Connecting Providence to Meaning

The conviction concerning God’s overweening Providence yields to His people a unified working reality. Our conviction that God rules over the seemingly random particles of motes and atoms in every sunbeam carries over into our conviction that it is God’s providence that gives meaning to all of our labor, all of our language, all of our life. Were it not for God’s Providence we would live in a time + chance + circumstance world where meaning, sexualitiy, and truth would be random and shape-shifting. The God whose Providence orders the dance of the motes and atoms in a sunbeam is the God whose Providence gives stability and meaning to all of reality. God’s Providence is the only thing that makes this post makes sense.

Apart from the conviction of divine providence fallen man must concoct a human providence to replace divine providence. When man does this then man seeks to make his providence as sweeping as God’s providence and the result is centralization, command and control, and Tyranny.

Providence then is an inescapable category. Either we will submit and play in God’s providence or we will overthrow His providence for a humanistic providence that seeks to lock God’s exhaustive control out of His world.

God’s Providence … no hope without it.

A Man With An Experience Is Never At the Mercy Of A God With A Revelation

A short examination of a minister who is trying to hard to be deep and insightful and who thinks he succeeds at it.

Preacher Conway (PC) writes,

I hope to explore how I read and understand Scripture, to wonder together what it is to pick up this book and to wrestle with it. I begin here because this continues to be one of the most challenging and dynamic facets of my faith. What does it mean to say that God is revealed by Scripture? What does it mean for me to be intellectually honest as a scholar and as a human being and yet trust that the Bible is more than just any other book?

Bret responds,

1.) Note the implied difficulty in being both a scholar, a human, and taking the Bible seriously … as if it is just such a labor to square this circle. Nevermind that it is a circle that has been squared by intellectually honest Scholars for millennium. Did Augustine, Anselm, the Cappadocians, Aquinas, Bonaventure, etc. take the Bible seriously? Were they scholars?

2.) I don’t want to over extrapolate here, but it sure seems, that right out of the gate, there is a hint of the glory in uncertainty. Look at how much angst I’m in, given all the uncertainty I have. Look how I have to wrestle the uncertainties of God’s revelation. How noble it is to be uncertain.

PC writes,

I begin here because this is a fundamental presupposition of my faith: our experience of faith and understanding of Scripture does not exist in a vacuum. Whenever we talk about God, Scripture, Jesus, etc. we stand on the shoulders of giants. Our modern understanding of faith has been molded and shaped by a conversation that has been happening in homes, churches, and the halls of academia for centuries. Our individual and collective experience of faith enters into a small part of this dialogue, a small branch of the bigger conversation about who God is, about the world He created, and about how we live, move, and have our being on this planet we call earth.

Bret responds,

1.) Note that our understanding of Scripture is totally immanent. Our understanding of Scripture is totally subjective. Our understanding of Scripture is not accounted for by any Objective or transcendent categories. There is no reference to the God breathed nature of Scripture. No mention of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. All there is, is human conversation.

This is not to deny the subjective dynamic of understanding Scripture. It is merely to contend that if all we have is the subjective then there is nothing objective there to understand except some kind of wax nose Bible.

2.) If all we have is the subjective then who is to say which subjective is the one true subjective? Why is Calvin right and Kierkegaard wrong? Why should we subscribe to the TFU or Westminster and not the Schleitheim confession? Why prefer the Historic Church and not the Cathars?

3.) He begins with “our experience of faith” and then insists that “our experience of faith” is conditioned only by our experience in talking about the faith with others. It is experience, and only experience all the way to the bottom. There really is no authoritative Transcendent word.

4.) Allow me to submit that the only Giant’s shoulders PC has been standing on is a German chap named Schleiermacher. He was another bloke who knew a thing or two about subjectivism.

PC writes

“I begin here because I must acknowledge something that causes fear and consternation among many Christians. Yes, as I have come to understand more about the world around me, about, say, evolutionary biology or the dominance of patriarchy, my understanding of Scripture has also undergone a transformation. Some Christians will immediately throw their hands in the air in disgust at this and immediately conclude that my faith has acquiesced to the world. The world as I perceive it has shaped my faith rather than vice versa. God is unchanging and His Word is eternal, some may say, so how can you let your faith in this unchanging God be shaped by the shifting theories of science?”

Bret responds,

1.) PC acts as if his understanding of the world around him is unmediated by faith / theological / Worldview categories. PC speaks as if his mind was tabula rasa and with his tabula rasa mind he understood reality quite apart from any beginning theological-faith presuppositions or axioms. He speaks as if he arrived at facts apart from a philosophy of fact.

2.) So, my question is, “What theology did PC employ in order to understand the world around him?” I mean, PC’s understanding was mediated by some theology. “Understanding of the world” does not come to us theology free. The reason that Aleister Crowley understood the world one way and that Cornelius Van Til understood the world in a different way is because the lens (beginning axioms) through which each looked at the world were dramatically different.

3.) As such, a Biblical Christian theology would have helped PC to conclude that “evolutionary biology” is a myth, and that “biblical patriarchy” was and is good and proper. You see, Biblical presuppositions then work to interpret one’s experience as opposed to having one’s autonomous experiences interpret Scripture. This is the heart of PC’s problem. He is allowing his own putatively autonomous experience (and not really autonomous because all experience is pre-interpreted by some theological grid) to trump the perspicuous teaching of God’s divine revelation.

Paging Dr. Schleiermacher.

4.) Interesting that PC never answers that last question in that paragraph above that he has hypothetically presented to himself.

PC writes

“No matter how we formulate our faith, regardless of the conclusions at which we arrive regarding such issues, our understanding of God and Scripture have been shaped by our experience in the world, by our upbringing, and by a host of other environmental factors. To find ourselves asking questions about Scripture because of experience in the world is not itself a bad thing. On the contrary, these questions may have the potential to bring us to a deeper and fuller understanding of God and our relationship with Him.”

Bret responds,

1.) Notice it is “we who formulate our faith,” and not “the faith that formulates us.”

2.) Notice how it is our understanding of God and Scripture which is shaped by our experience and not our experience that is shaped by God and Scripture. Notice how environment trumps God and this in spite of the fact that it is God who predestined our environment that men “would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

3.) Asking questions about Scripture is good as long as the answers we arrive at are formed and shaped by Scripture.

Look, it has always been a staple of the Reformed faith (PC and I are both Reformed) that God is always prior.

PC writes,

“At some point in our lives, for instance, we all must come to grips with the realization that God’s answer to our prayers does not necessarily come in the form in which we expect or want. Such experiences help us come to a more complete understanding of verses like Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The point of this example is not to explore a theology of prayer; rather, my hope is to demonstrate that our experience in the world impacts the way in which we approach and articulate our faith.”

Bret responds,

Is PC concluding that God doesn’t answer prayer the way PC wants it answered? Amazing insight there. Generally, Biblical Christians take for granted that the problem is with them and not with God.

PC writes,

“The reality is this – while experience does not dictate the answers at which we arrive, our lived experience in this world often prompts our questions, and questions, it seems to me, are rarely a bad thing.

I begin here because this is perhaps one of the most unacknowledged challenges we have when it comes to reading Scripture – the Bible is a complicated, multifaceted book. Whether we like to admit it or not, the way in which we describe the central themes of the Bible have been shaped by our experience. This is not to say that experience trumps Scripture.”

1.) PC has spent the whole piece more than hinting that experience trumps Scripture and now at the very end he merely asserts that is not the case. Go figure.

2.) Given everything that PC has said up to this point how can it be that “experience does not dictate the answers at which we arrive?”

3.) I will agree that questions are not a bad thing.

In the end PC does not have Scripture. He has a Gestalt empty chair he calls “a Bible,” and a Rorschach Ink blot he calls God’s revelation.

One wonders what PC does when his experience is over and against that of his Council or one of his congregants? Who’s solipsistic experience ‘wins’ the argument?

Given this kind of “reasoning” is it any wonder that churches are just one big “encounter group”

Brief Observation on all types of Libertarianism

I’ve come to think of libertarians and R2K advocates as moral free-riders. They want to enjoy the stability, trust and cohesion that is the result of a Christian Worldview that was incarnated as legislated Christian morality and which provides them with the stability, trust, and cohesion in their social order, but without themselves being culpable for its direct upkeep.

The Irrationality of Evolutionary Materialism

“With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Charles Darwin
Letter to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285.

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

― C.S. Lewis

In Sunday School we have been reading and reviewing this book together,

Windchy, brings out the Darwin quote and Lewis only teased it out its implications.

1.) Incoherency of Materialism

In the end Materialism (Naturalism) is inherently contradictory and so irrational since it the idea of truth is itself a non-corporeal, non-material idea. Further, the very second that the Materialist begins invoking “logic” to support their position they have at that point overturned their materialist position since logic itself is immaterial. Further still, as the materialist disavows the “mind,” instead choosing to embrace the material brain. But all the brain is a bio-chemical entity that has evolved over time. How can a bio-chemical entity ever develop anything like the non material concept of true truth?

2.) Materialism Attributes the supernatural to the natural

Materialism denies the supernatural and then turns around and imbues the natural with supernatural categories. Matter becomes eternal, omnipotent, having aseity, infinite, etc. Naturalism then doesn’t void the supernatural, it instead, merely tucks it away inside the natural.

The implication of this is that a absolutized Nature that is impersonal, irrational, and without purpose creates an effect — a world that is allegedly personal, rational, and purposive — without supernatural means that is greater than its cause. Materialism wants to insist that a non supernatural and mindless world brought forth a rational world that is inhabited by beings brought about by a time + chance + circumstance natural selection that can rationally reflect on their irrational origins. So, Naturalism, posits rational, self-aware human beings that have brains but no minds who can rationally and meaningfully reflect on their irrational origins.

Pointing out the Obvious

I picked at part of this quote in the previous entry but I just have to come back for another bite at the proverbial apple.

D. G. Hart writes,

“So if you are a legislator or president or judge and you hold office by virtue of being elected by Americans, not just the Christian ones, then don’t you have an obligation to execute your office in a way that is in the best interests of the people you serve (Americans and American-Christians)?”

1.) As a Christian public office holder, why would one posit, that acting in a non-Christian manner, in pursuing the best interest of non-Christian constituents would be a Christian thing to do?

2.) As a Christian public office holder, why would one not think, that acting in Christian manner, in pursuing the best interest of non-Christian constituents, would always be in the best interest of non-Christian constituents?

3.) By what standard are we defining “best interest?”

Darryl asks,

“But if you think that you are always going to have to act as a Christian in public office, then should you be allowed to hold power in a government that shows no religious preferences?”

1.) I guess every thought captive to the obedience of Christ is understood to have the addition “except in the public/common kingdom.”

2.) So much for “whatever is not done in faith is sin.”

3.) This quote suggests that if someone is voted in by all the Americans then there are times when it would be wrong to act in the best interest of Christians vis a vis the Christian constituents.

3.) Are we being told by a Dr. of the Church that it is wrong, at times, (by what Standard?) to act as a Christian when in a public capacity?

4.) If one is not acting as a Christian then how is one acting? Perhaps it is the case for Hart that it is Christian to not act as a Christian when you are a public official representing all the people?

You can’t make this stuff up.

Hart continues,

I get it. Politicians face ethical dilemmas but those are not the same as a personal preference or conviction on the one hand and what is best for everyone on the other. A Major League Baseball umpire may have grown up as a Phillies’ fan, but if he is behind the plate for a Phils-Pirates game, he’s supposed to call the same strike zone for both pitchers.

So doesn’t the same apply to Christian legislators who would seek public office in the greatest nation on God’s green earth? Don’t they have to act in the best interests of citizens who are both God-deniers and God-fearers?

1.) Only a Christian Umpire, or a Umpire influenced by a Christian worldview would think it important to call balls and strikes as “balls and strikes” in a Phillies vs. Pirates game. A non-Christian Umpire would call that outside pitch a third strike on Andrew McCutchen every time and be glad he was able to do so.

2.) Acting in the best interests of citizens who are both God-deniers and God-fearers would be to always act as a Christian.

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