Verum cum vero non pugnat: Maccovius, Voetius, & Bavinck on philosophy and theology

First, a few theses from Johannes Maccovius’s Theological and Philosophical Distinctions and Rules, ch. 1, On Holy Scripture:

XXXVIII. The object of theology and the object of philosophy are diverse and distinct.

XXXIX. Truth never runs counter to (pugno) truth.

XL. Sound reason and theology do not conflict (pugno).1

Second, a thesis from Gisbertus Voetius’s Thersites, self-tormentor:

I. The light of nature does not fight with (pugno) the light of grace, nor philosophy with theology. Therefore, a-theological, and also doing injury to God and His truth, are those who condemn philosophy.2

Third, a summation from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, which employs the “non pugno” motif in Bavinck’s European narrative style:

If theology thus has its internal principle not in faith as such but in believing reflection, the task of reason in theological science calls for further definition. In this context we must first of all and fundamentally reject the notion that regards faith and reason as two independent powers engaging in a life-and-death struggle with each other. . . . Faith, the faith by which we believe (de fides qua creditur), is not an organ or faculty next to or above reason but a disposition or habit of reason itself. . . . Faith, therefore, does not relieve Christians of the desire to study and reflect; rather it spurs them on to the end. Nature is not destroyed by regeneration but restored.

Believers who want to devote themselves to the study of theology, accordingly, must prepare their minds for the task awaiting them. There is no admission to the temple of theology except by way of the study of the arts. Indispensable to the practitioner of the science of theology is philosophical, historical, and linguistic preparatory training.3


  1. Distinctiones et regulae theologicae ac philosophicae (1653), 20-21; translation from Scholastic Discourse: Johannes Maccovius (1588–1644) on Theological and Philosophical Distinctions and Rules, translated and edited by Willem J. van Asselt, Michael D. Bell, Gert van den Brink, Rein Ferwerda (Apeldoorn: Instituut voor Reformatieonderzoek, 2009), 78–81. 
  2. Thersites heautontimorumenos (Utrecht : Ex Officinâ Abrahami ab Herwiick & Hermanni Ribbii, 1635), 347; translation from Aza Goudriaan, Reformed Orthodoxy and Philosophy, 1625–1750: Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht, and Anthonius Driessen, Brill’s Series in Church History 26 (Brill, 2006), 30; cf. B. Hoon Woo, “‘The Understanding of Gisbertus Voetius and René Descartes on the Relationship of Faith and Reason, and Theology and Philosophy,” Westminster Theological Journal 75, No. 1 (2013): 45–63; quote referenced at p. 54. 
  3. Vol. 1, Prolegomena, trans. John Vriend, ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 616–17; Bavinck quotes Voetius’s disputations at 616n41; see also 618n46 for Bavinck’s short list of sources on the philosophy-theology relation, which includes the same disputations by Voetius.