David Yoon and Stanley Porter exemplify grace in their remembrance of one whom they didn’t exactly see eye to eye with in technical and theological matters. Christians don’t necessarily have to forge alliances to show respect. God gives a unique ministry to each believer and none have arrived to perfection. May we love God more as we come to know Him better and be kind to all.
Robert L. Thomas, ThD, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary, passed away the morning of September 6, 2017. He was born on June 4, 1928 in Atlanta, GA, graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering (this might explain his approach to Greek), and, after a brief […]
If a person believes only what they can see, hear, or sense such as archaeological evidence from an earlier epoch, that person is their own arbiter and so is playing God. They are their own reference (or what other humans reference-they being an extension) and so only believe what can be sensed in some way. Unless a record exists from an earlier time, they will not accept testimony of an event. This is the case of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt for many- no record of it in Sinai, so it didn’t happen. I am reminded of a verse in John 14.17: The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
In everyday life we depend upon the laws of nature (so called) to function and physical laws are comforting and predictable for us. God made these predictable laws for our benefit but He overrides them at times for various reasons. Such is the case of Israel’s wanderings in Sinai.
Richard Elliot Friedman, in his forthcoming book writes:
Some archaeologists had said, “We’ve combed the Sinai and didn’t find anything.” But an Israeli archaeologist laughed at that claim and told me, “It was
five jeeps.” It was a survey, not an excavation of the whole Sinai
Peninsula. Moreover, even if we had excavated the whole Sinai,
what could we find that people traveling from Egypt to Israel
around thirty-three hundred years ago would have left that we
would dig up now? A piece of petrified wood with “Moses loves
Zipporah” carved in it? An Israeli archaeologist told me that a
vehicle that was lost in Sinai in the 1973 war was found recently
under sixteen meters of sand. Sixteen meters down in forty years
(a biblical number)! Finding objects thirty-three hundred years
down presents a rather harder challenge. And, above all, our archaeological
work did not turn up evidence to show that an exodus
did not happen. What it turned up was nothing, an absence of
evidence. And some archaeologists then interpreted this nothing
to be proof that the event did not happen. On the other side, people
who challenged such interpretations were fond of quoting the
old principle: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
As Friedman says, what is expected to be found in Sinai? Israel lived in tents and moved around instead of building dwellings. Manna was given them every day except the Sabbath for which they were given twice as much the day before. Their clothes and sandals were miraculously preserved (Dt. 8.4, 29.5, Neh. 9.21). God sustained Israel for 40 years in Sinai through intervening the laws of nature for them. So mounting an expedition or digging in the Sinai wilderness looking for clues of Israeli data will be futile. As with other miracles, no data of it is preserved since that is the nature of miracles-it is an imposition of the normal course of events by a supernatural agent.
The ‘tenor of scripture’ implies everyone knows God. Humans do not need to analyze the world to find God. Here is an excerpt of a sermon by Douglas Douma who expounds this idea: https://douglasdouma.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/sermon-on-romans-118-32/
I. All men know God. (vs. 19-22)
Paul begins this passage with some very interesting statements about man’s knowledge of God.
His claim is that there are no atheists! Though there are some people who profess to be atheists, Paul tells us that in truth all men know God. But in their sin, men suppress their knowledge of God.
But HOW do all men know God? We haven’t seen him, so how can we be sure that he exists?
Paul says, “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world.”
Some theologians have held that Paul is essentially stating a form of what has been known as “The Design Argument for the Existence of God.”
The Design Argument is essentially that since the universe appears to have design to it, it must have a Designer; there must be a God.
Thomas Aquinas, the great Catholic theologian, held this view. He basically borrowed it from the Pagan Aristotle. Some Protestants have also held this view. The most famous representative is William Paley and his “Watchmaker Argument.” Paley contended that just as when you find a complex watch on the ground and make the inference that it was made by a designer, so when you see the complex universe around you, you can correctly infer that a God designed it.
So this is one view of what Paul is saying in Romans 1:20 when he writes, “God’s invisible attributes have been clearly perceived, ever since the beginning of the world.”
There has been a long history of debate, however, on the validity of such “Design arguments.” And there may even be good reason to think there are flaws in the argument.
Fortunately, there is, I think, a better view of what Paul is saying. Rather than understanding Paul to be saying “When you look at nature you come to know God” I think he is best understood as saying “YOU ALREADY KNOW GOD, and so when you look at nature, you can understand that He is the cause of it all.”
This may be a surprising thing to hear. Rather than making arguments for the existence of God, many Reformed theologians argue that the Bible teaches that we are BORN with a knowledge of God. It is INNATE in our minds. Similarly, the law of God is “written on our hearts.”
It is because we retain an element of God’s Image in us that we know God already. We know him innately, or as John Calvin says we have the “sense of the divine,” the “sensus divinitatus” and thus when we look at nature, already knowing God in our minds, we attribute the great things we see to His power.
b. Therefore, all men are without excuse. (vs. 20b)
Therefore, as we continue in Paul’s argument, since all men are born with a knowledge of God, and understand his power to be evident in the world, all men are without excuse when they do not worship or obey Him.
God is even known to those who are born blind, because knowledge of God is within all men from birth. Therefore, there is no excuse.
You may have had someone question you, “What about the man who lives on a far away island, and has never heard of the Bible, shouldn’t he be given a pass by God if he does not believe?”
How do you think Paul would answer?
He would say “By no means!” [one of his favorite phrases] Because all men — even those on far away islands — are born with a knowledge of God, they are without excuse.
As will become a stronger and stronger theme as we continue in the book of Romans, no one is righteous. All people need the grace of God for salvation. They need his righteousness as a gift to them.
II. All men are unrighteousness.
So, knowing there is a God, but then ignoring Him and acting according to one’s own desires, the unrighteousness of man is clearly seen.