RE: ASA positions on science/faith issues

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Sat Apr 09 2005 - 17:08:53 EDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Terry M. Gray
> Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 3:45 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: ASA positions on science/faith issues
> Last post of the day for me! I guess my Hodge quote will have to wait
> till tomorrow.

I'll help you out. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Part I, Chapter 11,
Section 1. I'll quote the section in full to give the flavor. Hodge's style
is to survey the possibilities prior to giving what he believes is the
Scriptural opinion.

1. Preservation.
    GOD'S works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful
preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.
Providence, therefore, includes preservation and government. By preservation
is meant that all things out of God owe the continuance of their existence,
with all their properties and powers, to the will of God. This is clearly
the doctrine of the Scriptures. The passages relating to this subject are
very numerous. They are of different kinds. First, some assert in general
terms that God does sustain all things by the word of his power, as Heb. i.
3; Col. i. 17, where it is said, "By Him all things consist," or continue to
be. In Nehem. ix. 6, "Thou, even thou art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven,
the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth, and all things that
are therein, the seas, and all that is there in, and thou preservest them
all." Secondly, those which refer to the regular operations or powers of
nature, which are declared to be preserved in their efficiency by the power
of God. See Psalms civ. and cxlviii. throughout, and many similar passages.
Thirdly, those which relate to irrational animals. And Fourthly, those which
relate to rational creatures, who are said to live, move, and to have their
being in God. These passages clearly teach, (1.) That the universe as a
whole does not continue in being of itself. It would cease to exist if
unsupported by his power. (2.) That all creatures, whether plants or
animals, in their several genera, species, and individuals, are continued in
existence not by any inherent principle of life, but by the will of God.
(3.) That this preservation extends not only to the substance but also to
the form; not only to the essence, but also to the qualities, properties,
and powers of all created things.

The Nature of Preservation.
    This doctrine, thus clearly taught in the Scriptures, is so consonant to
reason and to the religious nature of man, that is not denied among
Christians. The only question is as to the nature of the divine efficiency
to which the continued existence of all things is to be referred. On this
subject there are three general opinions.

    First, That of those who assume that everything is to be referred to the
original purpose of God. He created all things and determined that they
should continue in being according to the laws which He impressed upon them
at the beginning. There is no need, it is said, of supposing his continued
intervention for their preservation. It is enough that He does not will that
they should cease to be. This is the theory adopted by the Remonstrants and
generally by the Deists of modern times. According to this view, God is
seated on his throne in the heavens, a mere spectator of the world and of
its operations, exerting no direct efficiency in sustaining the things which
He has made. Thus Limborch1 decribes preservation, as held by many, to be
merely an "actus negativus . . . . [quo Deus] essentias, vires ac facultates
rerum creatarum non vult destruere; sed eas vigori suo per creationem
indito, quoad usque ille perdurare potest relinquere." To this view it is to
be objected, --

    1. That it is obviously opposed to the representations of the Bible.
According to the uniform and pervading teaching of the Scriptures, God is
not merely a God afar off. He is not a mere spectator of the universe which
He has made, but is everywhere present in his essence, knowledge, and power.
To his sustaining hand the continuance of all things is constantly referred;
and if He withdraws his presence they cease to be. This is so plainly the
doctrine of the Bible that it is admitted so to be by many whose
philosophical views constrain them to reject the doctrine for themselves.

    2. It is inconsistent with the absolute dependence of all things on God.
It supposes creatures to have within themselves a principle of life, derived
originally, indeed, from God, but capable of continued being and power
without his aid. The God of the Bible is everywhere declared to be the
all-sustaining ground of all that is, so that if not upheld by the word of
his power, they would cease to be. The Scriptures expressly distinguish the
power by which things were created from that by which they are continued.
All things were not only created by Him, says the Apostle, but by Him all
things consist. (Col. i. 17.) This language clearly teaches that the
almighty power of God is as much concerned in the continued existence, as in
the original creation of all things.

    3. This doctrine does violence to the instinctive religious convictions
of all men. Even those the least enlightened live and act under the
conviction of absolute dependence. They recognize God as everywhere present
and everywhere active. If they do not love and trust Him, they at least fear
Him and instinctively deprecate his wrath. They cannot, without doing
violence to the constitution of their nature, look upon God as a being who
is a mere spectator of the creatures who owe their existence to his will.

Preservation not a Continued Creation.
    A second view of the nature of preservation goes to the opposite extreme
of confounding creation and preservation. This opinion has been held in
different forms, --

    1. It is sometimes said that preservation and creation are to be
referred to one and the same divine act. So far, therefore, as God is
concerned, the two are identical. This ground is taken by many who admit the
reality of the world and the efficiency of second causes. They intend by
this mode of representation to deny any succession in the acts of God. He
cannot be viewed as acting in time, or as doing in time what He has not done
from eternity.

    2. Others who represent preservation as a continued creation, only mean
that the divine efficiency is as really active in the one case as in the
other. They wish to deny that anything out of God has the cause of the
continuance of its existence in itself; and that its properties or powers
are in any such sense inherent as that they preserve their efficiency
without the continued agency of God. This is the sense in which most of the
Reformed theologians are to be understood when they speak of preservation as
a continuous creation. Thus Heidegger2 says, "Conservatio continuata creatio
Dei activa est. Si enim creatio et conservatio duae actiones distinctae
forent, creatio primo cessaret, ac tum conservatio vel codem, quo creatio
cessavit, vel sequenti momento inciperet." This only means that the world
owes its continued existence to the uninterrupted exercise of the divine
power. He therefore elsewhere says, "Conservationi annihilatio opponitur.
Cessante actione conservante res in nihilum collabitur." In like manner
Alsted3 says, "Conservatio est quaedam continuatio. Quemadmodum creatio est
prima productio rei ex nihilo, ita est conservatio rei continuatio, ne in
nihilum recidat. Deus mundum sustinet." Ryssenius (whose work is principally
from Turrettin),4 says "Providentia bene alters creatio, dicitur. Nam eadem
voluntate, qua Deus omnia creavit, omnia conservat, et creatio a
conservatione in eo tantum differt, quod quando voluntatem Dei sequitur
rerum existentia, dicitur creatio; quando res eadem per eandem voluntatem
durat, dicitur conservatio." This amounts only to saying that as God created
all things by the word of his power, so also He upholds all things by the
word of his power.

    3. There is, however, a third form in which this doctrine is held. By
continued creation is meant that all efficiency is in God; that all effects
are to be referred to his agency. As there was no cooperation in calling the
world out of nothing, so there is no cooperation of second causes in its
continuance and operations. God creates, as it were, de novo at each instant
the universe, as at that moment it actually is.

Objections to the Doctrine of a Continuous Creation.

    All these modes of representation, however, are objectionable. Creation,
preservation, and government are in fact different, and to identify them
leads not only to confusion but to error. Creation and preservation differ,
first, as the former is the calling into existence what before did not
exist; and the latter is continuing, or causing to continue what already has
a being; and secondly, in creation there is and can be no cooperation, but
in preservation there is a concursus of the first, with second causes. In
the Bible, therefore, the two things are never confounded. God created all
things, and by Him all things consist. As to the first mentioned of the
three forms of the doctrine of a continued creation, it is enough to remark
that it rests on the a priori idea of an absolute Being. It is not only a
gratuitous, but an unscriptural assumption which denies all difference
between will and efficiency, or between power and act in God. And as to the
idea that God's acts are not successive; that He never does in time what He
does not do from eternity, it is obvious that such language has for us no
meaning. We cannot comprehend the relation which the efficiency of God has
to the effects produced successively. We know, however, that God acts; that
He does produce successive effects; and that, so far as we are concerned,
and so far as the representations of scripture are concerned, our relation
to God and the relation of the world to Him, are precisely what they would
be if his acts were really successive. It is the height of presumption in
man, on the mere ground of our speculative ideas, to depart from the plain
representations of Scriptures, and so to conceive of the relation of God to
the world as effectually to make Him an unknown Being, merging all his
perfections into the general idea of cause.

    The objection to the second form of the doctrine is not to the idea
meant to be expressed. It is true that the preservation of the world is as
much due to the immediate power of God as its creation, but this does not
prove that preservation is creation. Creation is the production of something
out of nothing. Preservation is the upholding in existence what already is.
This form of the doctrine is therefore a false use of terms. A more serious
objection, however, is that this mode of expression tends to error. The
natural sense of the words is what those who use them admit to be false, and
not only false but dangerous.

    To the real doctrine of a continuous creation the objections are far
more serious, --

    1. It destroys all continuity of existence. If God creates any given
thing every moment out of nothing, it ceases to be the same thing. It is
something new, however similar to what existed before. It is as much
disconnected from what preceded it as the world itself when it arose out of
nothing, was disconnected from the previous nothingness.

    2. This doctrine effectually destroys all evidence of the existence of
an external world. What we so regard, the impressions on our senses which we
refer to things out of ourselves, are merely inward states of consciousness
produced momentarily by the creating energy of God. Idealism is, therefore,
the logical, as it has been the historical consequence of the theory in
question. If all necessity for the existence of an external world is done
away with, that existence must be discarded as an unphilosophical

    3. This theory of course denies the existence of second causes. God
becomes the sole agent and the sole cause in the universe. The heavens and
earth with all their changes and with all they contain, are but the
pulsations of the universal life of God. If preservation be a continued
production out of nothing, of everything that exsts, then every material
existence, all properties of matter so called, every human soul, and every
human thought and feeling, is as much the direct product of divine
omnipotence as the original creation. There cannot, therefore, be any
causation out of God, or any cooperation of any kind any more than when He
said, Let there be light, and there was light. In the same manner He
constantly now says, Let men exist with all the thoughts, purposes, and
feelings, which constitute their nature and character for the time being,
and they are.

    4. On this theory there can be no responsibility, no sin and no
holiness. If sin exist, it must be referred to God as much as holiness, for
all is due to his creating energy.

    5. Between this system and Pantheism there is scarcely a dividing line.
Pantheism merges the universe in God, but not more effectually than the
doctrine of a continuous creation. God in the one case as truly as in the
other, is all that lives. There is no power, no cause, no real existence but
the efficiency and causality of God. This is obvious, and is generally
admitted. Hagenbach5 says, "Creation out of nothing rests on Theism. It
becomes deistic if creation and preservation are violently separated and
placed in direct opposition to each other; and pantheistic if creation be
made a mere moment in preservation." "In creation," says Strauss, "God works
all, the creature which is thus first produced, nothing." If, therefore,
preservation is only the continuance of the same relation between God and
the creature, it follows that God still effects everything and the creature
nothing; hence out of God, or other than God, there are no causes, not even
occasional. Leibnitz,6 quotes Bayle as saying, "Il me semble, qu'il en faut
conclure, que Dieu fait tout, et qu'il n'y a point dans toutes les creatures
de causes premieres, ni secondes, ni meme occasionelles." And again, "On ne
peut dire que Dieu me cree premierement, et qu' etant cree, il produise avec
moi mes mouvemens et mes determinations. Cela est insoutenable pour deux
raisons: la premiere est, que quand Dieu me cree on me conserve a cet
instant, il ne me conserve pas comme un etre sans forme, comme une espece ou
quelque autre des universaux de logique. Je suis un individu; il me cree et
conserve comme tel, etant tout ce que je suis dans cet instant avec toutes
mes dependances." To make preservation, therefore, a continued creation,
leads to conclusions opposed to the essential truths of religion, and at
variance with our necessary beliefs. We are forced by the constitution of
our nature to believe in the external world and in the reality of second
causes. We know from consciousness that we are the responsible authors of
our own acts, and that we continue identically the same substance, and
consequently are not created out of nothing from moment to moment.

    This subject will come up again when treating of President Edwards'
theory of identity, and its application to the relation between Adam and his

Scriptural Doctrine of the Subject
    Between the two extremes of representing preservation as a mere negative
act, a not willing to destroy, which denies any continued efficiency of God
in the world; and the theory which resolves everything into the immediate
agency of God, denying the reality of all second causes, is the plain
doctrine of the Scriptures, which teaches that the continuance of the world
in existence, the preservation of its substance, properties, and forms, is
to be referred to the omnipresent power of God. He upholds as He creates all
things, by the word of his power. How He does this it is vain to inquire. So
long as we cannot tell how we move our lips, or how mind can operate on
matter, or in what way the soul is present and operative in the whole body,
it requires little humility to suppress the craving curiosity to know how
God sustains the universe with all its hosts in being and activity. The
theologians of the seventeenth century endeavoured to explain this by a
general concursus, or, as they called it, influx of God into all his
creatures. It is said to be an "Actus positivus et directus, quo Deus in
genere in causas efficientes rerum conservandas influxu vero et reali
influit, ut in natura, proprietatibus et viribus suis persistant ac
permaneant."7 But what do we gain by saying that the soul by "a true and
real influx" operates in every part of the body. The fact is clearly
revealed that God's agency is always and everywhere exercised in the
preservation of his creatures, but the mode in which his efficiency is
exerted, further than that it is consistent with the nature cf the creatures
themselves and with the holiness and goodness of God, is unrevealed and
inscrutable. It is best, therefore, to rest satisfied with the siniple
statement that preservation is that omnipotent energy of God by which all
created things, animate and inanimate, are upheld in existence, with all the
properties and powers with which He has endowed them.
1. Theologia Christiana, II. xxv. 7, edit. Amsterdam, 1700, p. 134.
2. Heidegger, Corpus Theologiae, loc. vii. 22, Tiguri, 1732, p. 251.
3. Alsted, Theol. Didaeo. Hanoviae, 1627, p. 283.
4. Summa Theologiae, I. 209; Ibid.
5. Dogmengeschichte, II. Zweite Halfte, p. 288, edit. Leipzig, 1841.
6. Theodicee, II. 386; Opera, edit. Berlin, 1840, p. 615.
7. Hollaz, Examen Theologicum, edit. Leipzig, 1763, p. 441.
Received on Sat Apr 9 17:11:17 2005

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