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Lord’s Day Reflections: WCF 5.3

God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.

Westminster Confession of Faith 5.3

Last week we discussed the fact that when your friend spills coffee on your lap, God as the first cause used second causes like physics to burn your lap. God built rules into the world. We have discovered many of these rules discovered through science. Some of them, we can understand how they work. Others, we merely pretend to understand.

As the one who wrote the rules, however, God is not bound by them. We observe the movements of planets and see that this movement is what causes day and night. The movement is caused laws within physics and can’t be stopped—except when one fellow got the idea to call on the God who built the thing to make it it all stop. God condescended and the heavenly bodies heeded a sort of divine pause button.

Another example of this is a man’s conversion. While God uses ordinary means (preachers to proclaim His Word), it is His effectual drawing through the Holy Spirit which ultimately makes a difference. In this sense, God works miracles everyday which are far more impressive than when the sun stood still in Joshua 10.

Comments

  • Matthew Handley says:

    So, ignoring the incredible irony that a passage of inspired and infallible scripture is ignorant of the heliocentric solar system because it’s human author was, am I to assume you still interpret Joshua 10 in a scientifically literal sense? So when the author writes that the sun stood still what he is actually unknowingly saying is that the earth ceased rotating on its axis?

    • David Mikucki says:

      Matt,

      When the Biblical author says the sun rose, set, or stood still in the sky, it can say no more about his view of the solar system than when an astronomer or meteorologist says the same thing. It’s a figure of speech that doesn’t prove anything one way or another about the author’s scientific understanding. Joshua may or may not have been aware of the heliocentric system, but it’s not reasonable to assume that he didn’t just because he used the same figures of speech that you and I use every day.

      By way of example… technically when the sun appears to set for us, it happens about 8 minutes before we see it because of the time it takes for light to travel to our eyes. Some people understand this and some people don’t, but just because someone says the sun is going to set at a given time without reference to the delay doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of it.

      I tend to assume that the earth stopped rotating on its axis, but there are a number of other possible ways in which this miracle could have played out. The point is that the sun did not set until considerably later than it normally does. I don’t think much more can be said about the passage than that without delving into textually unsupported speculations.

      • Matt Handley says:

        I think it’s a safe assumption that Joshua was unaware of the heliocentric solar system. At the time that passage was written human beings didn’t even know what the sun was. You wouldn’t even have been able to explain it to him in terms that made sense. If Joshua had been aware of what the solar system was, let alone that it was heliocentric, he would have been the most famous astronomer of his millenia.

        Obviously an all-powerful God could prevent this, but it’s worth pointing out that if the earth stopped rotating it would wipe out all life on Earth.

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This article was posted on 04/19/2015 . It relates to these topics:
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