Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (9)

Q. 9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

God created everything from nothing, as mentioned in a previous post, ex nihilo.

Here’s my baseline for orthodoxy on the Creation question:

-God created everything from nothing.

-Adam and Eve were literally the first two people, from whom all mankind descends (both Jesus and Paul in the NT interact with them on this basis, not as types).

-Death entered the world through sin.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, but if we can agree on these points, we have enough agreement for me.  Personally, I tend toward a young earth viewpoint, mostly because it’s the simplest explanation, and I like simple.  A world created with the appearance of age, six literal days, a beginning about 6,000 years ago.  You do have my sympathies if you’ve run into some of the “young earth” crowd who have turned being a young earth-er into a test for orthodoxy.  And men I respect (to the best of my knowledge, including J. I. Packer) seem to hold to some sort of theistic evolution, so you need to know great Christian minds disagree with me on this point.

But I don’t see why we need to push so hard to agree with “science.”  Science is simply that aspect of philosophy dealing with very minute particulars within the material world, and it seems like an end-all to itself these days, but it isn’t.  Tomorrow’s science will change today’s scientific “truth.”  And most evolutionary theory is making big picture assumptions from minute data sets.  All in all, I love science when it studies what it observes, and remembers it’s part of a larger world that encompasses material reality.  Too often anymore, science tends to assume the material world is all there is to reality.  Science is a discipline of men, and like men, is prone to forgetfulness about what matters most.

 

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (8)

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

God created everything that we understand to exist, everything we call reality. There was nothing, and God created everything ex nihilo through the power of His Word, speaking the universe into existence (Genesis 1). The universe continues to exist at His sufferance (Hebrews 1-2).

Philosophically, we can draw from these facts that God’s control over the universe is total.  Nothing happens outside of His control.  Does this mean that God wills for men to sin?  This is generally the trap question that is asked, but it’s a good question.

Consider Exodus 3, where God tells Moses exactly what is going to happen in his interactions with Pharaoh.  The Bible describes this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart against God in two ways: as Pharaoh’s decision (Exodus 7), and as God’s decision (Exodus 9).

Consider further the decision of Pilate to execute Jesus.  In the interest of political expediency (hard to believe a ruler would act in such a way, isn’t it?), Pilate orders the only perfect man in the history of the world to be crucified.  But apart from this sinful decision, none of us are saved.  So did God will that this sin would happen? Was there any doubt that this event would come to pass exactly as God decreed?  At the same time, Pilate was still responsible for his own actions, for this sin.  He acted consistently in accordance with his heart: he did what he wanted to do.  At the same time, there was zero chance he was not going to do it.

Jesus responds to our other difficult question – why do seemingly innocent people suffer and sometimes die? – in Luke 13.  We are not given the explanations we think we deserve (and this galls us, particularly as Americans), but we are told to repent.

Paul addresses these hard questions in Romans 9, as well: make no mistake, the Maker will do as He pleases with His Creation.

It can also be helpful to step back from any narrow passage and consider the story arc of Scripture: from the very beginning, God is working to save a particular group of people from among all the peoples of the world.  He will rescue His people from sin and death: this will happen.  Noah is chosen, Abraham is chosen, Israel is chosen, and many others are not.  Christians in the New Covenant are now God’s covenant people, and we pray (or at least, we should) that He increase the number of His people to fill the world!   But some are going to judgment, and some to salvation, and even our repentance is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2).

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (6)

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

A triune God is, of course, a physical impossibility, a contradiction in terms… according to the laws that rule reality under the Sun.  Yet God transcends (a word to keep in mind during your prayers and meditations on Scripture) His creation.  For God to be transcendent, He must by definition be larger than His creation.  He is beyond our understanding.

And yet He makes Himself known as three Persons in one essence.  And from the glorious relationships we see here – between God and Son, between Son and Spirit, between God, Son and Spirit – we find the pattern for every human relationship.

Son submits to Father (God).  Spirit submits to Father and Son.  God directs the Son, and Son directs the Spirit.  And yet, in their roles and responsibilities, all are equally and at the same time God and one God.  It makes you a little dizzy, but it is also a wondrously perfect unity from diversity.  When you consider relationships, such as those laid out in Ephesians 5-6 and 1 Peter 2-3, here is the pattern.  Are men and women equal?  Masters and slaves?  Parents and children?  Absolutely, in one sense.  Are there differing levels of authority and responsibility between them even as they are equal in substance?  Absolutely, in another.  Men are not more valuable than women, nor women more so than men.  Yet in marriage men lead, and women follow.  Equal even as they carry out differing roles, roles assigned by the Creator and modeled within Himself.

God has taken a small piece of His Mystery and made it known to us.

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (5)

Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Many good conversations can begin with contemplation or questions about God and His nature.  What does nature reveal about Him? What do men reveal about Him?  Ecclesiastes wrestles with these questions, as do many of the Psalms.  Our tendency is to rely upon our senses to engage reality – to live our the argument of our philosophy (whether we realize we are a living argument or not) from inward to outward.

Considering this question in a meaningful way helps us to begin in the right place in all our musings: with the One God, and His character, His words.

I understand the popularity of the current so-called atheism like I understand the drive for quicker, faster technology in our handheld devices: while requiring no real effort, we at once feel stronger, more powerful, in control.  We aren’t, of course, and in our more honest moments we know we aren’t.  The iPhone [insert current model number] does not make you more powerful, or more smarter, or more anything.  Except stressed, probably.  And in the same way, the cry “there is no God!” does nothing to solve the problems of either society or the individual.  If anything, it makes real answers impossible to find.  The absence of a source of absolute, foundational Truth within the universe would logically eliminate any meaningful conversation about the validity of one worldview over another.  And yet look at the anger of the typical atheist, particularly as it is aimed toward religion, and you will discover truth:

Their words say “there is no God.”  Their vehemence says “I am mad at him.”  And we must embrace the atheist around us, living with them in grace and truth, for such were we, in every meaningful way, prior to the Spirit’s quickening us to Life.  But understand the real conversation is never about whether or not God exists.  It’s about the devastating consequences of sin, where the blame lies, and what the solution is.  That’s the real issue.

Romans 1 gives us a good understanding of even the most irreligious culture.  All men know there is a God.  Both from within, and from the constant witness of the reality in which they live.  Denying and suppressing this truth, they seek out something else to worship, for worship they must.  They were made for it.  We call this worship of anything else, idolatry.

There is One God.  He is Living, and He is true.  Amen.

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (4)

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

When we contemplate the Transcendent Creator of the universe it is difficult, because in the analysis we have no adequate words.  Everything falls short, which is at the heart of the commandment against idolatry: even the most respectful, reverent images we could make of our God fall woefully short.

We are created in the image of God, representing Him within the finite bounds of Creation in a very limited way.  We are like Him and yet altogether unlike Him.

It is important to think through His infinite nature (to the extent that we can), His eternal existence and complete lack of change.  This is difficult for creatures who pretty much define their lives by change, but nonetheless necessary if we are to avoid important pitfalls in our faith.  For example, justice, truth, goodness and mercy begin with God, not any external standard.  There is no standard by which God can be judged, for He is the author of every standard.

I have heard men and women say “well, if God is that way, then I cannot worship Him.”  And this is an absolutely true statement, up to a point: none of us can worship God in our natural fallen state.  We are wholly incapable of worship (Romans 1-3, Ephesians 1-2), being dead in sin.  But that isn’t what they really mean.  What they really mean is that they have a concept of justice they’ve gotten from somewhere, a concept of mercy, a concept of goodness, and now they will compare the Transcendent, Unchanging Creator to their standard.  Generally as they do this, they are blind to the breath-taking arrogance of their position.  As they read Scripture, they interpret God’s actions through their filter of what He should be in their minds versus who He is revealed to be, and they go astray.

Beware this: if you worship a god that you are comfortable with, who contains no element of fear for you, whose mystery is largely solved in your mind…

…you do not worship God at all.

Catechized: Confessions and Reflections (3)

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Perhaps the greatest struggle for us, in our so-called modern civilization, is having God tell us who He is, and not defining Him for ourselves.  His Word tells us who He is:

The God of Israel, who brought His people out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery.

The God who’s name is Jealous.

The God who will break those who oppose Him.

The God who loved His people so much, He sent His son to die to save them, even when they were His enemies.

The God who sends rain and sun on all, even those who remain in rebellion against Him.

What duty does He require of man?  Perfect obedience, of which we are incapable.  Christ’s righteousness is counted as our own (for His covenant people), and our excitement and gratitude should be boundless in response to this fact.  Jesus was and is the perfectly obedient One.

We don’t have to obey.

We get to obey.

It’s a privilege.

Catechized: Confessions and Reflections (2)

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

There are a lot of ideas floating around our culture, and a lot of ideas about those ideas, and ideas about whether even having ideas is a good idea, and whether anyone’s idea can be called any kind of idea, good or bad, and even whether ideas like good and bad are a useful idea.  And so on.  It’s enough to make your head spin, Exorcist-style.

Here’s the thing, though.  You can have all sorts of ideas, and all sorts of discussions about those ideas.

But at the end of the day, you have to actually start somewhere, within the realm of reality, and do something.  You are going to live your life, and you are going to live it according to the principles you think are the right ones to live by.  Even if your guiding principle is that there are no (other, at least) principles, you have to live by principles.  Something is true, and your belief in its truthfulness is expressed when you do anything: when you shop, when you eat, when you work, when you play, etc.

A Christian is a person who follows Christ, by definition, and following Christ (also by definition) means following his words, his commands.  Christ Himself told His original 12 disciples – and by extension us, His modern ones, if indeed such we claim to be – that if we love Him, we will obey Him.

His words, taken collectively throughout much of the course of human history, we call the Bible.  It tells His story, which means it must be an integral part of our story, as well.