Chapter III:8: Is Clear and Distinct Perception Necessary for the Knowledge of God?

The rule concerning not admitting anything before Clear and Distinct Perception, and concerning every true thing, which has been thus perceived, has a bad ring to it in Theology. This rule, understood concerning the very Theological Matters revealed in Scripture, is held both by the Socinians, see above, Chapter II, § 40; and by the Remonstrants, who, with the Most Illustrious HEIDANUS[1] attributing it to and complaining against Episcopius,[2] in Matters of faith weigh all things by one’s own perception, as a Lydian stone; they deny that things are able to be revealed by God, and hence they will all things to be rejected that sound human Reason discovers to be false, and averse to the wisdom, goodness, equity, and righteousness of God or men; and who actually make their Perception the measure of things, although it is fitting that these things be the measure of our Perception: see HEIDANUS’ de Causa Dei, book V, chapter XI, pages 774-781, in comparison with book I, chapter I. Whence these Socinianizers have a ready exception, that they do not clearly and distinctly perceive the mysteries of the faith to be thus revealed in Sacred Scripture, as they are explained by us; hence they have just cause to withhold their assent to the same.

But in the Philosophy of Descartes it is also a well-worn rule, that Everything that I clearly and distinctly perceive is true: see DESCARTES’ Meditation III, de prima Philosophia, page 15: and since this Clear and Distinct Perception is a rule for Descartes, a norm and a measure of truth, he also very regularly instructs that there is to be no judgment except of things clearly and distinctly perceived. And by these axioms, with the Most Illustrious WITTICH[3] as judge in his Theologia pacifica, chapter III, § 25, he uncovers the universal fount both of all error, and of all certainty, that by this alone are we able to obtain certain and indubitable truth, if we withhold assent from those things that we do not clearly and distinctly perceive, but on the contrary give assent to those things that have been clearly and distinctly understood by us: which thing is judged by Wittich as so great that we might never be able to give thanks sufficiently worthy of the divine providence, that it suggested these thoughts to that Man (Descartes). The axioms that were held to be of such moment in searching out truth and guarding against error had to be applied by the disciples of Descartes to Theological matters also, on account of which in the past century they soon began to be regarded poorly. In the meantime, the Most illustrious WITTICH tried to soften somewhat that crude thesis, that Clear and Distinct Perception is also the Measure of truth in matters of faith, when in Theologia pacifica, chapter III, § 29, he advises that in divine matters that rest upon Revelation alone, of which sort are the mystery of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, etc., which are impervious to the light of reason, Clear and Distinct Perception of that Matter is not required, to which we are going to give assent, just as in Philosophical matters: yet in these Theological matters no Certainty obtains either, except Clear and Distinct Perception of the Revelation precede. And so here he desires that alone, that we assent not, nor receive anything with divine faith, except what we have clearly and distinctly perceived as revealed by God. Which assertion of Wittich, also borrowed from Descartes, HEIDANUS defends in his Consideratien, etc., pages 71-74.

But Experimental Physicists, who most recently after Descartes have become more illustrious than other Philosophers, observe that a Clear and Distinct Idea is a κριτήριον/criterion of truth, not in the treatment of real Entities, but in theoretical or Ideal Mathematics/ Science: but, when we wish to conclude anything concerning the actually existing Things themselves, those very Things are for us the norm of truth, and Experience is indeed the most certain κριτήριον/criterion of truth; which, if received by others before us, also makes way for Faith here: compare NIEUWENTYT’S[4] Gronden van Zekerheid, part I, chapter VI, part II, chapters XI, XX-XXII. But in matters spiritual and Religious the Sacred Scripture, revealed by God, is for us the sole norm of truth, and we recognize by Faith that the matters revealed there are true, with spiritual Experience agreeing in many things.

But what the Most Illustrious WITTICH professes is acceptable, that Clear and Distinct Perception ought not to be extended to the very Matters that rest upon divine Revelation alone; yet as he acknowledges, that this canon in its first origin is grasped in Philosophical Matters; and as the Judgment following Perception here also is referred to the Matters; while Wittich asserts that Descartes shows that We are certainly going to obtain the truth in those Judgment that we form concerni