Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence’

A refutation of those who foolishly allege that devils are nothing but bad affections or perturbations suggested by our carnal nature

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The nature of bad angels. They are spiritual essences endued with sense and intelligence.

19. Having above refuted that nugatory philosophy concerning the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but good motions or inspirations which God excites in the minds of men, we must here likewise refute those who foolishly allege that devils are nothing but bad affections or perturbations suggested by our carnal nature. The brief refutation is to be found in passages of Scripture on this subject, passages neither few nor obscure. First, when they are called unclean spirits and apostate angels, (Matthew 12:43; Jude, verse 6,) who have degenerated from their original, the very terms sufficiently declare that they are not motions or affections of the mind, but truly, as they are called, minds or spirits endued with sense and intellect. In like manner, when the children of God are contrasted by John, and also by our Savior, with the children of the devil, would not the contrast be absurd if the term devil meant nothing more than evil inspirations? And John adds still more emphatically, that the devil sinneth from the beginning, (1 John 3:8.) In like manner, when Jude introduces the archangel Michael contending with the devil, (Jude, verse 9,) he certainly contrasts a wicked and rebellious with a good angel. To this corresponds the account given in the Book of Job, that Satan appeared in the presence of God with the holy angels. But the clearest passages of all are those which make mention of the punishment which, from the judgment of God, they already begin to feel, and are to feel more especially at the resurrection, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29;) and again, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Matthew 25:41.) Again, “If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment,” etc., (2 Peter 2:4.) How absurd the expressions, that devils are doomed to eternal punishment, that fire is prepared for them, that they are even now excruciated and tormented by the glory of Christ, if there were truly no devils at all? But as all discussion on this subject is superfluous for those who give credit to the Word of God, while little is gained by quoting Scripture to those empty speculators whom nothing but novelty can please, I believe I have already done enough for my purpose, which was to put the pious on their guard against the delirious dreams with which restless men harass themselves and the simple. The subject, however, deserved to be touched upon, lest any, by embracing that errors should imagine they have no enemy and thereby be more remiss or less cautious in resisting.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 14-Henry Beveridge Translation

Chapter 17-Creation

April 2, 2014 1 comment

Creation

IT is natural that the origin of the universe should have been one of the most prominent subjects of inquiry among men. Various theories have been presented, not only by those who have been guided by reason only, but even by others to whom revelation has been known but not accepted as authoritative. All theories, however, may be generally reduced to four.

That which asserts that matter is the one eternal, self-existent substance from which all else proceeds.

That which regards it as an emanation from God.

That which maintains that matter is itself eternal, but has been acted upon by God, who has used its substance in the construction of all things, thus giving to them form and life.

That which accords with the Scripture teaching, that the universe has been made absolutely out of nothing, by the active exercise of the will and power of God.

It is the duty of Theology to examine each of these theories, and to set forth the reasons for believing that matter is neither self-existent and independently eternal, nor an emanation from God, nor mere material used by him, but has been created out of nothing.

1. Matter is not the one eternal, self-existent substance from which all else proceeds.

(1.) If it is, then mind is the product of matter, and not matter that of mind.

The universe presents to us both mind and matter. Each of these must exist independently of the other, or the one must have been the production of the other. Which then has been the producing cause? Have the mental powers, which are exhibited by man, been the development of forces inherent in matter, which through various processes have finally attained to self-consciousness, and thought, and purpose, such as we find in man? or is there some infinite mind which has originated all things, both mind and matter?

The greater reasonableness of the supposition that mind has originated matter is ably set forth by Dr. Hovey, in his Manual of Theology, pp. 28-39. He contends that it is more reasonable to suppose, (1.) that there is one original and self-existent force or being than more than one; (2.) that matter is a product of mind, rather than mind of matter; (3.) that the order of the universe is due to a supreme mind, rather than to forces co-operating together without purpose; (4.) that the vegetable world is a product of mind organizing matter, rather than of matter organizing itself; (5.) that the animal world is a product of mind, imparting a higher organizing principle to vegetable elements, rather than of vegetable forces acting alone; (6.) that man, as a rational being, is a product of mind, giving a higher principle of life to animal being, rather than of mere vital forces acting without reason; (7.) that man, as a moral being, is a product of the supreme mind, itself moral, rather than of vital forces that have no moral insight; (8.) that man, as a religious being, is a product of the supreme mind, rather than of mere vital forces.

The above are simply condensed statements of the mere propositions laid down by Dr. Hovey. His full argument shows conclusively how utterly unreasonable is the idea that mind should have proceeded from matter, and not produced it. But, if so, it is equally unreasonable that matter should be the one originating cause of the universe.

(2.) The same fact appears from the existence of the laws which control matter. Matter has fixed limitations, within which alone it can act. Its movements, its changes of form, its developments, and indeed all things connected with it are governed by fixed, and, so far as we can see, unchangeable laws. These laws can be examined and known, and made the basis of the action of men. Now these laws can be accounted for only in one of three ways. Either they belong to matter as a necessity of its nature, or matter has the power to give to itself laws, or these laws have been imposed upon it by a superior intelligence. But if the first be true, then that necessity of nature would not only make these laws unchangeable, (for whatever exists of necessity, exists without possibility of change,) but would likewise make it impossible for men to conceive of any reasonable change in them in any respect. But the fact that there is such great diversity among the scientific theories which attempt to develop the laws controlling nature in many of its aspects, and that there seems no absurdity nor natural impossibility that the law should accord with any one of these theories, or be different from it,–evinces that there is no absurdity nor unreasonableness in supposing that the material universe might have been placed under very different laws from those which exist.

But the second of these suppositions cannot he true, because matter must then, in some aspect, have had intelligence to understand, and establish law before the existence of mind in any form; for science teaches that created mind, (which, upon the supposition, is the only kind of existent mind,) comes forth in connection with the higher organisms of existence, and long after apparent operation of the laws which regulate matter.

It is certain, therefore, that the laws of matter have been imposed by a superior intelligence, and, consequently, that matter cannot be the eternal, self-existent substance, from which all else proceeds.

(3.) The incapacity of matter to create anything shows that it is not self-existent, and eternal. All that is claimed for matter is the power to develop one form into another. It is even denied that there has been any increase in its original materials since it first began to be. But it is evident that whatever cannot be the cause of existence to others, cannot be the cause of its own existence, or be self-existent. The latter is a far higher power than the former.

(4.) That matter is not eternally self-existent is also manifest from the fact that it exists in time. The laws of time require succession of moments and limits of duration. Matter could not he eternal in any other way than through the existence of an infinite series of finite periods, which is absurd.

2. Matter is not an emanation from God.

That which goes forth from God must either be from his nature, or from his mere will and power. But the latter would be a mere creation out of nothing, since it would not be something produced out of himself. An emanation from God must, therefore, proceed from his nature. But it cannot be of this character.

(a) Because, if from his nature, it must possess the attributes of that nature, and must exist in the same mode of existence with it. But matter has none of the attributes which belong to God. Nor is the mode of its existence like his. It has neither self-existence, nor eternity of existence, nor even infinity of space or time, since it is composed of finite parts, and exists in successive moments which are finite and measurable. It has not intelligence, nor purposing power, nor can it have wisdom or goodness, neither can it exercise justice, nor experience love.

(b) An emanation from the nature of God would be opposed to the doctrine of the unity of God. That which thus proceeds would be as truly God as that from which it comes forth. We should, therefore, have two Gods. Indeed, as matter itself is capable of indefinite division, there would be an indefinite number of Gods. The doctrine of the Trinity gives no support to such an emanation as matter would necessarily be. It does not teach an emanation from the nature of God, for the divine nature remains one only, and is not divided among the three persons, but is the common substance in which they subsist. In order that matter should subsist in God in like manner, it must itself have a conscious personal existence, and have all the attributes of God, and have the same mode of existence.

3. Neither is matter a substance upon which God has simply acted in the production of the Universe.

(a) The evidence that it is not eternal shows that it was not thus present of itself with God furnishing material for his workmanship. If it existed at any time as purely inorganic, it must either have been first created in that condition, or permitted to lapse into it from its original form.

(b) The power and right thus to act upon matter must either have been conferred upon God, as it is on us, or it must have arisen from his having created it. But as there was no one to confer this power upon God, the Universe must have been created by him.

4. The theory of a creation out of nothing, by the mere will and power of God, is then the only reasonable supposition upon which to account for the existence of the Universe. It is not an objection to this reasonableness, that it was first made known by Revelation. Being thus revealed, it appears to reason, not only to be fully accordant with all the facts and phenomena of matter, but to be the only theory which can account for them. That this theory has been suggested by the language of God’s word makes it no less reasonable than if suggested by some mere man. It is at once seen not to be an impossibility. It is not a creation out of nothing, in the sense that it has had no cause, or has been produced without the existence of forces adequate to the end. The cause and the forces are in God; in his will, and wisdom, and power, and goodness. It cannot be said to come from nothing, for it comes from God. The mind readily rests in such a theory. It fully answers all the demands of the problem to be solved. It is accompanied with none of the difficulties which press against the theories based upon the eternity of matter. The manner in which God works is indeed unknown to us; but that he may so work is highly accordant with reason. 

The creation of the world out of nothing is the plain teaching of Scripture. It is true, that the phrase to “create from nothing” is not found, except in one of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament (2 Maccabees 7:28). But the fact itself is taught expressly in Heb. 11:3. “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear.” The account of the general creation in Genesis conveys the same idea, and a like impression is produced by the Scriptures generally. It has been argued from the verbs, used to declare the creation, both in Genesis and elsewhere; but the argument is doubtful, as these words are also applied to acts of creation out of pre-existent matter.

This creation out of nothing seems essential to the power of God over matter. If he did not create it, it exists independently of him; but if it is his creation, then he has absolute control, not only over the forms into which he has shaped it, and over the laws he has given it, but over matter itself in every respect, even over its longer existence for a moment of time.

A distinction is made between immediate or primary creation, which is that act by which God acts directly without the use of pre-existent materials, and mediate and secondary creations, which are those acts by which out of pre-existent materials he produces his creatures. The universe of matter was an immediate creation. The body of Adam was a mediate one, and so, also, are those of all his posterity.

Several objections have been presented against the full inspiration of the account of the Creation given in the first chapters of Genesis.

(1.) It is claimed that the general account which concludes with the third verse of the second chapter cannot be an inspired writing, because it was evidently taken from some other source, and incorporated in this book.

In reply It may be said:

(a) That this has not been, and cannot be established.

(b) That if it were, it would not affect its inspiration.

It is much more probable that the genealogies of Christ, given by Matthew and Luke, were from the records of the family of David. The inspiration of Matthew, and Luke, and Moses does not depend upon these having been made as direct revelations to him; but upon the fact that they were moved by the Holy Ghost to insert them in the books they were writing, such moving of the Spirit being, however, an evidence of the truthfulness of the records. If; therefore, it could be proved that the account of creation existed long before the days of Moses, this proof would, in no respect, militate against its inspiration.

(2.) Another objection is that Genesis represents the Creation as occurring in six literal days of twenty-four hours each, and that geological science has proved that the world was created in periods of time much longer.

But the account does not necessarily teach that this work was done in six such days.

(a) Because the word “day” is sometimes an indefinite term, the true meaning of which must be ascertained by the context. It is applied to each of these periods in the first chapter, and also to all of them unitedly in Gen. 2:4. The Scriptures frequently use it very indefinitely, as the “day of trouble,” “of wrath,” “of temptation,” “of vengeance,” etc. It even embraces the whole period of a captivity as “the day of Jerusalem,” Ps, 137:7; and “the day of Egypt,” Ezek. 30:9. These, and many other applications, show that frequently it means merely a period, and the length of that period must be accertained otherwise.

(b) Because the Hebrew words translated “evening,” and “morning,” while almost always used for those portions of the day, do not necessarily indicate a day of twenty-four hours’ duration, but may denote only the changes which occur periodically in any cyclical period. The root ideas of these words are “the mingling” (evening) and “the bursting forth” (morning). They are thus beautifully descriptive of a time of intermingling of the elements, leading to a period of darkness, and that again followed by the bursting forth of the appearance of a new creation, the whole forming one cyclical period. The length of the period is not necessarily indicated by them. The use, also, of these words before the appearance of the Sun and Moon on the fourth day, very decidedly confirms the idea that the periods need not be those of an ordinary day.

(c) While it is admitted that the resting of God upon the seventh day, in connection with the language of the commandment respecting the observance of the Sabbath, favours the idea of days of twenty-four hours, even this does not make necessary such days. We know not what is exactly meant by God’s resting on the seventh day. There is certainly something figurative, or anthropomorphic about it. The “rest” of this first chapter may represent the ceasing from creative work in this world, and the seventh day of rest, which man is commanded to observe, may he commemorative and typical of the former; this being brief and inferior, in comparison with that, as man is but an atom in the creation of the great God of this greater Sabbath.

From these facts it is manifest that we are not compelled to maintain that the creation was limited to six ordinary days. This is all that is necessary. If science can show the impossibility of such a six-day creation, we can reply that the Scriptures do not necessarily teach it. And the fact of this possibility of concurrence with possible scientific discoveries, heretofore so generally unlooked for, becomes strong evidence of the inspiration of this account of Creation.

(3.) Another objection is, that, according to any scripture chronology which we have, man has been on the earth only six or eight thousand years, and yet that fossil remains of men have been found who must have existed fifty thousand years ago, or more.

(a) But satisfactory proof of this has not yet been afforded. Scientific men themselves are not agreed about it.

(b) But if true, the Scriptures are not necessarily wrong, nor uninspired. The chronology of the different forms in which the Old Testament has come down to us is known to vary. This is attributable to mistakes in copying, which can more easily occur in the representations of numbers, than of any other ideas. It may be that Adam was created more than eight thousand years ago, and that the original chronology of the Scriptures so taught. It may be that, in connection with that greater antiquity, if all were known about it, would appear explanations of the great age to which many of the patriarchs are said to have arrived. Nor is it impossible that other races of men existed before Adam, either endowed as he was, with both spiritual and animal life, or they with animal life only, and he with the specially added endowment of a spiritual nature. While it is granted that such has not probably been the fact, yet is it not impossible that it may have been.

While these various objections thus seem not to render impossible the absolute verity of this Genesis account of Creation, there are other facts which ought to be remembered which support the narrative.

1. That it is natural that the Scripture should use phenomenal language only as to scientific matters. We do this every time we speak of the sun rising and setting, and no one misunderstands, or is deceived. This is the only method in which a book for all ages could refer to scientific matters. Had the Bible used language exactly suited to the science of to-day, embracing all its best established theories, in less than fifty years it would have to be admitted that it could not be from God, because of its lack of truth. Had it been written in the language of true science originally, age after age would have rejected it as false. It could only treat science phenomenally.

2. But, while thus written, it often gives underlying evidence that God its author knew truths of science, that could not have been known to the science of that day. This is particularly shown in this account of Creation. Light here appears before the Sun and the Moon. The order of the creations accords generally with that taught by Geology from an examination of the stratifications of the rocks. Man is made after all other creations, and his body is made of the dust of the earth. Even the universe was not made as it now appears, for, while the first verse of the first chapter states the creation of both heavens and earth, the second teaches that, before the formative process began, the earth was in a chaotic condition. The truth is, that, so generally, and yet so accurately, are the statements made, that, even if it could be proved that the Universe is the production of original concurrent atoms, or of a universal fire mist, or the development of molecules, there is nothing in this Genesis account to commit it to the contrary. Even the creation of animal life, including that of man, is from the earth, which is directed to bring forth. The soul of man is the only living thing which is declared to have been a direct creation of God.

Several theories have been presented for the full reconciliation of Genesis and Geology. It is not necessary to state them here. It is enough that there are possible means of such reconciliation, and that any one, or more of them, may be true. The veracity of the Scriptures is otherwise abundantly proved. Here it is charged that they speak falsely. Were a man of well-known probity and honour thus assailed, and facts, however strong, or cumulative, presented against him, it would suffice to support his denial by showing that there are possible circumstances which may explain all seeming falsehood. So with the Scriptures. They are charged with error. It is enough to show one possible explanation. But, in this case, we can show several. This would suffice. But we are justified in challenging those who deny inspiration to account for the many coincidences with the scientific teaching found in this narrative.

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

 

Chapter 9-The Knowledge of God

February 5, 2014 1 comment

Chapter 9-The Knowledge of God

 

GOD is an intelligent being possessed or knowledge.

This may be proved:

1. From his spirituality; for intelligence is an essential element of spiritual existence.

2. From his perfection; for the perfect one must have intelligence as one of his perfections.

3. From his causal relations to other beings and things.

(1.) As the cause of mental power and action in others, he must himself be possessed of mind. As the Scriptures aptly inquire, ” He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” Ps. 94:9; so may we ask, he that made the mind, and gave the power of thought and knowledge, shall he be without intelligence?

(2.) The effects he has produced show that they are the result of, conscious action in the fulfillment of purpose, which he has formed. His causation is not like that of mechanical or chemical forces, which operate with blind productiveness or effective operation towards ends unknown to them, and not predetermined. This is possible to secondary causes, because they are the instruments of some other cause, itself intelligent and purposing. But intelligence and purpose are necessarily present in him, who is the great first cause, the prime mover and designer of all else that exists. All the evidences of design in creation, therefore, prove the intelligence of him who bears to it the relation of its first cause.

(3.) It is sometimes argued from his omnipresence, but omnipresence alone would not prove intelligence. His intelligence, however, having been established, his omnipresence enables us to determine the extent of his knowledge.

How does God know? or in what way does he possess knowledge?

1. Not as we gain it, by using faculties fitted to acquire it. There is in him nothing corresponding to observation, comparison, generalization, deduction, processes of reasoning, by which we pass from one step to another, or the contemplation or conjecture of suppositions or theories by which we account for facts.

2. It is even improper to speak of his knowing by intuition, as is frequently done.

3. All that we can say is that his knowledge is his essence or nature knowing. It is not something acquired, but something belonging to that nature itself and identical with it, in like manner as are his love, and truth, and justice. It is something so inherent in his nature that it exists exclusively of any means of attaining or perceiving it, which we call action.

4. The knowledge of God, therefore, not being acquired, cannot be increased. Time does not add to it. Succession of events does not bring it before God. All the objects of his knowledge are to him eternally present and known.

What then are the objects of his knowledge?

1. Himself his nature, or essence; the personal relations subsisting in that essence; all that that nature is, and all that it can appear to be in its manifestations; all that the purposes of God include, and all that might be purposed by him, whether to be done or to be permitted.

2. His creation in all its fullness; in its whole extent, whether marked by magnitude, or minuteness, or variety. The whole universe, with its innumerable worlds, is ever before him, while not an atom of dust, nor the most microscopic of sensitive existencies is unperceived thoroughly.

3. Not merely inanimate matter, nor simple animal natures, but all spiritual beings; he knowing their essences which to them remain unknown, and having perfect perception of the intents and thoughts of their hearts. “When Thales was asked if some of the actions of men were not unknown to God, he replied, ‘not even their thoughts.'” [Knapp’s Theology.] An inspired writer has taught us that God knows us even better than we know ourselves. “Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him, whereinsoever our heart condemn us; because God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” 1 John 3:19, 20. His knowledge is not limited to the manifestations and operations of spiritual beings, but extends to their essences, and includes not only what they are, but also those tendencies which indicate what they may be.

4. He knows all the past, present, and future of all things, knowing the future with the same certainty and accuracy with which he knows the present and past; for that future is already as present to him as though actually existing with the creatures and time belonging to it, and is as distinctly perceived as it shall be then.

But more specifically as to his knowledge of future events it may be said:

1. That he knows all events that are certain or fixed. The certainty that they will come to pass is based upon his decree. He therefore knows all things that shall come to pass.

2. He knows all events that could possibly come to pass. This is based upon his infinite knowledge of himself and of all his creatures, by which all things or events, which could at any time or under any circumstances occur, are known to him.

In these two classes are necessarily included all objects of knowledge.

Knapp lays down a third kind of knowledge, namely, the knowledge of contingent events, or events which might take place under certain circumstances; for example, that God foresees that if James lives until he is grown, he will commit murder; he therefore determines to prevent this by removing him from life. The knowledge of the murder is here claimed to be that of a contingent event. And hence it is claimed to be another kind of knowledge.

But to examine this. It is readily admitted that the murder does not come under the classification of things certain or decreed, because it will not take place. But it does come under the head of things possible, and between it and all other possible things no distinction can be made. All possible things are contingent until made certain by a decree. Every possible thing is only possible in connection with the circumstances under which it can happen. There is therefore no distinction between possible things and contingent things, and consequently no third class is to be added.

The kind of knowledge which he thus speaks of as contingent is stated by Knapp to be what is called Scientia Media. It is one form only, in which Scientia Media is presented by those who maintain it.

Another form of Scientia Media is, however held by some. According to this, the future event to which it refers is known to God as an event that will take place, but his knowledge of that fact is attained, not through his decree, but through his foreknowledge that, under certain circumstances, a man will pursue one course of action rather than another.

This kind of Scientia Media teaches:

(1.) The future event as certain.

(2.) That God knows it as such.

(3.) That this knowledge does not arise from his decree.

(4.) But, from his knowledge of the nature of the man, together with that of the circumstances that will surround him, he knows that he will act in a particular way.

The only question here is as to the 3d and 4th, for it agrees with the usual orthodox statement in saying, 1st, that it is certain, and 2d, that God knows it as such.

But the 3d and 4th assert that this knowledge is the result of a foreknowledge of God as to how a man will act under certain circumstances. It is evident, however, that this foreknowledge is necessarily accompanied by a determination to allow him so to act.

Now the question arises, is this universally the method of God’s action? If it be so, then God has left the world entirely to itself, without any influence from him. Everything has come to pass, not because of his will and action, but because he has left the general laws, under which he has placed the world, to work out their results without any action or influence on his part.

But this is so manifestly untrue and unscriptural, that it never has been maintained by any Christian men, and it is by Christian writers only that the idea of Scientia Media referred to above has been presented.

It is therefore denied that this is what is meant, and they say that while God does operate in and interfere with the world, and carry on his own purposes in certain matters, he does not choose in other events to exercise any influence, but simply refrains and leaves the events to work out their own effects; and that the knowledge which he has of these events is based upon the fact that they will take place if he does not thus interfere.

The theory thus presented, as will be seen, admits the continued preservation of all things, with all their powers. This can only result from God’s providential action, and involves all that concurrence with events on the part of God through which alone they preserve and exercise effectively the powers he has given them.

This being admitted, then the views held by these parties, stated in any form in which they could hold them, would involve no additional fact beyond the distinction, recognized by all orthodox divines, between the absolute and permissive decrees of God.

But in any event there is a decree, determination, intention, purpose, or whatever else men may call it,–in the broadest language, a will, or volition,–to leave these things so to operate. And upon this will or decree is based his knowledge that these things will be; for without the knowledge of such a purpose, how could he know that he will not at some time choose to change the circumstances or prevent their accomplishment of the event?

It will be seen that in neither of the forms of Scientia Media thus far referred to is there any serious disagreement from the truth. The objection to them is more the lack of accuracy and the mistaken notion that some new idea is involved; or rather the great objection has been the purpose by which men have been led, viz., a desire to lay down the distinction of conditional decrees in salvation. According to these decrees:

(1.) God offers salvation to every man.

(2.) But does not decree his salvation or damnation.

(3.) Yet only decrees his salvation if he believes.

(4.) Or his damnation if he does not believe.

(5.) The knowledge which God is admitted to have had of the event from the beginning arises from foresight that, under the circumstances in which the man is placed, he will exercise, or will not exercise belief.

The Scientia Media is, therefore, introduced to show how an event can be known as something that will actually take place, and yet as something not fixed by a decree of God, and consequently known upon some other ground than because decreed. This we have shown to be a mistaken conception in the forms already examined.

But a third kind of Scientia Media is by no means as harmless as the two already presented, although its absurdity is readily seen. It is given in Dr. J. Pye Smith’s first lines of Christian Theology, p. 145, as follows:

“That God foresees all future events, depending upon the will of His voluntary agents, (i. e., all possible beings and all possible actions of all possible beings), under a position of antecedents endlessly varied; and that, then, in every case certain consequents will follow. The Deity does not certainly know which, in the endless number of possible antecedents, a voluntary creature will choose and practice; but he knows what will be the result under every possible variation of these antecedents. When, therefore, the creature has made his election and fulfilled his course of action, the Deity may say that he foreknew the whole.”

The objections to this scheme are manifest.

(1.) It makes the God, whose purposes we see constantly manifested to us, a God of no purpose at all. He can have no end; he can only know that at any time given in the universe, some one end of many myriads may be the one attained.

(2.) It s contrary to the power to prophesy the actual events which shall happen at a given time, which God has exercised through his prophets.

(3.) It is opposed to his independence, for it makes him dependent upon the will of his creatures, and not their actions dependent upon him.

(4.) It is opposed to his perfection, for that perfection forbids the idea of increase or addition from without; yet, according to this view, his knowledge is constantly increasing as to what is done by his creatures. Every moment, that which heretofore has been only one of many possibilities, becomes a certain event.

(5.) As there can be no reason for God’s will not being effective at least in some respects in man, this Scientia Media, which rests upon the idea that God ought not thus to operate on the mind, even by a purpose, must be a misconception. Else how could God bestow influences upon intelligent creatures which are fitted to affect their minds, as in the gift of Christ, or of the Spirit. Even the conscience within ought not to exercise its powers, nor even to exist in man. If it be said that these would only operate with the free consent of the party, it may be replied that such is the case with all the influences arising in connection with God’s decrees. Is it said that these are influences for good only? So also is it in connection with his decrees. The effective decrees of God, by which he changes in any respect the will of his creatures, are altogether connected with influences for good. In all other respects men are left to act as they please. But their action is known, and known because of God’s decree to leave them thus to act.

(6.) That God should exert no influence over his intelligent creatures also involves that he be excluded from the physical universe.

The very circumstances under which men are supposed to act in Scientia Media are circumstances arising from things around as well as within. Neither can he who can control these circumstances be shut out from the control of those physical events which he knows will affect the will of a voluntary agent. If it be necessary to responsible freedom of the will that man shall not be influenced at all, God must be excluded from the universe; yea, every other being and thing except man. Every man also must be completely isolated from all others, even so far that he shall suppose that he owes no obligations of obedience, and that none shall know his action. These absurd conclusions might even be further extended.

The passages in Scripture supposed to support Scientia Media do not sustain it. These are Genesis 3:22; Ex. 4:8; I Sam. 23:5-14; Jeremiah 38:17-20; Matt. 11:21, 23; Acts, 27:22, 31.

 

THE WISDOM OF GOD.

Wisdom is that power which enables one to put to practical use the knowledge and skill which he possesses, to choose wise ends of action, and to attain these ends by wise means. It is that guidance of the understanding under which the will determines wisely its pleasure, and puts forth power to accomplish it.

Wisdom in God is infinite mid unerring, choosing always the best end and the best means of attaining it. It is seen in creation, and in providence, but is most signally manifested in redemption.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887 

Concerning the Doctrine of Providence

What does the doctrine of Providence imply? It implies the being of God, that there is a God. It implies that this God possesses all of the requisite attributes of Deity; that is, omniscience, knowing all things; omnipotence, having all power; omnipresence, being everywhere; and holiness and love. It implies that such a God, having the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence and holiness and love, created the universe, brought into being everything that you see – what is above us, what is below us, ourselves. It implies that this intelligent and powerful and benevolent being brought into existence everything that is. In other words, that God created this universe with all its creatures.

This implication denies atheism by assuming the being of God. It denies polytheism, for but one being can possess the divine attributes. It denies materialism and pantheism by assuming God’s existence before matter and His creation of it.

B. H. Carroll—The Providence of God

Concerning Confidence in our own Intelligence

There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.

John Calvin on Luke 24:45

Concerning Discernment

True discrimination between right and wrong does not then depend on the acuteness of our intelligence, but on the wisdom of the Spirit.

John Calvin on Luke 24:16