Calvin and the Natural Order

Calvin and the Natural Order: Positives and problems for science-faith dialogue
Brian Edgar, July 2010.



Brian Edgar, Professor of Theological Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary, Fellow of ISCAST.


The year 1543 saw the publication of Copernicus’ On the Revolutions of Celestial Bodies, Vesalius’ On the Structure of the Human Body and Calvin’s The Necessity of Reforming the Church – three publications which provided a philosophical foundation for a reformation of both church and scientific method. This paper discusses the way Calvin’s theology contributed to a positive and theologically enhancing view of science while, at the same time exhibiting a greater ambivalence about science than the general approach which subsequently developed as a result of his overall thought. While his thought involves a strong defence of the legitimacy of the scientific investigation of the natural world various dualisms (including the dualisms of common and special grace and the anthropological dualism of body and soul) illustrate a lack of that dynamic which is necessary for a dialogical, integrative or strongly interactive mode of relationship between the two. The solution to this involves developing a bridge between common and special grace, through an approach which stresses a greater integration of the salvific work of God in all divine activity, both in the work of the Holy Spirit in the natural world, as well as in the specific revelation of God through the incarnate Christ. 

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