God is beyond our finite minds to grasp and comprehend for He lives in unapproachable light. The wonder of Him who created the universe with a word is beyond us. That He is one God yet three persons who each are God is unexplainable by our limited grasp of logic and truth. We simply have to take Him at His Word.
Speaking of that Word, we were given it by God, who stooped down to accommodate our limit-ness, and has chosen to reveal to us through that Word whatever it is that He wishes us to understand about Him and in doing so to scratch the surface of the wonders of His magnificent being. Through that given Word, we understand, by faith, that is by the Spirits revealing, many truths about God and creation and that includes ourselves that otherwise we could never grasp.
But it is not as though we haven’t tried to grasp many of these deeper things through human reasoning and thought. This discipline is otherwise known as philosophy which is defined by some as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.
Now there is nothing wrong with philosophy or in seeking to define the fundamentals of nature, reality and existence except that it is an exercise of human wisdom and thus like all of us, it has its limits. For in His Word we read: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God…”
We see then that there is a limit on how close human philosophy or wisdom can come to understand spiritual truth. Again we read: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” And since this world was created by God, for God, and all things are held together by Him, to get reality based answers, philosophy then becomes an exercise in futility.
Or simply, philosophy falls short when it try to describe or explain anything with a spiritual component.
Take the freedom of the will. There are a lot of philosophical positions regarding the will of man and sadly, the Church seems to look at these exercises of human understanding to explain philosophically what it means for the will to be free or determined. One side, we have the Libertarians and on the other side the Determinists. And trying to fill the middle are the Compatibilists. And each of these positions borrow heavily from human philosophy to make sense of the will of man.
And then on top of that we have talk about necessity and certainty. And we feel the need, I guess, to apply philosophical definitions to spiritual truths. But the definitions of man made philosophical terms false short of the reality. What we can know truly of reality doesn’t need any of that philosophical understandings to explain what God has revealed in His Word, WHICH by the way is enough for us. To go beyond what the Word reveals is to speculate and speculation is a symptom of pride.
Everyone knows that we make choices every day about all sorts of things, both trivial and important. Everyone knows that we make these choices freely in the sense that we own these choices: they are ours. And when we think about it we all have to admit that these choices are influenced by many factors both internal to us and external away from us. But we make the choice, and we own it [even if later we don’t want to own it].
So when a preacher or a philosopher says that our every choice is determined and we really don’t have a choice, we know that they are the ones confused. From the very first humans, people have had choices. The Word tells us that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Here the metaphor means that as we see or perceive the world, we act. That was true in the OT [where that was written] and it is still true today. People do what they want to do.
Now I am talking of course, about choices. I may want to make 20 million dollars. No one is offering that choice. Some people find a way to do just that though. They do it through the choices they make [as well as the opportunities they have]. Thus we all know we have a freedom of the will to choose according to how we see or understand or perceive the world. Strangely enough in Baptist life this common sense understanding is not always shared by all of our teachers, preachers, and theologians.
Some will say that we actually have the freedom to choose against how we perceive the world, or against our understanding. While others will say we have no freedom of the will at all. Go figure.
In fact this freedom of choice is so every day common sense that it is assumed in almost every page of the Bible. I could take the time to defend it, but why bother, for we all know we have the freedom to make choices according to our perception of both the world around us and of ourselves.
Now lets throw predestination and prophecy into the mix. The Bible teaches quite clearly the God knows all things including the future. Does it explain HOW God knows the future? Nope. Do we need to speculate on how God knows the future? Nope. All we need to do is accept it by faith since it is the testimony of God. Does God know what might happen if we do X instead of Y? What does the Bible teach? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves.
I play chess. When I am waiting on my opponent to move, I think: If my opponent does D i will do F. But if he does G, I will will do M. Simple right? If I can know somewhat of what might happen, which is called a contingency, to borrow a philosophical term, certainly God who created the world can know “what might happen if.” Now of course He knows what will happen because He knows all things. [How do we know that? -the Bible tells us.] How does He know EVERY contingency of every choice made by every person throughout time and space? We don’t need to know the HOW of it. We accept by faith that have a mighty God.
Now God has told us things that will happen in the future. That is called prophecy. Now God doesn’t just know that these things will happen: He is making these things happen. How do we know? The Bible tells us. The Bible is the testimony of God about God telling us all we need to know about what it speaks on. In the Bible, God gives us certain glimpses of how he moves men and nations to accomplish His will. Now there are two polarizing thoughts on that but we do not have to hold to either. One thought says that God moves people as he wants since they don’t have free will anyway. WE know that can’t be right. The other thought says that God just sees the future and in a sense, reports on it. We know that isn’t right either. The Bible never makes the slightest case for either one of those ideas.
We all know we have the freedom to choose according to our perception of the world both internally and externally. And we know that we are influenced by many factors in arriving at our own perceptions. These factors do not always agree as to direction of choice. But from their influence we choose and act freely. We need to see that God never forces a person to do this or that as far as their will goes in making choices. This point is important for justice. If we are to suffer for our sins, they must be our sins, chosen by us knowing their sinfulness and deciding that we desire to sin more than not sin. Likewise, for Jesus to come and suffer in our place for our sin to pay the debt incurred by us, our sin must be own-able by us. We must choose from ourselves to do the sin.
If we do not have the ability to choose to sin or not, then we are what, robots. Now I am speaking morally, as to our consciences. We are accountable for our own choices. How do I know? The Bible tells me. If you know it is wrong and you do it, it is sin. If you should have known it was wrong [maybe you have seared your conscience in this area] it is sin and you are accountable unto God for it.
Part two coming.