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The development of the Sensus Divinitatis and its application to the propagation of the Christian gospel: case studies of the divine sense in Western Christian history

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posted on 2022-03-28, 16:51 authored by James Edward Gibson
The history of Christian thought has presented several varied concepts of how the Divine and human minds are related. The chapters of this thesis are six successive case studies of this ―divine sense‖ in western Christian thought. Research interest began about John Calvin‘s particular version: the sensus divinitatis (the sense of the divine). Initial efforts were to exposit its meaning and then discover from where the idea developed. Calvin sought to reproduce a biblical outlook. So the trail was expected to trace back to biblical starting points. Strangely, just immediately after the forming of the New Testament, Calvin‘s exact concept is missing. There is in early Christian centuries not an absence of any ―divine sense‖ – just that of Calvin‘s particular version. Research direction adjusted to take stock of the varied concepts represented across Christian history and via six case studies set out the development of the "divine sense". The hope was to explain the development from a "divine sense" to a "sense of the divine". Each case study was seen in the intersection of their particular ideas with the philosophical winds of the times. The start is in Plato‘s ideas and their varied impact on the early Church fathers. Thomas Aquinas follows. Aquinas switched the major philosophical underpinning to Aristotle. The third is Calvin, the fourth Jonathan Edwards, and the fifth Cardinal John Henry Newman. Edwards and Newman‘s writings were against a backdrop of developing Modernity. The last is the Reformed Epistemologist, Alvin Plantinga, who utilized Aquinas and Calvin‘s idea of the sensus divinitatis in an apologetic to show that, due to the divine sense, belief in God can be responsibly and rationally held in the absence of outward evidence. The historical thesis is that development can be seen if one "graphs a line" through these six sets of ideas. There is something to conclude about the persistence of the idea through history in terms of human awareness about God. Belief in God is not only due to gospel presentation, but also to the innate sense of the divine. The gospel being presented has as an ally within the people on the receiving end.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- I. Plato (circa 424 – 399 BC) and the Early Church Fathers -- II. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) and the Scholastics -- III. John Calvin (1509-1564) and Reformation theology -- IV. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Evangelicalism -- V. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and Catholicism -- VI. Alvin Plantinga (1932- ) and Reformed Epistemology -- Conclusion.


A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts in candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" "March 2014 Bibliography: pages 246-260

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stuart Piggin


Copyright James Edward Gibson 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




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