It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

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.”

by Charles Clough
The Divine Institutions. Violating a Divine Institution means you are violating the structure of how God created us and there are consequences. Responsible labor. Marriage. Family. How nature glorifies God.
Series:Chapter 3 – Creation: The Buried Truth of Man and Nature
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 12 secs

© Charles A. Clough 1996

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 3: Creation: The Buried Truth of Man and Nature

Lesson 12 – What is Man?
Divine Institutions: Labor, Marriage, Family

11 Jan 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

We’ll start on page 39 of the notes where we deal with the so-called divine institutions. There are some observations I want to make from Genesis because in treating these divine institutions we’re still talking about the Biblical view of man. We’re looking at the distinction between man and nature. I want to emphasize that this distinction doesn’t compare with the Creator/creature distinction, nevertheless it’s important for us to understand the rest of the Bible because we get sidetracked by the way our society treats this. We’re looking at the man/nature distinction and how man differs from nature. Last week we dealt with its structure, his conscience, with those characteristics of man that are in analogy with God’s attributes, man’s responsibility and choice in analogy with God’s sovereignty, man’s conscience in analogy with God’s holiness, man’s sense of love in similarity to God’s love, and man’s knowledge in similarity to God’s omniscience. We have these characteristics because we are made in His image. That’s why we coined the word theomorphism, a God-form; man is made in the image of God and man alone.

We want to move to these divine institutions, as theologians have called them, because these describe man’s social structures. I want to introduce these with this note. These are absolute structures. Where we are going to get to see in our time, in our society is it’s quite vogue to interpret these things as conventions. Let me right away deal with two vocabulary words. The difference between a convention and how we’re using the word institution is the debate. Are these things, three things we’re going to discuss tonight, are they conventions or are they institutions?

The non-Christian world tends to hold that these things are mere conventions, and by a convention we mean something that is just arbitrarily selected. You may put on a green shirt or a red shirt or a yellow shirt, that’s an arbitrary decision. We all may agree to put a door there and say “hi” when you come in the door, that’s a convention; that’s something we have arbitrarily established. It’s not necessarily rooted in the way God made us.

So the debate today is whether these are convent­ions, arbitrarily selected by different cultures and different times in history or are they institutions that God Himself built into the system, such that if man breaks these institutions there’s a price to pay. If they’re mere conventions then there may be frictions, disturbances when we move from one convention to another, but there are no real serious penalties involved. On the other hand if what we’re talking about are real institutions, then to violate these means that we violate the structure of how God created us, and there’s going to be consequences to pay down the line.

When you observe the Genesis 1-2 text what verb is a general picture of God? The first time you see God in this text, what do you see Him doing? You see Him creating. Isn’t it true, then, that we can say that the first image or picture that the Bible presents us of God is a laboring man, and that what we have in Genesis is the work week, it’s the first work week. Isn’t it striking (if you’ve never thought of this before) that the first image of God is as a laborer who is working and producing something. Let’s look at one day just to see the sequence of work.

In verse 3 God says “Let there be light,” so there’s the worker thinking through what it is He’s going to do, He’s planning. “God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” There’s the action. Notice in verse 4 we have the follow up, “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness, [5] And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.” That phrase, “God saw the light was good” is a consequence of labor in that the work of the labor is evaluated. So we have a function here that occurs, not first with man but with God. When God labors, He plans, He does, and He evaluates, He takes pleasure in it. And it’s striking that you can go through these days in Genesis and you can see the pattern again and again. God says “Let there be” something else, there is something else, then He saw and it was good, until you get down to the last action, the end of chapter 1 and notice in verse 31 the adverb that is added, look at how that verse is structured. “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Who’s evaluating it? God is evaluating Himself and He’s saying I did a good job here. So there’s an evaluative function that’s associated with this.

We want to tie all this together as the archetype of human labor. The first institution we find is that man is going to pattern this same thing, because Adam is going to do this. You have responsible labor. By responsible labor we mean that a person, the laborer plans, he chooses a plan, he’s responsible for that plan, after he gets the plan he executes the plan, and then the work and product of his labor is evaluated. Notice He says in verse 28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule,” and part of that ruling is then amplified in chapter 2:25, God put man in the Garden to do something. Notice that Gen. 2:15 precedes the fall. It’s interesting that labor is not the result of sin. Some people think it is, we’ll get into why they think that when we get into the fall. But initially labor was not considered to be a result of sin; labor was pleasurable, labor was an expression of a person’s creativity. Adam was put into the Garden to take care of it, there is his dominion, in a small little area of the earth, marked out, a Garden and he was to take care of that acreage, however big it was. That was his responsibility, to take care of it because God told him to take care of it. Then He gave him certain instructions.

Notice in verse 19, “…and brought them to the man to see what he would call them,” man is given the creative room to exercise himself as a laborer. So we’re going to say the first divine institution is responsible dominion or responsible labor. We hear little about labor today. But yet this is the first and primary thing we observe from the Genesis text, right from the very start, responsible labor. Not just labor but responsible labor. What do we mean by responsible? Because Adam is evaluated on what it is he labors in. Look at the notes on page 39; I want to apply this to an area of life. You probably wonder why I put all these labyrinths in the notes. I do that because I want to show you that the Genesis text, all the Bible for that matter but particularly these fundamental chapters of creation, set up a framework for almost every area of life. Think of the areas we’ve thought about so far: we’ve talked about language, math, a little about science, philosophy.

We have talked about a number of these areas in the text, now we begin to talk about economics. Here’s the origin of economics. Economics basically is the study of value, the value that the market imputes to a person’s products or productivity. Look at the quote on page 39. As a Christian economist, Dr. Gary North, I don’t agree with everything the man says but he has tremendous insights here. Follow me for just a few sentences in that quote.

Some of you will study economics, some as business people are involved in economics directly in your products, your business, your market. Think about this as Christians and see how that very thing that we’re involved in comes out of Gen. 1-2. “The problem of value is central to the science of economics.”

And this is the question. “Is value determined objectively or subjectively? Is the value of some scarce economic resource inherent in that resource,” such as gold, is that really inherent in the resource, “or is it derived from the evaluations of acting men? In short, is value intrinsic or imputed? … How can we reconcile the fact that something objectively good, like the bible, is worth less in a particular market than pornographic literature? … The Bible affirms man’s ability to impute value, for man is made in the image of God, and God imputes value to His creation.… Men cannot make absolute, comprehensive value imputations, since men are creatures. But they can make value imputations as limited creatures which are valid in God’s eyes, and before the rebellion of man in the Garden, this is what man did.”

Let me summarize this. The debate in economics (and we have to get into the Mosaic Law to see this) is who sets prices? Christians have had a hard time with this over the centuries because even the Pilgrims, as Biblically based as they were, had a concept that there was such a thing as a fair market value, and the Pilgrims went so far as to say that in order to sell and buy produce in this market, a Massachusetts colony, that you had to assign a value to your product that they decreed as fair value. They almost starved to death that first winter doing this, and they quickly learned that the only way that you can actually have a value is to let the market set the value. You may disagree with this, as he says here, there are going to be times, for example, when the Bible as lit­erature is downgraded and is a freebie, because the market doesn’t impute value to the Scriptures.

We know why that happens, it happens, it happens because of men and their diminishing of the Word of God and their aberrations. But generally speaking, we say that value is imputed by the buyer and the seller. One of the biggest markets in the world, the commodities exchanges, the stock exchanges. What happens in the commodities and stock exchanges? Buyers and sellers come together by the millions, every hour, to determine prices. For a while on Mon. and Tues. the commodity exchanges, the precious metals, the whole western hemisphere was shut down because nobody could get into the building, and all around the world gold prices were not fixed for many, many hours on Monday, because the exchanges were down, and that’s the only way that gold prices could be set, by the competition of buying and selling.

Why do we mention this as part of Genesis? For this reason; notice a new vocabulary word has crept into our conversation, that word is “impute.” I want you to observe this because in the New Testament we know where that word is used, it’s talking about God’s evaluation of our sin, God’s evaluation of righteousness, God’s evaluation of His Son, Jesus Christ, all that, but I want you to see that that valuation that we speak so highly of and means so much to us as Bible-believing Christians in the New Testament has its root here. This is the original source of the idea of imputed; somebody has to impute value to an object for the object to have value. The object does not have value in and of itself. Precious metal does not have an intrinsic value; it has a value of whatever people impute to it. If you doubt that, you think gold and silver have inherent value, consider the following scenario. You’re on a desert island, you have a chest full of gold, and you also have loaves of bread—which one’s worth more? Now all of a sudden what happens to the price of gold? If you were trading bread against gold in that situation which one’s got the price? Why is that? Because you are imputing value to that, and you can do that because you’re made in God’s image, and what we want to go back to Gen. 1 and see is that when God did work He produced something, He said it was very good, He looked at His work, He surveyed His craftsmanship, and He gave it value. The value wasn’t in it, the value was what He gave to it.

This is what Dr. North is pointing out, that obviously God gives value to objects, whether our free markets approximate His value of something… For example, you may be discouraged, you may have put a lot of work in some object; that object to you may be worth something, but the market doesn’t consider it worthwhile, at least from your point of view. That’s a discouraging situation at the end to have put a lot of work in something and then no one else values it. The background of that is that it’s not ultimately what you or the other person values, ultimately it goes back to does God value you and the labor that went into this, the motives that were behind it, etc. and we come out finally at the end of the Bible with the judgment. All of these ideas that are so precious and dear to us in our salvation start in very mundane physical ordinary areas of the Bible.

That’s where economics starts, it starts in Gen. 1 with responsible labor, and that’s the first divine institution. We have established this as the responsibility meaning it’s a judge, that’s what the word “responsible labor” means, it’s not just labor, it’s labor that will be one day evaluated. And we have said that this is an institution and not a convention. Society around us would have us believe that it’s just arbitrary; this is just the way we evolved. No, labor is fundamentally related to my being created in God’s image. It’s a very lofty view of labor; it’s one that you hardly ever hear preached in churches. The result is that in this country we have a very low view of labor.

The second divine institution, page 40, we come to what God set up in Gen. 2:18, marriage. God performed the first marriage. Marriage is not a conventional arrangement. Look at what woman is called in Gen. 2:18, I want you to see how all this fits together. These are not separate. Woman is called a “helper.” In the notes I make the point that in Gen. 2:18 it’s “not meant to be demeaning,” that vocabulary word, the term is used for God Himself. In Exodus 18 we see the same Hebrew word. We want to look at this context because it shows the high value of the word labor.

Today, because of the rise of feminism, this is a central passage of hostility, discussion, assault, all kinds of things, but in Exodus 18:4 “And the other was named Eliezer,” let’s take that name apart and look at it carefully. El-e-zer, notice the first two letters are El, the word for God; “e” and the end is the first person possessive, my, “my God.” And “ezer” is that word used of Eve in Gen. 2, Ezer, my helper. That’s why this man in Exodus is named that. “And the other was named Eliezer, for he said, The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” God is called an “ezer” there, a helper; that’s the same term used of Eve, the first woman ever created. Now in Exodus 18 when we saw “ezer” used of God, why was it used there? Because people needed help. Why did they need help? Because they had a problem. You don’t need a helper unless you need some help.

Let’s think of the picture you get of the second divine institution, and see if we can connect it with the first one. Let’s see if these two aren’t related structurally. The first one was responsible labor, man’s mandate was given to subdue the earth, he was given the Garden to take care of; that was his project; that was his assignment. Given that fact, that the first man had an assignment, the fact that he needed a helper suggests that he never could have finished the assignment without the helper. Does this begin to fit? What this says is that both the man and the woman operating as a team is what accomplishes God’s project, and it starts out fundamentally, here is the first origin, the first social structure. Yet you can take sociology course after sociology course and they never touch this because marriage is considered to be a late development in the history of man­kind, it’s a mere social arrangement, a convention, not an institution.

We say that’s backward, that marriage goes back to the Garden and all other forms of living arrangements are secondary, and developed after marriage. Marriage is the original, the rest are counterfeits, and we have the right to say that because we hold the fact that marriage is not a convention, it is an institution, designed so by God. And it’s a very serious institution because it is related to the first institution. Marriage has its meaning in its productivity, and what comes out of a marriage, not just babies, they come out too, but it’s more than that, it’s a culture that comes out, it’s the produce of this marriage, this team. By the way, it is a division of labor that occurs first here. So we have the second divine institution.

We move to the third one, page 41, addressed in Gen. 2:24, the third divine institution is family. Family is the basic, most fundamental social unit in the Scripture. I want to make a point about this, we don’t have time to do this but if we get into the Mosaic Law I want to take you to some passages that are provocative for us because we’re not used to doing this. We’re used to going out and buying a car, for example, and titling that car to either the husband or the wife, sometimes joint ownership, but we tend to title property in our country to an individual. What is unique about the Mosaic Law is that property wasn’t entitled to individuals, it was entitled to families. Land was not held by individuals, land was held by families. The economic structure, the basic unit of legal possession was the family. We’ve gone a long way from that. Our basic fundamental unit of possession in our society is the individual; that’s the difference. And it’s clear in the Mosaic Law and where it’s really clear is when you get into today what is called inheritance.

There are no such things as inheritance taxes in the Bible because taxes are supposed to be when you change possession, the gain-or of a possession is supposed to pay tax on that. But if property is titled to family, then when the father and mother die and that property goes to the son or daughter, that’s not a change in ownership. Since it’s not a change in ownership there’s no taxation. There is no such thing as inheritance taxes in the Bible. Inheritance taxes came into our society, ironically, through Karl Marx, and he had a reason for it, not some benign revenue raising function, inheritance taxes were designed to crush the family; it was very clear Karl Marx’s reason for inheritance taxes. So there’s this agenda that operates in back of all these things and we just have to be harmless as doves, wise as serpents, as Christians living in our world. Let’s not be naïve about these little agendas that go on behind the scenes. The Bible says that the family is the basic ownership.

On page 41, “Note in Genesis 1:28 that mankind was to populate the world,” here we deal with this problem of over-population, birth control and all the rest of the questions. In Gen. 1:28 “mankind was to populate the world, but it was to be done in conjunction with ruling it.” Stop and re-read again Gen. 1:26-28. Notice all parts of that Scripture passage. In verse 26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image,” etc. “and let them rule,” what’s the first thing mentioned? The ruling function “let them rule over the fish of the sea,” let them rule over the earth, etc. He creates them in verse 27, and then He says in verse 28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it,” the population growth is in the context of the first divine institution. See how these flow, they all are hooked together. All these institutions are hooked together and the family is the way dominion spreads. This is a very unromantic view, I’m not knocking the romantic side, there’s a whole book written to the romantic side, called the Song of Songs. We’re not studying that now, all we’re trying to do now is to show that these institutions have an inherent mutual supporting structure, responsibility and choice, marriage and family are all part of the way man grows and dominates.

Let’s think about population control, because this is often criticism against biblical Christianity, Christians are responsible for all the worlds’ ills because of overpopulation. Stop a moment; take a common sense check here. When you were driving here, did you notice that we have quite a bit of acreage around here that isn’t being used, it’s property, but this country is far from over populated. That’s the first observation. Most of the earth’s surface is not over populated. I dare say we do not have a population problem in Antarctica, or in the great plains of Canada.

Think of something else, some of the most over populated urban areas in the world today, outside of our cities, some foreign cities. Think of Singapore, Hong Kong. Do you realize there are more people per square foot in Hong Kong than there are in many ghettos in the United States? Ask yourself the question, what is all the population? What is it? Can you define it? Is it a mere number, or is it something else that’s happening?

It was told me by a person when I lived in Texas, out in the great plains, one of the local people’s hobby was history, and they pointed out an interesting fact, that studies have shown that before the high plains of Texas were colonized by the Spanish and early American settlers, it was largely over populated. You say West Texas was over populated? Yes it was, because the people who lived there could not grow enough food to feed themselves, they were nomadic, they would go all over the place looking for buffalo, run the herds of buffalo over into the canyons, kill them all, then eat about 2%, and all these buffalo are dead, nothing else to eat, so they’d go on for another 200 miles, somewhere else and pillage. Then there were some Indian tribes that were very good, the Navajos, for example, very agriculturally intensive, they never were over populated, they didn’t have a problem.

So how do we define overpopulation? Overpopulation scripturally comes out of this verse when men don’t subdue. It’s [can’t understand word] like a ratio. Some of the people who have worked with this actually think that overpopulation could be expressed as a ratio, or as a number, and that is a density figure. That is, the number of people that adequately be supported on this area of land with the given technology available, and that’s the key, and the given technology available is the degree of man’s successfully subduing the earth.

So overpopulation is interrelated to all of this subduing, and birth control plays a role in that. Birth control itself, family growth itself, is part of the subduing process. Do we manage it or don’t we manage it? China is making a big issue now, if you have more than one child you’ve got a problem. Why do they have a problem? Because they’ve had stupid communism for the last 50 years and can’t walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, let alone grow plants, so naturally they’ve got an overpopulation problem. A lot of the places have overpopulation problems because of sheer stupidity; nothing to do with the number of people; it has to do with the degree of wisdom that is being used to subdue or not subdue.

Let’s go to Deut. 21 for another control on the family. We talked about the size of the family but there’s another trait to family in Deut. 6; home schoolers are familiar with this. The family is our first school, it’s our first church, it’s our first socialization, it all starts in the family. When Jesus Christ came into this world, what did He come to? He didn’t come to the temple, God didn’t drop the baby in the temple, God dropped the baby in a family. And when God reveals Himself, how does He reveal Himself? As the Father—of a family. These institutions are related; they are so far from being mere social arbitrary conventions, they are rooted not only into the structure of the universe, they are rooted into the very character of God. When God established the family, He was pre-anticipating revealing Himself to man, so the whole institution itself is revelatory of the character of God, as for example the New Testament picks up on the second divine institution, Jesus Christ and the church analogy to the husband and wife. These are not arbitrary conventions.

One feature about the family: In Deut. 6:6-7, Moses mandate to the home, he says “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” How are they going to be on a society’s heart? Because if you notice he’s talking plural, “you all’s” heart. The Word of God can’t be on the society’s heart if the unit of society doesn’t get involved, and sure enough, what do you notice in the next verse. [7] “And you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” That doesn’t mean just quoting Bible all the time, if you look carefully at that it says you will “talk of them” and literally it’s the Hebrew preposition Bet, meaning you’ll talk with them, meaning that you talk in terms of the Word of God. Your whole intellectual outlook on life, your whole philosophical outlook on life and the family ought to be rooted on the Word of God. That’s what they’re saying, so no matter what the topic happens to be, from football to getting a job, to swimming, it ought to be thought about in terms of the framework of Scripture. That is how society gets controlled, but if the family breaks down and this function doesn’t happen, society is in trouble very fast.

There were controls because obviously the Mosaic Law was given after the fall, so turn to Deut. 21 you’ll see some very severe controls were put on the family. This is so severe that if it were ever suggested today you would be a candidate for the funny farm. Deut. 21:18, very startling, very provocative text, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother,” notice his mother is also used there, “and when they chasten him, he will not ever [or even] listen to them, [19] then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. [20] And they shall say to the elders of his city,” now look what they’re saying to this guy, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.” That’s metaphorical, he might be a glutton and a drunkard but the idea is there what is common to a glutton and a drunkard, what do they produce? Nothing, they’re consumers, they don’t do anything, they’re parasites. This is an unproductive useless product. Then what do they do in verse 21, “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst,” can you imagine that one put into the codes.

Think about this, God is a merciful God; God doesn’t take pleasure in this. But if He is so severe in the Mosaic Law code to control delinquent products of homes, why do you think He had such drastic measures. The answer is because God says THAT must be protected, and I will protect it if I have to use capital punishment to protect it. The family is so crucial to social structure. And it’s interesting, while I was working on this I came across two articles in Investor’s Business Daily and it’s really amazing, one article about two boys in Chicago, 11 and 12, were sentenced to indefinite state custody for dropping a 5-year-old boy out of a 14th story window. The youngster was being punished for not stealing for the older boys. This is the crop that we’re generating and the article goes on to say when children commit crimes that [can’t understand words] it worries police and policy makers. The point that we’re saying is if we think we’ve got crime now, watch the crop that’s growing, a crop of kids that have been coming out of broken homes, no authority, no conscience, no respect for anything, and the violence is getting worse with younger and younger kids. It’s frightening because this is tomorrow’s headlines.

Then another interesting article, “The Cost of Illegitimacy”, and the bottom line is that you can almost handle the whole national deficit right now if we could solve the problem of illegitimacy, because here’s what happens. When you have illegitimacy you have broken homes, you have single parent homes. Going back to these institutions, what did we say the second divine institution was structured to do? To make subduing effective, not just romantically but also economically. It’s a division of labor. What happens when you have a family split? You get a divorce, one parent goes one way, and one parent goes the other way. Now we have two households that have to be sustained economically, so we’ve just halved our assets, and we wonder why the poverty level in this country is rising. The poverty level is rising because you’re breaking up the second and third divine institutions which were meant to make it simple.

This is why I’m trying to say that God is not mocked, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” If these are indeed structural institutions and not arbitrary conventions, then when they unravel there’s an economic price to pay, a horrendous price to pay socially. What we’ve tried to do is have government programs patch it up, and if we’re to be thinking scripturally, the only way … it really is a terrifying hopelessness apart from the Lord. How do you fix this? The govern­ment can’t be daddy to everybody, that’s paternalistic government, that’s where we get into socialism, welfare-ism, state-ism, because we want the government to do it; somebody has to do something, let the government do it. That’s exactly what happens, the government will always step into the vacuum, and it never can solve the problem, because it wasn’t designed to do that.

Point in being here: do you notice that before the fall there’s no government? Do you realize that the civil institution of authority and capital punishment, police and military, aren’t introduced into the Scripture until Gen. 9. Pray tell what happened between Gen. 1 and 8, without any police agency how did they ever make it? They didn’t make it, that’s why they had to have it, after the fall, but prior to the fall there’s no policing function. [blank spot]

Divine institutions were designed in a perfect environment. That’s why we have problems with them in an imperfect environment. Not that they’re impractical, it’s just a commentary that we’re trying to make institutions originally created in a perfect environment function in an imperfect environment. We got problems, so God comes along and helps us later on, with government, and this passage in Deut. 21 is one of the ways in which government power steps in, not to destroy the family, but to help preserve the family. I love to bring this one up, every time we get somebody that’s worried about child abuse, not that child abuse isn’t real, I don’t mean to diminish it, but this quite a provocative passage to take someone to that thinks that way.

These are the three divine institutions, and with that we have completed an exposition of man and the man side of the man/nature distinction. I want to spend the rest of the time tonight on page 42 describing nature. Thinking in terms of nature and thinking in terms of that which is not man, just the rocks, trees, animals, stars, just think in terms of nature, and we’ll draw a little Adam as an isolated soul. When you look at Gen. 2, God is training him, not only to find his wife but He’s also telling him something about nature.

Notice Gen. 2:20, after he goes through this grand experiment where the animals, nature, is brought to Adam for examination, for study and naming, the net result of the experiment in the last clause is that he can’t find anything suitable as a helper. We know the word “ezer” means a personal helper. In other words, dogs and cats are fine companions but they’re not “ezer’s,” they’re not persons. You may think your dog has a personality but we’re talking in terms of a theomorphic personality. There’s nothing there in nature, nature is impersonal in that regard, and this is one of the fundamental differences we want to make and we want to make it very strong in our time.

The reason we have got to make the man/nature distinction so firm, so solid, that we’ll never be tempted to cross it. Evolution tries to cross it, that’s the whole structure of evolution. But in nature we have the situation where nature cannot be a companion to man. You may love the snow, I like to go out with a magnifying glass and look at the crystal structure, you can look at every little snowflake and get a pattern, there’s books that show you the different patterns, and you can describe the thermal environment of a snowflake as it fell, the whole history is in the structure of the crystal that you find there, fascinating. But the snowflakes aren’t a person, they can’t talk to me, they have no conscience. Nature is silent.

Turn to Psalm 19 and we’ll see how nature is to talk to us. As we approach this we want to think a little more deeply than we have thought before, how is it that nature being dumb, and I use the word “dumb” in a technical way, originally “dumb” didn’t mean stupid, it meant you couldn’t speak. Nature is dumb. How then can speechless nature glorify God? In Psalm 19:1 it says “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. [2] Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. [3] There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. [4] Their line has gone out through all the earth,” etc. That’s talking about what theologians call general revelation, that nature does somehow speak to us but not as a person would speak to us. So here’s Adam, or you, or me, and we’re surrounded by nature, there’s something in nature that calls to our hearts. You see a beautiful sunset, you see beauty in nature, whatever strikes you and you may turn poetic, you may turn scientific, but it’ll have a response in your heart.

What we want to do in the few minutes we have left is to think about how God glorifies Himself in nature. The reason I want to spend a little time in this is because we flippantly say this, we’ll read the Bible and say, oh, nature glorifies God, but if you were really pinned down and asked to defend that statement, what do you mean that nature glorifies God, how does nature glorify God, then maybe you’d have to do a little backpedaling. That’s what we want to talk about; Paul refers to nature as glorifying God so don’t think there’s any doubt about it.

I want to use an illustration, this was done by a pharmacology professor who is a great apologist for the Christian faith through Europe, Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, and what Dr. Smith is going to do in this experiment is: I want you to imagine yourself with some cards; on each card is either a dot or a dash, we have a stack of these cards and I ask one of you to come up here and pick a card at random out of this stack of dash-dots. You take your card and lay it down on the floor, and we all to through this process. Somewhere along the line suppose that we have the following set of cards: dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. You recognize that that’s not a random pattern, there’s a pattern that you see there. So you may artistically think oh how cute, three dots, dash, etc. that’s a little triplet pattern. So you recognize at your level a pattern out of the chaos. Nature’s like that.

Nature provides patterns, we see the pattern in the snowflake, we see patterns in the way animals behave, we see patterns in the sun shines, light patterns, we see all kinds of patterns. But here’s the clinker, suppose besides you being a little artsy, here’s artsy, the artsy person looks down and they see a pattern.

But let’s suppose in addition to being artsy you also happen to know Morse code. Now you look at that pattern and what does it tell you? That’s the international distress call, SOS. What allowed you to pick up that extra information that the artsy person alone didn’t pick up out of that? Both of you saw a pattern, but the pattern had meaning to you. Follow me just for a few minutes. What made the difference? Think carefully. Was it something in the cards that made the difference? Was it something in the dots and the dashes that made the difference?

No, because the dots and the dashes were the same to both the artsy person and the person who knows Morse code. Then why is one person able to look at that pattern and get the message, and another person looks at the same pattern, sees there’s a pattern there, but doesn’t get the message. What is the distinguishing quality between number one and number two? The distinguishing quality is that number two knows the language, and he knows the language that has been agreed upon by people who send the message and people who receive the message.

Here’s how nature glorifies God. Nature itself doesn’t talk, those cards didn’t talk, they didn’t rise up off the floor and say “SOS,” I need help. But yet the cards became a vehicle for a message that could have been put on them. The same thing in radio communication; radio communication uses carrier frequencies, AM, FM, etc. A lot of transmission is like that, you have a carrier that is modulated. In your computer you have a modem; do you know what that means? It means to modulate and demodulate. It means that the carrier between the two computers is changed, there’s something put on the carrier. It can’t be a voice, voices aren’t put on the carrier, only a pattern is put on the carrier, so your computer when it goes to talk to another one modulates the telephone signal, and lays on this pattern, the pattern comes over here to somebody else’s modem, the modem picks this up and picks up the pattern.

But the electrons aren’t language speaking entities; the telephone wire isn’t the entity that’s doing the talking. Who’s doing the talking? The one who put the message on at the time he modulated the frequency. That was the person who did it, and the message got through only because the other guy spoke the same language, they were both knowledgeable people speaking the same language or shall we say, on speaking terms.

Let’s push it further. Psalm 19 says “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” How can that be, because you know you have friends who are unbelievers, they would deny that, they would say I can see pretty patterns in the heavens, but God doesn’t speak to me out of the heavens, come on, where are you coming from. You know people talk like that. What’s the difference? The difference is that when our spirits are opened up by God’s grace, we are once again put on speaking terms with the God who created those patterns, He can put His delightful things in the stars and we recognize it not just as a mere pattern but we recognize them as His craftsmanship. We recognize the pattern as something having been put into the molecules, shaping them, giving them color and beauty, as only our God can do. And because we are built and created to know Him, we de-modem, so to speak, we modulate and demodulate the message, and nature does glorify God to some. But nature, while it originally could glorify God to all, this side of the fall does not glorify God to all, men can be blind to the natural forces all around them. Why is that? For the same reason the artsy person was blind to the message of the dots and dashes, because they have lost the language link with God.

How do we get the language link with God? How do you learn Morse code? The sender and the receiver have to share a language. Where do we go to get language shared between us and God when He speaks to us? Where does He speak to us? In His Word. Now the point is, that if we’re not on speaking terms with the God of the Book, we cannot see His glory in the God in nature, all we see is patterns that may be intriguing, they may be beautiful, but they don’t speak to our hearts because we’re not on speaking terms with Him. That’s the idea that the Bible presents of nature glorifying God, and that explains why you can have a believer and an unbeliever look at the same pattern and come away with two different things. It has nothing to do with the fact that the stars look different, it has to do with how you read it, whether you read it as the handwork of the Creator or the Darwinian produce of sheer chance and natural selection.

Next time we’ll take this further and on pages 44 and following there’s quite a bit of material. There’s a section here that’s quite important, on page 44, “Man’s Limited Power Over Nature.” What I’m dealing with there is to think about our dominion, and how it’s limited by God. Then on page 45 “Man’s Limited Rights Over Nature.” As tonight we touched on economics, once we hit that topic on page 45 we’ll deal with ecology and environmentalism. You can’t study the Bible without banging up against all these issues. That’s what part of this course is to do, make you issue sensitive.  

If you’ll go to page 46, don’t get depressed, don’t get discouraged but I’m going to present a case using geometry, quite easy, just read through it, but I’m dealing with man’s limited knowledge. Then we deal with experience and on page 48 we have a very critical chart that depicts the outer boundaries of all human knowledge, that no matter who you are, with no matter what scientific precision instrumentation you have, you are bounded to that locale, the locale in the center of that graph. We’ll discuss what that means when we start constructing a natural history, which is the last topic on page 48, a special limitation in constructing histories of nature. We’re not going to get into all the details of evolution, there are special texts and courses that do that, but I am going to point you to a key in all of it. That’s where we’re headed in this area of nature. It should give you the overall tools to handle yourself in these kinds of situations, not all the details because we don’t have all the details. Someday if we have time I would like to introduce you to some materials for your home, I’ll show you some videos you can get, some fascinating stuff that you can use to supplement this.