God’s Sovereignty Over Man’s Mind: A Look At Daniel 1-5 (Pt.2)

nebbie[Continued from Pt.1]

2. Mental Collapse

As I mentioned in part 1, the four subsections of mental collapse run parallel to mental health, and should be understood as judgments for sin. Some are born less capable than others, meaning that their mental capacities have been brought about due to Adam’s sin/original sin, i.e. as a consequence of the fall. God is not obligated to give any one of his creatures the proper functioning of their minds; nevertheless, for most men he does give them the basic truths necessary for functioning quasi-rationally in the world. In the book of Daniel, we see God’s Sovereign rule over the minds of men not only in sustaining their rational capacities but in removing them.

a. Insanity: As a judgment, God takes away the human mind of Nebuchadnezzar and gives him the mind of a beast. Dan 4:16: “Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him.” The verse indicates that the proper functioning of man’s mind is kept operational only by the mercy and Sovereignty of God. If God so wills, he can reduce a man to the mental equivalent of an animal. Elsewhere in Scripture, the animals are described as being without reason, i.e. operating on a purely instinctual level, lacking the ability to reflect, consider, etc (Ps 32:9; 2nd Peter 2:12; Jude 1:10). The man who is alogos (i.e. without reason/without logos) is made that way by God; and here we see the king himself reduced to this state.

b. Epistemic Self-Consciousness: Interestingly, while God decreed that Nebuchadnezzar would retain his memory of having had a dream, God did not grant Nebuchadnezzar knowledge of the content of his own mind and that content’s meaning. In Daniel 2:30, Daniel clearly states that the content of man’s mind can only be known if God makes it known to that man. Man’s ignorance of his own thought-content, as well as its meaning, is presented as a judgment on man.

c. Language & Interpretation/Symbol Interpretation: In light of a & b, then, this third subsection follows inexorably. For God gives Daniel understanding of how the languages in Dan 5 interface, but he does not grant this ability to the king or the king’s men. Why? Firstly, God is not obligated to grant understanding to anyone subsequent to the fall, for the violation of the covenant of works resulted in not just physical death but the corruption of mental faculties and operations, and mental collapse, as indicated above, may be a form of immediate judgment on man. Dan 5 underscores this basic truth: God removes man’s capacity to understand and translate other languages. This truth is clearly revealed in Gen 11:1-9, but many in our day seem to forget it and, working under the assumptions of secular theories of knowledge and language, attribute the fault in their translation efforts to language and not themselves.

Conclusion

Positively and negatively, the book of Daniel teaches us very clearly that man is not free with respect to the operations of his own mind. There are numerous Scriptures which teach the same, but chapters 1-5 of Daniel give us concrete examples of how God’s Sovereignty over man’s mind is exercised. God gives and takes away. He gives understanding. He takes it away. God grants man knowledge of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics – he also removes the capacity of some to understand any of these three elements of a language.

What cannot be concluded from our own errors in translation, therefore, is the idea that language itself is at fault, for man is the problem. Either we have been born with limited linguistic & epistemological capacities, or God has placed these upon us for his own reasons (either as immediate judgment or some hidden decree we may never know). In principle, we learn that languages can be perfectly interfaced by one who is either (a.)unaffected by sin (i.e. prelapsarian man), (b.)the recipient of revealed truth (i.e. Daniel or the other prophets), and (c.)God himself.

No man, therefore, is free with respect to the operations of his mind. The Arminian concept of libertarian free will cannot be sustained in light of the Scriptures, and especially when it is compared to the examples given above. Let God be true and every man a liar.

-h.

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2 thoughts on “God’s Sovereignty Over Man’s Mind: A Look At Daniel 1-5 (Pt.2)

involve yourself

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