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Friday, February 26, 2010

Glory to God in the Highest Thought, part 2

As my pastor says, "let's go back to the top" and consider how grade one thinking from the highest pinnacle of thought actually informs man's situation.

It can be said theologically that “anthropology is the study of man” in terms of a literal definition. Man’s creation, existence and purpose has only one logical explanation in the person of God, the uncreated Creator. The Scriptures clearly and distinctly teach that God created man, that he is the result of an act of immediate divine creation.

Asking the question, "how can we trust God’s perspective as recorded in the Bible?" moves us from level two to level one thinking, demonstrating we are pursuant of truth. First, the Bible can be trusted because it introduces and contains certain, verifiable history. Second, quotes itself and is quoted by people throughout history as being true. Third, the facts recorded in the Bible, including the creation and probation of man, lie at the foundation of God’s whole revealed plan of redemption. As before, an evaluation of differing views and levels of thought will benefit as we examine the benefit of thinking the highest thought, Godward.

The first position of consideration may be called the atheistic position, which declares that man was created ex nihilo; that is, that man is made out of nothing, from nothing and for no reason. This is significant because the position assumes that man is the result of eternal matter, matter that was always there (whereever "there" is) and would always be there, a swirling mass that eventually produced man. African theologian John Mbiti chronicles an example of this thinking from the pagan religions of Africa: heaven and earth were joined together by a rope. The inhabitants of both worlds went up and down the rope. One day, two brothers came down from the society in the sky, but one returned there and the other remained on earth. The brother who remained here had sons who in turn founded different tribes. (1)

Much like the failed sciences already examined in the previous article, the story does not really tell us where man can from. The account assumes the inhabitants were already there. Where did the rope come from? Who put it there? The story only tells us that the inhabitants of two ancient worlds settled in one place or another. The only other options that remain are that man is the result of eternal dualism (good and evil eternally battling back and forth and in the course of battle man somehow came into being); or, that man is the result of eternal purposelessness and there is nothing for him.

Another failed approach may be called evolutionary pantheism/polytheism. Pantheism assumes that all is god, which eliminates the distinction between man and God. This viewpoint also assmus that the cosmos is always changing. Grade two science would have men believe that the universe is in an eternal cycle of compression and explosion ("Oscillating Big Bang" theory). Man, a resident of this evolving universe is merely a molecule of “godness” or a piece of reality. Nothing different about man from everything else. Before Charles Darwin came on the scene, polytheism (many gods) said that man is God's representative of all the forces of the cosmos.

Theism itself even has some competing views. On the one hand, one may say that man is intentional, created in the image of one God; on the other hand, another may say that man is a mistake, the result of forces at work in the world--and if man is a mistake, then woman was more of a mistake. Egyptian mythology taught that man came from the sun-god, Ra and purpose or meaning does not come from life, but death, when one’s ka talks with the gods before the person enters the afterlife. The Greeks had many different stories, but the theme is common among them: everything was basically created by gods sleeping around with each other (procreation results in "creation"). Man came about as the result of divine strife: as the gods fight they get cut to pieces and their destroyed genitals become man. The Babylonians explained that gods fought because someone was making too much noise and from the bodies of the dead gods laying around (zodiac), the universe was formed and Man came from one of the bodies.

Here, we may move from away from grade three or grade two thinking by asking what the value is, of man being made from dead bodies, or from blasted god genitals?

Ladies, consider what the Greeks and Romans taught concerning women (there were two views as neither apparently could not decide which was best): either woman was created by one god to be crafty and deceitful, for the purpose of getting revenge against another god; or, Jupiter (Zeus) who made the first woman and sent her to Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus as punishment because they had stolen fire from heaven; thus, the woman was sent to be punishment for man. (2)

These are nice stories, but they do not tell us who man is. They tell us that God (or gods) created man as other things were created but there is no distinction between man and everything else. John Mbiti sums up a catalog of African Traditional Religions that teach how man fell from the sky or the heavens; other peoples a world away believe that man came up through holes from under the ground and is no more than a toad.

Moving out of the trap of humanistic autonomy and shallow (and cruel) grade two thinking, moving toward loftier thinking, we consider the implications of biblical Creation. God is distinct and has created distinctly. Biblical monotheism is unique compared to other religions and philosophies. The biblical record gives man dignity despite the fact that it was written about the same time of some of these other accounts we have refuted. What makes the Biblical record different, and the thinking so much higher?

First, is the object of highest thought: God Himself, who is pure, holy, righteous, just and not comparable to the creator of the other stories. The immorality of the gods in world religions was the immorality of the people while the Bible teaches that man is to be like His creator (we will cover this later). The gods of paganism tire of man’s problems and many stories tell of them leaving to go to another place far away from man. God did not retreat away from man but became man to deal with man’s problems. What does God say? “God created man in his own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27, NASB) "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." (Gen 9:5-7, NASB)

When God is not in the picture, when God is not the object of highest thought, the world can only maroon it's inhabitant with a cheap life for a nobody.

What do I intend to do with my knowledge of God? Be changed.

"It is only a fool that will say that a bitter tree by constantly bearing fruit will at last become sweet. As a matter of fact a bitter tree can become sweet by being grafted on a sweet tree, so that the life and qualities peculiar to the sweet tree will pass into the bitter one and its natural bitterness will pass away. This is what we call a new creation. So too the sinner may have the desire to do what is right, and yet the only result is sin; but when he repents and by faith is grafted into Me the old man in him dies, and he becomes a new creature. Then from this new life which has its origin in salvation good deeds come forth as fruit, and this fruit abides for ever." (3)

(1) Mbiti, John. Concepts of God in Africa. London: SPCK, 1970. p. 165
(2) Bulfinch’s Mythology, http://www.bulfinch.org/fables/bull2.html
(3) Singh, Sadhu Sundar. At the Master’s Feet. London: Fleming H. Revell: 1922.

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