The Word of God and the Mind of Man

The Crisis of Revealed Truth in Contemporary Theology

Ronald H. Nash Copyright 1982 Zondervan

A review by Jack Kettler




Ronald H. Nash was a distinguished philosophy professor at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Seminary. He has devoted over 40 years to teaching and writing in the areas of worldview, apologetics, ethics, theology, and history. He was a lifelong student of St. Augustine, his favorite philosopher, and was influenced by evangelical scholar Carl F. H. Henry. His advocacy of Austrian economics and criticism of the evangelical left have earned him recognition in academic circles.


Nash authored more than thirty books. A partial list of books written:


Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas

Life's Ultimate Questions

Faith and Reason

Is Jesus the Only Savior?

The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought?

The Concept of God: An Exploration of Contemporary Difficulties with the Attributes of God

The Meaning of History

Social Justice and the Christian Church

Poverty and Wealth: Why Socialism Doesn't Work

Light of the Mind

The The Closing of the American Heart: What's Really Wrong With America's Schools

Why the Left Is Not Right: The Religious Left: Who They Are and What They Believe

Freedom, Justice and the State

Christianity and the Hellenistic World

Process Theology




“The Word of God and the Mind of Man: The Crisis of Revealed Truth in Contemporary Theology” by Ronald H. Nash is a seminal work in Christian theology, particularly addressing the challenges and controversies surrounding the concept of revealed truth in modern theological discourse. Nash, a Christian philosopher and theologian, explores the tension between traditional views of divine revelation and the skepticism of those views in contemporary theological thought. The book delves into questions about the nature of scripture, the authority of religious texts, and the relationship between divine revelation and human understanding. It's often cited in discussions about biblical inerrancy, hermeneutics, and the intersection of faith and reason.


While not a long book, Nash as the chapter titles indicate engages in some deep theological and philosophical issues:  


Chapter 1: Hume’s Gap- Divorcing Faith and Knowledge

Chapter 2: Theological Agnosticism: From Kant to Ritschl

Chapter 3: The Assault on Propositional Revelation

Chapter 4: A Defense of Propositional Revelation

Chapter 5: A Brief But Necessary Interlude

Chapter 6: The Christian Logos

Chapter 7: Rationalism and Empiricism and

Chapter 8: The Christian Rationalism of St. Augustine

Chapter 9: The Religious Revolt Against Logic

Chapter 10: Reason and Religion

Chapter 11: Reason, Revelation, and Language

Chapter 12: Revelation and the Bible


A philosophical overview of Nash’s book with the following key points:


1.      The book addresses the challenges and critiques faced by contemporary theology regarding the communication of divine revelation to human beings. It explores the extent to which human knowledge about God is possible and proposes an alternative theory that makes such knowledge possible.

2.      Nash argues against the evolving attacks on the role of knowledge in Christian theology and presents a theory that allows for a relationship between the human mind and the divine mind. This relationship makes the communication of truth from God to humans possible.

3.      The work is a significant contribution to the field of Christian philosophy and theology, challenging traditional views on the limitations of human understanding of God and offering a new perspective on how divine truth can be accessed and understood by human beings.

4.      Nash's book is a response to contemporary theological issues, aiming to reconcile the apparent disconnect between human understanding and divine revelation. It emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating the process through which God communicates with humanity.

5.      The book also addresses the philosophical implications of its theological argument, engaging with the broader philosophical discourse on the nature of knowledge, truth, and the relationship between the human mind and the divine.

6.      Nash's work is relevant not only to theologians and philosophers but also to anyone interested in exploring the relationship between human beings and the divine and the ways in which divine truth can be discerned and understood


Nash's book is a thought-provoking exploration of the challenges facing contemporary theology in wrestling with the concept of revealed truth. Published in 1982, the book remains relevant and influential in discussions surrounding biblical interpretation, theological methodology, and the authority of scripture.


In this book, Nash delves into the intriguing question of how much divine revelation the human mind can grasp, placing a strong emphasis on the communication of truth. He challenges the notion that human knowledge about God is unattainable and presents an alternative theory that makes such knowledge possible. Nash's defense against the evolving attacks on the role of knowledge in Christian theology and his proposition of a relationship between the human mind and the divine mind that facilitates the communication of truth from God to humans make his work a significant and thought-provoking contribution to the field of Christian philosophy and theology.


For example, Nash takes on David Hume, and Immanuel Kant, naysayers of God’s ability to communicate with man using propositional revelation:


“Following the lead of eighteenth-century philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant, many modern theologians have questioned God’s ability to communicate truth to man and undermined man’s ability to attain knowledge about God.” (p. 11)


Nash’s goal is to counter Hume and Kant, as well as Karl Barth and his followers. How does Nash do this?


For a solution, Nash appeals to Augustine’s theory of “Divine Illumination” in the following two quotes:


“Augustine’s theory of divine illumination must take of the fact that two lights are involved in any act of human knowledge. Augustine is very careful in Against Faustus, the Manichaean to distinguish between the uncreated light of  God and different, created light, namely, the human mind, which plays a necessary role in knowledge.” (6) (6 Against Faustus the Manichaean 20, 7.) (p. 80-81)


“Augustine came to hold that God had implanted a knowledge of the forms in the human mind contemporaneous with birth. In other words, Augustine’s account of human knowledge replaced Plato’s appeal to recollection with a theory of innate ideas that belong to humankind by virtue of our creation in the image of God.” (p. 84)

Following Augustine, Nash maintained that the laws of logic were both in God's mind and human minds, and thus, there was a commonality between them. Thus, human rationality is legitimized because of the connection between the uncreated light of God and the different created light of the human mind. “That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9)


One of Nash's strengths in this book is his engagement with theological and philosophical concepts. He navigates complex issues such as biblical inerrancy, the nature of inspiration, and the role of human reason in interpreting divine revelation with clarity and precision. Nash's background as a Christian philosopher is seen through his careful analysis and logical argumentation.


Nash's thesis centers on the idea that the authority of scripture is foundational to Christian theology. He argues that a proper understanding of divine revelation is essential for maintaining the integrity of Christian doctrine. Nash contends that while human reason has a role to play in interpreting scripture, it must always be subject to the authority of God's Word.


Moreover, Nash emphasizes the importance of a hermeneutical approach that takes seriously the historical context and literary genres of biblical texts. He warns against simplistic readings of scripture that fail to account for its complexity and cultural background. Nash's call for a contextual interpretation of scripture resonates with contemporary debates in biblical studies.


For this reviewer, in chapter eight, Nash’s Augustine citation is truly satisfying: 


“To summarize: The forms or eternal ideas exist in the mind of God (independently of particular things), but in a secondary sense they also exist in the human mind. God created humans with a structure of rationality patterned after the divine forms in His own mind. This innate knowledge is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. In addition to knowledge of forms, knowledge of the world is possible because God has also patterned the world after the divine ideas. We can know the corporeal world because God has given man a knowledge of these ideas by which we can judge sensations and gain knowledge.


“I regard these conclusions as merely an elaboration or logical extension of the Logos doctrine. Augustine is one Christian theist who believed that the claim that the human logos is part of the image of God rests on a sound philosophical and theological ground. He believed that the Logos teaching of the New Testament and the early church fathers entailed a similarity between the rational structure of the human mind and the rational structure of the divine mind. It is possible for the human logos to know the divine Logos because God created the human being as a creature who has the God-given ability to know the divine mind and to think God’s thoughts after Him. The laws of reasons are the same for both God and humans.” (p. 90)


Some may see this summary as an example of Augustine’s alleged dependence on Plato. It is true that as a young man, Augustine utilized the philosophical thought forms of his day, which were Platonic. However, any fair reading of Augustine shows that as he matured as a Christian, he abandoned earlier Platonic thinking. Nash resoundingly refutes the idea that Christianity is dependent on Greek philosophical thought in his book Christianity and the Hellenistic World.


In conclusion:


“The Word of God and the Mind of Man” defends scripture's authority and reliability in the face of critics' challenges. Nash's rigorous analysis of theological issues makes this book a valuable resource for scholars, pastors, and laypeople alike. To be conversant, the serious student of scripture should be familiar with this work.


Note: Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Zondervan Corporation, 1982), 11, 81-82, 84, 90.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 18 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.