Posted in Biblical Questions, Christian Living, Christian Witness, culture, dominion, politics, war, Worldview Analysis

Buried Treasures: What Are You Willing to Stand For?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6.21)

This is not a post that I intended to write, but one that I want to get off my chest. And, I suppose that it does coalesce with what I have been saying over the last few posts. Christianity is at war with the surrounding culture.

That statement probably comes to a shock to some within the Christian community. The funny thing (a sense of irony; not a laughing matter) is that though many of us may be unaware of this reality those outside of our covenantal body[1]comprehend the true state of things…we are at war. There is a battle being waged between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent (cf.Gen 3.15; Matt 3.7; 12.34; John 8.37-47).

Understanding the Overarching Conflict:Kingdom Related

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other”(Matt 6.24). This is the reason I have labeled the gospel as a battle motif. Not because Christians are seeking to pick fights with the world, but because of the natural enmity between the two nations; members of the kingdom of light versus members of the kingdom of darkness.[2]I realize that we do not often refer to the saved versus unsaved as citizens of distinct nations, but that is in fact the case or texts like Col 1:9-13 are robbed of meaning:

  • “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased praying for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthen with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son….” (italics added.)

Notice the distinction between the two kingdoms. Both have opposing ultimate standards. The one is established, committed to, and in love with God. To the Lord do we owe our allegiance, for it is His will that we seek, and it is His knowledge and understanding of reality that we strive for.Those who do not share citizenship in the kingdom of Light[3],by nature are members of another kingdom and seek to do the will of the master of that domain.

An explicit point that Jesus made during his earthly ministry:

  • “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear[4][Gr. “not able”] to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John8.43-44).[5]

This is the reason the Lord told his disciples that they would be hated by those in the world[6],and as they persecuted him they would likewise persecute them (us).[7]It is our opposition to the evil in the world that ushers in hate and persecution. We are not called to needlessly pick fights, but we are called to stand firmly upon the truth. We are commanded to oppose every ideology, every theology, every philosophy, every ethical theory or scientific inquiry, etc., that stands in stark contrast with God’s Holy and Righteous standards.

The inner Problem Determining the When and Where to Fight: The Political Battlefield

Unfortunately, all of us are affected in some measure by the culture in which we live. By nature, we dislike strongly when someone hates us.We have strong aversions to persecution or suffering in its various forms. Much easier is it to go with the flow than to act like a salmon swimming against the current of the streams of thought found in our culture. People have their sacred cows that they do not want molested or tarnished, and this is true for the Christian as well as the non. One particular sacred cow is found in the field of politics (or river, if I were to stick with the salmon metaphor).

I believe in social justice. Not social justice as defined by our society, but justice as revealed in Scripture. A more applicable term might be biblical justice if I were afraid of offending those within my Christian fold, but I’ve been more of a salmon in life than one of those school fish. Therefore, I have no qualms using the phrase “social justice” within biblically defined parameters.

Now since I believe that Christians ought to be concerned about justice in society, I have no problem speaking on political issues. Some Christians will not touch such things with a ten-foot pole, others can get down right nasty. I found this out first hand in my first pastorate. It was an election year, and since I believe that the Bible speaks to all areas of life—my Lord is the Lord of life, and not just mine but all aspects of it—I opened my mouth.Some may have preferred that I had shoved a shoe in it, but I didn’t…I won’t.

My position politically is to vote for that candidate that best reflects my positions in life. I realize that we have not had very many“good choices” over the past few decades, but that is to be expected when the Church remains divided and silent allowing unbelieving thought to fill in the vacuum we have created culturally. One particular issue that I pay attention to is baby-killing.

You know it is a sick bit of irony when we will protect the babies within the womb of animals (especially endangered species), but when it comes to the infants in human wombs justifications fly off the shelves like water, milk and bread before a snowstorm.

I will not vote for the murder of babies, and I will not vote for anyone who refuses to take a firm stance on that issue. Little did I know that one of my parishioners was a party-line voter. That is to say, didn’t matter what the issue was they would always vote for that party. With a Bible in one hand and a finger jabbed in my direction on the other I was yelled at as I stood behind the podium.

Heartbroken is the best word that I could use to describe my internal reaction. Disbelief was a close second. After a few moments, when the individual managed to pause to take a breath. Perhaps, this person thought they had me dead to rights, I’m not sure, but I was thankful for the opportunity to speak. I posed a question to the person, “do you not think that the Bible speaks authoritatively on political issues?” The question was side-stepped. The ad hominem attacks ensued for a few more moments, and then the individual left.Their spouse came up to me apologizing saying that they would probably not return to church services there. I told her I appreciated her kindness, let her know that I would be praying for them both, and then after all others had left I collapsed in tears.

Now I was not angry with that brother, and I prayed for them that night, pleading my case before the Lord. The next day the person who had stormed out of the church called me in tears asking forgiveness for the way that they behaved. We had a good conversation that day, and he and his wife never stopped coming to that church until I resigned.

What this has to do with Buried Treasures

Jesus in the sermon on the mount makes the obvious point,“where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” You cannot serve “God and money.” Either God and His way of life is most precious to you…your treasure; or, the material/relational benefits of this life are what you care about…your treasure. I guess there is a meme out there about the state of New York stating that they don’t believe in the death penalty (the killing of convicted criminals), but they are for the murder of babies in the womb. That is a sad, sad reality.

So, for today I want to turn your attention to Endabortionnow.com. This is a ministry arm of Apologia Church in Tempe,Arizona. They are networking with churches all across this country (and in parts of the world like Australia) in providing materials and offering training for opposing the killing of our heritage. They call the sanitized taking of life what it is murder, but they also share the gospel with women who are entering those clinics that seek to victimize unborn children. They also provide for those women who decide to not go through with killing their offspring by providing the necessary materials needed to take care of the newly born children (i.e. diapers, formula, even in some cases places to stay), even offering adoption if the mother does not believe they could take care of the child.

Literally thousands of babies have been saved by this ministry as they network with other Christian church’s/ministries across this nation. Perhaps you’ve heard the slogan “put your money where your mouth is.” Well, I give as I am able to this ministry and I want to get the word out for other like minded individuals to do likewise.

If you are not able to get on the front lines, then you ought to be able to dip into your wallets. This is one fight that all professing believers ought to be involved in, in some way. God Bless.

ENDNOTES:


[1] But you say, “I’m not a covenanter. I don’t believe in covenant theology, that’s a reformed theological position.” In response, I ask, “Have you made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ? Do you acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior before others? Have you been baptized? Do you participate in communion/eucharist?” If you answer “yes” to these questions, then you are a member of the covenant community. Have you not read, “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’”(Mark 14.22-24; ESV). By the way, participation in these sacramental rites(baptism/communion) is a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and acknowledgment before others that you have faith in the one whom you identify as Lord and Savior. Whether or not you are truly saved is the subject of another discussion, but it should be noted that being a member of the “covenant community” is not equal to being a member of the “saved community.

[2] Some may ask, “But why can’t we just get along? Aren’t we called to peace?” In response,I would ask, “peace with whom? To whom should we seek to be at peace with?”Obviously, as Christians we are commanded to live peaceably with all people as long as it is dependent upon us (Rom12.18). But that peace is not to be adopted at the sacrifice with what we know to be right and true (cf. Deut 4.1-8; Deut 20.11-12). I will attempt to explain the overarching manner in which this is to be done in a future post.

[3] Remember Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8.12); and in another place: “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world” (John 11.9). This is not a new teaching, but one encased in Old Testament theology: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psa 36.9; cf. John 1.4-5, 9); “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling” (Psa 43.3; cf. John 8.31-32); “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the lightof life” (Psa 56.13; cf. John 3.19-21); “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day(Prov4.18; cf. 1John 1.5-7).

[4] In the English the sense should still be easy enough to understand for “cannot bear” means “cannot accept or allow one to be subjected to” (Merriam-Webster) for they are hostile to what the Lord is saying (cf. Rom 8.7-8) because of where their true allegiance/parentage lies (v.44).

[5] For those that want to argue that this is limited to a Jewish context, I merely refer you to the following texts in the N.T.:

  • “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2.1-3; cf. Rom 1.18-32);
  • “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother”(1John 3.10);
  • “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1John 5.19).

If you want some O.T. evidence that refers to the same sort of context, I would recommend reading Psa 1.4-6; 2; Prov 1.10-33; Isa 30.1;Jer 12.3-4; Ezek 22.9-11, etc.

[6] I should probably note that the “world” (Gr. Kosmos) is not meant to convey the idea of the planet. Although the Greek can have that meaning, the references in John’s writings normally (not always) speak of two opposing systems of faith. Likewise, when Paul calls Satan the prince of the air, or the devil is referred to as the “god of this world” this does not entail his control over the planet earth, but instead speaks of his blinding influence over fallen human beings. The world (planet earth) is the Lord’s. He sits as sovereign above it, for it is His footstool (cf. Isa. 40.22; Isa 66.1).

[7] See John 15.18-20; Phil 1.29; 1Pet 4.13.

Posted in Christian Living, Christian Perspective, dominion, gospel, Salvation, Theology

The Gospel: A Battle Motif?

What do we mean when we say gospel? Words do not speak for themselves they are interpreted and the baggage we carry effects how we understand their meaning. This is why context is so important. Context defines the word, it reveals the sense in which the term is being used.

In Christian circles we have a tendency of throwing words out in dialogue anticipating that our audience has the same understanding that we do. This is especially true when we speak the same language (i.e. English/Christianese), but we are committing a grave error when we refuse to take the time explaining what we mean when we say what we say.

The term gospel in its simplest form means “good-news.”

You got an “A” on your last assignment in class, or you received a raise in your hourly rate at work and you tell others about it…that is an example of sharing the gospel with others. You’ve told people the good-news of events in your life. Obviously, I am using the word “gospel” in a very generic sense, but I hope you get the gist at what I am driving at. The word “gospel” only has the meaning we assign to it.[1]

Well, when a Christian says gospel what is meant?

Some may point their audience to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV 1611). Or another may refer to 1Cor 15:1-4: “Now I would remind your, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (ESV).[2]

To be sure those are specific elements of the gospel of God, of Jesus Christ the Son, but they only provide a small portion of the gospel in light of biblical teaching. The gospel of Jesus (his life, death and resurrection) is the crown jewel to be sure, for there is no one greater, no one more precious, no one more significant that Jesus of Nazareth—the Living Word that put-on flesh and tabernacle among us (John 1.14) in order to save His people from their sins (Matt 1.21). To make use of another analogy, this gospel of Jesus is the sharpened tip of the arrow fired by God the Father and carried along by God the Holy Spirit; for this gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1.16b). And yet, this is not a complete explanation of the gospel.

Contrary to popular opinion the gospel is not limited to Jesus of Nazareth[3], nor the first four books of the New Testament, nor the entire N. T. canon; for, the gospel is found throughout the entirety of God’s Word. Both covenants, new and old, contain all the essential elements of the gospel of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). From the very first verse when we are told “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1), to the very last portion of the book of Revelation “He who testifies to these things say, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev 22.20-21) encases the entirety of the gospel.

The gospel is the good-news of God starting from creation to consummation. But even after I have said all of that and many heads are found shaking in agreement if I were to ask you to define the gospel would you be able? A truncated version of it I have heard on countless occasions, but a deeper understanding of all it entails is often found wanting.

What makes the gospel of Jesus truly good-news? What is promised in Scripture from beginning to end? That God has created a special people, a peculiar people to be His prized possession for all eternity, and to them He has given the great gifts of His love. Life with Him and an inheritance that is imperishable (see 1Pet 1.3-5).

Salvation in Christ is offered in the gospel. His life for ours that is the crown jewel of this/his precious work. Yet, this is not salvation merely from hell, nor is it limited to the gift of heaven, but an entirely new life.

  • “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in the flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2.13-18; also see 4.16-24).

A brief summary of this text reveals to the reader that the wall of separation has been demolished between the Jew and Greek (cf. v. 12) and between God and man for in Christ’s atoning sacrifice “the dividing wall of hostility” is no more having been killed (v.14, 16; also see Rom 8.7-8; Col 1.20-21).[4] The former ordinances (ceremonial observances/laws) are removed as Christ’s life has been given as the perfect substitute nullifying the need for them any longer (v.15a; cf. Heb 7-10). Through Christ peace has been granted to all former covenant breakers (both Jew/Gentile) enabling them to be covenant-keepers as citizens of the kingdom of Christ under His headship (see vv. 19-22; cf. Isa 9.6-7; Col 1.13-22).

The gospel of God, of Christ…is the gospel of the kingdom. All four of the gospels (synoptics and Johannine) reveal this fact. Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, the forerunner known as the Baptist named John the son of a Levite preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3.2). The Lord’s message was the same, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1.15). As well as that of the apostles/disciples of Christ after His ascension: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24.14). Evidence that this is practiced by the disciples of the Lord (this includes more than just the twelve) is summed up in this statement recorded for us in Acts 17:7 where antagonists to the gospel were found complaining, “…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

A Battle Motif?

What I would like present to you is that the gospel is in reality a battle motif. That is to say, when Jesus stepped into history as the second (last) Adam he did so as the chief representative of God and man. After his anointing in the Jordan River by John, he is immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested for 40 days; the start of war.

Satan comes probably anticipating the same sort of results with Jesus that he had enjoyed with Adam[5], but to his chagrin he fails. In what comes as a precursor to the smashing of his head when Jesus is crucified (a bruising of his heel; cf. Gen 3.15; John 12.31), the man from Nazareth demonstrates dominion[6] subduing the earth and all that is in it (cf. Gen 1.28)[7] including even demonic forces that have their mouths shut and are effectively driven off wherever Christ Jesus marches (cf. Luke 4.33-36; Mark 5.1-13).

Why a battle motif? Why label the gospel in such a light? Why call Christ’s gospel, which the gospel of the kingdom—His Kingdom—a battle motif? Because that is the thematic scheme we see presented in the gospels. True, the Gospel According to Matthew is often seen as the one that emphasizes Jesus’ kingship in the line of David, but the reality is that all four gospels demonstrate that Jesus is Sovereign over the creation to which He was sent. He is the only one capable of binding the strongman and saving His people from their bondage. The salvation He offers is not just salvation from hell, but salvation from sin. Not just personal sin, but sin that has marred creation since the Fall in the garden.

Therefore, when Jesus says to the Jews in John 8, “If you will abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31-32). He is stating a total renewal of fallen mankind, for the ones who faithfully abide in His Word. Salvation from being a slave to sin, which is salvation from wrong thinking (i.e. being renewed in your mind according to godly wisdom, not earthly wisdom), from wrong speaking and acting (i.e. glorifying God with our words and actions through righteous/holy living; loving our neighbors as ourselves).

As Jesus told Pilate, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18.36-37). Jesus entered history as the rightful king and He established His sovereign authority over all of creation. His people, those who have been born again and by having done so have gained access to his kingdom (see John 3), are likewise charged to serve Him.

As king, he waged war against the forces of darkness. He addressed sinners, demons, and the ills that plague creation in individuals and societies, and He expects His children to do the same. The Lord waged war against sin and its effects and He leaves no room for neutrality for those who profess His Name.

The Battle Begins in Our Hearts

Of course, this war/battle first starts within individual hearts, but logically and naturally branches beyond personal aspirations to creational aspirations (all of creation). The gospel brings life and victory. As the old hymn goes, “Sing it, shout it, all day long! Victory unto the Lord now and forever!” We are at war with everything false posited against our Lord and Savior, and the gospel is the sweet-smelling victory to those who are being saved, but an unsavory scent of death to those who are perishing.

I suppose my encouragement to my brethren at this point is this: leave no stone uncovered, but expose all to the light of our Lord. Start first with your own life, but in turn address wrong with the truth wherever it may be found.  

ENDNOTES:


[1] I’m not insinuating that the gospel means different things for different people in a biblical sense. The gospel is defined biblically as God’s good-news. The gospel then is not subjective to man’s thoughts, but is submissive to God’s thoughts. Our definition must be shown to be drawn from Scripture, not our own personal whims.

[2] Henceforth, all Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[3] I want to be clear here. Jesus is the essence of the living gospel. There is no gospel without him! Although, I hate when people say (even though I do not doubt they are well-meaning enough) that we need to live the gospel. The gospel is propositional truth. You cannot live a propositional truth, although such truth will affect the way one lives their lives. This is the gospel applied, but it is not the gospel—living or otherwise. With Jesus, I suppose one might call him a living embodiment of all the gospel entails, as His life was a sinless anomaly humanly speaking. He embodied the fullness of God the Father in fleshly form (cf. Eph 1.23; Col 1.19; 2.9), and through Him God revealed perfectly what He expects of His creation (meaning man; Heb 1:3).  

[4] It is of paramount importance that we recognize at this point that the wall of hostility revealed in fallen man is two-fold. On the first our lives are really dead things. In order for us to be in right relationship with God another life must be substituted for our own. In the past (O.T.), the ceremonial laws of sacrifice were given to the children of Israel (Jacob) as a means of demonstrating this need, for without another’s lifeblood the person in question remains dead in trespasses and sins (something Paul discussed earlier in Eph 2.1-3). On the second our lives before Christ are in hostility to our Creator. Before the Holy Spirit’s intervention into our lives we are the natural enemies of God (cf. Rom 5.10), what the same apostle quoted above noted previously in Romans 8:7-8 is how this position of man plays out in normative life: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. That who are in the flesh cannot please God” (italics added).

[5] Satan in the garden usurped Adam’s position as head over earthly creation. He was in a sense enthroned as a mock king, but the promise given in Gen 3:15 marked a time in history when his usurping butt would be effectively kicked off the throne. The would be king would be dethroned by the one true king, the rightful king, the one labeled “King of kings and Lord of lords,” the one that all other lesser creatures are forced to bow down to and pay homage. It is not coincidental that Psalm 110 is quoted more in the N.T. than any other passage in reference to Jesus, nor should we be surprised that that apostles appeal to Psalm 2 in Acts 4:24-30 as proof that God would hear their prayer and bless their efforts.

[6] Kings by nature rule for that is their role (lot) in life. Adam was created as a son of God and therefore a prince (mighty chief) over created things on this earth. As God’s representative, he was presented with the special privilege of glorifying His maker. In this, he failed the task set before him, but where he failed the last Adam did not. He, unlike the former, was the perfect representative of God—reflecting His glory at every point of contact in creation; and of man—demonstrating what true human living was to look like in loving God and loving neighbor in all righteousness.

[7] This includes creatures of the sea (Luke 5.4-7; John 21.5-8), the elements of the air (Mark 4.37-41), of water—turning water into wine (John 2.3-11), and even tiny creeping microorganisms, including our DNA in order to heal lepers, the blind, the lame and the dead raising them from their graves (cf. Matt 11.5). There are actually a plethora of verses that testify to these mighty deeds of our Lord

Posted in Christian Living, Christian Perspective, Christian Witness, culture, dominion, war, Worldview Analysis

We are called to War

Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. (Judges 3.1-2)

What sort of wars were these? Were these wars primarily physical battles or spiritual encounters? Why would we even care today? Sure, they are important historical truths encapsulated in that precious book we call the Holy Bible, but really what do those fights have to do with us?

We are not Israel, it is said. We are not living in Canaan, it is thought. Would it surprise you to realize that the fights that we witness in the past through these biblical accounts were not physical battles fought over the promise land. Nor were these skirmishes limited to the spiritual conquest of one people’s God over all others gods and goddesses. The fact remains that the fighting we witness in Canaan was both a physical and spiritual war.

An unfortunate reality has settled on the hearts/minds of the modern Church today. There is presented to members of the faith a false dichotomy of the spiritual versus physical realms. Tell me, how did the Lord God create us? Are we not both at the same time spiritual and physical beings. Persons that have flesh and bone, and yet at the same time a spiritual nature living within us.

Of course, such thinking has become taboo to some extent in what many like to identify as a scientific age. Cut us open and what do you see? To the psychologist or sociologist all that we are as human beings is seated in that three-pound mass within our skulls called a brain. No evidence of a spirit, therefore a spirit we do not have. Then again a spirit by its very nature lacks physical properties (cf. John 4.24; 2Cor 3.17). Our consciences, our rational thoughts, our emotions, etc. are not material things. We see and feel the actions of such things, but no one has ever looked at them or dissected them in the lab. Human beings for all that we are, we are not limited to matter in motion.

In the beginning God created us as both creatures of the physical realm with a spiritual essence, and He did so in order that we might represent His glory throughout the world. Therefore, every act, every thought, every word is intended to reflect the invisible Creator God; all of life is both physical and spiritual. “Okay,” you ask, “why the text above?” I’m glad you asked.

In the coming weeks, I will be discussing the Flood recorded in the book of Genesis. This will be in response to a few skeptical remarks I have heard by professing believers and skeptics alike. One such individual made the offhanded remark that God must have failed in His purpose for sending it, for it was not too long after Noah and his wife, and his sons and their wives got off the boat that they began sinning again. The assumption is that God was starting over to rid the world of evil, but He evidently failed in His goal.

God didn’t fail. That’s a fact, but we do fail in seeing the big picture. There are several deep truths revealed in the deluge of that period in human history. The one that I want to fix your attention on today is inheritance. The Lord gave a very clear example of what He expects of His creatures, and the dire consequences of sin. He also demonstrated who He intends to inherit this earth…His people. “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5.5).

Think about this for a moment, who did God create this world for? His people.

This is first demonstrated in the garden with our foreparents, and it is lastly promised in Revelation where we are told “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21.3). Throughout Scripture God demonstrates time and time again that He is longsuffering with sin and evil for His people (cf. 2Pet 3.9). He also explains that our purpose for being is to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen 1.26, 28), for this is how we glorify Him in word, thought and deed.[1]

The Purpose of the Canaanite Conquest

When Israel entered into Canaan they were exercising godly dominion. Pagan’s were in the land, they had been there for generations but their time was up. Just as the Flood came in judgment against sinful people, so too was judgment coming against those who purposefully and willfully rebelled against the God who had given them life.[2] This promise delivered to Abram (Abraham)[3] was fulfilled in the generation of Joshua:

  • Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh 21.43-45; italics added).

And yet, we read the passage at the head of this post that God left pagans in the land to test His people who were not trained in war. They were to physically drive out that which was considered abominations before the Lord. Things that we rightly identify as spiritual issues, but the physical actions are which are known as sins. The Israelites as God’s representatives were sent in as cultural marauders; minus the negative connotation we often associate with that word.

Failure to Follow Through

One of the glaring sins present in the book of Judges however was that rather than humbly submitting to the Lord as King they lived as if they had no king over them: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17.6; 21.25). Rather than confront the sinful culture before them, they married themselves to it. Thus, they were rightfully seen as adulterers before the Lord; unfaithful servants of the One True King.

The reward for their unfaithfulness to God was enslavement to a pagan culture. Eventually, overtime they began to cry out for aid. A generation would rise up that would identify their sin and beg for mercy from their God. In response, God would deliver them by raising up a judge (equivalent of a civil magistrate) who would lead them in the fight against the enslaving culture and God’s people would once again inherit the land for a season. Of course, if you’ve read the book of judges you will know that this cycle repeated itself over and over again until the time of Samuel who helped usher in the age of kings in Israel. Even then, if we read our biblical history we see that physical/spiritual battle ensued over and over again.

Our Current Dilemma: Whats this have to do with Us?

“Yes, Kris…that is all well and good, and probably true, but what does that have to do with us?” Uhm…EVERYTHING!

  • Question: Do we have a King? As Christians do we have a King over us? Or are we justified in doing what is right in our own eyes? (Yes, yes, I realize that is more than one question).
  • Answer: Yes, absolutely! Do we not say “Jesus is my Lord and Savior?” Do we not call Jesus, the Christ? Are you unaware that the name Christ (Messiah, the Hebrew equivalent) means the “anointed one of God…the King?”

“Yes, but Kris we are not called to exercise godly dominion, the dominion mandate was done away with at the fall.” Really? Can you turn me to the text(s) that state this is so, or is this merely an opinion that you possess either from tradition or desire? If the Bible has not nullified this command given at our beginning, then why would we be so foolish to assume that it no longer applies to us.

“Yes, but we are not Israel.” Oh…so God expected them to act one way, but He expects us to act another. Where is that taught to us in God’s Word? If the Bible has not taught us this, then why would we be so foolish to adopt this mindset.

Here are the facts as I see them, and I welcome any arguments to the contrary.

  1. Jesus is rightfully called the Christian’s Lord and Savior, and as such He is our King. To Him we do owe our fealty.
  2. The world is God’s creation and He intends to give it to His people who are faithful to Him and reflect His glory throughout. Like Israel we are faced with living in a culture that is naturally hostile to our Lord, our God.
  3. And, like Israel we are faced with the same choice: Live for God and confront the culture with the truth, or embrace what we know to be false and therefore in opposition against our Lord.

Either way a difficult way is before us. We may not have chosen our current situation, nonetheless it is upon us whether we will it or not. We continue to live like Lot with our heads in the sand, hoping someone rescues us all the while experience the judgment of our refusal to enter the fray. Or we can stand for the Lord and be hated by the world. Our generation may not see the full fruit of faithful labor, but perhaps our children or their children will.[4] Either way we are left with this charge:

  • “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt 28.18-20; italics added).

Those are our Christian marching orders, but here is how they are played out practically in confronting the culture:

  • “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2Cor 10.3-5; emphasis added).

Notice that he does not say we do not wage war, but that our weapons of warfare are not physical.[5] Yet, we fight every argument, every lofty opinion of men according to their traditions/philosophies, attacking their strongholds in order to bring them to obedience to Jesus Christ. Though our warfare is not fought with physical weapons it does have physical ramifications. Just as our failure to obey our King has physical ramifications today (e.g. unjust taxes, improperly defined marital unions and gender confusion, an influx of false religions, insurmountable debt, educational tyranny, etc.).

Closing Remarks…

In short, if you understand the analogy we have Canaanites in the land that because of our refusal to fight as faithful soldiers for Christ (as a holy priesthood should) who have a cultural stranglehold on us. Not only do we defame Christ’s Name by refusing to enter the public sphere, but we enslave our children to tyranny.

For this reason I am thankful for faithful men and women of God who risk all (carrying their cross) for Jesus Christ; such as Justin Hoke  from Weed, California who as a faithful minister of the gospel has endured great persecution from the very flock that he was trying to faithfully lead.

Praise God that He still has such servants in this nation; in this world. May we likewise continue the good fight, contending for the faith which has been entrusted to us (Jude 1.3; cf. Tit 1.9). May the Lord grant His children the courage and boldness to speak on every issue and to be silent on none (cf. Josh 1.6-9; Acts 4.29).

ENDNOTES:


[1] This type of dominion is to be expressed in the three covenantal branches that God has established: family, Church and state. The representative heads (father, elder and magistrate) in all three institutions are intended to exercise godly dominion in all that they do.

[2] In case someone would like to claim that this was unfair to the inhabitants of the land that Israel somehow stole it from them, know this all the earth is the Triune Creator God’s and He has the sovereign right to give it to whom He pleases. Those that rebel against the Lord do so on borrowed time because He allows it, but at the same time He promises that such individuals will not inherit the good that God has promised. This is true temporally and eternally. Turn to Leviticus 18, 20 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 to see many of the sins that were condemned by God, and were justifications for Him vomiting them out of the land giving the inheritance of the land (earth) to those who were zealous for God’s holiness.

[3] And they [your seed] shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’” (Gen 15.16-21)

[4] I realize that if you have a different eschatological bent than I do, you may think that this is the terminal generation, but I’m not convinced. Either way, we are called to live for the Lord which means to be a faithful spur in the side of a culture that promotes hateful rhetoric and sanctions against our God and His people.

[5] Or to use another analogy from Scripture: our swords have been beaten into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks (cf. Isa 2.4). No longer does God send His people out into the world to fight physical battles, for we have become seed sowers—spiritual farmers if you will (cf. Mark 4.3-20)—and yet our onward progress of cultural destruction towards cultural enlightenment is consistent with one who breaks up fallow ground removing the debris in order to get to the good soil of life (cf. Jer 4.3; Hos 10.12)

Posted in Christian Perspective, Logic, philosophy, Reason, Theology

Scarecrow Arguments and the Pursuit of Truth

Perhaps you have heard some variation of the following argumentive statements:

The Bible is not a science book. The Bible is not a history book. The Bible is not an ethics book. The Bible is not a marriage manual. The Bible is not a parental guide. The Bible is not this…or that…its just a spiritual book, a theological book, etc., etc.

Arguments like these are retorted quite commonly. As a minister, I have heard variations of the same from time to time. The statements in and of themselves are true in part. The problem I find, however, is that such statements are not given in a positive sense. The position normally belies a bias on the part of the individual who gives them. They are offered up in a manner to discredit the person(s) who hold a belief that is contrary to the one arguing against them. In effect, what is presented in such cases is a strawman argument.[1]

The belief in action goes something like this:

  • The Bible is not a science book; therefore, it lacks the authority to speak on scientific issues. The Bible may offer some insight on issues of a scientific nature, but the Bible should not be used to correct science because its not written for that purpose.
  • The Bible is not a history book; therefore, it lacks the authority to speak on specific historic issues. The Bible may offer some insight on issues of a historic nature, but the Bible should not be used to correct historic belief because it was not written for that purpose.
  • The Bible is not an ethics book; therefore, it lacks the authority to speak on specific ethical issues. The Bible may offer some insight on various ethical issues, but the Bible (in particular biblical law) should not be used to offer corrections in the field of ethics because it was not written for that purpose.
  • The Bible is not a marriage manual; therefore, it lacks the authority to speak on every issue that arises within the marriage covenant. The Bible may offer some insight on issues pertaining to marriage, but the Bible should not be the dependent source to address every problem that may arise in a marriage, because it was not written for that purpose.
  • The Bible is not a parental guide; therefore, it lacks the authority to speak on every issue that arises in the context of parenting. The Bible may offer some insight on issues pertaining to parental guidance, but the Bible should not be appealed to for every parenting issue, because it was not written for that purpose.
  • The Bible was primarily written as a spiritual guidebook, a book that speaks authoritatively on theological issues from a certain perspective—i.e. Christian; therefore, to use it beyond this scope it to use it in a manner that goes beyond its original intention.

Here’s the problem with such thinking. A consistent Christian does not argue in this fashion. Of course, the Bible is not a science textbook, or primarily an exhaustive book of history, or just an ethical guide, or a marriage manual, or a parental guidance text. However, the Bible has preeminence over all these subjects and many more. That is to say that Bible speaks authoritatively on all of these subjects, including topics not discussed in this post, because the Bible alone offers a foundational lens to view these things properly.

Why? Because “as human beings [we] are so susceptible to self-deception and autosuggestion, we need the safety of a third point of reference. Our feelings [and thoughts] need to be tested by an objective norm…that objective norm must be the Bible.”[2] Why should our thoughts be tested?[3] This goes back to loving the Lord God with all of our minds. Why are we to do this? Because, how we use our minds is ethical; right or wrong.

Nothing but the Truth Please…

A common anthem raised within Christian circles is “all truth is God’s truth” implying or declaring “regardless of the source!” Of course, “all truth is God’s truth” no sane individual will deny this claim. However, this begs the question of how one arrives at the truth. Who determines truth? Is truth merely up for grabs, or is “truth” only found when the subject in question is properly perceived from God’s perspective? If all truth is God’s truth, then all “truth” must be found in agreement with God’s revealed truth. Why? Because an objective standard is necessary in order to measure the truthfulness of the subject or claim in question.

Some may wonder why Martin Luther referred to reason as “the devil’s whore.” Evidently, this comment is attributed to a statement he made during a sermon in Wittenberg. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that particular resource of Luther’s (my limited budget prohibits this), but I have read enough of what Luther has said in other places to have a solid basis to offer my own observations regarding it.

For example, Luther stated that “…unbelief is not one of the grosser affections, but is that chief affection seated and ruling on the throne of the will and reason, just the same as its contrary, faith.”[4] In another place he preached with a ring of sarcasm, “Here again comes forth reason, our reverend mistress, seeming to be marvellously [sic] wise; but who indeed is unwise and blind, gainsaying her God, and reproving him of lying; being furnished with her follies and feeble armour [sic], to wit, the light of nature, free will, the strength of nature, also with the books of the heathen and the doctrines of men.”[5]

Luther did not despise reason any more than he despised faith or philosophical arguments, for he applied all of these in his own life and writings (albeit at some times better than others from a personal standpoint). What he despised, rightly so I might add, was reason, discussions of faith or philosophical argumentation that was separated from the mind of God. While some might be appalled and argue strenuously against such a position, Luther was in good company. He did no less than the apostles, or the prophets, or the Lord who called and sent them all out into the world.

Elements of Truth and the Philosophy that Guides Them

In particular, we might find it advantageous to turn briefly to the apostle Paul’s dealing with this very issue; found in the letter to the Colossians. The Christians in Colossae were facing some turbulent times. Leaders had crept in with teachings that seemed very godly, but had the same element of demonic error that Paul later warned Timothy to be wary of.[6]

The two primary errors facing these Christians in Colossae was ascetism and mysticism:

  • Ascetism teaches that by abstaining from certain elements of worldly living (i.e. eating and drinking certain foods) attributes to the spiritual welfare of the individual(s) in question. This form of legalism is comparable to modern teetotalers who preach abstinence from alcohol or tobacco, etc.; as if adopting such a mindset makes one more spiritual (either before God or man).[7]
  • Mysticism on the other hand flirted with pseudo-knowledge (a pre-gnostic heresy) that was secretly given to some of the so-called more spiritual among them. This knowledge included various visions (false) from god, leading to the worship of angelic beings. Things strongly denounced in Holy Writ (cf. Exod 20.3; Deut 6.13-14; Matt 4.10; Rev 19.10).

Paul’s response was that Christians should not listen to things that pervert the truth, but rather be firmly established in Jesus Christ (Col 2.7), walking with him (Col 2.6) who is “the head of all rule and authority” (Col 2.10) for in Him rest “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2.3). Christians are to be wary of those who seek to take “you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world…” (Col 2.8). For “if with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to [them]…” (Col 2.20).[8]

Now it is absolutely true that Paul wrote to Colossae for a specific purpose. He was battling false forms of spiritual worship that had invaded the Christian community, but there is an application that may be drawn from this for today. Paul cautioned against philosophy (love of wisdom/knowledge) and reason that is rooted in something other than Jesus Christ, in whom all these things are held (cf. Heb 1.3; Prov 1.7; 9.10; 2.6). He presents a similar argument to the Corinthians and the Ephesians when he states rather emphatically:

  • “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor 10.4-5; italics added).
  • “…no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…Now I say this and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart…But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Eph 4.14-15, 17-18, 20; italics added).

Similarly, the Lord condemned those who considered themselves the wise of their age, who in their wisdom supplanted God’s Word with their own traditions—i.e. the elemental spirits of the world (cf. Mark 7.6-13).[9]

Closing Remarks…

Whatever conclusions we draw about reality. Whatever thoughts or doctrines we uphold. Whatever beliefs we may have about life. Whether they be scientific questions, or marital questions, or questions about parenting, or questions about logic or reason or philosophy or ethics…regardless of what the subject might be about. The way we view them or the conclusions we draw need to be seriously weighed with the Word of God.

I grow tired of the scarecrows that are raised up by professing believers who want to be the final arbitrators of truth. God determines truth, we do not. He defines truth, we do not. Our thinking, our speaking and our doing ought to derive from humble submission to Christ Jesus and His authoritative Word. That is the only true way we are going to truly know anything.

ENDNOTES:


[1] Norman Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), 100, 101. They write, “Some figure that the best way to win an argument is to cheat. So they design their reasoning in such a way that they can’t lose. Just like a card player who stacks the deck…Straw man. Another way to stack the deck against the opposition is to draw a false picture of the opposing argument…The name of the fallacy comes from the idea that if you set up a straw man, he is easier to knock down than a real man.”

[2] Richard S. Taylor, Biblical Authority and Christian Faith (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1980), 51.

[3] This is not a concept that merely Christians adhere to (although, I would argue that it is a Christian standard used by others), for all people subject the position of another over an against some other source. That is to say, everybody tests the nature of the claim being presented. If you were to ask a college student today if socialism is a better option than capitalism, the answer would reflect the teaching/instruction that the student has received. If they have went to one of the Ivy League schools or an institution out in California, then socialism is going to be seen as not only a viable option for government, but preferable to other forms of governance. Stephen Crowder has demonstrated this for his viewers on a number of issues in his YouTube series “Change My Mind.” The point being, we test the thoughts of others comparable to the source on which (we) they are dependent. What we consider authoritative.

[4] Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, Reprint (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012), 228, Adobe Digital Editions. Italics added.

[5] Martin Luther, “Galatians 6:1-7” in A Selection Sermons of the Most Celebrated Sermons of Martin Luther, loc 433-435, Kindle Edition. Italics added.

[6] “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” (1Tim 4.1). What were these demonic teachings that Timothy would have to deal with in his ministry? Those “…who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1Tim 4.3). The very things that Paul is having to deal with in Colossae and to some extent in Corinth (e.g. 1Cor 9.1-5).

[7] It should be noted that I am not condemning Christians who for reasons of conscience chose to avoid such things. This is acceptable and right in the sight of God. God has given all things as a gift for His people, to be used reasonably and in moderation, being blessed by prayer. However, to do something in doubt without faith and go against one’s conscience is folly and rightly labeled sin. The position that I hold, which I believe is consistent with biblical faith, is that what God has not labeled sinful is to be enjoyed in moderation; for, who am I as a creature to judge another’s servant. In other words, there is only ONE law-giver and that is the Triune God of Scripture…Him, I shall obey, for that is pleasing in His sight.

[8] John Calvin, The Complete Biblical Commentary Collection of John Calvin, (Kindle Locations 488481-488483). Kindle Edition. He writes, “Let us, however, bear in mind, that under the term philosophy Paul has merely condemned   all spurious doctrines which come forth from man’s head, whatever   appearance of reason they may have.”

[9] Here the religious leaders in Israel had erected their own belief system of what was right and good and true (the practice of Corban) in place of what God had said was the right attitude and practice; namely, honoring your father and mother. In case the reader assumes that this only applies to religious practices (the spiritual realm) and has no meaningful application to what some might deem non-spiritual issues, might I encourage you to mull over the meaning of this statement: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor 10.31; cf. Deut 14.26). All of life is meant to glorify God, even acts so mundane as “eating and drinking.” My point being is that there is no aspect of living that is not ethical (right or wrong) and therefore spiritual. God made us as His image bearers, so whatever we do is a spiritual act. To attempt to dichotomize life into the subjects of spiritual and not is a foolhardy errand. So, whatever, we do or think or say, needs to be weighed by God’s authoritative Word.

Posted in Attributes of God, Biblical Questions, Christian Perspective, Logic, Theology

Why God Asks Questions…

Recently, as I was purveying the blogosphere I stumbled upon a variety of questions that an individual dared the Christian to attempt to answer. I have no desire to name the individuals involved, but I will gladly accept the challenge. The first of these attempts will deal with Genesis 3. Specifically involving the following inquiry:

  • Does the hiding of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the subsequent questioning of the Lord God reveal a flaw in the incommunicable attributes of God? That is to say, does our foreparents hiding in the garden deny God’s omnipresence, and does God’s questioning them deny His omniscience

I think that the appropriate first step is acknowledging that the Bible is a written document given to mankind; in particular His people (cf. Deut 29.29a; Amos 3.7; John 15.15; Rom 16.26; 2Tim 3.16-17). And it is written in such a way that it is clearly perceived by the youngest and least educated among us. Moreover, the Word of God is written in many ways from man’s vantage point; which essentially means that certain historic events are retold in such a way that the reader (with an active imagination) is able to submerse themselves into the material viewing things how the person (or people) witnessed them. For instance, like Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 3.

For example, we are told in Genesis 3:8 that our foreparents “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….”[1] This is what is properly termed a theophany or a Christophany (pre-incarnate Christ) in theological circles. Such an event is where God temporarily takes on creaturely form to communicate with His creatures in a special way (cf. Gen 17-18; Josh 5.13-15; comp Heb 1.1-3).[2]

Question #1

This brings us to our first question, “Does the hiding of Adam and Eve deny God’s omnipresence?”

No, not at all. For starters the hiding is told from the vantage point of the man and the woman. This is what they were attempting to do. When they heard the Lord approaching they sought to hide from him. Why? The same reason that we find them “[sewing] fig leaves together…[making] themselves loincloths” in an attempt to hide their nakedness (Gen 3.7), they were afraid. Afraid of what? Judgment.

Adam and Eve knew they were in the wrong, that they were in trouble and they didn’t want to be held accountable for the actions they’d performed. We see this same reaction when little kids hide from their parents when they have knowingly disobeyed, and they are attempting to avoid punishment. Now, we may try to sugarcoat this in a variety of ways, but the fact of the matter is that such behavior is nothing short of rebellion. This is nothing short of a refusal to be called to task.

Question #2

Okay, let’s have a quick look at the second question, “Does the Lord’s questioning of the man and woman deny His omniscience?”

The man and woman hear the sound of the Lord God as he is walking in the garden, and they hide. Perhaps, they are thinking, “If He doesn’t see us, then we may evade the consequences of their actions.” The Lord does not allow them to hide, he calls them from their hiding, “Where are you?” (Gen 3.9). Pay attention to Adam’s response for it reveals something about his motives.

Notice, God only asks “Where are you?” but the man responds, “I heard the sound[3] of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen 3.10). Adam gives information that was not asked for. Evidently, he felt compelled to justify his action of hiding, when he knew he should come forward revealing at the sound of the Lord’s approach. (Again, this is typical behavior of a child who has knowingly disobeyed.)

This prompts a couple of follow up questions from the Lord God: “Who told you, you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen 3.11). When the man attempts laying the blame upon his wife for his own sinful action (Gen 3.12), the Lord turns to her inquiring, “What is this that you have done?” (Gen 3.13a).

Why would God ask questions if He knew the answers? Why would God ask the man (and woman) of their hiding if He knew where they were and why they were doing it? These are legitimate questions, but how we come about answering them will say much about our own position.

The skeptic will reason that if God is all-knowing (omniscient) and ever-present (omnipresent) amidst His created universe, then our foreparents should not have been able to hide and God should not have needed to ask questions. That the text says they did hide, and God believed it necessary to ask questions proves that God is not omnipresent or omniscient.

Unfortunately for the skeptic, the historical narrative is not a teaching passage on God’s omnipresence or omniscience. To conclude that this text disproves these incommunicable[4] attributes of God. Or to say it reveals the Lord God has limitations in knowledge and where He can be, must be smuggled into the text. That is to say, what is being assumed at the outset (God can’t be omniscient or omnipresent, He must be limited) is being offered as the justification for denying these things about God. Even if the form of the logic seems valid at first blush, the underlying premises are inaccurate.[5]

A better approach is to draw from the text what is there, and then offer probing questions of the text itself. The text says God asks the man and woman questions, why? The text says the man and woman hid, why? Is it possible to know something and yet still inquire about it? Is it possible that the hiding is descriptive of what Adam and Eve are attempting to do, but is actually impossible for any creature of God’s to do? The answer is yes.

I have mentioned this before, I believe in another post, that if we want to argue for or against something that the Bible teaches, we need to turn to those passages that declare what we want to argue with directly. There are other passages of Scripture that explain explicitly that God is not limited in His knowledge, nor is His presence limited from parts or portions of His creation. A proper hermeneutical approach will lead one to first turn to those direct statements which are clear didactic teachings, and then uses them as a lens to properly interpret the less clear narrative portions of the Bible.

Relating to God’s Omnipresence

  • “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord.” (Jer 23.23-24).
  • “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lad me and your right hand shall hold me” (Psa 139.7-10).
  • “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isa 57.15; italics added).
  • “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov 15.3)
  • “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Heb 4.13).

From texts such as these we learn by what right God asks His creatures questions. An ever-present God is an all-knowing God, for nothing can be hidden from His sight. The inquisition of His creatures is in the nature of accountability. God knew that Adam and Eve had disobeyed His edict. He knew that they had attempted to hide their sinful shame with a shoddy attempt at a new “green” clothing line (fig leaves are the clean energy craze!). He knew that they hoped to disappear from His presence to escape judgment (cf. 2Chron 18.23-24).

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jer 17.9-10).

Only one who knows the heart can judge the heart, but even the one who knows the heart requires that all His creatures bow the knee and confess (cf. Rom 14.11; Php 2.10; John 5.28-29; Rev 20.13). We should not be surprise that God interrogates the man and woman; that He draws out their confession of wrong doing like a person might draw venom from an asp’s wound. He similarly deals with Satan as he does all the heavenly host, as revealed in the book of Job (Job 1.6-12; 2.1-6; cf. 1King 22.19). The questioning does not reveal a limitation on God’s part, quite the opposite, for the questions are given by the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18.25).

A parent that catches their child in the act of wrong doing will still ask the child, “What were you doing?” even when they have witnessed the act. Why then ask the question? To draw out the confession. To hold our little ones accountable. To insinuate that the Lord is somehow limited in some way because he does likewise is dishonest and a bit hypocritical. Unless of course you have not taken the time to think these things over and are merely jumping to a conclusion that you find pleasing and appropriate.

Wrapping up with a Poor Man’s Analogy (or is it just a poor analogy?)

Realizing that I have gone a little long in tooth I will wrap this up as quickly as possible. Genesis 3 and the events recorded there are written in the form of a historical narrative. You are given a glimpse of what transpired on the day our foreparents transgressed. The text speaks of the man and woman’s actions and reactions to the Lord God (both His decree cf. Gen 2.16-17 and His calling to them).

Do the man and woman attempt to hide? Yes. Were they successful? No. The telling of this action is not a mark against God’s omnipresence, but a detail given from the man and woman’s vantage point. As creatures they thought themselves wise enough to hide from their Creator…they were wrong.

Does the Lord ask the man and woman questions? Yes. Does this mean God’s knowledge was lacking (not omniscient)?  No. In order to draw that conclusion, you must first assume it. Why then inquire? To hold the creature(s) accountable to their Creator; something the fallen creature rues more than anything else.

The text as a whole does not speak on God’s omniscience or omnipresence, you have to invite those two subjects to the party for they are absent unless you do. Am I saying it is wrong to discuss those topics with the current text in question (namely Gen 3)? No, but the assumptions you bring to the text will affect how you interpret it. If you would like to argue against God being omniscient or omnipresent, then you will need to deal with the statements by God or His prophets that speak directly about them.

In the same way I will not argue about the strength or weakness of the Pittsburg Steelers as an NFL team by turning to the obituary where one of their star players have died. The obituary may indicate a death of one of their star players, and therefore indirectly address a possible weakness now apparent on their roster, but the purpose of the obituary is not to speak about the NFL, or the Steelers, or the strength of their roster, or their offensive and/or defensive strategies. A more responsible attempt on my part would be to look first at those things that speak directly about the NFL and the Steelers organization, etc. and then comment on the effects that the loss of their star player might entail.

If you fail to see the connection there, then I apologize for the confusion.

Attempting to discredit something that the Bible plainly teaches about God (He is omnipresent and omniscient) by appealing to a text that does not directly address the subject in question is not a good way to prove your point. In the attempt to connect the dots, you have missed a few important ones along the way…

ENDNOTES:


[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] There are other places in the Bible where anthropomorphic expressions are used that appear to give God humanly characteristics, but are intended to convey some truth in a way that the reader will be able to identify with in order to understand the actions of the invisible God of Heaven and earth (e.g. Exod 15.16-17; “arm” and “hands”).  

[3] The Hebrew term “shama” (heard) coupled with “the voice” (qol) carries with it the meaning of “to hear, listen to, obey (verb)” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions. In other words, the sound Adam and Eve heard was not the Lord stomping on the ground, but calling out for attention. As a trumpet declares to the army who is fighting to begin their attack, being a call to attention (to obey the general leading them), so too are the man and woman notified that the Lord God expects their attention at that moment. Their hiding, therefore, is an act of rebellion…even if fear of judgment was the initial motivator.

[4] This means that these attributes are not communicated to the creatures that He has made. God alone possess these qualities. They are a part of His divine nature; essence/being.

[5] The form of the argument presented by the skeptic is similar to what follows: 1) If p then q. P therefore q. If God asks questions of Adam and Eve, then He is limited in what He knows (or where He can be). God asks the man and woman questions. Therefore, He is not omniscient (or omnipresent).

From a form standpoint, the logic is accurate (i.e. modus ponens; affirming the antecedent), however premise #1 is faulty. Omniscience does not preclude the asking of questions. Questions may be asked for reasons other than obtaining knowledge. A judge who has seen a digital video of the perpetrator under investigation rob the bank (identifying marks of tattoos or his mask fell off) will still ask whether or not they have committed the crime. The question is not needed to gain knowledge per say, but is presented to hold accountable the perp who has broken the law.

One further note on form logic regardless of the type of syllogism you are attempting to use to formulate your position. All of them can be tweaked to fit your preestablished presuppositions. A person is capable of writing a logical argument that is rational in terms of form (do the premises flow in a fashion that logically proves my point?) and in content (does it line up with my own system of thought?), but the strength or weakness of the argument lies in the validity of the premises themselves. Well then, who determines the validity (and veracity) of the claims being made? Depends upon your worldview. Ultimately, a position is determined by the commitments brought to the table by the person arguing (along with the one agreeing). I am not saying that truth is relative to the individual, it is not. However, the perception of the truth is relative to the standard to which one holds faithfully. To change faith commitments takes a radical seismic shift in the thinking of the individual in question. When it comes to faith in the Triune God of creation as revealed in the Holy Bible, this shift is only possible when the Holy Spirit moves on the person in question in such a way that their disposition towards the Lord is changed.