Monday Musings for November 20, 2017

Good morning, Musers,

My parting advice to today’s questioner was to leave his attitude at the door… and those of us who have been teachers, supervisors or parents can identify with me here. Sometimes our “charges” say the right thing… but in the wrong way… or with the wrong tone — and it’s easy to pick this up face to face because personal dialogue provides us with many audible and physiological cues that do not show up in writing… although writing has some clues, and they showed up today.

Our seeker’s challenge is that God is not fair because he uses a double standard when comparing himself to idols. This complaint has a number of problems (aside from the fact that it was inadequately cited). It fails because of some methodological issues with Scripture as well as with some philosophical misconceptions about our Creator-God.

As to Scripture — and I want to make myself clear before I get in trouble with you — I affirm Paul’s assertion that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)… but I do not believe that all Scripture is equal.

For example, in Exodus chapter twenty we have the Ten Commandments… and it’s easy to see what God was going for here. These are succinct laws designed to endure — and they have! But not all of Scripture is like that. Most of it is the less dramatic brand of historical narrative. But Scripture also contains poetry, prophecy and apocalypse.

So, let me ask, should we give a section of poetry enough weight to overturn one of the Ten Commandments? No. These poetic sections are often journals about how the writer is feeling. They are rarely statements of doctrine. How about a prophecy? No. Prophecy is frequently ambiguous and always arguable. How about an apocalyptic passage? No. Apocalypse is virtually all symbolism and can be variously interpreted.

Now, we should still use poetry, prophecy and apocalypse when building cumulative cases to support our positions. It’s just that we should not create doctrines from those passages alone. I consider it self-evident that books like Romans and Hebrews are densely doctrinal whereas the Psalms are less so. But perhaps the Psalms are more so when it comes to soothing the soul. So, yes… all Scripture is useful… but not all Scripture is equally useful to every task… and the passage our challenger used to launch his attack was not up to the job.

As to philosophy, today’s questioner assumes that our Creator-God is comparable… but he’s not… nor are any creators to their creations. Our human creations may give clues to our power, skill and intelligence, but they will always be “of” us and not “equal to” us. So, when a person forces such unequal entities into a comparison that requires them to be equal, he has committed a “category error” … and these underpin false premises in arguments.

People do this to God, too… assuming that he who made the universe is in the same category as the universe. That’s a basic error. He who made the universe must transcend the universe in all categories, including (and especially with an eye on today’s objection) his sovereignty over it.

The capper for me was that today’s seeker identified himself as a Christian… but he came nowhere near what I’d expect from one… even in his views on Natural Theology. At the very least, I expect Christians to give God the benefit of the doubt. But today’s issue is more acute. He was picking a fight! … and I’d rather see a believer work with God to understand him than to pick a fight with him on any grounds.

To read the article referenced above, visit the link below.

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