me insist: knowledge, not meaning, for meaning comes from God’s written revelation alone. Viret’s terminology may sometimes sound as if his position were a purely rational one. But for him human reason and the Bible are not at opposite poles, at war with each other. No, for him, as for Van Til, the Word of God is the very foundation of a correctly functioning human reason.
Thus, for him, to be well instructed in the Word of God was nothing less than the guarantee of a good use of that gracious gift of God—our rational faculties. What, in our modern terminology, we call apologetics was, for Viret and all the Reformers, fundamental to the clear and appropriate preaching of the Gospel. It represents nothing less than the bringing into captivity of every distracted thought of man to the obedience of Christ and to its submission to His sovereign and over-arching Word.
How then does Viret proceed? … He is, in fact, so confident in the truth of Scripture for every aspect of reality, and so filled with the wisdom of God, that he does not hesitate to make use of all aspects of man’s intellectual and cultural activities to reach, in a very concrete and practical fashion, the interests of his contemporaries. But his starting point is always fully Biblical and Creational, never an imaginary common intellectual ground shared in dialogue with the adversaries of the Christian faith. Thus he labors to bring every lost and deformed human thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
I cannot overestimate Jean-Marc Berthoud’s influence on my creationist ministry. It was really through the friendship with and the theological insight of Jean-Marc Berthoud that I came to fully realize how extraordinarily profound a Biblical creational worldview was. In what follows I wish to put forward some of the reasons why I believe that the church in general and the creationist movement in particular need to discover and build upon his work.
Scripture Leads to a Literal Metaphysical Understanding of the Six-day Creation
All of Berthoud’s thought is that of a creationist founded upon God’s creational order, which in turn blossoms out into a full-blown Biblical metaphysics. His entire work is reflected in his brilliant (soon to be published) magnum opus: The Covenantal History of the Church in the World5 where one can fully grasp the necessity for a proper understanding (and integration into the modern-day creationist movement) of a qualitative form of scientific thinking. Such qualitative scientific thinking stands in utter contrast to today’s quantitative scientific thinking so strongly influenced by Francis Bacon’s empiricism and René Descartes’s mathematical rationalism.6
Berthoud offers a sharp and fundamental critique of the nominalist nature of the theistic evolutionism proposed by leading scholars, such as French theologian Henri Blocher and American analytical philosopher Alvin Plantinga (see the pertinent chapters7 of Volume V of Berthoud’s forthcoming Histoire alliancielle). With regards to nominalism, here is the core of Berthoud’s analysis in the words of Dr. Douglas Kelly:
Berthoud believes that the underlying philosophy of this disjunction between “literary” and “literal” (or with Jordan, “theological” and “literal”) is a sort of revived nominalism, such as was practiced by the medieval scholar, William of Occam. Commenting on the type of exegesis of which Blocher’s writing is an example, Berthoud states: “What is taking place here is in fact nominalist exegesis … For Occam, the form or the name [whence “nominalism”] has no real or true [noetic] relation to the thing named or signified. Similarly here [in the “Framework Hypothesis”] literary form has no actual relation to the temporal reality of creation” …
Nominalism of course is an evasion of “realism” (which rests on the assumption of a real relation between literary text and historical facts, events and persons pointed to by that text). As Berthoud writes elsewhere, “In the aesthetics of the Bible (and in the great literature based upon it), form is married to truth, and truth always commands form.”8
As regards Plantinga’s evolutionist errors expressed in his book, Where the Problem Really Lies,9 Jean-Marc Berthoud says the following,
Plantinga considers that the fundamental problem we have to deal with is naturalism, that is to say, an exclusion of God from the modern scientific cosmos. In this he is not wrong. He develops however in this book a vigorous defense of theistic evolution as an answer to this naturalism, answer that he considers to be adequate—which it is not—to both true science and to the Bible. For him, the deadly enemy is materialism; the Creation conflict being of secondary importance, which will lead him to use that bastard child of materialistic (or naturalistic) evolutionism, theistic evolution, in order to confront materialistic evolutionism, and above all scientific naturalism. For him, classical science, both Newtonian and Einsteinian, does not pose any real problem to the Christian faith. What really poses a problem is materialism or naturalism, the exclusion of a spiritual reality from the investigation of nature. He does not at all understand the well-attested fact that modern science—which was born at the beginning of the seventeenth century—has methodologically excluded any metaphysical and theological meaning (the meaning of the world and supernatural design) from its scientific method by eliminating from its reflection final causality (God) and formal causality (the meaning of the world).
In his book, Plantinga writes, “My overall thesis: there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism” (Chapter 9, p. 307). Therefore, for Plantinga, quantitative science is essentially in agreement with theistic religion, but not with a materialistic or a purely naturalistic, that is, immanent view of the universe.
He does not seem to have any clue about what a Biblical metaphysical view of nature open to the sensible and to the spiritual meaning of reality created by God could be. He is not aware that before the seventeenth century there existed a qualitative science (be it Aristotelian or other) where the view of the universe was ordered by the four causes, material, efficient, formal, and final. At that time, the symbolic creation-laden meaning of the world would have its place and allow for use of a parabolic and symbolic realist language to talk about moral and spiritual realities in natural terms. The earthly things were created materially so that they could also speak to us about the heavenly things. Plantinga does not seem to see that it is utterly impossible to come to such a qualitative understanding of the world when using an exclusively quantitative view of the order of the universe.
The central issue for Plantinga only lies in materialism, naturalism, and the exclusion of a theistic view, but not in the so-called evolutionary process itself. [Plantinga says] “… this is the result of confusion—a confusion between guided and unguided evolution, between sober science and philosophical or theological add-on.” This sentence (and especially the term “add-on”) reveals the astonishing weakness of Plantinga as a philosopher and as a theologian, and his quite surprising ignorance of both the metaphysical and theological nature of the scientific endeavor itself.
As a matter of fact, as was shown over and over (see for instance Burtt, Koyré, and Funkenstein10), modern science is based upon a view of reality that is both platonic (through its mathematicising tendency) and nominalist (its atomization of reality). In this sense, one cannot merely speak of philosophical or theological “add-ons” to science, since such elements are organically inherent to it. Even the structure of science incorporates theological and philosophical constituents in the form of presuppositions which are generally not explicitly formulated.
It is precisely here that most Christian creationist scientists (even among the most faithful and those most convinced by the truthfulness of Scripture in the line of the Van Tillian approach) twist the Christian approach to nature by adopting a distorted philosophical view of reality. As Jean-Marc Berthoud explains,
This “atomistic” nominalism concerns the resolutive and compositive method of modern science, which seeks to resolve (reduce) the measurable reality into its most simple parts (atoms); then to recompose (rebuild) the heterogeneous elements of this atomized reality into a consistent hypothetical whole by means of known scientific laws.
As regards the theological foundations of science, it is also well known that modern science, mathematical as well as experimental, starts with a refusal of Aristotle’s and the Bible’s final and formal causes, causes that are specific to the stable nature and to the organic purpose of divinely created beings as they can be observed through the senses and the mind. Metaphysical reflection about the given meaning that gives each creature its stable being (that is, the universals that order them) has long not been an integral part of the modern scientific endeavor having totally atomized the order of nature itself by its resolutive compositive method (solve et coagula). In this perspective, the nature which is investigated by modern science is deprived of any purpose; everything in it is functional, without any proper internal order. God is excluded a priori from it, as a matter of principle, methodologically.
Biblical Metaphysics Versus a Decapitated Cosmology
In his beautiful work, Création, Bible et Science,11 which epitomizes his search for a truly Biblical metaphysics, Berthoud expounds a metaphysical view of reality that is totally and confidently grounded in Scripture. Such a perspective allows him to defend the geocentric cosmology which had prevailed as the scientific view of the universe for the fifteen centuries before the “Copernican revolution” and, above all, the Galileo Trial. This is quite remarkable, and expresses the freedom of his thought from conventional worldly wisdom, all the more so as only a handful of Protestant creationist theologians and scientists (worldwide down the centuries from Galileo onward) has maintained geocentrism or geocentricity.12
In the penultimate chapter of his book L’Alliance de Dieu à travers l’Écriture sainte,13 Berthoud explains how geocentrism is an integral part of a truly Biblical cosmology in which Christ’s bodily resurrection and ascension make sense, in contrast with the decapitated cosmology of modern science which treats the cosmos as being restricted to the atmospheric and sidereal heavens. These two events in Christ’s earthly life are realities belonging both to our world, but also to what is outside the normal course of what is happening in our universe. Biblical cosmology presents a three-tiered cosmology, where the third heaven—the place where the Creator abides—and the cosmos He created are in a relationship of partial continuity.
Jean-Marc Berthoud contrasts the passive attitude of humility and wisdom in ancient cosmology (where a contemplative and thus receptive attitude prevailed in regard to nature) with modern man’s will to dominate, control, and transform the order of nature (by acting upon it as a master conquering his possession). The latter attitude (which embodies an active and violent cruelty towards the created order) thus originates in Francis Bacon and René Descartes and provides the fundamental direction taken by modern scientific and technocratic societies.
Ancient Thought Versus Modern Thought
Ancient thought devoted much attention to visible substantial forms, that is, to those of the created order, and not to those discovered in scientific structures hidden within nature. It could not even think of the uniform, homogeneous, boundless, and shapeless universe at which modern science would arrive.
This model of the universe was exactly what Alexandre Koyré deplored. In his numerous books, Koyré shows how utopia (a void with purely geometrical forms) has replaced the finite, closed, ordered, and meaningful universe of ancient cosmology. That universe had concrete, visible substantial forms, and its driving forces (mobiles) would undergo countless external constraints at any time, which prevented any utopic investigation of nature in its mathematically pure state. Jean-Marc Berthoud argues that modern science could only emerge because a number of such obstacles had been removed. These obstacles, which characterized ancient cosmology, were:
The ancient world was the study of the steady flexibility and ductility of change, not that of the rigid uniformity of mathematical laws;
The world was ordered following a hierarchy of beings, these beings being objectively (substantially) different from each other, from a qualitative point of view (matter, plant life, animal life, human life, angelic life, divine life);
Only concrete substantial forms were known, for instance, that cat, that dog, from which universals could directly be derived through their meticulous observations: Species, families, kinds, elements, etc.;14
These qualitative differences were objective in character, for they belonged to the object itself, and were by no means imposed at all by human thought on things from outside;
In order to be known accurately, all these multiform beings required the use of different methods, each being appropriate to its specific object;
The idea of a single method which would apply to all reality was then intellectually unthinkable, as the multiple order of God’s creatures was perceived and admired;
These beings, so various and multiple, were nevertheless dependent upon each other in a quite complex and unified hierarchy the whole of which constituted the well-ordered and harmonious universe of God;
Mathematics were considered by the Ancients as too pure and too detached from this so varied, complex, rich, and above all changeable world for them to be used as an instrument allowing the scientist to apprehend correctly the purpose and the meaning of the sublunary universe; the latter was a world of change within the stability of multifarious substantial forms, each being characterized by its own universal principle;
Everything, in this world, was driven on by a specific goal, a purpose; the ultimate purpose of all beings was in the One who had given them their existence, their life and their being;
The order of received human language (not that of the pseudo-scientific constructions of linguistics) was a prevailing force, and more specifically—and above all—the order of the written Word of God, the Bible. For this verbal order corresponded to that of the created order of the universe, since both orders stemmed from the benevolent creative and revelatory hand of the one God, being Creator, Providence, and Revealer.
Jean-Marc Berthoud considers that the climax of this synthesis of the ancient universe is to be found in the overpowering system of Thomistic thought which united nature—the varied and united order of the world as it was when it came, in all ways very good, from the hand of God—and theology, based on the higher order of Scripture, truthful revelation given to men by God, divine light enlightening the darkness of man’s sin, fitted to his capacities as a sensible and rational creature.
Berthoud is convinced that one of the last Reformed theologians to endeavor (in a more Biblical manner than Thomas Aquinas) to marry the two kingdoms (nature and revelation) was none other than the Swiss Reformer Pierre Viret (1511–1571). Indeed, the title of Viret’s masterwork, Instruction chrétienne en la doctrine de la Loi et de l’Évangile et en la vraie philosophie et théologie tant naturelle que supernaturelle des Chrétiens; et en la contemplation du temple et des images et œuvres de la providence de Dieu en tout l’univers; et en l’histoire de la création et chute et réparation du genre humain,15 expresses the entire theological, philosophical, and scientific program and worldview of ancient Christendom.
Berthoud on the History of Ideas, Philosophy, and Theology
In the period between that ancient, traditional and Biblical metaphysics and the discovery of modern mathematical-experimental science, a tremendous revolution had occurred in the way of thinking, feeling, and believing. Jean-Marc Berthoud maintains that ancient metaphysics progressively disappeared as new philosophies and theologies were emerging.
First came Francis Bacon, whose program based knowledge and epistemology on experimentation. Then came René Descartes with his substance dualism. Nonetheless, Cartesian dualism still left room for the “spiritual” kingdom, that of the soul alongside matter and expanse (space).
But, as a matter of fact, this dualism quickly gave way to Spinoza’s cosmic monism. His monism cut mankind off from the ancient view of the universe which had maintained both its unity and diversity, its universality and concrete character, all anchored in the Trinity.
By 1632, the new Baconian, Cartesian, Copernican, and Galilean model of the world had won the cosmological battle. The result was the propagation of a novel view of the world among learned people: a cosmos entirely cut off from transcendence.
Jean-Marc Berthoud takes us backstage to this cosmological revolution, tracing Satan’s attacks against the “faith once delivered unto the saints” back to Bacon and Descartes. With the latter, meaning would soon be exclusively attached to what could be measured.
With the Reformation, the Word of God made an extraordinary breakthrough in Europe (placing God’s view of the universe at the center again). But with the new sciences in the wake of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, God and meaning, the final cause and the formal cause, would be excluded from science, as they had no place in it de principio.
This decisive new principle is at the heart of an emerging modernity—a new religion whose prophets were Bacon and Descartes. From then on, the new mathematical-experimental science would prevail as a model for all disciplines of the mind. Mathematics would now become the new universal language, the only language granted legitimacy for decoding the cosmos.
In the light of the recent discovery by archeologists of thousands of 3,700-year-old clay tablets which shed light on the mathematical skills of the Babylonians (including trigonometry, values of sines and cosines, logarithmic formulas, cubic roots, values of exponential functions), one can grasp the spiritual connection between modern-day mathematics-based science and Babylonian religion. The French philosopher of science Roger Caratini concluded that “calculation was institutionally an integral part of the Babylonian number culture as well as the learning of writing, just as was religion among the Egyptians.”16
Metaphysical Deconstruction Further Unravels Reality
Jean-Marc Berthoud explains that in the same vein Duns Scotus, between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century, detached the universals from the order of creation,17 and did the same for the relationship between theology and sacred Scripture. As Thomas Aquinas often taught, the only foundation of theology is to be found in the “Sola Scriptura” principle, not in any logical speculation about “faith truths.”18
Unfortunately, Scotus not only opened the door to an unbridled philosophical speculation (starting from universals that were now detached from their close binding dependence upon the order of the created substantial forms) but he allowed the floodgates to open to a far more dangerous theological speculation. Scotus opened the way to a limitless logical development starting from “principles of faith” now detached from the precise thought of God as revealed in Scripture alone. Consequently, Duns Scotus was the only Catholic theologian in the High Middle Ages to defend, in a purely speculative way, the unbiblical doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.
From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries a speculative school of thought had been developing. It was freed from the bounds of reality in the fields of physics (a discipline increasingly dominated by abstract mathematical constructions), philosophy, and theology. Imaginary worlds were built. All kinds of speculative systems cut off from real, individual substantial forms, were imagined. Little by little, space and time were being conceptualized outside the parameters of the real, concrete world.
For instance, scientists would endeavor to understand motion outside the limitations, obstacles, and constraints of the real world. Their goal was to arrive at a conceptualization describing the reality of all operating forces in motion without the created limitations of the ordinary world. Thus, the model they sought for was inevitably destined to be one in a nonexistent location (a uniform, homogeneous space, as premised on the Copernican principle, that was temporally unconstrained, stable, and infinite), which dovetails with modern Big Bang cosmology. This kind of model is obviously a utopian one, and exists nowhere but in the minds of the scientists who had elaborated it.
Jean-Marc Berthoud makes us embark on an intellectual pilgrimage through history, and digs much deeper into the soil of philosophy, science, and theology than is usually done by modern-day orthodox theologians, science historians, philosophers of science, and creationist scientists. He has convincingly shown that the effects of modernity are vastly more devastating than partisans of the modern creationist movement have hitherto thought. The latter tend to attribute the root of all societal diseases to Charles Darwin, but Berthoud has exposed the deeper revolution in man’s cosmological vision, a revolution on a scale not yet thought of: a new vision of the world that would totally disrupt the true reality and unity of God’s good creation.
The Law’s Relation to the Restoration of a Biblical Creational Metaphysics
Last but not least, it is well worth asking: What precise principle and theological Scriptural framework warrant a return to the creational metaphysics Jean-Marc Berthoud calls for as described above? In other words, how may one scripturally justify the harmonious correspondence between God’s Word and the real world? More specifically, what does Scripture teach as the proper relation between Creation, God’s Word and His law? From a philosophical perspective, one may ponder whether Scripture does indeed justify the ordinary language school and the correspondence theory of truth.
The answer is suggested by Jeremiah 31:35–36 which reads,
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
Here Scripture clearly associates, and binds together, God’s creation and the creational order (general revelation) on one hand, and His moral laws and redemptive purpose for Israel (special revelation through Scripture)—and through the elect Israel the whole of mankind—on the other.
Berthoud is indeed convinced, and labors to make us understand, that the discovery of the hidden laws of nature as from Descartes and Bacon (and even Jeremy Bentham, who sought to apply his scientific utilitarianism to all of reality), with their arbitrary application to all spheres of human life, are a signal historic error. It is an error which will surely lead our so-called scientific world into an inescapable deadlock.
For our modern science has refused to humbly submit itself in its scientific labors, in a spirit of genuine piety, to the Creator of all things. From a methodological viewpoint, it arrived at this outlook by substituting but a small part of reality (its mathematically measurable aspect) for the whole.
Science indeed should seek to reform its purpose so as to conform itself to the whole order of creation. This is the creational or cultural mandate God gave to mankind through Adam in Genesis, and then from Genesis onward. Until the end of time, God’s affairs with mankind and with the world have been (and ever will be) governed by respect to His law. Man cannot evade being under a covenantal relationship to his Creator.
The Creation Mandate and Theonomy
This is why the doctrine of creation is so fundamental to our societies. Rebellious man seeks autonomy from God. Autonomy was first the sin of Adam, who thus broke His law and thereby His covenant.
For the elect people of God in particular, God’s creational mandate is still valid today. It should be implemented through humble and believing obedience, respectful of the limits imposed by the requirements of the law-word of God upon the unrestrained ambitions of a technocratic, transhumanized mankind. These requirements are those of the visible order of the good and benevolent creation of God.
To understand this is also the first step in recovering from the illness brought on by a pietistic faith. A pietistic faith too easily absorbs humanistic thinking, prioritizes spiritual retreat, and thereby deprives the church of her creational mandate.
The various manifestations of human language display this order admirably. This is even more the case with God’s paramount wisdom which expresses and reveals itself in Scripture. Jean-Marc Berthoud’s view of theonomy can thus be summarized as follows:19
The Ten Commandments given to Moses by the Lord Jesus Christ at Mount Sinai can be considered as the first principles of all ethical thought, as much as the first chapters of Genesis contain the first principles of metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology.
All these ethical principles existed long before their first explicit formulation at Mount Sinai, and express God’s righteous and holy character, and hence natural (creational) law which manifests the order of Creation. This point was once held unanimously by the Reformers and the Puritans alike.20
They must be read through the lens of Biblical Wisdom literature.
The teachings of the Prophets allow us to understand them more explicitly.
They must be interpreted and understood in the light of Christ’s teachings as found in the gospels.
The apostolic teaching provides a proper understanding of the Decalogue.
Such a course of action leads to a very accurate understanding of the requirements of God’s law and sheds light on their current application to all times and to all places.
To summarize Berthoud: the Decalogue should a) be read in the light of Biblical casuistic laws; b) be applied to particular cases with wisdom; c) be understood in the more complete light of the New Testament teachings; and d) be read in harmony with the natural order, the order of Creation.
All these laws are filled with a meaning coming from God Himself. What is their meaning? The more they are studied and reflected upon, the more one becomes aware of their immense wisdom, not only in moral, social, and legal terms but also spiritually and cosmologically.
From Berthoud’s point of view, Aquinas and Calvin, despite mounting detailed and meticulous elaborations upon the law of God, do not adequately do justice to, or fully account for, the Biblical data. Berthoud observes that it is also a pity that so many Reformed theologians do not more deeply explore the exact meaning of these several aspects of God’s law.
However, men of God such as John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Pierre Viret, John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, Lancelot Andrewes, Thomas Watson, Benedict Pictet, Friedrich-Julius Stahl, Cornelius Van Til, Francis Nigel Lee, Rousas John Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North, and Pierre Courthial (to name but a few)—and many other secondary figures—have rendered us an immense service by scrutinizing the meaning of many aspects of God’s law, whether it be moral, legal, or ceremonial.
Berthoud’s magnificent work is invaluable in that it is a very timely reminder to the Church and to the world—as a prophetic plumb line during our troubled times—that God is indeed the sovereign Creator who demands from all men obedience to His law, and that the rejection of His law will always result in escalating judgments until He accomplishes His redemptive purposes through them so as to bring the nations to enjoy and share His glory and grace.
I am so deeply grateful to God for such a powerful, faithful, incisive, and yet humble messenger and friend as Jean-Marc Berthoud.
1. Jean Humbert, Création, évolution, faut-il trancher? Sator, 1990, 289 p.
2. Henri Blocher is an internationally well-known French theologian, and one of the leading proponents of the framework hypothesis. See for instance his book, Révélation des origines, Presses Bibliques Universitaires, 2001, 264 p.
3. Mark Duncan, Five Points of Christian Reconstruction from the Lips of Our Lord, Still Waters Revival Books, Canada, 1990.
4. Jean-Marc Berthoud, Pierre Viret: A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation. The Apologetics, Ethics and Economics of the Bible, Zurich Publishing, 2010.
5. Jean-Marc Berthoud, L’histoire alliancielle de l’Église dans le monde, Five volumes. Soon to be published by Messages at Lulu.com.
6. See Cameron Wybrow, The Bible, Baconianism, and Mastery over Nature: The Old Testament and its Modern Misreading, Peter Lang, International Academic Publishers, 1992, 231 p.
7. See: « L’évolution théiste, ses racines et ses consequences » and « Alvin Plantinga: adversaire du naturalisme scientiste naturaliste; apologète d’un évolutionnisme imaginaire ».
8. Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change. Genesis 1,1–2,4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms, Mentor / Christian Focus Publications, 2008 , 240 pages, p. 103.
9. Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies. Science, Religion and Naturalism, Oxford University Press, 2011.
10. E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, Routledge, 1980 ; Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, Harper, 1958; Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century, Princeton University Press, 1986.
11. Jean-Marc Berthoud, Création, Bible et Science, L’Âge d’Homme, Lausanne, 2010, 420 pages.
12. To name a few contemporary advocates of geocentrism, one may consider for instance John Byl (Ph.D in astronomy), Gerardus Bouw (Ph.D in astronomy), Martin G. Selbrede, Philip Stott (M.Sc. in Civil Engineering), Robert Sungenis (Masters Degree in religion), and Wolfgang Smith (Ph.D. in mathematics).
13. Jean-Marc Berthoud, L’Alliance de Dieu à travers l’Écriture sainte. Une théologie biblique, L’Âge d’Homme, Lausanne, 2012, 748 p. Chapter XIX, pp. 523-570.
14. On the stability of substantial forms see, Olivier N’Guyen, Stabilité des espèces, Éditions du Jubilé, 2014; A. C. Cotter, Natural Species, The Weston College Press, 1947; David S. Oderberg, Real Essentialism, Routledge, 2007; David S. Oderberg (Editor), Classifying Reality, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
15. Pierre Viret, Christian Instruction in the Doctrine of the Law and the Gospel and in the True Philosophy, both Natural and Supernatural, of Christians; and in the Contemplation of the Temple and the Images and Works of God’s Providence throughout the Universe; and in the History of the Creation, the Fall and the Restoration of the Human Species, Four volumes, Arthur-Louis Hofer (Editor), L’Âge d’Homme, Lausanne, 2004-2018.
16. https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/college-de-france-40-lecons-inaugurales/bernard-chazelle-l-algorithmique-et-les-sciences. Quoted in Eric Lemaître et al., La déconstruction de l’homme? Editions La Lumière. Soon to be published.
17. André de Muralt, L’Enjeu de la philosophie médiévale: Etudes thomistes, scotistes, occamiennes et grégoriennes, Brill, Leiden, 1993.
18. Florent Gaboriau, L’Écriture seule?, Fac-Éditions, Paris, 1997; Augusto Del Noce, The Crisis of Modernity, McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal, 2014.
19. Jean-Marc Berthoud, L’Alliance de Dieu à travers l’Écriture sainte. Une théologie biblique, L’Âge d’Homme, Lausanne, 2012. Chapter VI, « L’Alliance de Dieu avec Israël au Sinaï ». Conclusion: « Brève note sur la théonomie et les trois aspects de la Loi. » pp. 185–188.
20. See for instance Ernest F. Kevan, The Grace of Law. A Study of Puritan Theology. Baker House Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan,  1976.