Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 8 - The Image of God's Omnipresence 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 8 on 24th September 2006

Augustine said there are only two things he wanted to know in life, to know God and to know man. Knowing God and knowing ourselves will establish the internal ‘us’ which is solid and everlasting. Socrates had a very profound understanding to say that the knowledge of self is the beginning of knowledge, but he did not give the answer of how a person can know himself. Reformed theology gives the true direction to the knowledge of self. The Bible says the knowledge of God is the beginning of knowledge. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This is the entire framework of epistemology and is the beginning of true philosophy.

Ludwig Feuerbach, a German philosopher, wrote a book on titled “The Essence of Christianity” to refute Christianity. He said that God actually did not exist. But men have concepts like justice, love, infinity, etc. which all combine together to project an overall concept of perfection. This projection is called “God”. His book was later used by Karl Marx who agreed with him. This thought becomes the foundation for atheism to explain morality and other attributes innate in men apart from God. God is nothing more than men’s own idea because all men’s ideals force them to create God.

Without going to all the complicated details, we can summarize very simply this view and compare it with Christianity.

Based on Christianity, God created man in His own image hence men exist. But based on Feuerbach’s view, men created God in their own image hence God exists.

When we think of Socrates’ profound words regarding the importance of the knowledge of self, it seems to us that what he said is very inspired and so close to the truth but yet he did not know the God of the Scriptures. Somewhat it seems that it is possible to have the concept of truth apart from the knowledge of God.

Reformed theology acknowledges and recognizes that even people who do not know God might say something that seems close to the truth due to general revelation. Hence we should not be surprised to see non-believers exhibiting great wisdom in the understanding of life.

The problem with Feuerbach is similar to Socrates. Socrates said the knowledge of self is the beginning of true knowledge but he could not tell how one is supposed to know one’s true self. The Bible gives answer to that. Similarly, Feuerbach says humans have all these concepts which force them to create “God”. However, he could not explain where all these concepts come from. Therefore, everything he said becomes the demonstration of his ignorance.

People may think that 50 years later Darwin gave the answer to us, that is, all these concepts are the result of evolution. But this is again a fallacy. Even the greatest supporters of Darwin’s theory also acknowledged that morality and reason cannot be the product of evolution.

The thought systems that go against the Scriptures have two destructive elements. Firstly, it has the self-inflicting factor. Secondly, it contains a time bomb that would explode into destruction. Someone says that we are living in a fascinating era like never before, because this is the era where all the thoughts that conflict with the Scriptures are coming together at full force. It is frightening to imagine what kind of destruction is awaiting ahead us.

Psalms 139:1-12 expounds on the omnipresence of God.

As God made us in His image, we are not satisfied to be in one place. We believe we have to leave and not confined to one place. This is a breakthrough from constraint of space. Apart from space, we also want to break through from the constraint of time.

The places we are dissatisfied with are often the places that other people eye on. But because we are sick of the place we are in, we want to move to other places. The villagers want to move to the city. The city dwellers want to move overseas. And many people in big cities want to move back to quiet lives.

Human beings are the only beings with ideal. We react to imperfection due to our concept of perfection. In the end we want to be with God to enjoy the joy of His eternal presence. Whatever we call it, paradise or heaven or shangrila, it is a concept of going to a perfect place.

Why would we have ideals? Because we are living in a finite constraint but we have infinite demand. There is something in us that wants to transcend, and we use our ideals to represent this breakthrough we desire. Human beings should have dreams. A person without dreams is half-dead and is not living like a human being.

What sort of dreams should we have? What sort of foundation are our dreams based on? Are we able to actualize it? Will that be the limit of our progress? How big are our dreams? Keep dreaming but dream properly, and fight to make it come true through a proper way.

In our ideal, there is an element called imagination. Things that are imagined have not been reached yet. They are for the future. Is it then right to have imagination for the future when even the present problems haven’t been solved? But the correct imagination is force that moves us forward.

Christians ought to manifest the image of God in this area. It will become the power for our breakthrough. How should we build our imagination? We should build it upon the promises of God. The God who promises is faithful. Therefore there is possibility for breakthrough. All His promises contain His commands. All His commands contain promises. When we establish our ideals based on these, our motive and progression will not be worthless and we will not waste our energy in trying to fulfill them.

God is omnipresent. But I am constrained here in our earthly life. We want this ability to break through. So Christians should not be satisfied with present status. When we constrain ourselves by our sin, laziness and complacency, we cannot break through. As a result, all our lives we continue to face the same problems. We keep spinning on the same spot so we never breakthrough all our lives. If we reflect on this carefully, we will find wisdom to live more meaningful lives.

True humility consists in the willingness to learn and keep moving forward, which is a ceaseless seeking after the truth.

Our ears are the softest and coldest part of our body. We should be gentle to listen to the right teaching. When we have teachable ears, we will then have the authority to teach with our tongue. This order cannot be changed. The Bible says to listen quickly and to be slow to speak, to absorb a lot and to criticize little. This is the wisdom of balance between listening and speaking. The most important thing is to be quick to listen to God’s Word.

Are we willing to break through? Break through what? Break through ourselves. Break through our laziness. Break through our constraints that have come by the misuse of our own freedom.

Although the things we do are still limited, we should still fight for breakthrough. We should not be satisfied with whatever we have achieved. Neither should we be discouraged by what we have not achieved. We have to keep moving forward.


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