The Book of 2 Chronicles
Rector’s Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, June 9, 2019
The Book of 2 Chronicles
The book of 2 Chronicles continues the history of Judah from where 1 Chronicles left off. It has 36 chapters and 822 verses. It was written to the Jews who had returned to Judah from exile in Babylon and were facing discouraging circumstances and wondered whether it was worth it to worship Yahweh. The Northern Kingdom is mentioned sparsely because all its kings carried on rebellion against Yahweh and rejected the rightful temple which was in Jerusalem. Instead, they set up alternate worship places in various locations at which sacrifices were made to idols. That was a direct contravention of Yahweh’s specific instructions.
In relating the history of the Southern Kingdom, 2 Chronicles puts emphasis on the good kings and the good things they did especially in regard to the temple, temple worship, and carrying out religious reforms. The bad kings mentioned have their blatant rebellion against Yahweh highlighted to show the returnees from exile that indeed Yahweh was justified in punishing the nation. As the reader reads the stories of the bad kings, such as Ahaz and Manasseh, the same is left astounded and speechless at how horribly and willfully mutinous against Yahweh that those kings and thereby the nation were. The reader is made to wonder what was in their heads, whether they were bewitched.
The book starts out with the rule of Solomon and the building of the temple. Solomon purposed to build a magnificent temple to Yahweh because Yahweh is greater than all other gods. At the same time, Solomon exhibited the right attitude towards Yahweh when he realized that no structure built by human hands can be a worthy dwelling place for Him because even the very heavens cannot contain Him. Solomon did as good a job as humanly possible and put up a magnificent edifice. After the temple was completed it was dedicated on a grand occasion at which Solomon prayed a long, passionate prayer asking God to protect and provide for His people and to forgive their sin when they repented.
God responded and told Solomon that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and that in future if His people would humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, that He would forgive them and heal the land. God accepted the temple and chose it as the place where His name would be honored forever. God warned the people that if they or their descendants abandoned Him and disobeyed His decrees, He would uproot them from the very land He had given them. Obedience brings blessing while disobedience breeds judgment from Him.
Now with this warning against disobedience against God being common knowledge among the people, or else the nation would face stern consequences, how on earth could the first king of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam I, have it in his mind to prevent people from coming to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh in the temple and instead built other worship places which Yahweh did not sanction, and, worst of the worst, offered on them sacrifices to other gods! And all the kings that followed Jeroboam I in the Northern Kingdom perpetuated that religious apostasy initiated by Jeroboam I. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the Northern Kingdom was uprooted from the land and taken into exile. The returnees were listening intently.
Second Chronicles also says that Yahweh gave Solomon great wisdom and Solomon’s reputation was heard about far and wide. This prompted the Queen of Sheba to visit King Solomon to ask him questions she considered hard. King Solomon answered all her “hard” questions with ease and the Queen was overwhelmed. (This reminds us of so-called hard and nearly unanswerable questions we humans have from generation to generation, and yet are nothing to God). Judah was thriving because of a good king who upheld proper worship of Yahweh.
But even in the same Judah, there were a series of bad kings such as Ahaz and Manasseh mentioned earlier. These undid whatever good the good kings built. The last good king of Judah was Josiah who made extensive religious reforms and celebrated the Passover in a massive gathering of worshipers. After him, the next four kings did evil in Yahweh’s eyes, which means they abandoned the worship of Him and took to idols. A point came when to Yahweh enough was enough and He brought the Babylonians to punish Judah and uproot its people from the land (2 Chronicles 36: 17 – 21).
The writer of the books of Chronicles has laid the case down flat for the returnees that it was their ancestors who were incorrigible and ungrateful to God. They pushed God’s hand to do what He said He would do in case they abandoned the worship of Him, namely, uproot them from the land. They committed adultery by abandoning Yahweh to worship idols and refusing to turn around and repent at that. The writer of the two books of Chronicles succeeded superbly in allaying the fears of the people about their present condition and rallying them to trust, obey, and worship only Yahweh. The problem of idol worship never arose again among the Jews, yet previously they would quickly revert to idols as soon as a good king died.
Protestant Christian Evidences
by Bernard Ramm (1953: 52 -55)
(continued from last week)
D. Finally, science cannot comprehend genuine individuality. Personalities may be typed; factors causing various personality features may be examined; but there can be no comprehension of individual, unique personality in the scientific scheme.
The most general conclusion is that the categories of science are adequate within the goals of science (the quantitative, the stable, the predictable, the observable, the general), but not for the comprehension of the sum of all experience, or reality, or the universe. Therefore, it is still for metaphysics to decide what these categories are, and the criterion of verification of such metaphysical assertions will be rational intelligibility.
E. A further investigation of the scientific method reveals that for its very operation it is dependent on certain other items. It is these dependencies that form the logical and rational framework in which the scientific method works and that without it, it could not. But the problems connected with the framework have a metaphysical character to them.
1. To begin with, the orderliness of nature is assumed. The future will be like the past. Oxygen will behave today like it did yesterday. Geological processes are similar today to what they were millions of years ago and will be the same in time to come. But why elements and processes remain constant is not explained, nor is it explicable in strictly scientific terms. Science may not even ask the question. But on the other hand, if a scientist did not assume it he would never experiment again, or if he did, he would not extrapolate his findings beyond the given experiment. The why of constancy is left over to metaphysics.
2. The integrity of the powers of the human personality must be assumed. If the scientist thought his mind was continuously playing tricks on him he could not experiment. He could not reason. Even though he knows that he makes mistakes, he feels that he or somebody else will have the rationality to detect them. He assumes that if careful enough he will add up his figures accurately. He must trust his memory with unabashed confidence. He must pledge himself and his fellows to absolute honesty, i.e., he must not “fudge” in his experiments or in his deductions. Yet why he is rational, and why he may depend on human rationality, and why memory is both possible and dependable within limits, and why honesty is the best policy are not within his province to answer. These he must assume. Every effort to prove them involves them. Rationality is a necessary assumption to prove rationality or to even investigate it. Memory must be predicated to prove memory or to investigate it. Honesty is necessary to investigate why honesty is the only scientific policy. Therefore, it is left over to metaphysics and epistemology to endeavor to propound answers to these and to be guided by the categories of adequacy and rational intelligibility.
3. Science must work with a theory of truth but there is no experiment that verifies a theory of truth. Truth-theory is dependent upon either epistemological or metaphysical analysis and the membrane dividing epistemology and metaphysics is often mere film.
In concluding this excursus on the scientific method, two statements have been the goal: The statement that the supernatural does not fit into the universe science talks about is an invalid objection to miracles. Any pronouncements about the total nature of the universe come from metaphysics and not from science. The battle must be fought with the same weapons common to all and the assumption of a privileged position is begging the question, a case of petitio principii. Science as science may rightfully say that miracles do not occur in science. But science as science cannot make pronouncements as to the universality of the possible or the impossible. If any pronouncement is made, it is made by a metaphysician, not by a scientist. This leads to the second observation, namely, that the power or utility of the scientific method is not the point at all. In science, for the problems of science, for the mysteries of science, the Christian theist has no substitute for the scientific method. He pledges himself to it firmly and sincerely as the positivist or naturalist.
The real question is this: Is there a metaphysical view of the universe that will grant full rights to the scientific method within its own defined sphere yet permit at certain specified junctures the operation of the supernatural? The Christian theist affirms that there is such. If he is controverted it cannot be by a naïve or dogmatic extrapolation of the scientific method into methodology and as a definitive authority in metaphysics. He can be controverted by a metaphysician.
The theist is not trying to argue for too much. He is not arguing for a Nature that operates sporadically, nor for the superstitions of the non-scientific cultures. He is as averse to the fanciful, mythological, and absurd as the scientist. What he insists upon is that the concepts, first, that Nature operates regularly, and second, the scientific method is the best method yet devised to investigate Nature, are true for the general, usual, customary, normal routine of the acquisition of knowledge. But neither the concept of the uniformity of nature nor the panapplicability of the scientific method is of such philosophical nature that they can pass all conceivable events in the universe. A Christian theist believes that there are just and defensible reasons for believing in certain supernatural activity at specified junctures. In so doing he believes that he is just as scientific, just as tough-minded, just as academically thorough, as the devotee to scientism.
We do not consider at this point that we have either proved the supernatural or the miraculous. We assert only that science cannot be so used to even deny the conceivability of such occurrences. Having obtained breathing space, we have leverage to adduce substantial reasons for the Christian theistic position.