Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hodge against the Eternality of the World

Surprisingly, despite Genesis 1:1, some Christian theologians hold that the world is eternal. An example today would be someone like Calvinist philosopher Paul Helm. While I disagree with Hodge on soteriology, I did enjoy his brief summary of the arguments from Christians in favor of an eternal world and his responses to those arguments.

2. A more formidable objection, at least one which has had far more power, is that the doctrine of a creation in time is inconsistent with the true idea of God. This objection is presented in two forms. First, it is said, that the doctrine of creation supposes a distinction between will and power, or efficiency and purpose in the divine mind.... This was the common doctrine of the scholastic theology which defined God to be actus purus, and denied any distinction in Him between essence and attributes, power and act. If this view of the nature of God be correct, then the doctrine that supposes that God’s eternal purpose did not take effect from eternity, must be false. If God creates by thinking, He formed the world when He purposed it.

Secondly, it is said that the doctrine of creation is inconsistent with the nature of God, inasmuch as it assumes a change in Him from inaction to activity. What was God doing, it is asked, from eternity before He created the world? If He is Creator and Lord, He must always have been such, and hence there must always have been a universe over which He ruled. These difficulties have led to different theories designed to avoid them. Origen, as before mentioned, taught that there has been an eternal succession of worlds. Others say that creation is eternal, although due to the will of God. He did from the beginning what the Scriptures say He did in the beginning. A foot from eternity standing in the dust, or a seal from eternity impressed upon wax, would be the cause of the impression, although, the impression would be coeternal with the foot or seal. Pantheists make the world essential to God. He exists only in the world.

Answer to the above Objections.

With regard to the objections above mentioned, it may be remarked, —

1. That they are drawn from a region which is entirely beyond our comprehension. They assume that we can understand the Almighty unto perfection and search out all his ways; whereas it is obvious that with regard to a Being who is eternal and not subject to the limitations of time, we are using words without meaning when we speak of successive duration in reference to Him. If with God there is no past or future, it is vain to ask what He was doing before creation. It was stated, when treating of the attributes of God, that there are two methods of determining our conceptions of the divine nature and operations. The one is to start with the idea of the Absolute and Infinite and make that idea the touchstone; affirming or denying what is assumed to be consistent or inconsistent therewith. Those who adopt this method, refuse to submit to the teachings of their moral nature or the revelations of the Word of God, and make Him either an absolutely unknown cause, or deny to Him all the attributes of a person. The other method is to start with the revelation which God has made of Himself in the constitution of our own nature and in his holy Word. This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in Him essence and attributes are not identical, that power and wisdom, will and working in Him, are not one and the same, and that the distinction between potentia (inherent power) and act applies to Him as well as to us. In other words, that God is infinitely more than pure activity, and consequently that it is not inconsistent with his nature that He should do at one time what He does not do at another.

2. A second remark to be made on these objections is that they prove too much. If valid against a creation in time, they are valid against all exercise of God’s power in time. Then there is no such thing as providential government, or gracious operations of the Spirit, or answering prayer. If whatever God does He does from eternity, then, so far as we are concerned, He does nothing. If we exalt the speculative ideas of the understanding above our moral and religious nature, and above the authority of the Scriptures, we give up all ground both of faith and knowledge, and have nothing before us but absolute skepticism or atheism. These objections, therefore, are simply of our own making. We form an idea of the Absolute Being out of our own heads, and then reject whatever does not agree with it. They have, consequently, no force except for the man who makes them.  (link)


The Seeking Disciple said...

Too much speculation for me without any biblical warrant. The fact is that God is God and we are not and we cannot understand Him nor His ways fully though He has revealed enough to us in His Word for our salvation through His Son. I rejoice in that.

Godismyjudge said...

That's exactly right. I would file an eternal world theory under the missuse of philosophy.

God be with you,