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Confessions – Book VI: Chapters 1 – 8

 

Detail of the Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century CE. Augustine’s friend Alypius became obsessed with gladiatorial shows.

 

Starting from Book VI and onward through Book VIII, Augustine describes his conversion to the Christian faith. It is good to bear in mind that he depicts conversion (or at least his own personal conversion) as a long process and not as a single event.

 

He devotes a large amount of Book VI to the people in his life in Milan: his mother Monica; Ambrose; and two friends from Africa, Alypius and Nebridius.

 

Please write on one of the following questions:

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UPDATE: Final Thoughts on Diarmaid MacCulloch’s “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”

Well, we’ve come to the end after two years of reading “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” and we share our final thoughts here.

Howard and Chris share what they have learned and gained from reading this book; Michael writes about the historical development of how Greek pagan philosophy seeped into Western theology and how it has affected our contemporary reading of the Bible; I share my thoughts on divine intervention (or non-intervention more specifically) and history or my attempt to understand God’s role in history after having read this book.

We hope and pray that we will use the knowledge gained from this session wisely.  I believe that this is just the beginning of our journey into learning more about the history of the Church.

How God Acts – Non-interventionist Divine Action

"The Ancient of Days", William Blake, 1794

“The Ancient of Days”, William Blake, 1794

Throughout my life I’ve experienced a wide range of beliefs: from Evangelical to agnostic, then to atheist, then a period of dabbling in Eastern religions, to Pentecostal, then to Presbyterian/Calvinist, and now, well, to where I am today let’s just say.

Once you think you have grasped a firm understanding of God, you come across something that catches you off-guard and makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve believed in.  As St. Augustine once said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand.  If you understand, you have failed.

Over the recent years, as I have delved a bit more into the scientific underpinnings of God and theology, as well as my ruminations of the Bible, I’ve adopted more of a “non-interventionist” viewpoint of God.

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What is God Like? Does God Change? Is Everything Predetermined/Predestined by God? Has God Settled the Future? – Greg Boyd

 

Does God change?

 

Does God know the future?

 

In most churches today, if you would answer in the affirmative to the first question and negative to the second, you’d likely be branded a heretic or “liberal”.  Many people seem to be so set in his or her ways that they won’t even carefully consider a different opinion or viewpoint about God or other theological matters.  But it makes sense – for many, his or her view of God that they’ve grown up with or have adopted over the years, they’ve formed a close, emotional (not just psychological or spiritual) bond to it that’s hard to let go.

 

The very notion of entertaining the thought of God NOT knowing the future or that he can experience new things, or that he is NOT in absolute, complete control of everything (his omniscience, omnipotence, etc.) can be quite (emotionally) unsettling to even consider.  (As a criticism of open theism, it may seem to anthropomorphize God a bit too much.)

 

Much of theology these days (and same goes to a vast majority of the view of God that is communicated through pulpits every week on any given Sunday) seem to be stuck in medieval or Reformation times, and seem to be unwilling to budge.  As you know, much of history, science, technology, etc. has changed and progressed since that time, and the Church has had a hard time (or a very stubborn reluctance in) catching up to the rapid changes that are happening in our modern world, so it faces a crisis of remaining relevant to future generations if the Church continues on this trend I believe.

 

Perhaps our theology and understanding of God need to be updated.

 

Interesting viewpoints on God’s nature and action according to open theism.

 

 

From the website:

Does God know all future events? Only if the future is in some real sense already determined. God, to be God, must know every true proposition, including all about the future. But if the future is truly ‘open’, not even God could know the future because there are no true facts about the future to know. Why is this disturbing?

 

Has God Settled the Future? – Greg Boyd

 

Gregory A. Boyd’s profile and an interesting series on God and theology below his profile.

 

 

 

 

Time-lapse History of Europe and the Middle East in the Last 1000 Years, Emergence, and Divine Sovereignty

 

 

 

I came across this rather interesting time-lapse map of Europe, Western Russia, and present-day Turkey, where you see the dynamic evolution of human history over the course of a millennia which is still going on right now.

 

(Also, history is so much more kick-ass with music from the movie “Inception” in the background.)

 

For a little over a year now we have been studying the history of the Christian Church and delving quite a bit into the history of Europe from ancient times, through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire, and now into the Reformation, so the vast movements in this map should be familiar to those in our group.

 

I was never much into history, but if you want to be a serious student of theology, a solid knowledge and foundation in history is invaluable to see how ideas and beliefs began and evolved over time, and how everything fits together.  Studying history may radically alter your beliefs even.

 

Also, in my spare time, I’ve been delving into the science of emergence by reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson.  Here’s an excerpt of the book that I read today that directly relates to history and the map shown above, specifically in terms of information and energy flow as cities, civilizations, and countries grow more and more complex over time.

 

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Does God Play Dice with the Universe? The Role of Chance and Providence in Theology and Science

“God does not play dice with the universe.”

– Albert Einstein

“Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

– Niels Bohr, in reply to Einstein

In Gerald L. Schroeder’s book, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, he describes the blind forces of nature that lie behind much of human grief:

“An earthquake shakes a bridge from its foundation, dropping it onto a crowded bus passing beneath.  A chance cosmic ray smashes into an ovum, produces a free radical which in its natural drive to establish electrical balance tears and mutates a chromosome.  As a result, a crippled child is born.  The same Creator that produces the beauty of a sunrise and the colors of a flower must be credited with these horrors as well.” (p. 168)

Last year, while I was attending classes at a city college, I would always pass by a cerebral palsy center.  From time to time, I would see patients from that center lined up outside, mostly in their motorized wheelchairs, waiting to be assisted upon by their caretakers or be helped unto a transport truck.

For some reason, thoughts and questions would run through my head each time I would see these patients –

What if I were them?  What made me so special that I was born normal – even though my mother had a complicated pregnancy with me, I came out relatively normal?  But what about these patients afflicted with cerebral palsy?  Was God directly involved in contributing to their physical and mental conditions?  Or was it by pure, random chance, with no discernible reason whatsoever that they were in the condition that they were in?  Didn’t God have the power to divert the cosmic ray from hitting the ovum and mutating the chromosome perhaps?  Did he do that for me?  Why me then and why them?

Or perhaps there’s just no reason or purpose whatsoever in all this.

It was by pure random, blind chance that I was born this way and not another.

And you can run a billion what-if scenarios in your head and ruminate what your life would’ve been like if you made this decision or that, etc.

Did we even have a choice to begin with?

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