Saturday, December 31, 2011

Concealing, Revealing and Christian Apologetics & Philosophy

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Dt. 29:29

The Hebrew word str appears five times in the Hebrew text. It is translated hide in Dt. 7:20 and Is. 45:15; hidden in Ps. 19:12; concealed in Pr. 27:5; and secret here in Dt. 29:29. The subject here is "the secret things." Hence, it follows that secret things exists. What are they? Well, since they are secret, it is hard to speak about the content even though we may be able to talk about categories or questions, the answer to which we do not possess. In the nifal it means hide oneself, be hid, concealed. The answer to the question regarding the identity of secret things is found within the text under examination. We know things in reference to other things. In fact, it can be said that we know what things are by knowing what they are not. Here, we know what "secret things" are because we know what has been "revealed," and we know that "secret things" are not "revealed things." The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to us.

The Hebrew word "revealed" in this text is glh. It is translated exile in 2 Sa. 15:19; Is. 49:21; Am. 6:7. It is translated open in Pr. 27:5; Je. 32:11; Je. 32:14. It is translated uncovered in Nu. 24:4; Nu. 24:16. Finally, it is translated revealed in Dt. 29:29. HAL defines the word as, to penetrate, to go to, to leave, to uncover, to open, to make public, to emigrate, to make clear, to become clear. In the nifal it means to expose oneself, to be uncovered, to be exposed, to appear, show, to let oneself be seen, to become visible, to announce information, revealed, what is disclosed. The idea goes to a clear unveiling or revealing. What is interesting is that these things, the things revealed are said to belong to us. The purpose of this revealing is so that the children of Israel may keep all the words of the law.

Some things God reveals, others He keeps secret. The things God reveals, we should see as given to us to know. They are given to us to know so that we may do something with them. They are given to transform our lives. The point of revelation is transformation. We are transformed from creatures that do not seek God's glory into creatures that seek to glorify God in every way. God reveals His glory so that we may behold it and in turn give glory to him in return. God extends His glory to us so that we may return it with honor and humility in awe of His condescension. What are the implications of God's act of revealing and concealing in apologetics, philosophy, and theology? If you listen to some apologists and theologians, you would wonder if there is anything left to mystery when it comes to religious thought. They speak as if everything is revealed and nothing is concealed. On the other hand, if you listen to other theologians and philosophers, they think nothing is revealed and skepticism and doubt are the highest of virtues. The fact remains that God, in His providence and for purposes known only to Him has determined to reveal some things to His creation while concealing others. We would do well, in all our philosophizing and theologizing and apologetics to start by acknowledging this truth. From here, and only from here can we begin to engage in the act of noble inquiry into divine truth. Just as every human action comes under the scrutiny of the Christian ethic, so too does intellectual inquiry. There is an ethical as well as an unethical way to think about God and undertake inquiry concerning His truth. However, we have so elevated the power of human reason and our intellectual capabilities, that simplicity is not only avoided, but ridiculed as if the very idea of the simple and clear are without virtue.

All knowable truth has been divinely revealed by God.

"We have taken the final standard of truth to be the Bible itself." [Van Til, The Defense of the Faith. 32] This includes all things epistemologically. Christian theism, biblical philosophy, contends that all human knowledge is revelational. Unless the Christian God had revealed Himself to us, we would be incapable of possessing knowledge in any conceivable sense whatever. Christian thought does not take issue with the idea that all knowledge is revelational and that the Bible is the standard of truth. Unbelieving thought, however, is entirely hostile to this view. It is sad to confess that more and more Christian apologists are adopting the idea that man is capable of arriving at truth apart from God's revelation. In the process, God's essence and being is reduced, human reason elevated, sin downgraded, and the cross of Christ devalued. It is not that these apologists intentionally seek to do harm to the God that is. It is a lack of theological congruency and exegetical acumen coupled with naive optimism and rationalistic philosophies that leads to significant ineptitude in how we frame up what it is that Christian theism actually believes and defends. As a result of this gap in our theological systems, we end up retreating to ground that actually bears little resemblance to the teachings of historic Christian orthodoxy. Libertarian freedom is a perfect example of how this happens. We adopt certain postulations about this sort of freedom in man in an attempt of make God more palatable to the unbeliever challenge. As a result we construct views like middle knowledge where God does not know the acts of free creatures in advance. His plan essentially depends on what the creature will do at point x. Some Christian philosophers speculate that the reason evil exists is because God could not have created a world in which evil would never obtain! This is the best He could do, they say. How do they know this? There is current specualtion raging over God's relationship with time. We cannot understand how God could have ever come to create unless He was in some way constricted by time. Really? How do we know? And this is my point about all this speculation. I love theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, apologetics, and philosophy. However, my proclivity for those things can serve to draw me into deadly sin. The intellectual seduction that theological and philosophical speculation tends to ignite can lead to views of God, man, Christ, sin, and other doctrines that result in outright sin.

If revelation is not the means by which we arrive at truth, then some other source must serve as the foundation. At bottom, all knowledge is revelational. That is my point. Moreover, God determined what He would and would not reveal. What He revealed belongs to us for the purpose of sanctification, essentially. God's revelation has perlocutionary intent. It is given to change us, so that we may observe all of the law of God. God revealed in order to change us. God's revelation was not given to satisfy intellectual lusts and ungodly speculation. As with every action God takes, revelation has a very specific purpose: TRANSFORMATION. Conversely, what has not been revealed does not belong to us. The fact that it does not belong to us means it is off limits. God retained them for himself. Since all knowledge comes through revelation, and God has chosen to reveal them to us, then if follows that we cannot know them. Our intellectual lust to know what has not been revealed is nothing short of idolatry. From my perspective, Christian scholarship is saturated with this sort of behavior because scholars somehow have missed the fact that Christian ethics also deal with intellectual behavior. I think it is time we begin to remind ourselves of this fact.

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