The God Who Is There | Part 1 | The God Who Made Everything
Articles
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– [Don Carson] Hello. My name is Don
Carson. You are watching the first in a series of 14 talks given in
Minneapolis in early 2009. These talks are designed
to help you find out what the Bible says. More
accurately, they’re designed to introduce you to God as He is talked
about in the Bible, as He discloses Himself in events, in narrative,
in worship, in love, in holiness, through the pages of this book.
If you know nothing about the Bible, but would like to learn, this
series is for you. If quite frankly, you are in principle skeptical
about whatever the Bible says, your first step ought to be finding out
what it says. And so this series is for you, too. If you have become a
believer in Jesus only recently and worry that you know far too little about the
Bible, this series is for you as well. Some of you will watch the video series or
listen to the corresponding audio series, perhaps in your car, and nothing more.
That’s fine. But some may want to dig a little deeper. But before you start, let
me warn you. Whether you are beginning this series out of the mildest curiosity
or are embarking on it out of a passionate hunger to know and to trust and
worship the God of the Bible, I am quite sure that at least some of you
will find yourselves strangely drawn to this God. You may find in delighted and
shocked astonishment that you can no longer push Him away. Some of you,
He will capture. You’ll probably find it easier to follow this series if you have a
Bible at hand. I’ll explain in the series how the Bible is organized and how
to find things in it as we go along. So sit down and let me have your undivided
attention for a few minutes as we begin at the beginning and think about
the God who made everything. It is an enormous privilege for
me to be with you for this series, “The God Who Is There.”
Before plunging into the first talk, it might be helpful if I tell you
where we’re going in this series. There was a time in the Western world
when many people had read the Bible reasonably thoroughly, and therefore,
they knew how it was put together. Even those who were atheists were,
shall I say, Christian atheists. That is to say, the God they disbelieved
in was the God of the Bible. Their understanding of the God whom they
found incredible was nevertheless in some measure shaped by their reading
of the Bible. But today, of course, there is a rising number of people who
really don’t know how the Bible works at all. They have never really read it.
And so the first place to begin in trying to understand what Christianity ought to
be, who Jesus is, is to start, again, by reading the Bible. There are
lots of ways in which we could in theory talk about Christianity.
We could, for example, do a brief survey of the history of the
Christian Church. Or we might start analyzing what Christians in
various parts of the world believe. But the best way to get at
it is to examine Christianity’s foundation documents.
There are 66 of them. They vary in length from one page to small
books. They were written over a period of 1,500 years in 3 languages. The
biggest part was written in Hebrew, a very tiny part was written in a language
like Hebrew called Aramaic, and the last part was written in
Greek. So all of our Bibles today, the Bibles that we hold in our hands and
pick up and read at leisure, all of these, of course, are translations of what was
originally given in these languages. These 66 foundation documents are
astonishingly diverse in form and literary genre. Some are letters,
some are oracles, some are written in poetry, some are laments.
They have genealogies. They have sections that are said
to be oracles from God Himself. Some are horrible wrestlings as believers
try to understand what on earth God is doing. Some are written in a genre
that we just don’t use anymore. We call it apocalyptic literature,
we’ll come to that next week, with astonishing symbolism that is
visually striking. And then on top of that, they are astonishingly varied
as well in terms of accessibility. Some parts, you can read, and
anybody with an ability to read a novel today can make sense of the text,
and other parts are full of symbolism that is archaic, no longer used today,
out of date, because it is located at a certain time in history. Now, all of
these foundation documents have been put together, and when they’re
put together, they form “The Book.” That’s all “Bible” means. It’s the
book. It’s the book of Christianity’s foundation documents, and we
who are Christians insist that God has disclosed Himself supremely in the
pages of these documents. In this series, I shall sketch in what the Bible
says so as to make sense of what Christianity means, what Christianity
looks like if it is constrained by its own foundation documents because,
truth must be said, very often, Christians themselves have abandoned those
foundation documents and betrayed the very heritage that they have received.
The Christian claim, however, is that this Bible discloses the God who
is there. Now, in this first session, we reflect on the God who made everything,
and we begin by the first book in this collection called Genesis. These
books are put together with chapters and verses. That is, if you
open the Bible anywhere, you’ll find a break with a big number,
that’s a heading of a chapter, and then some small numbers.
If you’re not familiar with the Bible, if you’ve never read it at all,
the easiest thing to do to orientate yourself is to open up to the first few
pages, where you’ll find in the series order within the Bible, all the
names of the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
and so on, all the way through, the whole 66. And then you’ll get the page
number and you can find the book, and then you’ll see there’s a chapter
number and a verse number. So if I say something like,
“Genesis 1:26,” I mean the first book of the Bible, the first chapter, verse 26.
And over the course of these 14 sessions, I’ll be referring to a lot of books
of the Bible, a lot of passages. You won’t have time to look
them all up, but it’s all recorded. You can look them up later. And
that’s how you find them if you have not become familiar with handling the
Bible in the past. So we begin then with Genesis 1. I’m not going to read the
whole chapter, but I want to pick up parts of it and into Chapter 2. This is
what the opening line of the Bible says. “In the beginning God
created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering
over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the
darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness, He called
night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”
And then in successive days, various things are created by this God who
says, “Let there be this” or “Let there be that.” And occasionally,
there is a refrain added. At the end of verse 10,
“And God saw that it was good.” So, eventually, you get to day 5, and
the water teems with living creatures and birds fly above the earth across the
vault of the sky. “God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and
moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds.”
And then the sixth day, “Let the land produce living creatures
according to their kinds, livestock, creatures that move along the ground,
wild animals, each according to its kind.” And at the end of the description,
“And God saw that it was good.” Then God said, “Let us make human
beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish
in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild
animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So
God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God,
He created them. Male and female, He created them. God blessed them and
said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in numbers. Fill the earth and subdue it.
Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living
creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every
seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit
with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the
earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground,
everything that has the breath of life in it, I give every green plant for food.”
And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very
good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the
seventh day, God had finished the work He had been doing.
So on the seventh day, He rested from all His work. Then
God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it, He rested
from all the work of creating that He had done. And then in the rest of
Chapter 2, there is a kind of expansion on the creation of human beings
that we’ll come to in due course. Now, because much of 21st-century culture
is convinced that contemporary scientific thought is fundamentally incompatible
with the opening chapters of Genesis, I’d better say something about the
approach I adopt here. Four things, number 1, there is more ambiguity in the
interpretation of these chapters than some Christians recognize.
Some Christians are convinced, for example, that this pair of chapters,
read responsibly, insist that the world is not more than 4,000 years
older than the coming of Jesus. Others insist that it is entirely
compatible with vast ages. Some think that each day represents an age. Others
insert a huge gap between verse 1 and verse 2. Some see this as a literary
device. Creation week is a creation week, all right, but it is symbol-laden and full
of other things rather than describing a literal week. Others devote their energy
to comparing it with other creation accounts in the ancient world in which it
was written. In the Babylonian era, for example, there was a document called
the Enuma Elish, which describes the creation of the world. And they
try to say that the Christian documents are basically shaped along
the lines of those Babylonian myths. There are huge diversities of opinion
amongst Christians, let alone amongst those who want to write the entire
account off. What shall we do with this? I hold that this is transparently a mixed
genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical
details. That is, by history, I don’t mean that which has been written
down at the time, but that which takes place in space-time reality. Yet it
is full of demonstrable symbolism, and sorting out what is symbolic
and what is not is very difficult. Now, how we shall negotiate that,
I will tell you in a moment. Second, there is more ambiguity
in the claims of science than some scientists recognize. Recently, of course,
the media have focused on the fresh literary adventures of people like Richard
Dawkins,The God Delusion,Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others.
Together, their writings comprise what is now sometimes called the new
atheism. And correspondingly, there are robust responses that
have been written of various sorts. All of these books are predicated on the
assumption of philosophical materialism, that is, all that exists, all that
can exist, is matter, energy, space, and time, nothing else.
So that anything that claims to go beyond that or belong to some domain that
cannot be reduced to that must necessarily be dismissed, even laughed at,
as the trailing edge of an antecedent superstition that was declared foolish a
long time ago and should immediately be abandoned. And yet I personally
know many front-rank scientists who are Christians. I have spoken in many
universities, and one of the surprising things that I have observed is that if I
go to nearby local churches and meet some of the faculty in the universities that
are attending these local churches and are committed believers, there actually
tends to be a preponderance of science teachers and math teachers and
the like over against arts and psychology and English literature teachers.
It’s not really that anybody who’s a scientist can’t be a Christian.
Statistically, that really is, with all respect, nonsense.
So I’m impressed, for example, by the little book by Mike Poole,
God and the Scientist,or another one edited by Dembski calledUncommon
Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find
Darwinism Unconvincing.There
is more debate going on than is sometimes perceived. But even
if you allow some understanding of origins that belongs to the dominant
modern paradigm in which our entire known universe developed out of a big bang,
something like 15 billion years ago, from highly condensed,
unimaginably condensed, everything, a big bang that eventually became our
universe, even if you subscribe to that, whether under the aegis of God or not,
sooner or later, you are forced to ask the question, “Where did that highly
condensed material come from?” Now, here, some get very, very clever.
There’s a book by Alan Guth calledThe Inflationary Universe,and he
tries to work it out that this very, very condensed material which ultimately
exploded in the big bang emerged out of nothing. And if you say that the
physics doesn’t work, he says , “Yes, but, at the big bang, there is what physicists
call a singularity.” A singularity is an occurrence in which the normal
laws of physics no longer work. What that means we don’t really have
any access to them. At that point, it’s a wild of speculation,
which causes a critic by the name of Berlinski to write, “A lot
of stuff that gets into print is simply nonsensical. Alan Guth’s derivation
of something from nothing is simply incandescent horse manure.” Now,
he uses another word for manure, but I spare you. “Don’t tell me you’re
deriving something from nothing when it’s transparently obvious to any mathematician
that this is incandescent nonsense.” In other words, there are complications in
the domain of science that show that there is not simply a solid wall, a solid
front that makes it impossible for Christians who want to bow to the
authority of Scripture and Christians who really want to learn from science to
talk intelligently with each other. Third, whatever one makes of intelligent
design, one of the dominant debates of the day, whatever one makes of
intelligent design as a scientific theory, there is a version of it which I find
almost inescapable. Let me explain. During the last 25 years, there
have been groups of people, mostly Christians but some
non-Christians amongst them as well, who point to what they call
irreducible complexity. That is, structures in the human being that
are so complex that it is statistically impossible to imagine how they could have
come to be by chance or chance-mutation or mere selection of the fittest or any of
the standard appeals that are made in traditional Darwinism. This
irreducible complexity demands that you postulate a designer. Now,
there are some non-believers who argue that point, and, of course, there
are many Christian who argue that point. Then some argue back,
many unbelievers and believers, “Yes, yes, yes, but that might simply mean that we
don’t know enough about the mechanisms. If you start filling God in wherever
we don’t have an explanation, then you’re putting God into the gaps of
our ignorance, but as we learn more, then the gaps get filled up and God gets
smaller. We don’t need a God of the gaps.” And so the debate continues. Well,
whatever you make of that debate, it’s interesting, the literature is
already voluminous, what I find interesting is that many, many
writers who are not Christians in any sense by their own declaration sometimes
speak of their marvel almost to the level of what I would call worship at the
unimaginable complexity and splendor and glory of the universe. There’s
a fascinating book by Frank Rees, Rees without an E at the end, R-E-E-S,
who titles his volume,Just Six Numbers:The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe.
These numbers are bound up with physical realities such that if the realities that
these numbers describe were just a little higher in number or just a little lower in
number, the universe as we know it couldn’t exist. Just exactly the right
distance between one particle and another particle at the subatomic level.
Just six numbers. How did that happen? Or others describe the astonishing
complexity of the eyeball, and although they may be completely
philosophical materialists in their orientation, they are
so impressed by the complexity and glory of it all that they almost
begin to treat nature as a god. I would want to say from a Christian
point of view that their instincts are jolly good, except that there is a God who
has disclosed Himself in the glory of what we call nature. I’m not sure that it’s
right to argue from the complexity and glory of the six numbers or the
woodpecker’s tail feathers or the eyeball that you can infer in some demonstrable,
powerful way that God exists. I don’t think that at the end of the day
God is the end of the argument, the conclusion at the end.
But if you begin with this God, the testimony to His greatness in what we
see all around us is heart-stopping. It’s mind-boggling. And it takes an
enormous act of will on the part of the most cynical of scientists instead
to look at it all and say, “Agh, it’s just physics. Stop admiring it.
Don’t do that. There’s no design. It’s just molecules bumping
into molecules.” And finally, let me say then where I’m coming
from as we work through these texts. About 30 years ago, a Christian thinker by
the name of Francis Schaeffer wrote a little book calledGenesis in Space and
Time.
What he argued was that to get rid of some of these endless heated debates,
one of the ways to begin is by asking, “What is the least that Genesis 1 and
following must be saying for the rest of the Bible to make any sense?”
So I don’t want to tell you everything that I think these chapters are saying.
It would take too long in any case. We’ve got only one hour to devote to these
first two chapters. What I want to suggest to you is whatever the complexities of
symbolism and literary genre and the relationship to science and so forth,
there is an irreducible minimum that these chapters must be saying for the
Bible to have any coherence at all, and that’s what I want to lay out
for you in the next few minutes. So what do these two chapters,
Genesis 1 and 2, tell us? First, some things about God. Second,
some things about human beings. And finally, some things about how
Genesis 1 and 2 fit into the whole Bible and into our lives. So first,
some things about God. Number 1, God simply is. The Bible does not begin
by a long set of proofs to prove the existence of God. It does not begin with a
bottom-up approach, nor does it begin with some kind of adjacent
analogy or the like. It just begins, “In the beginning, God…” Now,
if human beings are the test of everything, this makes no sense at all
because then we have the right to sit back and judge whether it’s likely that God
exists, evaluate the evidence and come out with a certain probability that
perhaps god of some sort or other exists. And thus we become the judges of God.
But the God of the Bible isn’t like that. It just begins, “In the beginning, God…”
He is. He is not the object whom we evaluate. He is the Creator who has
made us, which changes all the dynamics. This is bound up with some developments in
Western thought that we should appreciate. Before the Renaissance, even
right through the early part of the Renaissance, really down
to the time of the Reformation, most people in the Western world
presupposed that God exists and that He knows everything. Human beings exist,
and because God knows everything, what we know must necessarily be
some small subset of what He knows. In other words, all of our knowledge,
because He knows everything, must be a subset of what He
knows exhaustively and perfectly. That means that all of our knowledge in
this way of looking at reality must come in some sense by God disclosing what He
knows, by God disclosing it in nature, by God disclosing it by His Spirit,
by God disclosing it in the Bible. That that was simply presupposed.
But with the rise in the 1600s of what is now called Cartesian thought, under
the influence of Rene Descartes and those who followed him,
the way of thinking about knowledge changed, and the
axiom that more and more people based their knowledge upon was the
axiom that Descartes introduced to us, although others had said something similar
earlier, “I think, therefore, I am.” He thought that that was a foundation for
knowledge. You couldn’t deny that you were thinking even if you weren’t thinking.
The very fact that you were thinking showed that you exist. So he
was looking for a foundation that Christians and atheists and Muslims,
secularists, spiritual types, could all agree was indisputable.
And from this foundation and other approaches, he then gradually built
up a whole system of thought to try to convince people to become Roman
Catholics. But notice how his axiom runs. “I think, therefore, I am.”
Two hundred years earlier, no Christian would have said that
very easily because God thinks, God knows everything. If we exist,
then it’s because of God’s power. Our knowledge, even our existence,
are finally dependent upon Him. But this side of Cartesian thought,
we begin with “I.” I begin with me. And that puts me in a place where I start
evaluating, not only the world around me, but morals and history and God, so
that God now becomes simply at best the inference of my study.
That changes everything. The Bible doesn’t run along
those lines. God simply is. Second, God made everything that is
non-God. God made everything else. This introduces an irreducible distinction
between Creator and creature. God is not a creature.
In this absolute sense, we are not creators.
His existence is thus self-existence somehow.
I can use the word, I don’t really understand it very well. That is,
He has no cause, He just is. He always has been. Whereas,
by contrast, everything else in the universe began somewhere,
whether in a big bang or in human conception or somewhere. God made it all.
That means that everything in the universe apart from God is finally dependent upon
God. Number 3, there is only one of Him. This emerges strongly in the Bible.
God openly says, “Let there be this,” “Let there be that,” “God made everything,”
“He saw that it was very good.” Later on in the Bible, this
point is stressed again and again. For example, in verses that Jews
reverently recite to this day called the Shema, you find it in the fifth
book of the Bible, Deuteronomy 6. We read the words, “Hear, O Israel,
the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” There’s only one of Him. And yet,
even in this very first chapter, there is a hint of complexity to
His oneness. It’s just a hint. It’s hard to know exactly what it
means, but it is quite striking. We read through the account of creation
“God said this,” “God said that,” “God said the other.” And then when it comes
to human beings, we read, verse 26, “God said, ‘Let us make human beings in
our image.'” That could be a royal “we.” If you listen to BBC broadcasts,
you might have listened to Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II saying,
“we” and “us,” where the referent is clearly herself. And even the comics
pick it up and picture her saying, “We are not amused.” It could
be conceivably a royal reference, a kind of royal editorial “we.” But it
is striking that it’s introduced here when human beings are made and that
it goes on not only to speak of the first person plural when God says,
“Let us,” but “in our image.” You can’t build too much on that yet.
It is strange language just the same, especially in a Bible that insists again
and again and again that there is but one God. And later on,
this will get filled out in quite a variety of ways, as we’ll see. In
particular, He makes creatures who bear His image. Let me reread verses 26 to 28.
“Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule
over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the
wild animals, over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God
created human beings in His, singular, own image. In the image of God,
He created them. Male and female, He created them. And God blessed them.
Now, we’ll come back to thinking through what this language of image
bearing means in a moment. Number 4, God is a talking God. He is a talking
God. The first action that is described under this general rubric, “God
created the heavens and the earth,” is “God said, ‘Let there be light.'” Now,
you could understand this to be a kind of metaphorical way of saying that God
brought it into being by His power and He didn’t utter any words. Fine. Could be.
Except that once Adam and Eve are made, then He actually addresses them
and gives them some responsibilities. “This is what you are to do.
This is what marriage will look like.” He speaks to them. So the God of the Bible
in the very first chapter is not some abstract unmoved mover,
some spirit impossible to define, some ground of all beings,
some mystical experience. He has personality and dares to disclose
Himself in words that human beings understand. Right through the whole
Bible, that recurs and recurs and recurs. And then in the fifth place, we’re
told everything He makes is good, very good even. As the account unravels,
you discover here that there is no hint in Chapters 1 and 2 of death or decay,
of butchery, of malice, of hate, of one-upmanship, of arrogance, of pride,
of destruction. There is no hint of any of this. It is very good. And constantly,
regardless of all the complexities about God’s sovereignty in a world
where there is suffering and the like, we’ll come to more of that as we
progress in this series, constantly, the Bible insists that God is good, and
the foundations of it are already here in the first chapter. And finally, He
comes to an end of His creative work, and He rests. That is, He stops doing it.
It doesn’t mean that He’s saying, “Agh, am I tired. I’ve really got to sit
down and put my feet up.” That is rather misreading the text.
He comes to the end of His week of creation, however we understand
this week, and at the end of His creative work, He stops. He rests
and designates this seventh day in a special way. So these are some of the
things about God that these opening two chapters say right on the surface of the
text. Now some things about human beings. Number 1, they were made in the
image of God. Now, in one sense, human beings are creatures and thus
they have in common the attributes of other creatures. We know this today
from genetics. What percentage of my genes are shared with a chimp or a piglet?
And when the piglet dies and returns to the dust, he does exactly what
I do. I return to the dust, too. We’re part of this created order. And
if you keep stressing the continuity and keep stressing the continuity,
then eventually, you might come out with a kind of position that Peter
Singer adopts at Princeton University, who wants in effect all animal life to
have so far as it’s possible to work out at all exactly the kind of rights that
human beings have because after all, we’re genetically the same
stuff. We are physical beings, they are physical beings. They
live, they are born, they die, so also is our course. Genesis
doesn’t see things quite that way. It insists that human beings and human
beings alone are made in the image of God. Now, as you can imagine, that expression,
“image of God,” has over the millennia generated endless discussion. What
does it mean to be made in the image of God? And so philosophers and
theologians have written long tomes saying, “Well, it has something
to do with the facility of language. Or it has something to do
with our self-identify, of our reasoning processes,
of love that might be altruistic, of our capacity to know God,”
and so on and so on and so on. But if you were picking up this book for
the first time and read it and didn’t know anything about all these debates,
I suspect that your approach to this “image of God” language would be
a little simpler. It becomes a kind of master-concept which is filled in as
you go along. That is, we reflect God, and the ways in which we reflect God
will get filled in as the Bible unfolds. So from this first chapter,
God is a talking God. He speaks to human beings and they speak
back to Him. There is a commonality of speech, of propositions,
of knowledge that is not merely felt, but that can be articulated. There
is also something of creativity. Of course, our creativity is not
like God’s, but God makes things. He makes things out of nothing,
we don’t do that. But there is implanted in human beings, as a reflection of God
because we are made in His image, a certain creativity. We work with
our hands. My wife does spectacular needle-point and silken-meddle
thread and quilts, things like that. My daughter does the cooking,
my wife does this sort of thing. I like working with my hands in wood.
Some write. Some are remarkably creative in their physicality. I have a
son who just looks at every new physical challenge that comes along and
plunges in, and he is almost an artist as he learns scuba diving or spelunking in
a cave or…whatever the new challenge is, he is in it, and he is almost artistic in
his creative ability to explore some new challenge. Where does that come from?
By and large, that is not characteristic of elephants, black widow spiders, rocks.
And then there is the capacity to work. God is said to work all of this creation
week and then come to the end of it. And what He gives to the man and the woman
are certain responsibilities to work in this world, to tend the garden,
which is teased out across all of Scripture as something honorable.
Christians should never descend to the place where working at the manufacturing
floor or working as a secretary or working driving a bus or doing research chemistry,
that’s secular. “I do that to pay the bills, and then I’m supposed
to be spiritual on Sunday. But what I do on Sunday in spirituality,
that’s just for Sunday. Then Monday, I go back to my reagents as I try to
develop a new chemical that will fight cancer.” Rather, if it’s
God’s universe and we are made in His image, then as we work, our work,
too, reflects Him and is offered back up to Him with integrity, gratitude.
It is significant because we are made in the image of God. It changes
our perspective about who we are. And then although we have to
recognize that there are differences between God and us, there are other things
where we are similar where we reflect Him. Later on in the Bible, God
will say things like, “Be holy, for I am holy.” So proper image-bearing
ought to reflect God’s holiness. We’ll come to what holiness is a little
later on. God never says, “Be omnipotent, for I am omnipotent.” That is, “Be
all-powerful and do anything that you choose to do because I am all-powerful.”
There are some differences between the God who is the Creator and we who are
creatures. There are some differences. We’re not God. We’re His image-bearers.
We’re made in His image. And we reflect Him in certain ways.
God in the Bible is not only the Creator, He’s finally the sovereign over all.
But the fact that He puts these human beings, this man and this
woman, in charge over the rest of the created order, not to rape it,
not merely to exploit it, not to become ecologically selfish, but to
be God’s own stewards over the good world that God has made, really
makes us, I don’t know what else to call it, vice-regents.
We’re made in His image, and as God has made it all,
and we’re under Him, and charged with the responsibility
of looking after it. We’re reflecting something of God. Even the capacity to
know God, to delight in Him, is wonderful. There’s a book by Peter Williams called
I Wish I Could Believe in Meaning:A Response to Nihilism.That is,
a response to the view that we have merely emerged from the primordial muck.
Where is the meaning in this? From the Bible’s point of view, meaning
in life is bound up with the fact that we were made by God and for God
in His image with an eternal destiny. It changes our perception of
what human beings are. Otherwise, we slink into what
one philosopher has called self-referential incoherence. What
he means by this is we compare ourselves with ourselves. We have
no external standard by which anything should be judged. And
we cannot find an anchor for our being anywhere. And we then drown
ourselves in temporary pleasures or pursuit of money or self-promotion,
but there is no anchoring that locates us and gives us a meaning beyond ourselves.
There’s no scale. Human beings were made in the image of God.
And in this connection, they were made to work, to rule,
to serve as God’s stewards, to be surpassingly God-centered.
Then second, they were made male and female. Now, in Chapter 1,
where the creation account is first given, we are told, “God created
human beings in His own image.” 1:27, “In the image of God,
He created them. Male and female, He created them.” But in the second
chapter, where the creation of human beings is expanded upon,
then not only their commonality, what they hold in common,
but their differentiations are also exposed. So, Chapter 2, verse
18, “The LORD God said,” when Adam alone lived, ‘It is not good for the man
to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” Older English versions have,
“a help meet for him,” and hence, we get our word “helpmeet.”
A helper suitable for him. Now, the LORD God had formed out of the
ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the
man to see what he would name them. And whatever the man called each
living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the
livestock, the birds in the sky, all the wild animals. But for Adam,
no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man
to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s
ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman
from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.”
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his
wife, and they will become one flesh. So while the opening chapters insist
that human beings, male and female, were equally made in the image of God,
it also insists that the woman was made as a helper. But they come together in one
union, a sexual union, a marriage union, which, as the story unfolds,
develops a separate unit, generation after generation,
with the man leaving his family, the woman leaving her family,
and settling into a new relationship, the two becoming one.
That’s a little different picture of marriage than animals merely doing it
or Ancient Near Eastern harems with the most powerful monarch having the most or
woman being nothing more than chattel and possession or a decidedly intrinsically
inferior being. She comes from the man. She is one with him. Different,
transparently, but here, there is a vision of marriage which
ultimately becomes a model of a whole lot of other things throughout all of the
Bible. And then the last thing to be said about these human beings, they
were innocent. We read in the last verse of Chapter 2, “The man and his wife
were both naked, and they felt no shame.” I’m sure you’ve seen these line-drawing
cartoons of Adam and Eve in the garden, and there’s a little snake coming and an
apple hanging down from somewhere. And in these line-diagrams,
you don’t want to make them indecent, so the woman’s hair covers her breasts
appropriately, and fig leaves and other branches, they cover the man
in the appropriate slots and so forth. And then there’s some one-liner to it,
and we all giggle. But what does nakedness signify here? Do you know that there
is a theory to nudist colonies? Oh, I know some nudist colonies are
merely an excuse for rounds of orgies, I know that. But the best nudist colonies,
if I may speak of nudist colonies on a moral scale, the best nudist colonies had
a certain kind of a philosophy to them. The idea was that if you could be
completely open and transparent in one domain, then sooner or later,
you could foster openness and transparency in every domain. So we begin with physical
transparency, complete openness, and maybe down the road, we’ll all
become wonderfully open, candid, honest, caring, loving people.
Never works. But that’s the theory. And it’s that association that is behind
this text. These two had nothing to hide, and therefore, nothing to be ashamed
of. Tell me, you men, would you like your mother, wife, daughter
to know absolutely everything you think and feel? You women, would
you like your father, husband, son to know absolutely
everything you think and feel? Or even across
the same genders? We hide all kinds of things, don’t we?
Because we have so much of which we ought to be ashamed. What
would it be like never ever ever to have told a lie? Never ever ever
to have nurtured bitterness? Never ever ever to have succumbed to
controlling lust? Never ever ever to be burning up with hate? Never to
be puffed up in arrogance? Always to be loving God with heart
and soul and mind and strength? Always, always to be loving the other as
yourself? Then you’d have absolutely nothing to be ashamed
of. You’d be naked. No wonder the very word
“Eden” means delight. Now, finally, here, I’m merely
going to prime the pump. It will prepare the way for things
we’ll do in the rest of the series. Some things about how Genesis 1 and 2 fit
in the whole Bible and in our own world. Very quickly, number 1, this is a
necessary background to Chapter 3 that we’ll look at in the next hour.
Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Genesis 1 and 2 come before Genesis 3.
But without understanding how good everything is, then we cannot speak of
what happens in the chapter that we sometimes call “the fall” to show
what rebellion looks like. Number 2, this creation, this doctrine of
creation, God made everything, actually comes out again in the writings
after the coming of Jesus as new creation and ultimately a new heaven and a new
earth. That is, looking back to the old creation, which by means we’ll see,
succumbed to rebellion and hatred and idolatry and sin. What is finally needed
is for God to do a new creative act, to begin again, to create people over
again. And that, in the writing of some of the New Testament writers,
is called new creation. And we press toward a new heaven and
a new earth, the home of righteousness. We’ll come to that in our very last
session next week. The terminology is all drawn from Genesis 1 and 2. Likewise,
Adam becomes the progenitor of the race, which falls away in all kinds of ugliness
and decay, self-referentiality, idolatry. Jesus is called “the second Adam,”
that is, he begins another humanity, a new race, that works on quite different
principles. Christians must belong to this second Adam, or all that the Bible speaks
about as the gospel, the good news, just makes no sense at all.
And this theme of rest will continue as we’ll see. The theme of a new Eden
will continue as we’ll see. Above all, this vision shapes our worldview. For
example, in pagan polytheism, that is, in views of the world in which there are
many gods, the gods have different domains of operation. Here is one God who has made
it all. It’s different from the worldview, for example, of hedonism, where
the point of the exercise is simply to find as much as pleasure as you
possibly can and then you die. But here, the pursuit of pleasure is bound up with
God Himself. We were made initially by God and for God, and the best, the highest
pleasure is a God-centeredness that secular hedonists cannot possibly
imagine. Their pleasures are too fleeting, too small, too narrow. And then
pantheism teaches us that all the created world and God are all part of the
same thing. There is no differentiation. And thus I am god and you are god and
we’re all in this god-existence together. “And I’m really quite a spiritual person,
you know, and it’s the crystals that are vibrating in my system that actually
make me feel transcendently other.” I’m not mocking. This is a frame
of reference that many adopt. It simply isn’t the worldview of the
Bible. God made everything, which brings us perhaps for our purposes
to the most fundamental and striking reality of all. It’s these two chapters,
what the Bible says about creation, that grounds the notion of human
accountability, of human responsibility. In other words, why should I obey
God? I mean, if He wants to take me in directions that I don’t really like,
then I can choose other gods or invent my own. I can sing, “I did it my way.”
I can simply declare my independence. Who is He to
boss me around? Unless He made me.
He designed me. And I owe Him everything,
life and breath and everything, such that if I don’t see it that way,
then I am out of line with my maker. I am out of line with the one who
designed me. I am the one that is fighting against myself as God made me.
For all of human accountability, all of human responsibility before
God is grounded in the first instance on creation. He made
us, and we owe Him. And it’s for our good
that we recognize it, not because He is the supreme
bully, but because without Him, we wouldn’t
even be here. And now we’re set up for the Bible’s
analysis of what’s wrong with us. Let’s take a break.

This video series is excellent and well worth the time to watch.  It is an overview of what the Bible says about God, but it's not just a surface view – there is some good, solid information here.  Don Carson explains many items of the Bible in a very clear way.  I started watching this with the attitude of, "Hmmm, 14 videos – that's a lot of time to spend" but it did not take very long for me to realize just how informative and useful this information is.  If you don't know the Bible, this is a wonderful "introduction".  If you do know the Bible, this just might bring out some things you possibly did not think of or didn't really pay any attention to.  This video series was well worth my time, and one I can see reviewing again in the future.  God Bless!

Je vien  de partager un lien à un ami anglophone qui, je pense, va apprécier cette série. Je suis rendu au 3ème vidéo et je dois dire que ma foi est beaucoup fortifiée!
Je recommande fortement!
Gloire à Dieu!

As a student of the Bible for 43 years, D.A. Carson's presentation is as refreshing today as it was reading the Bible for the first time. Well worth watching as well as reading the printed work or audio.

There is most definitely NOT an invisible man in the skies that we call “God.” But, if there is no God, sorry to give you the bad news, but you are not here, the earth is not here, the sun and moon aren’t here. God is a supernatural being that lives in His own dimension and reveals Himself by Faith, by his creation, and most importantly by His Holy Spirit that is undeniable to everyone who has His Spirit. Unbelievers can never experience God because they have Eves interrupter. You really are delusional enough to think you know better than every writer of the Bible, better than the Lord Jesus Christ, better than every pastor, minister and evangelist and every believer who is warmed by His spirit. You had better wake up people. God is a supernatural being and you won’t find Him in a rocket ship. But don’t be concerned with proof. You will see Him one day at the great throne judgement. And just because you don’t believe it, don’t mean you won’t be there. Get on your knees and ask Him sincerely to help you while you are still here and have time. Email notifications turned off. Do you believe in Hell?

A self-referentially incoherent claim is one which, when applied to itself, refutes itself: Such as when a man says, “I can’t speak a word of English" – yet does it in the English language. And since it's a self-refuting claim, that explains to a large extent why there's so much confusion in our world today about gender and the like and a host of other things as well.

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