Friday, September 24, 2010

Fishing for Men

I used to fish a bit when I was younger, before the slime, the smell and the effort got the best of me. I often wondered if the fish truly understood what was happening when the hook was set and the battle to draw them in began. Probably not, how sensible can one be if a little flash of silver, some wet hair, and a treble hook looked like something good to eat!

Nonetheless, I think that the experience of the fish in fishing parallels the experience of the human in the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Something moving through the ethereal realm of spirit flashes by, the soul craning its neck to look, feels the tug of the hook being set and an inexorable pull toward... something. Soul "flesh" pierced by Spirit hook, it's the way the work of salvation gets done.

What does God's lure look like, I wonder? It seems to me, the working end of the Spirit's wooing or drawing is the word of God coming to us. Words are not stuff, per se, they're ethereal, real but unreal. They can hit one like a ton of bricks, but they don't weigh a thing (even when they are weighty). There is something more to words than meets the eye, especially when those words are from God.

The prophets of old recorded their experience with the Spirit of God as the word of the Lord coming to them. They found the experience unforgettable and compelling. I think that is so for anyone who ends up ultimately standing right with God. His word comes, we find something about it unforgettable and compelling, we're drawn thereby to the Lord's side.

That lure doesn't hook every fish it's dangled before, and some fish, hooked, begin a-flapping and break free. But for those fish landed, the story's always the same--the word, conviction, faith placed in Christ, salvation. Jesus was a fisher of men, who taught others to fish for men. A pole and tackle box is not needed, only the word of God is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Your Word Is Truth

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Truth is not an objective quality. That's not to say that there is not some quality, truth, that comports with some standard presumed to be unchanging, or that is experienced the same for all observers, or that conforms to reality, or is seen to function consistently. That is to say that quality can never be seen to represent the absolute end of a thing, as in this is it, period. Only God has that quality, he alone is truth, all else designated by the term is subject to his whim.

Can anything be truly independent of God? I do not think that it can; that includes gravity, the speed of light, or the existence of stuff itself. It seems to me that some philosophical schools posit a concept of truth in which there are things which even God cannot do anything about, or that are independent of the divine will. In that case, truth would be even greater than God, over him, so to speak. That, certainly, is not the case.

Truth has its foundation in God. God is not encompassed by truth, truth is encompassed by God. It's communicated by the words that proceed from his mouth. It is a derivative and dependent property. The ultimate truth is God, all other truth flows from him. The truth is that there is nothing by which God must abide, but himself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Because God Says So

How can a possibility which never occurred have any substance in truth? It did not pan out, afterall, so how can it be known to be true? Ultimately, truth is about fact, or what actually is, or a correspondence to reality, is it not? So how can a mere possibility be true, what would make it so? The question may seem inconsequential to you, perhaps the musings of too active an imagination, but since counterfactual statements are made in the Bible, I think the issue is more than the cogitations of someone who drank too much coffee and couldn't get to sleep.

If a statement is merely about the future, I think it is simple enough to divide the timelessness of the observer, who could know such things (God), from the timeboundness of the actors. Future tense statements about what will happen will be grounded in fact when the time rolls around. Our access to truth in these cases is a matter of faith. God's access to truth in these cases is from his timeless observation platform, where, for him, the future is real and every bit as accessible as is the present or past.

The case of "what-ifs" statements is not so simple. They never come to pass so never have the opportunity to become fact in reality. Yet, God speaks as if they are not the mere musings of possibilities, but as if they were settled verities, as certain as anything can be. Could they be words spoken by the Lord that return void? No, it is impossible for God to be impotent, in error, or to be lying. If these kind of statements are true, they can only be so because God said it and God does not lie. Of course, that opens whole 'nother can of worms.

If God can make true counterfactual statements, it means that God's omniscience cannot be merely observational, as if God must await the decision of an agent before he can know what that agent will do. God's omniscience must be of the sort that is perfectly analytical and predictive. That raises the specter that whatever an agent will or could do is ascertainable by presently (or formerly) existing facts. That, really, is a deterministic framework: A leads to B leads to C, etc. Follow the trail backward and eventually you end up with a thought in the mind of God and a decision to make it so, or so it would seem.

Do true counterfactual statements demand determinism? No, because that leap is made without understanding how God actually knows what he knows, and ignores what God tells us about what he is and isn't responsible for. I do not think it is possible for us to formulate an understanding of how God knows what he knows--it's too far out of our plane of existence. We know what he tells us about his deliberations, nothing more. He tells us that humans do things on their own, things that never entered his mind to tell them to do. Sin itself is the consequence of an agent truly having the ability to make a choice counter to God, not initiated by God.

Therefore, the grounding for counterfactual statements is nothing less than God's character. I can make counterfactual claims, but they'd always be taken with a grain of salt. How many such claims made by blokes like me have proven out when conditions made them actually possible? It seems to me the problem arises, not in the grounding of such truth, but in how it could be so and still allow for human freedom. There is no puzzle here, truth is not about anything other than what proceeds out of the mouth of God! The question for us comes down to brute faith--we're forced to stand in the simplicity of a child and answer, "because God says so."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To Be Trusted By God

Faith is the currency of heaven. It is the means by which the provisions made by the grace of God are translated into the vessels of need. Without faith we receive nothing from God, and anything not of faith is SIN. Faith is truly, the only issue that matters.

Faith is not mere belief but reliant trust. It is not just an acknowledgement, for instance, of the existence of God, but an assessment of his character as well--he is reliable, trustworthy, responsive. And it is yet more than that, it is the impetus for reaction on the part of the believer: "because God is, because God is trustworthy, I will act on what he's said."

Faith is essential to eternity. The Apostle Paul lists it as one of the eternal verities, even though classifying it as not as great as love. That makes sense if you think about it. Love is a more "sight" oriented experience that actually entails reliant trust, whereas faith is most functional when sight is not truly operative. Eternity will be a realm of "sight".

Faith will still be necessary, however. For humans to walk in the image of God (like unto Christ, that is), they have to have absolute trust in God. They will have to willingly rely on his judgment rather than their own; they will have to trust God in order to walk in absolute agreement with him. They will still be, afterall, creatures made in the image of God, capable of an independent choice.

Faith has always been the only issue between God and mankind. From the Garden of Eden until this very moment, all that God has wanted from human beings is for them to look upon him with reliant trust. Works have never been determinative, because there is really nothing we can do for God anyhow. He does have big plans for us, but we have to trust God in order to be trusted by God.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Deliberative Stranger

According to my rational, human understanding, God, in knowing all that could transpire, determined what would transpire by speaking the cosmos he foresaw into being. Inexorably, unavoidably, all will happen as it does because God, foreseeing all that would occur, actualized that world and thereby made it so. Now, that is not to say that all will happen in that world necessarily, because God decreed it so as an expression of his sovereign will. God actualized a universe which contained agents who had the God-like freedom to act according to their own wills. God merely foresaw how those agents would act in their freedom, and set in motion the reality that produced the effect he foresaw.

Except that...

In the scriptures, we see God seemingly making real time decisions and adjusting his action and response on a basis other than his foreknowledge or omniscience. That can be sloughed off as anthropomorphisms, or as metaphorical portrayals, but that undermines the reliability of the word (not that there are not figures in the Bible properly understood as such). If the Bible presents God responding to contingencies as if they cause him regret or that they were never part of his thinking, then we must admit that there is a strangeness in how God interacts with creation. Logically, there is no way an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being would be caught by suprise, or get stuck saying, "Shucks, why did I do it that way?" If the Word says that is so, what can that mean?

God certainly has the ability to plan--he sees the end from the beginning. We are clearly told in the Word that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, and that grace was given to us in Christ before times eternal. Before reality and the willful acts of man gave rise to the need, God already established in his own deliberations the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And yet, God often interacts with creation in a way that is commensurate with its time-boundness rather than his timelessness. It leaves one scratching his head in wonder, and me wondering if one more name can be added to those God already has: The Deliberative Stranger.