Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Systematic Theology, part 20

A continuation on the topic of God's providence in Wayne Grudem's book, Systematic Theology.

This book is a brick, but just about every page has had real treasures of truth and explanation of doctrine!

The importance of our human actions. (regarding free will).
    God DOES work through human actions, so our actions and choices DO make a difference.  This is not just a fatalistic system!

God ordains all things, yet holds us responsible for our actions.  It is RIGHT for God to rebuke and discipline and punish evil.

Prayer is one action that has definite results and does change the course of events.

2 Samuel has a good example where Joab says, "Be strong and let us show ourselves courageous....and may the Lord do what is good in His sight."    There is a great blend of being active, and knowing that God's providence will stand strong.

Wayne Grudem says, "A hearty belief in God's providence is not a discouragement but a spur to action."

Three practical applications:
1. Do not be afraid, but trust in God. Our sovereign Lord watches over us, even more than the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, etc.
    David was able to sleep in the midst of his enemies, because he knew that God's providential control made him "dwell in safety," and he could say, "in peace I will both lie down and sleep" (Psalm 4:8)
2. Be thankful for all good things that happen.
3. There is no such thing as luck or chance.  All things come to pass by God's wise providence.

The Arminian view rather says that God responds to human choices and actions, instead of being kind of pre-involved in every detail in his providence.  They maintain that God's will cannot include evil. "The fall of man is an eloquent refutation to the theory  that God's will is always done."
Here are four of their major points:
1. Verses showing God's providential control are exceptions and do not show how God normally works.
2. The calvinistic view wrongly makes God responsible for Sin.
3. Choices caused by God cannot be real choices. Man is totally free in his choices, otherwise he would just be a puppet.  Yet, the Arminian view says that prayer can influence and affect men and their wills.  The free offer in the New Testament to repent and come to Christ for salvation requires a free will to choose to take up that offer.

4. Arminian view encourages responsible Christian living, while the Calvinistic view encourages a dangerous fatalism.

A response to the Arminian position:  *see the four points above which this is responding to*
1. Are those scripture passages exceptions or the rule? The examples are so numerous and general to apply to all things, that it would be strange if they were just specific exceptions.  God knows every word not just on David's tongue, but on all our tongues before we speak it.  God did not just make some rain to fall but all the rain to fall, etc.  "He accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will." Ephesians 1:11.
2. Is God responsible for sin?  God himself never sins but always brings about his will through secondary causes, agents who voluntarily, willingly do what God has ordained. God preserves his holiness, and the theology is true to events of the Bible.
3. Can choices ordained by God be real choices?  If God says our choices are real, then they are real. "Scripture repeatedly affirms that our choices are genuine choices, and that they have real results, and that those results last for eternity."  God both pre-ordained things from before the creation of the world, and at the same time reacts in time to things we do.  He is grieved at our sin, he delights in our praise, he answers our prayers.  Wow!

We have to be careful not to make our theology based on what we THINK should be the case, and rather look at what God has made, and know that even if it is "hard to swallow,"  he knows best and has decreed things in the perfect way.

4. Does a calvinisti view encourage a dangerous fatalism? Both calvinists and arminians believe our actions have real results, are eternally significant, and we are responsible for our actions.
The calvinist will live with a far more comprehensive trust in God in all circumstances and a far greater freedom from worry about the future.... They are thankful for God's providence in all things as a result of the goodness of God himself.

A few more objections to the arminian position:
a. If God responds in real time to all events, how can he know the future (as Scripture shows he clearly does). This puts into question God's omnipotence.  Maybe he knows what will happen in the future but did not plan or cause it. (Thus our future is predetermined by something?)
b. How can evil exist if God did not want it (in the Arminian view)?  Was God not actually all powerful to avoid or stop the entrance of evil? And then, if we have free will all the time, does that allow for us to rebel against God in heaven and then lose our salvation?
c. How can we know that God will triumph over evil? If evil came into the world even though God didnt want it, and if we have total freedom over our choices, how can we know things will all pan out in the end as God predicted?

Do our theologies bring us in awe of the greatness of God, or in fear of the greatness of man and his free choices?

next week, the chapter on miracles!

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