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Giving an Answer – Part 5
Old Testament: God Confronts Human Viewpoint, Biblical Examples
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #087
April 20, 2017
“Father, we are thankful that we can come together this evening to focus upon You, to be reminded of Your grace and Your goodness and all that You have done, to have our confidence reaffirmed—our confidence in Your Word, our confidence in grace, our confidence in Who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us. Understanding what you have revealed to us in Your Word, that is not only designed to teach us, but also to show that what the Scriptures reveal is the truth; as Jesus prayed, “Thy Word is truth.”
Father, help us understand these things that we might be able to fulfill the mandate to give an answer for the hope that is within us. And, Father, we pray You will help us to focus and think this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
A couple of things this evening. We’re continuing our study, coming out of 1 Peter 3:15, that we are to give an answer for the hope that is within us. So this is the fifth in I don’t know how many lessons in this sub-series dealing with apologetics, what that is, and what that means.
We look at this first question. In this slide I’ve outlined six questions. We’re still dealing with the fourth question. We’re getting into the fifth question. The answer to the fifth question will become evident as we go through the biblical passages, key biblical passages, where I’m showing how the Bible is apologetic in its emphasis. Now that doesn’t mean it’s saying, “Oh, I’m sorry for this truth. It just so terrible. I just wish it wasn’t this way.” It is a rational, logical presentation of truth—positively. We often think of that as theology. One of the questions that comes up in discussions of apologetics is, “What’s the relationship of apologetics to theology?” There’s a lot of debate over that—a lot of discussion. The answer that I think best fits it is that theology is a positive expression of what the Bible teaches. And whenever you say, “This is what this means,” somebody’s going to say, “How do you know that?” So the answer to why you believe what you believe, is apologetics. And the Bible helps us to understand what to believe and why we believe it.
The Bible is filled with evidence of the truth of Scripture and who God is and what He has done for us. God has done this all through history and so we’re tracing that right now as we go through the Scriptures.
One of the other evidences of apologetics that is evident is the changed lives of believers. The love. Jesus said to His disciples that we are to love one another as He loved us, and by this all men would know we are His disciples. So evidence is not just historical evidence, but evidence is also part of our life as witnesses of the truth of God’s Word.
Last night we went to see the film The Case for Christ. It’s based on the book by Lee Strobel, and it’s basically the film version of his testimony. If you don’t know who Lee Strobel is, he began as an investigative reporter. As this film begins in 1980, he is a hotshot young investigative reporter who’s broken open several big stories in Chicago. He’s a writer for the Chicago Tribune. He’s won a number of awards.
Basically, he’s pretty much given a lot of leeway to do whatever he wants to do. It goes to the story of his life and how God intervened through circumstances to really shake up the family. I’m not going to give the storyline away.
His wife ends up becoming a believer, and he is dead set against it. He is a committed atheist, and he is going to prove her wrong and Christianity wrong, and he comes to realize that the linchpin of Christianity is the Resurrection. If he can just prove the Resurrection didn’t occur and that this is all a hoax, then he’s going to knock down Christianity and disprove her.
But what happens within the family is really interesting. First of all, you see the tension. I talked the other night about why the wisdom of God says that a believer should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. That’s because you have two people from two different worlds; they can’t pull together if one is an unbeliever and one is a believer. Of course, they have a lot of trouble if one’s a carnal believer and the other is trying to walk with the Lord. That can be just as bad, sometimes even worse.
There’s a lot of tension in the home. And he has a mentor who’s a committed agnostic and atheist. And one of the things that happens in his conversations with this guy—he is never going to let his wife know this because he’s just trying to convince her that she’s just dead wrong. “I want my wife back—the woman I married, not this Christian.” But he tells his friend, “She’s just changed in incredible ways.” And part of the evidence that we have in the Christian life is our response to adversity.
A reason I’m talking about that is that I got an e-mail today about a situation that occurred. Talk about ripping this from the headlines. We all know that during Easter weekend there were terrorists who put suicide bombers in a couple of Coptic churches in Egypt. This is a news interview that was done and it was sent out by the Egypt Bible Society. I want you to watch. You have to read the subtitles. So make sure you have clear visibility to the screens.
I’m not going to turn the sound up because it just all in Arabic anyway and you can’t understand it. So you have to read what he is saying. One of the bombers was headed into the church, and one of the men in the church realized what was happening and he attacked the bomber. The bomb went off, he was killed; he gave his life to protect the church. So the bomber didn’t make it inside with the bomb.
The news anchor is interviewing the wife, and he’s asking her how she feels about the bombers. Watch what she says, and watch the reaction of the news reporter who’s interviewing her. It’s a split screen, so you see her on one screen and him on the other screen. She said, “I asked the Lord to forgive them and let them try to think. Think! Think! Believe me, if they think, they will know that we didn’t do anything wrong to them. Think again—what are you doing, is it wrong or right? May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, I forgive you. You put my husband in a place that I couldn’t have dreamed of, believe me. I am proud of him, and I wish I was there beside him, believe me. And I thank you.” And then she’s hugged and kissed by the reporter.
Watch the anchor over here. [He says,] “Egyptian Christians are made of steel!” He can’t believe it. “Egyptian Christians for hundreds of years are bearing many atrocities and disasters. The Egyptian Christian deeply loves his country. The Egyptian Christian bears everything for the sake of his nation. And oh, how great is this amount of forgiveness you have???”
He can’t understand it. “If your enemy knew how much forgiveness you have for them, he would not believe it. If it was my father, I could never say this! These people have so much forgiveness. This is their faith and religious conviction. These people are made from a different substance! May God have mercy on Am Neseem, he is a hero and a martyr, and a greater example to all of us, to everyone who is sitting and criticizing his country about how things are going. This country is moving on by patience, by perseverance, by endurance, by this great woman and her children, in whom their father yet lives, brought up to be men, real men!” We see there that part of the evidence of Christianity is how lives are transformed by the grace of God and by the Word of God.
1. What is apologetics?
That’s as much apologetics as some of the most technical philosophical arguments, evidential arguments, that we can ever run into. So that played a part in the testimony to Lee Strobel. He’s this investigative reporter. I want to get to a point here before I go any further.
In apologetics, we saw a definition that, “APOLOGIA [the Greek word] describes a carefully reasoned defense in response to a line of questioning or wrongful accusation by recognized authorities.” So there’s one aspect of apologetics that is giving a defense. This can be overt—these are the reasons; or it can be covert in the way something is expressed or something is simply described.
The way you talk about something is you’re presenting evidence for why it is true. One form of that is what is called a polemic. Last week I talked about this in relation to Genesis chapter 1, and I gave a definition of what a polemic is. A polemic can be an oral or written statement that is a response—or sometimes even an attack—on an idea or someone’s position. I was sent in the mail this week a lengthy paper, written by Wendell Bell, who doesn’t live here but usually shows up at the conferences. He is writing a lengthy study on the Book of Job as a polemic against the pagan polytheistic religions of the ancient world.
After we get out of Genesis we’re going to look at Job briefly—how Job is another collision between divine viewpoint and human viewpoint. That’s essentially where apologetics takes place: We’re showing that divine viewpoint is true. One of the things that happens when you do that, is showing that the other view is false. That’s what a polemic is.
He gives them some good quotes, some good illustrations here, of a polemic. So I thought I would just read that in reference to the definition. He says, “A polemic is an oral or written attack on someone or some idea, including statements against false philosophical notions or against false religious doctrines. A polemic may be a very strong attack using sarcasm, such as the polemical attack by Elijah on the prophets of Baal.” Remember, he is saying, “You can pile up everything and call upon Baal to light the fire.” And then he would say, “Oh! Well, maybe he’s taking a nap; maybe he’s gone to the bathroom!” See that’s sanctified sarcasm; God doesn’t fit political correctness.
That’s one form of a polemic, but it’s within the context of what? God is proving or demonstrating His existence to Israel in that whole event. So, it is a classic example of divine apologetics—divine viewpoint confronting human viewpoint and paganism.
Wendell goes on to write, “Sometimes a polemic is merely a simple statement of truth which by its content excludes all contrary truth claims. For example, when Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me,’ He is stating a truth that He is the only way to God the Father. But if Jesus is the only way to God the Father, this, by implication, excludes all other purported ways to God the Father.” So that very statement is a polemic against all other religions. He is not only making the positive statement that He is the only way, but, by implication, He is saying, “Everything else is wrong. Nothing else will get you anywhere.” Those are the ideas in a polemic.
The Bible is very polemical. If we had grown up in the time of Moses and we read Genesis 1, we would react to it very, very differently than the way we do today. I pointed out at the conclusion last time. I was using an example from Michael Heiser, who got his PhD in Old Testament studies and works for Logos Bible Software, as do many people across many different theological spectrums.
This isn’t anything about Logos Bible Software, but I critiqued some things that he has said, because it’s typical of the views that dominate Old Testament departments in many seminaries today, showing that there is a failure to properly understand and interpret Genesis 1.
Genesis chapter 1 must be viewed as a historical narrative. I gave some of the evidence from that last time, showing that it’s not just a Christian myth that’s better than the other myths. Now, that’s important, because with some branches of apologetics, when you have a rationalist view or you have an evidentialist view, actual quotes, actual statements by evidentialists and rationalists—Christians—good men in many, many ways—who have made great contributions to theology and biblical truth in many, many ways, will then turn around and say things like, “The best this gets you is greater probability that the truth of the Bible is the most probable.”
And one of the great thinkers and great defenders of inerrancy and inspiration in the 20th century was the head of the Theology Department at Princeton Seminary, a man by the name of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, to whom Lewis Sperry Chafer gave tremendous respect and quotes him numerous times throughout his Systematic Theology. That was a statement, basically paraphrase, from what Warfield says. Because when you don’t consistently presuppose the truth of the Bible from the get-go, that’s the best you can get. So we’ll kind come back to that in a minute.
Last time we looked at the statements that Heiser made. We looked at some of the problems there. I pointed out a study that was published in the RATE book. That’s what RATE stands for: Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. There are two books—extensive, very technical books—published by Institute for Creation Research dealing with this; and in chapter 9 of the second one, there’s an article by a man who basically did this in-depth analysis of the grammar, the syntax of Hebrew narrative and Hebrew poetry. Then he mapped that onto Genesis 1 and said, “There’s an infinitesimally small chance that this could be poetry.” And yet that is the dominant view.
That was Heiser’s view. That is other people’s view: It’s poetry; therefore, it’s not teaching accurate history. But that begs the question, “Can poetry relate accurate history?” Sure it can. They have a problem there. So this is the role of apologetics—not just to defend the truth to those who are outside the camp, but also to those who are inside the camp who have compromised truth.
One of the questions I have listed here that we look at is the claim: The Bible doesn’t use apologetics, why should we? I hope that what we’re going to see, as we go through these passages, is that the Bible is inherently apologetic. It is defending itself. Again, and again, and again, God provides historic space-time evidence of the truth of the Scriptures.
That raises some questions. What we have here, just to remind you, is four systems of knowledge. Rationalism—everything starts with reason. On the basis of logic and reason you can arrive at truth. In apologetics, logic and reason become a neutral ground between the believer and the unbeliever; that if you appeal to logic, you can bring the unbeliever to truth. We’re not saying you don’t use logic and reason—it’s how you use it.
Empiricism has as its counterpart: evidentialism. It’s “Just the facts, ma’am.” Remember Dragnet, Sgt. Friday? “Just the facts.” This is the idea that if I just properly understand the facts, then I will come to an understanding of the truth. I encourage all of you—because it’s important; it’s valuable for a number reasons—to go see The Case for Christ. At the beginning, Strobel is receiving an award and he makes this statement that, “If you just get to the facts, then you will know the truth.” That is the theme of his approach to apologetics, as well as a number of others.
“Just get to the facts. Know the facts.” But that’s assuming that facts, or history, or science—that these facts are somehow neutral.
Now what I’m going to show you as we go through this is that facts are important. That’s why he ends up becoming a believer, because facts will change your misinformation, your lack of information. God the Holy Spirit uses those facts to challenge unbelievers to the truth of Scripture. But it boils down to some rather abstract concepts in how facts are used.
One example of this that I think is a simple thing. We’ve all heard the five arguments for the existence of God. Five ways to God. You’ve got the cosmological argument, the ontological argument, the teleological argument, the anthropological argument, the moral argument. And Van Til, who is one of the primary architects of presuppositional apologetics, which is what I call revelational presuppositional apologetics has stated.
It’s not that they’re not correct, it’s that the way they are normally formulated, they compromise God. The way they’re formulated, they can only get you to the existence of a god, not the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who is the Creator of all things. You have to get to the true God, not to a false concept of God.
So it’s not that evidence, and facts, and history, and science don’t play an important role; it’s understanding that role. But facts, science, history are important for people to understand, because a lot of people you’re witnessing to just have total misconceptions. Part of that is what’s going on in this particular film. I will talk more about it later. Hopefully, some of you will get a chance to go watch it and then whatever I say will mean a little bit more to you.
So the issue that we’re talking about and focusing on is, “What’s the common ground?” Is a common ground reason? Is reason unaffected by sin? Is reason neutral? Is logic neutral? Is history neutral? Is science neutral? Is there any neutrality in a fallen world? That’s the real core question.
We started off last time looking at the creation account, that this is a polemic; it directly challenges all human viewpoint ideas of origins. As some of these Old Testament scholars say, it’s not just looking at a polemic against the Babylonian, Egyptian, or Canaanite mythologies, but it is a universal polemic against all non-creationist origin stories, whether they’re ancient mythology or the modern mythology of Darwinism.
Now one of the problems that we run into today is, first of all, a lack of knowledge and secondly, you have too many people who have bought into the lie, or the propaganda, that science really has discovered that the earth is old—and there are numerous studies that point out many problems with that—and just facts. I want to tell you about one story. I first heard this in a church history class 40 years ago, and it’s the story of one of the greatest biblical scholars in the Church Age.
His name was Robert Dick Wilson, and he was, I believe, originally on the faculty at Princeton Seminary. He was born in 1856 in Pennsylvania. In 1886, when he was 30 years old, he received his PhD and continued his training at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, which was followed by two additional years of training in Germany at the University of Berlin. When he went to Germany he made the decision to dedicate his life to a study of the Old Testament. He fully understood how the Old Testament was being attacked—again and againby so-called scholars, these brilliant men at the most highly respected universities—not only in America, but especially European.
When he got to Germany he was 25. He said, “I judge from the life of my ancestors that I should live to be about 70 years of age.” I just love the planning that goes into this. He determined that he should have about 45 years to work. “I divided the period [of time] into three parts. The first 15 years I would devote to the study of the languages necessary.” He became fluent and fully functional in 45 different languages—all of the dead languages of the ancient Near East as well as modern languages. He did that in 15 years.
Second. “For the second 15 [years] I was going to devote myself to the study of the text of the Old Testament; and I reserved the last 15 years to the work of writing the results of my previous studies and investigations, so as to give them to the world.” The result of his studies is that nobody could debate him. Because he could go to the original sources and documents and disapprove anything any liberal scholar said. None of them were up to his level of knowledge or his level of scholarship.
Not everybody can do that; the rest of us have just average intelligence and capabilities. But to know that there are people like that, that have demonstrated the veracity of the Word of God, gives us great confidence.
This is part of an introduction to a book that Josh McDowell wrote called, Answers to Tough Questions. I initially heard this story when I was in seminary, and I thought, “Wow. That’s a way to plan your life.” Do all this time studying, getting all you can, raising the bar of academic excellence, and then spending time studying the Word. And then wait until you’ve matured in that understanding of the Word to write.
“As a student in seminary he would read the New Testament in nine different languages including a Hebrew translation which he had memorized syllable for syllable! [That was a Hebrew translation of the New Testament.] He had also memorized large portions of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew.” And he had mastered all of these other languages. So the value of this is that in his writings he shows that these ideas that are being recycled again today are completely bogus and completely fraudulent.
Another thing I wanted to point out is that what has happened today, due once again to a lack of knowledge—knowledge of facts—facts are important; you just have to use them correctly—is that people have bought into a lie. Once again, another piece of fake news and fake information. There’s been an ongoing battle between the Bible and science for centuries. Science has produced so many valuable things, and so we have a default position of honoring science.
A lot of these men that Farnell talked about when he was here were classmates of mine when I was in seminary. A couple of them I knew before I went to seminary. Many of them were maybe a year or two ahead of me or a year or two behind me, but I’ve known many of these men—who they were—for 40 years or so. And they were compromising their views with a young earth, literal creation, even back then in little ways. But that’s because they were not keeping up with the knowledge and the literature from the various creation groups.
The assumption that governed so many of these people is that science is right. Now this book, which is called The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton, came out in 1994. They make the statement that the goal of these scientists in the mid-19th century was to secularize society. They had a self-conscious goal to get rid of Christianity and a Christian worldview.
One of the people involved was Charles Lyell. He’s the father of uniformitarian geology. He had access to an inordinate amount of money. By virtue of his money he bought the journals; he controlled the journals in one way or another—all the scientific journals—so that he makes the editorial decision that he will not allow any creationist, anybody who challenged his uniformitarian theory, to publish in any of the journals. So he just basically shuts down the voice of those who disagreed with him.
The same kind of thing happened with the Institute for Creation Research in the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s. One of their brilliant scholars, one of the founders that was the right-hand man for Henry Morris, was Duane Gish, who had his PhD in biology. Duane Gish went to college campus after college campus in the 60s when evolutionists thought, “Well, these creationists just fell off the turnip truck a couple of weeks ago. They don’t know anything, and we can easily destroy them in a debate.” And yet his knowledge was so encyclopedic and comprehensive that he wiped them out. Within 15 years, no faculty member at any major university—any biology department—would debate him anymore. They refused to. That way nobody hears the creationist position. This was what was happening.
Pearcey and Thaxton say, “Their goal was to secularize society, replacing the Christian worldview with scientific naturalism … they understood very well that they were replacing one religion by another, for they described their goal as the establishment of the ‘church scientific.’ ” This is part of the human side of the angelic conflict—the attempt to destroy the truth of the Scripture.
This is further validated in a second book I have here called, The Genesis of Science [I love the title]: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. If you listen to modern science, Christianity is nonscientific, but all of the major scientists who founded modern science were all committed Christians; they were all committed to the truth of Scripture.
This is a book by James Hannam, The Genesis of Science, and he says, quoting a book by Andrew White, who is the president of Cornell University, “Andrew White’s book is A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.” Andrew White is the one who invented this myth in the mid-19th century that there was a warfare between science and theology. Nobody knew that up until the time he developed his fake news. He said, “It gave the illusion of meticulous scholarship, but anyone who checks his references will wonder how he could have maintained his opinions if he had read as much as he claimed to have done.” That’s what Hannam is saying about Andrew White: “In his book he gave the illusion of meticulous scholarship, but anyone who checks his references will wonder how he could’ve maintained his opinions if he had read as much as he claimed to have done.” It was fake science and fake history.
Let’s go to Genesis 1 and Human Creation “Myths.” Okay. Genesis 1 teaching biblical creation versus the polemic against human creation myths. The first thing we see is that Genesis 1, when you read it, assumes the creation of God; it’s not proving it. But remember, Moses is not writing Genesis 1 at the time of creation. Moses is writing Genesis 1 in about 1400 BC to the context of the Israelites in the plains of Moab who have come out of Egypt. They’re very familiar with the Egyptian creation myths. They’re going into the land of Canaan where they’re going to be exposed to all the Canaanite creation myths. Because they’re part of the ancient Near East cultural milieu, they’re going to also be exposed to Babylonian creation myths.
We clearly see that Genesis 1 is a counter to this. It assumes the creation by God. It’s not trying to prove it, because it is showing that this is the evidence of God’s existence. Now Romans 1:20. We will keep coming back to these passages in Romans 1:18–23. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world [Genesis 1] His invisible attributes are clearly seen [God’s invisible attributes, His nature, not some amorphous deity out there].”
We are not coming up with a god from our arguments to the existence of God. We are coming up with a God Who has specific attributes. He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—not just a god—but the God. We are not just coming up with a designer. Because a designer doesn’t necessarily mean the holy God of the Bible, the God of Moses, the God of Scripture; you’re just coming up with a designer.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood.” Now what that tells us is that they could look at nonverbal revelation—general revelation—and they could understand enough about the attributes of the Creator present from the creation. Being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power [His omnipotence] and Godhead.” Paul is saying, “You can come to an understanding of the Godhead from non-verbal revelation.”
I’ve presented this before and talked about it, that the basic problem in philosophy that most philosophers will talk about, is the problem of unity and diversity. So if the universe has unity as well as diversity, what philosophers will also talk about is “being and becoming.” That indicates that the Creator has to be both One and many; it is also called the problem with the “One and the many.”
So that indicates that the Creator God has to be One, but also many. You don’t get that with anything other than Christianity. Because you look at Allah; Allah is one. The problem with that, philosophically, is back in eternity past he is all by himself. And if he is going to love anyone [and I don’t think Allah has love as an attribute], he has to create that person. Well, if he has to create the object of his love, then he’s dependent upon his creation, and that means he’s not independent of his creation; he is not God by definition.
So what Paul is saying here is that even the Godhead can be understood to some degree from the creation; enough so that they are without excuse. Then he says, “because, although they knew God …” Fallen man knows God exists.
“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God.” They did not honor Him as God; they rejected Him. But to reject Him, you first of all have to know that He exists. So when we’re talking to an unbeliever, guess what? He already knows, in his soul, that God exists. There are other factors as well: He not only knows God exists, but he is in the image of God. We will talk about that in a minute.
“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”
What we see when we look at Genesis 1 and Romans 1:19–23 is:
1. There’s an assumption of the creation of God, that God created everything.
2. Second, that every human being knows God exists.
We are going to see this as we go through these Old Testament episodes. Every human being knows God exists and can understand that God exists. That’s the key thing—every person, even Madeline Murray O’Hare. I met her one time. In my first church that I pastored down in La Marque, I got a call from one of my deacons in the church and he said, “I’ve got a favor to ask of you.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I’ve got an old childhood buddy that is having heart surgery down at the hospital. Would you go down and pray with him?” “Sure.” He says, “There’s a catch. His mother is Madeline Murray O’Hare.” I tell you, if souls can express their ugliness externally, she’s the poster child for that. So I went down there and sat in the waiting room, went in, met the guy, prayed for him (which did not endear me to her or the family), and that was my exposure to them.
So every human being—even her and all of her denials of the existence of God. For those who don’t know, she was the leader of the atheist anti-Christian forces in the United States in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, until she and another son mysteriously disappeared.
3. Through rejection of what they know, they suppress the truth. [It’s very clear from Romans 1 and Genesis, that people know this.] They suppress the truth, they are without excuse—they can’t tell God, “Well, I didn’t know!”
So when we’re witnessing to somebody and they are claiming they don’t know, somewhere deep inside them, they know—and you know they know. So doesn’t that make it a little bit easier? You don’t have to convince them of the truth; they already know it. You just have to sort of get God to rattle his chains a little bit inside, and they get upset that God is giving them a witness.
3. (Continued) So they are without excuse. They become futile in their speculations; they are empty.
All of their academic theories, all of their scientific explanations, the Bible says are just speculations—they are empty speculations.
So what happens when we compare Genesis 1 and Romans1, is this shows the futility of their alternate realities. But that’s what they’re doing in suppressing the truth—they are creating an alternate universe and they are trying to live in it. But the reality is that because the knowledge of God is deep in their soul, they have buried Him in the cellar and locked the door. He’s rattling the door every now and then, and they try to go down there and put more chains around that door so He can’t get out.
So what do we learn from Genesis 1?
1. In Genesis 1, God is speaking and addressing pagan cultures that have denied His existence, denied that He is the Creator. They are using these suppression mechanisms and theories, and so God speaks to them in order to challenge their assumptions.
He is telling them that He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. If you were living then, you never heard that from the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites, the Greeks, the Romans—none of them had a Creator that was totally outside the Chain of Being. All of their deities are in that Chain of Being.
God doesn’t seek to prove His existence, because when God speaks it is self-authenticating. It carries the weight of its own authority. Now some people think, “Well, isn’t that a circular argument?” But when you hear God speak, when Jesus speaks to John on the Isle of Patmos, when you have God speaking to Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6, they’re not saying, “Are you sure it’s God?” It is self-evident that Who is appearing to them is God.
When God appears to Moses at the burning bush, it is self-authenticating. God doesn’t prove His existence. Now, we’re not trying to prove His existence according to some ideas of proof; there’s corroborating evidence that supports the view.
2. Second thing we learn is that God creates everything.
This is really, really an important idea to unpack. This is very important. Genesis. Exodus 20:9–11 is the commandment related to the Sabbath. God says, “Six days you shall labor.” That’s the first command: “You shall labor. ” God commands them to work for six days.
“Six days you shall work and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter—or anybody else in the household. Why? “Why do we follow this pattern, God?” God answers it. He gives an apologetic; He explains why He set up this pattern. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”
He created the heavens and the earth—that’s what’s called merism. A merism is when you say, “You need to study the Word of God day and night.” It doesn’t mean every second of every day; it’s using two opposites to talk about the inclusion of everything. High and low, far and wide, East and West are all merisms.
He creates everything. Let’s think about this a minute. This means that everything—every star, every planet, every rock, every mineral, every substance, every animal, every bird, every fish, every human being, every molecule, every atom, the properties of every substance and compound, all of the subatomic and sub-molecular elements, the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, the laws of biology, botany, everything—every fact, every piece of data is what it is because God created it to be exactly that way.
Now think about that. That means there is no fact, there’s no piece of data, that you can come up with that is what it is by chance; it is what it is because God made it that way. There’s nothing that you can come up with that somehow just happened to develop. Everything was designed by God specifically to be the way that it is.
Think about this. An apple is an apple because of all the attributes that an apple has. An apple has a certain molecular structure. I guess apples have DNA; they have certain structure. Everything there that you can study, you say, “This is an apple; it’s not an orange; it’s not a pomegranate; it’s not a fig. It has the color, the texture, all the chemical compounds—everything; this is what makes it an apple.”
But there is one attribute that I did not mention. Part of all the attributes that an apple has, or a pecan has, or a rose has, is that God created it to be exactly that and nothing else. When God created in Genesis chapter 1, He designed each and everything specifically to be what it is so that its properties will never change it into something else.
When God created all of the fruits, vegetables, all of the animals, they would propagate, they would develop, after their kind. That creates a wall. A dog is always going to be a dog. Now, within that kind. It may be a German Shepherd, or a Chihuahua, or a poodle, or probably a wolf, a coyote—all those would be in that broad dog “kind” category. But it’s never going to become a cat. Nothing will ever bring in outside the boundary of that thing that is a dog.
So, going back to the apple. Therefore, to talk about an apple in a way that understands that one of the properties of an apple is that it is the result of an accidental consequence of time plus chance, and that tomorrow it could become a different kind and no longer be an apple but become something different, means that the apple the evolutionist looks at and talks about is at some level not the apple that the creationist is talking about. Because one of the attributes you and I view as essential to being an apple is that it’s never going to be an orange.
So the evolutionists to some degree have it right that you as a Christian can’t do their kind of science, because their kind of science is presuppositionally different from your kind of science and my kind of science. They reject the idea of fixed categories.
That has a problem for language, because language is inherently based on fixed categories that don’t change. Word meanings. The word “dog” always refers to a four-legged creature in the canine category; it’s never going to refer to a four-legged creature in a feline category. Words themselves, to have meaning, have boundaries; they have their own categories and their own kind.
When we use words with fixed meanings in kinds and categories such as apple, dog, cat, elephant, that presupposes that there are fixed, unchangeable categories in the universe. So when we even communicate with people, by using language, we’re presupposing a God Who created like the Bible says a God created. We never think about it that way. That’s really getting down into the deep, deep weeds of the presuppositions in language.
Actually, when an evolutionist starts talking he can’t really debate a creationist because he doesn’t have a right to use those words and presuppose categories, which is at the foundation of all language. This is why a few linguists who are evolutionists recognize that one of the most difficult problems for evolutionists to deal with is the existence of language. This is just one illustration of what we talk about when we talk about presuppositional categories, language and communication presuppose a Judeo–Christian God Who creates kinds.
There is an interesting corollary to this. A corollary to this is that facts are what they are. If an apple is what it is because God created it to be specifically that way, and a pecan is what it is because God created to be that way—and it’s not going to be a walnut or an almond—the same is true when we talk about facts. A fact is what it is because God created them to be what they are.
So when we talk about the facts that are the evidence … See, when we talk about the evidence for the truth of Christianity, what are you talking about? You are talking about facts. So when we talk about a fact, a fact is not neutral. It doesn’t exist in neutrality or all by itself. If an apple is what it is and a dog is what it is because God created to be what it is, then a fact is what it is because God created the facts. They are what they are because of what God said.
A problem with rationalism and evidentialist apologetics is that if you’re treating a fact as if it’s neutral, then you’re not treating the fact as if it’s created by God to be exactly what it is. So you’re not treating the fact correctly; you’ve compromised already with paganism. I think that’s a pretty heavy thought. You know, I’m glad you all hung in there. Bert’s back there shaking his head, “I got it!” Probably some the most abstract teaching that I’ve ever done is to try to communicate that. That’s probably why I’ve waited 30 years in the ministry before I started trying to communicate that.
That’s the essence of the problem. It’s not that facts and evidence shouldn’t be part of apologetics—it’s how you use them. Because you can’t treat a fact is if it’s neutral. That doesn’t mean that we float these things out there—tell everybody ahead of time what we’re doing. But in terms of our own thought, we can’t compromise the integrity of what a fact is.
Facts aren’t neutral. Every fact in God’s universe— every molecule, every atom—proclaims the glory of God. Every fact proclaims the glory of God, and that gives us a lot of confidence. When we’re talking to an unbeliever about the facts of Scripture, we can have confidence that it’s true!
I was quoting Warfield earlier. It’s not just Warfield; it’s a number of other evidentialists. They would all basically agree that the most that their rationalistic evidentiary approach to apologetics gives them is a high, high, high level of probability. It doesn’t give them absolute certainty—and they admit that. And I’ll come up with some more quotes along the way.
We go back to Romans 1:18–21. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That is giving a general gnomic, or universal description, of what people do: They reject the truth and they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Now the wrath of God is revealed against them “because what may be known of God is manifest in them [they know it inside], for God has shown it to them” [externally].
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Now the thing is, this is natural revelation. Natural revelation isn’t verbal, so we always have to interpret natural revelation by special revelation.
The next thing that we learn from Genesis 1 is that:
2. It speaks to humans about what is, and it assumes they can understand it. That means that man was created to understand what God is communicating—nonverbally and verbally.
I just talked about Romans 1, but think about Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” As God is getting ready to create—let’s be a little anthropomorphic here—He is sitting up there and says, “I’m going to make this universe, but I’m going to make it and design it in such a way so that every molecule says something about Who I am.” That tells us as Christians that when we’re dealing with God’s creation, God has put His fingerprint on everything and it’s crying out to every human being. And guess what? God created every human being so that they could understand what was being communicated.
One of the things that’s come up in the last part of the 20th century and into the 21st century is modern information theory. Modern information theory concludes that information is conveyed not only by print—such as alphabet, or hieroglyphics, or cuneiform, or very various alphabet or word -type symbols—but in many other ways. Information is communicated by smell. It’s communicated through visuals. It’s communicated through audio recordings. It’s communicated through video. Those are all the means of communicating something.
But what they do conclude is what’s certain for communication to take place is that on one end you have to have a person—or something of intelligence—you have to have an intelligence—that encodes and transmits the information; then on the other end you have to have a receiver who has the intelligence and the ability to receive the information, decode it, and understand it.
What you have is an encoder who has intelligence who can encode the information, transmit it to someone who has the ability to receive it, decode it, and understand it. What God is, is the encoder of the information, and He created the receiver so that the receiver—the human being—can decode the information and understand it. It’s not guesswork. God created the whole system so that it works. Thus, all data and all facts communicate something. And facts must be interpreted and they must be understood.
3. This shows that God stands outside of all creation [Genesis 1 does] and is not a part of creation.
God is not subject to the laws, to the rules, to the principles, to any of the factors that are part of creation. He is totally other: He’s holy; He’s distinct; He’s unique. That’s Genesis 1.
4. It reveals that mankind is morally and spiritually accountable to the Creator.
That’s what we learn about Genesis 1.
Let’s talk about Genesis 2 for a minute. What do we learn from Genesis 2? That man on his own, independent from God, even in a pristine perfect environment with no sin whatsoever and no flaws has only limited ability to understand his environment. Man is placed in the Garden and God starts to give him information. If God didn’t give him information he could’ve figured out …
I believe Adam was smarter than all of the top geniuses in the world combined. His intelligence would put Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Solomon, Leonardo da Vinci, Plato, and Aristotle—all of them—to shame. And I think we’ve been running downhill ever since the fall. But there’s certain things that on the basis of observation of facts and his own logic and reason [so I’m talking about rationalism and empiricism] he couldn’t figure it out on his own.
He had only a limited ability to understand what God had done. He could understand all kinds of things—the different kinds of trees, colors, fruit, animals—animals came in pairs. All of these things. But there’s one thing he couldn’t understand—maybe two things. When God communicated to him, He said, “I’ve given you all of this to eat. You can eat all of it except for one tree, and if you eat from it you will certainly die.” There’s certain information of special revelation that enables him to properly interpret general revelation. Without that he’s totally lost, because he can’t figure it out on his own. Therefore, the creature’s knowledge is always dependent upon the Creator. That’s what we learn from Genesis 2.
Genesis 3—we’re not going to get there tonight. Genesis 3 is really, really interesting, because in Genesis chapter 3 we are going to see this whole system break down. Satan is going to challenge the divine viewpoint encoding of the creation and reinterpret it to the creature.
Van Til is looking at this from Satan’s perspective. This is what Satan is saying to Eve. He’s basically saying, “Facts and truth about their relationship to one another can be known by man, Satan contended in effect, without getting any information about them from God as their maker and controller.” In other words, man can understand facts and truth without any input from God.
But facts and truth are what they are because God’s the One Who created facts and truth. To deny God as being behind the facts and the truth is to change the nature of the facts and the truth. This is really heavy.
We will come back next time and go through this a little bit more. It’s really fundamental. The bottom line is: It really gives us great confidence when we are witnessing that we’re not trying to convince somebody with an intellectual argument because the basic problem is not intellectual. We have to know facts. God the Holy Spirit can use facts, but we’re not using the facts as if they’re totally neutral and autonomous.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to think about them, to be reminded that You are the Creator of all things. Everything is exactly the way it is because that’s the way You designed it. Even facts are what they are because they are facts in Your universe. Therefore, as believers using them in the realm of witnessing and communicating the truth of the gospel, we can have great confidence and relax because we know that You’re in control. We pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”