Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 10 - The Image of God's Omniscience in Man

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 10 on 8th October 2006
Psalms 139; John 2:23-25; 1 Cor.2:9-11

The 3 passages of the Bible tell us about the wisdom of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Everything about us, our thoughts and actions, our future, God already knows. Jesus knows what is in the hearts of men. The Spirit searches all things, even the things of God.

The knowledge of God includes the thoughts of men. He made men in His own image. Therefore in the matter of knowledge we have the potential to be like God. This is the reason we can have encyclopedia of knowledge after so many thousand years. Because we are made in God’s image, we also want to know all things. God knows what is inside of us, so we too want to know what is inside of us.

There are 3 areas of knowledge. The first one is the creation of God. The second one is men made in the image of God. And the third one is God the Creator.

God is an infinite God so His knowledge is infinite. We also have the potential to be infinite. But our infinity is different from God. God’s infinity is absolute infinity. Our infinity is infinity inside the finite. We hope to climb the highest mountain, dive into the deepest depth, and explore to the ends of the world. But our physical body is so small in comparison to all the things we want to achieve. Despite our finiteness, humanity goes after the understanding of the cosmos.

Before Socrates, human beings seek to know things external to themselves. They want to understand the universe. But to Socrates, this kind of knowledge is very shallow. He saw people having great knowledge but without wisdom. Many people study a lot of things but they have no ethics. Socrates proposed that we need to know ourselves first. All knowledge external to ourselves is secondary. True knowledge comes when we know ourselves. Knowing yourself starts from knowing that you do not know anything about yourself. Then you will begin to establish your knowledge with wisdom. Use wisdom to guide and find your knowledge. This is the beginning of true wisdom.

Natural sciences are very limited. They can give us conveniences of life but not the meaning of life. Life has started from ancient to modern lifestyle. Now we can cover the distance in one day what our ancestors have to travel in 2 months. All the advances of technology add great conveniences to our life, but have not alleviated not the least bit our ethical standard. Is this the knowledge God wants us to pursue? This question is not just the issue of area, but the direction of knowledge.

God is the Source of Truth and the Creator of all things. All His designs become the things we want to understand. All the wonderful things we discover are things that God has designed. Only God is the true source of wisdom. God’s omniscience becomes the foundation of our thirst for knowledge after all things. But it does not mean we can know all things.

No matter how intelligent we are, there are 3 constraints we cannot break: we are created, we are limited and we are polluted. These are our attributes.

When we deny we are created, we will think we are God. We will deny there is a difference between the image and the essence. On one hand we seek after knowledge, on the other hand we should acknowledge our limitation. On one hand we discover, on the other hand we should give God all the glory.

We are limited, so although we pursue the infinite we cannot jump into the infinite. Only God is infinite. We are polluted so no matter how much we know there is a subjective element in our knowledge. We are influenced by ideologies of our culture, tradition, religion and education.

But do not equate reformed theology with all other thought system. Reformed theology is not to establish a system or to fight with other systems, but to be relentlessly on the journey to return to the truth.

How then can we have correct knowledge? This has to do with the sanctification of reason. The crisis of modern science is that the knowledge falls in the hand of evil people so they become a threat to humanity and most people still live in poverty. We still have a long journey to go to rescue knowledge back to the truth.

Who will set the true value of our knowledge? Many people want to study the things outside of himself, but not the things within himself. When we have more scientific achievement above cultural achievement, humanity will have no hope.

In Psalms 139, the psalmist acknowledges that he knows God knows him, but he does not know to what depth God knows him. Paul said a person who thinks he already knows something, based on what he should know he still does not really know anything yet. A lot of things we know out of our own interest but they are not the result of pursuing what God wants us to know. The knowledge we have and the knowledge we should know are two different things. This Bible verse inspires us to find out what we should know.

According to Socrates, the external knowledge should be based on the knowledge of self. But Socrates has no answer what reference we can use to know ourselves. His statement has influenced the direction of knowledge in the West.

When we study knowledge on created things outside of ourselves, we have more definite conclusions. So natural scientists generally conclude their experiments in similar way. But when we study higher things, like ourselves, we have more subjective conclusions. It becomes harder to find common consensus. Beyond ourselves there is yet another area of knowledge that transcends nature and ourselves. This is when we seek to know God. When we alleviate our pursuit of knowledge to this highest level, we will find that it becomes impossible to find definite answers.

So we discover that when we study the relative world, we have more absolute answers. When we study ourselves, we find relative answers. When we study on the absolute, i.e. God, we almost cannot find answers. In another word, the higher we go, the harder it becomes. The past few centuries seem to show that we have progressed a lot in natural sciences but have degraded in the matter of faith. The fact is that true knowledge on faith is a much more difficult arena.

Another important question is through what authority we get our knowledge. The authority and order become the basis of the value of our knowledge. As of the case of Adam, his knowledge of good and evil comes from Satan, not God. The true knowledge of good and evil starts with a true knowledge of God. The order and methodology is important. The knowledge obtained from wrong methodology and wrong authority has no value. Whether our knowledge is received at the right timing is also important.

What sort of knowledge do we want to know?

Firstly, we want to have knowledge of things beneath us. But what are they? Who determine what is beneath us? Secondly, we want to know things related to us internally. But by what standards should we measure ourselves? Lastly, we want to know the things that transcend us. But by what standard do we determine the things which transcend us?

The answers to all these questions come from the Bible. All other grounds are sinking sand. We get the answers from God’s revelation, not from human theory. The Scriptures say we are made in the image of God and all things have been made for us. So God is higher than men, and men are higher than all other creation. These are self-evident truths.

If we hold these things firmly, we will not be confused when we build our system of knowledge. When we study the things beneath us, we must know that these are of lower level. When we study meaning, we are studying more valuable things. But when we study God, we are studying knowledge of the highest kind. It is higher to know God than to know men. It is higher to know men than to know things.

The past 300 years the order has been made upside down. We have treated the arena of knowledge of Science as the highest kind of knowledge. And we put theology, things that we cannot get absolute answers for, as the lowest kind of knowledge.

Morality and ethics should guide the direction of science. Why would a lot of scientific knowledge today not become a blessing to humanity? Because intellectual property has been bought over and exploited by the rich. All the knowledge about economy has also become the tool of the financial animals.

The establishment of knowledge needs to be based on God’s revelation and not any other motives. May God teach us not to be satisfied with what we already know, but may we continue to pursue what we should know. Things that are secondary we can pursue later, but let us pursue what God wants us to know first. And things we do not need to know, we can let go and not know them.

What does God want us to know? The Scriptures give us the answers. We must know God and love God. We must love justice and with a humble heart walk with God. When Paul summarizes his knowledge “I know whom I believe”, he has established a knowledge base that would stand firm. He knows why he believes and whom he believes.

May God help us so that we will not discard important things and pursue less important things and be deceived all our lives.


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