The doctrine of the providence of God assures believers that the Lord is sovereign over the circumstances of their lives. Indeed, “The Church is His special care and charge. He rules the world for its good, as a head consulting the welfare of the body.” (John Flavel)
Meditation on God’s providence will foster both gratitude and fortitude in believers. Flavel in his classic book, The Mystery of Providence demonstrates how the Reformed doctrine of providence provides practical advice on how believers may grow in sanctification and enjoy the peace of God through times of affliction (excerpts given below).
APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE
How may a Christian discover the will of God and his own duty under dark and doubtful providences?
In order to answer this question we must consider what is meant by the will of God and what by those doubtful providences that make the discovery of His will difficult and what rules are to be observed for ascertaining God’s will for us under such difficult and puzzling providences.
How may a Christian be supported in waiting upon God, while Providence delays the performance of the mercies to him for which he has long prayed and waited?
It is supposed in this case that Providence may linger and delay the performance of those mercies to us that we have long waited and prayed for, and that during that delay and suspense our hearts and hopes may be very low and ready to fail. Continue reading “Finding God’s Peace in Times of Afflictive Providence (Covid-19 Crisis)”
The Psalmist who feels overwhelmed by terrible suffering and injustice brings his lament before God not just to calm his fears and frustrations. No, the remedy he seeks is not therapy. It is deliverance. But surely, the fundamental premise that encourages him to come before God is that God is still in full control of the situation? But is God in control?
Calvinism upholds a God who exercises full sovereignty and absolute control not only over personal circumstances, but over world events and history. He is a God who gives real hope and assurance. To be sure, some Christians continue to experience horrific suffering. But at least, the Calvinist believes that God has a good reason to let that happen. God can even turn evil to good in the long run. As such, Joseph could say to his murderous brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen. 50:20) Peter told the Jews that God overrode their evil deed of crucifying Jesus to accomplish his plan of salvation. “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22-23)
For the Calvinist, evil may sometimes seem to prevail but God is in control because he is omniscient. With exhaustive foreknowledge, he is able to exercise meticulous providence. In contrast, opponents of Calvinism like Open Theists cannot enjoy such an assurance because the God of Open Theism is not trustworthy. Open Theism says that we are vulnerable to horrific suffering because God cannot fully protect us. God does not possess exhaustive foreknowledge as he cannot know beforehand how human beings with autonomous, libertarian freedom would choose. This means God himself cannot be sure or decide on the best course of action until the human agent has acted.
God may have an overall plan to maximize the ‘best’ outcome based on educated guesses about the future, but this is not providence as its focus is on the “big picture” rather than the individual welfare. Since he does not have exhaustive foreknowledge, he may even be mistaken. He may be unable to protect your best interest as he may be forced to factor in competing interests of other agents who are not fully in his control. The logical conclusion is that he cannot be a God whom one can absolutely rely on. It would be pointless to bring your lament before him if you cannot be sure of his deliverance. It would be folly to trust in him. In contrast, the Calvinist enjoys firm and unshakeable assurance because his God is absolutely trustworthy.
I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isa. 46:10-11)
[A summary of Paul Helm’s article, Coronavirus19 – What is it For? His words in italics]
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
When questioned about the incidents where (1) Pilate killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with their sacrifices and (2) eighteen Jews died in an accident when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus retorted, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you, unless you repent. You will all likewise perish’. (Luke 13: 1-3) These words are offensive to unbelievers.
The references to sin and guilt and repentance will put them off. But a contemporary Jesus – follower, who values Jesus’s words, should he not value these words? But no one, or scarcely one, of his followers today, quotes them, but shuns them. Jesus is silenced. When there are references, to sin, evil and judgment to come, there is a deafening silence. A person who respects Jesus’ words sees the purpose of the Coronavirus plague and other such evils as prompts to reflection and penitence, for Jesus calls all people are called to penitence for their evils even if, outwardly respectable, they convince themselves that they have no such need.
The fact is that people who survive dire and desperate situations are not those just stay put while waiting for a rational answer. Neither do they just lament and wait for commiseration (romantic sigh of relief), whether from counsellors or from God. Well, unless they come the socially privileged class and therefore never have to fend for themselves all their lives. Not surprisingly, they are at a loss, not knowing what to do. Those who survive are those who refuse to give up. Instead, they overcome the temptation to resign to their fate and do what it takes to survive. Continue reading “From Lament, to Hope and Action”
We may summarize NTW’s piece accordingly – There is no explanation, whether rationalist or romantic. We should not rationalize away or spiritualize our suffering especially in times when “the only advice is to wait without hope.” It is better just to grieve or lament. This is because lament reminds us that God himself is the one who grieved and lamented when his people betrayed him. NTW concludes, “It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”
Lament without an explanation for suffering without rhyme or reason? Doesn’t this sound like Greek catharsis in the face of cruel and capricious fate? Isn’t this a strange amalgamation of sentimentalism with Roman stoicism? In which case, why lament? Why not just accept our fate? In this regard, maybe the Muslims got it right – just throw up your hands and exclaim “takdir”, and get on with life. Continue reading “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright”
TWENTY-NINTH QUESTION: THE ETERNAL GENERATION OF THE SON Was the Son of God begotten of the Father from eternity? We affirm
I. The preceding question established the consubstantiality (homoousian) and essential identity of the Son with the Father. This question will demonstrate his personal distinction from him, his ineffable and eternal generation against the blasphemies of anti-Trinitarians.
Statement of the question.
II. The question is not whether Christ can be said to be begotten of God by the miraculous conception of the Holy Spirit; or whether he can be called the Son of God by a gracious communication of existence, power and divine glory (for this the adversaries readily grant and acknowledge no other cause of his filiation). But the question is whether he was begotten of God from eternity, and whether he may be called Son on account of the secret and ineffable generation from the Father. The Socinians blasphemously deny this; we affirm it. Continue reading “The Eternal Generation of the Son: Francis Turretin on the Trinity”
[Recapitulation: On the Trinity]
a. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature. Some of the early Church Fathers used the term “substantia” as synonymous with “essentia,” but later writers avoided this use of it in view of the fact that in the Latin Church “substantia” was used as a rendering of “hupostasis” as well as of “ousia,” and was therefore ambiguous. At present the two terms “substance” and “essence” are often used interchangeably. There is no objection to this, provided we bear in mind that they have slightly different connotations. Shedd distinguishes them as follows: “Essence is from esse, to be, and denotes energetic being (Augustine On the Trinity 5.2). Substance is from substare, and denotes the latent possibility of being.… The term essence describes God as a sum-total of infinite perfections; the term substance describes Him as the underlying ground of infinite activities. The first is, comparatively, an active word; the last, a passive. The first is, comparatively, a spiritual, the last a material term. We speak of material substance rather than of material essence.” /1/ Continue reading “The Eternal General Generation of the Son: Louis Berkhof on the Trinity”
The Coherence of the Trinity
We refer to the Athanasian Creed which gives us a useful starting point for our discussion: “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Spirit is another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty equally eternally. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three gods but one God…And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or lesser, but all three persons are equally eternal with each other and fully equal.”
We may break down the above statement into the following propositions:
(1) The Father is God.
(2) The Son is God.
(3) The Holy Spirit is God.
(4) The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
(5) There is one and only one God. /1/
The Humanist UK website describes a “humanist” as someone who (1) trusts the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic), (2) makes ethical decisions based on reason, empathy and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals, and (3) believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.
Presumably, this description would be accepted as a representative view by contemporary humanism movements. This view of humanism rejects supernaturalism and reduces human beings to materialistic objects without souls which would be antithetical to Christian beliefs. On the other hand, Christianity affirms virtues like empathy and concern for human beings and the importance of realizing meaning and happiness in this life. Continue reading “Christian Humanism”
JANUARY 27 — In his article in Berita Harian on January 19, 2020, Dr Mohamed Azam called out the G25 for claiming that Malaysia is a secular state. In doing so, he referred to G25’s recently-released report on the ‘Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam’ and challenged the position that Malaysia is a secular state, based on three main arguments.
1. First, he asserts that the Federal Constitution does not contain, or make any reference to, the word ‘secular’, and in fact, it is only the religion of Islam that is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. In light of this, he argues, the characterisation of Malaysia as a secular state is ‘inaccurate’.
2. This leads to his second argument: that Articles 3(1) and 12(2) places Islam in a ‘special’ position in Malaysia’s constitutional order, in spite of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s assurances that including Article 3(1) in the Constitution does not alter the secular character of the state. He also posits that if anything, the presence of Article 3(1) favours those who argue that Malaysia is an Islamic state.
3. Finally, Dr Mohamed Azam justifies his position by referring to the then Supreme Court decision in Che Omar bin Che Soh, the High Court decision in Meor Atiqulrahman, as well as various scholarly opinions.