Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

From: Mccarrick, Alan D CIV NSWCCD Philadelphia, 9212 <alan.mccarrick@navy.mil>
Date: Tue Nov 22 2005 - 08:11:08 EST

I feel that I have had similar thoughts to Ted's regarding God's impassibility. The Bible seems to often use terms that strongly imply God's changing as it were in response to events.

As a member of a PCA church, we place great stock in the Westminster Confession of Faith not as true in of itself, but as a proper statement of biblical teaching. Our Sunday School class has been watching a video series on interpretation of prophecy. Last week a portion of the WCF was brought out that I had not considered before. Let me quote it here:
CHAPTER V.
Of Providence.
I. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
II. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
III. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.
IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptatoins of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.
VII. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures, so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his Church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.

There are several issues that we could consider, but the portion that caught my attention was the end of Section II "...he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently." If I can remember correctly, this was explained as meaning that God acts to fulfill prophecies
1. Necessarily - the decree has no options and will come to pass as spoken
2. Freely - (this one I am having the most trouble remembering/explaining) - God has established options and chooses among them at his pleasure
3. Contingently - God acts in different ways in response to man's response. Nineveh is spared the promised destruction that Jonah promised because of their repentance.
This third categories sure looks like God is responding to man's repentance or lack.

Items IV and V also weave a complex picture of God's actions. What do the divines mean by God's "bounding" (section IV) - is God establishing a locus of possibilities that man/the world operates within in a free way ? In what way does God "leave for a season his own children" ? Indeed, how is it that God can "leave" anything ?

Al McCarrick
Received on Tue Nov 22 08:12:26 2005

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