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Primary & Secondary Causes

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 4, 2022 12:01 am

Primary & Secondary Causes

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 4, 2022 12:01 am

The source of all life, being, and motion is God Himself. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. Today, R.C. Sproul explores the relationship between the sovereign power of God and the contingent power of His creation.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. The powerless in prayer is a secondary power its ultimate power rests in God but God is pleased to bring his purposes about through prayers. He doesn't need those prayers he can work without those prayers, but he's pleased to work in and through those prayers we thought about that God is in charge of everything. So why do we need to pray about anything, it is will is inevitable. What were prayers accomplish this week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul was making his way through the Westminster confession of faith, the most precise and comprehensive statements of biblical Christianity today will learn how God can be sovereign and still invite us to pray were still considering the third chapter of confession on God's eternal decree and we've been looking at section 1 where we see that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass from all eternity and then we saw the relief that comes after the; but not in such a way as to do violence to the will of the creatures and we mentioned that and spent some time on that but there's that last portion of section 1 that I wanted speak briefly to the final statement, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. Now that language the liberty or contingency of second causes. I understand is a little bit arcane if not the kind of language that we use every day and our Christian devotions, but I'd like to just take a moment to define what is meant in there because I think it's very very important for us to understand particularly in the Christian environment door lack of it, in which we live. At the beginning of the 21st century we live in a world that is been vastly secularized since the 17th century where we see now I kind of skepticism towards all things supernatural and from the time were little children in the school systems that we are educated we get a worldview presented to us that we may not immediately recognize that is on a collision course with the view of God in the world that is taught in the Scriptures. There was a crisis of authority in the 16th century with the Reformation and the great split in the church in question were sent well, if we have a theological question now where do we go to get it settled. We can't just appeal to Rome for a papal decree to settle matters once and for all because after Christendom now has revolted against the authority of the Pope and so on. But not only was there a great dispute theologically and religiously in the 16th century, but you may remember that there was something else going on in the 16th century in the intellectual world and that was the Copernican revolution which brought our crisis of faith in the things of God vis--vis the things of science and so you saw this big tension emerge with Galileo and Copernicus, and so on. And that spilled over into the 17th century and the 17th century saw a great struggle between a whole new scientific understanding of the universe that had seriously departed from historic Christianity and that was with the advent of what was called by many a mechanistic universe.

That is, the universe began to be seen as a fast cosmic machine that yes indeed owed its original creation to a supernatural creator, but that this supernatural creator invented this machine and it was like a clock as the deists suggested were God was the great clockmaker and he affects the various gears and things into the machine and then he winds up the clock and then steps out of the picture and lets the clock function by its own internal mechanisms and what was involved in this, beyond the analogy or the metaphor of the clock was the idea that the universe is a vast machine that operates according to mechanical laws.

The laws of mechanics and the laws of physics. Very little was known about the nature of electromagnetism or of gravity is still very little is known about these things.

But the idea that was so basic was that the universe operates on the basis of its own internal power supply and this became a crisis for philosophers such as Descartes and others.

Bishop Berkeley later on the 18th century and they were wondering whether there's any place left for God in the daily lives of people, or is God now so remote that he got the universe started but it's like Aristotle's first cause, but after he creates.

He's no longer engaged with his universe. While Descartes was one of the first to insist upon a distinction between primary and secondary causes this distinction or the language of primary and secondary causality came to the forefront of discussions in the 17th century because of this new view of the universe is a self operating machine. Let me just say even though many of the scientific theories of the 17th century have since left the consciousness of modern science still on the street today, the average person has been led to believe that the universe does in fact operate according to fixed internal laws as if these laws were independent of God's maintaining them every moment now over against that as I say the Christian philosophers of the 17 century made a distinction between primary and secondary causality member causes that agent which brings about change or brings about an effect and I could illustrated by just taking this book here and saying no, I'm holding this book in my hand and I'm going to make a decision in a moment to make this book fall upon this table trusting on the law of gravity and the laws of inertia and it's going to happen this soon as I take my grip office because right now the only thing is holding this book up and keeping it from falling down is the strength of my hand and when I release the book. I predict this is the essence of science predictability. I'm going to predict that this book will not maintain its posture word is now in floaty or in thin air that will actually succumb to the laws of gravity and fall down. Are you ready watch that no time. Remember no time will my hands ever leave my wrists and so you watch carefully, Arrigo 123 just as I predicted things that were what caused that nicer well there were lots of things involved the fact that you release the power that you had over the book you removed your hold on it that was one of the things that contributed to the effect of this books falling to the table. The other thing. Most importantly is gravity. This book, I now subjected it to the law of gravity that has things fall that are have weight like this were not in the situation of weightlessness here and we've been taught to think that these laws operate independent from God, not from the biblical perspective. Alternately, we would say the ultimate cause for the motion of this book was the power of God, because without the power of God. I don't have any power gravity doesn't have any power the book doesn't have any power. Nothing in the universe has any power because all power finds its source in the power supply of God himself that he does not create and then step out of the picture, but whatever he creates.

He upholds with the power of his being. He sustains it more look at that more deeply when we come to the doctrine of providence in the confession, but the idea here is that whatever power I exert whatever power gravity exerts whatever power the wind exerts whatever power the rain exerts whatever power electromagnetism or electricity exerts all of those powers that we find in this world are dependent upon God for their power. Now again the confession is saying that secondary causes like my raising my hand or releasing something or striking something. Whatever it is, or the power of gravity or the rainfall. All of these are real causes their real powers they really exist. There really is such a thing as gravity. There really is such a thing as as electricity or atomic energy. Those are real but the point is there not ultimate because they can't do anything, they are ultimately competent in and of themselves, but their power is derivative and dependent upon the only primary power in their universe who is God, now what's the biblical basis for this. Again, I've told you this before but I think one of the most profound statements in all of Scripture is found in the book of acts when Paul is debating with the philosophers in Athens at the Areopagus in these quotes and he says in the hand that is in God we live and move and have our being. Early on in this course.

I talked about the ancient search for ultimate reality on the question of being, and I would say that the three grand questions that fascinated and faxed the greatest minds of antiquity were the questions of life being in motion and what Paul is saying here from a biblical perspective is the source of all life is God, the source of all being is God and the source of all motion all change all causes is God himself apart from him.

We could do nothing apart from him. Electricity could do nothing apart from him. None of these powers that we recognize in the world can function at all. We talk about the laws of nature were talking about, not something that exists independent within the structure of nature, but something that simply describes the normal regular way by which God orders his universe, but it is his power that stands behind under and over every other power in this world now. Also this distinction between primary and secondary causes relates to this business that everything it takes place has been eternally foreordained by God, also to this degree that God when he ordains the ends of things that he decrees will come to pass. He also decrees the main's, by which they will come to pass, that is, he decrees what secondary causes.

He will use to bring his primary purposes to bear. That's why when people say will of God ordained everything on the pipe. Why should I pray it is my prayer just an exercise in futility are my prayers. Impotent, no. The Bible says that prayer avails much. Which is to say there's great power in prayer.

But just remember that the power that's in prayer is a secondary power its ultimate power rests in God but God is pleased to bring his purposes a buyout through prayers.

He doesn't need those prayers he can work without those prayers but he's please to work in and through those prayers. Let me give you an illustration. The mightiest actor was celebrated in the Old Testament mightiest act of God was the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt and we remember the great crisis moment after all the plagues and after the Passover, the angel of death came and spared all the children of the Israelites and they escape from Egypt, but they were being pursued by all of the Army of Pharaoh with their chariots and behind the people of Israel were the chariots and Israel stood this we are told between Mick Dall and the sea in front of them was an impassable see and so talk about being between a rock at our place.

They were trapped with no route of escape opened. Remember Moses raised his arm to God's command and what happened. The Red Sea parted and the people of Israel marched through the Red Sea on dry ground and then when the chariots of Pharaoh sought to pursue them. The seas closed up again and engulfed the Egyptians and drowned them. Remember, reminds me that you and when I was in seminary ever say the Red Sea was really the Regency is only like 6 inches of water, and so this was no big deal there is a story. This little boy what the Sunday school and in the Sunday school teacher taught them the liberal thing about the Regency after Sunday school is that civil what did you learn in Sunday school sign and he said boy I learned that God is really something that is the house that he said I just learned that God drowned the whole Egyptian army in 6 inches of luck but I think case if you read the text.

What is it that causes the sea to separate is it Moses arm is it the voice of God. God causes a great wind to blow and the wind blows, and this extraordinary wind is what backs up the waters on either side, not DC that what God did their was he used a secondary cause to bring about the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians.

That's what were talking about we talk about secondary causes, God alone has the power to convert the soul, and when we talk as we will later about regeneration by which the heart of darkness is changed into a heart of light and where the center who is unwilling to come to God is suddenly made willing because God intervenes and changes the disposition of the human heart by an act of his grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And when we described that work of regeneration. We say that the work of regeneration is the work of God by which he immediately changes the disposition of the human soul. When we mean by immediately we don't mean in a hurry up sensor quickly, we mean without any secondary means when your life is turned upside down in your heart is change when you are converted not as a supernatural work by the Holy Ghost working without winds blowing without candles burning, it's a direct power of God the Holy Spirit on your soul making you a new creation. When he does that that's that's the primary causal agency of the Holy Ghost without any secondary cause not the same time. We say that God has been pleased to save the world through the foolishness of what preaching that it is the gospel that is the power of God and the salvation while the gospel itself is a secondary power.

It's a real power. It's it's a powerful thing but it only brings about the desired effect when when God the Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of the word and uses the power of the word to change the heart and so I find that this distinction between primary and singular causality is not only helpful but very important to keep our thinking straight. Less we say that were religious but actually have an atheistic worldview as if the world in which we live or something. The function independent from the power of God.

You want to see the part of God in action. Everything that happens out there is a manifestation of the power of God. We have lost the capacity to see the revelation of God in nature, that the heavens declare his glory were talking about a God whose holiness fills the whole world, but we have been blinded to his hand. That's all around us because we've been we've really have been brainwashed into thinking all of these things happen by their own power and they've all been secularized for us, and we've lost any sense of the sacred, that is made manifest in nature and so to summarize section 1 again. It yes the affirmation is made that God from all eternity freely and immutably ordains whatsoever comes to pass, but wanting ordains whatever comes up as he does it without doing violence to the will of the creature. He works in and through the choices and the decisions that we make and he does not thereby negate the reality or the significance of secondary causes, but rather the Bible again, not in the Old Testament just both in the New Testament see over and over and over again the power of God being used and manifested through secondary causes. We're secondary causes the preachers. A secondary because the evangelist is a secondary God. Our prayers are secondary cause, teaching, preaching, these are all secondary causes and none of them are made insignificant by the prior affirmation that it is ultimately the primary God makes any change possible in this think about that God uses our prayers. He uses teaching and preaching to further his kingdom. We may not fully understand this mystery, but it is a privilege to be used by our God Dr. RC Sproul is helped us understand this difficult concept today here on Renewing Your Mind. We are pleased to feature RC series on the Westminster confession of faith and for your donation of any amount today we'd like to send you a hardback addition of Dr. Sproles teaching on the Westminster confession. It's titled truths we confess you can make your request to give your gift or you can call us at 800-435-4343. We always appreciate hearing about how this program helps you understand God's word and his holiness recently heard from Ginger all their least likely to be called back. Terry manages to cry and this through learning and practice, I can do anything I glad him regularly connect conference our current practice and family enhancement packing and coming to mind) and conquer like having the car and panning cranky and thinking when The alarm well Christmas to hear that Ginger and her father that access to this teaching because of the generosity of listeners through the years since we want this ministry to reach even more generations would you consider giving a gift to look at her ministries. We will send you Dr. Sproles book truths we confess is our way of saying thank you again, you can request or you can call us at 800-435-4343.

The apostle Paul knew that his teaching on predestination was going to cause some people to scratch their heads that in fact object. They say it's not fair that God from all eternity without a view to what we do makes his decision and so the very fact that that's the objection anticipates that gives me great comfort that the apostle Paul was the first one who had to deal with his document. Predestination being challenged on the grounds that it was unfair.

RC will examine a term that is often associated with God's sovereignty and that's God's foreknowledge. We hope you'll join us for the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind

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