I’ve been discussing the thirteenth shift in thinking that came about during the Enlightenment and that shapes us to this day. Unfortunately, all these shifts had negative consequences for people of faith. For several weeks now I’ve been looking at the shift from facts to values in many areas of knowledge. This shift has had dire consequences in theology. I’ll offer three examples. I’m sure you can think of more.
A thirteenth shift in thinking that came about during the Enlightenment has surfaced many times in my posts. In fact, a day does not go by that we do not see this new way of thinking bubble up in conversations, news reports, editorials, books, and everywhere else we turn. I am speaking of the way we now assume there is a difference between “facts” and “values” and between “reason” and “faith.” But this has not always been the case.
In the wake of the Enlightenment, we all struggle with a lack of connection to others. Not only has the broader culture become highly individualistic, but so has the church. The small group strategy is a main way to counter this tendency1. While promising, this strategy faces two significant challenges, which I have addressed in my last two posts: difficulty in building deep relationships (often because group members are connected only by geography) and a tendency to deteriorate into a superficial, subjective type of Bible study. I discussed how to address the first challenge two weeks ago; in this post I will propose ways to address the second challenge (though some may not be possible until COVID restrictions subside).
With the Enlightenment’s shift in thinking, we became much more individualistic. This shift has had some positive consequences but quite a few negative results, at both work and church. Last week I discussed one way the church attempts to respond to the loneliness and lack of community experienced by many in local congregations, and some ways we can do better. This week I’ll outline a second problem many small groups face, and the following week I will suggest some solutions.
We have concluded our review of biblical data discussing Calvinism and Arminianism, as well as internal and external conceptual problems that arise for Calvinism. This seems to tip the scales in favor of the Arminian understanding. But Calvinists argue there are three internal conceptual problems for Arminianism that are sufficient to disqualify this view. In this case, the Calvinist understanding of predestination and free will is vindicated. I’ll discuss the first of these in this post.
So far we’ve explored three external conceptual problems for the soft determinist/Calvinist view of freedom, and, thus the Calvinist view of election. Yet there are still two more external conceptual problems we must consider before drawing a final conclusion.
We all desire to become better people. And so we work toward this goal. This includes choosing the beliefs and desires we will embrace and act upon. These choices in turn form our character. This common experience must fit our view of freedom. Yet, this reality doesn’t fit well with the soft determinist’s understanding of freedom. This is another external conceptual problem for soft determinism, and therefore, for Calvinism, which depends on soft determinism’s definition of freedom being true.