What I Believe: The Fall

The Garden of Eden appears to be an anomaly. It was unique and set at a particular place on the earth for God to create in two particular people, Adam and Eve, the psychological and sociological characteristics that would eventually come to all humanity.

 

We focus on the disobedience of Adam and Eve and the curse they brought by eating the forbidden fruit. We tend to forget all the other things that occurred in the garden. Adam named animals and found he was not one of them and so could not be satisfied with their presence. God created Eve and marital relations had their beginning. Adam and Eve were given the ability to act outside their instincts. This is why Eve was able to think about her choices, and shape her replies when Satan tempted her. Adam did the same when Eve tempted him. In one of the great ironies of the story, they came to have knowledge of good and evil so they and their descendants could know that they needed the redemption God would provide.

What I Believe: The Story

The Bible tells, in sixty-six books, the story of God’s relationship to humanity. The story begins before the creation of the earth and ends in eternal blessedness for those people whom he has redeemed. There are three major themes that continue throughout the story. These are God’s creation of all that exists, the disobedience of the first humans and the consequences of that for all of physical reality, and God’s work to make right (redeem) according to his purposes all that has gone wrong. Redemption is a long and complex project and, I believe, cannot be finished in the framework of our present reality.

What I Believe: Special Revelation

Special Revelation is when God reveals to particular people information concerning himself and his purposes through various means of communication. The people who are given the special revelation range from individuals to all humanity. The various ways God communicates in providing special revelations are similarly wide.

 

Special revelation came through dreams and visions to two Josephs, one the son of Jacob and one the stepfather of Jesus. Daniel, Peter, Paul and John, in Revelation, also received special revelation by these means. Angels and people delivered God’s messages to Abraham, David and other kings, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and others.

 

Special revelation came to many people through direct speech including Adam and Eve, Cain, Enoch (this assumes he was told he was going to be taken to heaven before it actually happened), Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, all the true prophets of whom we have knowledge, Ananias of Antioch, and many more.

 

The canonical books of the Old and New Testaments are “God’s preserved, and permanent revelation of himself to mankind.” (See section 1.4.)

 

I believe that special revelation has not ended. If I were to think so I would be saying that God was limiting himself and why would he do that when there are believers open to hearing what God has to say. This is not to say that every revelation that is claimed as of God is actually true. There are preachers, teachers, and self-proclaimed prophets who are deceived as to the source of their understandings and so mislead sincere believers

What I Believe: General Revelation

Modern people think that they know how everything works and do not find God in any of it. Post-moderns do not care how anything works—as long as the battery is charged. Both philosophies discard any idea of general revelation, which is God showing his power and nature to humanity.

 

I believe that God’s reveals his existence and purposes in such things as physical reality, history, and human nature. Paul wrote that nobody had any excuse for not acknowledging the existence of God because of what was revealed to us in his creation of physical reality. The Old Testament shows God working in human history to show us what we are to do collectively as members of nations. God reveals his framework for human communities by providing everyone (with a few possible exceptions) a sense of right and wrong.

 

Any or all of these three aspects of general revelation can be denied or ignored by individuals and/or societies. Proverbs 1:20-33 describes this very situation. Wisdom (God’s voice) calls out in public places and is rejected by people given various derogatory names by the writer of Proverbs. These will suffer great harm because of their foolishness. At the end of the passage, a blessing is pronounced on those who listen.

 

Sometime time ago Time magazine had a cover which asked the question, “Is God Dead?” The April 3, 2017 issue asks “Is Truth Dead?” I believe there is an inevitable trajectory between those two issues. A society that pushes God away cannot maintain its hold on truth. After all Jesus told us that he is truth and people who reject him are not only turning against him but all the blessings that come with belief in him.

 

General revelation is a great blessing to humanity but it is not sufficient to bring people to righteousness. People are given the ability to blind themselves to any learning from general revelation and to make their selves deaf to the voice of God, which is one aspect of special revelation. The possession of these abilities does not excuse them for making use of them to refuse to seek and obey God.

 

Unique in All the Universe

Evolutionists and creationists have spent a long time arguing about how humans came to be. There are two basic ideas: (1) we are the result of a very, very long chain of fortuities which produced our existence, or (2) we are the creation of an infinite Creator. The arguments have mostly been about our physical existence which we share with all the rest of the universe. However, there is another side to our existence which may be unique in all the universe.

In his book, God’s Planet, Owen Gingerich quotes with approval (according to a review done by Stephen Barr for First Things) the following statement of Pope John Paul II:

With man, we find ourselves facing a different ontological order—an ontological leap we could say. . . . The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed with research in the fields of physics and chemistry—although we can nevertheless discern, through experimental research, a series of very valuable signs of what is specifically human life. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-consciousness and self-awareness, of moral conscience, of liberty, or of aesthetic and religious experience—these must be analyzed through philosophical reflection, while theology seeks to clarify the ultimate meaning of the Creator’s designs.

I think creationists would have done better to argue with the social scientists over the ideas the Pope expresses. The “soft” sciences are notably weak in their understanding of the aspects of our humanity resulting from our spiritual nature. This is evidenced by the large number of variant opinions and the lack of assured predictions of human actions. It might not be too much to say that they are more suited to satire and parody than to guiding public policy or as instructions on how to live a human life.

There are many reasons for the lack of unity within the social sciences. One reason that Gingerich rightly points out is that, “the transition to a spiritual being . . . does not fossilize.” This would not be necessarily an impossible obstacle to the scientific understanding of the spiritual nature of humans. After all, physicists study many particles that can only be observed by their impact on other particles. So the need for indirect knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be the total reason for the neglect of its study in the social sciences.

As most people realize, the secular rejection of spiritual understandings of human existence and behavior are based on various ideologies. Materialism, naturalism, scientism, atheism all hold that there is nothing outside the physical realm to be studied. Since proponents of these ideologies are generally proud of their intellectual capacity it is surprising they do not realize the gigantic defect in their exclusionary logic. Namely, that nothing is found unless it is looked for.

People who, in many cases, are willing to go to the ends of the earth or even to search the stars to find the entire extent of life should be willing to look into themselves to see there is a unique form of life within them—one with the potential to live forever. Unfortunately most of them have a great resistance to doing so.