Puritan Gems

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Knowledge Of God Part I

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." (Romans 1:18-23)

All men have knowledge of God. This may seem like a strange statement to make in today's pluralistic, unbelieving society. Yet as a matter of common observation, all men live in God's universe, and cannot function apart from acknowledging Him in some way. The seeds of the Christian religion have been firmly planted in the minds of men, and God's handiwork has been made manifest to all (Psalm 19:1). All of men's endeavors rely on God's creative attributes and his Providence, without which knowledge as well as the ability to express that knowledge would be impossible. The myriad of false religions reveals that man has an innate knowledge of the divine, corrupted and incomplete though it may be. However, unless the mind is transformed by God Himself from it's depraved state, all ideas concerning God are, of necessity, based upon pure speculation. There is no shortage of idols that man may invent for himself in order to find a deity that will conform to the pleasures of his own deformed nature, even to the point of exchanging "the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things".

Yet the knowledge of the one true God is strong enough that failure to worship Him is inexcusable, placing both Jew and Gentile in the same dreadful mire, for according to verse 16, all men need the salvation which is revealed in the power of the gospel. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men", being revealed to Jews through the law, as well as the gentiles by their reason. The fact that pagan nations had not the revealed law at their disposal did not excuse their sinfulness, because "what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them". The unbeliever may not proclaim ignorance of God or His laws, because he has an innate knowledge of both. Paul tells us that they "suppress the truth", not out of ignorance, but rather "by their unrighteousness".

Man, in his very nature being unrighteous and rebellious, is bound to raise a multitude of objections to such knowledge. The atheist and the agnostic are bound by intellectual autonomy. They assume that a world governed by undesigned chance and blind fate may obtain enough order to allow for scientific inquiry, and that the natural laws of the universe can result in a mind capable of objectively realizing such order to obtain meaningful knowledge. While they often call themselves "free-thinkers", their minds are imprisoned by their metaphysical commitment to a material-only worldview from which it can find no escape.

The relativist attempts to hide behind the limits of human knowledge. Nietzsche formulated the relativist mantra quite nicely. "There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths" (Human, All Too Human). Obviously, this statement is self-defeating. There is no way that it can be true. Relativist "do-it-yourself" religion (Pluralism) relies on the frailty of the human mind in comparison to the immensity of God in order to deny God's revelation of Himself, (ie. “God is incomprehensible”). Yet oddly enough, the pluralist expects to be taken seriously when he or she expresses any facts about God.

All of man's objections to his knowledge of the Divine have ethical ramifications at their root.  Wicked men love darkness and hate the light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). By either denying God or recreating Him in their own image, men seek to loose themselves from Divine Authority, thus enabling themselves to do what is “right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). For them, no thought is more comforting than the idea that their sins will die with them in the grave.

There is an ethical element to how one uses his mind, for the failure to acknowledge God leads to a "debased mind" (Romans 1:28). We are commanded to love God with all of our minds (Matthew 22:37), relinquishing all pretense of intellectual (and thus moral) autonomy and submitting to the One True and Living God. This autonomy may take many forms, from the Empiricism of William Clifford to the Relativism of Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet, as we shall see in this study, all forms of autonomy are built on the shifting sands of human wisdom and ultimately lead to an endless cycle of skepticism. The only option is for our minds to submit to the One who created it, the one who is Absolute Truth, in whom "we live and move and have our being". (Acts 17:28)


jazzycat said...

Very good.

The Pilgrim said...

I know it is off topic, but I'd like to warn your readers against facilitator-led church groups.