Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1995
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 2 – Creation: Buried Truth of Who God is
Lesson 7 – How God Can and Cannot Be Known
16 Nov 1995
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to start by going to point 1 on page 21, and 3 verses of Scripture, because all 3 of these are classic passages that you see in the Old Testament text again and again. We’ll look at Job 38, Isaiah 40 and there’s a lot more Scripture, for every Scripture I quote in a certain area you’ll see a dozen Scriptures. Job 38:1-4 is a classic kind of confrontation when God speaks to man. I want you to observe carefully because these 3 Scriptures are Scriptures that establish this principle about Q and q that’s in the lesson tonight. Follow as I read:
Job 38:1-4, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said  Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth! Tell me if you have understanding.” Then he goes on and you can see as your eye drops down verse after verse, it’s a series of questions. What’s striking about this is that God doesn’t come up and tell him something directly. What’s striking about this passage is that God peppers Job with one question after another, bam, bam, bam, bam. And look at the thrust of the questions. Think how you would explain this; why is God doing that? Why is this tactic being used in the confrontation between God and Job? Why does God use this approach? A series of many, many questions. If you’ll just scan down quickly some of those questions you’ll see the answer to them is basically the same answer, always. For example, in verse 4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” What do you suppose God is driving at?
What does God want to establish in approaching Job this way? Obviously what Job has done for 37 chapters, as well as his counselors, is to try to figure out the mystery of evil and suffering, one of the classic problems. Frankly, if I were a non-Christian I wouldn’t even bother with evolution so much as I would bother with the most destructive anti-Christian approach to the gospel, it will hang up more people than any other objection to the Christian faith, the issue of good and evil, and the problem of evil. Job is devoted to it. So its striking, and we ought to remember this, and whenever we have a problem and you’re reading, or discussing with people and you hear an objection to the faith, don’t panic about it, just ask the Lord to lead you through the Bible to where that problem is handled, because we know from Scripture that “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine,” it’s sufficient for every good work. So the answer has to be somewhere in the Bible. All we have to do is be diligent enough to find the location of it.
Here is a classic location of how God answers the problem of evil. First of all, He starts, as He does in verse 1-4 by cutting down the speculations of men. If nothing else comes out of this, it’s obvious that what comes out is that God is God and man is man. What we are faced with is what we have been talking about for 3-4 weeks. God insists on starting the discussion with the Creator/ creature distinction. Do you see that? He does not sit down as an equal with Job and say, Gee, Job, you got some good ideas there, now let’s sit down and you and I together will reason this through. That’s not the approach; the approach is you don’t know what you’re talking about so listen to Me. The Creature/creature starting point is deeply offensive to the carnal mind; it stimulates an intellectual revolt right from the start. A fleshly mind will rebel and revolt over this idea that you must listen to God’s mind in this matter and your mind is not capable of a starting point other than His. So the discussion starts right out with a radical diminishing of the human mind. This is not ridiculing human thought, it’s simply arguing for a starting point to the discussion.
Let’s go through it and you’ll see it echoes through the passage. Look at verse 8, “Who enclosed the sea with doors, when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb,” one of the early creation themes. Verse 12, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,” in other words, do you rule the universe? Verse 16, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea?” Verse 19, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place,  That you may take it to its territory, and that you may discern the paths to its home.” He goes on and on and on. Verse 31, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,” in other words what controls do you have astrophysically? Verse 34, “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, So that an abundance of water may cover you?” Verse 39 gets into biology, “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,” basically these questions deal with areas of human thought, science, research, etc. And yet included in all of this is that God is pointing Job to creation as a reflection of the Creator. This is the glory of God revealed in Creation. In Romans Paul talks about the glory of God, etc. and you wonder what does Paul mean when He talks about the glory of God in creation. Right here, God Himself is pointing to His own glory in the creation throughout these passages.
In Isaiah 40, you’ll see Him do that again, and again God is dealing with a mystery. In Isaiah 40 there is a problem with evil again, why do innocent people suffer? Same problem, and God insists on the same starting point. Look at the lead sentence, how does this whole thing start out? “Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God. [Isaiah 40:2] Speak kindly to Jerusalem,” words of comfort. Isaiah 40:3, “A voice is calling,” and it goes on to discuss this. Isaiah 40:7, “The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” See the authority of the Scripture. Isaiah 40:9, is one of the first places, where it says “O Jerusalem, bearer of good news,” that’s one of the earliest places in the Bible if not the earliest place where the word gospel occurs. Look at the context, that’s where gospel occurs, it’s an announcement of God’s gracious help. He goes down through this and He’s talking comfort, comfort, all the way down to verse 10, more comforting words, “Behold, the Lord God will come with might,” verse 11 more comforting words, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom ….”
Then he gets down to Isaiah 40:12 and watch the shift. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountain in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales?” It goes on for several verses. Verse 13, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?’ Those are the things Paul quotes in Corinthians.  “With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” Why is God, through Isaiah, asking those questions? Notice the thrust of the question is to force us to salute, say “yes Sir.”
There’s an authority of His being, and God, in all these passages, it’s a theme that you want to see, in all these passages, God refuses to answer anyone on any other starting point than the one we’ve outlined. Don’t you think that that is a model for how we need to look at life? The problem is we get trapped because we buy into a question that’s thrown at us, we don’t carefully analyze the question and we go trotting off 30 mph answering a question that was the wrong question to start with. God does not accept at face value our questions.
That’s why in the Isaiah and Job passage, and many of these passages, God insists on a Creator/ creature starting point. Only with that as the origin of the discussion will He proceed. This is why we’re going to get into the ramifications of this Creator/creature starting point, and why if you start anywhere else you’ll wind up chasing your tail. I’m going to illustrate that with a common argument that Christians have used over the centuries to try to prove God’s existence, and it has always failed, yet it is the classic argument for the existence of God, you can read it in any Christian textbook. But it fails most often because of the way it approaches life without starting here. It assumes that man in his autonomy is able to start with his own rules for the discussion. And God does not start with our rules for the discussion; He starts with His rules for the discussion.
Let’s move on to page 22 in the notes. I want to go over to the kind of a metaphor that I’m using here, of a child and his tantrum. This is somewhat demeaning to some people. But I think it’s a legitimate illustration. You’ve all seen a child get so angry or so mad that he’s going to throw a tantrum, and he’s going to solve his problem, and the way he’s going to solve it, he’s going to close his eyes and the problem is going to go away. The idea being that he can eliminate reality by shutting his eyelids. That silly little picture is the picture of the carnal mind at work. That’s the picture that Paul captures of the intellect of the fallen man in Romans 1. What the fallen mind wants to do, because it wants to insulate itself from the revelation of God in and around it, the only way it can try that is to throw a tantrum. It throws the tantrum by shutting the eyelids, i.e. destroying the perception so that the evidence for God is deliberately suppressed and not seen. all the while thinking that once it does this it’s generated an excuse for itself when faced ultimately with God’s judgment. That’s what the whole argument of Romans 1 is, when Paul says no, sorry, you have no excuse, because you’ve shut your eyelids to truth that’s there, and shutting your eyelids to truth that’s there doesn’t make it disappear, it’s still there. So that’s why I use this is an illustration.
What I want to show you now is what these “eyelids” are. How to see God with a shut-eyed approach is that we refuse to start with a Creator/creature distinction. What the unbeliever and the carnal mind try to do is to start from the creature, independently of the Creator. In our last lesson we said that the three basic questions men ask are answered one way or another way. Let’s review: One question, “Who am I?” The answer to that question is I’m a creature, and as a creature I’m subordinate to my Creator; He is my authority. Right here, however I answer that I set up what my mind is, how I’m going to use my mind, and what kind of arguments I’m going to find and what kind of thought patterns I have. So I start with the Creator-creation distinction and that sets up how I begin to think about myself.
However, when I start with myself and I believe that the universe is just out there, there is no Creator, because I don’t want that interruption in my life, I don’t want the interference of a Creator to whom I must be responsible, now I create this universe in my own imagination, and in that universe I am alone, because while there are other people there, there’s no person that guides the entire universe, it’s just a shadowy, dark, bleak, chance-driven sea of chaos. That’s what the universe is. Everything’s out of control, I’m all alone. This is why people get into drugs. It’s not just a silly thing in the street, there’s a lot of depth to this, and unless these depth questions are addressed in a heart to heart way, where the Spirit of God is allowed to have His way in the mind, you don’t solve these problems. They just go on and on and on and on, you can go through all the therapies you want to and it doesn’t work because it never answers the basic question.
Another question is “What is truth?” or “How can I know?” We said that that can be answered in two ways. It can be answered as a creature where I look to my Creator for the truth. So truth in this case is a person. It’s the person of the Creator, it’s not just a set of principles, it’s not a set of abstract ideals, it is a Person who has a definite character. We’re going to learn about His attributes and His character is the source and root of truth, all truth, not just truth that is gee, this is right and this wrong, but mathematical truth, scientific truth, all of those are reflections and projections and revelations of His character. We’ll show that in the attributes of God.
Then we said what should I do, the question of purpose in my life. What should I do? The moral question. By the way, for the right side, for the creature, truth is whatever man makes it and we said the word to describe that is autonomous, and nom comes from the Greek word nomos, which means law, and auto means self. Autonomous means the self generates the law. In other words, I legislate reality. This is the autonomous mentality, always is the autonomous mentality. What I’m showing you here simplifies things in learning, because now what we have is not 862 different philosophies of life, there are only two. Every one of the philosophies of life boils down to one of these two views. Sometimes it takes a little thinking to trace it, but I assure you there are only two answers to life. There’s the answer starting from the Creator/creature perspective of Gen. 1, or the answer starting from the perspective of me, starting in this universe of the unknown around me, I know not what but I make up my universals; man’s projection his own universals, autonomous, self-generated law, self-generated universals. Those are the only two approaches. When we start talking about God and His existence, we look at what approach we use to start with.
The third one, “What shall I do?” God defines what I do, so it’s God who gives the ethics, the rules. The autonomous man who is alone, he generates his own ethics, and as the Bible says, “they do what is right in their own eyes,” the book of Judges. So that in a nutshell, that chart is a very important chart; it’s one you can use when you analyze literature, you can use it in reading assignments, its one fact that will be a good discipline for you to learn to analyze drama, movies, epics, etc. Take the chart out and start asking the three questions, how does this story, how does this philosophy, how does this author answer this question, this question and this question. It’ll quickly become obvious if you start doing this that they are coming from one of these two places.
Let’s see why it’s so important to start with open eyes and not closed eyes. The closed eye tantrum approach is this thing on the left, where we’re saying that we’re alone, we are king, we make our own universals, and we will do what is right in our eyes. Lest this become something strange, let me give you a religious counterpart to this, where it insidiously creeps into evangelism. Often, out of maybe legitimate concerns, because we want to win someone to the Lord, because we so bad want them to become a Christian, what we try to do is dilute the offense of the gospel, and we try to come across with a message that goes something like this—Jesus can help you, Jesus can do this and that. So we violate something right off the bat, we’re starting to talk about an undefined Jesus. We haven’t given any content to J-E-S-U-S, and most people are so illiterate as far as the Scripture goes they have no idea.
I remember when we were living in an apartment in Dallas, a kid came crying to the door because his mother went off and left him and we took him in and my wife started talking about Jesus, and the kid looked up at Carol and said “who’s she.” Raised in 20th century America. So immediately when you start talking about Jesus is going to do this and going to do that, you’d better be careful that they understand who Jesus is. The other thing is, wouldn’t you just love to invite Jesus into your heart. There’s nothing wrong about Jesus in the heart, but if you approach it to the point where you’re giving the impression that it’s all up to them, and gee wouldn’t it be nice to add Jesus to all your other trophies, we haven’t preached the gospel. We may get converts, but the converts aren’t to the Christ of Scripture. All we do is go through sort of a salesman approach. The reason we don’t get real converts with this method is we started in the wrong place. There is no way, no matter how much I love someone, no matter how much I want them to become a Christian, there is no way I can short circuit the offense of the Creator/creature distinction. They have got to face the fact that we are talking about the infinite personal Creator who alone is the authoritative truth, period. He sustains even our rejection of Him. And that’s offensive, and there’s no substitute for it.
Let me illustrate, as I did on page 22 at the bottom. One of the many arguments for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. I’m going to show you the logic of the argument and I’m going to show you where the mistake is. Not every time this argument is used is it this bad, I’m going to deliberately give you a bad, bad statement of the argument. The argument will start out something like this: everything has a cause. It proceeds to the second step, therefore the universe has a cause. One of the conclusions, the universe is something, everything has a cause so therefore the universe has a cause, they come out where the equation is God. There are more potent forms of this argument; I’m using a deliberately sloppy one because I want to show a point.
This argument is so easily answered. If I am an atheist and you ever feed me this piece of garbage I’m going to chew it up and spit it back at you and I can do it very easily. All I have to do to negate this argument is to take premise one, everything has a cause, you said the universe has a cause. Guess what I do? God has a cause. Now what are you going to do, because I have just taken your principle that you articulated in step 1 and I’m applying it to God and you apply it to the universe. And I can push you back and back, God has a cause, and the cause of God, and then there’s a cause of the cause of God, and we get into an infinite regress and we go on and on to mystery. So you haven’t answered anything. I have seen personally, I’ve watched Christians get had this way in debates, because a sharp atheist will know his way around this argument. Any intelligent atheist knows how to handle his way around the argument.
What’s wrong with the argument, let’s look at it, because this is one of the things I don’t want you, when we get into the attributes of God in the next section, to get sloppy. We’re going to be very careful how we talk about our God, and one of the things we’ll be careful of is right here. The clinker in this argument is there’s a mistake embedded in this statement—everything has a cause. What’s happening is that embedded in this first line of the argument we have made a claim that no matter what we are talking about, God, man, creation, it all has a cause. The principle of that first line of the argument applies in the same way to God as it applies to the universe, as it applies to gravity, as it applies to anything. We have made a universal. This is a fake universal, a universal statement that treats the Creator and the creature identically, and all the atheist does is wipe you out at step three by simply plugging God into the equation that you gave him. So don’t give him the equation. The argument is wrong because it presumes that you can make a statement about the Creator and the creature and mean the same thing for both of them.
In other words, you’re putting, as it were, this universal stands up high and underneath it is both God and man. So we’re making a universal statement that encompasses both God and man. We are so profound in our intellects, and have so many degrees after our names, and we are so stunningly high in our IQ that we can come up with a universal that encapsulates both God and everything else. And on the basis of that vast intellectual strength, we can prove that God… so forth and so on. What’s wrong with it? It’s an arrogant statement at step 1, where do we get this authority to make a universal truth of anything, whether it’s cause, whether it’s love, whether it’s justice, whether it’s right, whether it’s wrong, whether it’s space, whether it’s time, whatever the attribute or characteristic is we cannot state it as an abstract quality that applies to the Creator and creature in the same way. If we do, God is going to face us down like He did Job, who are you that speaks “words without knowledge?”
Let’s go to page 23 and carry this argument a little further. I gave you a diagram trying to show what I’m getting at. What we do not want to say is what that diagram says. What we’re doing is we’re having some quality, it can be fill the blank in, it can be cause, it can be truth, it can be justice, it can be space, it can be time, it can be power, whatever the attribute. That’s why I just put “Q”. And we’re saying that here’s God underneath, and here’s man, etc. We’re all underneath that (Q)uality, so the (Q)uality takes priority over everything else. Practical illustration: look at the middle paragraph on page 23, here’s where you get in trouble. Not only do you get in trouble with the atheist but you get in trouble with the anti-Trinitarians. “Here is why anti-Trinitarians, like Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses devastate naïve Christians. These pseudo-Biblical people come with a definition of ‘threeness’ and ‘oneness’ as a (Q)uality that applies in the same sense to God and man. After showing that something cannot be both ‘three’ and ‘one’ in the realm of man, they merely apply the logical conflict to God and thereby ‘prove’ the Trinity doctrine is self-contradictory.”
It’s very easy to do; it doesn’t take a profound mind to do this. The problem is we disagree at the starting point of the argument. Don’t grant the argument, if you set this up then your Jehovah’s Witness is going to come along and say that’s great, let me let Q equal number, and that means that the concept of number applies to God and man the same way, I can show a conflict, something can’t be three and can’t be one, so therefore God can’t be three and can’t be one either, so much for your Christian Trinity. And the problem is, the answer that comes out of the argument depends how you set up the argument, don’t set it up this way. The Bible doesn’t.
Remember how we started tonight, how did God face down Job? He started peppering him with questions, can you do this, were you there, were you there Job, can you make a universal that encapsulates me with you in the same boat, can you, Job, call upon the sun to rise, can you Job, call upon the clouds and make them rain, can you Job, ever do anything that puts a universal above Me and you together? The answer is obviously no, and that’s why where you see God confronting man in Scripture He does not do this. God in all these passages, in Isaiah 40, Job 38, whatever the argument is, you will never ever observe in the Bible this argument set up that way.
That’s a phony way of setting up the argument; it’s the way the non-Christian always sets up the argument, the way the secularist sets up the argument, the way pagans set up the argument. That’s why the Mormons, the Muslims, the Jehovah’s Witnesses set it up that way, and they always triumph. And we wonder, what happened. We started the argument the wrong way. Don’t let them start this way. God does not let Job start that way, and Isaiah didn’t let the people in His day, “Comfort, comfort, O ye Jerusalem,” and then he says and I take counsel from no one. I give counsel, I don’t take it. There’s a difference. And it’s offensive, because the sinner’s heart doesn’t want to bend the knee in humility to that sort of authority.
This is why I keep saying, and will say this again and again, there are certain things we want to share, we want to share love, we want to share grace, but we can’t compromise truth. And when we go to witness or when we deal with our own hearts, and the battle of temptation in our own hearts, there has to be a sort of uncompromising ruthlessness. It’s gracious, it’s kind, but it’s uncompromisingly ruthless in never, ever, permitting the Creator/creature distinction to go away. It will always be present.
Turn to Proverbs 26:4. This is one of those paradoxical statements, I’m only going to cover verse 4, you’ll say but look at Proverbs 26:5, which is the opposite of Proverbs. 26:4. Yes, but we can’t worry about that tonight, it’s not a conflict, it’s looking at it from a different perspective. I want you to observe Prov. 26:4 that applies to our own carnal hearts; it’s a warning that applies to paganism in general around us. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.” You don’t answer a fool according to his folly. If this guy has set up the argument this way, that’s folly. You don’t answer a fool according to his folly! Beware of how you set up the argument.
When we get into Genesis 3 we’ll see what Satan pulled on Eve, right from the start Satan pulled it on Eve, he set up the argument and she just went on with it and Adam with her. He’s slick, Satan is slick, the most brilliant creature who ever lived. And we kid ourselves if we don’t think we’re up against a very intelligent being, a brilliant being. So the Bible warns us, “never answer a fool according to his folly.” Quite obviously you can’t answer someone if they haven’t asked you a question. So verse 4 presumes that the fool has come to you and made some sort of initiative towards you, and at that point you have a choice of buying into the way he set it all up, or like God comes to Job, you say whoa, wait a minute, at least you do this in your heart, Lord, is this right, is there a mine field here, am I walking on solid ground when I reason this way, what’s under here. Be suspicious of questions, before someone asks you like they have some of our teenagers to debate something, be careful of the question. If someone asks you, why don’t you debate the question whether creationism should be taught in the schools, negotiate the question, say I’d rather debate another topic, can truth be taught in the public schools. All of a sudden, when you phrase the question this way, now that introduces a different kind of baggage. Don’t agree to a question.
Go to page 24, the proper approach. We’ve seen the wrong way to set up an argument, so let’s come to the proper way of setting up the argument. Turn to Isaiah 40:25, there’s a little word I want you to notice in that text, and it’s that word that we’ve really been secretly been aiming at all night. Look carefully at what God is talking about in light of what we just said, “’To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy One.” Do you see what God’s saying, He’s claiming uniqueness for Himself, He’s claiming that He is utterly different, and there’s nothing that we can make exactly like Him. He says, Isaiah 40:26, “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.” Skip down to Isaiah 40:28, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the creator,” see the word creator here, “the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired…” here’s the word I want you to notice, watch this, “His understanding is inscrutable.” Does anyone have another word in their translation? Unsearchable! No one can fathom. So we have a variety of translations but you can pick up the flavor of what’s being claimed here.
Let’s look at that again, “His understanding,” not ours, “His understand,” His mind, His way of thinking, “is inscrutable.” What does that mean? Let’s look at in terms of our diagram. The question isn’t set up this way, the way God sets the question up is that He insists the He is different, we are the creatures, down here in creation, He is the Creator, infinite in size, infinite in magnitude, and whatever (Q)uality we ascribe to Him is not the same as the (q)uality that occurs with us. There’s no (Q)uality common to God and man in an identical way. Similar, yes, but not identical.
Isaiah 55:8, all of this follows from creation. If God is not the Creator, this is not really so, in which case God is more intelligent than we are, God knows more than we do, and it’s just a quantitative difference, but that’s not what the Bible is saying. God is not saying in Isaiah 55:8 that He merely knows more. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than yours, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” There’s that qualitative difference in the thoughts of God. He is incomprehensible, and that’s a word we’ll use again and again; we use it to protect ourselves and the way we speak of our God. He is incomprehensible! Don’t panic, that does not mean that you can never know Him. Let’s be careful with our vocabulary. Write down the word and by the side of it write a qualifier. It does not mean you can’t now God, because obviously the Bible says you can know God. What incomprehensibility means is that you can never know Him in an infinite, perfect and total way, never! Isaiah 55, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” As creatures we never completely grasp the nature of God, He is always awesome.
Do you know what this does? It protects our spirit of worship. We always have a God whom we worship because He’s ultimately incomprehensible. We can never dictate to Him the path of our lives. This is the corollary, sermons are preached from Philippians 2, the virtue of humility which in the Christian thing is a classical virtue, and this is the corollary to the virtue on a human scale, the creature scale of humility. Humility operates in the environment of incomprehensibility. It’s the incomprehensibility of God that causes me to be humble, because I realize that no matter how great I think my thoughts are, they are not His thoughts, and His ways are always higher than my ways.
This is going to precipitate an interesting thing in your Christian life because when we come into trials in life we always want to know, why did God let this happen? Did you ever notice in that passage, if you haven’t noticed I urge you to read Job 38:39-41 because Job wants to know too, hey, I’m getting creamed down here God, give me a clue. And isn’t it funny when God shows up to Job He says Job, you see what I was trying to do to you with that disease was this and this and this, and then because of your wife I was going to work with her this way, this way, this way. There’s none of that when God comes to Job. How come? Give the guy a clue. Rather than do that is what God does is set Himself off from Job, and at the end what do you have Job doing, as he confronts this. Turn back to Job. [blank spot]
Two verses I want you to see, Job 40:3, after he gets to this point in the confrontation, “Then Job answered the LORD and said,  Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.  Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more.” And God continues the treatment, therapy continues. Job 42:1-3, “Then Job answered the LORD, and said,  I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.  Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” and look at his admission, here’s the virtue of humility, this is not give-up-it is, like a Zen person that believes in irrationality, but here’s the virtue of humility, responding face to face with the incomprehensibility of God, he says “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” He was trying to create his own universals, and God doesn’t call us to do that. He calls us, in a humble way, to trust Him for His trustable character. We trust in the trustworthiness of God. We do not trust in the capabilities of our intellect to fathom Him. That is always the battle in a practical way in our lives. We always want to figure it out, and it’s not wrong to exercise our minds. There’s plenty in Scripture to exercise our minds; if you want to exercise your mind, try the Trinity. But when it comes right down to the faith walk of a Christian, basically I have to trust His character; I don’t know what He’s doing. I do not know what He’s doing in my life, I have glimpses of it, but I don’t know the total story. That’s why I believe in the book of Revelation we are given names that no man knows except God.
C.S. Lewis has some neat stuff in The Chronicles of Narnia about that, and the idea is that when we get to Heaven we will hear Him speak our name, and whatever this name is that we get will be a revelation of what He’s been doing in our lives, and that’s why no man can understand it, suddenly it will just click, everything that went on in your life will suddenly click, oh, that’s why that happened. I believe that’s why the name is given eventually to us, to give us at least a pattern of all these little crazy things that go on in our lives and we wonder what the story is. But the trust and the focus is His character, not learning everything about how He thinks. That’s incomprehensible.
Therefore, what I’ve tried to do in this is to show that when we speak in the next unit about God and His (Q)ualities, we’re going to talk about attributes like love, His omniscience, omnipresence, etc., we’re going to talk about a (Q)uality of God’s character, and we’re going to talk about an analogue to that down here in creation. And we’re going to sharply distinguish between God has this attribute, and how we learn of that attribute down here. And if you haven’t had some math, I like to use this, maybe it’s a little trite, but here’s the pagan position, that the (Q)uality of God ultimately is the same as the (q)uality of man, and you can fathom it. What the Bible insists on, and the person who is the out and out liberal atheist claims that because of this equation, suddenly also can become that it’s nothing like the quality, and that is you can’t know anything, but what the Bible says is that the (Q)ualities of God are like the qualities we experience.
So there’s an analogy and the analogy is there by virtue of the fact of creation. How can we know God? Because we’re made to know Him, but our knowledge of Him is the knowledge of a creature. We are not made gods to know Him as God. We are made as men created in His finite image to know Him as creatures can know Him. Do we know Him truly? Yes, we do, but we’ll never know Him as He knows Himself. To ascend to that point is to yield to the satanic thing that I will become like God most high, and that is arrogance. Do you see the virtue of humility and the virtue of arrogance are linked together over this issue of the incomprehensibility of God? Satan believes that he knows God so thoroughly that he can become like Him, given just a few more lessons, a little bit higher tuning of the IQ, and he can rise and ascend to the throne of God Himself. In other words, God is only quantitatively better, God knows 52 things and Satan knows 50, he only needs to know 2 and that makes him equal with God. That’s not what the Bible says. You can know an infinite amount of stuff as a creature and still not duplicate in your mind what is in His mind because His thoughts are not your thoughts.
Let’s go to a passage that shows you how that comes off in practical application. Romans 11:33, Paul has just got through talking about the issue of Israel and the Gentiles, and it’s a brilliant analysis of history, talk about great insight as to where history is going, Romans 11 is it. And after he gets done, down at the end, verses 33-36, look how he ends it all. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” Isn’t that a familiar verse, Isaiah 40; Paul’s quoted that passage.  “Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?” Another citation of the Old Testament.  “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” You can’t say verse 36 is anything more than a trite emotional response, there can’t be any depth, any moving depth to verse 33 if you don’t really, in your heart, believe that our God is an incomprehensible person. He is so incomprehensible that it means that if we’ve been in heaven 10,000 years we still have an infinite amount to learn from Him, and He has an infinite amount, inexhaustible amount of new things to show us, forever and ever and ever and ever. An inexhaustible supply, the revelation is endless. We never get to the point where we can close the book on God’s revelation, we know it all, even in heaven, because our God is that immense.
Look at the handout on page 25, the third paragraph from the bottom, the one that begins with Genesis 1:26-27, I want you to just read through that with me. In Genesis 1:26-27 it informs us that we are the image of God. We are a finite replica of Him. We are not identical to Him but we are what He would look like if projected down to finite size. The (Q)ualities of the Creator appear as finite (q)ualities in creation.
Let me show you that that word in Genesis 1:26-27, “Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of us we will create him, male and female.” What are those two words, “in the image and in the likeness,” the two words in Genesis 1:16. That’s how God made us; He made us as finite creature replicas of Him. Look what we do backwards. Turn to Romans 1:23 and we’ll see the same two words, “image” and “likeness.” In Romans 1:23 the exact words are used and here the carnal mind takes that truth and reverses it. They “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness,” that’s those two words, “of corruptible man and of birds, and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” What’s said here is that God, as the Creator, made man in His image.
What the autonomous mind tries to do, because it doesn’t believe in God, it eliminates God and it has now this one level of reality, where God, if He’s up there, is sort of part of the universe along with man; now this autonomous man generates an image of God like that of himself. Notice, he has the image of God in the form of man, birds, four-footed animals, you know ancient art forms and how gods manifest themselves in animals. Ever notice the Sphinx, how the Assyrian lion, winged lion, you look all through ancient art forms and you see their gods depicted as men and also as animals, there’s an interplay between them, the transmutation of form between animals and man. Isn’t it striking that nowhere in Scripture does God ever show up as an animal. Yes, there are metaphors, like the lion of the tribe of Judah, but show me one place in the text of the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation where God ever shows up as an animal. Every time He shows up He appears, even the Son of Man in the Old Testament, the Christophanies, it’s always as a man, because unlike every other deity in the ancient world, God refuses to picture Himself zoomorphically, He pictures Himself only anthropically. Why? Because there’s only one life form in the creation and in the universe that is an appropriate expression of God Himself, and that’s us. So it’s ironic that the arrogant unbelieving man, who wants to make himself God, turns from His very image-hood that gives him such value and turns around and makes God like animals and man, and we’re all one of this continuum stuff. It’s ironic how this happens, the perversion of sin in our minds. So this is the reversal and this is what we want to guard against.
Going forward to the attributes in the next section I structured that so there’s just one attribute after another, beginning on page 26. I phrase those, What is alike and What is dislike, what is the similarity between God’s character and our character, our understanding of it, and yet what is different. For example on page 27 you see the attribute of omniscience. Look up those verses. There are a lot of verses in this section of text. His omnipotence is not identical to creature energy, He never exhausts His energy, He’s never needed sustenance from outside of Himself, His energy is not conserved. So we try to distinguish all this as we go through.
On page 29 there’s important questions there that I’d like you to think about. I think this can help if you have trouble getting into the Bible for yourself, let me give you a challenge. On page 29, that first exercise, select one chapter from any book of the Bible, your pick, prayerfully read it through, asking God to bring to your mind His attributes, the ones we just talked about, write out your observations and thought in terms of the attribute. Take any chapter, doesn’t matter whether it’s a story or what, I just want to challenge you (because I know some of you doubt this) to show me one chapter in the Bible that doesn’t have at least one attribute of God revealed there. Show me one. Take ANY chapter, and look for His attributes. That is a discipline of coming to know Him through the text of Scripture. God, show me Yourself. When you get trained to do this, a neat thing begins to happen. You begin to perceive Him because you know what to look for. This is part of His character…oh, I see that character there again, I see this attribute again. It’s a basic fundamental discipline.
The second exercise is the reverse of the first one. In the first exercise you’re passive, in the sense you’re acting to suck truth out of the text of Scripture. But in the second exercise I reversed it. Here you want to put the truths that you learn into circumstances. This is the other discipline. List four bad circumstances you have faced, and I say write it out because it always helps me to straighten out my thoughts if I write them out. Write our how knowing and trusting attribute x, y, or z would have made a difference in that circumstance. It’s a neat little exercise. It’s a great discipline to do because you quickly get the image after you’ve done this. All it takes is about one exercise, one swing through this method, and suddenly you say wait a minute, I can just use this method on about anything there is in life. It’s knowing Him and putting Him next to the circumstance. It cuts the circumstances down to size, down to a manageable size. So it’s an exciting way of taking the content of Scripture and our God, putting them together.
Let me maybe oil the works here a little bit. One of the problems, the psychology of knowing, awareness, and you have to in your mind’s eye understand the conflict, and I guess you can do this by trying to imagine yourself doing this, if we face a circumstance in life and we have a problem trusting the Lord for it, isn’t it usually that we don’t have confidence in, we don’t feel like we see the picture. And we really want to know a little bit more. In other words, if I do this, then what’s going to happen over here, what’s going to happen over there, and it’s sort of like we want up front know this, and there’s a tension there. There really is, about being comfortable with figuring it all out ahead of time, and then we’ll trust the Lord. But if you think about it, what are we really doing when we do that? What we’re doing is we’re saying that His plans have to be subject to our veto, we will decide, after we figure it out, but see, that “we” business goes back to autonomy, and that’s the autonomous spirit.
So what we’re talking about here may sound very theoretical and it indeed is, there’s a lot of theory behind this, in fact there’s so much theory behind it that modern educators don’t even have a clue when they start teaching subjects, they never bring this stuff up, and it’s tragic because this is what underlies truth. That’s why I wasn’t being flippant when I said if you’re ever asked to debate the question in school, should creationism should be taught, I think a more fundamental question, should truth be taught.
Nobody wants to talk about that, truth and death are two of the no-no’s to talk about, because they’re obscene, they’re pornographic and obscene to the non-Christian to raise these kinds of questions. We have to because if we’re Christians we’re raising them every moment of our waking life, every time we trust the Lord. Every time we trust the Lord we’re saying I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future. That simple little hymn, coming from Philippians and other passages, expresses in a nutshell exactly what we’ve been talking about. That hymn is a musical confession of incomprehensibility, and it’s the prelude to faith.
When I trust the Lord I have said He is incomprehensible, and my basis of walking the life is because He has demonstrated to me whatever He has revealed of Himself to me, He has revealed that He is trustable. And because I know He is trustable, I am going to trust Him for this, and when I trust Him for this, and I trust Him intelligently, see this is where our non-Christian skeptics think we’re naïve, they really do, they think “oh yeah, here’s the religious idiot of the family,” etc. and you’ve all experienced that. And really they’re the idiots, because if you think about it, they don’t have comprehensive knowledge. Where are they going in life? They haven’t got it figured out, so don’t come to me as a Christian and say I’m stupid and I’m an idiot and I don’t have it figured out and you don’t have it figured out. You that live in glass houses don’t throw rocks. The difference is that I know the One who controls those facts and I trust Him. So what’s the crime there?
That’s why there’s a passage in Deuteronomy 29:29 in the lesson we had where God says through Moses the secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children. What’s He’s confessing is there’s lots of secret things that He will not reveal, and I have always found it amazing that when God confronted Job He didn’t do it like I would have, if I would have been God I would have felt sorry for the guy, he’s getting creamed, and I want to tell him Job, trust me, let me show you how good I am, I did this, and I did that, and it all fits together. That’s what I would want to say to Job. And if I were God, I would never have wanted to confront him like God did, but God did do it that way, so I have to say well Clough is mixed up, you don’t have the mind of God because God didn’t do it the way you thought he should do it. And the way you reason your way through there is to simply say that God approached Job that way to insure if all else failed, Job would understand that God is God and Job is Job, and there’s an infinite chasm between them, and if he would just get that it would resolve the practical, non-theoretical, every day vexations of life. So this is not some hairy theology that doesn’t have practical application.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think I failed to clarify something here. When we approach either our own hearts in a spiritual conflict and battle situation where its internal, or whether its an external conversation with someone, when I say we want to start the same place God did with Job I don’t mean that we necessarily use the same verbatim technique God used with Job. What I mean is that the technique that God used with Job assumed the Creator-creature distinction. It was never even discussed there. And what we have to do when we talk to people, I believe, and this sounds paradoxical, but I believe to win someone to Christ you have to push them away first, and by that I mean that they have to understand that biblical faith conflicts with their entire world view. In other words, we like to minimize our differences so we can communicate, and that’s our normal every day approach, and yet I think Scripturally what we ought to do is enlarge our areas of differences, and in can be done politely and graciously. For example, when we were in the Unitarian debate one of the things we sought to do was to show that coming out of the Christian position we had a completely different view of truth, life, everything, everything’s different and in fact, it’s so different that we even use our logic different; even our logic is different.
One of the points with the attributes is that how do you say, like in the Trinity, where you have concept and number, God can be three in one. Well God obviously is three in some respects, He’s one in another respect. I don’t know how to clarify that, I know that my logic works and I know that God is perfectly logical, but my creature logic is only partial, it’s only valid up to a point. What we have to do when conversing with a non-Christian is not allow him, first, to set up the nature of the discussion. I think that’s critical. And that comes out in ways when they ask you a question, I don’t think too fast on my feet and I really envy people that always have a quick response, but, for example, Bill Buckley is able to rephrase the question right from the start and not permit the agenda of the non-Christian to do this. Like for example, how can you so intelligent and so well-read believe in an ancient book?
The question carries with it a sort of spirit that the Bible is some sort of unworthy thing, and that you’ve just kind of lowered yourself from being an intelligent educated American, and going after this little ancient book. The problem embedded in that very question is a totally wrong view of what the book is. Right? What is that ancient book? It happens to be the Word of the living God who created the universe, so somehow you have to imaginatively work around, maybe with another question or two, something on the order of, Well, let me ask you this question, out in the Arizona desert they’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars building these radio telescopes and the whole object behind it is so that they can see if there’s life in the universe, they’re going to listen to it. And what we have in this maligned little ancient book is verbal communication from not just within the universe but from outside of it, and therefore as an educated thinking person, I am very much interested in this book because it gives me verbal revelation of the living God.
So I try not to at the start to agree with it, because if I start trying to say, gee, there are great prophecies in the Bible, etc., that may be an approach and you may be very good at that approach, it’s just that somehow you want to stir up a conviction, a doubt in their mind about where they’re coming from. I think that the non-Christian who’s that child who’s closing his eyes in a tantrum to shut off God’s existence has got to somehow be undermined in his confidence, before he’ll even listen to us. As long as they think they’ve got it, and you feed little pieces to them they just keep absorbing these little pieces and throw them away. I can’t give a canned approach to this because it varies with the person, but I think it is to mentally think of yourself in the situation with God, Jesus Christ, with you, how would He answer that. Whatever answer you give, could you imagine that coming from His righteous omniscient lips? And it might help in how we phrase it.
There’s not an easy answer, but it’s more of a discipline so that you don’t get yourself off on a wrong track, if you can just keep yourself from getting led off, and you won’t always be successful doing that, but it’s a skill that you have to learn. This stuff I’m talking about, this wasn’t clear until the 20th century, this presuppositionalism wasn’t clarified until 1940, 1950. Now the church had gone on for 1900 years clarifying, as the Holy Spirit led one area after another, like the first four centuries of the church they clarified who Jesus was, then the Middle Ages they clarified what Christ did on the cross, in the Reformation they clarified the authority of Scripture, there’s been progressive clarification but this didn’t come quick, this came out of the agony of struggling with unbelief, unbelief that has destroyed our Scripture, every kid goes to college now, gets a course in the Bible is lit, and they come at them and attack them and say that this was written by JEDP and the documentary theory, and they have all this analysis of the Bible from within the non-Christian perspective, and we have to undo all that. The question is how do we undo that? We have to say that all that analysis work that you German PhDs did that created this thing, German rationalism in the 19th century, you were wrong because you started with the wrong premise. You were brilliant, but you’re brilliantly wrong.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think asking them a question does something else, it shows respect for them instead of just chomping at the bit and coming off like a smart aleck or something. If you ask them a question you’re conveying that you’re interested enough in how they’re thinking to really be questioning, you’re not going to just give them a flippant answer. Another important thing comes to mind here is if you don’t know the answer, say so. We don’t have to protect ourselves by pretending we have all the answers, because it goes back to incomprehensibility. It beats me what’s on God’s mind, hey, I don’t know. So I’m relaxed in admitting I don’t know the answer, or saying I don’t know that, I’d have to think about that, that’s a good question. There’s nothing wrong doing that.
Another (long) question, then questioner says: If he says how can a person as intelligent as you are follow the teaching … I follow the teaching because I believe it’s the Word of God, I believe that God’s the authority for everything in life, what’s your authority?
Clough replies: What he’s getting at there is notice what he said, what’s your authority? An excellent response because that puts, see we’re not the people that have to defend here, our authority is God. We know that if God isn’t going to be your authority you’ve got to replace Him with something. What’s the replacement? What’s the alternative?
Questioner tells about talking to somebody, [can’t hear well enough to transcribe] you have decided whether God’s Word is right or the church’s tradition is right, you are a god. He said no, I think I’d have a problem with that.
Clough replies: But that’s exactly the point; that is exactly the point we’re getting at. There aren’t 52 different views, there ultimately are only two, either the Word of God is the authority or it’s the word of man. Another way of phrasing this that might help kind of visualize the process, this was done by a friend of mine, you’ve heard the debate about the Word of God being inerrant and there’s a big question about the Bible’s inerrancy, etc. and he said there’s no debate about inerrancy, everybody believes in inerrancy, the debate is over where we locate it. And that’s true. You either locate the authority of inerrancy in the heart of man or you locate the authority in the Word of God. There aren’t any other locations. Now when you say it that way it really gets under people’s skin because they don’t want to claim themselves to really be infallible. But if someone says that he is sitting there, and here’s the Bible, here’s church tradition, and here’s all his experience, and I’m going to check this all out, and I will make the grant truth test? I make the truth test? That sounds a lot like Eve, doesn’t it? In the Garden Satan told her, Eve, this is what God said, and this is what I say. So now he has two things, and Eve sits there and says gee, I’ve got to decide. He already had her; he set her up, because at this point she is now implicitly saying, by this, what’s happened there, the hidden assumption is that all these things are of equal value, so already you’ve canned it.
See what Eve should have realized is, it’s not the Word of God at this level and Satan’s word at this level, it’s the Word of God at THIS level and Satan’s word undercutting it. But if you’re going to say, this might not be true and this might be true, you have implicitly put those at the same level. And guess who’s the one that decides? That’s the story behind the whole issue of Scriptural authority. That’s why when we get into these attributes of God, we want to realize that it’s not man generating these qualities and pinning the donkey’s tail, so to speak, on God, these aren’t qualities men make up, God’s qualities are there in His character, and He reveals them to us as His creatures. So all these attributes are God perceived in humility of a creature.
Question asked: Clough replies: It goes back to a note that I made earlier is that the creation event is taken historically by the church for centuries to define our God, not the cross. The cross is a sacred moment in history, and without that we have no salvation, no demeaning of the cross. But the point is, the cross itself can be misinterpreted if you don’t first lock in who God is that’s demanding all this. It’s His definition of holiness that’s violated; otherwise the cross becomes a nice little sweet example of a martyr that died for somebody. Excuse me, but that is not the gospel of the New Testament. So all these warps and twists that come in on top of the gospel have come in primarily because we’re not listening to the rest of the Scripture.
Next time we’re going to deal with the attributes of God, and I trust that it will be a little more practical than Q and q but I had to go through that because I want you to carefully understand that we are not talking about abstract qualities. We are talking about a person’s character here. And He’s an infinite person’s character, and we talk with Him with awe and with majesty because we can never encapsulate Him in our understanding. We just take from Him what He shows us and that and that alone is all we have. But it’s enough, because all we need to do is know enough to trust Him. Revelation is sufficient, but in one sense Revelation is never ever complete.