Bauble Of Scientia Media Invaluable In Calvinist Hand

In Chapter V (The Providence Of God), Boettner writes:

“Throughout the Bible the laws of nature, the course of history, the varying fortunes of individuals, are ever attributed to God’s providential control. All things, both in heaven and earth, from the seraphim down to the tiny atom, are ordered by His never-failing providence. So intimate is His relationship with the whole creation that a careless reader might be led toward pantheistic conclusions. Yet individual personalities and second causes are fully recognized, — not as independent of God, but as having their proper place in His plan. And alongside of this doctrine of His Immanence the Scripture writers also present the kindred doctrine of His Transcendence, in which God is distinctly set forth as entirely separate from and above the whole creation” (p. 35).

According to the Calvinistic scheme of things, individual personalities and second causes ARE independent and free from God’s sovereign control when one factors in the anti-Biblical Calvinistic doctrine of a “permissive” or “passive decree.”

“If it be asked why He…does not save all, the only available answer is found in the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.’ Only the Scripture doctrine of the fall and redemption will give us any light on what we see about us” (p. 36).

The only available answer? How about the entire chapter of Romans 9? Also, Jesus’ words in context are:

“Answering at that time, Jesus said, I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because You hid these things from [the] sophisticated and cunning and revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for so it was pleasing before You. All things were yielded up to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and the [one] to whom the Son purposes to reveal [Him]” (Matthew 11:25-27).

Jesus says that the Father hides knowledge of salvation from certain people. Jesus also says that He purposes to reveal the Father to only some people. The obvious answer to “why God does not save all?” is that He has purposed to display His power, wrath, and hatred of sin and unbelief in the vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction in order that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory (cf. Romans 9:1-24).

“Nations, as well as individuals, are thus in the hands of God, who appoints the bounds of their habitation, and controls their destiny. He controls them as absolutely as a man controls a rod or a staff. They are in His hands, and He employs them to accomplish His purposes. He breaks them in pieces as a potter’s vessel, or He exalts them to greatness, according to His good pleasure. He gives peace and fruitful seasons, property and happiness, or He sends the desolations of war, famine, drought and pestilence. All of these things are of His disposing, and are designed for intelligent ends under His universal providence. God is no mere spectator of the universe He has made, but is everywhere present and active, the all-sustaining ground, and all-governing power of all that is” (pp. 36-37).

Boettner says that God controls men as “absolutely as a man controls a rod or a staff.” This is absolutely impossible given Boettner’s belief in a “permissive decree” where God is said to leave men to themselves. What Boettner should’ve said is that his god is as absolutely sovereign and active as a man who permits a rod to lift itself up off the ground, then move itself around, while being mysteriously and inscrutably governed and bound (cf. WCF 5.4).

“Man’s sense of moral responsibility and dependence, and his instinctive appeal to God in times of danger, show how universal and innate is the conviction that God does govern the world and all human events. But while the Bible repeatedly teaches that this providential control is universal, powerful, wise, and holy, it nowhere attempts to inform us how it is to be reconciled with man’s free agency. All that we need to know is that God does govern His creatures and that His control over them is such that no violence is done to their natures. Perhaps the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom can best be summed up in these words: God so presents the outside inducements that man acts in accordance with his own nature, yet does exactly what God has planned for him to do” (p. 38; bold emphasis Boettner’s–CD).

The biblical teaching is that man has absolutely no freedom whatsoever relative to God. The reason why Calvinists like Boettner struggle to “reconcile” things the way they do is that they desire a little sovereignty for themselves. If they would abandon the devil’s lie that they shall be as God, then there wouldn’t be this need to “reconcile” God’s sovereignty with their own.

Just below the 1932 copyright (one page prior to the table of contents) is this statement:

“Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use.”

I’m not sure if Boettner received specific help from the following excerpt by R.L. Dabney, but it’s certainly consistent with Boettner’s summary that:

“God so presents the outside inducements that man acts in accordance with his own nature, yet does exactly what God has planned for him to do” (p. 38).

Here is R.L. Dabney expounding upon Boettner’s summarized view of what he calls, “sovereignty”:

“This, then, is my picture of the providential evolution of God’s purpose as to sinful acts; so to arrange and group events and objects around free agents by His manifold wisdom and power, as to place each soul, at every step, in the presence of those circumstances, which, He knows, will be a sufficient objective inducement to it to do, of its own native, free activity, just the thing called for by God’s plan. Thus the act is man’s alone, though its occurrence is efficaciously secured by God. And the sin is man’s only. God’s concern in it is holy, first, because all His personal agency in arranging to secure its occurrence was holy; and second, His ends or purposes are holy. God does not will the sin of the act, for the sake of its sinfulness; but only wills the result to which the act is a means, and that result is always worthy of His holiness. e. g., A righteous king, besieged by wicked rebels, may arrange a sally, with a view to their righteous defeat, and the glorious deliverance of the good citizens, in which he knows the rebels will slay some of his soldiers. This slaying is sin; the good king determines efficaciously to permit it; not for the sake of the slaying, but for the sake of the righteous triumph of which it is part means. The death of these good soldiers is the sin of the rebels; the righteousness of the end in view, is the king’s.

Is God’s intelligence herein Scientia Media?

It may be said, that this scheme represents God, after all, as governing free agents by a sort of scientia media. I reply: Let us not be scared by unpopular names. It is a knowledge conditioned on His own almighty purpose, and His own infallible knowledge of the dispositions of creatures; and it is, in this sense, relative. But this is not a dangerous sense. For only lay down the true doctrine, that volitions are efficiently determined by dispositions, and there is, to God, no shadow of contingency remaining about such foreknowledge (That was the ugly trait). As I showed you, when explaining this scientia media, in the hands of him who holds the contingency of the will, it is illogical; in the hands of the Calvinist, it becomes consistent” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, pp. 288-289).

There you go. A modified form of scientia media that dares NOT provoke the mighty potsherd (Romans 9:19-20), but DOES dare to command the Potter that He has no authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor (Romans 9:21). Boettner’s and Dabney’s versions of “divine sovereignty” is what you get when you fight with the One who made you, and say to the One who formed you, He has no hands (cf. Isaiah 45:9). Next Page (6)

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