Progress, God, and Covid-19

NOTE: The object next expresses a views of a sold named as a author and does not indispensably simulate a position of a WRF as a whole.

Progress, God, and Solutions for Covid-19


Dr. Thomas K. Johnson[1]

Around a world, systematic investigate teams are racing to find cures and vaccinations that competence strengthen us from a new disease that is murdering tens of thousands and throwing nations and their economies into chaos. The pathogen has altered a world. Our pastors are addressing a devout needs of a people, while a church play are operative out how a churches can best duty underneath a new circumstances. Apologists are again compelled to consider a questions of pang and evil. However, we contingency also commend God’s purpose in a competition for medical solutions so that a altogether response does not leave us with a twisted attribute with God. For this reason, we am republishing this letter from 2005.[2] The strange is accessible here.

Progress, Knowledge, and God

One of a arch characteristics of multitude in a grown universe is swell driven by a expansion of new knowledge. For example, we all pattern a medical doctors to be means to heal or control a few some-more medical problems this year than they could final year. This medical swell is enabled by new believe about a tellurian body, illness, and medications. Our computers now are many some-more absolute and faster than a museum pieces we used 5 years ago. This swell is powered by new believe in a area of information technology. The cars we expostulate now furnish about 98% reduction atmosphere wickedness per mile or kilometer that we drive, in contrariety with a cars done in 1970. This swell formula from requesting new believe in churned fields, including automotive pattern and fuel chemistry.[3]

Progress driven by new believe is one of a characteristics of multitude that lends plausibility to a postmodern speculation of believe that seems to cocktail adult roughly everywhere. According to this form of postmodern theory, believe is something that we humans emanate or construct, regardless of possibly this ostensible believe is about medicine, religion, morality, or technology. With frequency a second suspicion people tend to slip from a origination of new believe in a technical fields to saying all of tellurian believe and enlightenment as a quite tellurian construction or creation. And to contend that this robe of mind is executive to a secularization of western multitude competence be a understatement of a century. Once people tend to see loyal and new believe as a tellurian construction, dual formula seem roughly inevitable: It seems ideally normal for people to emanate new gods to fit their image, and a God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seems totally irrelevant to a critical developments in a world.

Those of us who are exemplary Christians and consider that a God of a Bible is not irrelevant to postmodern multitude need to directly residence a propinquity of God to a origination of new knowledge, as good as to a swell that is driven by this new knowledge. A disaster to do so competence not customarily endorse a influence that says a biblical summary is irrelevant to many of life; it can also expostulate us into devout schizophrenia by separating a adore of God from a adore of progress. A good approach to residence these questions is to demeanour during a exemplary devout speculation of believe grown by a Dutch clergy Herman Bavinck (1854–1921). This will need some tough thinking, yet this tough meditative is worthwhile.

A simple eminence Bavinck creates is between classic believe and ectypal knowledge. This is a eminence between God’s believe about some subject and tellurian believe about that same topic. God knows all about a universe as a engineer and creator of a world. His believe existed before a universe and is a devise according to that he done a world. “The universe is an essence of a thoughts of God,” thoughts or believe that God had evermore before formulating a world, thoughts that came before God combined by his Word.[4] God’s classic believe of all stands in pointy contrariety with a limited, tellurian ectypal knowledge. “God is a initial element of being (principium essendi); benefaction in his mind are a ideas of all things; all things are formed on thoughts and are combined by a word. It is his good pleasure, however, to imitate in tellurian beings done in his picture an ectypal believe that reflects this classic believe (cognitio archetypa) in his possess boundless mind.”[5]

From Bavinck’s viewpoint we should not pronounce of humans formulating or constructing knowledge, nor should we even pronounce of God formulating new knowledge. God has evermore been omniscient, so he combined a universe in light of his eternal, extensive knowledge. But this does not meant there is no swell of tellurian knowledge. When God combined humans in his image, apparently He dictated for tellurian ectypal believe to be a thoughtfulness or picture of his almighty classic knowledge, with humans meditative God’s thoughts after him. And God has been giving believe to humans gradually over a centuries, heading to a maturation of enlightenment that we infrequently call progress. At all times in tellurian story partial of what people have claimed to know has been mistaken, with some of these mistaken believe claims outset out of self-deception, devout blindness, or unbelief. And these mistaken believe claims tend to turn some-more common, a closer one comes to giving an altogether law of life that is not sensitive by a Christian faith. But this tellurian fallibility should not lead a follower to despondency of attaining any knowledge. It should lead to some-more common and frank efforts to make a ostensible believe a correct thoughtfulness or analogy of God’s classic knowledge.

Whether we are articulate about divinity or any of a other amicable or earthy sciences, Bavinck thinks we contingency always heed among 3 foundations or beliefs of knowledge. The initial is a essential element or substructure of knowledge, that means a source, that is a mind of God. The second is a outmost element or substructure of knowledge, a outmost means by that God gives believe to people. This outmost element of believe is revelation, both special explanation (centered in a compact of grace, Christ, and a scriptures) and ubiquitous explanation (which comes by all of creation, including tellurian nature). The third is a inner element or substructure of believe by that believe goes from being comprehensible to indeed being famous and hexed by genuine people. These 3 beliefs of believe reason loyal possibly we are meddlesome in theology, medicine, mechanism technology, or automobile mechanics.

Bavinck is famous among theologians for his grasp of a stress of a doctrine of a Trinity. He claimed, “The courteous chairman places a doctrine of a threesome in a really core of a full-orbed life of inlet and mankind. … The mind of a Christian is not confident until each form of existence has been referred to a triune God and until a admission of a Trinity has perceived a place of inflection in a suspicion and life.”[6] He suspicion that distortions in a eremite and informative life of Christians customarily arise from distortions in a bargain of a Trinity.

It is no warn that Bavinck suspicion his speculation of believe was Trinitarian. And while he taught that each work of God is always a work of all 3 Persons of a Trinity, he also claimed we can heed a heading purpose of a opposite Persons of a Trinity in many acts of God. In his epistemology, a essential substructure of believe is in a mind of God a Father. It is a second Person of a Trinity, as a Logos, who reveals law about God and about origination by means of special explanation (especially by dedicated scripture) and ubiquitous explanation (through creation), providing a outmost element of knowledge. And a Holy Spirit, a third Person of a Trinity, is a inner element of believe who opens a eyes to accept believe and know truth, both law in scripture and law in creation. Without a enlightenment of a Holy Spirit we would sojourn blind to both a law about God and his beauty in a scriptures and to a many truths about a universe that are suggested in creation.

In this final indicate we confront Bavinck’s chronicle of a exemplary devout speculation of a “common workings” of God’s Spirit. The “special work” of God’s Spirit is that of bringing people to faith and repentance, testifying to a law of Scripture, bringing devout comfort, aiding in a life of holiness, etc. The special work of a Spirit is closely associated to matters of faith and saving grace. In contrast, a common work of God’s Spirit includes a activity of a Holy Spirit in enlightenment and among people who competence not be believers. An oft cited biblical instance of this common work is a approach aristocrat Cyrus of Persia is described by Isaiah as specifically prepared by a Holy Spirit for his work [ordering a Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt and promulgation many Jews behind to Israel], even yet he competence not have been a worshipper of a God of a Bible.

Bavinck can polish really expressive to report a common work of God’s Spirit to move believe to mankind. Influenced by Saint Augustine he describes God as a object of a minds. “Just as with a earthy eye we can't see anything unless a object sheds a rays over it, so conjunction can we see any law solely in a light of God, that is a object of a knowledge.”[7] Then, borrowing denunciation from Saint Thomas he adds, “Just as we demeanour into a healthy world, not by being in a object ourselves, yet by a light of a object that shines on us, so conjunction do we see things in a boundless being yet by a light that, imagining in God, shines in a possess intellect.”[8]

If Bavinck is right (or even tighten to right) in his speculation of knowledge, we need to radically change a approach we speak about swell and a expansion of believe that is pushing progress. According to Bavinck there is no believe that is new, given God has always been all knowing. What is new is that a sold organisation of people has some sold believe that God has always had. Knowledge that is new to people, possibly in medicine or information technology, comes from God a Father, is suggested by a Logos by creation, and is perceived by group and women when a Holy Spirit opens their eyes in a work of illumination. All of a believe that is enabling a many fast changes in multitude comes by a work of all 3 Persons of a Trinity operative in harmony. Since God is a Creator of everything, all believe has a source in his Mind. Christ a Logos is a outmost means by whom all believe is suggested from God in a origination and in scripture. And customarily by a common work of God a Holy Spirit are group and women enabled to know and know new things about God’s world, possibly those new things are in a area of medicine or information technology. “New knowledge” is a means of God’s common beauty by that he sends information driven swell to all people, only like he sends his sleet on a only and a unfair comparison (Matthew 5:45). There is no such thing as physical knowledge, given all believe comes from God a Father, by God a Logos, by means of a enlightenment of a Holy Spirit. Far from being irrelevant to a changes in an information-driven fast building society, we should commend that a triune God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a One who is origination accessible a fast building believe and information that keeps multitude in consistent motion.

A few comments are indispensable to put this Trinitarian perspective of believe and swell in a correct context.

  1. To contend that new believe comes to a tellurian competition from boundless ubiquitous explanation that we accept by a enlightenment of a Holy Spirit does not meant we competence turn pacifist with courtesy to knowledge. God combined Adam and Eve to be active learners, and a Bible is filled with exhortations and commands to pursue knowledge, wisdom, and insight, commands that believers infrequently neglect. Somehow a Holy Spirit brings enlightenment in and by a searching, including investigate in a medical laboratory or a workstation of a mechanism scientist. Bavinck borrowed from Thomas Aquinas a denunciation of a “active intellect” to report a place in that enlightenment customarily occurs.[9]
  2. If we do not commend that new believe (and a technical swell empowered by that knowledge) is a present of God’s common beauty by a common operative of a Holy Spirit, we are guilty of reprehensible ingratitude to God. Every day we should appreciate God for a gifts of his common beauty that make a lives so many some-more comfortable, healthy, convenient, and extensive than a lives of a grandparents. If we and all people do not daily appreciate God for these gifts, it papers a explain of a apostle Paul that ingratitude is executive to impiety (Romans 1:21).
  3. Since God gives new believe (and a rest of his common grace) to a only and a unfair alike, new believe really simply gets churned adult in a idolatry, unbelief, false philosophies, and irreverent worldviews that fill a world. The new believe that ceaselessly comes from God is perceived by typical people whose hearts and minds competence be tranquil by their rebel opposite God. For God-fearing people to make full use of a full operation of new believe will need a tough work of understanding to heed God-given law from corrupted deception. Our biggest source of assistance in this routine of understanding will be God’s special explanation in Scripture.
  4. All new knowledge, like anything else in creation, can possibly be used to adore God and a neighbors, or it can be used to conflict God and a neighbors. Anything in origination can be used for good or for evil. Moral shortcoming before God never stops. Jesus taught us to use what we have been given to assistance those in need (Matthew 25:31–46). This should embody regulating a building believe of medicine and information record to assistance a millions still vital in good need.
  5. 5.                 We live in a universe characterized by fast technological swell that is driven by ever expanding amounts of new knowledge. The miss of a theological interpretation of swell driven by new believe ceaselessly pushes us as a multitude toward secularization. Of course, if anything in this letter is true, secularization essentially means ingratitude toward God. Whether or not one can accept a whole offer done in this essay, believers need a biblically sensitive perspective of new believe and progress.

Several years ago, my mother and we lived in a former Soviet Union. There we knew a really saintly medical alloy who had perceived her singular medical training in an underdeveloped Soviet medical faculty. In light of a radically new and overwhelmingly absolute drugs and diagnosis methods brought into her nation by medical charitable assist workers [after a finish of communism] she once commented, “The people who grown these things contingency be really tighten to God.” After meditative about her criticism for several years, we would partly determine and partly disagree. Some medical scientists are God-fearing people, yet others are totally godless. Maybe it would be improved to contend about complicated technology, “God is really tighten to a people who rise these things, yet many do not give him a invocation he deserves.”

[1] Dr. Johnson is an consecrated apportion in a Presbyterian Church in America and an sold member of a World Reformed Fellowship who serves a World Evangelical Alliance as Senior Advisor for Theology and Religious Freedom.

[2] In 2005, a Comenius Institute in Prague, of that we was a director, was hosting a contention on Intelligent Design in healthy science. That contention focusses a courtesy on God’s purpose in a start of a universe; certainly not by design, this turns a courtesy divided from what God is now doing in creation. We competence be left with a irreverent suspicion that God is not really active in a lives, other than in a widespread of a gospel and a expansion of a church. we wrote this letter to stress another work of God in creation.

[3] A good contention of a inlet of swell is Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse (New York and Toronto: Random House, 2003).

[4] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 1, Prolegomena, translated by John Vriend, edited by John Bolt (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2003), p. 233.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, translated and edited by William Hendriksen (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), p. 329.

[7] Prolegomena, p. 232.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

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