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Thursday, February 24, 2005

How God Speaks

As we think about suffering, many people struggle with the fact that God seems to be silent. We're not alone. Job wrestled with this very thing as God allows Satan to visit all manner of affliction upon him (go read Job 1-2 and see how casually God allows Job's life to be tragically altered).

The tension reaches its climax when Job finally cries out in anguish:
"Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I want to know how he would answer me." (Job 23:3-4).
The guy sounds ticked, and who can blame him?

This gist of his complaint, however, is NOT the fact that he is suffering. Job is no whiner - he's willing to take his licks - he just wants to know WHY. He asks God to give some kind of explanation. And God turns him down cold: "Who are you to question me?" (Job 40:2).

Maybe its just me, but I tend to empathize with the guy. I have a feeling unbelievers would agree (most of us Xians are way to pietistic for that). There are many times when we wish God would just speak. Reveal himself. Say something audibly. Face to face, man to man (cf. Job 16:21). If you really want me to believe in you, God, why don't you show yourself???

And this is the part that bugs me: God says he has.

God says that he speaks to us through Moses and the Prophets (ie. his Scriptures, cf. John 5:46). And Scripture says that Jesus is God's Word (John 1) - "In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Heb 1:2).

God says something equally audacious, however - he says that he also speaks to us through his creation. Not only that, he says we hear every word of it.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words whose voice is not heard" (Ps 19:1-3).
That's a pretty serious claim. God says that all creation screams to us about God, pointing us in his direction. How can this be? How does a rock, or flower, or an apple tree tell me anything about God? A guy named Van Til embraces this idea, saying every single "fact" in the universe actually points us to God. He illustrates by asking us to consider that apple tree...
As any scientist knows, apples come from apple trees and are good for eating. But where do the apple trees come from. Ultimately, every secular scientist will say that the trees are a product of evolution, that is, trees are NOT designed by God. (Nataro, 39)
In other words, for the unbeliever, apple trees don't say anything about God. Yet in making that very statement, we ourselves are actually saying something about God (that he doesn't speak through apple trees), and about what/how he should speak (verbally, with a message I like).

Van Til likes to say, "every statement about the physical universe implies, in the last analysis, some view about the 'spiritual' realm" (Bahnsen, 209). Modern science does this all the time.
Nothing is so evident from the writings of scientists today as the fact that they are constantly making statements and drawing conclusions about the noumenal world on the ground of their studies of the phenomenal world which they are first supposed to have undertaken without reference to the noumenal world. They are constantly speaking about the nature of Reality as a whole (Bahnsen, 296-7).
Scripture says all creation (including apple trees) tells us about God. We say all creation tells us nothing about God. But make no mistake, both Christians and unbelievers are saying plenty about God. About what he should or shouldn't do. About how he should or shouldn't behave.

We have a vested interest in a God who does not speak, because we believe God's silence will excuse our unbelief. But none of us is neutral. And this is precisely where Scripture challenges our claims.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. His invisible attributes...have been clearly the things that have been made." (Rom 1:18-20).
We should all be honest and admit at least one thing: God's got balls. If I were going to write the Bible, there's no way in Hades I pitch it the way he does. It sounds way too harsh. Intolerant even. But then again, I'm not God, as much as I sometimes try to be.

That's actually one of the things I appreciate about Scripture (and one of the reasons why I think it IS God's word) - it doesn't candy coat anything. It throws it right out there for everyone to see and says, "Hey, this is the way it is. Deal with it."

But that's the problem. We can't. We are addicted to ourselves, and we're living in denial.

Scripture is honest about the human condition. God says we are far worse than we think we are. We suppress the truth. We try to claim ignorance. But Scripture says that deep down, we all know the truth - that God exists and is calling us to respond on his terms, not our own.

One thing is painfully clear - we can't both be right.

So what about God's silence? Why doesn't he just say something verbally so we'd know for sure? Actually, Scripture and Jesus both claim that he HAS spoken (and they both have an awful lot to say). The problem is that most of the time I'm not particularly fond of WHAT they are saying, because it shows me for what I am - a sinner who loves himself with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

Look, even if God did speak directly to me, right this moment, what would prevent me from just writing it off as some freak psychological phenomenon? I must be overworked, underappreciated, suffer from low self fill in the blank.

You see, we could ALWAYS find a way of writing it off if we didn't like what he says. And that's exactly what he says about us - we are people who don't like God's we suppress the truth. And in so doing we pit ourselves against God. I make myself his enemy, rather than his friend (Rom 5:10).

But Jesus also brings us a word of hope - "Cheer up, you're worse than you could possibly imagine, but my grace is better than you could ever dream." Christ offers us amnesty. He does not promise to take away the pain, but he does promise to lead us through it, to use it to make us more like him. Just like he did with Job:
"Now my eye sees you; there fore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (42:6).
You see, the problem is not so much with God as it is with me. He does speak. The real question is whether or not I am willing to listen to what he says.


At 7:45 AM, February 25, 2005, Blogger Terry Finley said...

Thanks for your neat blog.

I invite you to visit my blog and to study the Bible with me.

Terry Finley

At 8:20 AM, February 25, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

I'm curious what parts you find 'neat'?

Do you mean, 'its nice to see you wrestling w/ God, issues of unbelief in your own heart, etc'?

Or is it more along the lines of 'good grief this guy's messed up, I better find a way to say something nice and hopefully redirect him to my site and straighten him out'?

I'm trying hard not to be cynical here. :-)

I ask because the title of your blog makes it sound like everything in the Bible is cut and dried, and frankly, the more I look at Scripture the more I find that is hard and difficult and confusing and challenging.

(and please note: it's not a shortcoming of Scripture; it's a shortcoming with me - I'm not doubting God here; if anything I have no option but to trust him more all the time as I continue to realize just how much there is to doubt about me).

*sigh*...I've probably just trashed someone who is genuinely enthusiastic about my comments. If so, please forgive me...

Maybe you can tell us how you think God reveals himself in creation?


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