© 2020, Charles A. Clough
Biblical vs. Unbiblical Views of Reality, Truth, and Ethics
October 13, 2020
Presentation at Helms School of Government, Liberty University
It’s so great to be here. It’s just amazing, years ago my son graduated from Liberty [University] and the campus has changed since those days; it’s a magnificent campus. I also appreciated what you folks did at the prayer march in Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago. Everywhere you looked you saw a Liberty University student and it was a wonderful encouragement to see people of your age seeing the significance of what was going on there.
I wanted to introduce what we’re doing here tonight by saying that I understand where you are in your life at a university. You’ve got courses you’re trying to get through with good grades, you’ve got a lot of time obligations in your schedules, so what I’m saying here tonight when I present this Framework approach, it’s not to say that you can pick this up right now. It’s to give you a kind of vision of what’s out there to be a tool for you. You spend the rest of your life, as the Lord sanctifies you, on thinking through the content of the Word of God. So, this is sort of an introduction to give highlights. But what I want to do here is to show why the Word of God has a depth to it that we don’t often see or we won’t often recognize because we are looking at the materials we can apply in our life “at the moment,” but what I want to do is to show some of the structures in the Word of God and its power to empower our whole life; how we think, all the way down to the depth of how we think.
I want to introduce the slide 2 here. I’ve tried to use this slide to depict levels of thinking. It starts out at the upper level with social order politics. That’s not just talking about politics per se, but it’s the level at which we have our usual everyday conversations when we’re on Facebook or something else; most of our conversations occur at that level. The problem is that when we have substantial disagreements, you can’t resolve those disagreements or even have a friendly conversation without going deeper to the deeper levels. I’ll explain the red dashed line in a moment.
Think, for example, of the popular argument over abortion. The issue there is you can’t really think it through if you don’t get into the issue of ethics: what is right, what is just, what is correct, and so on. And then you have to go deeper because if somebody says this is right, somebody else says this is wrong, how do you negotiate and discuss who decides what is right and what is wrong. That takes you down into the deeper level of what is truth; how do we ascertain truth, and that in turn is a function of how we view reality. What is out there in the real world that can be a tool for discovering truth, and most of all, knowing that we have arrived at truth?
The arrow on the right side represents the pressures of life and that’s what I mean; the pressures of life drive us, if we’re thinking people, and not just emoting, it drives us to consider these deeper levels. The upward arrow on the left side is the logical sequence. In other words, once we have a view of reality, it has implications, and we’re going to go through some of those implications so you can see how it happens.
The horizontal red line is there because I think that back in the 1970s and 1980s there were a group of academics that were talking about social justice and how governance occurs and they argued that if we are to have a productive society, we have to define “public discourse”; that was their buzzword. Public discourse has to be neutral; you have to have commonality. But in order to have something in common, we have to avoid getting down into the divisive issues of different worldviews.
A man by the name of Steven D. Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, wrote a book called The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. He’s writing as an attorney looking at cases in the Supreme Court. It’s a fascinating book in which he takes five major issues that came before the United States Supreme Court, and what he’s saying to watch what the Supreme Court did with these five issues. One of the first issues was euthanasia. California and New York had passed legislation that would basically allow anyone to get euthanized, and of course, intuitively, people said wait a minute, teenagers go through periods of depression, are you telling me that a teenager of 14 or 15 years old who feels depressed can go to their doctor and have him kill them, basically help them commit suicide?
Well intuitively the judges didn’t like that, and they wanted to do something about it. Smith in his book points out that the Supreme Court tried desperately in its discussion two different lines of logic to say that it was wrong, but they didn’t dare say it’s wrong by some “ethical standard,” so they moved all around the barn as far as trying to describe the problem, and he says now watch how they concluded.
So, after they go through this elaborate set of two different discourses on how to say something is wrong without saying it’s wrong, they concluded with this phraseology: Euthanasia is wrong because it’s the premature ending of life. And Smith says, you see what they did? The premature ending of life implies what? That there is a standard of life, but they didn’t want to label it that way.
So, what he says is, he uses the word “smuggling.” What goes on when we don’t want to get down into these deeper levels and we can’t avoid the implications is we smuggle in ideas from the reality/truth in ethics level into the discussion and we try to be clever in avoiding admitting what we’re doing.
What I’m going to do is go through reality—the whole issue of what is real—then the issue of truth, and then the issue of justice, and as I do this, I’m going to show the difference between the biblical view and what I call the pagan view. Let me define how I use the word pagan. It’s not saying that people are nasty because they’re pagans. Paganism was defined really by Mortimer Adler (1902–2001), who was one of the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He defined paganism as “the belief that avoids anything to do with the Judeo-Christian frame of reference.” A pagan can be a very smart person, they can be good people, but the Judeo-Christian position of the Bible has been rejected.
What are they left with? We want to look at that difference between the biblical view and the nonbiblical viewer, or the unbelieving view, and then say okay, what if I’m a thinking person and I reject the biblical view? Where does that lead me? When I’m not emotional and I’m just thinking logically where does that leave me?
When we look at the first one, we see that the Bible. As far as reality goes, a fundamental thing we have to do as believers is understand that this is what separates the men from the boys. When you look at the Bible from Genesis 1:1 on, already you’ve got a radically different way of looking at reality. The Bible views two forms of existence: the Creator and the creature. If you reject the Bible you do not have these two existences, they go away; everything is just nature. At that point there is a fundamentally different view of reality. There are two levels with multiple kinds of creatures: God has always existed, then you have creation, and you have creature existence, and there is a big difference.
There is a metaphysical difference between God as the Creator and us as creatures. On the pagan side, they don’t have a Creator-creature distinction; they can’t think in terms of this if they’re to be consistent. So you have just one kind of existence: the cosmos. If you go and look at some of the ancient near-Eastern views of the world, you have one Babylonian view where Tiamat is a goddess. Is she spirit? Is she matter? What is the deal? And the gods get together and Tiamat is killed and out from her body comes the universe; the physical universe. What you see here is a constant change within nature to account for all the diversity.
Then you have lifeforms. The Bible in Genesis 1 clearly says that God makes certain kinds of creatures. For centuries people would read that and say okay, you know, a dog is a dog; a horse is a horse, and so forth. Now, knowing genetics we’re aware that there’s something profound in that text. When it says that God has created things to reproduce according to their kind, it means what you have are discreet, inviolate categories of creatures.
On the other side in the pagan view, you have spectrum of life. That’s why the gods and goddesses can become nature. You have transitional forms, and ultimately Charles Darwin (1809–1882) picked up on this. What did Darwin do? He just had spectrum of life. So we can have evolution changing the fundamental forms.
Man in the Bible is profoundly different than how we view ourselves and humanity in the unbelieving case. In the Bible’s case we are the only creatures explicitly stated to be made in God’s image. That’s not even said of the angels; it’s man.
There was a church father Tertullian (160–240), who picked up on this theme. Here’s what he said about Genesis 2, where there is this graphic picture of God coming into the Garden and taking dirt and molding it into the first human body. Tertullian thinks about this and he says that what you see there is God preparing a creature form where He can incarnate Himself ultimately in history. We are made in God’s image and the Lord Jesus Christ is God and man coming down into that. On the other hand, in the pagan view we are just another animal, a casual design.
Another fundamental difference here is God designed nature with an explicit design. It’s always been fascinating to me to see that if you take an engineer thinking about this, and engineers tend to think about how they can build something that works, and I think engineers in the background pick up on this very carefully, that the creation around us has a design to it. In fact, even atheists who think in engineering terms say, yes there is a design here, but it’s only an appearance of a design because they lack a Designer.
Then on the other hand, nature is ultimately chaotic. Let’s think, if we really believe in a pagan view of nature and we discard the Bible, we don’t have the Creator-creature distinction. Where does that leave us? Let’s look at this statement. Here is Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)—one of the logicians and great mathematicians of the 20th century. What Russell is doing here is he’s starting with that pagan view and look where it leads him.
He says: “Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home.” So here he is, his heart, as a creature made in God’s image, cries out for a purpose in life, for a meaning in life, for something to satisfy aspirations, and these are the ideals. But he says, I feel this, but I’ve got to locate it. Where do I explain this? What kind of view of reality do I have? So following this statement, look what he does; this is a well-thought-out unbeliever. He’s not just emoting over the question. He’s thinking about the question: “That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving;”—that’s meaningless purpose—“that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages,” he’s going from the individual now to corporate humanity and here’s what he says, “all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system,” he held to the cosmology that Carl Sagan (1934–1996) did, saying that basically modern cosmology is like Hinduism; it believes the universe is a rope on coils and then it collapses.
So we have an oscillating universe and he just talked about the next oscillation of the universe. He says that “the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruin—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy that rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
That’s where it leads, and we have people that don’t think through the implications of their position. Here’s a guy who was a logician. He thought it through, and this is where it left him because he was honest that if I believe in this kind of reality then here are the results.
Now we go on to the epistemological question: What is truth? Truth in the Bible has two-level reality. We have the Creator who is omniscient, and He knows truth. We are derivatives. We can know truth, but we have to be oriented to it; we have to have trust that truth exists.
In the pagan view you don’t really have that. We have the coherence test: Is something rationally fit? Why does that work? Well, we know why it works, because God is consistent in His thinking. The correspondence test is: Why do my mind and my thoughts fit external reality? Well, that’s easy, if I’m made in God’s image, then I have an analog to how He acts.
Finally, the authority is a self-disclosure, and that’s something else in that when we pick up the Bible, we have to think about this. The Bible, if you’ve ever thought about it, is a library. The Bible was written well over 1,000 years, in three different languages by 40 different people from all walks of life; from kings and diplomats all the way down to small businessmen. God chose to disclose Himself through every level of society so that the Word of God is sufficient for us no matter what our station is in life. Somewhere in the Bible is a person at of our level of society who wrote and God spoke through these folks.
By saying revelation here, let’s be clear what we mean. God can work through prophets in an indirect sense. He directs their thinking, such as Luke writes research. The Holy Spirit led Luke to do this historical research. But on the other hand, if we had been at the base of Mount Sinai when God spoke the words to Moses and to the people, if we had had a digital voice recorder, and think about this, if we had had a digital voice recorder at the foot of Mount Sinai, we could have recorded God Himself speaking in the Hebrew language; that’s revelation.
It’s not that Moses got on drugs and walked up there and he thought he heard something. This was audible; it was objective. Imagine how much that DVD would go for in the market if you could actually buy the recording of God speaking.
Here’s a quote from Professor Kaufmann. [Walter] Kaufmann taught ethics for years at Princeton University. He’s dealing here with meaning in the context of people who are suffering, and he is discussing how you survive when you’re in pain, when you’re suffering, when you’re depressed. He says this: “Man can stand superhuman suffering if only he does not lack the conviction that it serves some purpose. Even less severe pain, on the other hand, may seem unbearable, or simply not worth enduring, if it is not redeemed by any meaning … It does not follow that the meaning must be given from above; … that nothing is worth while if the world is not governed by a purpose. Now watch what he does here, denying the Creator-creature distinction he’s got to find meaning and purpose, but look at what he says about that act. “On the contrary, the lack of any cosmic purpose may be experienced as liberating, as if a great weight had been lifted from us. Life ceases to be so oppressive. We’re free to give our own life’s meaning and purpose, free to redeem our suffering by making something out of it. … The plain fact is that not all suffering serves a purpose; …” In the context of that remark he was referring to the Book of Job, but not thinking about the theology of the Book of Job.
Then finally he concludes, and again, thinking in terms of people facing crisis, right now the United States military is experiencing an inordinate number of suicides. They’re not stupid people, but they’re depressed, and suicide is easy to do and so people are doing this. Since COVID-19, we’ve had an increase in civilian suicides across this country. People are just depressed, they’re upset, and they just want to end it all. So, here’s Kaufmann’s “counsel.” “… If there is to be any meaning to it, it is we who must give it.” Do you see where he’s coming from? He’s honest to the assumptions that if God doesn’t exist, if He has not disclosed Himself, then we are the ones who have to pick up ourselves by our own bootstraps.
Let’s go to the final question; the ethical question: What is just? What is right? The Bible has a standard; God’s character defines it. On the pagan side it basically has to be our preferences. Evil in the Bible, again thinking in terms of the cosmic implications of what we are reading in the early chapters of Genesis, we have the Fall, we have the introduction of evil. And so if you think about that, it’s the difference in time; the difference in history between the time the universe left the fingertips of God and was said to be “very good” until Adam and Eve fall, we have a transformation.
What is so powerful here is that we are able, with the aid of the Scriptures, and we are the only people able to think this way, we can conceive of physical reality without suffering, and we know it happened historically. After this, and if we don’t believe in the difference between Creation and the Fall, now suffering is just a normal aspect; suffering and evil are just normal, but we say suffering and evil are abnormal because creation was orderly without any evil. We have conscience, which is something God has put in us and sometimes we get it out of calibration, but it’s a tool that He’s given us to say, “You are responsible to Me.” And finally, again, it’s God’s self-disclosure.
One of the famous atheists of the 19th century was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). In this quote he’s dealing with this ethical problem. He’s attacking George Eliot (1819–1880), who was a woman who had written, who said she disbelieved God existed, but simultaneously, when she said she disbelieved God existed, she kept hold of biblical morality. On the one hand we have a denial of God’s existence, on the other hand, she tried to hold onto morality.
So here is Nietzsche going after her: “They [the English skeptics that included Eliot] are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. We hold otherwise,” and again, I put this in yellow font [on the slide], “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident,” he’s talking about the Christian view of ethics. “This morality is by no means self-evident; this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system; a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole; nothing necessarily remains in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, …” he means in the ultimate sense with evil, “he believes in God, who alone knows it.” And then he concludes: “Christian morality is a command, its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism. … it has truth only if God is the truth. It stands or falls with faith in God.” Now there you have a thinking atheist who has thought through this, and he’s right. You can’t hold onto the fruit without the root.
Let me go on to this. I hesitate to show this because there’s a lot of fine print on it, but let me try to give you the basic picture of what’s going on here. This is a chart. Years and years ago a Spanish creation-scientist pointed this out: the limitations of our knowledge. Think of a graph with the x axis and the y axis. The x axis is time and the y axis is space. So here’s a time-space chart of reality. The axis is in logarithmic form because that is the only way on a diagram that you can have very small things and very large things in the diagram. It’s very simple.
The light blue box is the area where we are confined by direct observation because we are born, we die, we have a certain temporal dimension. We also have an ability to see things down to a certain level and larger objects above that. So, there’s the box, the light blue box, which is the domain of empirical knowledge that we have access to personally.
The blue is the observations of other people who have seen events. They are limited in time just like we are because they’re built just like we are. We can expand our knowledge with instruments. We can expand our ability to measure large-scale things with a telescope and things with a microscope for small scale.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground we were trying to film how ammunition penetrates armor and we had very high-speed cameras to do that. So you need high-speed cameras to see things that happen so fast you can’t really humanly see them.
Here’s the bottom line for all this. If you look at the chart you notice there is a dashed vertical line, and what that is saying is that if there are no measurements, if there is no human observation on site, you do not have what we classify as “operational science.” What you have is “conjectural science,” or as Professor Cooper pointed out, it’s forensics.
In other words, you’re trying to think through how something works when you don’t have any on-site observations. A good example is the conjecture about uniformitarianism. These are hypotheses about how in the past, whether it’s a million years or more, there were not any processes operating then that aren’t operating now and they’re operating at the same rate. Well, that’s a conjecture, that’s not science.
What happens is we have a bait and switch going on here. We learn and have due respect for operational science where we can measure things and test things, but then when you say that “science” says that the universe is so many billion years old, that is not the same kind of science. You change. That is a conjecturally based kind of thing and we bait and switch by taking the credibility that “science has learned” and then suddenly we characterize it and move it over to this other thing, hoping that everybody knows that this is what we didn’t do; we baited and switched.
Now let’s go to how God enabled us to know. This diagram is put together with God, our Creator, at the apex, man and nature. If you look at the arrows that go down, God comprehensively knows man and He comprehensively knows nature; that’s His omniscience; that’s His operation as the Creator. Man knows partially God and he knows partially as a creature. But like God said to Job when Job was asking what is the purpose and so on, God came to him in that interrogation and said, Job, let Me ask you something and I want you to answer Me. Where were you when I created the world?
That was a very good question. If you and I had a video camera and we could take a time machine back to the Garden of Eden and look at Adam and Eve five minutes after God created them, how old would we say they are by looking at the video? Five minutes old, or maybe 25 years old? See, that’s the implication and people aren’t thinking about this. Jesus went into it in John 2 when He made wine out of water. What was the consensus of the people at the wedding feast? Man, this wine tastes good, this is vintage wine. No, it wasn’t [vintage], it was made five minutes ago. See the problem here? There are all kinds of things like this in the Bible that you have to think through.
I want to move on to justice, as we’re involved in government and so forth. Years ago, there was a man by the name of Otto Bird that worked with the Encyclopedia Britannica people at the University of Chicago. The way these guys worked is they would go back all the way to the Greeks, so 400–500 BC, and they tried to take all the literature written in the last 2,500 years and understand what different arguments men put forward to argue for the basis of justice. He came out with the fact that if you look at the 2,000 years of discussion, what you find out is there were basically three ways that people came to try to get a handle on what is “just” and what is “not just.”
The first theory, if you we look at the left side of this chart as I go through these, but then I’m going to comment about the Mosaic Law. The first theory of justice is the “natural right theory.” In the natural right theory what is just is determined by the needs of people. We are made in a certain way and justice is served when we take care of people who are made a certain way. That’s why they call it the natural right theory. It’s built on one’s view of who human beings are.
The second level is the “social good” idea. This says justice is that which promotes the good of society; justice is what promotes the good of society. So, they’re not looking at humanity as such as individuals, they’re looking at what helps society thrive in the long term.
The third one is “positive law,” that’s the more recent view. They’ve given up trying to figure out where you get justice so, they make it a simple thing: justice is just obeying what the legislation tells us to do. There’s no reference to human behavior. There’s no reference to try to calculate what can be good.
If you take these three theories, I think it’s fascinating to read the Mosaic Law. Let’s see if the Mosaic Law answers the struggles of these three ways of looking at it. The Mosaic Law is built on the fact that man is made in God’s image, so there’s a natural right given by creation, so we don’t have to hunt around looking for where this natural right comes from. It’s there implicitly because of how we are created.
The second one is the social good. God knows the long-term results of certain behaviors. My wife has worked for years with Birthright and she regularly encounters women who are 45 and 50 years old that have not yet been able to forgive themselves for the abortion they’ve had. They’re still upset by this, and the point we are making here is that we can’t predict what the long-term results of a certain behavior will be if we don’t understand the cause-effects long-term. It’s like testing the vaccine for COVID-19. One of the dilemmas is how can we test it? If people took this the vaccine year after year after year, what are the side effects? Well, we can’t tell what the side effects are going to be until we test for years to come. It’s hard for the vaccine manufacturers to figure out how to deal with this problem. It is the same kind of thing. How do you predict long-term results of certain policies? People have urgent needs to establish some form of justice and we haven’t got time for two centuries of testing to see what’s going to work out.
Finally, positive law is dependent upon written law, explicitly written law, and is the Mosaic Law explicitly written? It seems to me that God in His design of that Old Testament nation designed it so that it would fulfill every conceivable approach toward justice; it’s defined that way.
Now I want to, as I conclude because we want to have time for Q&A, I want to move on to one particular slide that I showed in one of the classes. Here we are in our country, we believe it’s an exceptional country, here’s a project that was done, it took many years to do this, and it was done by Prof. Donald S. Lutz at the University of Houston in the 1980s. He is on the graduate level faculty. He had his graduate students assigned to this project over five or six years. He asked his graduate students to read every kind of journal, every kind of article, that the Founding Fathers prior to the Constitutional Convention were reading. Remember, these people were literate; they didn’t have all the distractions we have. They may be poor people, they may not have been by definition “well educated,” but they were readers; serious readers.
So, what were they reading? The graduate students after five or six years said, okay, I read over 1,000 different journals and here’s the source material that these men were quoting. They gathered something like 3,500 citations from that corpus of literature and then they had a frequency chart that is this. Here’s the percent of the source material that the men who built the Constitution were reading. This is where they got their ideas from.
34% of the source material came directly from the Scriptures, so there’s no question that the Judeo-Christian worldview permeated the thinking of the Founding Fathers. 22% of the citations came from the Enlightenment, mainly Montesquieu (1689–1755) and [John] Locke (1632–1704), and then 18% came from who they called the Whigs, and the 18% were coming out of the Scottish Presbyterians. You question why was the Scottish Presbyterian material so important to our Founding Fathers? It’s because there was an ongoing armed conflict between the King of England, who was an Anglican, and the Scots, who are Presbyterians. The King of England decided, I am going to dictate to Scotland because I have to have unity in my kingdom; I want to dictate that all Scotch people will worship God the way we Anglicans do. And the Scots said, no we’re not. There was armed conflict between them.
But here is one of the documents that the Founding Fathers read and this was considered to be a tract in its time. There are 42–45 different questions in here, all in Old English. I got this from Harvard Library; I had them duplicate it for me. This is Lex, Rex by Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661). It was one of the source documents that the Founding Fathers read. As you go through here, you see that it’s all rooted in the Word of God. He’s going back to reasoning from Scripture.
Why the king does not have ultimate authority; that it is derived from the people and it’s limited because of the fact that, if I believe that all men are sinners, if I believe in the corruptibility of every person, would you, if you think this way, and they did, would you entrust government to a few people who are corruptible? No, you don’t want to do that, so you spread the power out. That’s why we have an “inefficient government,” but that’s the price you pay for not concentrating power in a dictatorship of the few. Because if you really believe in “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), it’s not saying everybody’s a bad person, it’s just saying that we’re corruptible, we’re sinners, we’re fallen beings. So that being the case, I don’t want to concentrate political power in just a few.
That’s the fallacy where if you don’t believe in universal depravity, then go ahead and make your plans and have a Marxist utopia, but see what happens. We saw in the 19th and 20th centuries what happens when you have concentrated power. More people died from war and suffering in the 20th century than any other century in humanity.
I want to spend just a few minutes at the end here because I want to give you an idea. You don’t have time as students right now, but in your later life, after you can get out of college, if you’ll start thinking here’s a way to quickly go through the Bible wrapped in your mind as reference points. You spend your lifetime studying the details of the Bible, yes, but that’s not what we’re doing. Most people don’t have time to do this.
But if you lock on to the crucial events in history and think about how when God worked that event what was He teaching us? What great ideas came out of that? The Creation: here we have the idea of God, man and nature; the Creator-creature distinction. A fundamental way of thinking comes out of that creation event. You don’t have to be a scholar in Genesis. You just have to read Genesis 1 and 2.
The Fall is profound. We have the creation suddenly getting suffering from evil and sorrow. The thought here is that on a biblical basis, when we see suffering and disease and storms and so on, we are looking at an abnormality that was brought into the perfect handiwork of our God and we have His promise that He is going to deal with it. One day He’s going to eternally quarantine good and evil and there is never going to be a Fall again.
We have the Flood: a graphic illustration of the fact that God judges but at the same time He judges, He saves. There are all kinds of pictures there; it’s a great theology. How many arks were there? Only one—there is only one way to be saved.
Then He has a contract—the Noahic Covenant. Once you have these contracts, it’s a business agreement between God and us. Do you know that that’s unique in history? There is no other religion that has the idea that the God of the universe enters into a contract with us, and what tool does that give us? Think about all the history books in the Bible. Why does it go into so-and-so begat so-and-so and so-and-so begat so-and-so, and they went into this property of land, and they went into that area of land and you think, I can read this when I can’t sleep at night because it will put me to bed? But it’s got a function higher than just dealing with insomnia. Those are records of contractual agreements. They are documenting what man disobeyed, yet God is still abiding by His contractual obligations.
We then have there a basis for why we trust the Lord. We’re not trusting in the Lord because we have a feeling in our heart. Yes, we do. But we’re trusting the Lord because historically He’s proven Himself to be reliable. How do I know that He’s proven? How do I know that He’s trustworthy? Because He gave me a tool to measure His behavior: the contract.
Here we have the disruptive kingdom: the Tower of Babel—the first world government attempt. Man says, “We will make a name for ourselves!”, and God immediately, in the next chapter, says to Abraham: “Abraham, I’m calling you out and I will make your name great. It’s not going to be you making your name great, I will make your name great. This is the start of the Semitic-Israel thing and there has been a perpetual conflict in history. It’s still going on today between Israel and the Jewish people as the tool of God’s revelation.
We have the Exodus: another example, like the Flood, of judgment-salvation. We have Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai is a graphic illustration of what revelation looks like—an inspiration. Then we have the conquest and settlement: the rise and reign of David. The rise and reign of David, for those of you in government, this is a profound doctrine. Have you ever thought of the fact that David wrote so much of the Bible? It’s called the Psalms, and he’s going through the struggles he had. Do you know why? Because David was anointed as the king and he couldn’t sit on his throne. He had to live through years of turmoil before he got to the throne. That was agony for David because he broke from the tradition of paganism.
Then we have the Lord Jesus Christ come; the birth, life, death, and resurrection. Look at the ideas that are embedded in this. The birth of Jesus Christ is not just about the virgin birth, it’s about the fact that we have the Creator coming down to the creature level and walking among us. We have His life; we have a sympathetic High Priest. Jesus knows what it is to be tired. He knows what it is to be hungry, because in His human nature He experienced those things. He cried. In the shortest sentence of the New Testament “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) and He wept because of the death of Lazarus, who was the brother of the ladies that took care of Him. He could weep, as Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) said, without being angry at Himself for allowing it.
We have the Resurrection. Look at the resurrection. We have the death which shows real justice, not social justice. And we the resurrection in which now there’s a chunk of the eternal state already existing. No communist, no Marxist, can show you what the worker’s utopia looks like. They don’t have any physically existing chunk to show us. We do. We have a resurrected human body, that’s the first step in the eternal state. It already exists.
There’s one other thing I wanted to show you. Here is a pagan view of government. This is Egypt, and here’s a pillar in one of the Egyptian temples. It’s in hieroglyphics, but it has the name of a Pharaoh in between these vertical lines. Those vertical lines are scepters. They’re not just vertical lines. There’s a little symbol up at the top, and what [R. J.] Rushdoony (1916–2001) mentions about this is that “where there is no transcendental law and power in a separate and omnipotent being then power has a wholly immanent and immediate source in a state, group, or person, and it is beyond appeal, … The state becomes god walking on earth.”
There are two passages in the Bible, when you get into government, know these two passages. They are crucial to show why Israel stopped being like the pagan governments around, or at least they were told to stop.
Deuteronomy 17: “When you come into the land and you say I’ll set a king over me, You will set a king over me whom I choose, and when he sits on the throne of his kingdom”—look what the King was supposed to have done—“He shall write for himself a copy of the law.” Imagine how long it would take a guy to copy the Torah. But he was assigned that, why? He was supposed to read it every day.
The second passage you want to remember besides Deuteronomy 17 is 1 Samuel 8. That’s the passage where God spoke to Samuel and said here’s what your government is going to be like. We’ve seen this over and over and over again. This is a metastasization of bureaucracy. “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots to be his horsemen. He will appoint captains over his thousands to plow his ground and reap his harvest. He’ll take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your sheep and you will be his servants.” That’s what happens when you concentrate power in a person.
We’re pressed for time and so I want to end this and open it up for Q&A.
Q: Given the increased popularity of things like socialism and young people in our culture nowadays, how should we approach that from a Biblical perspective?
A: Good question. I think the rise of that is correlated to the fact that young people today, and this has been going on, it’s not just your generation where it’s coming to visibility. Think of your life and education from the time you were in kindergarten to the time you were in 12th grade. What characterizes every course you took between kindergarten and 12th grade? You learned every subject as though God had nothing to do with it.
Think about it. Have you ever been in an algebra class where it was discussed about what math is and how it’s related to the Creator? I’ve never had that. I’ve gone to church after church and asked them if any of them can say that between the time they were in kindergarten and the time they were in 12th grade have they ever had one teacher, just one teacher, in the classroom or out of the classroom tell them about the Ten Commandments. I’ve never had anybody say it except some people who went to Christian schools.
So what you have now is the product of this and you have the reason why socialism, I believe, is coming into popularity. It’s because the faculties of the universities, if you work out the ages, the faculties of the universities today were kids that grew up in the 60s when everything kinda came apart. I think socialism is very seductive because it promises you utopian conditions. It talks about equality, but it never has produced, and that’s the problem.
It’s a universal failure, and as far as discussions. You can’t discuss up at that level of politics and so on because you’ll just be fighting each other about it. I think somehow you’ve got to ask these folks, if you believe this, and keep in mind how a lawyer is trained. A lawyer is trained that if you make an assertion, the burden of proof lies on you. So I think it’s very fair in a conversation, be very gracious and tell the people, you know, I’m interested in you enough to ask you a question, how do you arrive at your conclusions? Why do you believe that?
You have to be careful because you don’t want to be in a position where they sense you’re attacking them. You want to have a friendly conversation and it’s not going to be friendly if they feel that you’re attacking them, and I think the way to do it is to be gracious in your questioning. By asking the question nicely, you’re expressing interest; you want to hear what they have to say. I think that’s what we have to do and it’s a slow process.
Q: As culture changes the expectations of what is considered “normal” or acceptable also changes. What Scripture is consistent and why isn’t that the standard?
A: It’s not the standard because most people don’t know the Scriptures. If you take a sociology course—one of the young people in our church had a sociology course at the state university, and when you open up the sociology textbook it’s talking about the “construct” of racism, the “construct” of heterosexuality, the “construct” of this, the “construct” of that, as though these things are created by society. They’re not. God created these and society can modify and change them, but society didn’t create these things. It goes back to the Divine Institutions and God’s design.
I think what you’ve got here is just simply a profound ignorance of these basic scriptural truths. People don’t share them, they’ve never been taught them. They’re just basically scripturally ignorant people and I think deep down in our hearts God has placed a desire to get back to Eden, to go back and have a good society. We don’t like suffering, we don’t like death, we don’t like these bad things. There’s a cry in the heart for this, but the cry emerges, like at Babel, “we will make a name for ourselves.” So here we’ve got salvation by works.
Q: A lot of us are going into government majors and getting into government careers. What is the best piece of advice that you can give us to keep our eyes and our hearts on these Biblical foundations as we go into a government that is becoming more socialistic and atheistic?
A: If you go through the Bible, look for people who were involved in government and look at their stories. Daniel comes to mind, and how Daniel ever survived in a completely pagan environment. Have you ever wondered why Daniel was promoted when he was an Orthodox Hebrew guy who obviously theologically didn’t agree with anybody around him, and yet Nebuchadnezzar and the other kings trusted him? Doesn’t that tell you that one of his selling points was that he was reliable; he did the work?
Many people are just goof offs that promise they’re going to do this and promise they’re going to do that. As an administrator in government you’ve got to get something done. You can’t just sit there and talk about it. So you wind up relying on people who are reliable even when they disagree with you, and I think that’s the secret of Daniel.
Look at David and look at the Book of Psalms. David struggled with this question: I am the anointed one. God has anointed me, but I can’t get to the throne. Year after year goes by and I can’t get to the throne. Then take the scene in David’s life where he caught Saul “with his pants down” in the cave. It’s humorous, but the other point is who was in the back of the cave with David? Some of his military advisors and what did they tell David to do when he caught Saul with his pants down? Kill him, because they thought in terms of “our political security depends on smashing our opponent.”
David struggled with this; when he even went up there and just cut Saul’s garment, his conscience bothered him for doing that: I’ve done this to the Lord’s anointed. David struggled with the fact that God wants me to be a successful leader in this nation, but I can’t be when they’re trying to kill me time after time. But I’m going to trust the Lord to do this. That sounds simple to do, but if you read the Psalms and you think, why is it that we’re so attracted to the Book of Psalms when we’re struggling? It’s because he was struggling.
The Book of Psalms is one psalm after another where David faces these mental stresses of trying to trust the Lord and be a pioneer. David was a political pioneer. He set up the messianic mentality—that’s why Jesus is going to be called the Son of David. It’s because he was the guy that broke with the whole Ancient Near Eastern tradition of I will kill my enemies to succeed. David thought, No, I won’t; I will trust the Lord and I will get to him because He’s trustworthy. It’s the inner struggle. So I’d say that David and Daniel would be two models for you.
Q: You were talking about David and about the Psalms, and what we see in Psalms is the thoughts, prayers, concerns, and nightmares of a political leader. The true heart of intelligence is getting into the mind of the decision-maker and Psalms gives us that window into what’s going on in a godly man and the struggles that he has to face. We know that when President Trump got elected and there were conflicts with his advisors in the D.C. establishment, I can’t help but to think about the psalms of David talking about his friends betraying him and what Trump is going through. How should our students, when they go to these three-letter agencies or wherever they go to, deal with people who they are going to be working with as they themselves may experience these divided loyalties?
A: That’s a hard one because it does go back to the Psalms and the struggles that David had. Let me say that I think it has a lot to do with your reliability and your consistency. One of the things that I know militarily led to the dismissal of Secretary [James] Mattis (b. 1950), who is a proven warrior in the battlefield, but Trump asked him a simple question: We’ve been in Afghanistan for decades, we’ve spent billions of dollars, please tell me what your exit plan is. We go to Syria, we got involved in Syria, our boys and girls are coming home maimed, how long is this going to go on? What is your exit plan? When you have a business plan you have a goal, what’s your goal? And Mattis couldn’t tell him and that led to a rupture there of a good man, but the problem was he couldn’t answer the question, the operational question.
So I think, again, it goes back to reliability. The Lord will give you assignments, I think, where you can excel if you will just trust the Lord to work out a good project. Now the warning I have for you is if you are a Daniel and you do a good job and your bosses recognize you’ve done a good job, do you know what’s going to happen to you? You’re going to get more work! I think reliable people are magnets for assignments because it turns out in the everyday chaos that if a guy wants to get stuff they’ll say, here’s Jean over here and there’s Joe and boy they get stuff done, so I’ll give them more work, and you get work dumped on you. As you get a reputation for reliability, just try to be candid with your boss and ask them for priorities. You’ve given me 15 different things to do. Could you please give me some idea what are the most important things for me to do? And you’ll get blowback sometimes because they don’t want to tell you, they want all of it done, but in what order? So just be careful of that.
If you are reliable you’re going to get dumped on with work, not because they’re mad at you, it’s because they like you and you get stuff done. The only problem is you’ve got to worry, like in this COVID thing that’s been going on, one of the problems we have right now nationally is it’s a multivariate problem. It’s not just about COVID-19. It’s about the damage COVID-19 is doing to education, the restrictions we’ve got medically on education, the restrictions we got in the household.
One my sons is a doctor and he couldn’t do any elective surgeries so now he’s got people who should have had surgery and now they’ve got injuries that he’s got to go in and deal with because the stuff started healing and it shouldn’t have been healing without the doctors going in, but it was elective surgery. So the world is more complicated than we like to think. You get fixated on one variable when there are these others going on, like the economy.
Joseph is another model for you; Joseph and Daniel both had struggles—Daniel with the lion’s den. A friend of mine just got chosen. He’s a climate skeptic and the former climatologist of the State of Delaware, and now he’s appointed to be one of the overseers of measurement inside NOAA. He’s getting slammed by the press so I sent him an email the other day and I said we’re going to pray for you because you’re in the lion’s den. And he said, I can use all the prayer I can get. Because again, he’s a Christian man; a good scientist, but he just disagrees with the establishment and now he’s getting flack.
Q: What is your view of global warming?
A: There is global warming, but the question is what the cause of it is. And again, we’re thinking in terms of forensic science versus actual science. Climate change has been going on for decades and centuries, and we don’t have any direct measurements, but we can tell from the vineyards in Italy all the way back to early Rome. When the climate was warm, guess what happened to the vineyards? They were planted at higher and higher elevations, and when the climate got cold, they couldn’t grow vines up there and they would come down and so we’ve got some semi-instrumentation of past climate change.
The climate has changed. And Dr. [Richard] Lindzen (b.1940) at MIT asked how many automobiles were they driving in A.D. 400? How much fossil fuel were we burning in A.D. 400? We’ve come out of the Little Ice Age, a time of solar minimum, and the Little Ice Age in this country was very cold. How many of you have seen the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware? What do you notice about the water? It was full of ice. He had two probes to go after the Hessians at Princeton, and one probe couldn’t even get the artillery across the Delaware River. They didn’t have barges with a carrying capacity to get through the ice.
We’ve been coming out of that and so the climate is warming. But here’s the good news: what is CO2? Is it a contaminant or is it plant food? Think of life on earth. Life starts with soil from which you grow something that animals can eat. Do you realize that overall food production since CO2 has been increasing is at record levels? There’s some neat stuff happening out there. It is true that the climate is warming, not to the extreme that the climate models that have gone into public policy forecast this big uplift of the temperature, but when you measure the past forecasts, they’re way too warm, the models are running too hot. We don’t know why the models are running too hot. It’s a complicated mathematical problem, but there is some warming and CO2 probably has a part in it, but there are also natural sources. What was changing the climate before we had fossil fuels? We don’t know.
Thank you all for coming. I hope this was encouraging. Don’t get overwhelmed with all these big questions. Just remember there are passages in the Bible to get in your mind so you can quickly get a framework around whatever the question is you’re dealing with. It’s all there. The Bible is sufficient for every good work. Just master the basics.