In the final edition of his Loci communes, Philip Melanchthon offers nine proofs for the existence of God in the locus De creatione, as B.B. Warfield long ago noted in “Calvin’s Doctrine of God” (see n. 41). Some of these will seem standard fare; the sixth proof will perhaps surprise.
The nine proofs are:1
- “the order of nature itself”
- “the nature of the human mind”
- “the difference between the noble and the base, and from other signs, orders, and numbers in nature”
- what people know by nature: “the signs in nature are true. There is a God, as all by nature confess. Therefore this knowledge of Him is correct.”
- “the terrors of man’s conscience,” which he borrows from Xenophon
- “the order of society”
- “the sophisticated proof derived from a series of efficient causes”
- “the proof from the final causes or purposes”
- “things which show the meaning of future events,” i.e. the reality of prophecy as shown by its fulfillment
As I said, I suspect that the sixth proof is the one that will strike many people as the most unanticipated, viz. that the fact of political order demonstrates the fact that God exists. I reproduce his comments below:
Sixth, it is proved by the order of society. The political order of society is not some mere fortuitous coming together of people, but the multitude gathers together with a definite order and an orderly legal system. Nor can this order be sustained only by human effort, but experience shows that whose who violate this order, such as those who commit murder, incest, and tyranny, are delivered over to punishment by some divine force. Therefore there is some eternal Mind which gives to men an understanding of order, so that they strive to develop a political society. Likewise they then preserve and defend it with their resources. (44)
Our sense of order, Melanchthon indicates, must be derived from somewhere, from some template–it is not random or ad hoc, given that all peoples everywhere order themselves in some way–so where does it come from? From the “eternal Mind,” such that man’s imposition of order is a kind of imitation the divinity, a reflection perhaps (though Melanchthon does not put it this way) of man’s being made in the image of God.
- All translations are by J.A.O. Preus in The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559, pp. 43-6.