Saturday, January 20, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 4 - Consequence of the Fall

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on Humanity in Sin on 14th January 2007.

Fallen humanity uses fallen reason to understand fallen man, so this is not sufficient. We need God’s revelation to understand ourselves. God sought man out when he fell.

Man’s freedom is his honor and is also his crisis. He is created in a state between the potential of good and evil, faith and doubt, absolute and relativity. If we truly understand the weakness of humanity and God’s will, we will not be confused or walk in the wrong path.

The words of human idealism are from reason and never reach the truth. God’s Word gives us the true cause of our fallen state. Adam and Eve saw the tragedy they could not recover so they tried to run away. This is like how people try to solve the problem of illegitimate pregnancy by abortion. This is because humans honor face more than the truth, feelings more than what is right and wrong.

Originally we were given culture mandate. But after sin, culture became a cover for sin. Cultural accomplishment hence never bridges the gap. So we have great ideals but live very shameful lives. Most Chinese emperors speak highly of Confucius’ moral values but many emperors die from sexual diseases.

Instead of repenting, we try to escape and cover ourselves. All beasts never wear any clothes. Why should human beings, made in the image of God, be considered barbaric without clothing? What is the relationship between clothing and culture? It points back to our Fall. We look very gentle and cultured on the outside but it is a cover-up. We use culture to transform ugliness into beauty. This is the true meaning of fallen culture.

In this respect, Confucius is different from Lao Zi. Confucius respected emperors and emphasized on rituals and rites, while Lao Zi promoted nature and believed that the more mannerism the more hypocrisy. But everything began from the book of Genesis.

The Word of God contains judgment, promises, accountability, blessings and curses. From the surface, it seems that God’s words did not come true and Satan’s words came true. But we need to break through beyond the surface and see that God’s Word is indeed true. In this relative and confused world, we need to see the absolute truth of God.

After God passed His judgment and gave His promise, He made garments of skin for Adam and Eve. He not only gave His promise but also acted on His promise. Adam died but a lamb died in his place. This indicates that the wages of sin is death but there would be a Savior dying in his place. A fallen sinner cannot use his fallen reason and action to save himself.

Later on God said, “Since men are now like Us, knowing of good and evil, let Us keep them from the tree of life, lest they eat of them and live forever.” Does that mean God really does not want us to know good and evil? Is He a selfish God, such that now that man knows, He wants to keep them from living forever? This is too hasty a conclusion. How can He not want us to know when He give us the Scriptures full of teaching of good and evil?

The power of God’s judgment is very great. It is not just the issue of knowledge, but the question is where the reference point of right and wrong is. Correctness of knowledge is important. God does not want us to be satisfied just knowing good and evil, but to also know the correct reference from the correct source. It is very scary if we are just satisfied with knowing. True knowledge is more than superficially knowing. We need also to know why we know, on what basis we know, and by what authority we know, not only the knowledge itself. Hence the knowledge of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself.

What is so special about knowing a lot of things? Even Satan knows a lot of things that God knows. But Satan uses his knowledge to destroy. Experts in the law know best how to break the law without getting punished. So what if we know. Just knowing what is good is nothing. But knowing good and doing good is great.

True knowledge is constrained by wisdom. God knows good and evil, and constrains Himself and will not partake in evil. We too know good and evil but we continue to sin.

The wages of sin is death and we are separated from the life of God. We will continue to decay physically but we are unwilling to decay and die. Decay and death are the consequences of sin. If we decay continually and never die, it would be a horrible situation. We will suffer from diseases and inability. It is God’s love for sinners that allow us to die physical death when we have to die. But God has given a promise of a Savior. So for those who have not met the Savior, let them die physically first. They die physically but they wait in faith for Christ’s salvation.

We are descendants of Adam. Our understanding of good and evil, choice and freedom, knowledge and wisdom, how God treat sin and how Satan deceived, all come from the Scriptures.

With the cherubim and flaming swords to guard the garden of Eden representing God’s justice, history entered into the next stage. The direction of history is in a straight line and never returns. Human beings entered into fallen world and waited for salvation to come. The first era has ended and today the world continues to live under Satan’s reign. We repeatedly commit the sin Adam has committed.

We need to segregate the qualitative difference between God’s revelation and the product of fallen reason. Fallen reason can only produce fallen fruit. We need to build a system of thought that is precise and concise based on God’s word and have the courage to stand for the truth.

Humanity in Sin Part 3 - The Temptation and the Fall

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on the Fall of Man on 7th January 2007.

Man’s fall, God’s revelation after man’s fall and His promise to man are all recorded in the Scriptures.

Epistemology has 3 parts, major premise, minor premise, and conclusion. The major premise is never proven but is always taken by faith and becomes the basis to build up all other knowledge (minor premise).

Hence knowledge is not just about logic. The basis of knowledge is faith. We must first believe in the major premise before we can start building up any knowledge at all.

When Satan tempted man, he began by making the absolute relative and the relative. Then he planted doubt regarding God’s motivation and finally gave false promise to man.

This is the starting point of the problem of epistemology and the beginning of doubt and agnosticism. Satan created doubt in the integrity of the Word of God. Who was right then? God or Satan? The only way to know is to exercise her freedom to try it out. However, when we exercise freedom, we kill our own freedom. This is the way things are. If we choose one way, we have rejected the other way. And time will not return so what we do cannot be undone. So if we make a choice which we think is right but turns out to be wrong, we cannot go back and choose it all over again.

God’s words are of the truth and Satan’s words are of falsehood. However, when Eve mixed the absolute (God’s Word) and relative (Satan’s words) together, she started to assume that the words of God and the words of Satan are of the same kind. This is the same problem we face today. Since we live in a relative world, we make faith an issue of relativity as well. Hence, we think we could pick our choice of either one which was true.

And then Eve assumed that what Satan said was true. So her knowledge is based on the faith she has in Satan. So Satan established man’s faith in him, the liar, by planting doubt in God’s Word. This is where knowledge confusion began and order is disrupted.

The right order should be man submit to God, woman submit to man, and the nature (animals and plants) submit to humans. However, here the woman listened to the serpent, man listened to woman and rebelled against God.

Absolute becomes relative and relative becomes absolute. Sin is the shift of identity. The first question God asked when man fell was not, “What have you done?” but “Where are you?” indicating that man was not where he should be. He has fallen and shifted from his original position.

When man ate of the fruit, their eyes were open. It seemed that Satan’s words were right. Absolute word of God did not seem to have absolute result because Adam did not die physical death immediately after eating the fruit, but lived another 930 years. However, this is only half-truth. When their eyes were open, they no longer saw God. They no longer saw Satan, but only themselves and their shame. This is how Satan “opened” our eyes. We are enlightened only to see ourselves and material things and are no longer able to see spiritual things. Originally, our eyes are supposed to be open to seek the face of God.

However, we have now become sinners waiting for God’s judgment. We have lost the glory of God.

So God summoned Adam and Eve. He pronounced His judgment and gave His promise of salvation. Hence in the midst of sufferings and punishment, we have the hope of salvation. (To be continued next week).