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Perfect Being

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 1, 2020 12:01 am

Perfect Being

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 1, 2020 12:01 am

God is perfect in the fullness of His being. He cannot possibly get any better, and He will never change for the worse. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his study of the Westminster Confession to observe one significant way in which God is not like His creatures.

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Next on Renewing Your Mind with RC scroll. God already is filled in his being with the fullness of all perfection. He can't possibly get any better and he will never change for the worse in Isaiah the prophet declares the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the year. He does not faint or grow weary is understanding is unsearchable. We don't have the ability to comprehend God in all his fullness, but it's important that we study as much about him as we can. The Westminster confession of faith is so helpful in that regard written more than four centuries ago. It draws from Scripture to explain the essential Christian doctrine including self existence of God. There is a word is used as qualifying term that occurs over and over and over in section 1, and it is the word most now in our language. When we use the word most we are using it to describe something to what is called the superlative degree when we compare one thing to another in terms of excellency, we might say that something is good at the first level when we go to the comparative level. The 2nd we would say it is better but when we want to go to the final degree. The third grade of the superlative degree the highest degree we use the term most and so I think that that sort of jumps out of us as were looking over section 1 objected to how many times this qualifying word occurs now in the scholastic period of theological inquiry, centuries and centuries ago, a term was invoked to describe the nature of God that has survived the agent has become part of the technical language of Christian orthodoxy with respect to the nature of God, and it is the Latin term and means ENS per fact to Simon.

The ends perfect to Simon.

This term being translated means that being who is most perfect.

We remember the ontological argument for the existence of God that was made famous by St. Anselm of Canterbury, where he set forth the argument that the fine God as that being no greater than which can be can see some people have translated in a less awkward way by saying God is the greatest being conceivable, and there was reasons why Anselm stated a little differently believe that go for now, but this idea developed as an important concept to describe God, and it has a little bit of a grammatical difficulty contained within it because we realize that the idea of perfection is not a concept that on the positive side of the ledger really can admit to degree we use degrees because of the negative side, we know that certain things are imperfect and other things are more imperfect or then others that something that falls short of perfection can just miss it working missive by a mile. And so we see gradations of failure to meet a standard in its absolute sense of perfection. And that's why sometimes people will use gradations to speak positively about perfection if something is less imperfect than something else. We say that it more closely approximates perfection.

And so we use the language somewhat loosely of saying that it is therefore more perfect than others, though, as I say, that's kind of impossible because once the state of perfection is reached, it doesn't admit to any further degree. You can't get any better than perfect and the theologians that coined this expression understood that, but they were trying to accommodate themselves to the confusion that we have about this by saying that God is that being who is most perfect and even though most perfect is kind of a redundancy. Nevertheless, the reason for that description is_the majestic superlative greatness of the being of God that is totally full and integrated in its complete character, and has nothing lacking in it now. Let's go to the other side of the definition, the first word is there, which is the word being and there is nothing that provokes more mystery in the study of metaphysics, the study of philosophy. Historically, then the very question of being, and when we describe ourselves over against the nature of God. We call ourselves human beings as distinguished from God who is the supreme being and so we have the same word being or ends. In this case to describe God as we used to describe human creatures, but the difference between God and us is not found so much in the difference between supreme and human as it is in our understanding of being itself. One of the earliest pursuits of intellectual activity among thinkers in the ancient world was the pursuit for what was called the RK principle of reality, the principle of ultimate reality which the philosophers of that day talked of in terms of the concept of being and that was debated by the philosophers before Socrates, the so-called pre-Socratic philosophers and then of course it was dealt with in great detail by Plato and I'll mention him again in the few moments, but then we get to the work of the one who is known simply as the philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle described being in terms of the distinction between what he spoke of of actuality and potentiality now these are common everyday words that we use. I can remember my introduction to the concept of potentiality which I found somewhat embarrassing.

As a young boy. The second time my name ever appeared in print.

To my knowledge, was in the local newspaper when I was the subject of a sports deal that took place in our town. This was before the advent of Little League and pony leg and prep leg and all that we had three baseball teams in our town and they went up to age 21. Although most of the players in that link there were three things.

Most of the players in the leg were high school players. Why was 12 years old and in the seventh grade and I was playing for one of the teams in this leg. I was playing with the big boys. I was little Sonny's parole there 12 years old, try to compete against the seniors in high school and the fact the best pitcher in the leg was 21 years old.

Well these teams had not only coaches but they had general managers and they would pull off trades just like they do in the big legs and I made it to the paper because I was involved in a blockbuster deal where I was traded from one team to another for three players and here I was in seventh grade and the three players for which I was traded were 10th graders. You can imagine how good they would be to be trading it for one kid that was 12 years old when I was really proud that I was traded for three people, 341 deal and got the starting position at second base on this one particular team.

The Indians is but the newspaper article said the Indians acquired the slick fielding second baseman Sonny's parole, who lacks a potential back that was the Williams thing this kid might be able to catch a ball that thrown them. But again, it is weight in this leg and that was really insulting to hurt my feelings when I read that imprint. I didn't like the meaning of that term potential, and I will also hear from my teachers in school because I was following three years behind. My sister was always first in her class and everything and I was more interested in everything but grades and the teachers are sick, you're not living up to your potential height came to hate that word potential. The only redeeming salutary thing that happened to me as I went almost the entire season on that year without a hit until my first tip came against the 21-year-old pitcher and I have to tell you, it left the ballpark over the left centerfield wall and as I was rounding the basis I was thinking take that for a potential back, but isn't funny the things that stick in your mind.

Over the years with surgery, much more interested in what were about here that the and then there was the anecdote, but potentiality meant ability or power or something that is not yet been realized. The possibility exists for certain growth to take place, but until it is realized it's not actually part of who you are or what you've done and so Aristotle in describing creaturely things described creatures as in a state of potentiality that all people have within them a certain potential. Just as an acorn is at the moment, an acorn, but it is potentially what an oak tree, so that there is great potentiality compressed into that little seed that we call an acorn and so anything that changes can change either to the good or to the bad. It can improve or it can be involved in deep improvement.

The potentiality goes in both direction and Aristotle also said try to conceive of something that was only potentiality no actuality just pure potentiality.

It could be potentially anything that Aristotle but actually what nothing so pure potentiality is an empty concept you can't have something that is only potential. Only something that has some degree of reality to it some actuality to it can be described in terms of potentiality only existing things have potential so we can speak of ourselves as having potential, we can speak of our dogs as having potential or whatever. But when we come to God Aristotle in contemplating pure being ultimate reality said that God is pure actuality axis purist was his technical term. The pure actuality meaning that in God all reality of being is fully and totally realized and there is absolutely no potential in God think about that no potential that's what's behind the idea of God's immutability, God already is filled in his being with the fullness of all perfection. He can't possibly get any better and he will never change for the worse, because in him there is no lack nothing that is still to be realized or actualized. Because he's pure being. Now I promise that I would make mentions lease briefly and passing of Plato again in antiquity going back before Plato, the philosophers argued about reality, and their big question was unity and diversity. The philosophers would look around themselves and they would see animals and vegetables that see trees and kangaroos and that see gravel and that see clouds in the sky and they would see people and they would notice the overwhelming diverse of the of reality as they encountered it in their daily experience and they were asking the question, then the philosophers of us, even down to the day.

What's it all about Alfie. How does all this stuff come together and mean anything. Is there anything that gives unity to all of this diverse city, ever. So the old problem of what is called the one and the many is what started the whole pursuit of science and the reason for the existence of universities with the idea was that we would go and learn about as many things as we possibly can. And not only learn about the particulars that are manifested in biology and in psychology and chemistry and physics and so on, but also try to go above and beyond the natural sciences to find that ultimate reality that would give unity and coherence to all things. Again, as Carl Sagan said how we can explain that the universe is not chaos but cosmos for the because most it has to have some overarching power that pulls everything together in the coherency melt from Plato's perspective. Plato was a scientist we think of them as a philosopher but in his day. There was not this great distinction between science and philosophy in the Academy that was built outside of Athens in the Groves of a man whose name was academia who donated the property would now talk about the Groves of academia ever since the Academy there, in any case, when he started his school. He had the sign over the door that said let none but the geometer's enter here so it was a graduate school for the study of geometry, but we don't think of that when we think of Plato we think of him as being a philosopher. First is assigned to the second. But the reason why he was concerned about geometry was. He was studying the subject form formal truth rational truth truth it doesn't change every minute and in that he said the task of the scientists in the philosopher is to say, the phenomena that's a tremendous concept that has had an enormous impact on the whole history of intellectual investigation of science. What is the task of science, but to explain the reality in which we find ourselves. We have all the phenomena of those things that appear before our investigation. But how do we make sense of it all. How do we save the phenomenon from meaninglessness and that's what Plato said can only be done ultimately by having an adequate understanding of being, and he used the distinction that was already invoked from the earlier philosophers to distinguish between being and becoming of mentioned this in some other context where he looked back to the two previous philosophers, Parmenides, and Heraclitus, where Parmenides made the statement of the first time I heard it in the philosophy class and I was in college I laughed out loud. His famous statement was, whatever is is when I heard that I said the flaws reverse or is this guy's famous exit.

What a great insight. That is whatever is there is and realize at the time that I just been introduced. Probably the most profound concept that I whatever have to deal with in my pursuit of knowledge because what he was saying is that for something to exist it must be what it is, it must have being or it simply couldn't be an over guess that Heraclitus said, not on an everything that we see in this world is changing. The only thing that's permanent is change itself, everything is in a state of flux they can't step into the same river twice because after you put your left foot in the water of the river by the time you put the 2nd foot in the rivers moved along is changed and there's been infinitesimal invisible erosion to its banks and if nothing else, you have changed. If only being two or three seconds, older than you were before you took your first step. The one thing that characterized all creaturely Miss is change and so we can't say that we are ultimately human beings.

Rather, we are human becoming's because whatever we were when we walked into this room tonight.

We will of change.

By the time we leave. If only with respect to putting on some minutes of age to our law's and so that's our experiences. Human beings were always becoming something different from what we were. That's the nature of creaturely Miss but that's the great distinction between the creature and the creator that God is who he is and what he is from everlasting to everlasting to everlasting. That's why it's so profound that when God spoke to Moses and revealed himself to Moses in the Midianite wilderness and he used his memorial name to do it when Moses said who shall I say has sent me, God answered him by saying what I am who I am. That is to say, I am not the one who was in is and continues will be something different tomorrow. I am from everlasting to everlasting. There is no shadow of turning. There is no change ever in the being and character of God. I will look a little bit later in this confession about what that says about his character wherein he has the power of being itself in himself. None of us can exist by ourselves. We are all his creatures, people or things of a history there was a time when we were not there was a time when we did not exist and I would says it on our tombstones was we live our lives between two. Sometime between our birth and our death. But there is no birthday for God and there's no death date for God because he is eternal and in his being, we find the fullness of every perfection totally actualized, totally realize that's a philosophical underpinnings behind this string of statements that are made about God here in section 1 of chapter 2 where God is called motion. This most that and so is Dr. RC scroll teaching on the fact that God is self existent, listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday by we Webb in the we thank you for being with us this message is from doctors Pro series on the Westminster confession of faith and will continue airing highlights of the series throughout the week if you'd like to learn more about this historic confession sees single volume edition of truths we confess provides his detailed commentary on the confession and applies it to modern life for your donation of any amount to look at her ministries. We like to send you this hardcover edition. You can make your request online@renewingyourmind.org or you can call us at 800-435-4343 Pastor David Hall is one of the frequent contributors to our monthly devotional magazine table talk and a pastor. All rights, the classic creeds produced by seasoned Christians stand the test of time.

A confession is a mature proven set of beliefs. That's certainly true of the Westminster confession of faith and if you'd like to learn more about the Westminster confession is as well as other confessions of the church, we invite you to subscribe to table talk magazine every month you'll be able to read articles on a specific topic, written by today's leading theologians and pastors.

Plus, you'll find daily guided Bible studies. Learn more and subscribe@tabletalkmagazine.com learning about who God is. It is not just an academic enterprise. There are practical implications for knowing him when things are difficult and we don't understand why what we have to do is let God be God. We try to redefine and strip him of his attributes because we don't want to live in a universe that is run by one who runs it not for our glory for his. We hope you'll join us for the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind


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