Monday, May 4, 2009

Is God Playing Hard To Get? Part One

Is God Playing Hard To Get? Part One

With the publishing of biologist Richard Dawkin's, The God Delusion, Sam Harris's The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Christopher Hitchens's How Religion Poisons Everything, atheists are becoming more vocal about offering a viable alterative to religious faith. Granted, these books are only one of the factors that are contributing to the skepticism in our culture. Furthermore, there have been several rebuttals to these books. The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: “Do we really know what we think we know-especially in religion- when our beliefs are not properly based on evidence?” And in the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? Now I know in this article, you may say attempting to use the Bible is begging the question. After all, how do we know we can trust the Bible? I am going to bypass that issue for another article. Anyway, we to remember that the Bible stresses that people are in the dark. In other words, since the Bible stresses that humans are blinded by sin, this has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Isa 6:9-10; Zech 7:11-12; Matt 13:10-13; 2 Cor 4:4).

Hence, the acceptance of revelation, therefore, is, of fundamental importance to our faith. The word "revelation" comes from the Greek word "apokalupsis" which means "an "uncovering," or "unveiling." One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. The problem we have in our culture is that many people cannot accept the limitations of the knowledge process. Furthermore, there is a tendency to forget God’s relationship with mankind is not to simply prove He exists to people. It says in James 2:19, that the demons believe that God exists. Objectively speaking, evidence for God may help someone believe that God exists. However, the individual still needs to place their trust in God. This can only be done with the help of the Ruach Ka Kodesh (John 16:12-15).

The Jewish people came to know their G-d predominately by His covenantal actions. As the late Jewish scholar Abraham J. Heschel said, “The God of Israel is a God who acts, a God of mighty deeds." And because of this knowledge, G-d called the Jewish people into active participation. According to the Hebrew view of knowledge, the opposite of knowledge is not always ignorance and error. Instead, it is often related to disobedience, rebellion, and sin. Just as the God of Israel revealed Himself by His actions, Yeshua continually appealed to His "deeds" or "actions" that testified to His Messiahship (John 5:36-5:36; John 10:37; John 10:38; John 14:10).
God has acted in our behalf by revealing Himself through the created order.

And as I said, in the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, we have to use induction. Induction is the method of drawing general conclusions from specific observations. For example, since we can’t observe gravity directly, we only observe its effects. We also can’t observe the human mind directly, but only its effects. Paul understood this issue when he writes in 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, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn't glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer, His “everlasting power and divinity” (this is the cause) are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).

If we look at this Scripture, people do perceive general revelation. The problem is they do not receive it. I think Paul would be happy to see the following comments about Romans 1:18-21 by the following apologists and theologians:

1. The revelation of God in nature is mediate, but it is so manifest and so clear that it does not necessitate a complex theoretical reasoning process that could be achieved only by a group of geniuses. If God's general revelation is in fact "general," in that it is plain enough for all to see clearly without complicated cosmological argumentation, then it may even be said to be self evident. The revelation is clear enough for an unskilled and illiterate person to perceive it. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma encounter with God's revelation is not maintained in its lucid, threatening state, but is repressed. It is "put down or held in captivity" in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable, and as a result humans attempt to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. (Sproul, R.C, Gerstner, John and Arthur Lindsey. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.1984, 46-59).

2. Former atheist J. Budziszewski:
I am not at present concerned to explore Paul’s general claim that those who deny the Creator are wicked but only his more particular claim that they are intellectually dishonest. Notice that he does not criticize nonbelievers because they do not know about God but ought to. Rather, he criticizes them because they do know about God but pretend to themselves that they don’t. According to his account, we are not ignorant of God’s reality at all. Rather, we “suppress” it; to translate differently, we “hold it down.” With all our strength we try not to know it, even though we can’t help knowing it; with one part of our minds we do know it, while with another we say, “I know no such thing.” From the biblical point of view, then, the reason it is so difficult to argue with an atheist—as I once was—is that he is not being honest with himself. He knows there is a God, but he tells himself that he doesn’t. How can a person explain how he reached new first principles? By what route could he have arrived at them? To what deeper considerations could he have appealed? If the biblical account is true, then it would seem that no one really arrives at new first principles; a person only seems to arrive at them. The atheist does not lack true first principles; they are in his knowledge already, though suppressed. The convert from atheism did not acquire them; rather, things he knew all along were unearthed. ( Giesler, N. L. and Paul K. Hoffman. Why I Am A Christian. Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 2001, 49).

3. Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork. Our knowledge of his character and his love toward us can be smothered: it can be transformed into resentful thought that God is to be feared and mistrusted; we may see him as indifferent or even malignant. In the traditional taxonomy of seven deadly sins, this is sloth. Sloth is not simple laziness, like the inclination to lie down and watch television rather than go out and get exercise you need; it is, instead, a kind of spiritual deadness, blindness, imperceptiveness, acedia, torpor, a failure to be aware of God’s presence, love, requirements. (Plantinga, A. Warranted Christian Belief. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2000, 214-215).

The amazing thing about our Lord is that He saw fit to reveal more of Himself through the person of Messiah. While general revelation manifests God as Creator, it does not reveal Him as Redeemer. Although general revelation shows man is under condemnation, they are all without an excuse" (Romans 1:20; Romans 2:12), it is not sufficient for salvation. As Heb. 1:1–2 says, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son." Yeshua did comment on how people respond to Him by saying, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." But he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God" (John 3:19-21). And finally, remember that we are agents of God’s revelation. As messengers of the Messiah, we are the normative way God communicates to humans. Therefore, it is imperative for all us to ask whether we are willing to be obedient to the Great Commission (Matt 28:19).

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