Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3, 2012 - Real Questions People Ask

In a document called "The Heidelberg Catechism" in Question and Answer 21, true faith is defined as: "not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His word is true, it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others but I too have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation."

And the question I have, especially when it comes to today's topic, is what does it mean to have "a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His word is true"?  It seems the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism assume that definition of faith and move onto develop it into the source by which we receive God's salvation in Christ.  But what they assume, I think we need to carefully consider.

Today's topic is a real question referred to me.  "If the Bible's account of the creation of all things is true, then what do we do with dinosaurs and cavemen?"

In order to answer this question, we will have to deal carefully with what "God reveals" in His word.

(Read Genesis 1:1-2:3)

The first question we have to ask is: "What is God revealing in His word?"

Clearly God is revealing, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  This is the indisputable fact revealed in Genesis 1.  Everything else is less clear.  In other words, the "Who" is very clear, the "When" is less so (In the beginning), and the "How" is framed in the language of poetry (e.g. Light is created on the first day, but the lesser light and greater light not until the 4th day).

So we need to think carefully about what exactly God is revealing and why, so that we do not speak beyond what God Himself has revealed to us.

What God is revealing is not framed in the language of science (i.e. "what about dinosaurs and cavemen?")  In Genesis 1, God does not tell us precisely "how" He created all things.  Yet science is concerned with learning "how", and so science studies God's creation to discover what God is revealing in and through His creation (what we call "general revelation").  This is appropriate and fitting to the nature of scientific discovery, and we should applaud these efforts because science discovers what God is revealing through His creation.

However, since "what" God is revealing in Genesis 1 is not framed in the language of science, (i.e. dinosaurs and cavemen) then we should not expect Genesis 1 to offer scientific answers.  After all it is not God's intention to do so.

So what exactly IS God revealing in Genesis 1, and why?

As I said previously, God reveals that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".  So now the question we must ask is "why" does God choose to reveal that truth in Genesis 1?  This is not now the language of science, but the language of theology (a study of what we call "special revelation" which is what God reveals about Himself and His operations in the world in the Bible)

In theology, we see that Genesis 1 has a context.  It speaks of "the beginning" but it does so to people who are many years removed from that significant creation event.  Therefore, we must ask: "What did those people (the ones addressed many years after the creation event) need to know?"

They needed to know "why" they should worship their God, and not the gods of other nations.  They needed to know that their God was greater, higher, and more powerful than all other so-called gods.  Thus, in the language of poetry, the writer communicates the truth of the supremacy of God to the people who are called to worship Him and Him alone.

Other nations worship things (sun, moon, and stars for example), but God's people are called to worship God and God alone.  The sun and moon had names (for example, chemosh was the name of the sun god in the Ancient Near East), and the nations around God's people worshiped them by name.  In the Hebrew language "shemesh" is the name given to the sun.  Yet in the creation account in Genesis 1, the author does not name the sun and moon, instead he calls them the "greater light" and "lesser light" (see verse 16).  Why?  It was because the author of Genesis 1, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wants God's people to know that the gods of the nations are nothing more than creations of the one true Almighty God; their God: Yahweh.

So in conclusion, we must be careful to think clearly about "what" God is revealing in His word and "why" so that we can best understand exactly what He wants us to know about Him and His operations in this world as He reveals them.

Hopefully this makes things a little clearer.  I am sure there are objections and questions you want to share, so please do.  Let's continue this conversation as we seek truth in the service of God and the advancement of Christ's reign here on earth.

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