The last few posts have been inspired by several books on science I’ve been reading. They have explored the idea that we all come to the big questions in life with existing frameworks. These frameworks in turn lead to our holding various biases and presuppositions, which can result in our seeing what we wish to see rather than what is really there. I have adopted the term Vulcan Theology to describe this as it relates to interpreting Scripture.
As a result of these posts an interesting question arose. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the Vulcan problem? If the Spirit provides illumination on a particular passage can that help us see it accurately?
This question invites us to first define the term illumination.
The Moody Handbook of Theology, defines illumination as “the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby He enlightens those who are in a right relationship with Him to comprehend the written Word of God.” Going on to say that:
The believer is aided by the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination in guiding the believer to an understanding of divine truth (1 Cor 2:11-13).
J.I. Packer unpacks this term in Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs (link).
[Illumination] is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read, and as explained by teachers and writers.
Defining the work of illumination as the process in which the Spirit aids us in understanding the Scripture is a rather broad definition of the term. It does differentiate the work of illumination from other forms of guidance (ed. see this post and this one for more on that topic). However it still leaves open the question: does the Spirit help us arrive at the correct interpretation of a passage and thus eliminate Vulcan theology? Continue reading
I finished reading The Trouble with Physics by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin. In this book Smolin tackles the current state of physics and its lack of progress in solving the five fundamental questions. It was an interesting read, though if you are not someone who tackles popular works of science I would recommend Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe first.
Toward the end of the book, Smolin laments the inability of the scientific community to jump start another series of great discoveries, like those of the early twentieth century, to help move science forward toward finding the grand Theory of Everything (TOE). He attributes this to an academic system that rewards master craftsman who don’t challenge the current theories, while also failing to promote an environment for seers to flourish. Continue reading
Came across an old post (2006) by Sam Storms today as I was drinking my coffee. Storms, a Calvinist and contributor to Parchment & Pen, notes that the two traditions – Calvinism and Arminianism – “share a considerable amount of common theological ground, even when it comes to the issue of salvation.”
In sum, the Wesleyan Arminian analysis of fallen human nature does not differ fundamentally from the Calvinistic one. So wherein do they differ? Why do Wesleyan Arminians affirm conditional election and Calvinists affirm that election is unconditional? The answer is what is called prevenient (or preventing) grace
Throughout the post Storms is fair and accurate in his presentation. He quotes from several Arminian theologians (Wesley, Oden, Thiessen) as he accurately describes prevenient grace as providing “people with the ability to choose or reject God.”
Presenting prevenient grace properly does not mean Storms agrees with it. As he sees it there are numerous problems. Most are rooted in suspending God’s sovereign work “on the will of man” and giving people a reason to boast about their part in salvation.