The God Of Second Causes

This weekend at a surprizingly well done "modern dance" performance, I met three Dutch students who are currently researching at Johns Hopkins. After the show we went out and enjoyed discussing the cultural particularities of various "Western" societies. Perhaps as "westerners" we have an initial bias that the social differences between us are very slight. But if you've done any traveling, you'll be disabused of that assumption fairly quickly. This is even the case within the U.S. itself, from region to region.

Anyway, the students were curious about my own interest in studying in the Netherlands. And so we talked about that for a while. They recommended The UnDutchables as a keen exposé on Dutch culture.

Of course, I told them about my affinity for Reformational philosophy, particularly for that of Herman Dooyeweerd. In the course of discussion, I was asked why I would want to bring religion into philosophy. I tried to explain that it wasn't really an issue of bringing religion into it, as much as a critical understanding of how religion is the inescapable starting-point of all philosophy.

I'm not sure my explanation was very lucid. In anycase, one student kept asking me if it just didn't seem too convenient to reference God in philosophy. At the time, I struggled to understand what exactly her objection was. But after further reflection, I think I know what she was expressing.

I think she was trying to say that if one brings God into the equation, then there is no room for further explanation, and therefore all too simplistic, and not very helpful in really explaining anything. Of course, had I understood her question, I would have attempted to discuss how God's creational ordinances are a matter of the normative principles which we see functioning in the order of the universe. That God is "behind" the order certainly doesn't exlain it away, nor is it the end-all of what the order is, or how it operates.

"God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, ...the liberty or contingency of second causes in not taken away, but rather established. God, in his ordinary providence, makes use of means... Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently." (See WCF 3.1 & 5.1-2).

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