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)
Open theism is the belief that God is not timelessly eternal. “God changes in some ways so as to respond appropriately to a changing creation…God’s foreknowledge is limited, because of the limitations he has placed upon himself in giving humans freewill.” /1/ The idea that God has limited foreknowledge was first formulated by the Polish Socinian movement in the late 16th century. It was recently revived by several Open Theists (Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice & John Sanders et al) when they jointly published the seminal work, The Openness of God (IVP, 1994). However, anyone who feels swayed by their sophisticated arguments should recall the old-time rebuttal, “Your argument is logical but your conclusion is unfounded because your premises are wrong.” Applying logic to wrong premises only leads to conclusions that do not correspond to reality. For the same reason, the logic of Open Theism results in a god who is in conflict with the God of Biblical-Classical theism because its premises or fundamental philosophical intuitions are questionable. Continue reading “The Limited god of Open Theism is Not the Almighty God of the Bible”
For readers who are not familiar with the term “truthmaker”, note the following clarifications:
Definition 1 – Truth bearers are those things that are made truth by truthmakers. A truth-bearer is an entity that is said to be either true or false and nothing else. Examples: Sentences, propositions, judgments, beliefs (propositional attitudes or opinion about the meaning of a sentence) etc
Definition 2 – Truthmakers are those things that make something true. A truthmaker for a truthbearer is that entity in virtue of which the truthbearer is true.
The idea of truthmaker is premised on the correspondence theory of truth. A sentence is true because of the way the world is, in contrast to the suggestion that the world is the way it is because of which sentences are true. For example, if a certain man exist, then a statement that the man exists is true, and vice versa. But there is a priority between these two states of affairs. It is the case that the statement is true because of the way the world rather than the case that the world is the way it is rather because the statement is true.
Timothy O’Connor provides two objections that make Molinism untenable.
Discussion by Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. one (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), pp. 212-218.
Summary of Francis Turretin’s Argument Against Middle Knowledge. Sect 1-4. Definitions Natural Knowledge or knowledge of simple intelligence is indefinite. It is God’s knowledge of all things God could possibly do with his omnipotent power, irrespective of how God actually decides to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what he could do, if he so choses to do it. Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of future things (what God eventually and freely brings into being). It is definite as it refers to how God actually exercises of his omnipotent power by his decree. Middle knowledge lies in between natural knowledge and free knowledge (the order is logical and not temporal). It is not based on God’s decree but on the autonomous free will of creatures.
Definition: Contingent Proposition – a contingent proposition can be true but does not have to be true. Fact/Event – occurring without this necessarily being the case, i.e. it might not have occurred. A being is contingent if it is not logically necessary.
ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. By Francis Turretin (1623-1687).
QUESTION: Do all things fall under the knowledge of God, both singulars and future contingencies? We affirm against Socinus.[p. 206]
VIII. On the state of the question observe: (1) that a thing may be contingent in two ways—either with respect to the first cause (inasmuch as it can be produced or not produced by God, and so all creatures are contingent with respect to God because he might not have created any if he had so willed); or with respect to second causes (which can produce or not produce their effect and are thus distinguished from necessary causes). We here speak of future contingents in the latter and not in the former sense. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents”
It has been suggested by some bloggers that exegesis is on the side of the Calvinists while logic is on the side of the Arminians. This suggestion sounds plausible since the majority of Christian philosophers today are either Arminians or Open theists. The bloggers are correct in acknowledging that Calvinists offer robust exegesis to support their arguments which is evident in the works of Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, Sam Storms and James White. However, the suggestion is mystifying since historically Calvinists have been accused of imposing of a rigid logical system onto Scripture. We can only conclude that the bloggers who suggest that Calvinists lack rigor in logical analysis have never bothered to read Calvin and his successors like Francis Turretin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards or Dutch Reformed theologians like Wilhelmus Brakel and Petrus van Mastricht. A quick glance of Richard Muller’s 4-vol (2176 pages) work on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics should immediately impress the reader of both the acuity and logical brilliance displayed by the Calvinists. It was precisely because the doctrinal disputations of the Reformed Scholastics were dominated by austere logic, where conciseness and clarity trumps readability that Calvinism has been accused on putting logic above Scripture. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht”
Received this question from a good Christian brother and friend – Question: So we should be a “Calminian” 😊! Sorry, not trying to be flippant Bro Kam Weng. If we cannot fully understand it due to our finite minds trying to grapple with a divine mystery, I think it is ok agree to disagree and not let it divide us and certainly it should not be one side saying to the other “the gospel you preach is defective”.
Response: I fully agree with you that we must always bear in mind our limitations in the face of divine mystery. Humility is in order. Spurgeon notes that some Arminians display holiness that ought to put to shame Calvinists who turn out to be spiritually cold & legalistic. More importantly, both Calvinists & Arminians who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be heaven & their rewards will be based on far more wider considerations than just doctrinal precision. Continue reading “Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?”
[Autonomous, Libertarian] Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man’s own will, thus making the atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy. Spurgeon “A Jealous God” Sermon 502 (1863)
Outline of Romans 9:
vv. 1-5 – Paul expressed his grief over the unbelief of the nation of Israel.
vv. 6-9 – Main theme. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel originates from God’s sovereign grace.
vv. 14-18 – Answer to objection that predestination makes God unjust.
vv. 19-29 – Answer the objection that predestination makes personal responsibility irrelevant.
Thesis: Not everyone who belongs to ethnic Israel belongs to the spiritual Israel. The spiritual Israel includes a remnant of ethnic Israel, but is not restricted to ethnic Israel. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel is not based on works but originates from God’s sovereign grace. Who constitutes the spiritual Israel will become evident at Paul’s argument unfolds.