Believing Versus Knowing

Posted by Steve on August 8th, 2009 — Posted in Uncategorized

Occasionally, a person will say about their belief in God (or the lack thereof), “I don’t want to believe, I want to know!” This is a fine-sounding argument, but it lacks intellectual honesty as I will show below.

Let’s define a god as a transcendent being. For now, let this mean any god, not the one true God. Now a transcendent being is one who transcends what we are. A transcendent being is a being who, almost by definition of transcendence, is one who we can’t wrap our mind around. Or, if we could fully comprehend such a being, it might reasonably be argued that this being is not transcendent. Seen in this light, it’s quite reasonable to conclude that a relationship with a transcendent being—if we were to have such a relationship—must be on the basis of faith, for if we could fully comprehend such a being, they would not be transcendent.

I assert that what is logically true of our strawman transcendent being is also logically true of the God of Jews and Christians—the God of the Bible. That is, if we are to have a relationship with Him, it must be a relationship based at least in part on faith, by reason of His transcendence. To say that you’d rather “know” than “believe” is really to say that you assume there is no such thing as a transcendent being. The know/believe issue sounds very intellectually rigorous. But in fact, it merely conceals a biased assumption. Intellectual honesty would demand that such a person admit their position for what it is: simply an assumption that there is or can be no transcendent being.

Has Anyone Ever Seen God?

Posted by Steve on January 17th, 2009 — Posted in Uncategorized

I was asked this question recently and thought it was worth a reasoned response.

Question:
John says no one has ever seen God but Jesus has made him known, Exodus says they saw God. I looked up Greek and Hebrew and it’s the same for both ’saw’ and ‘God’. Do you think this means John was ignorant of the OT or that what anyone had ever seen has always been actually Jesus not the Father?

Answer:
Do you think this means John was ignorant of the OT?

No. In fact, John’s gospel mentions Moses twelve times. He also mentions and explains aspects of Jewish history and religion for his Gentile audience.

or that what anyone had ever seen has always been actually Jesus not the Father?

This, I think, is true. The Greek word rendered “made him known” in the NIV is rendered “explained him” in the NASB. Robertson says that the word is exēgēsato. It’s the same word from which we get “exegesis.” Jesus is the explainer of God. To put it technical terms, you could say that Jesus is the interface between God and man (cf. 1Ti 2:5).

John also tells us that God is spirit (Jn 4:24). You can’t see a spirit with your eyes; a spirit must be perceived in some other way. That is, a spirit (and all things spiritual) must either be perceived through some manifestation in the physical realm or by spiritual senses (cf. 1Co 2:14).

We can perceive God through the ways in which He manifests Himself. Clearly, Jesus is a manifestation of God (Jn 14:9). The Old Testament theophanies were manifestations of God. Ezekiel saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ez 1:28). He didn’t see God directly, nor God’s glory, nor the likeness of God’s glory. Rather, he experienced God through four degrees of remove. That’s as close as he was allowed to get.

Did Ezekiel “see” God? Yes and no. He certainly perceived God in a vision. But he just as certainly did not gaze upon God with his physical eyes. This brings us to the issue of what it means to “see.” In common usage, we use the word “see” to mean many things beyond merely seeing with the eyes. We use it to convey a sense of perceiving or understanding. “Oh, I see.” Or, “I can’t see how that’s relevant.” This, I think, is the sense in which the word is used in John 1:18. It’s the same in John 3:3: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” To the unregenerate, the Kingdom of God is not real; it cannot be perceived or understood. To one who is born again, the Kingdom is perceived through spiritual senses and in a renewed mind.

Speaking of Jesus being the “interface” between God and man, we have this from the book of Job:

“He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (Job 9:32-35)

Job saw clearly that there was a problem in his relationship to God. He understood that he needed someone to stand between him and God as an arbitrator. Without saying it in so many words, he is longing for the ministry of Christ as the “mediator between God and man” (1Ti 2:5). It’s a benefit that new covenant believers enjoy that Job perceived as missing in his life. It’s something we should not take for granted.

Posted by Steve on September 2nd, 2008 — Posted in Uncategorized

The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service—able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. They seized the livestock of the Hagrites—fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep and two thousand donkeys. They also took one hundred thousand people captive, and many others fell slain, because the battle was God’s. And they occupied the land until the exile.  1 Chronicles 5:18-26 [emphasis added]

What a great lesson in doing battle God’s way! God helped the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh because they trusted Him, and because they cried out to Him. They engaged in battle–they were active, not passive. And they trusted God.

It’s interesting to think about when it was that “trust” was reckoned to them. Did God reckon trust to them when they prayed? Or did He reckon trust to them when they entered into battle in faith?

I’m sitting in a chair right now. I trust the chair to hold me. It’s probably fair to say that I’m trusting the chair in a way that a person who’s just looking at the chair and thinking about the chair’s trustworthiness is not. In the same way, those who are engaged in battle will trust the Lord in ways that an onlooker does not. This passage speaks victory won through an active, engaged life of faith.

Upload of Romans Lessons Complete

Posted by Steve on August 31st, 2008 — Posted in Uncategorized

I have completed uploading to The Teaching Library the PDF versions of my recent series on Romans.

I have also uploaded the audio files that accompany the most recent lessons. I plan to upload more as time allows.

Christian Death Certificates?

Posted by Steve on April 7th, 2008 — Posted in Uncategorized

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4, NIV)

Paul here makes the point that a Christian has died to the law. In fact, the previous three verses present an analogy that the Christian is free from the law because he has died with Christ in much the same way that a wife is free from the law of marriage if her husband dies.

As I read this today, it occurred to me how easy it is for us a Christians to lose sight of this. It’s always easy to go back to legalism in its various forms. I wondered–somewhat with tongue in cheek–whether the church should have the practice of issuing death certificates to people when they get saved! Christians can tell you when they got born again, sometimes to the very day. But we often forget that on the day we were born again, we also died to all the things in our past: to our old identity in Adam, to our selves, and of course to the law.

Open for Business

Posted by admin on November 19th, 2007 — Posted in Uncategorized

Welcome to my website! And thanks to Ryan for doing so much of the work to set it up.

Steve