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January 11, 2021 12:01 am
Our whole lives are under the direction and government of Almighty God. Today, R.C. Sproul begins his series on God's providence with a helpful explanation of what this theological term means.
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Previous generations have little problem with the concept of God. 18th-century people assume that there was somebody up there that was not that much of a question about the fact that there was an overarching Almighty Creator who governed the affairs of this universe. We are living in a period of unprecedented skepticism about the very existence of God.
If we can't tell the truth feel it tasted were tested most of their society simply denies the existence of you Renewing Your Mind on this Monday we will, today we turn to Dr. RC Sproul series on the providence of God, is it possible in a time when there is so much skepticism to believe not only that God exists that these and sovereign control of all that exists.
Let's find out at lunchtime today I spent some time looking at one of the news programs and they flashed an advertisement on the screen. Advertising a series of books from time life company.
One of the books had to do with the glimpses of problems of life in the past and the advertisement went on to say reading this particular book that tells us what it was like to be sick. 100 years ago that caught my attention because we as 20th-century people or so bound to our own time frame and you ever think about how people live their daily lives. In previous ages in previous generation. My mind thinks about that quite frequently because I have a habit of reading books that were written by people who lived in many cases long before the 20th century. I particularly like to read the authors of the 16th century the 17th century and the 18th century and what I notice in their writings and their personal correspondence with their friends is an acute sense of the presence of God in their lives. A sense of an overarching providence we even have a city in the United States by that name, Providence, Rhode Island, was named, of course, in the 18 sensor may perhaps even earlier find that generation of people who had this sense that all of life was under the direction and the government of Almighty God. If you would go to Washington to the national archives and read the samples of personal correspondence can be found even from the pen of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, and people of that sort, you will see that word Providence sprinkled liberally throughout their language. People talked about a benevolent Providence or an angry Providence but there was again, this sense that God was directly involved in the daily lives of people. One of my favorite anecdotes to describe the situation in our own day is one that Jim's voice likes to use it tells the story of the mountain climber who experienced a crisis about 15,000 feet up the side of a mountain when he fell over the edge and was about to plummet thousands of feet to his death.
When as he started his fall. He reached out and grabbed the branch of a tiny scraggly tree that was growing out from the face of the clip and as he grabbed a hold of this thing and the roots started to come loose and he saw certain death, he screamed to the heavens.
He said, is there anybody out there who can help me, whereupon he heard this rich baritone voice answering is squarely from the sky saying yes I am up here and I will help you.
All you have to do is let go of the branch and trust me man looked up to heaven look back down in the canyon raise his voice again and said is there anyone else out there who can help me. I like that because I think it typifies the cultural mentality of our own day because there are couple of questions in that little illustration that I think are important. The first question is, is there anybody up there 18th-century people assume that there was somebody up there.
There was not that much of a question about the fact that there was an overarching Almighty, creator who governed the affairs of this universe. We are living in a period of unprecedented skepticism about the very existence of God.
I know the polls say that between 95 and 98% of people in the United States believe in some kind of God or some kind of higher power and also I think we can escape the logic of assuming that there has to be some kind of foundational ultimate cause for this world as we experience. Usually when you pin people down and begin to talk to them about their idea of this higher power or supreme being. It is a concept of something that is more of an it that he almost like cosmic dust or some kind of energy. That's why the question is not only question is, but is question. Is there any body.
Is there a personal being in charge of the universe L or to other parts of that little anecdote that I think are significant member the question. The mountain climber raises when he's about to follow his death, he says, is there anybody out there who, what, who can help me see that's the question of modern me. Is there anybody outside the sphere of our daily lives. In the supernatural realm.
Not only is there anybody there but if there is someone there can that one who is there be of any help to us. So the next question is, can he help desk over the question ends.
The next question is close to this one. There may be somebody up there who can help.
What is that any guarantee that it hey what will allow. And so the question of Providence that were going to look at is not only is there anybody there but is there anyone who is there. Is he able to do anything with this world in which we live and if he is able. Is he willing to do anything about the daily circumstances of our lives. No. When we look at the development of ideas that shape culture and again turn her attention to the 20th century. There is one particular view of the world in which we live that has exercised an enormous influence on everyone's thinking in this room. The concept is called the idea of a closed mechanistic universe. I know those of you who are students of science are quite aware of the theories that are more modern than this. To speak of an expanding universe and of the universe that is open to almost any kind of future possibility, and so on, but are talking about a view of this world that has persisted mall for a couple of hundred years and has tremendous influence in shaping how people understand the way life is lived, and I would say that in the secular world still the dominant idea is that we live in a universe that is closed to any kind of intrusion from outside of it and that the universe run this by purely mechanical forces and causes in the workplace and John the issue for modern man is the issue ultimately of causality. I read an essay in a journal. Not too long ago where a person was exercising his frustration at the negative influence that religion has caused in our nation and in our culture and we see this more and more frequently and more and more vehemently. They expressed that religion seems to be the thing that keeps people bound up in the dark ages of superstition and of being closed in their minds to understanding the reality of the ways of this world as it has been discovered through the investigation and resources of science there still a toleration for religion, but religion now seems to be treated to a wider and wider and wider gap from the scientific arena. It's as if science is something for the mind or research for intelligence and religion is something emotional, personal, or feelings, I just listened to a conversation from people the other day you were talking about different religions and the basic thesis was no hate everybody has a right to believe what they want to believe in and the main thing is that you have religion and if you're Jewish and you're Muslim your Buddhist of your Christian whenever you are the important thing is that you believe in something and everybody at the table agreed with that thesis. The real important thing is that you believe in something I want to get the table and say doesn't throw matter. The important thing to me is to believe in the troth. I'm not satisfied with believing in anything if what I believe in is not true. If it's superstitious, it's fallacious to be liberated from it, but the mentality of our day seems to be in matters of religion, truces, and significant, we learn truths from science we get good feelings from our religion. Again, this article went on to say that in former days were religious superstition reigned supreme over people's minds. God was attributed as being the cause for everything God or some element of the supernatural world. If you had a stomachache and that was the influence of some kind of evil demon like Peter Payne jumping on your back or on your tummy and making you sick or some invisible Angel. Now we know that is not invisible angels that are reflecting assets invisible microorganisms that are doing it, and that those microorganisms are not an angelic nature of their simple natural causes, and so on and we don't believe that a thunderstorm or an earthquake is caused by the immediate and of divine intervention member in the 18th century, one of the most important books in the spirit of economics was written.
What is become of course the classic in Western economic theory written by Adam Smith, the abbreviated title being in the wealth of nations what Smith was trying to do was supply the scientific method to the field of economics to see what causes certain economic responses encounter responses in the marketplace that affect the national economic well-being and and so on. But what Smith wanted to do was to cut through speculation and identify basic causes that produced predictable effects, but all the time as he was applying this scientific inquiry to the complicated network of economic actions and reactions. He spoke. If you remember of the in visible hand. In other words, Smith was saying yes there are causes and effects going on in this world, but we have to recognize while we're examining the proximate the cause that is in front of us and the effects that are taking place if I drop this chalk.
It's going to get the floor.
We can examine all the dynamics of what's taking up life submissive. Don't forget, however, that above all of that, there has to be an ultimate causal power or there wouldn't be any lower causal powers available and that the whole universe is orchestrated by the in visible hand of Providence see what happened now is that we have focused so intently on the proximate activity that's directly in our purview that for the most part we have ignored or denied. The overarching causal power behind all of life so that modern man. Ladies and gentlemen, has no concept of Providence.
What I want to do in our time together is to try to give definition to the concept of Providence going to have six lectures. This will only serve as an introduction to the whole broad question of Providence is one of the most fascinating, important and difficult doctrines in the Christian faith because it deals with the difficult questions like how does God's causal power and authority interact with hours. How does God's sovereign rule relate to our free choices. How is God's government related to the problem of evil to the problem of suffering in this world. How does my prayer have any influence over God's providential decisions. In other words, how I live out my life down here in light of this invisible hand up there that's basically what were concerned about in the question a promise I want to start now with simple definition.
The word Providence is a little bit of a misnomer and I like to take words and tear them apart. The word Providence has a prefix Pro which means what to do something for money right to play baseball. That's a pro rata basis paid for I know the prefix Pro means before or in front of another words it means to be before with respect to time or before with respect to space, so prefix Pro is used of the root comes from the Latin with ARA when a vide way she remember I came, I heard know I care how I saw, I conquered and that word comes over a course into our English language in a very appropriate way for these lectures here that we are doing as were nestled comfortably in a television studio and we have in our midst. Today video cameras and so long before there was video there was Pro video. There was Providence out the word problem simply comes from the prefix Pro and video and so literally and technically the word Providence comes from this idea that Providence refers to God's saying something before hand. The promise of God refers to God's seeing something before or beforehand before his presence, or before, and with respect to time. Now this is not the same thing as the concept of foreknowledge or precedents where in theology. We talk about the fact that God can look down the corridors of time and know the end of the activity before it even starts. But the doctrine of Providence, though it speaks about God's seeing things before certainly includes harm or within it. Then simple foresight with respect to the deity, but the reason why we have the doctrine, the problems is that the first thing it tells us about God's government of the universe is that the God of Judeo Christianity is a God who sees everything that takes place in the universe. There is nothing that takes place that does not take place before him is in full view of his eyes.
All I know that that can be one of the most terrifying thoughts that the human brain never have to consider that there is someone who is innocent. Jean-Paul Sartre lamented an ultimate cosmic voyeur who looks through the celestial keyhole and observes every single action of every human being. As I said if there's anything about the character of God, other than his holiness that drives people away from it. Is this all ceiling comments the Providence of God into a biblical truth that if you people talk about these days but it's so important to understand what it means grateful that you've joined us today here on Renewing Your Mind that this is from Dr. RC Sproul series the Providence of God will have a few more, it's worse in just a moment so I hope you'll stay with us.
We hear a message like this it can bring up new questions. For example, God is sovereign but how could he be in charge of everything and not be the author of evil. And if God is already decided how things are going to work out what should we pray RC series answers these questions and many others. And we be happy to send you the six part audio series when you contact us today with a donation of any amount you can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343.
You can also find us online at Renewing Your Mind.word and if you've never contacted us before we would also like to send you a copy of next month's issue of table talk magazine for free of the theme is Providence and you'll find helpful articles in that issue. Be sure to mention this offer. When you do call again. Her phone number is 800-435-4343 and before we go today.
Let's listen to a final comment from Dr. Strohl in our first segment on our study of the doctrine of Providence would look at the meaning of the word Providence and seen its roots in the words to see everything that is in front of or beforehand and we spent some time on the fact that the God of Providence is a God who sees everything that we do knows everything about us. Well, that brings to mind the whole concept of God as a spectator in one of the things that I've noticed about spectators is that spectators can become very enthusiastic about what they are watching, but they have little or no influence over the results of what they are watching have any reverb in the movies. You can see that sometimes the audience get so worked up in the middle of a dramatic scene that the begin to talk to the characters on the stage as if there talking to these images on the silver screen could have any possible influence on the outcome of the drama remember the first version of Rocky and during the precise fight that was the culmination of the drama that the people in the audience got all excited and they're screaming up there sank when Rocky win rock your people at football games or screaming and yelling and even to the television set, but the basic bottom line that I noticed about that is that to be merely a spectator is to be virtually power, less to influence the outcome. That's why I said in our first lecture that even though the word Providence is rooted in the Latin foreseeing something before hand that it involves far more than God's seeing what takes place because if there's anything that is revealed to us about the character of God in the old and New Testament is that God is not merely a spectator is a spectator but not merely a spectator.
He has the authority to change what he sees, and to bring to pass whatsoever he desires to bring to pass. And on tomorrow's program. We will see the immensity of God's authority and power. We hope you'll join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind