You are here: Home / Part 3 Disruptive Truths of God's Kingdom (Lessons #34–69) / Chapter 2 (#39–43) / Lesson 13 – What is Nature? The Design in Nature; Man’s Limited Power & Rights Over Nature Man's Limited Knowledge of Nature
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 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 13 – What is Nature? The Design in Nature;
Man’s Limited Power & Rights Over Nature
Man's Limited Knowledge of Nature
25 Jan 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to move to the second event. We dealt with the doctrine of God, who God is, we’ve examined His characteristics, His attributes, we’ve talked about how you talk about His attributes, that these are not abstract (Q)uality, these are not (Q)ualities that anybody has ever totally comprehended or ever will totally comprehend, that God is incomprehensible, inherently, because of the Creator/creature distinction. We said that whatever we say in any area we are always face to face with that same Creator/creature distinction.
We said that God has certain attributes that are similar to characteristics that we are familiar with; we talked about the fact that our God is omnipotent, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, that that (Q)uality of absolute and total power is inherent to Him as a Creator. We said that He is omnipresent, He is wholly present everywhere, not just partially here or partially there.
He is immutable, He never changes and that is the root and the source of knowledge, the fact that you have an unchanging God. God always existed, so we have the attribute of eternality and what we experience as time is a finite version of that. God is sovereign, He controls all things, and our human choice and our human response is sort of a finite analogue to that. We have said that God loves, God is holy, and God is omniscient. Those attributes are basic (Q)ualities that undergird the entire creation.
The qualities we speak of here we call incommunicable after theological traditions, but really all we’re saying is that those attributes on the left tend to be those attributes less personal than the attributes on the right, so we speak of these in somewhat of a different light, but the same God. The universe is a creation, and shares finite versions of these, and in particular the universe is divided into man and nature.
We’ve looked at the distinction of the Creator/creature, and the distinction of man/nature. We said that wherever you go, whatever version you have, you find that those distinctions are minimized in pagan thought. So we go back to the ex nihilo Creator and that supports the Creator/creature distinction. On the other side you have the Continuity of Being or the Chain of Being, and that characterizes, always will characterize pagan thought.
Wherever you have a non-biblical approach, men and women will smear these distinctions. It always follows, and it is following in our generation, as in Plato’s generation, as in the Baal generation, all the way back into ancient times. We’re just going to mention in review a few things we talked about. We talked about man and we want to recall some of those things. We said that man has analogues to God’s creation, God’s characteristics, and we said that man is both material and immaterial.
So man is a hybrid being. Man has a spirit, angels have spirits, angels do not have bodies, men do have bodies, so therefore we are not like angels.
We are sort of a hybrid, and it’s precisely our hybrid composition in our design that permits us to be redeemed, for it appears in Scripture that angels never get a second choice; angels choose to rebel and forever they were damned. It’s significant that when Jesus speaks of the Lake of Fire He never speaks of the Lake of Fire as designed for men. He says “depart ye wicked into the Lake of Fire created for the angels.” So the angels were the first ones who faced utter and total damnation, and they had to as individuals face this damnation with apparently no hope of salvation.
We, the hybrid beings, fall too, like the angels fell; in Adam we fell, but the way we fell, the way we were designed, such that when we did fall in Adam we fell as moral beings in mortal bodies, which in some peculiar way allows us not to be condemned immediately, but rather experience a day of grace, in which we have an opportunity to trust in the gracious invitation of God through Jesus Christ to come back to Him.
This is terminated; man’s chance is terminated, once he receives the resurrection body. When the body is resurrected Jesus says there will be the resurrection unto life and the resurrection unto damnation, and at that point we are indestructible, and it’s sobering but all choices have been fixed at that time.
This frail body that we live in is also a mirror of the changeability of our opportunity in history, the day of grace when men and women can turn from God to Him. This is all tied into salvation and everything else, and I’m trying in this series to provoke your thinking to realize that the Scripture is presenting a very rational plan, it’s a very well-designed thing, and you don’t want to learn the bad habit of picking up a piece of biblical truth and not attaching to other pieces of Biblical truth all throughout the Scripture. It all hangs together.
The church always gets in trouble when we neglect that point. Particularly we say that these characteristics are important in our time because it’s fashionable in our day to consider religion subjective and personal. And everything else, like science, history, etc. is objective and true for everyone, but religion is that one thing in most people’s mind that is totally subjective.
In fact, the National Science Foundation and the NEA have argued that for this very reason there is no reason for students in public schools to feel threatened by evolution because evolution speaks to the area of science, and religion speaks to the area of eternity and the subjective things.
Of course, this is a fake definition of religion, but the point is, that’s being said. The answer to that is always the same; that biblical Christianity rests on historical revelation of God. That’s why we say we can’t tolerate errors in Genesis 1; we can’t tolerate an error in Genesis 2 any more than we can tolerate an error in the report of Jesus’ resurrection, for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 if Jesus has not risen from the dead the whole thing is a big fake.
So our religion, in contrast to the usual cultural definition, our religious faith is anchored to the historical and the scientific facts, and this is why we fundamentalists are always so provocative, this is why we are misunderstood, this is why we are really thorns in the side of people who just want to get on with life, relegating religion to the subjective, and “why can’t you people just let science have its way, let history have its way, and stop your constant harping and interference into this process of study?” The answer is we cannot if we are to remain in authority to the religion of the Bible.
It’s not our opinion; it is inherent in the very structure of the Bible. So when we deal with these differences, man and nature, those are statements, those are things that come out of the text of Genesis 1 and 2 and we can’t release them. Sorry, but we didn’t write the text, all we’re doing is reading and applying the text.
Man as a result of this is a social being, and we said that there are 3 divine institutions: responsible labor, marriage, and family, and that these are institutions of God, that He has created in history, in contrast to the claim that is also being made in our time that these are mere conventions, these are arbitrary conventions to be changed at the whim of society. Whereas we think in terms of a man/woman in a marriage, [they say] there’s no reason you couldn’t think of a man/man in a marriage or a woman/woman in a marriage because these are arbitrary conventions, not rooted at all into the very structure of the universe.
We argue the other way around; that these are all institutions that are instituted by God, that’s why the term “institution” is there, that He instituted it, not just because of structural reasons; He instituted them because in the design of all these institutions the story of salvation is revealed.
This is why marriage is used in the New Testament as a picture of Christ and His church. This is why God is revealed as a Father. It’s totally meaningless for God to reveal Himself as a Father if there’s no such thing as fathers around, there’s no such thing as families around, the whole idea of God calling Himself Father is bizarre, it’s meaningless.
So these are not arbitrary conventions, they are divine and absolute and hold true of any culture, any race, any era of history, any language speaking group. They are universals, they are institutions, and they are given by God for various reasons.
Last time we started working with nature, the other half of this universe, and in looking at nature we said that we encounter the design of nature, and immediately we have people who say I don’t see any design in nature. That’s more of a commentary on you than it is on nature, because we gave the illustration in the notes and also last time that if you were seeing patterns, we used the illustration of the Morse code, a lot of dots and dashes, and if you could see a pattern that might be interesting to you, but it wouldn’t communicate content to you unless you shared the rules of grammar and the vocabulary with the sender of that pattern. Once you share the vocabulary, categories and grammatical rules with the sender that is more than a pattern; that now takes on a message.
So we say that the pattern in God’s creation makes sense and carries meaning to you only if you are on speaking terms with the Creator who designed it. So if somebody looks at a pattern and can’t see meaning to it, what that tells you is they’re not on speaking terms with the One who sent it, any more than someone looks at the Morse code and says it doesn’t mean anything to me; that’s because you don’t know the language.
It gets back to what we started this whole thing with, presuppositions. It goes back to your basic belief system, and it affects every area that we deal with. That keeps coming up here and I wanted you to see it again because we can sit and argue about patterns until we’re blue in the face. These people just sit and accept it and say but that doesn’t show a designer, it just accidentally happened, you can get dots and dashes out of a pile of dots and dashes, it’s just an accidental random thing that happened. That’s exactly what people are saying about what we would call patterns in nature. But the Bible says “the heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament shows His handiwork.” What is that saying? It’s saying it’s His handiwork, it’s not a chance collation of debris, it’s saying something.
So nature carries a message, but we said that God reveals Himself through nature differently than with man. When God reveals Himself through nature He reveals Himself like this: in the Morse code the dashes and the dots aren’t doing the speaking, they’re merely carrying a message, and so it is with nature. General revelation is not speaking to us; nature doesn’t come up in an audible voice. All nature is doing is carrying patterns that we understand as showing something of our God.
This is the difference between general revelation of nature and revelation where God has spoken to man which is preserved in the Bible. The theological title for this is general revelation. General revelation refers to nature and God speaking through nature. Special revelation refers to God speaking language that can be heard in human vernacular, etc. to us as people, and that’s God’s Word. Those are the two terms, general and special revelation.
We want to come to some of the limitations on man. We started on page 44 because we’re going to say let’s examine man over against nature. What we say may at first sound very theoretical, but I’ve tried to extract various principles so that you can apply them across the board in practically every area. Let’s look at this difference. Here’s man, and man is the knower, he is the lord of nature. God has given man to be the subduer of nature, and the first act of subduing is to know it. What did Adam do in the Garden first? He named animals, he looked around and he named things, and it was more than a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type thing, it was not arbitrary titles he was giving those animals.
Why do we know that? What does the text say in Genesis 2 that tells you that Adam was not randomly naming the animals, he wasn’t cataloging them, he was doing something more than merely cataloging animals that traipsed by. Why do we know that? What is the tip off in the text of Genesis 2 that lets us know that it wasn’t an arbitrary cataloging going on? What was his objective in naming those animals? To see if any of them had personality on a plain equal to himself. And Adam’s first experiment proved the man/nature distinction because he did not find any creature with whom he could carry on a conversation, and have a personal relationship with. He had the dogs, the cats, the birds and the bees, none of them provided him with a personal relationship.
So the man/nature distinction is inherent from day six. When Adam did that he was naming with insight into their being, so he began at that very point, if you can picture this in the mind’s eye of your imagination, this first human man, sitting there all alone in the Garden with these behemoths and little things coming by, and he’s looking at them, and with a mind untainted by sin, a mind and a body not ruined by sin, not subject to death, the death process, in this magnificent body with a magnificent mind, he was grasping the nature of it all around.
God was not telling him what to name them because God stood back, and to see what Adam would name them; there’s the room for creativity. Everybody says if God is sovereign there’s no room for creativity. There was there, God was not telling Adam how to name the animals, He just said I have named light, I have named water, I have named earth, Adam I’ve named your basic environment, I’ve started your language off, now you finish it. Go ahead, what’s this thing called? So He invited Adam to creatively investigate.
This is the exercise of dominion, but we want to look that we are creatures in this dominion process. Beginning on page 44 I’m going to go through key areas where we are limited. Here we’re back to a spiritual issue because when I get through I’ve covered every area of knowledge and human life. At every point we’re back to the same controversy we were from the beginning, are we or are we not going to submit to our role as creatures under the Creator. Or are we going to be autonomous beings where we decide our destiny, we decide truth, and we decide what is right and what is wrong. So here go the limitations.
The first limitation, page 44, is “Man’s Limited Power Over Nature.” 1 Corinthians 15 is a critical commentary on Genesis, so turn there. Until you read Genesis in the light of how the New Testament authors looked at it, you sometimes don’t get a respect for how literal they were. Notice in 1 Corinthians 15:42, Paul’s talking about the resurrection, he says “So also is the resurrection of the dead,” but notice what he says, “it [the body] is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body.” Often this text is used in funerals. ” It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body,” then in verse 45 he cites, “So it’s written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ ”
He’s citing Genesis 2, so Paul is taking it very literally and very straightforwardly, and what he’s arguing here is that Adam was made in a body that could self-destruct. When Adam sinned he began immediately to die. But in that Garden do you remember what there was that he had to be kept away from? There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the other one, the tree of life. And you read that strange passage, read those last few verses at the end of the fall.
Genesis 3:22-24, in that Garden there was something else, and look at how physical this is, let’s not spiritualize everything. This is a physical tree, Adam is physically dying, and God says in verse 22, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—” If you have a modern translation you’ll notice that it has a line after the word “forever.” Do you know why that’s there? The translators are trying to communicate that in the Hebrew that sentence never ends. What do you do in your average every-day conversation when you start to talk and you stop, and you don’t finish something? Either you’ve lost the thought or what are some other reasons you might stop in a sentence? What you’re talking about might either be inappropriate and you suddenly realize that, or what you’re talking about is horrible.
That’s what this is, this is a suspension of the grammar of the sentence, and it’s one of those rare occurrences in the Word of God where God begins to speak and He stops Himself, and He never finishes that sentence because whatever it is He said, if, “lest he stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever,”— and that was such a horrible thing for God to contemplate, that man would be fallen and live forever, unredeemable. So therefore to keep man redeemable, verse 24, “He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Man was expelled and from that point until the flood of Noah, perhaps for centuries, men could come up to that Garden where the fall occurred and they would be repelled.
This was some power, whatever this angel with the sword that turns in every direction, there was some deflecting power that God kept there, like a high voltage fence, no man will be permitted in the Garden of Eden lest he eat of the tree of life, because the tree of life at that point, apart from spiritual salvation would have been what Ponce de Leon sought in Florida, a natural life that would go on forever, a fountain of youth, and that would have been horrible because it would have not been salvation, it would have been living hell on earth forever and ever and ever and ever, and not being able to destroy.
In a resurrection body you can’t commit suicide, that’s the way you look at this thing, you’re locked in the body and wherever the destiny of the body is, you are and you’re not going to get out of it. Once in the resurrection body, be it the resurrection is damnation or the resurrection of life, it’s a sealing, all choices are off then, the day of grace has ended. So at this point man is expelled, and it shows the limitations of our present body.
Back to 1 Corinthians 15, that’s why it says it was sown in a natural body, it’s sown in a mortal body, so we have this term, man has limited power in nature because he is mortal, i.e., he dies, he is subject to death. Arthur Custance has an interesting thought here, that Jesus, because He was virgin born, probably did not share that same kind of “mortalized” body of Adam, so while Jesus grew up as a child, He matured and He grew, that Jesus did not share the death sentence in Adam, for had He done so then His death could not have been substitutionary, it would only have been premature, Jesus died earlier than someone else, but He did not die in place of someone else.
So here Adam is, and he, and us, have these bodies that allow our spirits to manipulate matter, they allow us to live for a certain time period. But they’re subject to death. What the death process is, science hasn’t discovered this, ever think about the fact that you can take tissue out of the human body, feed it, and it keeps on multiplying. An amoeba doesn’t experience death, it just keeps on dividing, unless it’s accidentally squished or something, it just keeps on dividing, keeps on dividing, keeps on dividing, it never dies, it just goes on. But for some reason these cells in our bodies have a limiting factor in them. From the day we are born we begin to die. What is it that’s causing death in our bodies? We don’t know what it is. But something is at work right now in all of us to kill us, and it’s part of the capital punishment put upon all of us by God. So that’s a limitation. We have a limited power over nature.
On the bottom of page 45 we come to another limitation, this is the modern environmental movement, and I want to go to some passages in Deuteronmy but let’s first turn to Exodus 20, because even in the post-fall era God is concerned with the environment, not worshiping the environment. I won’t go into detail; this is just a flash in the pan to show you that there is concern for the environment deep inside the structure of Scripture. In Exodus 20:10, it’s that Sabbath commandment, it says, “But the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter,” but look at the last of the sentence, finish reading that sentence, “or your cattle”. Who else is given the Sabbath rest? The animals that did the work. They were to be rested just like people were to be rested, there’s respect for them, if you want to say there’s animal rights there’s where the animal right comes in; they are to be treated with respect and rest.
Another passage, Exodus 23:10, talking about gardens and soil, “And you shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield.  But on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow,” and God was a stickler on that because when Israel didn’t do it He forced them into rest and sent them into exile to pay back the seven years that they hadn’t rested the land. And in the last century, the last part of the 19th century and first part of the 20th century, I’m told Dutch farmers followed this practice, and when some of them immigrated to Michigan, some of the places where the Dutch are very strong, they carried with them this tradition, and a farmer would plant only 6/7ths of his acreage, and reserve 1/7th to lie fallow. So the soil at any given point in his field would be six-to-one production, one part rest, and interestingly from an ecology point of view that kind of helps the soil restore itself. Now biology is a little bit more understanding of the fact that gee, that does help.
There are these little fine details, and I give more references in Deut. and the notes. But I’m just pointing out here that God’s the One to make the rule, because nature…, what do the Psalms tell us? “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” Who, then, is the absolute owner of the environment? God is the absolute owner of the environment.
What I find so intriguing today is that some of the most outspoken environmentalists are the most anti-Christian people you’ve ever run across. It’s so striking to me because I’m amazed that they can’t ever raise the question in their own minds, why, if the Bible is not true, and if Christianity is false, why do I care about the environment? Why do you treat it so? Where do rights come from? There are no rights there, molecules don’t have rights.
You’re borrowing all this language that you’ve gotten from Christian tradition and turning it around and using it, but you’ve left all the content behind. So you’re just talking God-talk, that’s all you’re doing, just moral talk, just ethical talk. It doesn’t have any substance to it because the universe isn’t owned by anybody.
What they’ll tell you is it’s survival of the fittest and we have to make sure at least we survive, the fittest, we want to be the fittest, we don’t want to go the way of the dinosaur. At the risk of being a pest, let me ask the question, why is it good that we survive? Is that good? Well, I want do survive. I know, I didn’t ask whether you want to survive, I asked whether it’s good and right, or maybe that you even ought to survive, who says you “ought” to survive, where do you get that from? See, we’re borrowing all these “oughts.” Remember I said whenever people say “ought,” “all,” “never,” or they imply those things, listen carefully because you’re listening to presuppositions at work.
I point out on page 46 something else, because the environmentalists, there’s a guy by the name of White that wrote back in the 70s and he said that we Christians are the cause of the environmental mess. Here’s his logic. White read the Bible in Genesis 1 where it says we have dominion over the earth. Because on his presuppositions there was no God to control the dominion, he read Genesis 1 to mean this: he says what we say is that we can go ahead and rule the universe the way we want to. But that’s not the way Genesis 1 reads. Genesis 1 is in the theological context of the Creator whose is the universe, so in that theological context there’s no arrogance. But White, because he was a non-Christian walks into the Genesis 1 text, misunderstands fundamentally the whole idea of Genesis 1 and then writes this book that goes all over the world saying Christianity and everywhere it’s gone has ruined the environment. He cites 19th century industry, etc. That’s not necessarily a reflection of Christian ethics. But I warn you about this in case you get into the environmental issue.
Elsewhere on page 46, man’s limited knowledge of nature. We want to spend the rest of our time on two parts, reason and experience. Turn to Job 28:14, a wonderful verse that summarizes everything I’m going to say. Here’s the deal: if there is no God, then this thing up here in man’s head is the only place that knowledge can be located. If there is no bigger mind than man’s, that’s all we got for knowledge, what we call the brain, and there’s no knowledge outside of that, or what we call knowledge is just thought processes going inside in the brain, if there is no God. So man has this thing going and he keeps looking at nature, trying to look for truth, trying to see what is truth, because he’s made in God’s image, but he doesn’t want to admit in his heart that God is there and he should be looking up, so he looks down, seeking from nature to find truth.
Job 28:12, “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?  Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.” Look at that statement, “it is not found in the land of the living.” What does that do to the humanist premise? If God is not there, and if the only knowledge we have is our knowledge, what this verse is saying is you can live a thousand years and you’ll never get it together, “it is not in the land of the living.”  “The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not in me’” it can’t be found, the secret to life, happiness, meaning is not to be found in nature, any more than in the dash and the dots, the dashes and dots don’t give you that. It’s speaking with the author of the dashes and the dots that make it meaningful. Nature conveys God’s knowledge, not its own knowledge.
Let’s see how that’s so. I’ve given an illustration, let me explain it. Most of us know the 19th century is the century when unbelief began with virulence in Western civilization. It really was a rotten century and a lot of stuff that comes out of the 18th and 19th centuries we’re living with the results of today. We always think in terms of evolution, but one of the things that came out of the 19th century that people forget about, and were not well trained in, this is not covered in most high schools and very few college courses in history mention this.
There were actually two stunning things that happened in the 19th century: one was Darwin, but the other one that had an insidious and widespread effect is hardly ever commented on is the discovery that Euclid’s geometry failed. Here’s why, go back to your high school days and talk about a line and a point defining a plane. Euclid, and the Greeks, who represent probably the finest development of pagan thought ever in the history of man, believed that you could start with a set of fundamental axioms and logically reason yourself to truth. And they believed that these fundamental axioms were intuitively obvious and reflected the nature of the real world.
So once you grabbed hold of these axioms you have a powerful logical crank and you could crank out theorem after theorem after theorem and prove very fundamental truths. Then you could use those truths to design pyramids, you could use them to design levers, Archimedes, you could design systems of navigation, you could describe nature.
What they thought had happened, up until the 19th century was, oooh, isn’t man a wonderful thinking being that he has this awesome power to intuit axioms and reason the way to truth about the world outside of his head, powerful tool. And there were a lot of successes. And out of that geometry there were a number of axioms, 10 to be exact, and there was one axiom that said this: if I have a straight a line, and I have point out that line, I can draw and only one parallel line. If you are into geometry understand that this is where we get triangles out of this thing, so trigonometry falls rapidly out of this axiom. I’m mentioning this because I want you to see what’s going to happen here. So everybody believed these axioms, they were all intuitively obvious, man had his reason and everything yielded before this mighty power of reason.
The problem came up when mathematicians began to look at this particular axiom and said oh-oh, we smell a rat in this axiom, this axiom is different than the other nine, because all the other nine are intuitively obvious, what a straight line is, period, circles, that kind of stuff. Axioms are obvious except this one, because some of the mathematicians began to ask the question, look at what that axiom is saying, let’s look carefully at this, go back to this point; how do we know that this dash line, if extended to infinity, never touches this one. Anybody have an intuitive idea of what it does in eternity, or infinity to the left or to the right? Is that an area that’s subject to intuition? Obviously not. So it bothered mathematicians that that axiom was saying something, that it was not being intuitive, it was a guess about what happens on the far left and the far right. But it was a sheer guess and it was not intuitively obvious that this is a truth, because it was an unconfirmed truth.
So here’s what happened. There were two schools of mathematicians in the 19th century; one of them said you’re all wrong, there are no lines running through that point, we can’t be sure of anything. So what they did is they designed a different axiom, fit it with the previous nine, and they developed a geometry, they said let’s see what happens. Let’s develop a new geometry to replace Euclid’s, using nine of his ten axioms, and modifying this one to say there are no such thing as parallel lines. Then there was another school of mathematicians that said no, actually there are an infinite number of lines going through that point that never touch the line.
Unless you think this is crazy, I remind you that if you take a sphere and put great circle on the sphere that you can draw all kinds of lines on that thing, multiple lines and points and they do not intercept. The surface of the sphere is not a parallel flat plain, so spherical geometry does not share that particular axiom because that axiom works in only two dimensions, not three.
The point was that these alternate geometries came up and they were all consistent, you could prove theorems, you could prove corollaries, you could prove everything else. And they said oh-oh and by about 1900–1910 they began to say which geometry is the real one? Now you see the problem. If reason is such a powerful tool, how come it invented three different contradictory geometries, all internally consistent? This was a shock, and that’s led to the statement that I have on page 47. [blank spot] “The discovery of alternate, perfectly logical mathematical structures that radically conflict with each other exposed the limitations of human reason as a dominion tool. Kline notes the despair that resulted: ‘The appearance of non-Euclidean geometries … led scientists to question whether man could ever hope to find a true scientific theory. … Even more devastating to philosophy was the realization that man can no longer be sure of his ability to acquire truths.’ ” This was a shattering thing, it had profound repercussions, but you never read about it in the average class. This was as important as evolution was, and it’s never mentioned.
What that says is that it’s a discovery of the limitations of man’s reason. Notice what I say under that quote. “Such despair, please note, is a paganistic over-reaction to the limitations on reason. Paganism insists on an all-or-nothing agenda. If the carnal mind can’t have God-like omniscience, it denies knowledge can exist at all. By way of contrast, the Bible-believing Christian rests in God’s omniscience as perfectly rational, not his finite version, and so does not plunge into this sort of despair.”
That’s all theoretical, let’s take it down to practical everyday life. You all know intuitively what we’re talking about here. How many times have you had a struggle in your life, you’ve prayed about it, you know there’s a reason, particularly in a suffering situation, you believe in your heart God has a purpose for this but you can’t get at the purpose. We’ve all had that experience. Do we walk away from that kind of experience saying there’s no purpose in it? Of course not, not if we trust the Lord.
But examine your heart in this situation. When you face that kind of situation what are you doing when you’re saying I don’t know what His purpose is but I trust anyway? Are you trusting in a vacuum? What are you standing on when you’re saying I don’t know the purpose in this thing, but I trust Him? You’re trusting His revelation of His character.
If Christ didn’t die on the cross for us, we wouldn’t have a strong revelation of His love for us. It’s only because of those other things where He has demonstrated His character to become trustworthy for us that we can stand and say I stand upon what I know of my God’s character, even though I don’t know what He’s up to here, I trust Him anyway. That’s the practical side of this business.
If you want to translate it into everyday living, what the pagan wants to do is this: until I find out the plan I don’t trust anybody. That’s the rationalist, I demand to know! And that’s what man’s been doing ever since the Greeks. Then when he gets to the point where he gets smashed in the face and realizes no matter how big his computer is he can’t know, then he goes into an absolute and stunning depression. Irrationalism in philosophy in the 20th century is just an intellectual version of depression, that’s all it is, it’s an intellectualized form of depression; because I can’t have it all then it doesn’t exist. But we Christians don’t buy either line; we never said man had it all, we said man was finite.
That’s why I said the Creator/creature distinction, omniscience is not the same as human knowledge, so when we’re faced with this non-Euclidean mess and we really realize, gee, our minds can conjure up all kinds of logical stuff, yet none of it fits, I say to myself, but, God made me and God made you to be namers of things on this earth, to be subduers on the earth, so our minds are sufficient for that test. We have been created and endowed with enough reason to do the job, but we have not been endowed with enough reason to become omniscient, and what the world wants is either omniscience or zero knowledge. But they will not tolerate a dependency, a humble intellectual dependency upon His omniscience. That is verboten under the principle of autonomy.
Let’s go to something easier to grasp. Let’s go to a promise in the New Testament, let me show you how this works out. Here’s one of these promises that we look in this light, so we don’t go out of here just thinking this is geometry. Philippians 4:6-7, a neat verse and promise on anxiety. As I read you follow along, see if you can spot something in these two verses that we’ve just discussed.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” There is it, in verse 7, “which surpasses all comprehension.” That is the peace of God.
See, it short circuits this passionate demand to know why did You let this happen God? He often doesn’t tell us. He never told Job why he suffered; never told him. Was Job satisfied in the end? His reaction after God presented Himself, in effect was “stupid question!” Why did he get to that point? Because he saw God and then his question became stupid. Whatever it is he’s seeing God, because he sees the God who is there, who is mighty, who is loving and who is gracious, and you say that kind of a God has a reason and I’ll trust Him for it. These are the practical sides of the limitations of reason.
The diagram on page 47 is a fundamental diagram that I think totally destroys the pagan claim. The diagram pictures space and time, and it’s a plot of human knowledge. Notice that there are areas which we will call direct experience. That’s the one with the vertical lines, direct observation. You see, looking down at the scale on the bottom. That’s a logarithmic scale for you engineers. Notice one second up to the historical period. That’s the only zone where we have direct observation. It has to be locked inside that boundary; you don’t get any direct observations any other way. Let’s look at the other way, direct observations go to the left, a little bit below one centimeter, up to, say, the scale of mountains. That’s direct observation.
Now you can extend the observation upward with the telescopes, you extend the observations left with ultra-speed film, because you can spot things. Like at Aberdeen Proving Ground we take high speed photography of bullets going through armor and it’s amazing to see what happens in milliseconds. That’s stopping motion so we can observe it with a tool. You can go down with a microscope. But observe the diagram. There’s no way to go right. Notice that. There’s not a scientific tool known that goes to the right side of that diagram, and that’s the problem we have whenever we deal with natural history. We can extend by instrumentation on only three sides of our knowledge, but not the fourth. The only way we can extend out to the right is by observations of people who must have lived when we didn’t live, but that ends the observations.
Man is then limited in his experience to that box, he will always be limited to that box. We just talked about the limitations on reason, here’s the limitation on experience. What are the two things pagans use to build their knowledge on? Reason and experience data.
Now observe something else. Suppose the square that I’ve drawn is all of your knowledge at a given time, let’s say it’s 8:25 p.m. and that’s all your knowledge; that represents your data set. At 8:30 you’ll add a little bit more data to that. Five minutes after that you add more data. Let’s call all the points of the data that you have in your knowledge that you directly observe, or by instrumentation of acquired, let’s call that n units of data.
At the 9th edge of time as the clock ticks, what’s happening to your data set as far as observation? It’s increasing. So we have this dilemma, what do you do with the n + 1 piece of data? How do you know in advance that the n +1 piece of data, the newest piece of data, won’t totally invalidate everything else you’ve ever known? How do you defend against that? Show me non-biblically, without referring to the Scripture, show me how you defend against this?
Historically this is what led philosophers into skepticism, because if you say that you can never have all the data, then aren’t all your conclusions merely tentative. ALL of your conclusions are merely tentative, subject to change when n +1 piece of data comes into the data center. Do you really believe that? Do you believe you could live that way if you really believed that, that everything you know, everything, including all the moral issues, right wrong, etc. all that is contingent and only tentative? What does this do to the whole meaning of life? It makes all life tentative. In fact, it totally demeans and destroys the whole issue of knowledge, period.
This is a very practical matter and I am convinced this is one reason our educational system is such a mess, because the educational system has tried to build on a pagan basis. I can’t get excited about learning if everything by definition I learn is tentative. I’m learning nothing that’s going to endure; I can’t be sure it’s going to endure. So we have the limitation on reason and limitation on experience.
On the bottom of page 48, “A Special Limitation in Constructing Histories of Nature.” Of course evolution is one of the modern versions, but it’s not the only one. Let’s look at this thing further. In order to have knowledge of anything I can’t have this. Think it through, I can’t live this way. So what do I have to do if I’m a non-Christian person? What do I do to save myself in my thought life? What I have to do is I have to have something that is constant. I’ve got to assume something is constant. What do I use as an object for that? Where do I get my constants from? Think about it. It can’t come from experience, because experience tells me that everything is so up to now, but it doesn’t tell me what the n +1 state is going to tell me, so I can’t be sure if something’s constant.
Practical illustration: go back 2,000 years to a wedding, you’re standing there enjoying the refreshments, and there’s this guy, Jesus, that comes to this particular wedding service, and there’s a worried look on the lady’s face, she’s ran out of wine. He suddenly makes some wine in a back room some place, you don’t know that, and you drink it. You know what good wine tastes like, and you also know good wine is aged; it doesn’t get made with a Kool-Aid packet. Then what do you immediately think as you sip this wine? This is delightful.
You have assumed something is constant. What have you assumed that’s constant? The processes of fermentation. You’ve presumed, on the basis of your experience, you had no n + 1 piece of data to contradict that, you’ve concluded, grandiosely, from all your life’s experiences that fermentation always takes this amount of time. You’re wrong. What interfered with your constant? Jesus. And what He did, whatever He did, think of it chemically, He took H2O and converted it into wine. I’m not a chemist but I know that wine has carbon in it, it’s an organic molecule. Where did the carbon atoms come from? You don’t just see carbon atoms appear, but they did. But they can’t, but they did. Nowhere in my experience have I ever seen that. Now it’s part of your experience. Now you have a problem, because now God’s injected the n + 1 piece of data and what did it do to your constant based on n pieces of data. It wrecked them.
Let’s take another example. You’ve got your video camera, good battery in it, ready to roll. You get in a time machine, you go back to the Garden, you suddenly see the first man, and you film Adam, then you take it back to show your friends. Look at this guy, handsome man. How old do you think your friends would think he was? Why? Think of the processes again, the intellectual processes that went wrong, and why did they go wrong? Because your friends, on the basis of n pieces of data had mistakenly inferred a constant. But when faced with this miraculous sudden creation, it blew away the constant, it was the n + 1 piece of data. Sorry, that’s the way it goes.
I want to finish this thought on the constants. The constant of God is located, it’s there, but it’s not a premature constant based on this limited experience. What’s the constant? What attribute of God have we talked about now, up till tonight, because all that was preparatory, where is the real constant? It’s His character, and what attribute of God have we stressed that is the Creator anchor for all constancy? His immutability. He is the One who never changes, and His plan from eternity past never changes. So there is a constant, but it’s located in the Creator, not the creature. See the difference.
What paganism has to do is force the constant to be located down at the creature level instead of at the Creator level. That’s what’s wrong in physics, in biology, in chemistry, because they insist on doing this, and if you think about it, this dogma that we have these constants that are inviolable, how can we arrogantly proclaim an inviolable constant on the basis of finite n pieces of data? That’s what we’re saying with any kind of natural history, be it a natural history, be it a natural history of the wedding feast at Cana, the natural history of the creation of Adam in the Garden, or the natural history of anything else our magnificent God has done. He is constant, He didn’t change His plan.
If we could diagram the process of that wine, the fermentation, and we say that here’s time, and here’s the value of the fermentation constant, whatever that is, it’s like this in all of human history, and then there was a gap and the fermentation constant went to zero. It zeroed out, just for a millisecond. If God wasn’t there in control of this process we would have chaos.
I said the pagan agenda is I got to have it all or I don’t want anything, and the pagans don’t like to hear us talk this way because their interpretation of us is that we are promoting chaos, we are destroying all knowledge when we allow these perturbations to happen. Are we destroying all knowledge? Not if we’ve located it in God’s plan. Did God plan this event? From all eternity did God plan the wedding feast at Cana? Of course He did. When we come marching along in time, is God in charge, is God in charge, is God in charge, is God in charge, yes, yes, yes, yes, is God in charge of that moment? Yes. Does it fit His rational plan? Yes. Well then the plan of God is where the constancy is, not in the creature. And that’s the dilemma that we face behind evolution, behind all the rest of these things, it’s a mislocation of where we build our constants.