Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Part 2 Review Lessons
Lesson 32 – Apologetic Approach; Intelligence, Language & Thought
26 Sept 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to introduce the series somewhat as I did last year, just to refresh our minds and pull things together. This series is not a classical Bible study; it’s not a substitute for exegetical verse-by-verse analysis of the text. It is not a topical approach either, nor is it an evangelistic apologetic approach. What it is is an attempt to mix all three of those approaches together in one package. What we’re trying to do is create a tripartite approach where we deal with the events of Scripture as real historical events that can be defended, can be discussed, that are out there not as a subjective religious experience.
For example, we talk about the Exodus, we talk about creation, the fall, the fall of the Jewish kingdom in 586 BC, these are all historic events, they all happened. And the Christian faith, unlike other faiths, is dependent upon the validity of these historical events. You can’t separate Christianity from history. If you do you wind up with a subjective, convoluted messy psychology really, not religion. Christianity depends on the absolute and total validity of the historical events of Scripture. Because that is so, it immediately involves anyone who is a Christian, at least in the 20th century, or who has been a Christian from the 19th century on, in a massive problem, because on every front the Scripture is being opposed.
The entire worldview of our time is oriented basically against the Scripture. The Scripture is nothing more than a sweet religious story to the world at large. We live in that kind of a culture and we have to learn how to handle ourselves in that culture, we have to learn about the techniques that are being applied against us, the hidden agendas that are being applied by the world system. The Bible says “the world, the flesh and the devil,” and it means what it says. These are three hostile enemies of our faith, and we’re quite naïve and foolish if we don’t think they’re very real and they are pressing upon us all the time.
So this series is going to deal with these three things, the Bible as real history; we’re going to deal with these events as revealing God, and His message to man, but we’re going to deal with His words and His interpretation of those events. We’re going to deal with the apologetic approach, meaning we’re giving reason for our faith, because we believe faith is true, it’s not just what I feel, this Christian gospel is not an opinion, it is truth. It’s not my opinion vs. your opinion or your opinion vs. somebody else’s opinion. We’re not talking opinions, we’re talking truth. That’s a very difficult question in our own time because we deal with a very, very subjective culture, particularly in America right now, very subjective culture, very much into mystical things, a tremendous destruction of language and meaning, and that’s the environment in which we live, and we’re trying to preach a gospel of truth in the middle of all that mess. And we wonder why we have an impotent faith at times. So that’s the design of the series.
I want to start by taking you to some of the passages of Scripture because we want to see what one of the early Christian sermons looked like. For a few minutes we’re going to survey the preachers of the Christian faith, the early preachers, and how they preached into the world and preached to those around them. In Acts 7 we have the story of the first martyr recorded in church history, Stephen, and the sermon in Acts 7 was given to a very unfriendly audience, to say the least. So what we want to do, no big analysis, tonight is just kind of an introduction. Look at how Stephen deals with the situation. In verse 1 Stephen faces a total assault; he’s having to give an answer for his faith before a hostile group of the Council. The Council stands there and here is Stephen all by himself, called to give an account, just like we’re called to give an account. Notice how Stephen gives an account. This man is a deacon, he’s not a professional theologian, he’s not a man who got his PhD in philosophy, he is a Jew who knows well why he is a Christian, and so he gives an answer. He starts in Acts 7:2, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,  And said to him,” and he quotes Genesis, “Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.”
Verse 4, “Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living.  And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his offspring after him,” a quote from Genesis. In Acts 7:6, “But God spoke to this effect, that his offspring would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years,” a quote from Genesis. Verse 7 is a quote from Genesis, “And whatever nation to which they shall be in bondage I Myself will judge, said God, and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.” Verse 8 gives the story from Genesis; verse 9 speaks further of the last part of the book of Genesis. It’s a recital of one historical act after another.
Here a man is giving a defense of his faith and what he’s saying is it’s not what I, Stephen, believe in my heart, that’s true, but that’s not enough to say that. What he’s saying is that this is the way history is going, I am talking about the Lord God of history. And therefore the Lord God of every fact, and the Lord God of every event of history, and that history has a purpose and a meaning and you people know a lot about it. He uses as his authority, you’ll notice, the Old Testament text. It’s a very detailed analysis as you go down, verses 12, 13, 14, 15, let your eye just skim that text and you’ll see one fact after another fact after another fact out of the Old Testament text.
In Acts 7:18 he begins to move on to the next book in the Bible, “There arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph.” Now we’re into Exodus. Then he goes on and talks about Pharaoh’s daughter. Then in Acts 7:27-28 the prelude to the Exodus, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us?  You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?” He’s citing the turmoil, the political turmoil among the Jewish community while they lived in when Moses wanted them to leave, and he quotes from Exodus. He goes on and goes through the whole Exodus thing, and then he gets into things later on in the Old Testament, verses 40, 41, 42, 43, he cites passages from the prophets. In verse 49 he quotes from the book of Isaiah, and he goes through until finally in verse 51 he gives his counterattack to the people who questioned his faith. “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One…” he appeals to the continuity of God’s Word in a hostile and unfriendly world. The point is that Stephen’s faith is historically centered; and he is in command of history. That’s how the Christian defended themselves to a Jewish hostile audience.
In Acts 17 the early Christians are defending themselves against a hostile Gentile world. In Acts 7 we have a speech delivered to the Jews; in Acts 17 a speech delivered to the Gentiles, to the Greeks. This is Paul and the connection between Paul and Stephen is interesting because Stephen was a Jew who was a Hellenistic Jew, one who traveled in the eastern end of the Mediterranean at least, very much more metropolitan in his viewpoint than, say some of the more provincial Palestinian Jews, and Paul was standing there and he heard that speech in Acts 7. In Acts 17 Paul has gone out from Palestine into the world, and he encounters the philosophers at Athens. This is a classic speech. He begins in verse 22, and I want to notice how he begins. Remember he’s talking to a different audience than Stephen. Stephen talked to an audience that already knew the Bible; Paul teaches here to an audience that does not know the Bible, but still Paul follows Stephen in his method, because in Acts 17:22 he said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.  For while I was passing through,” so there he’s connecting with the situation that was going on in Athens.
Look what happens, in verse 24; what does Paul do? What does the text report that he is doing, right at the front? There’s no reasoning approach, he’s not going back to first principles, he’s simply citing the creation. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands,” etc. [Verse 25, “Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things.”] It’s a statement of the events of Genesis, creation. Then he goes on in verse 26, and he’s stating a fact, talking about the dispersion of man after the Genesis flood, “And He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,” then he cites the Psalms and gets into Old Testament theology.
It’s a presentation of the truths of this sacred history. Then he goes on to attack, in verse 31, he says this same God who created, who supervised, superintended this history, by the way, we might note in verse 26-27 that instead of talking about Jewish history, there he’s talking about the justification for the existence of the Greeks. [Verse 26, “And He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, verse 27, “that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”] He’s tracing them as a subset of all Gentiles, who are a subset of the total human race. So there he weds the entire view into the framework of Scripture.
If I can draw a little diagram here of the strategy that’s being used, the best way of describing this is a picture, or phraseology of strategic envelopment. In other words, in battle, in war engagement and strategies, etc. if you have an army, the classic set piece battle out of the Middle Ages, or the British, French, etc., they used to make their battle lines face on, and we call this the direct approach. It was pretty bloody and messy, and usually when wars are fought with direct strategies casualties are very, very high. But most wars aren’t won by direct confrontation; most wars are won by indirect approaches. The idea, obviously, is to outflank, to try some flanking maneuver and see where that gets you, or maybe a raid back on the logistics that is supporting that army, blow away the chain of logistics, therefore you cut off the army that way. So there’s lots of ways of doing it, but the whole idea is to envelop your enemy either in power, in terrain or in some way. We call that envelopment, rather than just trying to go in and blow them away directly. What we’re doing is enveloping him in our organization, we’re making him march to our tune, we’re not picking his tune. So if he has to have supplies come to his army, he comes through routes that we control. If he needs to move, he does so in such a way that we watch him at all times.
The idea of a strategic envelopment lies at the heart of Christian apologetics. Think of what Stephen has done and what Paul is doing here. Look carefully in Acts 17:23 he is not arguing in a philosophic sense, an Aristotelian sense, to God’s existence. Instead, he has analyzed the Athenian mind, has interpreted the Athenian mind in the light of Scripture, so in place of an army we have the Athenian, and Paul is saying, I come to you and I interpret how you think, how you’re reacting in my framework. He says in verse 23, this is a total analysis, “For while I was passing through, and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” Verse 23 is an analysis of an Athenian mind in a Biblical frame of reference. He says you people worship in ignorance. That’s a judgmental statement, you’re worshiping, I can see that, and I know you’re worshiping, I go around here and I do my little analysis, I look at it from the Biblical point of view, this idol here, that idol there, so I know that you’re religious, and he says you’re doing it in ignorance, which means there’s a standard he’s using to measure, ignorant, smart, smarter, truth, so he’s got a standard that he’s already imposed, he hasn’t argued for it, he’s imposed it.
He says “this I proclaim to you,” then he goes on and he makes a statement in verse 24, “The God who made the world and all things in it,” now if there was anything that the Stoics, the Epicureans, that Plato and Aristotle did not believe in, it was an ex nihilo Creator. So Paul, in saying that, using the same word he used, G-o-d up in verse 23, he is now proclaiming that the God that they are ignorantly worshiping is the God known is Judaism as the ex nihilo Creator of all things. So in verse 23 he has enveloped the Athenian in a biblical analysis of the way he thinks. In verse 24 he’s basically enveloping the entire universe, because obviously if this God he is talking about has made all things, then everything inside history is under the control of that God. So in two verses he’s enveloped…, he’s done a total strategic envelopment of his audience.
Then verse 26, “And He made from one,” is an analysis of the rise of races, cultures and languages in history. Here you have a complete biblical philosophy of history in the rise of civilizations. Then in verse 28 he indicates that I’ve read your poets, and he cites specific passages from their own writings, and interprets the writings of the Greeks in a biblical frame of reference. [Verse 28, “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’  Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like Gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.”] Everywhere Paul touches on a fact he is incorporating that fact into a biblical frame of reference.
Again I say that what we’re observing here is a method of envelopment. Now practically what does that mean? It’s a powerful way of thinking as a biblical creationist, fundamentalist, loyalist to the infallibility of Scripture. What this is, is a way of looking at all of life, not just the religious part of life. What we tend to do in our religious circles is sector out life, and we have sort of a pie chart and we have this part of our life, that part of our life, and over here we have the religious part, and we visualize it as a sector, and the Bible talks about that little sector, but the Bible doesn’t have anything to say if it’s a mathematical equation, the Bible has nothing to say about history, the Bible has nothing to say about philosophy, but it sure does say something about this little religious sector. The problem with thinking that way is that your faith is no bigger than the sector, and finally what happens is that if you operate and sing the worlds tune over in all these other sectors, they overwhelm the religious one, you can never break out, because you’ve been strategically enveloped by the world. So the countermove in this game is to learn to think in terms of a biblically strategic envelopment of every area of life, and that’s what we’re talking about.
Having said that let me give you a peek at how we’re going to move this fall. We discussed two great events, the Creation and the fall; we dealt with Genesis 1 and 2, we dealt with Genesis 3, and we went through the text, then we discussed it. We said those are two very, VERY crucial events, and those events color everything else in the Bible; if you screw up there the whole house of cards falls down. How do we also know that from church history? Think about it, what’s one of the most famous creeds of historic Christianity? The Apostle’s Creed. How does The Apostle’s Creed begin? “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Is it an accident that the writers of the early creeds began with these events? It was the creation that defines the nature of God. That’s why those creeds are designed that way. This is why the Bible starts there. So we follow that same sequence; these are two critical events that have to be thought through.
Then we discussed the flood, and the Noahic Covenant. We’ll talk about creation, the fall, the flood and the Noahic Covenant just by way of review. Then what we’ll do this year is go into the call of Abraham, because it’s the call of Abraham that begins a separation process in history. The call of Abraham on one side is a positive affirmation of progress in the plan of God, but there’s a negative to the call of Abraham. If God called Abraham and says through you I will do this, this, this and this, then the corollary is He’s rejected everybody else. So the call of Abraham is a plus but it also has a minus, it has a downside. It’s an indictment of the world system; the fact that God has to call Abraham means that something out there is wrong, structurally wrong with civilization. And the rise of this creates the problem that we still live as Christians in our society when we walk around and say “Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Him,” oh, that’s bigotry, to think that you have the truth and only you, why you’re a religious bigot. The idea then, of a missionary approach, the conflict of a missionary claim that this is the truth and this isn’t, begins right here with the call of Abraham. It doesn’t start with the gospel of Jesus; it starts with the call of Abraham, because at that point you have a separation.
Then we’re going to another event which is one of the most climactic events of the Old Testament; the Exodus is to the Jews what the crucifixion is to Christians. It’s a tremendous event, a very powerful event, and the political ideas and insights it gives into history are amazing, so we want to look at the Exodus. Then after the Exodus we’re going to look at the giving of the Law. The fact is that the kingdom of God is controlled by God’s will, and God states His will and He states His will for every sector of society, the Mosaic Law doesn’t just talk about religious things, it talks about loaning money, it talks about the sentence for thievery, marriage and divorce, property rights, juvenile delinquency, it talks about saving an inheritance for a family unit, it talks about a lot of things. Why? Because the kingdom of God is a total thing, over every area of life; again, strategic envelopment. It’s not just talking about praying, as important at that is, it’s talking about every area.
Then we’re going to talk about a very controversial thing in the Scripture, what about the doctrine of holy war, of course now with what’s going in the Middle East inevitably you’ll hear this issue of the conflict going on, this is not to justify one side or the other, it’s just simply to say that in the Old Testament there is a clear mandated conquest and there are certain epics that accompany this conquest, it’s a bloody messy conquest. This is holy war, and we have to look at that because, if we believe in the New Testament that all things are written for our admonition out of the Old Testament, what is the contribution of this bloody ruthless conquest, what is that all about? If you’ve been in a discussion about Christianity, that’s the one someone will trot one out on you, it’s a hot potato and you’ve got to learn how to handle that one. We have to think about why it’s there, we can’t deny it’s there, the text is there, what we have to do is deal with that text. Then we’ll conclude this year with the reign of King David, because he represents the leadership, the primary leadership of the kingdom of God. David becomes a Messianic type of Jesus Christ, who will lead the kingdom of God. So that is a tremendous section of Old Testament theology, and from Abraham to David is the seminal part of the Old Testament, after you get through creation, Noah and all the rest of it.
To prepare this year, last year it was pretty easy to read because we only covered 9 chapters of the Bible, plus the New Testament commentary on those chapters, this year we’re going to approach it a lot faster because we’ve got a lot more Scripture to handle, so read for your own pacing, but I recommend you don’t get bogged down in details. I think the easiest way to approach this is pick out whatever translation is easy for you, if you like the KJV fine, ASV fine, the NASV fine, but get something you’re comfortable with. Then start reading, because at least for the next month or two we want to finish Genesis. Here are some tips on how to read from Genesis 12 to the end, so you can read it fast and get the drift of what’s going on. Keep in mind that this part of the Bible is dealing with one family, everything else is surrounding that one family. All the stories of the kings, the stories of the wars, this, that and all the rest is still basically talking about one family.
If you read from Genesis 12 to the end of the book, take little notes, and the way I would outline it, just write Abraham, and then as you read find out how many chapters basically deal with Abraham, then go to Isaac, find out how many chapters deal with Isaac, then go to Jacob, how many chapters deal with Jacob, then you come to the last part of Genesis and all of a sudden Joseph becomes a key player, but if you look at the text carefully, you have to ask yourself, is this story really about Joseph, or is it still about Jacob, because Jesus in the New Testament doesn’t speak of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, when Jesus refers to God He says the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he quotes only three of the four. Why is that? That’s something we want to talk about as we come into this narrative of this family, the first Jewish family on earth. So outlining watch for the chapters in each one of these things.
Make yourself a little check sheet, think in terms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and observe themes in the text. Trace some themes, and write little comments, little observations, because what we are after right now isn’t the details, what we want to get is the big picture of what’s going on here. One of the themes that you want to look at is what’s going on in the Gentiles around them? Those stories keep reporting an event here and an event there, why? Of the hundreds of events the Holy Spirit could have captured in the text, why did He capture these events? What story is God trying to tell us by picking this event, this event, this event and that event, and then tying them like beads on a necklace together in the narrative of Genesis? There’s a theme here, and it will emerge as we go on.
One of your observations should be what is going on in the Gentile world around the time this family is growing. Look at the interaction of the Gentiles; what is the effect the Gentiles are having on this Jewish family, and what effect is the Jewish family having on the Gentiles, in other words, the feedback going on between these two. Just watch that, these will be little observations, you’ll read a story and maybe come back to it a week or two later and say oh gee, I didn’t see that, there’s something else in here. It just endlessly goes on, but it’s a discovery process.
Then ask yourself, what about the promises to Abraham, there’s going to be three major areas of promise. See how land plays a role in the stories, because God said I will give you this land, so you want to watch that, the theme of the land. Are we in it? Are we out of it? Who’s occupying the land now? Where are the boundaries of the land? In the back of your head as you read the text, start thinking how you fill in the matrix here on the land, what rule does each generation of that family have to do with that land? Then another one is the seed, the promise of the children, the Messianic line emerges, there’s a great theme here. Ask yourself, for example, when Isaac and Ishmael collide, what is that saying about the children; when you get to Jacob and Esau you have the same problem. There’s a fight among children in these families. The children are out of control by the third generation, it’s a mess, this first family is a mess by the third generation; it only took them three generations to fall apart. You think your family is dysfunctional, look at this one.
The land, the seed, and blessing, the worldwide blessing; what is this blessing? You’ll see the word “blessing” over and over, Jacob wants the blessing. This is just a suggested mode as you read this. There’s a lot of chapters to finish in Genesis, there’s a lot of details, and if you’re new to the Old Testament, let me encourage you, you don’t have to get bogged down in the details. Get the highlights, Stephen’s speech was only 40 verses long and he encapsulated perfectly the theology of Genesis and it didn’t take him 8,000 verses to do it, it took him only 20-25. Stephen distilled it, he saw what the great themes were, and this was the way he knew his God. We know God by how He acts and what He says. How do we know anybody? By our words and by our works. So we’re learning about God through all this, don’t lose the forest for the trees.
That’s where we’re going, that’s a suggested way of reading, so go ahead and read ahead as we go through this because it will mean a lot more to you; if you have questions, write them down, some will be answered as you keep on reading, but, for example, what’s the story of the rape of Dinah going on in the third generation of that family, what’s all that about, why do we have a war going on over that? Why did the Holy Spirit put that in the text, the story that He’s unfolding here? All of it has a purpose, God is a rational mind and He thinks in a systematic way, and the Bible is written in a systematic way because it reflects the mind of the God who wrote the Bible.
Let’s go back to Genesis. 1 and review some of the highlights. We approached the Bible, as we will this time, antithetically. I had you read Genesis 1 and I put in the notes the text called Enuma Elish, one of the most famous of the pagan creation stories, the pagan narratives, and an exercise you should do, particularly if you’re in an academically hostile environment, is learn to read the Bible against its contemporary literature. This story was circulated all over Mesopotamia at the time the Old Testament was being written; this was the pop version of creation. And we said there are things to observe in that text, and from that we made some judgments about paganism in general. We use the word “pagan” as a label, it’s not necessarily saying everybody’s that’s a pagan is immoral, they’re doing this or that, that’s not what the word “pagan” means. The word “pagan” if you look in a dictionary means anybody who doesn’t worship the God of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims, the God of the Bible. So “pagan” is just a polytheist, a person basically worshiping the creation.
In this it starts out, “when above the heavens had not been named, below the earth had not been called by a name, when Apsu and Tiamat,” these gods apparently “mingled their waters together,” so the idea is a watery chaos, you look in the Genesis text and what do you see in verse 2? “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep,” watery chaos. But the pagan, notice this, and this is the difference, in Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, if you read the text carefully, you see that God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void as a watery mess. What do you read here? It says Apsu and “Mummu and Tiamat, she who gave birth to them all, still mingled their waters together,” and we showed other parts of the text where the universe comes out of the anatomy of the gods, so the difference between the god and the universe is smeared. The universe is an appendage of god, it comes out of the body of god and also note that the motif of generation in this pagan text, the motif that generates things is procreation, the gods are procreating things into existence. If you read the Bible in contrast, in all the verbs that you read in verse 2, 3, 4, and 5, what verb predominates in the text? What’s the action verb, the action that God takes initially? Is it an action of procreation? It says “God said,” in verse 3, then He “saw that the light was good,” and He “called the light day”, verse 5. Verse 6, “God said;” in verse 8 “God called;” in verse 9 “ God said;” in verse 10 “God called;” in verse 11 “God said;” verse 14 “God said; verse 20 “God said;” verse 24, “God said;” verse 26 “God said;” verse 29 “God said.” God said, God spoke, God said.
Hold the place and turn to John 1, here is an apostolic interpretation of Genesis. John meditated, obviously, on the text of Genesis, and he expands on it in John 1:1-2. This is a stunning thing; we can’t emphasize this enough, particularly in our own generation, with what is happening in all kinds of areas with language. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him…” John is so adamant that when you read the Genesis text and when God created by saying, God created by speaking, God created with His mouth as it were, by saying something and suddenly it was there, that He expands that to make language a person, who we know as the Lord Jesus Christ. So it’s an expansion of God with a Trinity understanding. But what you want to notice is that above all is language, God speaks.
On the way back to Genesis stop at Psalms 33, which is another commentary on the book of Genesis. We control our interpretation of Genesis by going to these other places in the Bible. In Psalm 33:6, is it made like a pagan procreating something into existence? It says “By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made,” and then in verse 9 an eloquent summary of the mechanics of creation, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” There’s a stunning thing that comes out of all this, and that is that above all in the Biblical world view there is Intelligence, with a capital “I”, there is language, there is thought behind everything, every event, all of the universe. That means there is no such thing as irrationality, there is no such thing as some chaos, that is unthinkable, there is no such thing as ultimately something is unknowable.
I’m not saying that man can understand it all, but God exists who does. So it is His thoughts, His ideas, and His speech and His language that formulated everything from neutrons and protons to electromagnetic fields, to all kinds of stuff in the sub-particle structures, to the art work of forms in the biological realm. So that, for example, when we look upon man as created in the image of God, we’re talking about the fact that God has an idea in His head about a structure or an art form and structure and form take on vast meaning in the [can’t understand word] here because they come from God’s thought. Example: let’s take an animal, a sheep. If we are to believe in a pagan story as a modern version of paganism, that it’s all by chance, that it happened somehow through a chance process, a sheep just happened to look like a sheep because of the forces of natural selection and mutation, that the form we call the form of a sheep, so if you’re an artist you draw it this way, that form is a pure chance thing. [blank spot]
… form he sees Jesus take, And as I looked and I saw the throne of God and there was a Lamb of God on there, the form of a sheep is not a biological accident, it is the form of that animal, that four-legged wooly animal, that form is related to the theological purpose of history. You can go on with the form of man, the form of everything. Angels have forms, they’re not “its,” they’re not little gas clouds floating around, they have form; the form comes because that’s the way God thinks.
If we want to worship God and not just be spooky and religious about it, you worship God because you see how BIG He is. When you look at the leaves in color, think about the colors you’re looking at. One person said about 20–30 years ago one of Francis Schaeffer’s sons used to say God could have made everything in grays, He could have made the fish in the depth of the ocean all monochrome, because after all, nobody would see them, and yet man goes down in deep diving apparatus and he sees this fantastic beauty. Why is there such an aesthetic dimension to the universe? Because we have an aesthetic God, God likes music, He likes art. When was music first begun? It’s said the angels sang as the foundations of the earth were created. Music precedes civilization. Think about that. Music precedes civilization, it is not a product of civilization, it preceded civilization. Language isn’t something that comes out of somebody that suddenly discovered an alphabet, we go from pictographic writing to alphabetic writing, and look what WE have come up with. What does Psalm 33 say, who was speaking before man? God was speaking, so He is the author of language, intelligence and thought.
Why do we belabor the point? Here’s why. The Christian has over the centuries insisted that God speaks through this book, called the Word of God. Christians have insisted over the centuries that we can talk to that God in prayer, that there is a communication of thought and word going on between the believer and His Lord. How do you protect that faith if you don’t have this as a basis of language? If language is just an accident, it’s just a product of man, it’s just a feature of creation, independently of some gas cloud, then all we can do is maybe feel the sense of the infinite, or something like that. It just totally renders null and void prayer, praise, knowing God’s knowing will, that God wants me to do this and He doesn’t want me to do that, I can formulate that in thought. This only makes sense if we hold to this. If this isn’t here, we’re just fooling ourselves. That’s why certain forms of Far Eastern religion gets very spooky, because what they have done is take these two ideas to their ultimate conclusion.
We’ve shown this about 108 times last year but we want to show again, because this is basic stuff, basic, basic stuff, screw up here and we’re going to build a house all crooked. There are only two ideas in the world about the universe. I was standing in line at a school board meeting and they were arguing about whether they were going to discuss creation in the classroom, this and that, and someone got up from the Aberdeen Proving Ground that I work with all the time, and said well, there’s 108 different ways of expressing creation, there’s many creation myths, if we let the Bible in we’ll have to let all 107 others in. I turned to him and said, no there’s not, there’s only two creation stories. And he looked at me like I’d hit him in the stomach or something, I said there’s only two creation stories, don’t give me this 108 stuff, there’s the pagan view and there’s the biblical view. The pagan views are remarkably similar and here are the things they share. They deny this, this is a central doctrine, ex nihilo, meaning that God created out of nothing, they deny this, but that Latin expression, out of nothing, meaning that God didn’t take some prior existing thing and remold it, He created everything with His Word. That tradition permeates ancient myths such as you just saw, this Enuma Elish one. It is brought to great finesse in the Eastern Religions. Western philosophy is drifting toward that, with existentialism particularly in the 20th century, and modern theologians are usually cabooses on a train, they always follow; liberalism basically follows what the philosophers thought of fifty years ahead of them. What does this idea promote? The Continuity of Being. Think of Tiamat in that story, she is water and somehow out of her body she procreates everything else, there’s just a Continuity of Being, there’s no distinction between God and that which God creates, because the gods, little “g” are actually part of the universe, so there’s not a separation ever, they’re just part of the continuum. So there’s this belief in this Continuity of Being.
The ex nihilo concept of the Scripture was held in ancient monotheism. I quoted some places where early tribes who have not been contaminated by, say the Christian missionary, when you go into some of these tribes, lo and behold, they have preservations of pieces of the Genesis 1–9 narrative in their very tribal traditions. How did that happen? Because they remembered that truth that was given through Noah, through their grandsons, etc., it hadn’t fallen aside. So there is an ancient monotheism, there is ancient Israel which we’re going to study in the Old Testament, and there’s the Bible and fundamentalism, and these basically are the only people that hold to this ex nihilo creation.
The fallout of this is tremendous. The Creator/creature distinction or the Continuity of Being, ultimately bottom line is this: that if we believe in the Bible with an ex nihilo creation, we have as our ultimate environment … everybody wants to be an environmentalist, okay, let’s be an environmentalist, let’s talk about the ultimate environment behind the environment. What’s the environment behind the environment? The ultimate environment in the Scripture is an infinite personal God. He’s infinite, He’s omniscient, and we went through all those attributes, He’s omnipresent, He’s omnipotent, He’s infinite, but He’s also personal. He speaks, He likes music, He likes art.
But on the other side of the fence, what we wind up with eventually is this: an infinite but now it’s impersonal, it’s nothing but a force field. This is why we cited the epic of our time, the great epic story of Star Wars, what was it? May he be with you, or may it, the force, be with you. George Lucas knew what he was doing, he’s well read, he knew what he was doing in that movie, he is presenting paganism, the structure of thought through paganism. I’m not saying he’s immoral, we’re just saying he’s pagan; that is a pagan principle. And it can be traced centuries and centuries backwards in time.
To show that it’s not me speaking, here’s what some of the historians point out, just some quotes so we understand the cleavage of Genesis 1:1 separates the men from the boys. Here’s where we separate faith from non-faith. This Chain of Being is a belief that can be traced for centuries in the thoughts of men, that’s this Continuity of Being, the idea that gods shade into angels that shade into men that shade into animals that shade into rocks. There’s a Continuity of Being. And what’s interesting is that that shows up in our modern idea of cosmic evolution. What we call evolution today is not new, it did not start with Darwin, here’s Sol Tax writing in the Darwin Centennial, Darwin wrote in 1859 and the University of Chicago put out this big book in 1960, Far Eastern philosophers thought of creation in evolutionary terms, a belief in an inherent continuity of all creation, and second, a reference to the merging of one species into another.
Turn to Genesis 1 and let’s reflect on a portion of the text. What does Genesis 1:24–25 say? Contrast what you’re reading in that text with what I just quoted on the overhead projector. See if you can see what the big difference is. “The God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind, and it was so.  And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps on the ground after its kind….” What’s the emphasis there? Continuity and merging of species, or separation of species? You could argue, oh but that’s just a biological truth, that’s just talking biological models, that’s all, it has no application. But the Bible doesn’t let you say that.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. Here Paul takes the very content of the separation of species to explain salvation and resurrection from the dead. The Bible is a unit, and if we screw up in the early chapter of the Bible, we pay the price in later chapters of the Bible, because we can’t any longer understand it. In 1 Corinthians 15:37, notice what he says, “that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain…  But God gives it a body just as He wished…  All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.  There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.  There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon…  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body.” The species differentiation from creation is the forerunner of salvation. The resurrection is not the same as the natural man. There’s no crossover, there’s no Continuity of Being.
Do you see what I’m saying? If you allow the Continuity of Being to mold your thought, you’re going to be salvation by works because you can slowly blend from unsaved to saved. And it’s precisely that idea that Paul is coming to grips with in 1 Corinthians 15, by insisting that that Genesis doctrine of the separation of kinds, a kind of this, a kind of that, that does not go from this to that, it goes from this to this, and this goes from this to this, and they don’t mix. There’s a reason for that: the purity of the categories. Category of created creature, category of saved and unsaved, and you’ll see the categories of the Mosaic Law Codes between the clean and the unclean, the category between the holy and the sinful, all categories, the category of man and woman, you’ll see how that’s preserved in the Bible, contrary to certain people today.
So there’s a continuity of this insistence in Scripture on categories because God made the categories, they’re His laws, and to violate those categories is to violate the authority of God Himself who made them. So those are some of the ideas we dealt with in creation, we reviewed some of the attributes of God, we listed them; He is omnipresent, He is omnipotent, He can do all things; He is immutable, He never changes; He is eternal, He’s not confined to time; He is sovereign, He controls all things after His will; He is holy, He is love, and He is omniscient, He knows all things, both actual and potential. That’s the kind of God that comes out of creation. Then we showed a number of slides, but the one we kept going back to again and again is the limitations of our knowledge. Whether a person is a Christian or a pagan makes no difference, they have to live in the box. Remember the diagram, that is the limitations of knowledge, in space and time, no matter who you are, no matter how long you’ve lived, no matter where you are, no matter what language you speak, you are left to live in the box; you have to live in a time period between fractions of a second, and the historical period of your life and you have to observe and experience things within a certain spatial domain. And anything out beyond that, though it may be extended by scientific instrumentation, basically is a deduction, and to go to the right, i.e. to explore what happens over very, very long time intervals that you personally can’t observe is a conjecture. We dealt with that, we dealt with some of the dating schemes, etc.
I only point that out because when we start reading in Genesis 10, I said Genesis 12 but actually we’re going to start with Genesis 9-10 because we’ve got to set up for the call of Abraham. We have to remember that the world that we are seeing Abraham in is not the world we learn about in origins of civilization courses in school, because the way we’re taught in school is that civilizations somehow got started in the fertile crescent, and one thing led to another, and we had this gradual change from nomadic life to the agrarian settled urban cities, etc. That is not the Scriptural view of history. In Scripture what we have, it developed very rapidly and we’ll talk about the rise of civilization next week, but for next week, if you do the following thing, particular reading in Genesis, look again at Genesis 11 and just write out the ages at death of the patriarchs that are listed in Genesis 11. Just write their name and a number, name and a number, name and a number. After you do that, take a look at the numbers.
If you have some graph paper you can have some more fun, plot the numbers, on the ordinate of that graph paper plot generation 1, 2, 3, 4, for each man that you see in Genesis 11. Then on the ordinate of the graph, plot the time interval, and watch what you see, and we’ll talk about that curve that you get when you plot the data in Genesis 11, that mysterious curve, because that mysterious curve forms the root and the heart of something amazing, an amazing Biblical alternative to what you usually learn when you talk about the origins of civilization, the Bible has a completely different approach to it and you’ll see that not only is it a radical approach, but it can explain a lot of things that we apparently can’t explain sometimes when we talk about the Bible.
I’ll be glad to discuss any questions. Question asked: Clough replies: Yes, I skipped about 5 or 6 steps in the thought process there, the idea is that when God speaks He uses metaphors, metaphors and illustrations, all literature is built on metaphor, and it’s apparently the only way that He has of communicating spiritual truth. When you look at the metaphors of the New Testament that describe salvation, basically we’re one species in Adam and another species in Christ. We don’t transmute from being in Adam to Christ, we are created anew in Christ, so we can’t bridge, there’s not a roadway, there’s not a continuous road that leads from Adam to Christ. There’s no pathway across the saved, unsaved boundary. That’s why we believe in regeneration, that it has to be by a regenerating act of the Holy Spirit that we become Christians. We are born again, born again into a new species. That whole idea of a new species is relevant if God is making species anyway in the natural universe around us that transmute, and that’s why Paul in that passage, there’s no question in 1 Corinthians 15 he had Genesis 1 on his mind. Why does he have Genesis 1 on his mind? Because it’s the only way he has of revealing the mystery of resurrection, that we are created in Adam with a natural body, we’re born again in Christ, we share His resurrection body. There’s no half natural-half resurrection body. There’s a gap there, and so that idea of these uncrossable gaps is inherent, it’s the way the Bible works.
You see that another place in the Mosaic Law Code where diet is used; there are dietary restrictions and you still see it in the kosher food stores. In fact you’ll see that Hebrew word in the kosher food store, that is a Hebrew word, it’s “kosher” and that’s the word that’s used in the Old Testament for the separation, so the idea there is that you have a dietary restriction between clean and unclean food. There’s no half way between it, it even gets so fanatical in the Mosaic Law that you could not wear clothing that was a mixture of fiber, that the fiber had to be of one kind or another kind, but you didn’t mix fibers. Why is there this passion at categorization? We believe it’s inherent to Christian theology. If you think about it, it’s inherent to meaning. If everything blends into everything else, how do you label anything? If I label this as a chair, it’s obviously not the floor; what would a half chair, half floor look like? You’d have some goo that you see in these computer effects where the chair just slurps down and becomes the floor, but that’s all computer-eeze, that’s just a hypothesis, a conjecture that we can have high tech conjectures now. But they’re still conjectures. The Scripture holds that you have these inherent things because otherwise words and language mean nothing. What is a noun? A noun is a label of something. So if you have a noun, you have a noun here it means piano, bench, chair, floor, God, man. And if you’re going to smear all this together and allow transmutation ideas, the Continuity of Being, ultimately what you’ve done is you’ve rendered language useless, because language requires a category to get the nouns to work. Nouns don’t work on a continuum.
This is why in the history of science, up until, in fact, there’s still today some theoretical mathematicians that don’t believe that irrational numbers exist, that an irrational number would be one, like for example you have two, fours, an integer, you have one-half, one-sixteenth, so one is made up of integers, and those are called rational numbers. Well, the Greeks were playing around with triangles one day and they discovered, oh-oh, the Pythagorean form of a triangle, x square plus y square equals z squared on the hypotenuse, and they discovered when they go to solve that equation with the hypotenuse they get a square root of two. Oh-oh, what’s that, and they couldn’t express it as a fraction, they couldn’t express it as an integer, so the Greek called it an irrational number, meaning they couldn’t think about it. And if you think about it, it’s ironic, but there’s not a computer today that handles irrational numbers, every computer deals with rational numbers because every computer truncates numbers. In a registry of a computer you only have so many digits, and every digit is base ten, or hexadecimal, or zero one, binary numbers, so a computer today can never… p doesn’t exist in a computer, the square root of 2 doesn’t exist in a computer, a computer doesn’t generate those numbers. It’s generating approximations to those numbers. My whole point in raising this is that even with our high tech computers today we have problems making a continuum. Is there a continuum in the universe? There’s not a continuum in God because there’s three in one, they’re distinct, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it’s not the Father and the Son kind of goo into each other; they’re distinct.
So that’s why I keep making this as a big thing. I could spend a lot of time going through the text, this detail and that, I just trust you can read the text, we’re all literate. What we want to deal with is the big ideas of the text, and this is a fundamental idea, it’s a building block of truth, and if we let this go at the first step, we’re dead; down the road we’re dead. And people who know the game that’s being played here know very well where it leads, because in our own century we have people called existentialists, and the linguistic philosophers, and what are they doing? They’re all going to mysticism. Why are they going to mysticism? Because they believe, with deep conviction, that language is insufficient, language has certain boundaries, you can’t transgress it, so we’ll just start language, we’ll go on how I feel. And that’s the origin of this mysticism.
Now it’s not to say that there aren’t thoughts that God has that we can’t ever understand, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways saith the Lord.” We’re not denying the incomprehensibility of God, but we’re saying that even those things that are incomprehensible to us aren’t incomprehensible to Him. He has a plan at least, we may not know it, but He has a plan, and that’s the dilemma of our faith. When Abraham, when we get to Abraham and this great trial, because that’s going to be the story of faith, Abraham has a problem, point after point in his life in this family feud that goes on for three or four generations, the poor guy is always faced with a crisis. And he never gets an idea of how it’s going to work out, because God never reveals ahead of time how it’s going to work out to Abraham. Abraham and Sarah, these big discussions, what are we going to do now, but they don’t really know, God promises that He’s going to do thus and such, but He doesn’t tell them how He’s going to do it.
And He really surprises you, how He brings His promises to pass in history. And it’s just a refutation that we can sit here with our pompous knowledge and control God’s thoughts. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re simply arguing that there’s intelligence, and design, and purpose behind everything, and we know some of those purposes, but we don’t know a lot of the other purposes. But that doesn’t mean the purpose doesn’t exist. If somebody dies in your home with a tragic death, there’s a reason for that. Now I can be bitter toward God, I can react to God, why did He ever allow this, but He had a reason, it wasn’t nothing, it wasn’t an Accident, capital “A,” a big chaos thing like a piece of turbulent smoke or something drifting around, there was a purpose in it, and we’ve got to hold to that. That’s why it’s either creation or nothing. It’s either the Genesis text or nothing. So our faith roots in the faithfulness of God, and the necessity of going back to the text.
Tonight we reviewed creation, next week we’ll remind us of just the basics, the fall, the flood, and the covenant, and by that time I’ll have notes to hand out and we’ll start going into the first topic, the big topic is the rise of nations and races and how continents are populated. Then we’re going to discuss why all that’s rejected, and that’s the significance of the call of Abraham. The call of Abraham is also an indictment upon the human race; the human race didn’t cut it, so God had to start a new work in a special subset of the human race, called the Jews. And the fact He had to do that says there’s something wrong with all of our national backgrounds, all of our racial backgrounds, all of our languages, there’s a corruption in it, and it’s so corrupt that God in His plan of salvation could not use any of our races, any of our cultures, He had to create an entirely new vehicle for His work. So that’s the significance of the call of Abraham. It levels all the human race down, cuts us all down, there’s no super race, one race isn’t better than the other, one culture isn’t better than the other, they’re all depraved. So we’re all down on the zero level, but it doesn’t mean we’re not magnificent in art, cultures, etc. the pyramids of Egypt, marvelous engineering, done by the sons of Noah.
What I’d like you to do is just remind yourself of that curve, we studied it last year, renew and think about that curve, what would history look like if I literally believed in Genesis 11, if those people had those life spans in the sequence in which they’re found, what would that mean. That’s the thing we’re going to work on for a couple of weeks, the implication of this, it’s a stunning implication as far as the rise of civilization, how fast it rose, why you have Ziggurats in the Mesopotamian valley, you go down to the Nile River and you find these pyramids, and you find the most magnificent ones early, and the ones that were made later are less magnificent. Why is there a deterioration rather than an increase? What was the brilliance of the men who first did this? They knew navigation, they knew celestial navigation to the degree, those pyramids are so structured that little hicks that just gave up bananas a couple of weeks ago didn’t build the pyramids.
They were brilliant people, and they are the sons of Noah that are listed in Genesis 10-11, those are the pyramid builders, those are the fathers of the Indians, those are the fathers of the Negroid races, those are the fathers of the Caucasian race, those are our fathers, and we want to study our fathers and their interaction, why there are wars in history, why the globe seems polarized over this Middle Eastern thing, again, century after century the Middle East fight between the Jew and the Gentile precedes Abraham, it goes all the way back to Shem, and Ham, and the conflict there. There’s been conflict in the Middle East all the way, almost back to the time of Noah Himself, and it says something, there’s something structural, there’s no politicians going to solve it, no peace treaty that’s going to mend it over. It’s sad but it has something to do with the way God is sovereignly working history. So there’s the emphasis.
Last year it was all science and this and that, this year it’s more going to be law, lawyers, it’s going to deal with archeology a little bit, dating of civilizations and political thought. There’s a lot of political thought in the Old Testament, insights into political institutions, their limitations. And rarely do you ever hear this; rarely do you ever hear this! I was talking to Eric, he’s gone to Russia now, he was saying the Russian Christians are living in a survival mode, and it’s sad but the Russian soul is so passive politically, because the Russians have never seen the Biblical doctrine of politics unleashed. We Americans take democracy and constitutional government, we did till the last few generations, we took it like it was just “everybody knows that.” No, everybody doesn’t know that, we were blessed singularly, because in this colony of Massachusetts we had a group of people that took the political implications of the Bible very seriously and they were so nasty and so dogmatic and so obstinate about it that they embedded it on the American soul. That’s our heritage, but it comes out of the Bible. And the poor Russian people have never had that, and that’s why they’re trampled under foot by every dictator that comes along, they just feel like, well, you can’t fight city hall kind of approach. We’ll just see about that, is that the way the prophets handled themselves in the Old Testament, you can’t fight city hall?
Is that why the prophets walked in and told off David, the king? Can you imagine anybody going in and telling off the Pharaoh of Egypt? He’d be decapitated. Amazing thing, nowhere in all of ancient history did you have the authority that you had in the Israeli monarchy, and nowhere did you have the humility in the institution. How did they get that mixture? How could Amos, a simple lay person, walk into the king and say “You’re wrong!” You don’t find that in pagan culture. And that’s why the poor Russians, who have never seen what Biblical politics look like, can’t handle themselves today, whether they have the vote or they don’t have the vote, because they don’t have the culture background, don’t have the values, don’t have the tools, never had the tools. And we’re rapidly going down to the point where we’re just fragmenting too, in the sense we’re fragmenting into this group, that group, this group and every group has its rights, and this groups defines its right, and that group defines it’s rights. Wait a minute, a right has to be a universal, it has to be common to all groups. But you see, there’s no longer a source for universals because the faith is gone.
Watch what’s going to happen in America. You’re going to see fragmentation. We could vulcanize in our country just like Yugoslavia did, between one group and another group because the transcendental universals are slipping away from us. And we, the Christians, are the only ones left with transcendentals, with universals. If we can’t show to the world that our different cultures can mix under Christ, under the Word of God, this country’s had it. I always love to hear on Sunday when Jik gets up and prays, I always think of Jik as a picture of what the ancient patriarch must have looked at, because here’s this man who is so thoroughly Persian. Jik is so thoroughly Persian, so utterly different from us Europeans, a completely different culture, and here he is, on the Board of Elders, we love the guy, have fellowship with him, we don’t think of him as a foreigner, we think of him as a brother in Christ. But do you realize that he is as different from most of us as any two races on earth. There’s a good example.
So we have the tool “in Christ” of dealing with this, but we’re very few and far between in this country. All the yak, yak, yak about rights, rights, rights, rights is just fragmenting us to pieces. Those are some of the themes that I hope we learn in the Old Testament passages, some good stuff in there, it’s just not usually taught, and we usually skip over it in Christian circles because we’re always talking about the New Testament, New Testament, New Testament, hey, two-thirds of the Bible is the Old Testament, why not talk about that. So we’re going to talk about that.
Someone asks about set of notes from last year: Clough replies: My wife was afraid you’d ask that. No, we have chunks and pieces; unfortunately we have no complete set of notes from last year. The quickest way would be to talk to somebody who has a notebook so you can see what we did.