The necessity of natural theology? In conversation with John Calvin on the human senses

  • Ernst M. Conradie
Keywords: Calvin, Natural theology, Semiotics, Signification, Calvyn, Natuurlike teologie, Semiotiek, Tekens


This contribution explores John Calvin’s position on natural theology. The point ofdeparture is not so much the much discussed notions of a sensus divinitatis or of thesemen religionis, but the role played by the human senses in coming to knowledgeof God in the first place. How can God’s presence be recognised? How can humanlanguage (that which is natural), from below, express the inexpressible? How isit possible to speak of God in the first place? This article suggests that Calvin’sremarkably sophisticated understanding of signification is the clue to respond tothese questions. His position is discussed on the basis of the reading strategy ofcatena and commentary. The author finally offers some concluding observations onthe relationship between signifier, signified and referent in human language aboutGod.