Category Archives: A – The Existence and Knowability of God

The Knowability of God – Part 3

Yesterday my family and I discussed the application questions with which Wayne Grudem closes Chapters 9, “The Existence of God,” and 10, “The Knowability of God,” of his Systematic Theology, which my family and I are reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time. To tell you about our discussion, I’d have to give the questions that prompted it, which would violate the book’s copyright, and so I’m not going to.

Instead I’ll share the hymn which Grudem suggests as an alternative to the hymn with which he closes Chapter 10 (along with the discussion questions, a bibliography, and a memory verse), “O Worship the King.” We weren’t familiar with the hymns with which he closes Chapters 9 and 10. However we were familiar with “O Worship the King” — after all, it’s the first hymn in the Pentecostal hymn book which we have — and my wife sang it for us. Here are its words:

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His pow’r and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in spendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
Whose chariots of wrath the deep thunder-clouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it has cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humble creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

Advertisements

The Knowability of God – Part 2

Yesterday my family and I read the third of the three sections in Chapter 10, “The Knowability of God,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. It shows that even though we can never fully understand God we can know Him truly.

All that the Bible tells us about God is true, and it tells us these (and other) things about Him:
– “God is spirit” (John 4:24).
– “God is light” (1 John 1:5).
– “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Knowing that God is spirit, light, and love doesn’t mean that I know everything about Him or about any of His attributes, but it does mean that we know some true facts about Him.

But even more important, we know Him, not just facts about Him. Some Bible passages that show this are:
– “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD'” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).
– “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3; in the prayer with which Jesus closed his discourse to his disciples after the Last Supper).
– “They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11; part of a passage about the new covenant quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34).
– “We know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true [God]” (1 John 5:20).

Grudem closes the section by observing that this personal relationship with God may be the greatest of all the blessings of the Christian life.

The Knowability of God – Part 1

Yesterday my family and I read the first two of the three sections in Chapter 10, “The Knowability of God,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. They explain the need for God to reveal Himself and why we can never fully understand Him.

If we are to know God, He has to reveal Himself. In “The Existence of God – Part 1” I quoted Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), to show that God reveals Himself in nature. However Paul went on to observe that sinful people misunderstand that revelation, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts…[and] exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (1:21-25). Thus we need the Bible to understand God’s revelation of Himself in nature (and in our consciences and in history).

Despite God’s having revealed Himself in the Bible (and in nature, etc.), we can never understand Him fully because He is infinite and we are finite. Some Bible passages that show this are:
– “Such knowledge [God’s knowledge of us] is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).
– “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1).
– “Great is our LORD, and abundant in power, his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5).
– “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).
Such passages indicate that although we can know something of God and His attributes, we can never know them fully.

Grudem points out that this inability to know God fully is good because it means that there will always be more for us to learn about Him. Thus we should continue to enjoy studying the Bible (and theology) and of having fellowship with God.

The Existence of God – Part 2

Yesterday my family and I finished reading Chapter 9, “The Existence of God,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. The previous day we’d considered two answers to the question of how God exists: all people have an inner sense of God, and evidence of His existence can be seen in the Bible and in nature. Yesterday we considered four traditional proofs for the existence of God constructed by philosophers at various times in the past.

Cosmological argument. Each known thing in the universe has a cause and that cause had a cause, etc. This series of causes could not go back indefinitely. Therefore there must have been a first uncaused cause. We call that first uncaused cause God. (The cosmological argument has different forms, and I’ve given the one that I’m most familiar with instead of the one given by Grudem.)

Teleological argument. The universe shows evidence of design. Design implies a designer. Therefore the universe owes its existence to a designer. We call that designer God. (“Design” can be defined as “a fitting together of structures and processes to bring about a certain result” and “a designer” can be described as “an intelligent and purposeful author.” Grudem says that the teleological argument is really a subcategory of the cosmological argument, but I view it as a distinct argument.)

Ontological argument. God is a being greater than which none can be thought. Since it is greater to exist than not to exist, that being (God) must have existence.

Moral argument. People have a sense of right and wrong and of the need for justice to be done. Therefore there must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and who will someday mete out justice to all people.

Grudem claims that all of the arguments are based on true facts about the universe and, when carefully constructed, are valid. Thus he concludes that they are proofs even though not everybody is persuaded by them and attributes unbelievers’ not accepting them to their beginning with false assumptions or not reasoning correctly from the evidence. I respectfully disagree with him and will explain why in the following paragraph.

When I was working on my M.A. in Humanities with California State University Dominguez Hills some thirty years ago, I considered doing my thesis on one or more of the philosophical proofs for God’s existence. In preparation for writing it, I did an Independent Study of versions of the four arguments given above, specifically: Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’s cosmological argument, Paley’s teleological argument (and Hume’s criticism of it), and Kant’s moral argument. For each of the arguments I concluded that either one of the premises was false or the argument was invalid. As a result I decided not to do my thesis on the proofs of God’s existence. I didn’t share with my family in our reading of Grudem’s presentation what I found faulty in the arguments and thus I won’t do so here either.

I agree with the writer of Hebrews that faith is required to know that God exists, his asserting, “Without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), but I think that the proofs of God’s existence can help overcome objections from unbelievers and thus make them more willing to listen to the inner sense of God that everyone has and to the witness of the Bible regarding Him. However, in light of 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the eyes of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,” I agree with Grudem that even more is needed, help from God. Only He can remove the blindness so that unbelievers can believe in Him and accept the salvation that He offers everybody through Jesus Christ.

The Existence of God – Part 1

Yesterday my family and I began reading the second part of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), The Doctrine of God,” in our after breakfast Bible reading time. We read the first two of the four sections in Chapter 9, “The Existence of God.” They give two answers to the question of how we know that God exists: all people have an inner sense of God, and evidence of His existence can be seen in the Bible and in nature.

Grudem cites Romans 1:21, “they knew God” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), in support of his claim that all people have an inner sense of God. However I understand the passage to refer back to 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” If it does, then the knowing of 1:21 comes from what can be seen of God in what He has made rather than from an inner sense of Him.

However Grudem also cites Psalm 14:1 and 53:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” and Psalm 10:3-4, “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God,'” in support of the claim. They indicate that it is irrelationality and self-centeredness that cause people to deny God, implying that God’s existence should be evident to them, possibly from the inner sense of Him that Grudem claims we have.

Certainly evidence of God’s existence can be seen in the Bible. It doesn’t try to show that He does, instead assuming that He does and recording His actions and words. However if we believe that the Bible is true, we can know from its record of God’s actions and words not only that He exists but also a lot about Him.

And just as surely evidence of God’s existence can be seen in nature. I’ve already quoted a Bible passage, Romans 1:20, that refers to that evidence. A couple others are:
– “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).
– “In past generations he [God] allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17).