Sunday, March 27, 2011

The God of the Enlightenment and Miracles

Check out this very insightful article by Dr. Joseph Waligore. A taste:

Most Enlightenment thinkers defined a miracle as God changing the usual order of the laws of nature. The vast majority of Enlightenment thinkers believed God had made the natural laws and could suspend them whenever he wished. For example, In his “Essay on Miracles,” the English deist John Trenchard said a miracle was when God altered the usual order of the universe: “A Miracle or actio mirabilis, is an action to be wondered at; as when God Almighty interposes, and by his omnipotent power alters the order he at first placed the universe in, or enables or empowers other beings to do so.”[v] Sometimes the Enlightenment thinkers used the words “particular providence” interchangeably with the word miracle. A particular providence happened when God or an angel cared for someone outside the general course of nature (which was seen as God’s general providence).[vi]


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Others call a miracle "chance" or "luck".

When we talk of human affairs, it takes human intervention to "make things happen", unless one is a supernaturalist. So, those that use "chance or luck" believe in the network of relationships, while the supernaturalist's interprets such as "God's intervention".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Science has many differences of interpretation, even within the laws of nature. So describing all of life in present understanding of "framing" science, might miss the human element.
Cognitive science is seeking how to understand the interaction of sense, experiences, memory, etc. and the correlation of brain and mind.

Our brains seek to understand the world and project "order" and/or "causation". The question is whether our minds formulate "new information" into a closer assimilation with all the "facts" (paradigm shifts in knowledge) or whether we we discover or find "God" as defined by science...Those that adhere to traditionalist understanding are not open to "new information" in the world....

The Enlightenment era didn't know about nor seek to understand more modern rendering of science. Theirs was a direct cause and effect nature of the universe...Things that were seen as aberrant to human understanding was understood as a "miracle". Now, some understand these aberrations as "misunderstood order" in the universe, and a "call" to investigate...."order" is an assumption of human cognition....but is such "order" necessarily reflective of the natural order or not? Is nature, human nature, human relationships, society, government understood with the same frames or "order"? Or is there more to such categories than "order"?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Jon.

What we don't comprehend in our modern age is that God was considered part of nature---reality!---as well. A miracle-performing Providential God was considered part of the way things are. The laws of nature, but a God who could bend them if He chose.

Today, we define "reality" as only the physical and reject anything that transcends it.

What we see in Waligore's article is that the deists had a problem with the Bible as Divine Writ, the literal Word of God. However, since Jesus was considered a preeminent moral teacher, the conflict in practical terms with Bible-believing Christianity was nil. You still had a Providential God just like the Judeo-Christian one, and the teachings of Jesus as good and wise.

Christianity without Christ, as Flannery O'Connor put it.

Ray Soller said...

Jon, I appreciate your pointing us to the Waligore article.

John Fea, in his book, Was America Founded as a Chistian Nationm?," writes on page 175:
Washington's God was active in the lives of human beings. He could perform miracles, answer prayers, and intervine in history to cary out his will. It is thus inaccurate to label Washington a "deist," as Edwin Gaustad has done. Eighteenth-century deists believed in a "watchmaker God" -- a deity who created the world as we know it and then drew back and let it run on the natural laws that he set in place. The deist God rarely, if ever, intervened in the lives of human beings. Deists believed that all things could be explained by reason, but were unwilling to abandon the belief of a Creator-God. Providence and deism were intellectually incompatible doctrines.

In spite of Dr. Fea's pronouncement, the question as to whether Washington can be accurately labeled as a deist is open to debate. It is, however, simply misleading, as Waligore has explained, for one, as Dr. Fea has done, to rely on "[o]ne of the most prevalent misconceptions about the Enlightenment period (1687-1794)" "that its thinkers believed in a watchmaker God who never performed miracles because he governed the world through immutable natural laws."

Pinky said...

"The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

James Madison--Federalist # 10

It is interesting to note that his words are so appropriate to America's situation today.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is a well known fact what the Founders thought about private property and rights/liberty. Taking away private property does not promote virtue, but vice in entitlement.

The "creative class" is inspired to produce by the diverse and open atmosphere of a free society. So closing the door to free enterprise, or free speech/information is counter-productive.

John Stossel did an experiment on the "poor class" and found that such a class has an incentive to not produce. I think he is doing a T.V. documentary on it.

All interest are valid in a society. It is not the variety, but the need to gain an unfair advantage over another that is the problem. And such is done through speical interests, which can be promoted even 'under law".

Governments are not known to advance without also furthering a "cover" for those that want to promote their own interests.

The problem does not lie within government, but within a lack of character, both those that seek to pervert liberty, and those that seek to undermine accountability! This is a quote I like:

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -C.S. Lewis

No law can prevent another person from doing what is "immoral", becuase "immorality" lies in the heart of men, who want to prevent others from equal opportunity. Others are preverted by the very nature of "ownership" because they are so consumed about protecting whtat is theirs.

Society is invested in promoting character and character can best be promoted by social influence, honoring those that have character. But, not by equalizing wealth via government, as that can also be a way to protect special interests....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

but even more so, our leaders must be trustworhty with our voter confidence. Otherwise, leadership demoralizes those that vote (lower voter turnout in the next election, and disinterest in our nation's interests).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I just read some info on the "Treaty of Tripoli" and it said the separation of Church and State was not in Article 11 in the Arabic text. What does this mean?

It also stated that our Founders were not Christians at all. So, how did we get where we are today?