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Tuesday
Sep042012

Theological Term of the Week

deism
The belief that God has created the universe but is not now directly involved in it.1

  • Scripture teaching against polytheism:
  • I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
    declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
    saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
    calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
    I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.
    (Isaiah 46:9b-11 ESV)

    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)
  • From the Belgic Confession, Article 10:
  • We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

    Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

    We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

    This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.

    In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

    For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.
  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:
  • Deism generally holds that God created the universe and is far greater than the universe (God is “transcendent”). Some deists also agree that God has moral standards and will ultimately hold people accountable on a day of judgment. But they deny God’s present involvement in the world, thus leaving no place for his immanence in the created order. Rather, God is viewed as a divine clock maker who wound up the “clock’ of creation at the beginning but then left it to run on its own. 

    While deism does affirm God’s transcendence in some ways, it denies almost the entire history of the Bible, which is the history of God’s active involvement in the world. Many “lukewarm” or nominal Christians today are, in effect, practical deists, since they live lives almost totally devoid of genuine prayer, worship, fear of God, or moment-by-moment trust in God to care for needs that arise. 

Learn more:
  1. Theopedia: Deism
  2. Gotquestions.org: What is deism? What do deists believe?
  3. R. C. Sproul: Did God Create the Universe and Then Step out of the Picture?
  4. Blue Letter Bible: Could God Have Created the World and Then Backed Off?
  5. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: What is Deism?
  6. Ligon Duncan: God the Clockmaker - Deism

Related terms:

Filed under Isms

1From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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