Viret is the major ethician and apologist of the Reformation by his attachment to the authority and significance of every aspect of God’s written Revelation as well as by his great skill in relating the teachings of the Bible to the reality of Creation, of History and of everyday life. Not only is his position basically presuppositionalist (in the sense that the written Word of God is for him the basic presupposition of all fruitful thought), but he has a wonderful understanding of the fact that the meaning of every aspect of the ordered reality of creation, of history and of culture, is given by God and finds its basic reference point and meaning in the Scriptures. This leads him to make use of any and every aspect of material and cultural reality as a springboard full of God’s meaning from which to bring to the attention of his contemporaries the great truths of God’s Revelation.45


Viret thus has the considerable advantage over us by not standing historically in our post-rationalist, post-idealist, post-dialectical and post-modern epistemological climate where the philosophical obstacles to the understanding of the God-given meaning of reality are immeasurably greater than they were in the middle of the Sixteenth Century. He can thus, more easily than we, make use of every aspect of the reality of his time to lead his readers and listeners to understand that the Scriptures, in the final account, reveal the ultimate God-given meaning of whatever matter may be under consideration. The knowledge of all reality is not to be found in Scripture alone but inheres in the God-given meaningful facts (the substantial forms) of the creation and of history where they may be clearly and truly discerned though, in the final account, only by the Biblically centered reflection of a Christian apologist and historian, like Pierre Viret. Let me insist, knowledge, not meaning, for meaning comes from God’s written revelation alone. Viret’s terminology may sometimes sound as if his position were a purely rational one. But for him human reason and the Bible are not at opposite poles, at war with each other. No, for him as for Van Til, the Word of God is the very foundation of a correctly functioning human reason.46


In a long section on the misery of man, for example, Viret starts off with a series of careful anatomical and physiological observations relative to the wretched condition of man’s life in comparison with that of other animals (thus reaching the scientists of his time); then he quotes on this topic the remarks of the philosophers, historians and poets of antiquity (in this instance Plato, Pliny and Ovid), thus attracting the attention of the literary humanists of the Renaissance. Only then, having thus carefully prepared his reader, does Viret go on to show the true meaning of the misery of man by introducing the one whom he calls ‘the greatest of all philosophers,’ Job. It is striking that he speaks here, not of the inspired character of the book of Job, but of Job as the prince of philosophers. He is, in fact, so confident in the truth of Scripture for every aspect of reality, and so filled with the wisdom of God, that he does not hesitate to make use of all aspects of man’s intellectual and cultural activities to reach, in a very concrete and practical fashion, the interests of his contemporaries. But his starting point is always fully Biblical and Creational, never an imaginary common intellectual ground shared in dialogue with the adversaries of the Christian faith. Thus he labors to bring every lost and deformed human thought captive to the obedience of Christ.47


Like the apostle Paul, Viret makes himself all to all, interests himself in every aspect of contemporary life in order to win at least some of his contemporaries to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The appropriation of the various aspects of this apologetic method could bring a very useful corrective to the pragmatism of a rationalistic defense of Christianity current in many Evangelical circles and to the theological and philosophical abstractionism of much, even of the best, present reformed apologetics.48

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45 Berthoud, Pierre Viret: A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation, page 22

46 Ibid., page 26

47 Ibid., page 27

48 Ibid., page 28

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Books Available

Pierre Viret The Angel of the Reformation by R.A. Sheats

Pierre Viret by Jean-Marc Berthoud