Posted in April

Week 15 Homework (due 4/19/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 8: Providence: Limited and Detailed

      1. “Christians have always believed that the one true God, maker of heaven and earth, is also sovereign Lord of his creation. Both nature and history belong to him, and he governs them and provides for them.”
        1. God is sovereign- He rules and reigns over all
        2. “God is in charge and purposefully, powerfully guides nature and history such that his will always ultimately triumphs in and through (and sometimes in spite of) them”
      2. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Providence
        1. God is in charge of nature and history AND evil and innocent suffering?
        2. Allow room for disagreements about providence
      3. The Christian Consensus about God’s Providence
        1. God and humans propose and dispose
        2. “Nature and history are sovereignty, providentially governed by God and nothing happens without God’s permission”
        3. God does not create evil; He plans for and controls it
          1. Satan is God’s instrument!
          2. Difference between permitting and causing
        4. “God is the good and just governor of nature and history in that he not only created but also sustains, guides, provides for and judges everything”
        5. “Nothing at all can happen in nature/history that God does not at least allow”
        6. “God’s sovereign governance of nature and history is both ‘general’ and ‘special’”
      4. Alternatives to Christian Belief in God’s Providence
        1. 3 main alternatives to Christian belief
          1. fatalism- denies intelligent design; “nature and history are ruled by blind forces that exclude not only contingency but also meaning and purpose”
          2. Deism- “views divine providence as the divinely established network of natural laws that govern nature and history”
          3. process pantheism- “completely rejects any classical account of divine sovereignty and providence in order to rescue God from responsibility for genocide”; “God’s only recourse in the face of a recalcitrant world is divine persuasion toward the good”
      5. Diverse Christian Visions of God’s Providence
        1. Differing models among Christians
        2. 3 main interpretations
          1. meticulous providence- “Whatever happens in nature and history is completely, exhaustively willed by God and not merely permitted by God”
          2. limited providence- “God could control nature and history meticulously but chooses not to; God restrains himself for the sake of a certain, limited degree of autonomy of both nature and human agency”
          3. open theism- “God does not know with absolute certainty all that the future holds, but he is able to predict events and respond in such a way that his ultimate and final will for the future is never thwarted.”
      6. A Unitive Christian View of Providence

Scripture Response:

In Romans 8:6, Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  One question I have from this, is what does spiritually minded look like?

The concept of being spiritually minded is contradictory: the spirit and the mind are two different parts of a human being.  In order for a person to be spiritually minded, the spirit must overtake the mind.  The mind will follow whoever gives it power, which is either the spirit or the body.

The body—commonly referred to in this setting as the flesh—and the spirit are in a battle.  The flesh wants what makes it feel good at that particular moment in time.  The spirit, however, wants what is best for an individual, as well as other people, in the long run.  Instead of jumping from one momentary pleasure to another, the spirit seeks to fulfill an individual’s needs in a satisfactory way, both now and in the future.  Following the spirit enables a person to better enjoy their life as a whole, rather than simply enjoy a particular moment.

So, how does a person become spiritually minded?  Due to the habitual nature of human beings, an individual needs to become accustomed to saying “no” to what the flesh wants, in order that they do not automatically respond “yes” to the desires of the flesh.  A person also needs to listen to the quiet voice of the spirit and follow what it says.  Instead of rushing into decisions, or doing whatever the flesh feels like doing, an individual should patiently wait for the guidance of the spirit.

The Deuteronomy passage mentions this idea of following the spirit but uses different wording.  In Deuteronomy 30, the Israelites are told to choose between good or evil, also referred to here as life or death.  To choose good (or life), a person must love God, obey Him, and be faithful to Him.  This is the same process as following the spirit, known as being spiritually minded.  When we let the spirit control our decisions, and coincidentally our lives, we are obeying God, being faithful to Him, and using our lives as an act of worship, or love, to God.

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Question Response

When examining the concept of free will, concerns are often brought up of how this relates with God’s sovereignty. Christians argue that God is omnipotent. If God is all-powerful, however, how do humans have the freedom to make whatever decision they want to? God’s supreme power would then override their foolish or self-gratifying choices, or would it?. In reality, since God is all-powerful, He has the ability to do whatever He chooses, even if that means He decides to give the power He has to humanity.
In providing mankind with free will God is not giving up His power. First, this is true because at any moment God could overturn humanity and take the power back. Job 1:21 references this in that it mentions how God gives and takes away. God gave humanity His power and at any moment He could take it back and leave humans as defenseless slaves to Him. This, of course, would not be characteristic of a loving God, and fortunately, is not characteristic of the God we serve.
So how does giving something—in this case, God’s power—to someone else cause the giver to not lose what they gave? When I was thinking about this, I was vaguely reminded of a couple of quotes I have heard before. They address what happens when an individual lifts up or empowers another individual, especially when the first person is in a leadership role. While I cannot remember to exact wording of the quotes or find them online, they basically state that in giving power to another person you do not lose that power, but rather you gain it. When making another person “greater”, you are made “greater”, for giving of yourself. In providing humanity the opportunity to make their own choices, God did not lose His supreme power, if anything, the fact that He gave humans power only made Him more powerful.

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