First Things First
Greetings! My name is Krysten Blouin and I’m excited to share something with you that has transformed my understanding of theology. Over the last four months, we have encountered many fundamental theological concepts during our weekly Fellows gatherings. We’ve studied and discussed everything from the utter depravity of mankind, to the magnificent grace and holiness of the triune God. However, the very foundation of our understanding of this rich theology is rooted in the knowledge that Scripture is our “principium.” A principium, as defined by Aristotle, is the “first point from which a thing either is, or comes to be, or is known.” Aristotle asserted that there are two categories of principia, the “principia essendi,” or the foundation of Being, otherwise known to us as the doctrine of God, and the “principia cognoscendi,” which is the source of all knowledge, or as we know it, the doctrine of Scripture. Both categories present crucial apologetic and epistemological applications. Without Scripture as principium, our endeavor to determine what is and is not acceptable in the doctrines and practices of the church will be inherently skewed by man’s attempt to apply human logic and reason, rather than relying on the infallible, all-encompassing authority of Scripture. As it is written in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Because of this truth, Scripture is our only true principium, it is the ultimate source of all knowledge and authority.
Three properties must be present to qualify a principium:
- It must be immutably true, meaning that it is unchanging, objective truth.
- It also must be immediate, meaning that it cannot derive its authority from any external source, but is in itself inherently authoritative.
- And finally, it must be indemonstrable, which is to say that a principium cannot be demonstrated, but rather it is the basis on which all other demonstrations depend.
As K. Scott Oliphint describes in his book Covenantal Apologetics, “The Bible is authoritative not because we accept it as such, but because it is the Word of the risen Lord. It has a claim on all people. Its truth is the truth for every person in every place.” This notion of Scripture as principium transcends all human understanding. It defies the systems of logic and reason men have constructed for themselves, but as the great reformer John Calvin wrote in his beloved work The Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of man, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit…none comprehend the mysteries of God save those to whom it is given.” As Paul asserts in Colossians 3:10, we are to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” It is impossible for men to see the truth of Scripture apart from the grace of God.
As previously stated, these truths have profound implications for our apologetic methodology. Rather than attempting to convince the lost of the truth of the gospel by way of historical evidence or appealing to the unbeliever’s corrupted logic and reason, we may rest in the self-attesting, self-evident truth of Scripture, our principium. It is the only true and proper lens in which men may see without bias. We may appeal to the unbeliever by simply presenting the truth of the gospel, affirming the sufficiency and divine nature of Scripture, and calling them to repentance. The burden of proof is then placed on the unbeliever. We, on the other hand, may rest in the sovereign will of God, rather than depending on our own human efforts to sway the hearts of men. It is the Spirit of God alone that regenerates hearts and removes the scales from unbelievers’ eyes. Some have argued that God himself should be our principium. However, since God has chosen to reveal himself through the Scriptures, it reasonably follows that it must be our principium, because the Word of God contains all necessary knowledge of God. The Reformed Confessions themselves begin with the doctrine of Scripture, even before any discussion of the Trinity, because it is impossible to have a right view of God apart from the truth of Scripture. This principle plays a fundamental role in developing a robust, well-rounded theology. It’s now clear why we began this semester learning these truths, because without a Scriptural lens, we cannot properly see all that God has revealed throughout his creation and in his Word.
Krysten Blouin is a member of the class of 2018 Tampa Bay Fellows program. She currently works at Tampa General Hospital as a Cardiac Monitor Technician in Tampa, Florida.