Monday, July 18, 2011

The foolishness of God, origins and causes / election--an analogous thought

(I can't find the Becker right now.  It must have taken it somewhere.  So I'll go from memory today because I have a thought I want to put down.)

This still relates to the usefulness of reason in relation to science, causes and origins.

Luther uses the example of your own parentage.  This example does not work as well today because we can do genetic testing.  However, even there a 100% certainty cannot be achieved. I can tell you this because I have adopted children and one submitted to a test of paternity and it came back 99.99% certain.  That seems pretty certain but whatever is not 100% can still be questioned.  So maybe Luther's example works.

So here it is:  just as you cannot be certain as to who your parents are except by their telling you that they are, we can say nothing certain about the origins of the natural world via reason.  This is the limitation of science.  It cannot tell us anything about how things came to be or for what reason, it only can to a limited extent describe how some things work.

What interests me today is this idea that we cannot know who are parents are for sure but that we go by "revelation", our parents "tell" us that we are their children.

Knowing who your biological parents are is a huge deal for every person.  This can especially seen in the cases of adopted children;  they illustrate this point well.  Having been a parent in open adoptions, I have come to conclude that knowing who your biological parents are is a human right.  This goes as far as sperm donors or whatever lengths modern situations may present.  You can have the most wonderful parents and the children may be the most well adjusted and they still need to know who their parents are because it is integral for their knowing who they are themselves.  You are your parents in large measure and if you don't know your parents you miss a good deal of knowing who you are yourself.

It is similar with knowing that  God is your own dear Father in Heaven.  You cannot know it from yourself.  Also you don't know who you are if you do not know your Father in Heaven.  You don't know if you are stuck with your damnable self and left to fend for yourself or if you have a gracious God.  Election works like this, too.  Election says in the positive sense:  you are my child, I knew you from the beginning, in fact, I made you.  I will always love you, you are my own most treasured, valued being in this world.

Election does not mean that people were chosen to not be God's children.  Just as parents don't go around saying to people:  You are NOT my child.  It is the devil who goes around saying:  You are NOT God's child.  Parents just go around cuddling their own children and telling them how much they love you.  They don't go around saying to other people's children:  "You are not my child."

Just a thought on "election" only being used in the positive sense.


Brigitte said...

Jesus does call some people the children of the devil. John 8:39 to 47.

But it is all due to unbelief and rejecting of the gospel message he just spent tons of time and energy brining. "Come to me all..." He does not say anything about them being elected to be children of the devil.

There is a grace resisted here. Jesus is right there spreading the word, scattering the perfectly good seed. Abraham listened and they do not.

Though he does finish up with: "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

He is saying that they belong to the devil.

By nature we all belong to the devil. By God's grace and his word we become God's children. Those who do not receive the word, reject Christ and remain children of the devil. He is still not saying that they have been predestined to this. By nature we are all not God's and outside his kingdom.

Sam said...

It was a moment in my life when I realized (a sermon by Henri Nooan, guest speaker at chapel) that the word obey meant listen, hear--not do as I command, as the word comes to mean in popular common sense.

It is "problematic"--whether I can claim obedience--though I claim to listen, I can't claim to hear. I know it's crucial--and beyond me. It's LIKE Corinthean "Love" : the temptation is to claim it, think I've Got IT, when in fact I'm a clanging gong show and my faith don't even move molehills etc.

Brigitte said...

Yes, I think the "obey" in English often gives the wrong sense. We Lutherans often say this also.

Sometime the word "to keep" creates the same problem. To "keep" God's word is not just to "do" what you are told, because mostly we can't, but to "treasure" it, love it, try to do it from the heart.

I've been translating Luther's Small Catechism and Bible proofs here under a thread and I noticed that things like "keep" in German are "bewahren" which is to "keep" as in a "keep-sake", like a scrapbook which women like to make. Hold on to, treasure in the heart, like Mary did all the things that were told her by God.

We often say that "ought" does not imply "can".

Now, that I know Christ and God's goodness, I really do want to please him, indeed, it is my heart's desire. But I know how poorly I do what he wants. Still, in his grace it means something to him. And the more we cleave to him who is good to us.

Jeph said...

[Election does not mean that people were chosen to not be God's children. Just as parents don't go around saying to people: You are NOT my child. It is the devil who goes around saying: You are NOT God's child. Parents just go around cuddling their own children and telling them how much they love you. They don't go around saying to other people's children: "You are not my child."]

How about this one,

"...but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep." (Jn. 10:26)

Here we see Christ telling hostile Jews that the reason they don't believe is that they don't belong to God's sheep (elect).

So how does this fit with what you said in your article Mrs. Brigitte.


Brigitte said...

So what are those Jews supposed to take from Christ's words? Is he saying to them: "You are not elect from eternity (though they belong to God's special people), and therefore abandon all hope?" Or is he saying to them: "Repent and believe! You think you are God's people by birth, but you are not because you don't believe. So believe the good news! Believe in the Son of man, the Son of God!"

Certainly, he is calling them to repentance not saying you are not elect and you won't make it in.

Jeph said...

Mrs. Brigitte,

Your ability to make an instant translation of a biblical text is quite amazing, but I am certain that's not what Jesus said in John 10:26 (and context). Though I would agree with you that Jesus calls for all people to repent and believe Him, I believe that's not His message in John 10:26.

The discourse in John 10:1-30 is about Christ's being the Good Shepherd of God's sheep. Christ used the shepherd-sheep illustration to describe His sovereignty in saving all whom God has purposed to save through Him. All of God's sheep knows His voice and will follow Him (v. 3-4). This means that all of them will surely come to faith upon hearing the Gospel from within (cf. Ac. 13:48; 16:14). They will not listen to false Gospels (John 10:5).

Having said all these, the readon why the Jews continue to resist the words of Christ becomes apparent. It's because they are NOT among His sheep! (v. 26). It does not say, "You are not among my sheep because you do not believe", but rather, "You do not believe because you are not among my sheep." There's a world difference.


Brigitte said...

Your ability to make an instant translation of a biblical text is quite amazing

Jeth, I don't really need slant comments like that. I've had a lot of discussions and taken quite a bit of abuse, and I talk quite straight.

John 10 is about Jesus and who he is and what he does. He is drawing all men to himself, those who will not resist him. He is the good shepherd and those who put their trust in him will have good pasture.