God Interferes in Our Free Will, and It’s a Good Thing, Too.

Mack-Trucks-Models

Jared Wilson exposes the myth so many Christians believe that God has limited himself and his power in order to respect the complete exercise of our freedom (or free will) to choose him or not:

“One of the chief ways we distort the biblical picture of God’s love is when we presuppose, as many Christians do, that love demands freedom. Where we get this notion, I do not know, but it is not in the Bible. In fact, we find in the Bible quite the opposite: the love of God violates human freedoms constantly and consistently. If there’s one thing any biblical figure can count on, besides that God loves him, it is that he is not in control of his own destiny…

“If my daughter is unaware of the Mack truck bearing down on her, or if she is aware that putting her finger in a light socket will electrocute her but she wants to do it anyway, do I love her if I am able to intervene but defer to her freedom? Or am I a loving  father to tackle her out of the truck’s way, to slap her hand away from the socket?”- Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, 26.

As I often say to my students, it all sounds good until you open your Bible.

Justified Before God

free-gift

Guest post by Jeff Mindler. [Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where he serves as an elder. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”[1]Such is the answer to question 37 in the Baptist Catechism, which mirrors the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the subject of justification.

The beauty of a catechism is that it summarizes Christian doctrine and provides a framework for thinking through a subject like justification. Justification is a doctrine that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked or misunderstood and that to the detriment of those who do so. Justification was at the heart of the protestant reformation in the 16th century, and is still a topic of vital importance today. With such an important topic, it is critical to have clarity on the subject, and the above catechism does this by providing a brief and Biblical definition that is easy to memorize while also providing Scriptural texts that accompany each question and answer. We would all do well to memorize this question and answer.

In this post I want to highlight one important element regarding the doctrine of justification as outlined by the Baptist catechism question and answer 37, namely that justification is an act of God’s free grace.Justification is an act of God (Rom 5:1, 8:33), not something man works himself to or accomplishes himself. Justification is what God does, not what man does. It is not a process that man undergoes overtime but is a declaration by God that He makes regarding the status of that person: God declares them just. James White elaborates on this more fully in his definition of justification, which includes all of the major elements found in the doctrine:

To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believers sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.[2]

Pay close attention to the fact that justification is centered upon what God does, not upon what man does. Romans 8:33 states, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (ESV. Emphasis mine) Justification is fundamentally an act of God, a declaration upon sinful man, not a process that man undergoes that can be undone and that therefore he would need to be re-justified. It is a once for all declaration based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf and therefore results in our being accepted in the sight of a Holy God (Rom 5:1).

May we all pause to consider the great comfort it is to know that we do not earn our justification; rather we are justified before God by His grace alone and receive it through faith alone and therefore, all the glory for our justification belongs to God alone. That is good news indeed!

[1]The Baptist Catechism. Question and Answer 37.

[2]White, James. The God Who Justifies. 74

Doing Justice and the Gospel, Part 2: Justice According to Leviticus 19

exploitation

[This is the second of a four-part series on doing justice and how it relates to the gospel. See the first part here .]

The laws that God lays down in Leviticus contribute to the overall picture of justice in the Bible. Let’s take a look at one passage that is rich in instruction about doing justice. There are many passages in the Bible that address justice, but Leviticus 19 touches on a number of concepts related to justice that are especially pertinent to doing justice in our world today.

One thing to notice about Leviticus 19 is that it is set in the context of commands forbidding Israel from walking in the customs of Canaan or do as the Canaanites do (18:3, 30 and 20:23). In other words, Israel was not to take its cues regarding justice from the surrounding culture. So, while we may be made aware of social ills and injustices by unbelievers, we will not be able to agree fully on the interpretation, causes, and solution for the problems. The unbeliever’s solution will not contain the gospel, and so will be only partial at best and destructive at worst.

The commands for justice and mercy in this passage are also set in the context of the repeated phrase, “I am the LORD.” Sixteen times this phrase is included to remind readers that the ultimate authority in matters of justice is God. Justice is done by God’s people for Him and according to his revealed directions. Justice is an act of worship to God, just as injustice is an act of rebellion and rejection of God’s authority.

I will focus on five principles of justice in this text, even though there are others. First, justice includes material concern for the indigent (v. 9-10). The poor referenced here were landless people and so had no means of survival apart from the mercy of others. They were not people who refused to work and just wanted a check in the mail. When we talk about issues of justice related to poverty, we must define who are the vulnerable poor.

In the United States in 2015 about 6% of the population had an income-to-poverty ratio that put them in the category of extreme poverty, which is a combination of inadequate food, clothing, and shelter, little or no healthcare, and inadequate education for children. Another 7% were moderately poor, with only slightly better conditions. This amounts to around 42 million Americans who live on less than $17.00 per day. When we look globally, approximately one billion people live on $1.00 per day, and another one billion live on $2.00 per day.

God’s heart for the truly poor is evident in his instructions not to harvest all the produce in their fields or vineyards to give the poor an opportunity to survive. But this act of charity was not a do-nothing handout. The indigent had to work to obtain these resources. They had to go to the fields and vineyards and harvest the remaining food. God does not diminish the created order of work for people in need. Because work brings dignity and fulfills the Creation Mandate to cultivate and subdue the earth, it is a positive and productive requirement for the needy to do what they can for themselves when receiving charity. If a poor person does not like the kind of work required to receive charity, he may be motivated to seek greater opportunities to provide a better life for himself. “The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on” (Prov. 16:26 NIV).

Second, justice requires complete, absolute honesty in every dealing (v. 11-12). Stealing, cheating, and lying were all forbidden. That means that deception, exaggeration, or misrepresentation should not be tolerated in a just society. This is especially true, because those who are weak (socially, economically, and educationally) are the most hurt by dishonesty, as they often have no recourse. Complete honesty benefits everyone, except the deceptive person. All these sins are rooted in greed—they get a person some benefit in an improper way, often by defrauding them. As a teenager I worked for my father who was a stone mason. I remember the fury I felt when we finished a job that took us months, and the homeowner refused to pay the last half of the bill simply because he knew my father couldn’t afford a lawyer to sue for the money. It was nothing more than theft and fraud, and God warns wealthy employers not to withhold the pay of their employees for any reason (James 5:1-6). Such an action is abhorrent to God, and he will exact justice from the wicked.

Another injustice mentioned here is swearing falsely on God’s name (taking God’s name in vain), God is clear that he will not consider a person who takes his name in vain to be innocent (Exod. 20:7). These laws equally applied to government officials, employers, civic and religious leaders, as well as employees, students, immigrants, and citizens.

Third, justice refuses to take advantage of others (v. 13-14). Exploitation, extortion, bullying, manipulation, oppression, and blackmail of any kind are forbidden. Most of us may not consider ourselves to be in a position to do these things to anyone, but there are applications of this principle that are more common. Tormenting, mocking, belittling, and name-calling reveal a cruel heart that does not fear God, and thinks that no one sees or will help. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian and later Prime Minister of the Netherlands, promoted a robust view of justice when he defined a just society as one that pursues for others security from drastic imbalances of power in their basic relations. Again this is important because the weak are most often exploited in an unjust society. Proverbs 23:10–11 reminds us, “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.”

Fourth, justice includes judging everyone by the same standard (v. 15-16, 35-36). This is true regardless of their economic, ethnic, educational, gender, or national stations in life. We should never let a person’s social or economic position influence a decision, whether in personal dealings, or in the legal system. No favoritism or partiality is allowed. Further, I should see anyone accused of wrongdoing as a neighbor, not as an enemy. Justice is rooted in love for neighbor, even if the just penalty for his wrongdoing is severe.

Finally, justice requires loving your neighbor as yourself (v. 17-18, 33-34). Hatred of anyone because they are male or female, black, white, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, rich or poor, educated or not, older or younger, American or foreigner, law-keeper or law-breaker, etc. is forbidden. So is ill-treatment of vulnerable people in society.

Embracing and empowering those who are truly in need and truly vulnerable reflects biblical justice and compassion. Defending those who are harmed by those more powerful is a just act to perform. And there is no greater injustice in society than abortion.

In the next post We will look at 8 principles derived from the biblical teaching on doing justice related to life in the 21st century.

Acceptance of LGBT Increasingly a Requirement to Participate in Any Aspect of Society and Academia

kruger-photo-2015Michael Kruger, a world-class scholar on the New Testament and the canon of Scripture, brings to our attention the decision by the Society of Biblical Literature to disallow the Christian publisher, InterVarsity Press, from displaying their books at the annual meeting in November in San Antonio, TX. This includes Kruger’s excellent books on the canon. The reason? IVP decided to maintain their policy of upholding their employees to maintain a biblical view of marriage.

The SBL membership is a mixture of Christian and non-Christian scholars who study the biblical text at the highest academic levels. While there is strong disagreement over interpretation of Scripture, the two sides in the SBL have generally coexisted, even as the number of evangelical scholars has grown through the years. This move can be interpreted as nothing but an attempt to exclude traditional Christian belief regarding sexuality from even being discussed.

This is well worth the read to understand the growing intolerance of the “tolerance” warriors of the “intellectual left.”

What Jesus’ Temptation Teaches Us About Our Own

Now I have to ask you: If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not presume to face the forces of evil in the world without a profound knowledge of the Bible in mind and heart, how could we try to face life any other way? It’s true that this takes a great deal of time and effort. Worship, daily reading, meditation and memorization, singing, listening to teaching—all of these are necessary to become as acquainted with the Scripture as we must be.
Tim Keller, Encounters with Jesus

Answering Objections about the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Part 4

suffering childrenA Christian Answer to the Problem of Evil and Suffering

The Christian answer to the problem of evil and suffering begins with God himself. When we have a proper view of God, the apparent problems begin to melt away.

God’s Nature

First, God is the standard for his actions—whatever he does defines concepts of justice, goodness, love, and mercy. Too many times the supposed problem of the justice of God begins when we mistakenly believe that there is some standard of justice that stands above God and to which God’s actions must conform. Such a view reflects the philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In reality, however, God is ultimate and his character sets the standard for what justice is. We can’t do all that God does, because of our limited knowledge and creatureliness, but God can do as he pleases and whatever he does is just.

Second, some people believe that God needs to justify certain actions recorded in Scripture. However, Scripture makes it clear that God does not need to defend his actions to us. He does not defend himself for giving Adam a wife who led him into sin (Gen. 3:12), or when he tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22), or when Job wants answers for his apparent unjust suffering (Job 23:1-7; 31:35ff; 40:4-42:6). God is the sovereign Almighty Lord who does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Eccl. 8:3) and owes no one an explanation (Rom. 9:19-21).

Third, as fallen, finite, and created beings we cannot understand the reasons of a perfect, infinite, and uncreated God (Ezek. 18:25). Like a two-year old can’t understand the reasons a parent insists on a necessary medical procedure for the child, so we do not have the capacity to understand all that God ordains in this world. To assume that God does not have a good reason for something he allows is to presume that because we do not understand God’s reasons, He could not possibly have any.

Finally, God is not obligated to show kindness or mercy to anyone, or to deliver anyone from human evil or suffering (Exod. 33:19). Sometimes there is an underlying assumption in objections to God’s existence that fallen humans deserve mercy and a trouble-free life. In reality, fallen human beings deserve nothing but God’s wrath. The fact that God allows anyone to live and experience good in this life is purely by his own benevolent kindness.

God’s Reasons

An even better Christian answer is that God may have a perfectly good reason for allowing evil and suffering that we cannot know or comprehend. The standard atheistic view assumes that God could not possibly have a good reason for allowing evil and suffering, yet cannot prove that assertion in any way. The Christian answer says that with man’s limited understanding, he cannot possibly know whether or not God has good reasons for allowing suffering.

The Christian response to the standard atheistic view might look like this:

  1. Premise 1: If God were all-powerful, he would be able to prevent evil.
  2. Premise 2: If God were all-good, he would desire to prevent evil.
  3. Premise 3: But there is evil.
  4. Premise 4: God may have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil that we don’t know about
  5. Conclusion: Therefore, God may allow evil for reasons we don’t know, and still be all-powerful, all-good

We understand this in real life. If you see a man standing over a child slicing open the child’s body with a sharp knife, you might assume that what he is doing is evil. But then if you see that the man is a doctor and is performing surgery, your view of the situation changes. You begin to see that the man is actually being good and merciful, even though he is causing pain to the child. In the same way, humans can only see the evil and suffering that God allows from a limited viewpoint. Only God knows the ultimate, eternal plan for evil and suffering that will end in good.

Taking Evil Seriously

Ultimately only the Christian worldview validates that suffering is genuine, yet not meaningless. Unlike worldviews that deny evil and suffering, the Bible fully acknowledges that such things truly exist. Further, the universal human longing to find meaning in suffering is fulfilled only in the Christian faith. Evil and suffering do have a purpose, and they are guided and limited by the all-powerful God of the Bible. Some worldviews, especially those that believe in the evolutionary progress of man tend to minimize evil so they can claim that the world is evolving into paradise.

God does not stand aloof from evil and suffering. Instead, he enters the creaturely experience by taking on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus experiences every kind of trial and temptation that can be experienced by human beings, yet without sinning (Heb. 4:14-16). He willingly subjected himself to the frustration and sorrow of life in a sin-cursed world, and grieved it passionately. God grieves over evil and suffering (John 11:35). In order to make sure that evil and suffering would not be the final chapter of the story of creation, God himself experienced the greatest suffering in order to ensure an end to suffering. Jesus suffered the ultimate evil and pain by taking our hell on the cross in order to offer redemption and rescue from sin and the curse.

Hope for Deliverance from Evil and Suffering

Ultimately only the Christian worldview has grounds to call evil what it is, to see evil as destructive and awful as it really is, and to provide hope for future judgment on those who perpetrate evil. The Bible tells us that God hates evil and has nothing to do with it (Hab. 1:12; Jam. 1:13-17). Evil is the enemy of God and all he has made. When God brings all things to an end, the devil, Death and Hell are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10, 14). This speaks of the absolute end of death, evil, and suffering.

Non-Christian views minimize evil, fail to recognize it as such, or are unable to give distinctions between good and evil. The Christian worldview sees evil in all its complexity. First, evil is individual—there is evil in each individual. Second, evil is collective—societies can do evil, such as Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and China, or the murderous tyranny of ISIS in the Middle East. Finally, evil is structural—such as international sex slavery or government corruption. Christianity has a thorough view of evil that considers any failure to keep God’s commands as sinful, rebellious, and mutinous.

The Christian worldview, however, provides a decisive answer for good and evil. God ultimately overcame evil by the death of his Son, Jesus, who conquered the consequences of sin and death by his resurrection (John 16:33). He makes it possible for us to overcome evil by copying his example (Rom. 12:17-21; John 11:25). By Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we are now victorious over sin and already enjoying the benefit (1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4).

Conclusion

The very difficult challenge of the problem of evil and suffering in the world is turned into a positive argument for the Christian God once we see the biblical answer to this objection in all its richness and complexity. Apart from the Christian faith, there is no meaning and purpose in suffering. Human evil will go unpunished and most people in the world are destined for a lifetime of hopeless victimization at the hands of others and cruel nature.

In the Christian worldview, however, we have answer, meaning, purpose, and most importantly, a loving, sovereign God who guides all things for his own glory and the good of his children. Rather than this objection being an insurmountable wall, it is a doorway into fruitful evangelistic and apologetic conversations.

Answering Objections About the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Part 3

good and evilNon-Christian Answers to the Problem of Evil and Suffering

Several other attempts have been made to address evil and suffering in our world.

  1. Non-Reality of Evil View—Some Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, deny that evil and suffering are any more than an illusion. By denying that evil and suffering are real, they attempt to avoid any dilemma between the deities in charge of the world and the way the world is. The problem for this view, however, is that the experience of suffering is universal and undeniable. Additionally, these same Eastern religions seek to end oppression and alleviate the very suffering that they deny exists. This is clearly self-refuting.
  2. Weakness of God View—This view argues that God does not overcome all evil because he cannot, even though he wants to. The advantage of this approach is that God cannot be held responsible for what happens in the world. The disadvantage is that it eliminates any possibility of God finally overcoming evil. If God cannot do anything to stop evil now, we should not assume that he can ever do anything to end evil. God becomes impotent to deliver us from the endless cycle of suffering.
  3. Free Will View—This view argues that man has free will, and therefore, God has nothing to do with evil because he cannot interfere without impinging on man’s free will. The advantage of this view is that God is not responsible for human acts of evil. The disadvantages are numerous. First, suffering still happens through natural disasters, illness, and the general brokenness of the world. Second, this view puts shackles on God’s ability to act, because man’s freedom becomes primary. If God cannot impinge on man’s free will, how do we know he can fulfill his promises? Third, Scripture repeatedly speaks of God determining our free choices (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23, 4:27; Rom. 9). Any way you look at it, this view fails to answer the tough questions.
  4. “Christian” Fatalism—This view simply says, “God is in control, and therefore you cannot avoid suffering. Don’t let it get you upset. Just stoically accept it, because all things work together for good. So, actually it’s a blessing. It’s nothing to cry over.” The obvious problem with this view is that it distorts the sovereignty of God and eliminates genuine emotion, contra the biblical affirmation of grief and crying out to God.

So, how should a Christian deal with the problem of evil and suffering? Are there any answers to this seeming contradiction?

In the next post we will begin to present a Christian view.

The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 3

adam-and-eveThe final segment in this topic deals with the fall into sin that corrupted all of God’s creation and plunged man into guilt and condemnation.

4. Because of sin, man is completely fallen

In contrast to many worldviews and religions, Christianity believes that man is fallen and his heart is corrupt. Since the Fall into sin, every person is born with a depraved heart that will not choose God apart from the Holy Spirit’s supernatural drawing to Christ (Rom. 3:10-18; John 14:6; 6:44). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to do without God in every respect. By rejecting God’s evaluation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they asserted their right to interpret the world as they saw fit. In the case of the forbidden fruit Eve determined that it was “good” for food, even though God declared it to be the spiritually and physically poisonous.

The motivation for Eve’s disobedience, however, was not simply to try a new flavor of fruit, but to transcend her humanity to become divine, as the serpent had promised her (Gen. 3:5). In other words, Eve wanted to escape her creaturely limits and become like God—infinite and divine. This was all a lie, however, and her actions resulted in death. Many false religions and worldviews are based on a desire to become divine, or to escape death like God. What they promise, however, can never come true. Humans will always be created beings, finite and limited.

In eating the fruit Adam and Eve also attempted to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They tried to establish their own ethics in rebellion of God’s declaration of right and wrong. Here is another common aspect of unbelieving belief systems: they want to reject God’s laws and establish their own. These false ethical standards often lead to a removal of any restraint whatsoever, which leads to violence, abuse, and anarchy. We see this most clearly in the days of Noah (Gen. 6:5, 11-12), the time of the judges (Judg. 17:6; 21:25), and the last days predicted in the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:1-9).

The result of the Fall is that every one of natural man’s intellectual and spiritual functions operates wrongly. Man’s thinking is now slanted away from God in rebellion and ignorance (Eph. 4:17-19). Man is not objective, because his sinful, evil heart turns away from God, truth, beauty and goodness, and seeks to satisfy self. The result is that man embraces lies, ugliness, and evil. He loves the darkness of sin rather than the light of truth (John 3:19-21; Rom. 1:25).

Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia used two pictures to illustrate this truth. Imagine a woodworker who sets his table saw to exact measurements to cut boards at a right angle. He leaves the workshop for a few minutes to get the wood, and while he is gone his 10-year-old son enters the room and changes the angle of the saw. Every board that the woodworker cuts after that will be wrong and will be damaged. In the same way God created us holy and perfect, with our intellect, emotions and will operating rightly. After the Fall, these faculties are now damaged, and while they resemble the original design, they are damaged and do not function properly.

Another illustration helps us understand the unbeliever’s bias against God and the truth. Imagine yellow-lensed goggles are glued to the face of the unbeliever. Everything he sees now has a yellow hue. He cannot see colors correctly because of these goggles. Yet, he insists he is wearing no goggles and sees colors correctly. In the same way, the Fall has distorted the man’s intellectual understanding, and he cannot see truthfully until the Holy Spirit removes the goggles in regeneration. It takes the regeneration of man’s reason to correct the damage done by the Fall. When a person is saved, the Holy Spirit replaces his unbelieving heart of stone with a “heart of flesh” that now functions properly (Ezek. 11:19-21; 36:26-27). He takes away spiritual blindness and replaces it with sight (John 9:39).

 

Conclusion

Having a biblical understanding of God and man provides many powerful avenues for apologetics. We avoid defending concepts we don’t believe. We tap into the powerful truths of the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The more we know the Scriptures and sound doctrine, the more weapons we possess in the war of ideas. We are able to more effectively destroy arguments and pull down strongholds of unbelief (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Knowing what we believe is the best foundation for apologetics and evangelism, because it gives us the ability to answer unbelief from any direction.

The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 2

man da vinci2. Man is different from God

Many world religions, especially the Asian religions have a monistic view of the world. That is, they believe that all things that exist are the same at the core. All things participate in Being, and God or the gods possess more Being than we creatures. The goal in these religions is either to erase the distinctions between man and the gods, or to be swallowed up into the Great Divine and cease to exist. Regardless of the details, man is not at all or not much different in his essence than God.

The Christian view of God is quite different, in contrast. We believe in what is called the Creator/Creature Distinction (CCD). The CCD teaches that God is wholly other than us. God is infinite, holy, and divine. In contrast we are finite, fallen, and creaturely. God has always been God and always will be God. We are creaturely (created beings), and will always be creaturely, even when we obtain our glorified bodies in eternity.

Since we are finite, fallen, and creaturely, we could know nothing about the infinite, holy, divine God unless he revealed himself to us. And this is what makes the Christian God unique. God not only tells us who he is, but he continually comes down to us to reveal himself. We call this the condescension of God. All through the Bible God stoops down to his creation to show and tell us who he is and how we can be reconciled to him.

In Genesis 1:2 we are told that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters as God was creating. In Genesis 3:8 God comes down to confront Adam and Eve about eating the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 7:16 God closes the door of the Ark himself. In Genesis 32:24-32 God wrestles with Jacob and gives him a new name. In Exodus 3:7-8 God comes down to see the suffering of his people before he leads them out of Egypt. Over and over throughout the Bible God comes down to his people, protecting them, speaking with them, rescuing them. This culminates in the incarnation of the Son of God taking on humanity with the birth of Jesus. In this ultimate sense God has come down and revealed himself and reconciled us to God.

The CCD reminds us that God is not like us and his ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). One of the distinctions of Christianity is that we do not make images of God, because those who do invariably make idols in the likeness of other created things (Rom. 1:22-23). But God is so different than us that he forbids the making of idols because they cannot represent him. However, God has revealed himself to us in His Word and through His Son. This means that we can know him, because he has chosen to reveal himself to us.

Some, such as agnostics, like to argue that even if God exists, we can’t know anything about him. Such would be true if it weren’t for the fact that God has revealed himself to us. This is why a clear doctrine of Scripture is so important for Christians. We are able to escape ignorance by acknowledging the Bible as God’s Word to us.

3. Man was designed to represent God on earth

Not only are human beings made in the image of God, but also from the beginning man was given purpose through the tasks given to him in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 1:28-30 reminds us that man was to rule over the earth and cultivate it. That is, Adam and Eve were to develop all the natural resources on earth for their enjoyment, pleasure, and comfort. Everything we have in our modern world today, from the Hubble space telescope, computers, robotic surgery, and skyscrapers, was in the ground when Adam and Eve were created. God gave man the commission to cultivate the potential of the earth. This is a noble calling!

In the next post, we will look at the effects of the fall on mankind.

 

The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 1

finger_of_godWe are unique from all the rest of creation by being made in the image of God. We are not like animals or angels because we were created to reflect the glory and image of God. Humans alone in creation are made in God’s image and likeness. This partly explains why all people are without excuse before God—their very purpose is to be in relation to God. To deny God when we are designed to reflect his glory is to rebel against everything that we are. To deny the existence of God is to deny our very humanity.

Since there is limited space , we can only touch on a few points about man and the Fall. We will focus on the theological truths that serve as the foundation for our apologetic endeavors.

Man and Sin

The view that a particular religion or worldview has about human beings tells a lot about important issues, such as the meaning and purpose of life, human dignity, what is wrong with the world, and the nature of right and wrong. In many worldviews, man is nothing more than a product of the blind force of evolution. This makes him an accident of nature, since there can be no intelligence in the universe. In this view, man is nothing more than an animal, and no purpose or meaning can be derived from random forces. This view however makes human dignity and ethics impossible to argue. If man is just an animal, violence, disease, and calamity are the nature of life.

In other views, such as New Age religion, Hinduism, and most of the Asian religions, man is divine and a spawn of the gods. Man finds his dignity in having a spark of the divine within himself, or else he is just as much god as anything else. One of the problems with this view, however, is that these supposed divine humans commit evil acts. If a divine being does evil, what makes it evil? And considering the amount of evil in the world, what good does the divine do in the world? These questions cannot be answered in a meaningful way if everything is equally divine.

The biblical view of man, however, provides answers to the most pressing questions of humanity, such as where did I come from, why am I here, what is wrong with the world, who am I, what is my purpose, where am I going?

 

  1. Man is created in the image of God

The Bible teaches that man is a special creation of God, different from the animals by virtue of being made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). In this sense, man is greater than the angels who do not bear the image of God. Because man is made in God’s image, he bears intrinsic value and dignity, apart from anything he does. This dignity is so basic because of the image of God, that to murder is to commit a crime that strikes against God himself. As a result, God demands that the life of the murder be taken by proper authorities to demonstrate the heinous nature of such an act (Gen. 9:6).

The image of God is never explicitly explained in Scripture, but most theologians agree that it pertains to rationality, a sense of right and wrong, and the implanted knowledge of God. These inherent qualities demonstrate that God is a personal, moral being who has revealed himself to all people. Our calling as human beings is to know God through Christ, live a life marked by wisdom and obedience to God, and share the good new of Jesus Christ, which is the wisdom of God. This feature of humanity—being made in God’s image—is the key to human identity and understanding our place in God’s world.

The image of God in man also means that God is the original and we are the copy. God is the eternal I AM, and we are an icon, or picture, that reflects the glory of the I AM. The reflection is not praised or worshiped; rather, the reality is worshiped. If a soldier has a picture of his wife with him on the battlefield, he stares at her image to remind him of her beauty. But the picture can fade and be wrinkled in a day. When he returns to her, he does not stare at the picture anymore, but gazes upon the beauty of his wife, who is now right in front of him. In the same way, we are to so reflect the glory of God that people want to worship God when they see our lives.

In the next post we will see how man is different from God and the nature of his role in the world.