An excerpt from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, chapter 8:
[T]hough religion and philosophy are related, there is also a world of difference between them. Although they frequently have the same content and object, these objects are viewed in each domain from a very different perspective. The aim of science is knowledge; in religion it is comfort, peace, salvation. … Even the most profound philosopher, therefore, for all his knowledge does not rise above religion; he can never meet his religious needs by science. Though science may tell him that God is and what God is, it is only by religion that he knows that that God is also his God and his Father. Science may teach him that sin and grace exist, but it is only by religion that he takes part in the blessedness of religion and the sonship of God. Even if science could know all things and solve all metaphysical problems, it would still only yield theoretical knowledge and not personal participation in the benefits of salvation. For salvation is bound up with believing, not with knowing. But it is far from true that science and philosophy can attain this benefit. There are still many people, to be sure, who continue to expect all salvation from science and to consider religion superfluous. … Nonetheless, a turnabout is in progress. Prominent men of science are beginning to see that science fails to answer the most important questions of life. … In the natural sciences the mysteries are not diminishing but increasing, and the philosophy of nature is again raising its voice. … And, further, the numerous manifestations of superstition evident today demonstrate that humankind cannot live by the bread of science alone but need every word that comes from the mouth of God. Indeed, science does not tell us what God is or what humanity is; it leaves us ignorant of the origin, essence, and goal of things. It can therefore never replace religion, nor ever compensate for its loss.
Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.
To the contrary, our opiate is ignoring questions of ultimate meaning. We pursue our careers, work our jobs, give ourselves to our relationships and families, dedicate ourselves to hobbies, pacify ourselves with substance and entertainment, while seemingly ever-avoiding the question, “What does it matter? What’s the point?” We are all going to die someday. So, what of all this will possibly escape death’s menacing judgment of “pointless!” “meaningless!” “trivial!”?
This is the elephant that looms large in the room. And we are content (dare I say, determined) to ignore and avoid it at all costs.
So great is our determination here that we have an unwritten (verbalized) rule for it. We want to privatize religion and its disruptive sort questions along these lines. They’re uncomfortable. “Don’t talk religion and politics,” we say, “(but especially religion)” we mean — that is, if you take religion as something more than sentimental tradition; that is, if you actually believe it to be making exclusive sort of truth-claims.
Some of us are dead set to avoid conflict. “Niceness” (at seemingly all costs) is our culture’s highest virtue. Others of us are far too uncontemplative, or maybe intoxicated with the triviality — “This stuff is all too serious. Take it easy, man.”
So, we keep ignoring that foreboding elephant. We’re like a child who has been given a certain chore to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that by postponing or neglecting it long enough it will just go away or be forgotten.
These questions may be controversial, taxing, and disruptive — they certainly are. And I’m very much aware that it’s quite easier and more soothing to just ignore them. But they are far too important for that.
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“‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the Preacher. ‘All is vanity!'” – Ecclesiastes
The following is a paper originally submitted to Dr. Harold Netland in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course PR 6411 History of Philosophy of Religion II at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, April 2015.
Free-Willers in the Hands of an Angry Guy: Jonathan Edwards’ Philosophy of Human Freedom As Primarily Presented in Freedom of the Will
In the preface of his monumental work, A Careful and Strict Inquiry into that Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will, Which is Supposed to Be Essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame, Jonathan Edwards asserts that knowledge of ourselves, with particular reference to understanding the nature of human freedom, is next to knowledge of God as subjects of chief importance. Upon it rests all matters of religion, virtue, and the doctrines of grace (preface; IV.XIV). Therefore, against the backdrop of the “Modern Prevailing Notion” of human freedom (i.e., libertarianism), Edwards seeks to establish what he sees as a more sure and stable philosophical conception of freedom upon which such things can rest securely. He finds his answer in theological deterministic compatibilism.
This paper seeks to succinctly analyze that philosophy of human freedom as Edwards primarily presents it in his monumental work Freedom of the Will.
Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not any easy read by any stretch of the imagination. But what is given up in ease of ready is made up for in philosophical precision and leaving no stone unturned.
I can see how JE could be misunderstood as advocating a rather mechanistic view of human volition since he does argue for determinism. But in my understanding, that would be to misunderstand the fundamental premise of JE’s view–that man’s volitions, BECAUSE THEY ARE TRULY THE VOLITIONS OF MAN, are absolutely necessary as necessitated by man’s desire.
As JE himself says, “Nothing that I maintain, supposes that men are at all hindered by any fatal necessity, from doing, and even willing and choosing, as they please, with full freedom; yea, with the highest degree of liberty that ever was thought of, or that ever could possibly enter into the heart of any man to conceive.”
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