jasonbwatson

August 25, 2015

He is God and we are not

I have addressed in this space before there fact that I think too many people have become far too casual in their attitude toward and approach toward God. I realize there are differences of opinion as to how one should dress for church, and there is certainly no biblical text which clearly presents a case for dressing one way or the other. Still, I will always be of the opinion that one should dress differently–read “better”–to go to church than to go about his or her ordinary daily activities. If there is no difference in the clothes I wear to the grocery store, the ball game, the workplace and church then there is, in my opinion, a problem. To me the casual attire worn by so many to church indicates that church is not a special place. Sure, the church building is just a building and the people there are just other people, but those people are gathered in that building for the purpose of worshiping Almighty God–and that is not to be taken lightly.

Back in June there was a daily devotion in Tabletalk entitled “To whom are we speaking?” In this entry, the author presents another side of the overly casual approach that many seem to have toward God. “Knowing the identity of the One to whom we are praying is essential. Over the past few decades, there has been a move toward reducing formality in our culture and making all of our relationships far more casual than our forefathers would have considered them. Although we could perhaps find some positives in this, it is also true that we have lost much in the process.”

I can remember when the transition began from addressing pastors as Pastor Smith to Pastor Adam. As a young person it did not feel appropriate to me, given my upbringing and the ingrained habit of not referring to adults by their first names. I have heard the arguments about leveling the playing field, not elevating themselves above others, etc., and if that is someone’s personal preference then I suppose I can get used to that. That, in other words, is not something we need to argue about or fight over. What we do need to take far more seriously, however, is our view of God.

The devotional writer suggests that we have “lost an awareness of the One whom we approach in our worship and prayer. All too often we view God as merely a friend. Now certainly it is true that Jesus has granted us the privilege of calling Him ‘friend’ (John 15:15), and we are not denying the truth that our Savior is our friend in the sense of being our loyal–indeed, our only perfectly loyal–companion. However, the problem is that we have turned the concept of the Father and Son as our friends into the Father and Son as our ‘pals,’ as persons who are on essentially the same level that we are. Our Creator, as friendly as His disposition may be to those who have been declared righteous in Christ, is not our pal; rather, He is our Lord.”

Scripture makes it clear that those who encountered messengers of God were awestruck, reverential and even afraid. Other than the time that Jesus lived on earth as a human, I can find no support in Scripture for approaching God–the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit–with anything other than reverence, awe and humility. I have met a number of “celebrities” during my life, and never have I approached one of them with the bonhomie with which I would approach my brother or a close friend. No doubt if I did so they would find it unimpressive and presumptuous on my part. Now, you may argue that that is because I do not have a relationship with those individuals and therefore I could not presume to put myself on their personal level. I could grant that point, but I believe it goes beyond that. There is a scene in the movie The American President in which Michael Douglas, playing the president, and Martin Sheen, playing his friend and chief of staff, are having a very frank and personal conversation. Douglas’s character at one point tells Sheen’s character to drop the “Mr. President” and talk to him they were old friends. Sheen’s character refuses, though, because even though they were old friends and knew each other “back when”, Douglas’s character had risen to the office of President of the United States, and that position demanded respect and certain decorum. Regardless of their lengthy friendship, there was no place for a casual buddy-buddy interaction.

The same is true of our relationship with God. Yes, He does allow us to call Him friend. Yes, He does stick closer than a brother. Yes, we have been given the privilege to go directly to God in prayer without the need for any mediator. The fact, though, remains, that He is God…and we are not. Let us not forget that. Let us approach His throne boldly but reverently, unashamedly but also unassumingly.

October 29, 2014

Self-Contradiction

On Monday of this week Pope Francis addressed the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, where he made some startling statements about God and creation. I am not Catholic, but the statements of the Pope carry tremendous weight among Catholics and are often carefully considered by non-Catholics as well, in no small part to determine the course of the Catholic church and its adherence to Scripture.

In his comments, Francis said, “When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so.” I do not think he is calling God a magician here, but his use of the magician as an illustration could be seen as poignant or inappropriate. Regardless, the real problem is his statement that God was not able to “do everything.” Indeed, this goes well beyond an assertion that evolution, even theistic evolution, is consistent with the Bible. Instead, it asserts that God is not omnipotent. By suggesting that God was not able to do everything, Pope Francis is suggesting that God is not God–or at least is not God as the Bible presents Him. Jesus Himself said, in Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27 and Luke 1:37, that nothing is impossible for God. God Himself said, in Jeremiah 32:27, “Is anything too hard for Me?” This, of course, was a rhetorical question, with the understood answer of “no.”

Now, Francis’s remarks grow confusing in his next paragraph because immediately after suggesting that God did not create everything, he said, “He [God] created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.” If God created human beings then the macroevolution espoused by Darwinists is not true, since it holds that humans evolved over millenia from non-humans. Indeed, Francis continues to try to straddle the fence, saying later, “creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things.” Francis’s comments will no doubt confound evolutionists, too. If God created human beings, where does the “millenia and millenia” come from? The only possible explanation is the “gap theory,” which holds that there is a significant gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, meaning that God created the heavens and the earth, and then there was a long expanse of time before the six days of creation. There are significant problems with this theory from a biblical standpoint, not least of which is that it presumes the existence of death and dying before sin entered the world.

In keeping with his self-contradiction, Francis says that God is not a “demiurge.” This is an unfamiliar term, meaning, in Platonism, the one who made the world. In Gnosticism it refers to a supernatural being who created the world in subordination to God, and may also have been the originator of evil. Whatever Francis may have in mind, he seems to be saying that God did not create the world as we know it, even though he just said before that that God created human beings, and he says immediately after that God is “the creator who gives being to all things.”

Immediately thereafter Francis said, “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” And thus the contradictions continue… God is not a divine being? I cannot even imagine what Francis has in mind with that statement, so I will not try to guess. It simply makes no sense, particularly given the other statements Francis is making at the same time. And if God is not a divine being then what, one is left to wonder, is He? The opposite of “divine” is “earthly, ordinary, ungodly or unholy.” If God is not a divine being, then, He is not God! And again, Francis follows his statement that God is not a divine being by saying that God is “the Creator who brought everything to life.”

About the only thing that Francis says that is correct is that evolution is not inconsistent with the notion of creation–if by that he means microevolution within a species. Given the convoluted statements he made in the rest of his address, though, one has to seriously question whether or not that is what he had in mind. If he had evolution between species in mind then not only is he wrong, but he is contradicting himself again since he already said that God made human beings.

These comments from Pope Francis serve to reinforce the danger that comes from getting ones understanding of God from the decrees of a earthly leader. This is not specific to Catholicism, by the way. Protestant denominations have various structures of leadership, whether it includes a denominational president, district bishops or simply the pastor of the church. All of these individuals are human and therefore fallible. Our faith must be based on the Word of God, not on anything that man has to say. God has gifted many humans with the ability to teach, and those teachers whose teaching is consistent with God’s Word can help us to understand the Scriptures. We must always test the Scripture against the Scripture and the teaching of humans against the Scriptures. When there is an inconsistency the Scriptures must always “win.” And when the human leader teaches inconsistently and self-contradictorily, one must question whether the teaching should be given any merit at all.

Blog at WordPress.com.