Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

eternal decree

Is age and experience better than youth and enthusiasm?

This question is often asked. Undoubtedly, if you’re a world-class tennis player, and you turn 35 years of age and your legs begin to give out due to age, wear and tear, you appreciate that youth has its advantages.

But our purpose here is not to think about sport and athletics, but about Providence and God’s eternal decrees.

As you read the Scriptures, seemingly opposite views confront you. One view says man has free choices and God responds to those choices. The other view says that creation is the outworking of the plan of God. Therefore the world and all that transpires in it comes about because that’s the way God has ordained it should happen.

Christians of both persuasions will grab their Bible and find alleged proof texts that support their view. And while this is a necessary exercise, by itself it does not resolve the issue. The issue itself is embedded in the presuppositions that a person brings to his Bible. And lurking somewhere in those presuppositions is a commitment to the world as an outworking of God’s eternal decrees, or the alternative, the idea that God created the world, then let its run its own course governed by the free choices of men and women. The Scripture is then interpreted according to the theoretical pre-commitment.

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Can the meaning of life come from the created order?

When objects need to be held together tightly, you need something that helps keep them together firmly. That something could be superglue: a tiny drop can hold an elephant.

Human thought also needs something to hold things together: meaning. You might like to refer to this holding substance as superglue; in this case intellectual superglue that gives meaning to the facts of the universe.

There are two choices when it comes to facts: either they are what God declares them to be, or they are what man declares them to be. It may be possible to postulate that things are what they declare themselves to be. But one of the reasons this idea does not go far is because facts are never brute facts: they are interpreted facts. A brute fact is a fact that has no relation to any other fact. It is completely isolated, and therefore a random fact. Interpreted facts, on the other hand, are facts that have some relationship which helps give them meaning. Thus, the fact itself can be “interpreted.”

This point is confirmed in a statement by molecular biologist, Gunther Stent. He understood that random facts cannot be identified.

“Let us recall, first of all, that science—that is, the effort to abstract causal relations from observable public events, of the outer world—is by its very nature a statistical endeavor. The scientist thinks he recognizes some common denominator, structure, in an ensemble of events, infers these events to be related, and then attempts to derive a ‘law’ explaining the cause of their relation. An event that is unique, or at least that aspect of an event which makes it unique, cannot therefore be the subject of scientific investigation. For an ensemble of unique events has no common denominator, and there is nothing in it to explain; such events are random, and the observer perceives them as noise.”[1]

If the facts are capable of interpretation, then, the question is interpreted by whom? They could be interpreted by God as the ultimate interpreter, or they could be interpreted by man as the ‘ultimate’ interpreter. At this point, however, another question follows: is man capable of being the ultimate interpreter of facts to provide meaning to them?

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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. The Coming of the Golden Age: A View of the End of Progress (Garden City, NY: The Natural History Press, 1969), p. 116.↵back

In attempts to substantiate the idea of libertarian free will, as the history of Pelagianism and Arminianism has shown, it is necessary to find a new starting point in theology: that is, God. By a new starting point, I mean an entirely new doctrine of God, one which does not fit with traditional Christianity. In this realm, the more recent ideas of Open Theism have been an attempt to apply the logic of Pelagius-Arminius in a more consistent manner. It is something they themselves recognize.

The arguments go like this: “We recognize that the Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinist idea of eternal decrees hangs on the basis of the idea of God as timeless, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. We reject these ideas because they do not fit with what we observe about the human condition (people make choices), or what we see in some parts of the Bible ( God relents, repents) and, anyway, these concepts of God come from Greek philosophers.”

What, then, is the basis for the rejection of this picture of God? There are a number of syllogisms:

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The Blank Slate Concept of Free Will.

It is interesting to see how the law of non-contradiction is applied in real life by those who uphold the belief that this law is the ultimate standard, or test, that must be used to determine if a statement is true. Remember the law of non-contradiction is this: something cannot be one thing and something else at the same time. A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship.

When it comes to an application of this principle, there are some challenges. Most of all, they occur in this area when the idea of libertarian free will comes to the surface. The idea of libertarian free will is that man is a blank, his environment is a blank, and his will is a blank. Anything that interrupts that blank thus becomes an interference to man’s will and therefore human will is no longer free. Thus, in this plan, God cannot have an eternal decree because it takes away the blank environment and interferes with the libertarian free choice of man.

It is not possible to get rid of doctrine before you come to the text to do your exegesis.

An application of the laws of logic occur in philosophical thought when men attempt to answer the question “what is true?” Non-theistic thought ends up with the notion there is no absolute truth, which, if this statement were true, violates the laws of logic, non-contradiction.

In theology you get similar kinds of statements: “We all come to the bible with presuppositions. We come with doctrinal baggage. You must get rid of the doctrine and do your exegesis first, then develop your doctrine from that.”

Now you ask this question: “Is it your doctrine—doctrine, by the way, just means a body of belief—that you must abandon doctrine in order to create the ‘blank environment’ of the human mind so that ‘correct doctrine’ is determined?”

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Within the long-running debate in Christian theology over soteriology (salvation), is the superglue issue. It is the answer to the logical dilemma created by positing deism on the one hand and fatalism on the other.

In order to escape “brute” or “random” facts it is necessary to ask how objects remain in place day in and day out to become “facts.” When people see day and night occurring in regular patterns, they say “this is a fact.” If it happened without any regularity, you could not call it a ‘fact’ because it would be random and unidentifiable. When an object falls to the ground, after a few times of this regular occurrence you suggest that the “law” of gravity is a fact. But the only reason you can call it a “law” is because of its regularity.

It is necessary to explain the phenomenon of “regularity”. Is it the deistic concept of the clockmaker who makes his clock, winds it up, and let’s it run without further interference from him? Or is “regularity” itself the result of pure contingency? Neither of these explanations fit what the Bible says.

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