Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1995
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 1: Biblical Creation vs. Pagan Origin Myths
Lesson 3 – Introduction: Religious Neutrality Theory
19 Oct 1995
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to take you to the last paragraph of page 4 on the notes because, while this may seem abstract now, much of what this introductory chapter is doing is setting something up so when we finally get into the text of Genesis 1 you’ll begin to see how this comes together. My desire in this class is to show the coherence of Scripture, that God speaks coherently in the Scripture. He speaks comprehensively; He speaks to every area of life. We don’t mean to, but as Christians we often relegate the Scriptures to sort of a religious compartment of our lives and we fail to see that Scripture has implications in every area. Because we do that it perpetuates what I call religious “ghetto-ism” where we Christians are characterized as people off in the corner someplace, and we don’t have any forthright challenge to the non-Christian. Can you imagine in Paul’s day, being around the Apostle Paul? It must have been quite an experience. I couldn’t imagine people feeling that he was just sort of a religious person off in the right somewhere; they would have to recognize that his very presence was challenging to them, that if Paul, this strange man running around the Mediterranean was really right, then we’re seriously wrong. It’d be that kind of tension.
This is why these first few pages may seem a little abstract, but I’m trying to show you something that we’ll illustrate again and again. I’ll read through that paragraph word by word because I want you to see what we’re saying. “I conclude the matter by enlarging the previous statement. You can’t say anything about anything without saying (by implication) something about everything.” By this I mean that if you listen to, say a non-Christian in your family, just as a simple exercise, try this: don’t get impatient about confronting them with the gospel or sharing the gospel with them, just back off, relax, and draw them out. If they say something say, why do you believe it that way, tell me about it. First, you’re showing respect for them and how they think but more importantly, you’re learning something. And what you want to do is listen for things.
What you want to listen for are statements that imply universal pronouncements. For example, “well, I think this ought to happen.” Now we’ve got an ethical judgment that implies an ethical standard. Listen for their “oughts,” that’s one of the key words in good conversational listening. Every time somebody uses “ought” or “should” they are referencing some standard. What we need to do before we put our feet in our mouth is just listen for a few minutes and find out where people are. This is one way of doing it, finding out where their “oughts” and “shoulds” come from; where their standards of right and wrong are coming from. What are these standards? It tells you a lot about how they think. Listen for the word “all” in a statement, “all people know that,” or, “all the time.” Listen for adverbs, “all the time something is true…” Listen for “all” words, or “whole” as in “the whole world believes that,” or words that denote time, “it always happens all the time.” When we get mad at somebody, kind of in a humorous way we’ll say “you always do that;” we don’t mean they “always” do it but we’re so mad that we pronounce a universal judgment on them. That’s the way we’re built, and those universal judgments slip out.
That’s what I mean on page 4 that inevitably conversation will be rooted on a world view that’s lurking beneath the surface and we have to find out what that world view is. You don’t have to have every piece of it in place but for effective communication you should understand what that world view is, because if you don’t, you haven’t lined up the gun on the target. If you go to shoot you’re just shooting fruit off the top of the tree, you’re not at the root it. That’s why often our conversations get so slippery and greasy and we feel like after we spend 15-20 minutes thinking this thing through and sharing it we haven’t got anywhere.
Another thing to remember about what we’re saying, we can’t get proud about this because when we talk paganism, and we’ll see what paganism is all about just looking at the text, but when we use the word paganism what we’re really talking about is the carnal mind, the mind of the flesh. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ’s absolute righteousness and the Holy Spirit working on that basis, we are pagans, so it’s not like we’re sitting here self-righteously throwing rocks at people. All we’re trying to do is identify where the problem is. We’re not blaming someone because they have cancer, but we want to find out where the cancer is—that’s the issue here. So when I talk about paganism versus the Scripture don’t think of this as a rock throwing contest. That’s not what it’s all about. It’s simply to identify problems and find out where the Scripture collides with this.
Summarizing the issue on page 4, what we’re saying is that any statement, any thought, always comes out in language, and that language that it comes out in always shows at least two things. It shows a belief in absolute structures and categories; every time somebody uses a noun they are believing, they are building on the idea that there are classifications out there that we can talk about, we can talk about light and darkness, red and green, we can talk objects, boys, girls, we can talk about these things that are stable. In order to use language, language is always referred in context to something; you learn something in context with something else.
We want to conclude that early section by distinguishing between two words, neutrality and tolerance. Tolerance is Scriptural. Because this is a day of the age of grace we are tolerant, God is tolerant. Hasn’t God withheld judgment in order that men may come to repentance in Jesus Christ? Does that mean God condones sin? No! Does it mean He’s tolerant for now? Yes, tolerance is an axiom of grace. Tolerance is grace in action. So we can be tolerant. But where it gets slippery is when the idea of tolerance is subtly converted in our minds to neutrality. We’re saying here that if you believe what we’ve said so far, all language is non-neutral, it wells up into a world view. All language is rooted in basic beliefs, and those basic beliefs cannot be neutral in the light of Scripture, because the carnal mind is enmity with God, is not subject to God, and won’t be. So what we’re saying is there is no neutrality in the area of language. Does that mean we have to look down our nose? No, all it’s saying is that we live in an environment that while we tolerate it, it doesn’t mean we back off, get passive and somehow accept religion A and religion B.
We lead everyone to believe that we Christians are setting aside our beliefs in order to be objective. I don’t set aside my beliefs in order to be objective, because if I set aside my beliefs I couldn’t be objective. Apart from the Christian faith there is no such thing as objectivity. In fact there’s no such thing as knowledge or truth in the true sense of the word. One time I was selected for jury and this lawyer asked, could you set aside your religious convictions for blah blah blah blah, and the judge stopped him and said you have no right to ask any person in this courtroom to set aside their religious beliefs. He chopped that lawyer off real fast. We will tolerate, but we are not neutral. Beware of that, it’s a little game of words.
Tonight we want to spend our time on the notes. In the middle of page 6 I quote Dr. Alexander Heidel, who for many years taught at the University of Chicago, his first statement is: “Enuma Elish,” that’s the pagan text we’re going to compare with Gen. 1, “Enuma Elish is the principle source of our knowledge of Mesopotamian cosmology.” Cosmology is the belief system, the world view of the ancients, or the world view today of what the universe is all about. “Enuma Elish is the principle source of our knowledge of Mesopotamian,” i.e., the people that lived back in Bible times that occupied the Mesopotamian valley. Notice what he said, “Yet Enuma Elish is not primarily a creation story at all.” Some of you get into this in high school, at least in college, you’ll be assigned to read sections of The Epic of Gilgamesh and you’ll learn about some other parts of Mesopotamian cosmology. But the interesting thing is, neither Enuma Elish nor The Epic of Gilgamesh are fundamentally creation stories. That’s an interesting observation. Why don’t we read a creation story? The answer is because the ancient man, like the modern man, whenever he deals with a profound topic, in Enuma Elish you see the topic is a justification for the domination of the city of Babylon in history, or The Epic of Gilgamesh is an adventure story. Whenever men deal with epical topics and themes they always bring up origins because they unconsciously are admitting that it’s the origins that give the framework for the epic.
One of the greatest epic movies in the past decade, it had several sequels, was a tremendous money maker, people loved it, it was Star Wars. Star Wars and all the things that went into that were basically what we would call epic—epic in the sense that it was cosmic, it describes civilization by using the tool of science fiction; writers can get outside civilization and look at it. In the movie Star Wars, what was the God substitute? “The force,” that came up in that film again and again and again. Isn’t it interesting, not the person, but “the force.” What Lucas did was what every pagan writer or author does—he converted the personal sovereign God into an impersonal force. Paganism always does that. When they speak of the force, what do they talk about as far as light and darkness? They said the good side of the force, the dark side of the force. There was always a good side to the force and a dark side to the force. In other words, the force is not only impersonal, but it’s also good and evil. And that’s what paganism always does to the gods and goddesses, ALWAYS does, every century, every continent, every race, and every people, paganism always shows the same structure. It’s universal.
I want to point out a second thing before we get into the comparisons. The bottom of page 6, the paragraph that begins “Before hastily reading this text,” watch that carefully because I want you to develop a habit as a Christian of using the Scripture in every subject you study. Don’t ever leave the Bible on a shelf, divorced from whatever subject you study. I am reading a paper right now in theoretical mathematics about set theory, and the Christian PhD who was writing that paper on set theory is a very godly man, he is concerned about the system of logic being used in set theory, as a Christian, and he wants to distinguish what he calls the Aristotelian logical system that’s being used in set theory from a Biblical system of logic. You can’t get much more abstruse than that. But you know what? The guy’s a godly man; he shows that he believes in the Lordship of Jesus Christ seriously enough to follow it in his professional area of study.
Now the paragraph on page 6: “Before hastily reading the text, however, you should start with a Biblical Framework, as we learned in Part I. What do you know already about such a text from the Biblical perspective?” Follow what I am doing, watch my method. I am going to read a pagan text; I’ve got this new piece of material, I am a Christian, so before I even come to the pagan literature I’m going to prepare myself as a Christian. I am going to ask myself, what help can I get from God’s Word, ahead of even dealing with the details. Does the Word of God set up the problem for me so I can save some time and not get sidetracked? You should remember that the inhabitants of Babylon had to have come from Noah’s sons. From this fact you can expect that Enuma Elish writers may have had access to the creation traditions directly from Noah. They didn’t have to get it handed down from Moses. If the Babylonians are post-flood people, and all the people on this side of the flood came from one family on the boat, then doesn’t it follow that in every tribe, in every culture on the face of the planet that we could have surviving memories of what Noah and his sons taught their sons? We’re not saying this in every case, but theoretically we have the option if we believe in Scripture. Hold the place in the notes in page 6 and turn over to the bottom of page 8, watch the opposite. This is the slick trick that we get sucked into in classrooms and I want to help you to prevent yourself from getting this slippery slope problem. It says “Similarities Between” etc.; it begins “When modern scholars first began to analyze ancient pagan texts, like Enuma Elish, many of them” watch this sentence, “interpreted them from an evolutionary perspective.”
Are they being neutral? Where’s the neutrality? They’re not being neutral; they’re bringing gobs of baggage from the world view of evolution into the discussion of this piece of religious literature. Nobody is being neutral, there’s no objectivity of analysis here; they are approaching the text with the idea that it’s bracketed by the history they see in evolution. “Because of the similarities they saw they thought they could see a gradual evolution from these earlier, more speculative, polytheistic stories to the later, loftier, monotheistic Genesis.” In other words, they made Genesis later, they put these stories earlier, and the stories from that seem polytheistic and Genesis was clean and monotheistic, so they said, aha, aha, see, there’s evolution at work again, out from chaos we get a higher and higher level of religion. And for a hundred years this has been taught in universities, on every continent, that pagan literature gradually evolved into the Bible. And then I point out the reasons why we no longer believe that.
Now go to the pagan literature. You should have done the exercise for tonight, just to get some ideas and observations. What we want to do is to train ourselves to observe the text of Scripture. We want to ask two questions. The first question is what do you observe as you read through this text and compare it side by side with the Bible? You’ve got Genesis 1 in one hand, the pagan text in the other hand. Just watch because you hear this flippant remark, the Bible is full of paganism. When we get through this exercise you’ll be prepared next time your neighbor tells you that one. What do you notice about the similarities between Genesis 1 and this Enuma Elish text? I haven’t given you the whole text, the whole text goes on for pages and pages, and everywhere you see the dash I cut a section out, lots of things out, and instead of going through 400-500 lines of material, I pulled out the special lines. Enuma Elish is what the language sounds like, “when above.” Ancient documents were named for the first two or three words, they didn’t have titles. Genesis in Hebrew isn’t called Genesis; it’s called “Bereshith,” because Berith is the first word, “In the beginning.” That’s the way all the Bible was originally labeled on the basis of the first word or so of the text. So this was common. Enuma Elish just means “when above” the heaven is not the name, etc. Look at those 8 or 9 lines; are there any resemblances to what you’re reading in Gen. 1? Notice the words in the first two clauses, “heaven” and “earth.”
“When above [Enuma Elish] the heaven had not (yet) been named,
(And) below the earth had not (yet) been called by a name,
(When) Apsu primeval, their begetter,
Mummu, (and) Tiamat, she who gave birth to them all,
(Still) mingled their waters together,
And no pasture land had been formed (and) not (even) a reed marsh was to be seen;
When none of the (other) gods had been brought into being,
(When) they had not (yet) been called by (their) name(s) and their destinies had not yet been fixed,
(At that time) were the gods created within them. . . .
They lived many days, adding years (to days). . . .
The divine brothers gathered together.
They disturbed Tiamat and assaulted(?) their keeper,
Yea, they disturbed the inner parts of Tiamat,
Moving (and) running about in the divine abode(?). . . .
[Marduk] took from [Kingu] the tablet of destinies, which was not his rightful possession. .
After he had vanquished (and) subdued his enemies. . . .
Strengthened his hold upon the captive gods;
And then he returned to Tiamat, whom he had subdued.
The lord trod upon the hinder part of Tiamat,
And with his unsparing club he split her skull.
He cut the arteries of her blood,
And caused the north wind to carry (it) to out-of-the-way places.
[Marduk] split [Tiamat] open like a muscle into two (parts);
Half of her he set in place and formed the sky (therewith) as a roof.
He fixed the crossbar (and) posted guards,
He commanded them not to let her waters escape.
And a great structure, its counterpart, he established, (namely) Esharra [earth], . . .
He created stations for the great gods;
The stars their likeness(es), the signs of the zodiac, he set up.
He determined the year, defined the divisions. . . .
Punishment they inflicted upon [Kingu] by cutting (the arteries of) his blood.
With his blood they created mankind;
[Ea] imposed the services of the gods (upon them) and set the gods free.
What do you notice in the first clause of Genesis? “Heavens and the earth.” So you’ve got the same theme, the same content. Notice the condition, about the 5th line down, “still mingled their waters together,” and what do you read in Gen. 1:2? Waters, water, a chaos of water. Now drop all the way down to “Strengthen his hold upon the captive gods; And then he returned to Tiamat,” etc. “He cut the arteries of her blood, And caused the north wind to carry (it) to out-of-the-way places.” “[Marduk] split [Tiamut] open like a muscle into two (parts); Half of her he set in place and formed the sky, (therewith) as a roof. He fixed the crossbar (and) posted guards.” “And a great structure, its counterpart, he established, (namely Esharra [earth]…”
Do you notice something about the sequence of actions here? Are they the same as Gen. 1? The heavens and the earth are a watery mass; in the Genesis text the heavens and the earth have a watery mass. The sky is formed, and the sky is formed in the Bible. And then you have the earth. Continuing with Enuma Elish, the stars are set up, notice the stars are not set up either at the beginning, the stars are set up half way through the narrative, that’s exactly like the Bible. And they “determined the year, defined the divisions” of the year; look at the 4th day of Gen. 1 and what are the stars’ function? The stars set the days apart and make a calendar. What’s the last act in Enuma Elish? To make man. What’s the last act in Genesis 1? To make man.
If it’s true that these guys in the ancient world just made this up, isn’t it striking that we have different civilizations remembering the same order of events? I wonder why that happens. That’s why I say when you come to literature like this as a Christian, don’t just walk into it cold, say wait a minute, what does the Word of God say about this subject material. Get your mind clicking, subordinate, and humble before the Lord before you start your intellectual exercises. Spiritual preparation before intellectual thought.
We want to emphasize the differences. Look at this text carefully. You have three gods, Apsu, Mummu and Tiamat. Based on this author’s words, how would you sketch the appearance of these gods? They are “morphosing.” Notice they “(Still) mingle their waters together” Notice the pronoun, “their waters.” Notice also these gods and goddesses are material, there’s not any distinguishing between god and matter, or god and anything else, they’re water deities. They’re gods of chaos, but they have a material nature. We see more evidence of that later on. Notice, “they disturbed the inner parts of Tiamut,” in other words after the gods were created they were running around, the divine brothers gathered together,” They disturbed Tiamut and assaulted their keeper, Yea, they disturbed the inner parts of Tiamut, Moving and running about in the divine abode?” There’s a question mark there because it’s hard to translate some of these words, nobody left a dictionary so scholars have to kind of guess at what some of these words mean. When you read that, what does it tell you about how they were conceiving to get Tiamut, as some sort of a volume and inside this space or inside this volume these other gods were running around inside her, so she must be space, she must have volume; she’s not only a water deity but she appears to have volume in which the other gods are running around making a big noise.
Look further to see if this bears out. As you go down through the text, look at this one: “The lord trod upon the hinder part of Tiamut,” this is Marduk coming along because this text is really to justify the role of Babylon in history and who was the god of Babylon but Marduk, so this is the “proof” of why Babylon was superior at that point in history. Marduk comes along and he beats up on her. “With his unsparing club he split her skull, He cut the arteries of her blood,” which shows how the Ninevites killed people in those days, “and caused the north wind to carry (it) to out-of-the-way places. Marduk split Tiamut like a muscle into two (parts); half of her he set in place and formed the sky (therewith) as a roof. He fixed a crossbar (and) posted guards, He commanded them not to let her waters escape.” Look at the Genesis text; do you notice any parallel in verse 9. What is God doing there? “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered together, and let the dry land appear,” and we have amplifications of that passage of how God put boundaries on it. Then the earth is established, so on and so forth.
One of the key differences that we want to understand is this: in all of paganism, not just this text, ALL of paganism, from Enuma Elish to Star Wars, it’s the same idea. Gods are part and parcel of the cosmos; the cosmos itself is divine. There is no clear-cut distinction in paganism between God and what He creates. In the Bible how many Gods are there in Gen. 1? One God, there’s a plurality of sorts because He spoke in plural, but the point is, there is One God and He is distinct from all else. Re-read Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Do you read any analogous statement in any of the first four or five verses of Enuma Elish that corresponds to Gen. 1:1? There’s a vast difference between those two texts. The difference is this, and get this idea because we’ll come back to it again and again. The thing that makes the Bible anti-pagan is the Creator/creature distinction. That is the most fundamental thing that we can learn from the entire Bible. God is not ever to be identified with water, trees, sky, and stars. God makes those, but those are not God; to fail to make that distinction is to become at heart an idolater. That is idolatry, and it’s rebellion spiritually.
So at the beginning we see a clear cut distinction. Is the Bible an ancient book? Yes. Is Enuma Elish an ancient text? Of course. Does the Bible have paganism in it? No, the Bible is anti-pagan. This literature is both ancient and pagan; the Bible is ancient and anti-pagan. Don’t confuse ancient with paganism, slurp it together and come out with the idea that the Bible has mythology and paganism in it. No! You just saw a very clear distinction about the way the gods are treated here and the way the God of Scripture appears in the Bible. Did you notice anything else different as you observe these texts and work through the exercises? [can’t hear what’s said] The question is, you notice the gods get chaotic and the struggles among them, and quite obviously this is a faint memory and a screwed up version of the rebellion of Satan against God. But what is different is that in this case the rebels win; the young god Marduk rises up and crushes Tiamat, the creator, he rises up in his pride and his power, and he becomes as god, and he triumphs over all.
So you have an opposite theme going on in pagan literature, which leads to the second profound difference between pagan literature and the Bible.
Not only is the Creator/creature distinction missing, but we also have the problem of personal sovereignty vs. chance, page 11 in the notes. The second great difference is who is ultimately in charge in Genesis 1, who has unchallenged control over everything? God speaks and it is done. What is going on in the pagan literature? You have a knock down drag out to find out who’s going to win. So ultimately here’s the question that paganism can never answer, it’s a very strong question, and if you understand this question, mentioned on page 11, the paragraph that begins “Observe carefully what is going on here. If today Marduk beats up all the other gods, what about tomorrow? Will another god, younger and stronger than Marduk, rise up and triumph over him? On the polytheistic basis of Enuma Elish, what assurance would a Babylonian have about the future? Who is in charge in the final analysis?” If you lived in Babylon and your welfare politically and economically depended literally upon a god like Marduk, could Marduk predict what’s going to happen 2,000 years ahead if Marduk is insecure? The problem in polytheism is that there’s no god who is ever secure. No god can ever be sure that out of this universe there won’t arise a god that will in turn defeat him. So the pagan mind, when faced with this dilemma, usually tries to appeal to something behind the gods, because a person may be a pagan but still they want order in their life. How do I get order in my life when this headless horseman that I’ve got is running the universe? The order comes in, in a sneaky way. Note in Enuma Elish the line that reads: “[Marduk] took from [Kingu] the tablet of destinies.” Whoever holds the tablet of destinies seems to be able to reign. The Greeks and the Romans later took that tablet of destinies idea and brought up the Latin word that we still use: Fate. Those of you who read ancient Greek drama know that there was “the Fate,” “the Fate” seems to determine. So you have the gods running around but in the background you have this quiet mysterious Fate.
The first science fiction film that was done in epic proportion, that became the grandfather film of Fate and everything else that followed, the theme at the beginning of this film, “thus spoke Zoroaster,” (or was it Nostradamus?) it was used in commercials, in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was very well done. Arthur C. Clark who wrote the script that was used by Cooper to make that film was considered the father of science fiction. Star Wars and other things just grew out of Arthur C. Clark and his work. In the beginning of the film there’s this ape, they zero in on it with this great crescendo of music, and the ape throws a stick up in the air. What Clark is saying is there’s the evolution of man, it’s beginning now, the ape just got his brand new tool, and the rest of the story gets into the fact that the tool becomes a computer; the computer begins to take things over, etc. To get symmetry at the beginning and end of the film, he had this spinning tablet, cut out so it looked like the tablets Moses took down from Mt. Sinai; this tablet just sort of appears at the beginning of the film and then at the end of the film it shows up again. What do you suppose that is? It’s the same pagan theme, Fate. Somehow the computers, somehow the space station, the ape, the stick are all controlled by that tablet that just appears and then disappears, appears and then disappears, appears and then disappears, at critical junctures of human history the tablet is there. Why does the pagan mind revert to this? Because it’s got to find order somewhere.
I want to summarize what this is. I have an overhead transparency; I want to contrast these ideas. Here’s the difference in a nutshell. On the left side the view is: yes, there is an ex nihilo Creator. Why do we say ex nihilo? It’s a Latin phrase used as a technical term to define the Christian faith over against paganism. Why must we have ex nihilo and not just creator? Ex nihilo means out from nothing. It means that God created without help from something else. It wasn’t God and the universe; it is God and God alone. That’s why salvation… this is how this reverberates down through history to our own personal spiritual life, this is not abstract philosophy I’m teaching, this is why the heart of the spiritual life is to come into fellowship with God and God alone, not God and something, God and this, God and that, it’s God and God alone. Why? Because He and He alone is the Creator of the universe. Nothing created can satisfy the human heart, NOTHING! God and God alone, it falls naturally out of this premise of the ex nihilo Creator.
Notice down at the bottom I’ve put two hyphenated words, very important terms because they summarize something about God. God is infinite person. You can call it other names. The reason I’m putting those two adjectives together is because God is infinite, that’s His Creator/creature distinction, but He’s also a person, He’s not an it, He’s not a force, He’s not a tablet of destinies, He’s not blind faith. He is a person, and that has tremendous and powerful repercussions as we only begin to see. As we study the text of Genesis and really think through what we’re reading, this is a powerful challenge to everything in the modern world. It is a cosmic statement, that ultimately in back of everything there is no such thing as fate; there are the personal decrees of a personal God, that’s back behind everything. It’s a Person that drives the universe, not an “it.”
On the other side we have no ex nihilo Creator, therefore this other doctrine, opposite to the Creator/creature distinction. There’s no neutrality, a person is going to believe one or the other, there’s no other option. Continuity of Being means that the universe is basically all one, matter, immaterial, dogs, cats, trees, rocks, etc. That is the doctrine of the Continuity of Being. It’s sometimes known as the Chain of Being. Turn to page 10 in the notes, the paragraph that begins: “Over against the Bible’s Creator/creature distinction, paganism insists upon the unity of creator(s) and creations. Gods, men, animals and rocks are all part of the same existence or being. This is the doctrine of the Chain of Being, a doctrine you will find lurking in all forms of paganism from ancient times through New Testament times.” By the way, one entire book in the New Testament is written against this idea—Colossians. Colossians was directed against this because the heresy Paul had to deal with was Gnosticism, and Gnosticism believed that you had God and the nations from God, man, etc. etc. etc. It was all a gradation, sort of like a spectrum of light, no separation.
The next paragraph, watch this one because here’s a sneaky little corollary that’s the twin brother of the Continuity of Being idea. “Implied by the Continuity of Being idea and overtly present in some pagan origin-myths, is the concept of spontaneous generation. Since the universe basically is of one kind, everything within it differs only in degree. Thus the universe has the power to bring forth life from non-life all by itself. Man is just part of nature.” Contrast this situation with the Bible’s teaching about non-transgressable boundaries between man, each kind of animal, and each kind of plant.” [blank spot] All this happens in every century, every pagan idea, every continent, every language and every race, it doesn’t make any difference, we’ll always follow that agenda, and we’ll give you references, gobs of references, that I stuck in the notes to substantiate that.
In the exercise I asked you to look at, 1 Kings 22:19, a passage I happened to come across when I was doing some Hebrew work and it blew me away; what really blew me away is when you read what some commentators say about it. Keep in mind Enuma Elish, all the running around that’s going on, fighting among the gods, look at what happens here, isn’t this odd. Verse 19, “And Micaiah said, Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.  And the LORD said, Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” This is an evil act. “And one said this while another said that.” In other words, there was a discussion in this counsel.  “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, I will entice him.  And the LORD said to him, How? And he said, I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Notice the ability of that spirit to fracture himself and appear in many different people at the same time and it’s all the same spirit. “I will go out and be a,” single “deceiving spirit in the mouth of,” plural, “all his prophets. Then he said, You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.”
What do you see about the conduct of that meeting that is missing in this mess? God is sovereign. The spirits go where they are told to go by God, and God alone. Do you see the greatness of God appearing here? Sometimes it takes a step outside of the Scripture to bounce off and come back into the Scripture to appreciate Scripture. What I’m trying to do tonight is take you into the theological and spiritual milieu of paganism, so that you will then come back to the Scripture and say whew, WOW! The God of Scripture is always in control. We may not like that, we may argue with that, but you cannot deny that the God of Scripture is always in control. That’s the fierceness of the God of the Scripture. This is what is deeply offensive to the pagan mind.
Isaiah 46:10 is a passage that’s ringing opposite to all of paganism. In Isaiah 40-49 Isaiah was teaching his generation how to survive. He knew the nation was going down, he knew that he was called by God to prepare for judgment. The way people prepared for judgment was to prepare their hearts with a deeper personal relationship so when that crashing wave of judgment came they could stand against it. What Isaiah ministered to in his generation were people that were going around Robin Hood’s barn, worrying about this, doing this, upset about that, and he said folks, it’s going to get worse before it gets better, what you have to do is get straightened out in your theology of who and what God is. The Isaiah 40s are filled with these things.
Isaiah 46:10, think about what you read about Marduk, Tiamat, Apsu and Mummu; contrast those deities with what you see in verse 10. The God, our God, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” You say how egotistical. Not for God. Egotism for us is bad because we’re creatures, but it’s okay for God to do because He’s God. When we do that we’re acting like we’re God; that’s what makes it egotism. We can’t do that, but God can. Had I given you all of Enuma Elish you would never find any of the gods, Tiamat included, able to declare the end from the beginning. Nor would you ever read any of them daring to say those last two clauses in verse 10, “My purpose will be accomplished,” you never read Marduk saying that, you never read Tiamat saying I will accomplish all my good pleasure, all the way down the corridors of time. It’s missing, because the pagan gods aren’t big enough to make those kinds of statements.
I want to summarize what we’re saying by setting paganism off from Biblical faith. We’ve talked about paganism; we’ve said there’s no neutrality, that all men have this need to know. We’ve said that the heart is not neutral, that words have to be known in context, but ultimately the bottom line is there are only two contexts. One is the Creator/creature context; the other is the Continuity of Being context. Every man is in one or the other; every man understands the world in terms of one or the other views. There may be different names to it. There may be different ways, you may talk about this in equations and scientific language but after all is said and done, you still wind up in one of these two camps, always! These are fundamental distinctions. We, as Christians, must learn in our day, and this is what makes it so hard as Oriental religions, particularly, are invading us, the New Age, what makes it so hard to deal with is making this distinction. All the New Age, all the Oriental religions believe in the Continuity of Being. I’ve got quotes in the notes, they all believe in the Continuity of Being; they all believe it’s just a relative difference between God and man, if there is a God. God is a super man who is more quantitatively, He’s stronger than we are, maybe infinitely stronger than we are, infinitely more wise than we are, but there are gray areas and shades of difference between Him and us. In the Scripture He is totally other, He is totally by Himself, He is not in any way dependent upon the creature.
Here’s the way we summarize the point. How do we as Christians describe our God? It doesn’t mean you have to describe it this way to every person; this is for our own notes, to think through, to meditate on. We believe in an infinite personal God who is preexisting the universe, preexisting, self-contained, self-contained because He doesn’t need anything outside of Himself. There is a phrase that is used theologically to describe self-contained; it comes out of a Greek expression, it’s called Aseity. Aseity means that God is not dependent upon His creation whatsoever. There’s an interesting corollary. One of the problems we’re going to face is that the Christian church in the United States in the last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century is a coming new wave, and the new wave is Islam. Islam is not like the Oriental religions.
Islam has a view of God, much like Jehovah’s Witnesses, in that God is a solitary creator, Allah is a solitary person. Now think. From everything we know by analogy with God, what is it about a person that is always incomplete? What did God say after He made Adam, after He made everything without sin He made that one statement, He said it is not good that man be alone, and in that there’s a fundamental observation about persons. There’s no such thing, the Bible knows no such thing, as solitary personality, that personality is a corporate, it is something that demands another person. And this is why the Christian faith insists on a plurality of persons in God. If God is not multi-personal, then the problem that comes up, and Islam has never solved this problem, if you have a solitary being then the solitary being has to create in order to have another object to talk to, to fellowship with. He doesn’t have fellowship with himself, not in a corporate, social sense. It is the Triune God of Christianity where God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit commune among themselves.
What did Jesus say in the priestly prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane say? While He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He let slip a phrase, and that little phrase allows us to penetrate eternity past; in one little glimpse we can go all the way back in time before the universe, because Jesus said, “Father, before the world was made, You loved me, I talked with you, we had Fellowship together.” What is Jesus talking about there? He’s talking about the Triune multiple-person God of the Christian faith; this is not something to be ashamed of, this is part of a logical structure of our faith. We can stand up and be proud of this. The counterfeits to the Christian faith always get slippery here, they always try to deny the Trinity and they wind up with a solitary monotheism and a solitary monotheism has to have a God who creates or he is a lonely God. Christianity alone has a self-contained God because He doesn’t need to create to have fellowship. The Trinity was perfectly at home among themselves. The Father had eternal fellowship with the Son; we get into this more in the New Testament. But we conclude with that statement because if you look at the text carefully, Genesis 1, there’s a mysterious phrase there that has long troubled readers of Genesis, they’ve tried to explain this away with all kinds of gimmicks, but the text still stands. Gen. 1:26, what is the pronoun? What is the number of the pronoun in verse 26, singular or plural? Plural!
You can argue about the Trinity not being here explicitly, but do you notice the plurality. “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…” Who’s the “our?” It is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you read the Genesis text carefully for that exercise you saw the Father and you saw the Spirit mentioned. I wonder how many saw the second personality mentioned. The hint there is we’re going to look at the Apostle John’s interpretation of Genesis, because John 1 is John’s meditation on Genesis 1. If you read John 1, then go back and read Genesis 1, and ask yourself how would John have interpreted Genesis 1 and you will discover an amazing thing about Jesus Christ. We won’t tell you tonight.