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 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 5: Partial Restoration: The Discipline of Hope
Lesson 95 – Soul Mapping: A Reality Check
11 Jun 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
[Message very hard to hear, transcription may be affected by words or phrases that are nearly unintelligible] We’re going to kind of pull together what we’ve done this year and in doing that go back three years to the other part of the framework. The one event that we haven’t dealt with that we had scheduled for this year was the return from the exile, and that event, the restoration, which involves the doctrine of canonicity and prayer we’ll have to pick up in the fall. We have four major events in the life of Christ, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection. We are going to approach the life of Christ differently. It’s not going to be, so to speak, biographical; we’ll follow the theme mode that we’ve followed here, by concentrating on events and what those events reveal, what doctrine, what truths they reveal about God. We’ll use a particular method of showing that if you don’t master the Old Testament, and you do not come to Jesus through the pages of the Old Testament, with the understanding of the Old Testament, your view of Jesus gets skewed. That’s why it’s important that we spent three years going through this framework in the Old Testament because now you’ll see that it pays off when it comes to seeing who Jesus Christ is.
I’ve passed out a little questionnaire, there’s some thought questions it and I want to go through these questions because I think these are the ones that will show you how, if you haven’t thought about it this way already, how to apply a lot of this framework material. The first thing I want to go back to, the first question is back when we started with Genesis we started working with presuppositions and the problem with that is that the average person, including us, never examines their presuppositions. We just don’t do that. We don’t reflect on the fact that we carry basic presuppositions with us everywhere we go. Every time we respond to situations in life, that response reveals a map, kind of an inner map that we have, or maps (plural) of reality. Before we spoke in terms of presuppositions, recently it’s been it’s come to my attention that we can think of these things as maps that are sort of written into your soul, and we’ve all written them, we all have them. There’s no such thing as a person without a map. The question is whether your map fits what the real world is or not.
The reason we want to look at that is because it goes back to a principle that we examined two or three years ago; this chart shows you that all human knowledge is limited. No matter who you are, where you are, or who you’re talking to or anything else, we all are limited. We all have our thinking and our experience embedded inside this box. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much experience you’ve had, you’re still trapped in the box. Being trapped in the box means that you can’t ever get out of it to make an absolute statement; you never can get a universal statement. So you have to come up with some guesses, and there are various approaches to that, and we’ve said before and we say again that there are only two views of reality.
We’ll review tonight just keeping this in mind that every person’s map has to be built out of limited material. All of us build our maps that way; all of us have our presuppositions in a limited fashion. The question is how do we proceed? We said that there are only two basic pictures of the universe. You can say there are 108 different authors out there and 55 religions, but when it gets down to the basics there’s only two views. We want to look at some of the features of this and remind ourselves, we’ll just review some of them and then we’ll go to the questions.
On the left side, the biblical position, the biblical map of reality is found, between the time of Noah and the time of Abraham it was found in the ancient monotheistic faith of the tribes of the world. That ancient monotheism perpetuated when God called Abraham out and we said what about the heathen who have never heard. I mentioned Paul Richardson’s book, Eternity in Their Hearts and how he had gone into southeast Asia, he had ample evidence that far before the missionary even got into southeast Asia, these people were singing hymns to Yahweh, they knew about the fall in the Garden of Eden, they knew about the first creation of the man and the woman, they knew about the flood. Where did they get that from, they didn’t get it from missionaries. They got it from generational passing down, transmission inside their own culture because they ultimately descended from the family of Noah.
Ancient monotheism, ancient Israel, the Bible, fundamentalism, all of these share this view, and the view starts with this distinction, the Creator/creature distinction. Again I point out that we can’t review this enough. In the biblical position God is absolutely different than man and nature. We are analogue, we have some similarities, but there’s a categorical difference between God, man and nature. These are everlasting distinctions. Theologians call them transcendental distinctions because nothing changes them, ever! One way of learning, and we stressed this with this framework, is to go to the competing view because when you go to the competing view, you can often get insights on your position. We go over to paganism and say to ourselves, in paganism what do they believe. Paganism, as we have used it, means the belief in any god except the God of the Bible. Traditionally, Judaism, Islam, and Christian are non-pagan, Islam being an heretical offshoot of the Bible. But all of these follow the same basic trend, the same basic plan, the same basic idea; it’s common to all of these. That’s the power of thinking this way.
So when we start thinking about our mental maps and where we’re coming from, why we react the way we do, when we get into some of these questions, let’s look at them from this point of view. This gives you the overall perspective. Behind the opposite position from Creator/creature distinction, there is no distinction between God and nature really. God is viewed as sort of a superman, just differing in degree, but not in kind. So you have a continuum of the nature, the gods, and man. Remember when we read Genesis 1 I had you read Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Genesis, and the goddess Tiamat, the universe was made out of her body, showing that in their thinking that the god and nature were kind of united, they were part and parcel of each other. That’s what we mean by Continuity of Being and we’ll see that it has tremendous behavioral implications. It’s not just theoretical theology here; there are practical behavioral results of this.
Then we come to the bottom line as it were, when you take this position behaviorally, here’s where it leads. It will lead to the fact that every one of us faces a personal sovereign, that ultimate furthest back we have to deal with a personal sovereign God. That makes us responsible. That’s where responsibility comes from. Frankly, only in the biblical position do you have responsibility this way. Watch the big picture; we’re just reviewing quickly on the big picture. In this view you start up here with the Creator/creature distinction, you wind up with real responsibility. Over here you wind up with blur, where everything is kind of blurred together, and what you have is not a personal god in back of it all, because the gods themselves are limited, so in back of them you have this impersonal faith or chance, whatever the word is. In the ancient documents that we read the word for fate was tablets of destiny. But the bottom line in all of this theory, the bottom line is that it renders us victims. We are not responsible, we are part of a thing, we are part of the cosmos, we are the way we are because that’s the way we are. That’s just the way our genes fell out in the chance allocation of history. So we are ultimately passive, we are ultimately victims; we’re trapped in the Chain of Being. Where this comes out today is I am a product of my genes, I am a product of my nurturing, I am a product of my environment. Yes, all these things affect us, obviously genes affect us, we have boy genes and we have girl genes, so we know that the genes affect us, but the problem is do they control us 100%. That’s the issue.
We have to face this. This is a big issue in our society. If you want to see where it’s popping up today, look at the explanation for crime. It’s due to nurture, it’s due to environment, change the environment you’ll change the person. Is that true? Not necessarily, but it would be true if the model is right; if we are ultimately products of our environment, that makes sense. But if on the other hand the Bible is correct and we are actually choosers and we have responsibility, then changing the environment will not necessarily change it. A good example of that is where was the perfect environment? Eden. Did the perfect environment stop man from sinning? No it didn’t. Therefore what’s the deal with perfect environment? Environment isn’t the issue. The issue boils down to something very simple. It’s our individual response to the sovereign God, period. Our choice. We can blame nurture, we can blame genes, we can blame everything else, and all those do color, I’m sure they shape different kinds of things; certain areas of the world are predisposed to sinning in this direction versus other people sinning in that direction. So there are brands of sin that are controlled by the environment, but sin isn’t. Sin is a result of rebellion against God. The essence of that is the idea that we are stiff-arming God. That’s the essence of sin, not something, necessarily theft, murder, adultery, or all those. Those are results, those are brands of it, but the root of it is this—straight-arming, stiff-arming God. I want to be my authority, period.
Now let’s come to question 2 and these are some ways in which this doctrinal truth shows up in experience. “What is my most basic view of all reality?” In other words, it’s time to reflect and we don’t normally do this, we’re too busy to do this most of the time, and the result is we never do it. We don’t think back, pause, and say to ourselves look, I can think of myself… you know sometimes you dream and you can dream of seeing yourself in a position. Well, sometimes you can just daydream and think of yourself and look at yourself and look at the way you’re thinking. Back off, that’s one of the things that we can do that animals can’t do. Your cat and dog don’t sit there at their dish and think, you know there are 52 other brands you could have picked up at the store; they may react to the food that way, but the point is they’re not seriously thinking about that. But we can reflect, and strangely we can reflect in our own hearts. God has given us that capability. Do you know where you see it in the Bible? The Book of Psalms. How many times in the book of Psalms do you read that David talks to himself, he says O my soul, you are cast down. What is that? That’s self-reflection, and it’s something that we don’t often do because in the business of life we’re running from one thing to the next and we don’t back off and just look at what’s going on with us. That’s what we’re asking in question 2.
If you take a back seat and look at yourself in the front seat, what do you see as your map? What’s the view, your basic programming in your soul that controls your behavior, that automatically takes over in responses? It’s got to be one of these two views. So we go back to this. There may be a variant in some way, shape or form, but it’s of these two. Most of us have pieces of both, that’s the problem, we’re hybridized and we come out of the world background and we have pieces of each of these.
Following question 2 on the sheet, “Is it a Creation” and if it is, we really believe “that there are two absolutely different levels of reality.” There’s God and we have no idea what’s on His mind other than what He’s told us. He is infinite knowledge, we are finite in our knowledge, we’ll never be infinite in our knowledge, we have to take what He says on authority, but we have the assurance that somebody does know. There is a plan in every detail behind every molecule, behind every electron and proton, there is a plan, that everything has rationality and purpose. It is so vast, so amazing, so complicated, that we can’t penetrate. But we don’t have to penetrate it; we can take it that He has a plan. That relieves me of a lot. Right off the bat that relieves me of the fact that I don’t have to make up the map of everything, nor does the whole human race. The map is already there in God’s mind. If we believe that way then we believe in the Creator/creature distinction. If we believe the other way, then somehow God, angels, man and animals all exist in relative complexity. Don’t think this is pagan. We tend to think that way sometimes, that God is more good than we are, not absolutely good, good and holiness of a kind that we can’t attain apart from whatever He gives us. That separation concept, when it’s blurry we’re drifting, drifting over to the Continuity of Being idea. The implication is, following question 2 again, the next series of questions follow behaviorally from these views. “What is my ultimate authority—social convention, family, peer or church approval, personal mystical experiences, great literature of mankind, or those parts of the Creator’s mind that He has shared in Scripture with us?”
What is your ultimate authority? You have to keep asking that. This is something you can’t ask once; you ask it thousands of times, when you reflect upon how you personally are living your life and solving problems. I think to myself, or I think back to a situation, what was I thinking when I did that; what was I really doing moment by moment as far as my ultimate authority; what mattered most in that situation. Was it what people thought about me or was it what God thought about me? Remember how we defined sin, we went back to David’s Psalms and David had murdered, committed adultery, really messed up, a lot of social consequences, but remarkably in the text in Psalm 51 what does it say? Against whom did he sin? Against Him alone; against God.
That sounds like he’s being callous toward the social consequences. That’s not it; he knew about the social consequences. The point was that sin can’t be defined in terms of social consequences. If you start defining sin in terms of social consequences you wind up with some sort of relativism where you compare your social consequences of your sin with Joe Blow’s consequences and of course you always come out on top because you picked your area of strength vs. their weakness, and that always makes you feel good. That’s the problem and error of thinking of sin primarily against its social consequences. You can’t think of it that way and if you do, you’re drifting. If I think that way, I’m drifting away from the authority of Scripture of the Creator/ creature distinction. I have to give an ultimate answer for my life to Him; I don’t give an ultimate answer of my life to anybody else. I don’t give it to my parents, my pastor, the police; I don’t give it to the military, the government, teachers. I give some accountability, yes but I don’t give my ultimate confession of my life to anybody except the One who holds me responsible. These are all wrapped up in the map. Do I have a proper mapping of reality in my head, in my soul; do I really understand the Creator/creature distinction? Keep this in mind. This leads to the next question.
“Who am I?” A basic question. Am I “a responsible finite analogue of the Creator,” remember when we went through this. Just to review again, this is just so basic, and when we get into the Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and man in one person, this gets really complicated. But we said you could take some of God’s attributes, you could take God and His sovereignty, you could take man with his choice, and there’s an analogy between God’s sovereignty and my choice. But they’re not identical. This clearly is categorically different than this. This is that of the infinite Creator; this is a finite version of it. This saves us, because today all kinds of debates arise about this, obviously one that is very prevalent and all over the place, and basically has taken our society by storm is that people of homosexual orientation can’t help themselves, it’s genetic, it’s determinative and we are victims, and this is not something to be judged or evaluated. We’re not talking about judging people now; we’re talking about particular behavior.
So we can love the people and disagree with their behavior. We’re not talking about hating people here. We’re talking about this issue, and the issue is: are we responsible or are we not. The answer that is being given nationally, from coast to coast, in all the universities and all the think tanks, the answer is no, I am not responsible. And if you’re going to hold me responsible, you’re wrong and you hate me and you’re out of line, you don’t respect my rights. Your rights? Your rights to what? Well, because I’m determined, I can’t help this, I was born this way, so you have to respect me because I was born this way. This debate ends right here.
This is where the whole thing is decided, right here, and it’s decided on the basis of a basic map. In fact, whenever you see homosexuality attain popularity, obviously homosexuality has always been with us, but when it becomes socially acceptable in any society or country or nation, it’s a signal, because Romans 1 picks that out, of all sins, as a flagship sin of paganism. What does it mean? It means that whenever you have a society which acknowledges and openly agrees with this position, then what you have is enough people in that social unit that are operating off of this map, this wrong map, that society is disintegrating. You haven’t got enough people in society at large that have correct maps of human responsibility. So the people with correct maps of human responsibility become a very small minority and that creates a problem.
We’re not talking theory here, we’re talking about a basic idea of who am I? Do I have choices? When I face temptation, when I face sin, when I face a choice, or when I face an opportunity, am I looking upon that as gee, I can do that or I can do this, I just can’t choose, I want to but I know I can’t. Who says that? God says that I am responsible and He can’t hold me responsible if I don’t have choice. So choice is the axiom of being held responsible and accountable.
The opposite in point 3 is that I’m “a life form wholly determined by genetics, upbringing and environment.” The key word in that sentence is “wholly.” We’re not denying genetics, upbringing and environment have a role, obviously, they do. What we’re arguing is that they don’t wholly determine it. Ten years ago they had the famous experiment at Johns Hopkins that was paraded across the newspapers of the world, they had operated on the cadavers of what they thought must have been homosexual men and they found the brain was different than those of heterosexuals. It turns out now they’re arguing about how they define what behavior pattern these guys were doing.
So the experiment isn’t considered to be too valid. But the idea was that hey, there’s structural differences in the brain, see, we told you all along these people are different. If we hold to this, then something is wrong with the logic. What do you suppose is wrong with the logic. Maybe what we observed in the cadavers was the result of the behavior, not the cause. Think about it. If our bodies did not respond to behavior, how would an athlete train? How would a man who runs, race? How would a football player, a boxer, a weight lifter train if the body didn’t respond to exercise, it didn’t respond to behavior. Our bodies do respond to behavior. They alter themselves phenomenally. People learn to think, they think fast, there can be mental drills, there can be physical drills; our neuron patterns in our brains can establish networks for doing all kinds of math, if people want to specialize in doing quick calculations in their heads that is possible. Why? Because our bodies are built to do our calling. The bad thing is that the same rule holds when we sin. When we do things out of line with God our bodies begin to accommodate that; our bodies begin to change to that. Now what do we do? Now we’ve built in flesh patterns. Now the neurons up here are programmed to operate that way, it becomes more and more easy to do that.
The idea then is that if I am a life form wholly determined by the genetics [can’t understand word], or am I one that has a choice. This is fundamental to the great debates going on around us today. It all hinges back to this, what is man, what are we? We said we’re finite analogues, we have a picture of God’s sovereignty in our choice, God is holy, He is righteous and He is just, and what’s the human analogue of God’s attribute of righteousness? We have a conscience; it still operates this side of the fall. What is that little thing called conscience, that voice that you can’t suppress? It’s a residue, it’s an analogue of His holiness; it’s a reminder, it’s like the electric plug, it’s waiting to be plugged in. It’s a reminder that we’re built for Him. We have a human thing called love. Animals don’t have that, God does. This is a finite analogue to this. There are structural differences. This love is a perfect love because it’s never threatened, never on the defense. This love is vulnerable and exercises only to the point where it’s secure enough to act. A person can’t really love unless they feel safe. That’s why in 1 John the opposite of love is not hate. What is it love casts out? Fear. Love and fear are opposites. We have security and love on one hand; insecurity and fear on the other one. So you have that analogue.
Then you have God in His omniscience, He knows perfectly. We have human knowledge, and all year we have emphasized contracts and covenants and all this. Just look at the contracts and covenants we’ve talked about, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinaitic Covenant, the New Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, what’s this? God’s omniscience. In His omniscience He has a perfect plan for history. He has all kinds of details in His omniscience. He chooses to take little pieces of that and he reveals those pieces to us. The problem is that He doesn’t give us the whole picture. For example, the book of Job; Job sits there in the middle of a suffering situation and wants to know why did this happen to me? And it’s a piece that God didn’t reveal to Job, and after 42 chapters God still doesn’t reveal it to Job.
Remember the observation we made in the text; what do you notice, after all the suffering, heartache and loss that Job has, God comes in like a train, a big bulldozer and wallops the guy. You say that’s being very insensitive, gee, you’d think God would have some counsel here to listen to Job. God didn’t act like a traditional counselor but there was a reason God didn’t. He came in heavy on Job, I believe, to shock him, because when we’re suffering, when we’re wandering we are in shock and the result is we don’t see, we don’t respond correctly, and God has to get our attention. So God comes and watch how He gets Job’s attention, with about 75 questions, boom, boom, boom, where were you when I created the world, did you do this, can you count the sand of the sea, can you do this, can you do that…. What’s He doing? He’s not telling Job why Job suffered but He’s doing something else. What is this “something else” that’s going on here? He’s making Job aware of who he is and who God is. What’s that? The Creator/creature distinction.
Apparently it’s more important that we perceive this difference than it is the details. Once we get that in our head, then we understand, okay, I don’t know what the puzzle is, He hasn’t revealed all the pieces to me but I know enough to know that there is a reason for it. This is not nonsense, this is not irrationality, God hasn’t forgotten me, I’m not in a jam because He made a mistake, the phone calls got switched, the wrong file got read in the computer; it’s nothing like that. It’s the fact that He has done it His way and He did not say why. He is forcing me, by not telling me, He’s forcing me to bow before Him. What else am I going to do? Sit and argue with Him through eternity? He’s got me aced. I can’t do anything, and that’s exactly where God had Job at. So it gets back to basics.
Let’s go to question 5 before we go to 4, because one of the things we want to do as we look at the early part of the first year of the series, we dealt with those events, creation, the fall, the flood and the covenant. The two biggies that you always want to remember, no matter what happens, even before salvation, even before the gospel, you’ve got to remember the Creator/creature distinction, and you’ve got to remember the fall. If you don’t anchor yourself to these events, then the rest of it, I’m sorry but the gospel is going to come across to you as trivial, you’re going to misinterpret it, you’re going to think it’s psychological, you’re going to think it’s a little religious exercise or game, or something. But you can’t get a real view of the gospel if you don’t have a real view of these basic events.
When we come to evil, evil and suffering start here. That means that we go back to the diagram of good and evil. We’ve gone through this a number of times but let’s go through it again. It doesn’t hurt to review. What it does, it just rewrites our maps better. Repetition builds a map and makes it more solid. Christians are often on the defense about this. Satan, the evil one, will make you on the defense. If you have a shocking thing happen to you or a loved one the first thought that comes to your mind is to blame God for it. It’s always interesting; I’ve heard atheists who claim that God doesn’t exist curse God by his name. Isn’t that a strange thing? If God doesn’t exist, what are you cursing His name for? I’ll tell you why he’s cursing His name. Because at bottom, like Paul says in Romans 1, at bottom you’re not an atheist, at bottom you know very well He exists and you know who to blame. You know who allowed that to happen, of course you do, don’t try to tell me you don’t believe God exists, it leaks out of your mouth every time you get a problem. God exists and He is in control. What happens is the pagans always like to make it look like we’re the ones that have the problem. Oh, Christianity has a problem with evil. So let’s look at the pagan position. When you’re being exposed to viruses, you get inoculated. That’s what we’re doing. In this framework we’re exposing ourselves deliberately to the world under a controlled situation, we get inoculated, get vaccinated, we get little doses of the toxin just to see what it looks like, and that’s how we learn.
In the non-Christian position good and evil coexist. Death, sin, sorrow, suffering, sickness, adversity, everybody knows this. Here’s the deal. In the non-Christian position has it always existed? Yes it has. In the non-Christian position will it also continue to exist forever? Yes it will because it’s part and parcel of reality. There never was a time without it, there’s no fall, there’s no transition point, there’s no time ever when it wasn’t there. So it’s always going to be here, no escape from it. As we’ve said, this is the reason why we have Americans (Asian’s don’t do this, only stupid Americans) that believe in happy reincarnation, the New Agers, going around thinking it’s cool to believe in reincarnation. The Asiatics have had centuries to think about this and they hate reincarnation. They believe in it but they hate it. How do you get off the reincarnation wheel? Who wants to reincarnate and go through this mess again, or for the thousandth time; I want to get off of this thing. So what do they do? They commit spiritual suicide and go into nirvana. It’s a very eloquent answer to this problem because it’s an admission that it doesn’t go away. This is the position if you don’t believe the Bible.
The Bible says that God is good and always has been good and God has never been contaminated by evil. This will come out later in the doctrine of the impeccability of Jesus Christ, and how He was tempted and yet He couldn’t be tempted. How do you get those two truths together, because as God He is good, He never was contaminated with evil and could never be contaminated with evil, therefore how could Jesus Christ be tempted? That’s a big discussion. But He was tempted.
Down here we have creation and we have a time that’s between the creation and the fall when there was no evil, so we know that evil cannot always exist. Then we have the judgment when God separates permanently good from evil. Our problem is that we have a temporary problem of good and evil in between the fall and judgment. But it’s bracketed, it’s controlled. It’s not going to go on forever, it hasn’t been forever. So it’s limited. It’s actually the Christian position that has the limitation on good and evil. It’s not the non-Christian that has the big problem; he just doesn’t understand that he’s got the problem.
This has behavioral consequences. Now let’s look at question 5, How am I responding to evil and suffering in my life or in the lives of others. Again, back off and reflect how you respond to these kinds of situations. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your map. When you respond, is your response when you really look at how you respond, does that show one or the other positions. I’ve written this in kind of a funny language in question 5, so let’s go through it. I’ve always tried in both these alternatives to put the biblical position first and the non-Christian position second.
In a biblical position, first of all, when I see a child die, a tragedy, and you say what brought this into existence. What brought it into existence? Seems like the Bible tells us the story, Adam and Eve brought it into existence by a choice. Who brought death into the world? So what does that make me? Oh well, if I was in the Garden I wouldn’t have sinned. No-no, we all would have because we participated, Adam and Eve are our representation. That’s why we’re sharing. We’re sharing the results of Adam and Eve’s decision because in God’s mind they represented a each one of us; you and I were represented by what they did, they are not different from us, they are before God our representatives. You say that’s unfair. Do you know what I say in return? Then it’s unfair for Jesus Christ to represent us in heaven, because He’s the Son of Man, the second Adam. You can’t have it both ways.
That’s why in question 5 the first part is “As a participant in its historic origin,” so every time you see suffering in the world, you see starvation, you see cancer, you see death, you see violence, before you get too prideful and start well, gee kind of thing, you know, God needs advice from us on how to run His universe, just think, we are participants in the historic origin of that, whatever it is that’s shocking you at the moment. We are participants in the historic origin of that. You are also a receiver of the promise of its final end. Remember the Apocalyptic literature we just got through studying. So we’ve already been told about this, we’ve been told that He one day will do this; the separation one day will be absolute, final and irrevocable between good and evil. By the way, that’s what makes sanctification so painful, because it’s tearing us; pieces of us have to be jettisoned to make us acceptable for eternal life with God. Then other parts have to be redeemed. That’s the pain, that’s what’s sorrowful about sanctification, it’s part of this process, getting ready for the end. So do I respond this way, do I participate in here, point F, I have the assurance of [can’t understand word], therefore I’ve already cut this thing down to size, it’s not out of control as in the non-Christian position.
If I don’t take that and I look at how I respond to suffering and evil in my life, I could be responding…, and I have to detect this in my little inner map, am I responding as a hopeless observer and a victim. If you consider yourself in the face of evil to be a hopeless observer and a victim, you’ve got the wrong piece of the map going. You’ve got to get the map straightened out. How are you going to get the map straightened out? You get the map straightened out by constantly going back to these biblical truths: creation, the fall, the flood and the covenant, and reading the stories and getting the imaginative food out of the text.
Now we go backwards one and come to question 4. As we go into that, remember the last event, creation, fall, flood, covenant, remember I gave you a frame of reference for that. The covenant, the fourth event, is the picture, the Noahic family going out into the earth. We said there was excruciating detail, these guys left maps, they mapped all of Antarctica before the ice cap, they set up pyramidal architecture in the western hemisphere and the eastern hemisphere. All of that was done before Abraham; all that was done by the great-great-grandsons of Noah. That’s how genius these guys were. They navigated. In fact, they drew a map, we said the only way you can measure longitude is the clock, you can’t measure it with a [not sure of word], so if they made maps of Antarctica it must mean that these guys had clocks. Where did they get the clocks from? A sign of the genius of the sons of Noah.
We come out of that, and what we are, how do we relate to other people, it’s a major issue in our society today. It’s not theory, these are major issues. How do I relate to other people? Think about the covenant, think about creation. In both of those things God ordained certain relationships. He structured them, marriage, responsible labor, family, civil government, church. These are all structures. We did not invent those. They are not human sociological good ideas. They’re structures that God made. So then when we ask the question, how do I relate to other people, that question is usually answered far too rapidly for serious thought. When you ask that other person, how should I relate to other people, they think uh, I should be good, I should do this, I should do this, I should do that, it’s all me against them as individuals. Once you start to try to answer the question that way it’s wrong, you’ve missed something. You’ve missed structure. First, how are we all related to one another, independently of our rights, skin color or anything. We are all related through Adam, we all share the common DNA; we are all related. We don’t have to relate, we are related, by position in Adam. Moreover, most of us are related, even a closer bond physically, because of our racial identity with the sons of David, probably. Most of us probably come from the sons of David. So we’re related that way. We don’t have to try to relate, we do relate.
Those are the structures. As a fellow member of God-designed structures, the human race out of Adam and Noah, marriage, God made marriage, it wasn’t a vote, it’s not a new idea that was created in 2000 BC, someone says this is a cool idea, marriage is something that was ordained originally in the Garden of Eden, period, that’s it; family, civil government and church. What happens today, here’s the “or” in that sentence in point 4. [“How should I primarily relate to other people? As a fellow-member of God-designed structures (human race out of Adam and Noah, marriage, family, civil government, church) or as a fellow ethnic, or as an independent being?] Look at the “or.” What’s happening today in discussion after discussion on talk shows, television, books, newspapers and magazines, people want to relate as a fellow ethnic, meaning part of my tribe, and when everything else breaks down, what do people gravitate to? Their tribe. Want some good illustrations? What’s going on in Europe today, the last eight years? The Balkans, what’s happening there, I’m a Serb, I’m a Bosnia, I’m a Croatian. When the whole society falls apart there’s no law, there’s no business, there’s no banking, there’s no communication, there’s no police, there’s no law and order, everything’s gone to pot. [blank spot]
When you find on your map that you feel closer to somebody who’s racially akin to you, closer to them in times of crisis than you do to a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve got the wrong map. That’s the wrong map, you’ve got to correct that, you’ve got to get more doctrinal truth down into that map and change it. For some people it’s me, never mind my fellow ethnic, it’s just me, I’m a superman, I’m Rambo, I’m the big boy. That lasts till you meet somebody bigger than you.
Question 6, involved in this as we came forward in time we came to the fact that God redeemed us and He’s going to separate good and evil, so we have the time of the disruption. We’ve entitled that period of history from Abraham on down to David, the rise in the kingdom of God in Israel, as The Disruptive Kingdom. Why did we call it The Disruptive Kingdom? Because it disrupts the paganization of society, it disrupts the good and evil pattern as normal. It’s an intrusion, it’s an interruption, God doesn’t allow us to go on in history in evil. He reaches down and He interrupts and He disrupts. So that’s His disruption, and that’s the history of the Old Testament. He’s disrupting, interfering with our culture. Why does He do that? Because He’s going to separate good and evil, He is going to solve the evil problem. Everybody wants God to solve the evil problem. If God were good, if God were powerful, surely He doesn’t love us, and if He loves us, then He’s impotent to do anything about it—classic argument. What is so ironic, what do you think He’s doing here? Aren’t these the preliminary steps in history that He’s taking already to get it away, to deal with the evil problem? That’s the whole story here, you’ve missed the point.
So question 6, “What do I view as the final evaluation of my life as a human being?” Where am I going? We’ve talked so far this evening about our maps, where we’ve come from; question 6 is where are we going to? What do I view as the final evaluation of my life? What matters? Again, the alternative. “Having my life completely evaluated before my Creator and Judge, like David, or having my life evaluated by its effects on fellow human beings, or by my feelings at death?” How I feel on my death bed? Yeah, I feel good today, I’m dying, so my life is good. People are this way. If we believe that God has a plan and He’s working His plan, He’s standing at the end of this program. This year we saw the fact that when we examined how He ruled in Israel He has a disciplinary process; we learned that this whole period of history. We watched God interfering, messing around, judging these people, blessing these people, cursing those people, it’s all part of the King’s discipline. This is how our God is, and he’s trying to show us what His kingdom is going to require, what shape we have to be in to come into fellowship with Him for all eternity. We have to get in shape.
So what’s the view, the evaluation? Is it more important to think in your map, your view, think about your life, what’s more important? Does it matter more what fellow human beings, this is not to say just go screw up here, this is just saying whence comes the ultimate issue, where do I finally look to decide issues of value for me. Am I looking, even at my fellow believers? They can be mirrors to point me to the truth, but they’re not the truth, they point me to the Word of God, then I go to the Word of God. Why do we emphasize this, why do I make such a point. Because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” And if I’m responding to what people think about me and allow their value system to teach me, where’s the faith. Where did it go? It’s just pressure that’s going on here, that’s all it is, it’s just peer pressure. God wants more than peer pressure. He wants us to personally know that He expects this, this, this and this, then I walk by faith because now I’m trusting Him, now I’m God-oriented, not human oriented.
All during this time period this year and last year we had two events that played a key role in picturing salvation. One earlier was the Exodus, judgment/salvation; before that we had the flood. We emphasized that in judgment/salvation it’s a public thing, it’s not just private, it’s historical it’s not just our imaginations, it’s objective, not just subjective.
So now we come to question 7, “How do I view salvation? As the only escape from evil, or as a pleasurable optional ‘add on’ to life’s experiences?” If you listen to some gospel preaching today, the success gospel or something, if you make a thousand dollars you can make two thousand more with Jesus. That’s an “add on.” It doesn’t challenge you, it gets back to the same illustration I used a couple years ago when I said you can visualize this, you move into this house, you want it redecorated it, you call up the redecorator that comes and changes the curtains, the carpets, etc. and he shows up on the front lawn with a bulldozer, he’s going to take the whole house down; I didn’t ask for that, a renovation, I didn’t have that in mind. But that’s what Jesus does with the gospel. He shows up as the bulldozer. He takes the whole thing out, starts all over.
“How I view salvation, “as the only escape from evil,” do we really think that, that it is the only escape for evil, or do we think there’s an option. Do I think of salvation as a replacement, watch this one now, we studied this in justification by faith, “as a replacement of my best works or as a means of helping me do better works?” Let’s read that one again: “as a replacement of my best works or as a means of helping me do better works?” Does salvation result in means to do better works? Yes it does, but is that the basis of our being saved? What is the basis of our being saved? Our righteousness, or Christ’s righteousness? Christ’s righteousness, and again, look at your map at times, review at times, and if you start catching yourself thinking this way, say oh-oh, got a map problem here, something’s not right. This doesn’t happen all the time, but from time to time really seriously reflect on this to see if these pieces that we’ve talked about, these framework doctrines are really working and taking hold, or are they just entertainment on Thursday evenings.
Do I think of salvation “as part of a universe-wide program or as a private psychological experience?” What do I mean by that? I mean that what happens in my soul and your soul is related to what’s going on out beyond the galaxies in the angelic realm. I’m saying that what is going on in our hearts here in 1998 is vitally related to what went on in the Roman Coliseum in 250. There’s a connection, and the program of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life is all through the cosmos, because Christ shall reign and EVERY knee shall bow, in things in heaven and things on earth. So there’s a universe-wide program going on, it is not a mere private psychological experience. You hear this sometimes in testimonies, well I accepted Jesus and here’s what He did for me. That’s true, but if it’s left in that language you know what happens; what does any greasy non-Christian do you the moment he starts talking to you, well, that worked for you, I’m glad to hear that, that’s great for you. There goes the whole idea of the universal claim of the gospel, it’s just gets swallowed up in the [can’t understand word.]
Do I think of salvation “as something initiated by God” or do I think of it as a fact that it resulted because I searched for it. Is this to say that I searched? Yeah, but who was stimulating the search? So in the end, how were you saved? Was it because God did something and He initiated the call to you, in some way, through circumstances, other people in the family, other people in the work place, somehow? How did you become a Christian? What led you to that? Maybe pain in your life, pleasure, something, emptiness, but it was God initiating it.
Finally, do we view salvation, and this is a little tricky, I had a hard time wording this one, “as assuaging God’s wrath or as God’s arbitrary forgiveness? By arbitrary forgiveness I mean He just said oh, you’re a nice boy or a nice girl, we’ll forgive you. If that’s really what salvation is, why do we have a bloody cross? What’s that for. It’s quite clearly because there had to be an assuaging of guilt here, there had to be a judgment going on, it’s a bloody mess that was involved, it’s hell that was involved, it wasn’t just because God felt sorry for us, and yeah, I forgive you. God couldn’t just forgive. Why couldn’t He? Think of His attributes, He’s righteous, He’s holy, remember that’s what Paul said, the wonder of the gospel is that God could remain holy and justify the sinner, Romans 3.
These are just some questions we’ve thrown out tonight for your thinking and just going through getting the cream of the crop here out of these basic events. There are fundamental issues; they impact our society all around us, every day of our lives we’re operating on maps with these issues on them. So they are areas we need to think about. And in the last few minutes does anybody have questions on anything we’ve said tonight or in the series.
Question asked: Clough replies: God is a holy God, He has standards. Standards are violated by sin. When you have a violation of a standard, how do you fix it? Just in normal human justice we know we have penalties that we pay. But those penalties we pay in human justice are just an analogy of God. Think about in the Old Testament, before Jesus, people would confess their sin, but before they expected to hear God forgave them, they had to do something. What they had to do was bring a lamb and the priest had to slit the lamb’s throat, a bloody mess all over the place, and that was the atonement for the sin. The person couldn’t atone for the sin; we have to be careful, nothing we do is sufficient to deal with that violated standard. Nothing, absolutely nothing! That’s the problem. Half the religions in the world would have you believe that if you did 2082 good works that’ll balance the 152 bad works, so it’s a scale problem. That has nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. In the gospel of Christ Jesus Christ died on the cross and in that dying He paid the price, not me; not because I wouldn’t want to, it’s just I can’t, I don’t have the assets, because I’m a sinner, a sinner can’t pay his own price. So Jesus Christ as the innocent one had to come and He had to be condemned. That’s the tragedy of the cross, that’s why for three hours He was in darkness on the cross and then finally after three hours ended He said tetelestai, (tetelestai), “It is finished,” it’s done with, it’s over.
So now we have to trust in Him, because God isn’t going to automatically apply the results of that atonement, we have to trust Him for that atonement. But apart from this, if you don’t go along with the gospel of Christ and this atonement issue, here’s what happens. You come over to another position where God arbitrarily forgives; now you’ve got God Himself compromising His own standard. In Romans 3 that’s why Paul says the wonder of the gospel is that God can be “just and the justifier” of him who believes in Christ. Paul knew his Old Testament, and he knew that the holy, righteous God of the Old Testament could never, ever forgive sin without some sort of either compromising His own holiness, or He had to somehow provide it. The Old Testament saints really never knew how He was going to provide it, they just knew that, in fact, He would, and they trusted the Lord that way. In the New Testament we have a benefit the Old Testament guys didn’t have. We know how He provided it. So for us, we can directly trust in His work of Christ on the cross. But it’s very vital that we see this because you wind up diluting the holiness of God and you turn His love into an emotional gooey sentimentality, God’s a good guy kind of thing. He’s a loving God, but He’s not a “good guy,” He’s holy.
Question asked: Clough replies: The gravitation to a tribe, tribal allegiance, is probably the result of the fact that God separated the nations right after, you know…, categories of seventy out there, and we tend to identify with that. That’s true, but in the New Testament a real issue is made against ethnicity. Do you know what epistle it is? It’s the epistle written to the city that lay between the Gentiles and the Jews. Rome. It’s very interesting that if you read the text in the book of Romans, I recently have been trying to get my [can’t understand word] back in Greek and one of the things in reading Romans in the Greek that you see, in the English Bible it says “to the Jew first and to the Greeks,” it’s not just a conjunction of kai (kai) that’s in there between the Jew kai (kai) and the Greeks, it’s got a little Greek particle, te; (te); te kai, (te kai) and that little particle tells us that it should really be translated as a couplet. So the way we would translate it would be “both the Jew and the Greek together,” that would probably be a better translation.
See, Paul had a problem because the Roman church had the ethnicity in it, and they had this pride. The Jews really got ticked off at the Gentile Christians. They got ticked off because the Gentile Christians weren’t circumcised, they didn’t have any Mosaic Law and they probably had rough backgrounds, and they’d come into the communion, to the culture, and they’d bring all this garbage in with them. The Jews had maintained their ethnicity, which is to separate and that was God-given too. But God called them to have fellowship and God said there’s an absolute standard going on between us, and you guys had better recognize that.
What I’m getting at there, in the ethnicity of our time it isn’t so much that we don’t … I fully acknowledge we bond more with our own racial identity, what bothers me about the ethnicity we see now in society, it’s getting to be that the ethnicity controls values. The value question, the absolute standards, are getting to be relative, we have our standards—well we have our standards. Think about it, if you extend that. Did Germany of the 1930s and 40s have their standards? Did everybody go along with their standards in Germany? What happened at Nuremberg? The Allies came into Germany after WWII. Why did we have the Nuremberg trials? They were trying the Nazi war criminals. What law did the Nazi law criminals violate? They didn’t violate any German law, did they? They were just carrying out German orders. So how you could you convict a Nazi war criminal on the basis of German law? You couldn’t. That’s why Supreme Justice Jackson who was one of the judges at Nuremberg said the only way we can convict at Nuremberg is to convict on the basis of a law that is above the provincial and above the transient. At that point in human history, it’s amazing, here are all these non-Christians running around, they don’t believe in absolutes, but they wind up going back in the trunk and digging up for the occasion an absolute, such that the Nazis, the Americans and the Brits and the French, and the Austrians were all under the same standard. And all of us now have become “absolute-ers,” it’s convenient for us to do that. That’s an example of what we’re saying. What the tragedy is in ethnicity, the ethnicity exceeds common standards of truth, falsehood and values, and even language. Obviously everybody has their own language; I’m not talking about different languages in the sense of Spanish and English. I’m talking about the fact that you have an utter non-communication going on, where not because of a language problem but because of a perceptive problem, them vs. us, they’re subhuman.
All I can say is the answer to that is get a friend of another race or another culture; just get one and all of a sudden you discover that they’re human. They have same problem I have, and gee, the gospel means the same thing to them it does to me. If you don’t have that experience …, it’s a cherished thing, you should really try someday, some time, to make a friend, take an oriental person for example and get to know them as a Christian, find a good Christian, and just learn… what you’ll sense is you’ll sense the Spirit of Christ in that person and the Spirit of Christ in you, you have a bond. And it’s not a cultural bond. You don’t become oriental, he doesn’t become occidental, those racial distinctions stay, but somehow there’s a bonding that goes on, you recognize each other as a person. And of course, [can’t understand words] that’s the point there. Yes, you’re right, there’s a tendency to do that.
Question asked: Clough replies: The exact description we wouldn’t have, we have pieces of the description that are given in the pages of the New Testament, and when you look at those passages that talk about us as children in Christ, and Christ in us and we in Christ, it’s talking about the character of the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity. Keep in mind the Lord Jesus Christ walked around the earth as a human being, and He was perfectly righteous, the only human being that ever did that, perfectly righteous, He dies, He resurrects, and He is ascended to heaven. He sends the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit takes the qualities that He generated in His earthly life and begins to imbue them in our hearts, begins, little by little, to make us aware of the Father, make us aware of our sin, make us aware of God’s grace, and then at the same time to empower us to live to the standards that Christ does. Now we’re not going to because we’re sinners. But the impetus, the impulse has been placed in the heart of the person who is a spiritual child of God. I’m not saying that… because their salvation doesn’t depend upon this growth process, their salvation depends on the righteous atonement of Christ.
It’s sort of like if I have a baby two years old, that baby is not an adult, far from it, it has lots of growing to do, but can I say that the baby is alive? Yes I can. But saying the baby is alive doesn’t make it an adult. That’s the same way with us as believers. We are born again in Christ, we’re like the baby, but we’ve got an awful lot of growing to do. And the fact that we’re not yet grown doesn’t mean we’re dead, it just means that we’re not fully grown. So if you can think more in terms of just physical life, make an analysis from physical life to spiritual life, it’s remarkably similar. So we are born again just like we’re originally born, we have life that was given to us at that point, at the point of conception, and that life gradually expands and grows, but the growth can’t be identified with the life. The life was there before the growth; the life causes the growth, the growth doesn’t cause the life. That’s what’s so hard to grasp about when we say we’re spiritual children of God, it makes it sound like we either are goody-two-shoes or have been around, or sometimes it connote the wrong image to people, that I am a child of God because I’ve done all these good things and I’m accepted as a child in His kingdom. That’s not true. You can take a four year old child and he may do good things, but he doesn’t become any less your baby because of those good things; he was born into the family, so since he was born into the family, the family status doesn’t change, whether he wets his pants, or whether he says goo-goo at the right time, the point is he’s still your child.