Thursday Theology: there are no coincidences.

There are those who believe that there is no rules, but that God decides from moment to make or unmake the world. Everything is from the will of God, and it is no point looking for rules or patterns or laws within creation. This is a perversion of the truth: but less noxious than putting God outside creation at all. As the schoolteacher notes, we cannot avoid error without the Grace of God.

Now, this statement of ours, that it is within the power of free choice not to offer an impediment to grace, is applicable to those persons in whom natural potency is integrally present. But if, through a preceding disorder, one swerves toward evil, it will not at all be within his power to offer no impediment to grace. For, though at any definite instant he may be able to refrain from a particular act of sin by his own power, however, if long left to himself, he will fall into sin, whereby an impediment is offered to grace.

Indeed, whenever man’s mind swerves away from the state of rectitude it is evident that he has departed from the order of his proper end. So, what should be the most important thing in his affection, the ultimate end, becomes a less important object of love than that object to which his mind is inordinately turned, as if to an ultimate end. So, whenever anything comes up that is in agreement with the inordinate end but incompatible with his proper end, it will be chosen, unless he is brought back to his proper end, so that be favors the proper end above all things, and this is the effect of grace. However, in so far as he chooses something that is incompatible with his ultimate end, he offers an impediment to grace, for grace gives the direction to the end. It is consequently obvious that after sin a man cannot refrain from all sin during the period preceding his being brought back to the proper order by grace.

Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas

Briggs comments here ‘A modern way to put all this may be to say that if you screw up and don’t care, you’ll go on screwing up until you do care, or are made to.’ True. But as Roosh noted, if you are screwing up you will left alone by the demons of hell, for they can see you heading nicely towards their abode.

They don’t want you to think that God can care and can act. Or not. If he cannot act, there is no use in prayer. But here Calvin gives good guidance.

And truly God claims omnipotence to himself, and would have us to acknowledge it,–not the vain, indolent, slumbering omnipotence which sophists feign, but vigilant, efficacious, energetic, and ever active,–not an omnipotence which may only act as a general principle of confused motion, as in ordering a stream to keep within the channel once prescribed to it, but one which is intent on individual and special movements. God is deemed omnipotent, not because he can act though he may cease or be idle, or because by a general instinct he continues the order of nature previously appointed; but because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel. For when it is said in the Psalms, “He has done whatsoever he has pleased,” (Ps. 115:3), the thing meant is his sure and deliberate purpose. It were insipid to interpret the Psalmist’s words in philosophic fashion, to mean that God is the primary agent, because the beginning and cause of all motion. This rather is the solace of the faithful, in their adversity, that every thing which they endure is by the ordination and command of God, that they are under his hand. But if the government of God thus extends to all his works, it is a childish cavil to confine it to natural influx. Those moreover who confine the providence of God within narrow limits, as if he allowed all things to be borne along freely according to a perpetual law of nature, do not more defraud God of his glory than themselves of a most useful doctrine; for nothing were more wretched than man if he were exposed to all possible movements of the sky, the air, the earth, and the water. We may add, that by this view the singular goodness of God towards each individual is unbecomingly impaired. David exclaims (Ps. 8:3), that infants hanging at their mothers breasts are eloquent enough to celebrate the glory of God, because, from the very moment of their births they find an aliment prepared for them by heavenly care. Indeed, if we do not shut our eyes and senses to the fact, we must see that some mothers have full provision for their infants, and others almost none, according as it is the pleasure of God to nourish one child more liberally, and another more sparingly. Those who attribute due praise to the omnipotence of God thereby derive a double benefit. He to whom heaven and earth belong, and whose nod all creatures must obey, is fully able to reward the homage which they pay to him, and they can rest secure in the protection of Him to whose control everything that could do them harm is subject, by whose authority, Satan, with all his furies and engines, is curbed as with a bridle, and on whose will everything adverse to our safety depends. In this way, and in no other, can the immoderate and superstitious fears, excited by the dangers to which we are exposed, be calmed or subdued. I say superstitious fears. For such they are, as often as the dangers threatened by any created objects inspire us with such terror, that we tremble as if they had in themselves a power to hurt us, or could hurt at random or by chance; or as if we had not in God a sufficient protection against them. For example, Jeremiah forbids the children of God ” to be dismayed at the signs of heaven, as the heathen are dismayed at them,” (Jer. 10:2). He does not, indeed, condemn every kind of fear. But as unbelievers transfer the government of the world from God to the stars, imagining that happiness or misery depends on their decrees or presages, and not on the Divine will, the consequence is, that their fear, which ought to have reference to him only, is diverted to stars and comets. Let him, therefore, who would beware of such unbelief, always bear in mind, that there is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.

First, then, let the reader remember that the providence we mean is not one by which the Deity, sitting idly in heaven, looks on at what is taking place in the world, but one by which he, as it were, holds the helms and overrules all events. Hence his providence extends not less to the hand than to the eye. When Abraham said to his son, God will provide (Gen. 22:8), he meant not merely to assert that the future event was foreknown to Gods but to resign the management of an unknown business to the will of Him whose province it is to bring perplexed and dubious matters to a happy result. Hence it appears that providence consists in action. What many talk of bare prescience is the merest trifling. Those do not err quite so grossly who attribute government to God, but still, as I have observed, a confused and promiscuous government which consists in giving an impulse and general movement to the machine of the globe and each of its parts, but does not specially direct the action of every creature. It is impossible, however, to tolerate this error. For, according to its abettors, there is nothing in this providence, which they call universal, to prevent all the creatures from being moved contingently, or to prevent man from turning himself in this direction or in that, according to the mere freedom of his own will. In this ways they make man a partner with God,–God, by his energy, impressing man with the movement by which he can act, agreeably to the nature conferred upon him while man voluntarily regulates his own actions. In short, their doctrine is, that the world, the affairs of men, and men themselves, are governed by the power, but not by the decree of God. I say nothing of the Epicureans (a pest with which the world has always been plagued), who dream of an inert and idle God, and others, not a whit sounder, who of old feigned that God rules the upper regions of the air, but leaves the inferior to Fortune. Against such evident madness even dumb creatures lift their voice.

My intention now is, to refute an opinion which has very generally obtained–an opinion which, while it concedes to God some blind and equivocal movement, withholds what is of principal moment–viz. the disposing and directing of every thing to its proper end by incomprehensible wisdom. By withholding government, it makes God the ruler of the world in name only, not in reality. For what, I ask, is meant by government, if it be not to preside so as to regulate the destiny of that over which you preside? I do not, however, totally repudiate what is said of an universal providence, provided, on the other hand, it is conceded to me that the world is governed by God, not only because he maintains the order of nature appointed by him, but because he takes a special charge of every one of his works. It is true, indeed, that each species of created objects is moved by a secret instinct of nature, as if they obeyed the eternal command of God, and spontaneously followed the course which God at first appointed. And to this we may refer our Saviour’s words, that he and his Father have always been at work from the beginning (John 5:17); also the words of Paul, that “in him we live, and move, and have our being,” (Acts 17:28); also the words of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who, when wishing to prove the divinity of Christ, says, that he upholdeth “all things by the word of his power,” (Heb. 1:3). But some, under pretext of the general, hide and obscure the special providence, which is so surely and clearly taught in Scripture, that it is strange how any one can bring himself to doubt of it. And, indeed, those who interpose that disguise are themselves forced to modify their doctrine, by adding that many things are done by the special care of God. This, however, they erroneously confine to particular acts. The thing to be proved, therefore, is, that single events are so regulated by God, and all events so proceed from his determinate counsel, that nothing happens fortuitously.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book One Chapter 16.

I have been saying over and over this is a time of crisis. This means that my notebook has more prayer written in it. Yes, we should read the signs of the times — they read storm coming real soon now — and we need to recall that though we think ourselves unrighteous, there are those who would want to debase us.

So prayer is needed. For us, for our cities, and for our nation. That the glory of the LORD will prevail. For a true fear of God and respect for his creation is the beginning of soundness, as individuals, families, congregations and even, perhaps, nations.