The distinctive characteristics of the event of creation and where they lead us. A comparison of how paganism and biblical Christianity answer key questions. Who is man? What is truth? How should I then live?
© Charles A. Clough 1995
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 2: Creation: Buried Truth of Who God is
Lesson 6 – Distinctives of Biblical Creation; Creationism vs.
Paganism Answers to 3 Basic Questions: Who Am I? What is Truth and
How Can I Know? How Should I Live?
09 Nov 1995
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we’re going to follow pretty much the handout almost verbatim, pages 18-22, you should have received pages 22-25, How God can and cannot be known, there’s no exercise with that but there’ll be one next time. If you want to read something that goes with the one that was handed out tonight for next week, my recommendation would be Isaiah 40; Isaiah 40 and Genesis 1 because those are the passages which basically are at stake. I also would like to suggest something else, just a little practical thing about studying the Bible that I’ve found useful just recently, maybe some of you found out earlier, because I have so many times during the day when I just have a break you can really redeem the time by taking advantage of it, and then when you do you can’t find a Bible, your notes are somewhere else.
I found a simple trick is if I’m studying Genesis 1 is to go to a copy machine and just copy Genesis 1 on the copy machine and carry around the copy. I’ve been stuck in traffic jams and I must have been able to read Genesis 1 at least 40 times. So you can get time at odd moments to go through this by just simply using a Xerox machine. Another advantage of doing that is because when you’re studying the Scripture, when you study the text, a good habit to get into, Bible Study Fellowship teaches this, Kay Arthur and Precepts teaches this, don’t be afraid to use pencils and underline, highlighters, etc., and you’ll be less fearful to do that if you’re using a Xerox copy of the text. You might not want to mark your regular Bible up like that. I hope you are reading Genesis 1 again and again because I presume that you are; my comments during the lectures presuppose that you are.
Here are some tips, just observation tips. When you’re reading the Scriptures and you’re reading a defined unit, you want to first define what the unit of Scripture is and it’s not always a chapter. In our case we’re reading actually from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4. That’s the block of text. In the original language there are actually markers there that mark that section off, where the rabbis over the centuries did that. So Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4 and when you approach a unit of Scripture like that, a habit to get into is look for partitions in that segment, in other words, can you see a structure that’s repeated. It’s obvious and very easy from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4, it’s the seven days, so you’ve got seven segments in that text to look at. Then when you get your segments outlined, and the easy way to do that is take the Xerox and just rule through those segments, just cut them, with just a mark. And then look to see what the structure of the segments are, and see if there’s an inherent structure to those. In other words, is there a way that you go from day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, etc., is it the same sequence followed or do you notice things different.
The Holy Spirit is an artist and when He writes He doesn’t just mechanically write. One of the things that I noticed years ago when I did that, I blocked it out by segments, and that’s when I made the discovery that if you look at the verb “God said,” you start out on day 1, day 2, it says “God said” let’s do this, then God did, and there’s that formula, God said, then He did, God said, then He did, and the first couple of days God said, God did, God named. Then the second day God said, God did, God named. Then you get down to day 4 or 5 and there’s no more naming. That’s kind of interesting. Why didn’t God name the rest of it? If you look at verbs and nouns, you see the next time “name” is used is over in Genesis 2 when He says man, you name the rest, go ahead, name, when the animals start. There are those little observations.
So segmenting the text, looking at the structure, and another trick to help observing the text is to look for the main verbs. I don’t know whether they teach this, they’re so busy trying to be sure that we all know how to put condoms on in the public school that they don’t get into things like grammar. One of the things they used to teach is just diagramming the sentence, go back to the subject and the verb and start picking out clauses. I’ll tell you where you’re going to get lost if you don’t do this, where this becomes absolutely critical, is in Paul’s writings. If you want to diagram a sentence, it’s one of the longest sentences in the Bible, and it’s a challenge, try Ephesians 1:3 and find out where that sentence ends. If you think that Paul’s a simple guy, by the time you get through this I guarantee it’s going to take two pieces of paper because you’ve got all these clauses that modify the previous clause that modifies the previous clause. And when you get done with that one sentence you think how could you follow Paul, he was very intricate in his structure.
Yet, when you come to John, try to diagram what John was writing. It’s a completely different structure. This teaches you how the Holy Spirit uses different people in different ways. God respects our individuality, He never makes the church and Christians a bunch of clones and we all have to follow each other, and we’re all carbon copies of everybody else. John and Paul were distinct personalities with distinct vocabularies that led distinctly different lives, and they expressed God’s Word differently. Those are the little nuances that make the Bible real for you.
Tonight I want to concentrate as we go through the description that we have before us, we start in chapter 2 and in this chapter we deal with the creation event itself. Up to this point we tried to introduce things, and the reason we spent so long trying to introduce things is to convince you that by the time we get to this point of looking at the text and looking at a key event that you be aware, everyone comes to the Bible with presuppositions, and we want to be sure what those presuppositions are. We want to understand that we have to correct for them, or at least be aware that they’re there. All we’re going to do for evening after evening is look at Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4, and by the time we get through 3 or 4 more weeks of this, going through this creation event, you will see how crucial this chapter is for the doctrines of God, man and nature. Foundational doctrines! It’s all set up here, and that’s another rule of studying the Bible.
One of the neat things about the Scripture, a little side note here, is if you notice where and how something is first introduced in Scripture, that’s the most occurrence of a word, like if you have a concordance and you look up a word and you see it occurs here, here, here and here, and you have a whole stream of references, a key is always watch where the word first occurred. Look at the context where it first occurred. And that will give you a big clue about how that word is being used in the Bible; there’s a whole context of meanings associated with it.
We want to look at creation with a distinctive characteristic of that event, and where that event leads us. In other words, starting with the Biblical creation we are led to think certain ways about God. This is without getting into all the details, just the creation in general. We’ve already said that we have made the general observation about Genesis, that we can observe this difference. This is not something we’re suggesting, this is not an opinion, this comes out of observations, and that’s why I gave you Enuma Elish, which is a typical pagan creation text so you can see for yourself that in that text there is no ex nihilo, i.e. gods are creating matter out of their anatomy, that’s what’s happening.
In the exercise that you had to do for tonight, the last question was if you look at the processes God uses in Genesis to create, what do you observe, vs. the processes that the gods use in pagan literature. What is the difference? What do you notice about the way God creates vs. the way the gods were creating in the pagan text? When God creates He speaks, it’s always a spoken sovereign omnipotent word, God speaks and it was so. In the pagan text, what you often have them doing is procreating, or killing the bodies of the gods and making parts of the universe out of the bodies of the gods. In other words, the anatomy of the gods becomes the universe. That’s a picture you want to see, it’s always true. That means it’s not ex nihilo. Ex nihilo means from nothing, the God of the Bible creates out of nothing, besides His own Word, whereas the gods of paganism, what they have to do is they create the world out of themselves, they are somehow part of the universe. That’s a very sharp distinction and its one that we come back to again and again.
On page 18 in the notes we said that creation, the creation event is the defining event for knowing who and what God is. Many of you have been in liturgical churches and you know the creeds that you recite, and all the creeds basically begin somewhat like the apostle’s creed, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” You notice the creeds never begin with I believe in Jesus. Ever ask yourself why that is? Obviously they do believe in Jesus, but why don’t they start the creed that way? The reason they don’t start the creed that way is because the Holy Spirit didn’t start the book of revelation that way. This book doesn’t begin with Jesus, this book begins with creation, and hence the creeds, the historic creeds of the church always begin with “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” because that defines God.
So creation is a defining event of who God is. The cross and the resurrection, are they important? Absolutely, but the cross and the resurrection tell you what this guy is doing. But God Himself is defined by the event of creation. This is why it’s such a critical event. It sets the universe apart from God and God apart from the universe, and defines who our God is. As I said on page 18, the importance and why the creation, as it were in this point, eclipse the cross, and that’s the underlying sentence there, “redemption would be unimportant if the God who redeemed were not the Creator.” If God is not the Creator, then everything else is sort of quasi relevant.
Now we come down to the distinctives, and I mentioned in the diagram on page 19 which is another diagram that I want you to think about a lot. On page 19 I tried to in a diagrammatic way depict the difference between what the Bible teaches vs. what paganism teaches. In the Biblical creation you have God eternally existing, there never was a time when God did not exist. So God is eternal, God is infinite, and God is personal. And then the creation event marks the start of creation. Now here is why that diagram is so important. I want you to look at where the “X” is, where the “X” marks the creation event, and I want you to do a little thought experiment, a little imagination, and it will challenge the very structure of your imagination to do this. But think back to that creation event, you have read Genesis 1:1 a number of times, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep,” etc. Imagine being present at verse 2, imagine seeing all the mass of the universe in this watery mode, and you are somehow present, and it’s just been called into existence and you’ve just been called into existence. Look at this chart at the “X” marks the spot for the creation event.
ß---------------------------------------------- CREATOR ------------------------------------------à
X. . . . . . . . . .finite man, nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Mystery”. . . . . . . . . . . transformation of gods, man, nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Seconds before God called the universe into existence, if we can conceive of time, it wasn’t there, only God was there, and this is the discipline spiritually that you want to go through when you think about creation, is that God preceded everything. It is not God and the universe that always existed, it is not God and the laws of physics that always existed, it is not God and the particles, the subatomic particles that always existed. It is not even God and a universe of another order that always existed. It is only that God and God alone always existed. This produces a number of exciting things, which we’ll get to as we work through this. On the pagan side of the house eventually what paganism has to do is to say that all we can say is there was mystery in eternity past, that’s all we can say, just mystery in eternity past. We know not from whence we come, and we know not to where we go. That is the ultimate confession of paganism. And everything in between the left and the right on that blind of paganism was mystery on the left, you could say mystery on the right also, in between those parts of the line all you ever will get is some form of transformation. You never get creation, and that’s where we want to distinguish this.
There are two words here; you might circle them in that diagram: Creation and Transformation. It’s something for you as a mental tool to think with. When people come to you for example and they talk about the big bang, which is the prevalent physics model of the origin of the universe, when you think about that and you ask deeper questions and you say what was the universe like in the first three seconds and they’ll give you this story, the best that physicists can do to reconstruct this big bang. The problem is that even there matter, energy, and some form of physical laws exist. So that really is not creation. That is transformation of the universe in one primeval state into another state which we recognize today; it is a transformation, it is not a creation.
So be careful of the vocabulary word “creation.” People tend to use that in a sloppy fashion, and we want to be clear as Christians about what God’s Word says and what it doesn’t say. When God says in Genesis 1:1, I create… turn to Genesis 1:1, let’s look at that text, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens and the earth are a word pair that means the whole universe. There’s no other word pair available in the Hebrew language for universe; heavens and earth, those two terms coupled together equal what we today would call universe. That’s just the Hebrew way of saying universe. So it is an all-encompassing point in verse 1, there’s nothing outside of the heavens and nothing outside of the earth. If I say God created the heavens and the earth I mean God has created all that there is, outside of Himself that is.
Turn to Exodus 20:11, the chapter where God reveals the Ten Commandments. I take you here, like I took you last week to all those New Testament verses, because I want you to get in the habit—when you read the Old Testament learn to read it in the same way that the people who wrote the New Testament read it; or the people that wrote later portions of the Old Testament, how they interpreted the earlier portions of the Old Testament. That’s how you learn to interpret Scripture. It’s not what some person says in the 20th century that Scripture means, it’s the rules of interpretation that were already established by the very people who wrote it. Here is Moses, who was the compiler of Genesis and he says in Exodus 20:1, “Then God spoke all these words.” Look who’s doing the speaking, the subject of the verb in verse 1 is not Moses. The subject of the verb is God. And so what we are left with is that from verse 2 on these are the words that God spoke.
It’s not Moses making them up, it’s what if you were a tape recorder and you taped it, you could have taped this in Hebrew. And God Himself says in Exodus 20:9-10, notice the context, Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” That’s the context. But look how He gives you reasons why the Sabbath day is important. Verse 9, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant or your cattle” that’s an interesting point, when we look at the Mosaic Law code you’ll see that the first laws of being humane to animals are given by Moses, very interesting. The other law codes in the ancient world did not have provisions to protect animals, they had some but usually it was for economic reasons. Here you have a very clear mandate that the animals are to be cared for and to be protected.
Now if you didn’t read verse 11, you stopped at verse 10, just look at Exodus 20:9-10 for a minute, at the end of verse 10, if you had heard there… picture yourself, you’re standing there before Mt. Sinai and God blasts forth with these words in the Hebrew language and they reverberate down through that canyon, I showed a picture at Mt. Horeb and how you can stand at the face of that mountain, you take your camera and look back out and there’s this tremendous valley and it’s very easy to conceive of a million people in this valley with this sound of God reverberating down the valley. Remember what the people said after they heard this? They said hey, Moses, you take care of this, this is a little high voltage for us. So obviously they were hearing words. If you just stopped with a period at the end of verse 10, how would you interpret days? What is the context? Verses 8, 9, and 10 are talking about what? What we call the week. Hasn’t it ever struck you as a little odd that all over the world, on every continent, and every culture, the week is always seven? How is that?
Ever hear of a week of 10 days? At times there have been attempts to do this. One of the silly things that communism did in the 30s in Russia when they were trying to increase productivity, I’ve read although I can’t document it completely, is they experimented where they tried to keep the factories funning for 8 or 9 days, then have one day break, because they thought greater productivity. What they found out was they weren’t getting greater productivity, people were getting tired and making more mistakes. And they found out there was an optimum here of six to one, and that when you violate the optimum human efficiency goes down. Gee, I wonder why. Because we’re created that way, here’s the God that made us, and He’s telling us, I built you a certain way, and I structured the universe a certain way, so follow the directions.
In verse 8-9 it’s days, nobody has a problem with that. It’s very clear in verse 10 it’s a day. The only time people have a problem is when they get to verse 11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” Now if you were there, sitting at the base of Mt. Sinai, you would have to structure that if God is saying what He’s saying in verse 11, then Genesis must be meant to be interpreted in a straightforward normal way. How else would you interpret it? Today the problem is we’re under pressure. Obviously the last 200 years the church has been under tremendous intellectual pressure about this problem of the age of the universe, etc. That’s why in the previous chapter I went into the accommodation strategies, etc. There’s a lot of pressure, we all know this. Any educated person knows a lot of pressure, but I can’t bend my interpretation because of the pressure.
I have to trust the Lord that somehow this will work out, but I can’t be dishonest to the text. I suggested to the person that runs Christian book store, someday I’d like a Christian manufacturing company to take a little piece of rubber, like an inner tube, and just make up a little Bible, with rubber pages, a rubber cover, a rubber binding, we’d call it the first liberal edition of the Bible, you could stretch it any way you want. But you can’t rip through the text of Scripture. If you’re going to play grease with the text in Genesis, if we have problems interpreting the first two chapters of the Bible, and you think that’s a problem, what are you going to do with Ezekiel and Revelation?
Let’s look at the results of looking at Biblical creation and paganism. I’ve organized on page 19-20, under 3 key questions that men have asked, and those of you who have read a little bit know very well what I’m doing, I’m just going through the areas where philosophy has divided itself into metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. And it’s a tripartite structure known to every student that has a philosophy course. But let’s look at these questions. Look at the question, Who am I? A basic identity question. Today we hear all things about having a problem with self-identity, we can’t figure out who we really are, and that’s not silly, there’s a real problem here, who are we? What is the universe all about? Now look at it from two points of view.
Go back to the diagram on page 19 and think. If the Bible is true, and if we have God as the Creator, and He has a character and a being of His own, and then we have the creation down here, let’s draw the creation as a separate thing, on this diagram I’m going to leave God as an open box, it’s just my way of saying He’s infinite so all we see is part of Him, we never can glimpse all of Him, and God speaks the word, so therefore God through the word creates the universe. We are part of that universe. If God had not created the universe, so we blank out the universe and our own existence, what would there have been, even today? God. Would there be protons and electrons? No. Would there be laws of physics? No. But there would be God.
Out of this comes an enormously powerful truth that is deeply moving. What I’m getting at in this “Who am I” question is that the basic environment of all is a person, an infinite personal God, not an impersonal force, not an “it,” not protons and electrons, not DNA, not laws of physics. All those weren’t there at one time, only God was there. So behind what we see in the universe stands a person. Go out to the farthest galaxy and God is there. The universe, as big as the Hubble telescope is making it appear to us in the pictures that we’re getting back, as big as the universe appears, it’s enormous, God preexists it all. So the challenge in our time is to take the new data that we see and wrap it up in a biblical package. Remember the first class and I drew the picture of that slimy amoeba, and I said you feed out the gospel in a little piece and the unbeliever will take it and it’s almost like an amoeba just slurps it up. It’s because they take our truth and absorb it within their frame of reference. Now what we have to do is to do the same thing. [blank spot]
What does that make me? What that makes me is what does Genesis says I am in Genesis 1:26. What does God say we are in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” What it says we are is that inside the creation there’s one and only one creature called man, and of all the things that God made, if you carefully observe the text, there’s one and only one part of the universe that’s said to be made in His image. One and only one part of the universe that’s said to be made in God’s image! Man. And that means whoever is a human being, whatever the race, whatever the culture, wherever they are, whatever point in history, whatever language they speak, they are made in God’s image. This is powerful and we’ll see just how powerful it is in the handout that you have for next time. But I’m just pointing out here an answer to the question, “Who am I?” I get a very distinct answer if I begin with Biblical creation. If Biblical creation is valid, if it is a true event that happened, that makes me a creature, bounded in time and space, whose existence is dependent upon a God who is always there, and I wasn’t always there. The DNA that makes me up was passed down to me by Adam.
I told one of my sons that’s working in Johns Hopkins laboratory when you look at the DNA, and he’s working with little chunks and pieces, trying to trace how inherited defects move from the father and mother to their children, and when you look at these little chunks, just think about it, do you realize that the chunks that you’re observing in the DNA are the lineal descendants of the act of verse 26. In verse 26, when God said “Let us make man in our image,” and Genesis 1:27, “And God created man in His own image,” that was when the first DNA was structured for man, and every piece of DNA that we all share has chemically derived itself in its lineage from that DNA of verse 27. That’s where it started. We carry Adam and Eve with us, whoever we are, wherever we are, we are carrying around the direct genetic descent, the baggage from Adam and Eve. And there are implications in Rom. 5 about that. This is an observation that will come back when we get into salvation, redemption, etc. But the idea there is that we get a distinct answer.
Let’s go back to the question again, “Who am I?” If I work with the presupposition of the Scriptural viewpoint, the answer is this. If I deny this Biblical answer, if I say that the universe is the impersonal, the bottom line on page 19, now what does that make me? Let’s draw a picture. What that makes me is that God, if He exists, we’ll put god(s), men, animals, rocks, we have this scale of being, and who knows what’s out here beyond this, fate, chance, whatever. And this is why on page 20, the first full paragraph, I have this sentence: “And what does the pagan world view tell you that you are? It tells you that reality at bottom is one.” What do I mean “reality at bottom is one?” What I mean by that is you can’t split between God and the creation. That split between creation and God is available only to the Bible-believing Christian. We are the only ones who can make the split.
Everyone else holds to this idea, that all reality encompasses everything, one level of existence. Then I say, “there is only one level of being. It matters not whether is reality is pictured as a vast machine,” as many people did in the 19th century, “or as some sort of cosmic organism,” which is ancient and also now coming into modern vogue. “The universe” and this is the sentence I want you to look at, “beneath you, above you, in front of you, and behind you is an infinite impersonal ‘it.’ You and your ‘personal’ nature differ only in degree from its electrons and protons. In the Chain of Being your thinking, talking, emotions, loving, and artistic expressions are merely surface appearances on a reality that is basically impersonal.” You should be depressed; you should really be profoundly depressed by that sentence. This is where the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. Pity the poor non-Christian, he doesn’t realize it but this is where he is.
I’ll read that again. “In the Chain of Being, your thinking, talking, emotions, loving and artistic expressions are merely surface appearances on a reality that is basically impersonal. You and other human beings are really only person-like bubbles, floating for the moment on an impersonal ocean of chance. Ultimately you and other human beings are alone,” tragically and cosmically alone. Frances Schaefer often speaks of a funny remark Charlie Chaplain made when the probe that went to Mars, Voyager II, and they had all the TV cameras and the little foot came out and the probe and everyone was sitting there wondering are we going to get some organic molecules on this probe to find out if there’s life there, and there wasn’t. Somebody asked Charlie Chaplain what’s your response to that, and he said I feel lonely. It wasn’t a funny remark; it’s exactly what this is. People don’t see the consequences of things. You, as Christians in whom the Spirit of God dwells, should be the people who interpret to our fellow beings the loneliness and the darkness of the world.
They say you want to be free in your thoughts. If you want to be free, just understand this is where you wind up; you have to wind up this way. You can dress it up with drugs and I frankly think a lot of the drugs and all the other stuff, some of the smartest people in society take drugs, don’t think only stupid people, or poor people take drugs, smart people take drugs. Do you know why they do that? For the same reason they drink; for the same reason they do anything else. If you profoundly grasp what we have just said here that is the result of the non-Christian view of life, life is tragic, it is painful, it pains you to live an existence like this; therefore why not. You see it’s not the question, just say no to drugs; you’ve got to have a reason for saying no. If I’m in pain I want morphine or something because I want to stop the pain, and if it’s a pain in the soul, it’s a pain that involves the way I think about myself, my life, everything, if I really grasp this, and some of the most smart people do grasp this, and it’s precisely because they do see this that they take drugs. And you can’t stop them from taking drugs until this is clear. Brilliant people take drugs. Huxley was no stupid person, he was the pioneer in America in the 60s for advocating drugs, he taught at Harvard. Why did he advocate taking drugs? Read him, you’ll see why, because he saw this, he saw that ultimately when you lay aside all the hoopla and get right down to the basics there is no reason for life. It’s just a big cosmic machine. Isn’t that true with you start with a pagan set of values, if you start with a pagan perspective?
Go to the first part of page 20, this sounds a little funny and I’m not sure I want to leave it in this form in the sentence, but here’s what I’m trying to say. This is on the Biblical basis now, if there is an event called Biblical creation. Your ultimate environment as a person who thinks, who talk, who experiences… imagine this, in Star Wars they talk about the great force, you have Darth Vader, etc., and his manifestation of the force. But think of what you really have in the universe as we know it. We have a God who speaks, and that God who speaks has a sense of art, He appreciates music, do you know how I know that? Because when the universe was created a choir was singing, you read about that in the book of Job, it says when God laid the foundations of the earth, the morning stars rejoiced, and it’s the word for singing.
The first song ever sung by humans is Adam to Eve, we know that because it’s in Hebrew, it’s in poetic structure, it was a love song. The first music ever uttered by a human being was a love song. Now where does this come from? Because we are made in God’s image, He sings, He loves music, He has emotions. That which we see in ourselves that we identify as we’re people, that’s part of Him, that’s patterned after Him. That’s the magnitude, its mind blowing to think about this. You can spend years thinking about this, and the implications of just starting from Biblical creation, or starting from a pagan idea that there is nothing there except the impersonal machine cranking out molecules, that’s all.
Now we come to the second and third question. Again these are critical questions that we’ll come up with from time to time, I’m not intending to turn this class into theory, it’s just that I want you to see this because it comes up in literature, I think it comes up in personal life, I think it comes up in sociology, I think it comes up all across the board of life. I think we’re always involved in this; it’s just that we don’t see it to much.
The next question is, “What is truth?” Another live question is “How can I know?” That’s a question that’s tortured people, actually tortured people, how can I really be sure of truth. And we have to approach this question, like I’ve been trying to model for you, every great question has to be approached from a viewpoint, you can’t approach these questions naked, you come to the question with a bunch of stuff, and you approach it out of that viewpoint. You approach it from a Biblical viewpoint or you approach it from a non Biblical viewpoint, but approach it from a viewpoint you will. Now if you approach the question of truth from the Biblical point of view, let’s go back to the diagram. If this is God, and we have God through His Word creating the universe, think back for a minute on the chart on page 19, just prior to God creating the heavens and the earth, when He and He alone existed, did He have a plan in His head for what He was going to do, or did He just say, gee, I feel lonely today. Did God have an eternal plan? Do you know a verse that shows where God had from all eternity a plan? There are many passages.
Turn to Ephesians 1 to get used to the fact that God had a plan. This is usually used when we get into things like predestination, etc. all I want to do is look at Ephesians 1:4-5, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” When did we get chosen? “Before the foundation of the world.” That means before Genesis 1:1; that God had a plan in mind for eternity. It means that He had it all in mind. There are two people that never learn anything, a moron and God, a moron because he can’t learn, and God because He can’t learn because He knows everything. So there are two people that never learn, God and morons.
The idea is that God has a plan that includes everything. So what does that have to do with the question we’re asking, what is truth? Anybody see where it leads? If you’re looking at something down here in the creation, some feature, let’s make it personal, make it an event in your life, go back to a tent in the Middle East occupied by one Abraham and Sarah. They’re having a little marital dispute over children. Abraham says, all right, have it your way lady, and he shacks up with a maid. An event. What’s the meaning of that event? In their lifetime did Sarah and Abraham fully perceive what would come forth out of Ishmael? Did they have a clue? They had some clue, yes; they knew some of the truth. Today in the Middle East do we know more of the truth, of Isaac and Ishmael? 1948 Isaac and Ishmael, 1967 Isaac and Ishmael, Begin is assassinated and we worry about who’s going to take over in the Palestinian, the PLO, Isaac and Ishmael. The meaning of what happened centuries and centuries ago in that tent in the Middle East, how can one person perceive the true meaning. We never do.
Sarah and Abraham could know some of the truth, bracketed by their time and their experience, but they themselves didn’t know the full meaning of their own life. Maybe they do now because they can see history unrolled. And we will one day see the meaning of things that we thought so insignificant in our lifetime, events that frustrated us, events that came into our life that we considered them to be interruptions and disturbances, or unfortunate things that happened. But just as Sarah and Abraham can now look backward in history and say oh, that was what God was doing with that incident, gee, I didn’t realize a marital dispute would wreck the world for twenty centuries. The meaning of an act in a point in time!
Let’s enlarge this. If I start with the creation, if I have God who created, from all eternity He had a plan in His mind, that means God has a plan expressed by His Word, and truth inside the creation is that which corresponds to His plan. And I know something truly as much as I know its place in His plan. I cannot say that I really know truth until I locate what I’m talking about in the context of His eternal plan. That’s why we say we only know bits and pieces of truth. There’s a song we sing, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that He is able,” it’s a quotation from Romans, that is a very theologically correct hymn, because the hymn writer, because he is being faithful to the text of Scripture, notice what he’s not saying, he’s not saying that I know everything there is to know, he is not saying I even thoroughly understand God, He is not even saying at least this I know, what he is saying I know Him, I know enough of God’s character to be able to trust Him for all the unknowns, because as a human being I am filled, I am faced daily with unknowns, I have no control, and so my salvation, epistemologically and how I know is because I know Him and I trust His character on the basis of His revelation, and therefore I say “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able.” Why? Because He is there and I know my God well enough to know that He is a God who plans.
He is a God that has rationality, and as chaotic as life is, I know enough about God to know that His reason prevails; somehow His reason prevails. Do you know what that produces? Stability in your life. In this generation, with the chaos we see going on, it’s the key to sanity. I do not know how a thinking non-Christian is not going insane in this decade; with the changes that are happening, and the rate of history changing like we see it now, how anybody can keep their mind from fragmenting I don’t know. It’s not a wonder to me that people are flipping out, because the stress is so high about this thing. And the little fundies are here, well show me someone else who has an answer to this. We ought to be proud in a proper sense as Christians.
We have something the world has nothing of, knows nothing of, and can’t even grasp. It’s the concept of truth. They’re the ones that are saying “what is truth?” Just like Pilate used to say in the trial of Jesus, what is truth? You’d better figure out what truth is, because it’s what keeps you going. If you really believe that you can’t know something truly, what does that produce? I’ll tell you, you hear it said again and again, kids don’t want to learn anything; we can’t get anybody to read any more, we can’t get anybody to think any more, why should they, if there’s not truth to find out why go to all the pain of learning to read. Why did people in our society learn to read in the first place? Because they had a Bible. The first reading programs were not just to read the almanac, the reading programs were so that a person could come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ on their own by reading Scripture. That’s the source of literacy. Mark my words, you take away this powerful concept of truth and literacy will go away; as night follows day, there’s no reason for me, if I’m a kid to go learn something that’s going to change tomorrow. It’s to hard to learn today if what I learn today is going to be obsolete tomorrow.
All these powerful things come out of this creation event. Do you see why we’re saying Genesis 1 is very important? Look what comes out of this. If I am a pagan what comes out of it is that I have total flux, go back to the diagram about God, man and the universe, here we are surrounded by fate, chance, God knows what, subject to a universe that transforms itself from one moment to the next, everything in flux, why should I bother to learn. It strikes at the very heart and the very motivation to learn anything.
Let’s go to the third question, one that’s quite straightforward on page 21, “How should I then live?” And, of course, we’re left with values. Look at the next paragraph; follow as I read through it. “You just learned that in the pagan worldview you are alone and autonomous,” and I explained the word autonomous, it means that you are auto=self, nomos=law, that you are a law for yourself. If you really believe this and you are a person, then you have to have the idea that it’s your mind that reaches out and creates truth. You have to; you’re not discovering truth that was there prior to you. On a Biblical basis yes, there was a God who preexisted the universe, who had a plan in His head, and so there’s something out there worth my brain coming to know, His plan. But if there is no God out there who has a plan for the universe and it’s just there, then what my thoughts and my mind and everything, it just becomes another feeling, just another little activity of my brain, that’s all. That’s being autonomous.
So “you just learned that in the pagan worldview you are alone and autonomous. That means you have a big problem at this point. With no One there to whom you are ultimately responsible,” and notice this sentence, “with no One there to whom you are ultimately responsible, you are left on your own. You may do what seems right in your own eyes!” The rub comes when you meet another autonomous person who is doing what seems right in his eyes. “You could try to attach your loyalty to “society,” hoping to convince your doubting heart that at least here you have a standard of right and wrong. Or you could try ‘mother earth.’”
One parent told me just tonight what happened in the public school system, they invited an American Indian type, mother earth thing in, so now we’re talking about the flowers being our brothers and our sisters. Excuse me, flowers being brothers and sisters? I don’t think so. Flowers are not created in God’s image, there’s a slight problem there. That’s paganism. Do you know what that is? That’s Continuity of Being. A lot of you thought this is all theory. It’s not theory, we had it right here in the public schools this afternoon, Continuity of Being. And probably the whole class just sat there, some of the Christian kids sat there and laughed at it and knew that somehow this is crazy, but I bet half the administrators in that school don’t have the foggiest notion what happened in that classroom, because they can’t think about the differences we’re studying right here. And yet it goes on and on and on and. The tragedy is, as I say in this paragraph on page 21, every time this happens you are eroding values some more. You are destroying the moral basis; you are wrecking standards of right and wrong, because you’re destroying the foundation of them. That’s what’s happening. So I say in those last two sentences, notice I emphasize in parenthesis society and mother earth, I’m not trying to be sarcastic, by mother earth I mean nature.
There’s only two other places you can get ethics from. If you knock out God, where else could you go to get an ethic? Society. You’ve heard it, the argument of society. Here’s the counter to that. If somebody tells you that ethics come out of society, ask them what a German evangelical would have done in 1937 when he would protest against Nazi racism, and they answer—but the majority of people believe this. Now what happens? If 51% of the people believe it, that’s society, right? Do you really believe that morals come out of a 51% vote? If that’s true, we live dangerously. So morals can’t come out of a society. Do any of you remember the great trial after WWII? Where was the trial when they brought the Nazi’s in and judged them? Nuremberg. What was the Nazi defense, when those great proud men of the SS corps went into court and their lawyers stood behind them? I followed my orders; “yes sir,” society told me to do it. What was the judgment at Nuremberg? Did the nations accept that defense? They did not. That’s something to remember when you get into a conversation and somebody yaks yaks I think society says. Oh really, what do you do with Nuremberg, the Nazi’s were right. If society determines right and wrong, the Nazi racists were right, and you can’t answer them. The only way you can answer them is to say this society is not the source of ethics, God is and He transcends society. If you don’t hold to that position, you have no defense, no defense against this sort of thing. When a society collectively becomes mad, you can’t stand against it.
Or, what’s happening today, we’re getting more sophisticated, we think, and we’re going back to nature. The problem here is if you make nature the source of ethics, what happens in the boundary between man and animal now? It goes away. So now we see the spectacle where we’re concerned if a seal hangs himself up on a rock, and we have a million dollar rescue effort, and meanwhile we can pull a baby halfway down the birth canal and shove a scissor up its brain and suck its brains out. Isn’t that logical though, if it’s just nature you can define your ethic any way you please. I talked about a rubber Bible; you’ve got a rubber ethic, stretch it any way you want. So these are practical questions that come right out of the Scriptures and right out of Genesis.
Look at page 21; I hope you look those verses up listed. Those are key passages in the Old Testament where God’s distinct nature transcends the creation, the Creator/creature distinction. And if you look particularly in the Job reference, Job 38, where God is doing the speaking, see if you can as you read that read God’s emotions. The emotional level with which God speaks those words are very strong, and you want to pick that flavor up … [message ends]