Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7

The two main rivals of the doctrine of providence are deism and pantheism:
(1) Deism envisages God leaving creation alone, having endowed it with inherent powers to operate according to its inbuilt laws.
(2) Pantheism does not distinguish God from the world. Since God’s action or providence are identical with the course of nature, there is no independent or secondary causes in the outworking of creation.

[I am leaving out the philosophical theory of occasionalism, represented by Al-Ghazali (Muslim) and Malebranche (Christian) to keep the post simple, and so as not to burden some of my readers who may problems following complicated philosophical discussions. Occasionalism teaches that created beings are absolutely devoid of causal powers and all events are directly caused by God. God is directly, immediately and solely responsible for bringing about all phenomena.]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) strikes a balance between these two rival positions in its article on the decrees of God.

God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3:1) Continue reading “Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7”

The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7

What is Providence?

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

Budding theologians who are eager to display their critical acumen by challenging traditional doctrines like the Trinity, the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross, somehow give the doctrine of providence a pass. It seems that the doctrine of providence enjoys a privilege status and commands universal assent. For theists, it is intuitive and logical to conclude that God must be sovereign in sustaining, directing and ruling over the world in exhaustive detail if he is to be worthy of trust and worship. Continue reading “The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7”

The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 2/2

Related Post: The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2

Excerpts from R.C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists: Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989),

The Failure of the Atheistic Psychological Critique of Religion
If these men – Freud, Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche – we have some examples of great thinkers who have located the “whence” of religion in one aspect of man’s psychological makeup or the other. Fear of nature, wish-projection, relief from guilt and anxiety, fear of economic revolution, and fear of nothingness are all labels for various psychological states that make religion appealing. To be left alone and unprotected in a hostile or indifferent universe is a terrifying thought. The proverbial maxim “necessity is the mother of invention” is applied to religion as well as to myriad drugs or television sets. [p. 48]

It is also very important to note that what Freud and others offer are plausible alternate explanations to the origin of religion other than those offered by theists. It is one thing to demonstrate that man can fabricate religious experiences; it is another thing to demonstrate that he actually does so. It is one thing to argue that men can invent religion out of psychological necessity; it is another to argue that he does. The former involves questions of psychological and intellectual ability; the latter involves questions of history. When Freud spoke of origins, he was writing as a historian, not as a psychologist. We know his competence as a psychologist; his competence as a historian is certainly not so well attested.
[pp. 50-51] Continue reading “The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 2/2”

The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2

A tribute to R.C. Sproul who has just gone to glory.

The popular idea of God as an invention of weak-minded people desperately looking for an emotional crutch to help them cope with wretched reality was developed with erudition and sophistication by the three patron-gods of modern atheism, Friedrich Nietzsche Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. For example, Freud regarded religious ideas as “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. . . .As we already know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection — for protection through love — which was provided by the father…. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the danger of life. [Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (Norton, 1927, 1961), p. 30]

Freud theorized that religion must have evolved from animism to monotheism. The impersonal forces of nature are remote and unpredictable. Hence, nature must be conceived as animated by divine powers who resemble human beings. These powers may be malevolent, but since they behave like humans, we at least know how to deal with them. Religion then progressed from simple animism to complex monotheism which culminates with God as a benevolent Father figure.

R.C. Sproul sets out to refute this popular critique of Christianity. First, Freud is mistaken when he argues that the personal is more comforting than the impersonal, which is the reason why humans ‘populate’ nature with many deities. Continue reading “The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2”

R.C. Sproul’s Analysis of Methodology In Defense of Biblical Inerrancy

Given below is one of the most cogent arguments for  the authority and inerrancy of the Bible:

The Classical Method
Premise A – The Bible is a basically reliable and trustworthy document.
Premise B – On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Premise C – Jesus Christ being the Son of God is an infallible authority.
Premise D – Jesus Christ teaches the Bible is more than generally trustworthy: it is the very Word of God.
Premise E – That the word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.
Conclusion – On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, the Church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy, i.e., infallible.

This method does not involve circular reasoning. Circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion is already present in the first premise. The argument itself is not an infallible argument as each premise involves matters of inductive or deductive reasoning by fallible rational creatures. There is neither a formal apriori assumption nor a subjective leap of faith in the method. Rather, the method is involved with careful historical, empirical investigation as well as with logical inferences. Continue reading “R.C. Sproul’s Analysis of Methodology In Defense of Biblical Inerrancy”

Fanning the Flame of Faith

D. Clair Davis’ one-sentence summary of 2000 years of Christianity is succinct, spot on, and sobering: “There is a tendency to lose Jesus.”

The counsel of an older man has kept my faith in good stead since I was young and gay:
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Now that I am older and hopefully, a little wiser, my fervent prayer to God is that by his grace I may faithfully and passionately testify to his goodness and glory. If the flame is not continually fed, how can it keep burning till the end?

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

 

God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4

Calvinism & Spiritual Foundation of Society

Earlier Posts:
John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4
John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

As the full implications of Calvin’s social theology unfolded in later historical developments, the perception of Calvin changed: Calvin the social conservative and an enemy of social freedom became Calvin the constructive reformer. /1/ Michael Walzer goes further to characterize Calvin not as a theologian but as an ideologist. First, Calvin developed a new radical psychology which transforms traditionally passive private citizens into activists who saw themselves as divine instruments for social transformation. Walzer refers to the Calvinist puritans as the earliest form of political radicals who developed his social vision into a revolutionary ideology. /2/ Walzer elaborates, “Calvinism taught previously passive men the styles and methods of political activity and enabled them successfully to claim participation in that ongoing system of political action that is the modern state.” Continue reading “God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4”

DBP Translating the Malay Bible? CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!

*This article was published originally in The Malaysian Insight (25/11/2017): Translating the Malay Bible: CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!

Image Above: Ruyls-Dutch-Malay-Bible 17C

Image Above: Gospel of John Shellabear Bible Originally Printed 1912 (Image from 1949 reprint)

Recently, Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) argued that the Christian community should work closely with Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) to correct purported errors in the current translation of the Malay Bible. Suggestions to improve existing translations of the Bible is in line with the ethos of the Christian enterprise of Bible translation which is an ongoing exercise undertaken by Bible societies all over the world.

However, CLJ’s proposal to allow DBP to prepare an authoritative translation of the Malay Bible is unacceptable. The reason is because given the terms and conditions for DBP’s involvement, the proposal amounts to an illegitimate restriction of religious freedom and infringement of the autonomy of the institutions of the Christian community. It is a violation of the integrity of Christian faith as it will lead to an imposition of Islamic religious beliefs on its sacred Bible. Continue reading “DBP Translating the Malay Bible? CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!”

The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism

The Supreme Vision of God’s Majesty and Zeal for his Glory

Perhaps the simplest statement of it is the best: that it lies in a profound apprehension of God in His majesty, with the inevitably accompanying poignant realization of the exact nature of the relation sustained to Him by the creature as such, and particularly by the sinful creature. He who believes in God without reserve, and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling, willing—in the entire compass of his life-activities, intellectual, moral, spiritual, throughout all his individual, social, religious relations—is, by the force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist. /1/ Continue reading “The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism”

John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

Calvin Refusing The Lord’s Supper To The Libertines, In St. peter’s cathedral, Geneva.

RELATED POSTS:
John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4

Inevitably, tension can arise between the church and the civil order, especially when kings and magistrates abuse their power and the state poses obstacles to genuine holiness. How should the church respond? Should the church meekly comply, or engage in passive resistance or even actively rebel to overthrow an oppressive government? In response to such tension, Calvin’s political realism is evident.

But it is the example of all ages that some princes are careless about all those things to which they ought to have given heed, and, far from all care, lazily take their pleasure. Others, intent upon their own business, put up for sales laws, privileges, judgments, and letters of favor. Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largesse. Still others exercise sheer robbery, plundering houses, raping virgins and matrons, and slaughtering the innocent. Consequently, many cannot be persuaded that they ought to recognize these as princes and to obey their authority as far as possible. (Inst. 4.20.4)

Matters become worse when magistrates who are regarded as guardians of peace, protectors of righteousness and avengers of the innocence and who are appointed as minsters of God “to praise the good, and punish the evil regarded fail their duty to praise the good and punish the evil (1 Peter 2:14 Vg). Thus, they also do not recognize as ruler him whose dignity and authority Scripture commends to us. Indeed, this inborn feeling has always been in the minds of men to hate and curse tyrants as much as to love and venerate lawful kings.” (Inst. 4.20.4) Continue reading “John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4”