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Wednesday
Oct092013

Theological Term of the Week

sensus divinitatis
The innate true knowledge of God that all human beings have because they are created in the image of God; also called sensus, for short, or sense of deity.

  • From scripture:
  • For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  (Ephesians 1:18-21, ESV)

  • From Institutes of the Christian Religion (1.3.1) by John Calvin:  
  • That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service. Certainly, if there is any quarter where it may be supposed that God is unknown, the most likely for such an instance to exist is among the dullest tribes farthest removed from civilisation. But, as a heathen tells us, there is no nation so barbarous, no race so brutish, as not to be imbued with the conviction that there is a God. Even those who, in other respects, seem to differ least from the lower animals, constantly retain some sense of religion; so thoroughly has this common conviction possessed the mind, so firmly is it stamped on the breasts of all men. Since, then, there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, this amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart. Nay, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact. For we know how reluctant man is to lower himself, in order to set other creatures above him. Therefore, when he chooses to worship wood and stone rather than be thought to have no God, it is evident how very strong this impression of a Deity must be; since it is more difficult to obliterate it from the mind of man, than to break down the feelings of his nature,—these certainly being broken down, when, in opposition to his natural haughtiness, he spontaneously humbles himself before the meanest object as an act of reverence to God.
  • From Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphant:  
  • We know God not because we have reasoned our way to him, or have worked through the necessary scientific procedures, or have inferred his existence from other things that we know; rather, we know him by way of his revelation. We know what God is like “because God has shown it” to us. 
    The knowledge we have of God is knowledge that he has given to us. It is “implanted’ in us, “engraven” in our minds, “naturally inborn” in all of us, “fixed deep within” us, a knowledge “which nature permits none to forget.” As Creator, God has guaranteed that he will never be without witness to the creatures who have been made in his image. He has ensured that all of his human creatures will, and will always, know him. 
    The sensus, then, is not a doctrine or teaching that is learned, but rather something that is present within us “from our mother’s womb.” Such is the case because this knowledge is not dependent on us to be acquired; it is given by God. So we have the sensus because we are God’s image and God implants the knowledge of himself within each of us as his image. And this knowledge is, ipso facto, universal and infallible; to say otherwise would render those in Adam excused before God (cf. Rom. 1:20)

Learn more:

  1. John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 3
  2. Greg Herrick: Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God?

Related terms:

Filed under Anthropology

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