Junius on Providence

Aristotle said it with style: people who set their heart on, proving to themselves with drawn-out arguments “that some providence is,” actually deserve whips, not words; a reply from an executioner, not a philosopher (nor, I add, a theologian). And what is more: if “that fire is hot,” something we perceive with touch; or “that noonday is light to our sense perception,” something we perceive with sight, do not require demonstration, then much less will divine providence, require it.

Franciscus Junius | “God’s Providence” | trans. Ryan M. Hurd | Modern Reformation 31.1 (Feb 2022), 15


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  1. I struggled to understand this, due to the phrasing and punctuation. I thought of asking for an explanation, but first I fed it into ChatGPT. I was impressed that the technology was able to give a good explanation, and I can now read the original the way it was intended to be read. Because I like the post, and because I was impressed with how AI helped my understanding, I wanted to share in case this helps or interests anyone else.

    ChatGPT-3.5: “This passage is expressing the idea that Aristotle criticized those who excessively and laboriously argue and attempt to prove the existence of divine providence through complex and lengthy arguments. Instead of deserving intellectual engagement or philosophical discourse, the passage suggests that such people should be subjected to physical punishment (“whips”) and the judgment of an executioner rather than the attention of a philosopher or theologian.

    Furthermore, the passage draws an analogy to common, self-evident observations such as the fact that fire is hot, or that noonday is light. These observations don’t require elaborate demonstrations because they are directly perceptible through our senses (touch and sight, respectively). Therefore, the passage argues that if even basic sensory perceptions are accepted without needing exhaustive proof, then the existence of divine providence, which is a more profound concept, should be even more readily accepted without such extensive argumentation.

    In essence, the passage emphasizes that divine providence, being a concept that is deeply connected to human understanding of the divine order and guidance in the world, shouldn’t need intricate arguments to establish its existence. The author seems to be critical of those who overcomplicate the matter with excessive rationalization, suggesting that an earnest and humble recognition of the divine should be intuitive and apparent.”

    • This was extremely helpful, thank you. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled to understand this. But, on reading your reply and going back to read the original, things made more sense.

  2. Yeah, kinda unsettling too! I no longer have to mull over something, or re-read it several times.
    I’m not sure what to think, or if I really have to.

    • Agreed. I haven’t used it, or thought about it, enough to know whether it’s a good tool overall, but I fear it will be a negative for students and the many who will use it without thinking. I’ve noticed Google putting AI results at the top of some searches. I don’t know how they are sure that the results are good, but so far in my experience it appears to give decent summaries.

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