Monthly Archives: June 2013
Peter Hickman asked a couple of times about my own views on divine sovereignty and human free-will on the Freedom and Autonomy threads. I deliberately refrained from answering there, because the purpose of that series was to show how much the thing became an issue through the introduction of a non-biblical but addictive concept of human free-will and liberty during the Renaissance. I argued that, starting in a small way with the Arminian controversy, that new concept has gradually taken much modern theology badly off-course since, until the whole structure of Christianity has been transformed. I still believe that is an important challenge, and hope you read the series purely with … Continue reading
I’ve just come across a couple of interesting pointers to a forthcoming paradigm shift not so much in biology alone, but in the whole spirit of the age, and not in the diirection of postmodernism either. The first was a programme I happened to catch on TV, which is still available on i-Player for a few days here. It was called Aristotle’s Lagoon, and was an exploration by Armand Leroi, Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Imperial College, of the wildlife of Lesvos, where Aristotle did much of his work on natural history over a couple of years in the 4th century BC.
The Reformation, and the upheavals associated with it, were paradoxically both a reaction against, and dependent upon, the humanists’ new view of “freedom”. The piety of northern Europe could not accept the anthropocentricity of the ideas that swept the south, even infiltrating the Papacy. So Luther’s protests, and those of Calvin, Zwingli and the rest, were largely fired by a desire to return to the humble God-centred faith of the Bible. Yet it was only the humanist scholarship of people like Erasmus that made the original Bible text available to them, and both Luther and, even more, Calvin were educated in humanist methodology. Equally, support (especially political support) for Protestantism … Continue reading
I showed in #2 that the Bible’s approach to free-will is based on the commonsense reality of our daily experience, with its positive teaching aimed at showing how that experience should be modified by God’s revelation. Any resulting paradox it leaves unresolved, calling only for humility before God’s truth (eg Romans 9.19-21). Any resolution of such issues requires theologising which is, at least in part, philosophical. Indeed, the need to resolve them usually arises from philosophical speculation.
Freedom is a buzzword with an enormous emotional resonance. Beware reading this stuff, those of you who live in democracies, especially in those that honour emblematic bells or statues named “Liberty.” Freedom in its modern context is almost synonymous with libertarian autonomy, the ability to do things completely independently of all other agents, including God. And that may be fair enough in politics, psychology and so on. But in theology we ought to start with revelation, and it’s rather important to ask if the Bible’s understanding of “freedom” is the same as ours, particularly if “freedom” is to be the mainstay of our system, as it is in the kind … Continue reading
The first post in this series has already generated some good comment, which shows how live the issue of “freedom” is for many of us. I’ve decided on a slight change to plan – I feel the argument will be clearer if I deal with the biblical position first, and then proceed to how people have understood it historically. But keep in mind the thesis I’m presenting is not “free-will v predestination”, but that: (a) Theologies based on the centrality of human and natural freedom and God’s “letting go love” are novel. (b) The explanation for them is found in the enthronement of autonomy as a primary “good” over several recent … Continue reading
Another big task, which really needs someone to put into a book, so I think it will spread into multiple posts. Sorry. The task is to lay the case out for overturning a concept that came into the Church’s thinking maybe 600 years ago, and has gradually gathered ground until, in the last few decades, it has been systematically and exponentially destroying the prophetic and apostolic doctrine of many branches of Christianity, like some Trojan Horse computer virus. I mean it. This time it’s not the doctrine of a fallen creation – though it helps explain that – but something more fundamental: the belief in human autonomy. I will try … Continue reading
It would be mean-spirited of me not to cash in on the centenary of Alfred Russell Wallace’s death, and the opportunity was given by the BioLogos token-atheist Lou Jost the other day on this thread. He was putting down Roger Sawtelle with a post of the standard “You just don’t understand the theory of evolution” genre:
Milton: Paradise Lost, ii. line 996 (though I confess I got it from Martin Magnus on Mars by William F Temple, 1956). The incoherence of the “creation free to create itself” theology of much modern theistic evolution, and especially “the angel of the church at BioLogos“, has been a major theme here on the Hump. So much so that it’s hard to think of the most informative link, but this one is relevant.
A very good article here. It is primarily about the ascendency of the hermeneutic of suspicion in contemporary (meaning mainly post-modern and feminist) theology, but usefully beds that into the state of society itself. US theology and society are in its sights, and rightly so, but the rest of the world is far from immune: Dan Brown is popular over here, too, as are more academic manifestations of the idea that knowledge is a function of power, not of truth. We’re slightly less obsessed with conspiracy theories as yet, though. Slightly.