Control and Compassion
Sovereignty and Personality
From Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 6
THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART,
NOT THE EXTRAVAGANZAS OF OUR MINDS,
WHICH GOING BEYOND, ARRIVE NOWHERE
REASONING ABOUT REASON
One student asked what I thought of Clarkianism (Gordon H. Clark). Now that is a large subject, but let us just look at one or two features say from his Religion, Reason and Revelation.
In this, he urges that reason cannot find any answer to finding God and that hence one should abide in revelation as a necessary option. Reason gets nowhere, so to get somewhere, you have to find what is given.
This is not precisely accurate. The proposition which is shown to be so in my many volumes, and that many times, is this, that WITHOUT GOD, reason can get nowhere, and its exercises have precisely no meaning in understanding truth (cf. SMR Ch. 3, Barbs ... 6 -7, Worn-Out World and Coming King Chs. 3 and 5, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9). If however you take reason as something you use discursively, and scientific method as one way in which you use it, then results accrue as you pursue it and allow nothing to impede its conscientious and scrupulous exercise in things small and great, methodological and empirical.
As shown in SMR, in particular, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9 and News 122 for example, this leads to the necessity that God is, and - here is where the Clarkian emphasis finds a niche for itself - this being a matter of scope as to His invisible attributes, His divine nature or Godhead and eternal power, as also noted in Romans 1:17, we await His more personal revelation. Yes, these things are manifest and they are so because all that man is, now in this way, now in that, and inescapably by reason, shows just this. Without reason he cannot even adumbrate theories, nor can he, for that matter, use language which implies it: he is negated, undone, must destroy himself or else find God.
But God ? WHAT His divine heart is in His own will, and what are His purposes may be seen in some things - for example He has not as yet removed this world - but are not to be found except HE reveal them by His own choice. It is indeed true that if He had not done this, we would have been limited; but it is not true nor even scriptural for that matter ('even', in the sense that we are speaking of the attestation by reason here), that we would not have known of Him at all. Reason insuperably attests this. If you try to avoid causality, then you remove the very ingredient inseparable from you own reasoning, hence cannot reason (cf. Causes), so that no such project can even be put, far less caused to prevail.
Having found His reality, you look for His revelation. It depends on HIS doing this, indeed, if we are to find what are His intimate purposes and specialised intimations to the human race. Reason is powerless to find this without His giving this information out; and indeed it can scarcely do it even with simply another human being!
One of Gordon Clark's endeavours to rout reason is to be found dealt with in SMR p. 291. He is not successful in this. Reason stands because it is part of what God has made: in fact, the term logos can mean reason as well as word. If you try to invalidate it, you invalidate your arguments seeking to invalidate it, since if invalid, it could not validly invalidate anything. Suicide is never a good preliminary exercise for a fight, or indeed, much else either!
It is its misuse which is endemic when man approaches God; but this in no way renders it invalid, merely oppressive to those who hate God.
As to Hume, so far from our being grateful to him, as Clark suggests, for showing us a way NOT to proceed, we are not in the slightest and most minimal degree grateful. Hume's work is invalid as shown in SMR pp. 257-267, and hence can invalidate nothing. What is broken, cannot fight.
Kant is similarly invalid as shown in Predestination and Freewill Section IV. Reason in its approach to God can be mauled by neither of these, since it disposes of both.
We proceed then to use it, and finding its pointing just as clear as Paul says it is, we find the necessity of God as in SMR Ch. 1, and the necessity of remedy from Him, since the world is still here, as indicated in SMR Ch. pp. 41ff., and amplified elsewhere as in
SMR pp. 100-101; Repent or Perish Ch. 2; A Spiritual Potpourri 6, 12; 16;
Alpha, Acme and Omega Chs. 9 , 11; The Power of Christ's Resurrection Ch. 5;
Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 , 7 ; Wake Up World! ... Ch. 2; Tender Times... Ch. 8,
News 122; Spiritual Refreshings 16 ; 13; Beauty of Holiness Ch. 4;
Deliverance from Disorienation Ch. 2 ; Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 7;
Know the Lord 16, 30; It Bubbles Ch. 9; Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 3;
Sparkling Life Ch. 4; Worn-Out World and Coming King Ch. 3
This being so, we look for one, one God, one remedy, and we find only one, and then verifying it with all the stringency of scientific method, not useful in any other religion since none else renders itself adequately testable, we find all is complete and we are replete.
FREE TO REASON AND FOR TREASON
That is one point about reason and revelation where Clark goes too far, being neither in this fully scriptural nor making his case stick concerning reason. This is by no means to say that his comparative misology is useless; for many trust in the misuse of reason, and this tends to become, like the curvature of the earth, a norm, except in this case, a mirage which serves in the same way. Further, unless God were at the end of the trail of this created capacity, then it would get nowhere. Since He is, He verifies what is used, and what is used confirms His presence.
Another point now arises, concerning my answer to your question, namely, What do you think of Clarkianism (if that is the term being used - I do not follow these things a great deal, having my own purpose of demonstration, and using what is needed, as needed, or refuting as required) ?
In the volume of Clark noted, he seeks to affirm that WILL IS, but that FREE WILL IS NOT (cf. pp. 225ff.).
In this, to the extent he goes, he is again, too extreme, and in fact rather deplorably in error.
It is not that he is without any ground. Indeed, will, though certainly not per se bound, is yet subject to disorder and liable to misdirection systematically, as shown at some length in Predestination and Freewill Section 1 ff., Little Things Ch. 5, SMR pp. 348, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9 and elsewhere (see Indexes). Thus you find the exhibition of it in Ephesians 4:17ff., John 1:12ff., in different respects.
It is in fact both subject to limitation, through lack of power and lack of correlation, by alienation, with its source, and to fecklessness through endemic results arising from misuse. It is rather like a car, driven recklessly, in this; although in this analogy, the mechanical is a mere vehicle for thought, not a type for appropriation!
The ONLY POSSIBLE freedom, we find from such analyses as the above, is from God, in God and with God. This does not mean that the will is not with God, and so with liberty. SIN is what makes you to be bound (John 8:30ff.), not will. If the Son makes you 'free', He does not mean 'bound'. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Corinthians 3:17). The Spirit of the Lord is categorically and correctly to be said to be in every believer (Romans 8:9).
What however of the non-Christian ? To be sure, because of the defilement and alienation of sin, and the lack of adoption, that person is astray and defiled systematically, so that liberty is limited, and absent in the matter of choosing God. As in Romans 2:15, the work of the law written in the heart of the Gentiles, though not without conflict, is not absent! It does not mean, when it says 'written', that it is absent...
Thus when God determines with pangs and poignancy that Jerusalem is to be destroyed, weeps, and reminisces this, that IF ONLY they had realised in the day of their opportunity, how different it would have been; and in view of the tears, how much better! then we know that liberty is indeed at work. HE WOULD NOT HAVE IT SO, but THEY WOULD. Indeed, if we look at what HE WOULD HAVE, in Colossians 1 and I Timothy 2, we find that this, that He would have ALL men to be saved, manifestly not done.
WHY is it otherwise than this ? God tells us (it is always best to LISTEN to God). It is because they have preferred darkness to light, even when the light has come into this world with the express and stated purpose that, in alliance with what God WOULD HAVE, the world He loved might indeed be loved in a practical manner so that whosoever believes in Him might be saved. Such is the teaching included in John 1-3.
Man's will is made the explicit culprit (John 3:19). Clark is wrong then in ignoring these revelatory facts.
He is not wrong, however, in at least limiting the liberty of the will, for the Bible does this. He simply goes too far, much too far.
GOD DOES NOT DENY HIMSELF
When he does so, however, he makes his worst error of which I am aware. He says that because God is sovereign and alone determinant of all, judge of all, the truth in Himself, therefore that by DEFINITION He cannot err, thus:
WHEN (as Clark supposes)
God simply DIRECTS all things to be what they are, and to do what they do, IN SUCH A WAY that there is no way it COULD be different;
in such a way, indeed, that the will of man is by definition NOT FREE, and this, not merely by pathology:
then there is no question of sin on His part.
He is responsible, and He is determinant. He is not the author of sin, says Clark, because this implies a certain immediacy, whereas this is more distant.
This is simply massively (although not 100% in all respects) in error. Thus God does indeed determine what is to be done, working all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). But in the process, He indicts man repeatedly for not doing what He DESIRES (cf. Ezekiel 33:11), and in Isaiah 48:16ff. for example, reviews with sorrow the way man has interfered with the desires and designs for good which the good Lord had for Him. If it is not in accord with His good pleasure to have the death of the wicked, and there is no free will for man, then of course it is simple. Nothing prevents the wicked not dying. He is not free to do otherwise by his very construction, on that reading, and hence merely implements what is required of him. Hence he becomes a mere extension of the will of his Maker, who alone is responsible; and who, if not desiring him to die, would prevent it.
You cannot scripturally fit non-freedom into this imaginary scenario. The fact divinely described, is the opposite.
God in His foreknowledge of course does know what is the way each will go (for example Ephesians 1:4 shows He even knows who are His before time began, in our system), and He is able to integrate all things in the way He wishes, each dynamic and each power and dimension, proceeding on its course, will on its way, program in its style. This He both can and does do, given the nature of His knowledge, without doing violence to the liberty of any, or to the image of God in any.
That is why Clark is so fundamentally wrong when he claims that free will prevents divine omniscience (p. 218), to the point at issue. God knows all things before they are (Romans 8:29ff.), and knows the wills, their pathological condition, their inability to choose Him because of it, knows them beyond the limitations they have for themselves, in His sublime omniscience, knows all their ways as an architect a house to be, drafts what is to follow as He will, and contains all things with all knowledge. The divine inability to do this is founded on nothing; but God is not nothing.
It is of course in no sense in the image of God to have no liberty! that would be the precise opposite. Equally, none has autonomy but God, since He makes the laws, the schema and the life. What HE puts into life however His word and events make entirely clear. Thus Pharaoh, who was endured with much patience first (cf. Romans 9:22), when exacerbating his follies, is then made to return a result just and fitting to his imposture, God hardening the proud heart that is already adamantine, so that its course can be traced more fully. It is rather like putting a die in some organ or object in the body, to trace its way: showing rather than merely forcing the result. You see these things in Romans 9:17 with 9:22, in parallel to Ezekiel 29:18-19:
"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
'Behold, I will
give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;
and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey;
and it shall be the wages for his army.' "
However, to the point: In that ultimate sense, yes, God does indeed direct things.
However that is an OUTCOME, not an a priori thing. Because God is beyond time, it could readily be confused with the a priori, but that is simply to ignore the fact that what GOES INTO IT, is not simple direction, but as shown in the above scriptures, desire and capacity not to force, though to direct the outcomes that are correct in the way apt to the entire fabric of things. The proud can, if they insist, have their little chapter, but the proud may confront them, and the one may affront the other, and the result will teach man. This does nothing to lessen the divine passion to find, to secure the lost; rather it institutes the divine will concerning the lost, who will be lost, and who will not turn, so that the oversight remains, while the sin is their alone.
What is true of the Christ is true of God, so that you see One and see the other. That is what Christ said, and we are talking of Christianity. Christ could weep for just such, however proud, bigoted, rancid in irrationality, irreverent in blasphemy, as was indeed the case with many in Israel at His time; and He could moreover PRAY for those who were crucifying Him, seeking forgiveness for them in the very midst of mutilation and of agony.
Hence what Christ showed of God, is true of God, and in particular, His attitude to Jerusalem shown in Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff. reflects that of the Father; and hence in predestination just such an attitude in principle was present as Christ portrayed on earth. With all power and His stated desire concerning the lost, there will therefore be none lost; even though MANY will be, and FEW will be found.
Since Christ is there to SHOW us the Father, not to defile or distort, His showing is just such: compassion to the ultimate and endurance without limit; but as for man, he is limited (Isaiah 57:15), so in the end, when he breezes past all the shores of love and mercy, his way is in the nether currents. Since what Christ spoke is the truth, and he is it, "I am ... the truth", hence there is nothing contrary to the principles, divulgements, revelation which He makes which either would counter or qualify it. As truth, His word is evacuative of all contradiction, contrariety or other ultimacy.
God does not change, and these are principles of His nature and mind. The abuse of freedom by man is therefore an element in principle in foreknowledge, and the attitude of Christ reflects that of the Father beyond time.
The result of that, and indeed the ground of its operational reality, is that man can fail to do the good thing the good Lord desires of him. Hence man is quite directly and massively responsible, and that little thing called freedom comes between God and His gracious designs, and man and his vile desires. God knows how to handle it, always knew; but freedom is an injection which He desired; for after all, how can you give the wonder of His life to what is without any likeness, lacking freedom, and hence unable to love, merely to respond to construction notification, program or propulsion! That would be to defile the very name of God, who made man in His own image.
Man's responsibility is not a mere verbal quibble, as Clark comes too close to implying, but an actual occasion of wrath in precisely the way God describes in II Chronicles 36, where you see progressively even, the continual, urgent, ardent work of God in approaching Israel with rejected mercy, before wrath arose and there was THEN no remedy.
God, in other words, does NOT, repeat NOT occasion things which are wrong by His own words as standard; He does not do it in Himself or in the depiction of His word. He does not indite a code for man, attributing these commands to TRUTH (John 14:6), which is really not good, not good enough for God, as if what He says is not what He is!
On the contrary, when He says HE IS the truth, then truth it is. What is truth ? John 17:17 tells us: THY WORD IS TRUTH. Hence it is simply not true to say that the fact that God is the ultimate judge and the truth MEANS that He can do no wrong SO THAT He institutes happenings which could not in any sense be otherwise, which would be wrong for us in principle, but right for Him; which would be wrong by His word, but not wrong because of sovereignty. There are kings enough who may have acted like that; but God is not a cultural king but the Lord of all, who is the truth, divulges it, and is it.
Let us be clear then. Evil is not instituted by desire, but by design, as an attribute of sin, and sin is an attribute of liberty, and liberty is an attribute of the image of God, for God is free. While man is limited, he is not outside this essence of the image of God, and continually shows it.
In this, we need to avoid needless irrelevancies. It is true that the infinite God has self-imposed duties and obligations of Covenant, which He has chosen to perform (as for example in Leviticus 26); and that His thoughts are not as ours. However when He tells us that HE HAS TOLD US HIS THOUGHTS (as He does in I Cor. 2:9-13), even the deep things of God, then we had better believe it. Put differently, this is the scriptural revelation, and not something contrary to it. Thus, it in no way follows that when He declares to His image bearers that certain things are intrinsically evil and wrong, and to be condemned, in principle, that this is not the truth, but merely a relativity, and that He has no slightest intention of being concerned about such verbal drippings which land on our shores: in His own self.
What God says is true, is so. It is not possible for Him to lie
(Titus 1:2 cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms
6 ). It would be contrary to who He is, like seeking for the opponent of an irresistible force. What God does not limit, is not limited. What is the word of God, this is the thought of God (Amos 4:13), and it is the thoughts of His heart which He has declared to all generations (Psalm 33:11). In this there is zero room for swerving or manoeuvre in even the most dissident or devious, by confusion or by profusion.
His thoughts being indeed so far above ours, yet from the heavens they come and then land on our terrain to tell us what they are!
In Job 38:12-15 shows similarly that He who did command the morning since the days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, had in mind this, that the wicked be shaken out of it . Indeed, from the wicked their light is withheld. In Job 40:10-14, moreover, Job is asked if he has that final and judgmentally correct position that would enable him to humble the proud, and tread down the wicked in their place, hide them in the dust together. Thus the intensity and immensity, the truth and the power, co-operate in a decisive and utterly ultimate and binding way, God implementing His thoughts on the earth, even from the heart, even for eternity as you see in various aspects, from Psalm 119:32,70,96,104-5, 111, 114, 142, 144, 152, 162, 172, 180 and of course in Matthew 24:35. In parallel you see its ultimate and eternal nature in I Peter 1:24, citing Isaiah, and in another aspect, in II Peter 1:21, I Peter 1:12.
CHRIST DID NOT COME IN VAIN
Christ did not come as the WORD of God from eternity (Micah 5:1-3) in order to tell Philip that having seen Him he has seen the Father, that He spoke the words commanded (John 14, and 12:48-50), in order that those who believe in Him might divorce either Him or His words from the truth, which incidentally He stated Himself to be, in correlation with the infinitely important fact that the knowledge of God is from Him, and it is in nothing short of it! (cf. John 17:1-3, 14:6,9, 16:12-15, Matthew 11:27, Revelation 22:3-4, Hebrews 13:8). There is then more to come when we see face to face; but nothing less! The picture presented is moreover from a PERSON, and God being personal, we have seen His nature and character, for God was manifest, and not hidden in the flesh.
Further, the Holy Spirit from which the revelation, as above, has come, is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), and as to God, the word of God having defined iniquity, we find that He is without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4). Morally indeed, and yet beyond all of this, we learn in Jeremiah 9:23-26, this -
" 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
exercising lovingkindness, judgment,
in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord.
" 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness.
"For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.' "
These qualities, then are what He delights in, and that is why He exercises them on the earth.
Again, Exodus 34:6 tells us of the Lord, this: that He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth. This is that truth which Christ is and was, and as which He was manifested, and it is this truth which by the Father He was commanded to speak.
Covenantally it is His law and His word which He writes on their hearts as in Jeremiah 31:33-34:
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
"No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Thus with His words so written in man's heart, does man know God, for the word is His personal depiction of the truth which He is. So does He express Himself, for whom it is impossible that He should lie (Titus 1). His word to man so far then from being disparate from His being, from His principles, from that in which He delights, enshrines all of these things.
We do not need to hypothesise concerning it, for without lies one's words depict one's thoughts; and when the Almighty is concerned, there are no mistakes either!
He is not a divorcee from His thoughts; and even if in some things what He does in the covenant and what we do is different in that one is the Author and the other the agent, yet what the Author approves is approved because it is His thought. He is not at war with His own thoughts, as if there were elements beyond His own control or desire, for that implies a creaturely scenario, where we speak of the Absolute Creator of all.
For ever and ever, THY WORD IS TRUTH. It is not true today and false tomorrow. The grass withers but the word of God is FOR EVER. It is not some incumbent, lying relaxed, an actual stranger to His principles, but it ENSHRINES what He is. In just the same way, Christ is not some strange object related in some unknown way to God, but HE WHO HAS SEEN HAS SEEN THE FATHER. Not, mind you, WILL see Him! It is current.
Thus the word of God is expressive of the truth, and Christ IS the truth. Word written and spoken, power presented and work wrought by word on earth by Christ, it is all one. The truth does not err.
Hence we find that Professor Clark divorces God from His own thoughts in this, that He makes things to be acceptable in an a postiori sense, as if God were all right despite His stipulations and imputed, continual breach of these in the way the world acts. This is wholly inadequate and institutes a divorce of what God has bound together, yes, more than bound, make in a seamless robe of His will, word and being.
In fact, God has REVEALED what He is like, what He likes, what is right and what is wrong, and judges on the basis of this revelation of what He is. Thus there is no escape for Gordon Clark from the point of what this world is like IF YOU REMOVE FREEDOM FROM IT in some strange eccentricity of arbitrariness, or indeed in any other way (cf. Little Things Ch. 5, SMR pp. 348ff., It Bubbles ... Ch. 9, News 122, Flashing Falls of Freedom). There is no way that God can have ascribed to Him a world like this without freedom, since then He is ultimately responsible for all, and hence is contrary to His own word, law and way, which makes it clear that preference is man's will, not the Lord's, when for man evil is its object. Calvin as you see in Appendix B of SMR got himself into a christological problem*1 in defiance of the word of God in Matthew 23:37, in the same diminution of liberty, but in a different aspect of it. To be sure, it appears he was somehow oblivious of this!
When therefore He declaims,
"O that you had listened to My commandments",
we are not to imagine that actually He is gratified at what occurred, since on such a delusive theory this would be precisely what He ordered into existence by His own will, nothing to the contrary.
When He continues,
"then you peace would have been like a river"
we should not construe it that this is the last thing He had programmed, since He had other ideas in force;
or that their
"righteousness would have been like the waves of the sea",
that He detested such righteousness in this case, and preferred an opposition to assail His stated love of it, as if His word and His actuality were in some kind of divorce, after the nature of created things, which try in the face of their own natures, by their own will, and suffer defeat when evil lures and passion controls.
Just as it is joy to the just to do judgment, so the righteous Lord loves justice (Proverbs 21:15, Psalm 37:28).
No, far from such imposition is God, nor does His divine nature in word or reason, have such collisions. He both speaks and acts as He is, since there is nothing to withstand Him, to contribute to Him, and all things He ordains reflect Him, whether in mercy, love, or judgment. (Cf. Sparkling Life... Ch. 4.)
In the Bible as in fact, GOD Himself makes some beings, and all mankind, to be free initially, so that Adam could heed or not, the injunction concerning the tree of life; and he chose not to do so. He assuredly did not make IN HIS OWN IMAGE a being who COULD NOT BUT sin! That would be the ultimate distortion! The conception is contradiction of the word of God, from the outset to the outcome.
The first man suffered divine judgment and wrath, not for doing what he was made to do, but for NOT doing what he was TOLD to do (cf. Romans 5). Wrath did not arise at His own product acting as caused to do; but at His own product acting as it was warned NOT to do. Wrath at the necessities of your own invention, no wilfulness intervening, declares an unstable mind, a divided will and detestation of what One has just done.
Now if anyone detests what he does, then in acting to make it, either he was ignorant, or else wilful, seeking to indulge some aspect of his being in order to execute wrath for some kind of satisfaction, or similar parallels of distortion of truth and wisdom. God is none of these, and has nothing to indulge, no place from which to gain, since there is nothing without power, since only system imposed could make it so, which is not true of the Creator, since the creator of THAT system would in fact be God, and this a mere derivative, being irrelevantly discussed.
Certainly, there was nothing wrong in principle, in an eternal and unchangeable sense, which God instituted. Far is this from reality, possibility or conception. Author of all, donor of all, comprehending all, truth His word reflected in His works, knowing the end from the first, to be 'wrong' would be to be against Himself, contrary to His own works in their created form, formula and formulation, violating their integrity with the integrity with which He chose to make them reflective of His will, as if He would seek to squeeze from His own works, some bizarre satisfaction, being a malcontent in Himself.
And HOW a malcontent ? Either by being UNABLE to become what He desired, which is impossible since it negates what the Creator is by nature and virtue of His place, or UNWILLING to be satisfied with what He HAS, which is impossible, since it entails as before, a failure in terms of constitutive inadequacy, hence a given constitution, so that a being other than God would be in view, irrelevant to the point at issue.
Wrong ? From God! It is here that Clark is right: it is a ludicrous irrationality, and indeed, without Him there could be no moral wrong, and by Him alone is there any (cf. News 19). This of course, contrary to Clark's presentation, in no way removes His declared principles from relevance, His stated motives, intentions, ways and morals from approach. He STATES these, so that any use of this ultimate sovereignty to remove them is like removing someone's big toe in order to make a shoe fit.
It is as now almost tiresomely the same, irrelevant; and in the case of God, a ghastly excision of His word which declares, as we have seen and will see, all these things. In becoming man, He showed that as man there is no violation in any way with His divine ultimates, the format being humble, but the situation expressive of His own reality, suitable for direct involvement as Himself. Nothing forced His sublime beauty once it took on the form of man, to sin. It was not that sort of a nature; for otherwise it would neither have been in His image, nor brought the problems of self-determination (limited, but not absent in man), nor been available for His incarnation!
There was then only righteousness in all He did, and so it is since He does not change. What then ? There was simply a structure which abounding in wonder, abounded in disaster if wilfully misused.
It is this which is the disjunction, and not any metaphysical malingering, or irrelevant revelation, as if He should declare what is righteous, His love for it, its issuance from Himself, in His word to all generations, its depth in His being, for any generation, and its ultimate and invariable truth for one as for all, and yet in some way not love to act in just the way He declared!
Thus the three elements combine and cohere most sweetly in their annihilation of any evil-made man: the utter integrity of God, the utter love and mercy of God, and the distortion both of logic and His word to make it appear that there is something 'other' which motivates Him, or actuates His willing and dealing, as if 'evil' in our world needed such an extraneous advent for divine content.
None of these things is either rational or revealed, either the denial of what Clark (with Elihu in Job) rightly stresses, or what he wrongly seeks to remove. Sovereignty and relevant liberty mix like twins, each unable to be forgotten, unless one should choose to dream. One may, but not here. One might, but only if words, meanings, affirmations and the nature of personality coherence be all put in a boat, and sent over Niagara Falls.
It should be realised that the stress is on the 'wilfulness' of man, for there was from the first, specific instruction to the contrary of his chosen action, just as there is to the present with all His ways. Whether not to act autonomously relative to the experimental Edenic tree, or towards a rejected Gospel, the case is simple, similar and in principle entirely parallel. Whether for the potential venture into sin, at Eden, or the potential default before the Gospel, in this warring world now, it is one.
In neither case, Eden or the Gospel is there any danger from a failure to comprehend because of complexity, as in some hard mathematical problem. The case was so from the first, and it is not different today: the Gospel is not hard, and its refusal is simple wilfulness, as Christ put it directly to that generation of Jerusalem's citizens: "I would ... you would not" (cf. SMR Appendix B).
Eyes that are shut lest they should see, this is the divine word of absolute truth (as in Matthew 13), and the whole apparatus of thought is perspicuous. Eyes CAN see; eyes ARE able to be opened. It is mere mysticism to pretend that the figure of eyes not being opened implies inability to open them. The lash of Christ's tongue, poignant in tender grief at their intractability, yet is dire in uttering judgment because of their pertinacious arbitrariness and misuse of the will that could open those eyes, and yet WILL not.
That is how He speaks as the Bible sometimes does to the relevant and current generation of Jerusalem, that in His day, comprised for it, "your children" . To these, the children of Jerusalem, He assigns that very thing, stark unwillingness despite His frequent calls, as is attributed by the prophets of old, to the people of the land, as in Jeremiah and Hosea repeatedly.
HIS definition ? I would, you would not! (Matthew 23:37). The very idea of trying to make this biblical and historical usage an excuse for omitting the relevance of will is the more absurd, there is no better word for it, in that should you do such a thing, you would have Christ judging unrighteously, by His own word. It was PROHIBITED to visit the sins of fathers on children (Jeremiah 31:29), but on this distortion, you would be having the children being drawn and warned, but the fathers unwilling, so that the whole would be subjected to an anguish unspeakable, a grief remorseless and entire. Such a thing is to put God at variance with Himself, instead of aligning oneself with the clear context of guilt through obduracy of the will, which fits both the situation and the principles previously revealed.
And was it indeed the case that OFTEN the Lord lovingly sought the children, in terms of young age, little ones, only to find that they were obdurate ? There is a limit to imagination when you are examining someone else's words, and this passes it to infinity. Against adults He frequently declaimed, and as to the little ones He would be willing and keen to receive them. Such is the record. Such was the norm of the historical record from first to last.
As to the anti-scriptural invention, contrary to usage, to divine principles, to context: There is a limit to imagination when you are examining someone else's words, and this passes it to infinity.
But what of the 'children' ? Look at Jeremiah, which also was a case verging on destruction, and here we cite from SMR Appendix B.
In 4:11, it is of judgment to "this people and to Jerusalem", Thus again, in Romans 1:18, the wrath of God is statedly against those who, despite the ready availability of the knowledge of God, the Lord speaks, specifying later in the immediate context the affliction for "the daughter of my people". In 4:31 we see the "daughter of Jerusalem' crying: "Woe is me now, for my soul is weary because of murderers". God proceeds to tell "Jerusalem" to "wash thine heart from wickedness that you may be saved" - Jeremiah 4:14.
"This is your wickedness," He says, "because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart" - Jeremiah 4:18.
Again, "How shall I pardon you for this ? Your children have forsaken me, and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by harlots' houses. They were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbour's wife"- Jeremiah 5:7. In all this there is a certain... adult quality!
Thus again, in Romans 1:18, the wrath of God is statedly again those who despite the ready availability of the knowledge of God, SUPPRESS the truth, which of course GOD IS. Thus this application and outreach of His truth in creation is suppressed. Yet to have something of God suppressed is contrary to what is God expressed, that is His written and living Word, so that it is war on God, which is not a dictum of His plan, since His way is His will and attack on it is not! You see this obvious fact clearly in Micah 3:5, where those false prophets to whom He did NOT give words, they "even prepare war against Him" - which is in context, an apostrophe of horror at their presumption and rage. Since He is always what He would be, what would seek to make Him other is contrary to Him, and such imaginations as if from Him, merely confuse contrariety with piety.
Thus there was freedom which man misused, making sin, that temporal defiance, the issue; and distortion was the result. It grew to attacks on His prophets (cf. Mark 12), pretences of speaking for Him when He did not sent (Jeremiah 23), attacks on His Son and finally attacks on His word and Gospel, enduring both Gospel and attacks, to this day, since the heart of sinful man cannot TOLERATE truth in God, but must slay it lest it take him where he has no desire to go. Does man wish to charge God in contradiction of His word amounting to virtual defiance, with MAKING the hearts obdurate, the minds obstinate, the wills pertinacious, so that they would not because they could not hear, heed ? doing this by creation's own conduit of power ? so that this is the GOOD that He made!
Is the sinful mind of autonomous man to answer to Jeremiah when he rebukes, saying of the false prophets, in the Lord's name,
"if they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to
hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way..."
the Lord Himself divinely declaring
¨ "Return O You backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings" (3:22),
then to speak in retort ?
Are they to answer, saying:
'Oh but you really have it all psychologically enforced so that it cannot be so,
as you now request, so this is just an autocratic pleasantry of yours,
for yours is the will and this is the flow-on.
'Let us hear now the next 'act', for nothing is real here.'
This construction of the imagination concerning freedom of will, its obliteration in metaphysical disorder (cf. SMR pp. 348ff., It Bubbles ...Ch. 9, Little Things ... Ch. 5, Predestination and Freewill Part I), is nothing less than an assault on the sincerity and integrity of God who professing intense desire for their deliverance, the keenest of desires to heal as in the event of Christ was put into vast practice (e.g. Luke 6:19, even to multitudes), is to be deemed to desire no such thing (since they do not so respond).
They were not in the case of Jeremiah 'healed', so on the one hand, God is imagined to have set this plan so that it would be so, by mere sovereignty in the ABSENCE OF FREEWILL in man, either directly or indirectly! Meanwhile He shows grief, anger and the deepest concern and willing for the contrary to happen. This is to construct something not God, just as they did in Moses' day (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15-17). It is not intentional, no doubt, but its error is a matter of grief, that any should have made it.
Biblically, their wills may indeed be locked in the step of sin; but this is a guilt of the race, and of the individual, and the remedy is sure, effectual, on the part of God who is the "saviour of all men, especially of those who believe" (I Timothy 4:10), and who gave His Son as a propitiation
"not for our sins only, but also for the whole world"
(on behalf of, not in the place of in the Greek stress - I John 2:1-2).
In such ways, God is emphasising the scope of His concern, to the point of salvation relevance, both in practice here, and in principle, as in Colossians 1 and passim in the appeals of the Old Testament, such as Ezekiel 33:11.
Thus too do we find the sublime parallel in Romans 5:18, concerning the divine disposition to deliver all, despite the fact that in contention, many prefer darkness in the very face of His coming in love for the whole world, if by any means any might receive Him (John 1-3, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4). Let us regard this:
"Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgment came to all
resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act
the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life."
The Greek preposition means 'towards', and does not of course imply that they all received it; but it does show that to them all was it propelled!
It is in short, one thing to make an Adam NOT, emphatically not in the image of God, in some odious odyssey, a hand-made mental cripple and volitional defective who COULD not have done otherwise, who then duly rebels, though it is a misuse of language so to have it, one who was condemned for God's plan for him therefore, so that God for such an intrusive model would not keeping HIS OWN DECLARED STANDARDS. That is matter for Alice on her next journey.
It is however quite another to have a defective model made into such by his own will, from needless sin at the first, and needless continuance in it at the last, when Christ came, lamenting for their wilful closing of their eyes. It is futile to bring a verbal shimmer into a clear situation by imagining that He forced what HE calls both sinful and abhorrent upon them without sinning Himself, on the ground that this is ontologically impossible for Him to sin. That is of the order of an invincible force meeting an immovable object, a construction of opposites that only imagination, and not logic, can conceive. It is a flat contradiction in terms.
That fact, that we grieve Him by rebellion, which HE calls it, breach His command by spoilage of His image in us, not by fulfilling it (cf. Colossians 3:10), in no way would make of Him a liar, which the bible declares an impossibility. Moreover, the perspective of the lie it is which John in I John makes the unique pre-rogative of what is not Christ, but antichrist! Does not Psalm 5:5 tell us that God hates the workers of iniquity (in that their sin adopts, embraces and identifies with them and they with it), and was not Adam one who qualified for just this ? Is the one called God then to be made into a celestial schizophrenic before wisdom returns to exegesis, and contradiction stills its erratic voice!
IF He hates such a thing, it is certain that He does not desire it, is contrary to it; and hence to imagine that He directly creates such a thing is a flat contradiction of Holy Writ, Holy Nature and holiness.
What however if someone asks this,
But does not His invention of creaturely liberty - where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty - II Corinthians 3:17, open the possibility of sin, and in God's own certain foreknowledge of the end of all things, does it not open the certainty in this present world setting from the first, of just such a thing! Admittedly, in this case it comes as a development, yet for all that, does it not amount to much the same thing ? It is indirect, the questioner might proceed, but for all that, its end is the same: rebellion, sin, evil and iniquity. Would God therefore open the door to such things that He statedly hates, for the sake of some plan ? And if He did, then how could it be said that this is essentially any different from the direct case, for Eden!
The answer to such a disingenuous query is not hard to find, for the Lord it is who makes all things clear in His word, if you read it as it is, and not as you squeeze it, in conformity to your will.
In fact, the case is this:
that His love for the achievement of more who love is paramount,
that they might be blessed,
¨ but that He does not institute by creation,
¨ direct by dictation,
¨ ensure by construction,
¨ ANY SIN AT ALL in such a situation, the actual biblical one.
He enables a totally and wholly good thing, the liberty to follow Him or not, since without this liberty, neither personality nor love nor meaning is possible for the creation at length. In so doing, He enables, but does not secure, procure, induce or incite, far less ensure, any sin at all. This is the simple difference between MAKING it happen and not preventing the possibility. If freedom is loved, love is loved, personality is loved, then sin being hated, God has acted to enable the first and overcome the second, in perfect consistency; so this endeavour to turn the matter around fails in dizziness like a merry-go-round that has no stopping place, and is all awhirl, without getting anywhere.
The WORDS are used of human will, the PRINCIPLES are shown of divine will, the IMAGE of GOD status is affixed, the HATRED of evil is consistent, persistent and comes to judgment when MERCY is avoided by man, while the PASSION of God for righteousness first and last, is shown by enabling it at Eden, providing for it at Eden, for the positive response, so that it was not merely in principle but in practice that it had its construction. Accordingly with this passion is God shown by His own word to be sending His prophets to interpret and offer mercy, sending His Son to obtain and secure it, this without deletion of the image of God in man, but rather presentation for its repletion and completion as it should have been, and could have been (Colossians 3:10). Such a construction is thus WITHOUT any breach of God's stated character, principles, emotions and hatreds, His loves and His determination. It simply follows His own words.
Is God then to be "very angry" as in II Kings 17:18, because Israel rebelled AGAINST HIM, NOT merely for their own chosen sins, but because of an imaginary innate and ultimate construction past all finding out and inherent from the start of the race, when He acted, revolted ?
The Lord describes the case. He had sent His prophets, saying:
"Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets."
The response was this:
"Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God."
Is He to mock and derogate their stiffened necks, and subject their determinate necessity of action to obliterative and divine disdain and even horror, when HE AND HE ALONE IS WRONGLY IMAGINED TO HAVE MADE IT HAPPEN, by certain control from the first! He is JUST, and says so. He is SLOW TO ANGER, and says so. Is it just, by His own declared standards, to force sin on someone whom you then denounce for it ? Is some Iraqi to be 'forced' to engage in some sexual evil and then be condemned for it ? Maybe, but not justly. It is the child of the mind of the tormentor, who alone is guilty.
To attribute FROM THE OUTSET such a complex of disorderly emotions to the divine being, such an inability to follow His own prescriptions, or to exhibit the nature which He states to be His, and which should morally be ours, is not to describe One who is depicted as "a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He" (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Again, are we to understand that "righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, mercy and truth go before Your face", to be part of a divine totality in which unrighteousness is created into being without the invention of freedom of will to select it, so that this very creation is both an exhibition of righteousness, and 'good' (Genesis 1-2);
and that the condemnation ensuing the result of this construction, the sure and undifferentiated result, is part of justice; or even this, that mercy is shown in this condign judgment, or that truth is to be found in the attribution of rebellion to what in fact on this distorted model, did not rebel, but effected in perfect conformity to direct construction, the will of the One who made it! If so, words have no more meaning, and contradiction is the mode of exegesis, defilement the path of truth, unrighteousness the exhibit of righteousness.
Is it not a wonder of the divine grace and mercy, indeed righteousness and equity that no such thing is ever indicated in the Bible, but only the divine energy which condemns the sin which is wilfully committed, in what was created, statedly good! It helps us in this, that we realise with fresh delight the utter transparency of divine beauty, without residue of dregs, bitterness or obfuscation. To be sure, there is wonder to come when the people of God see Him face to face (Revelation 22); but truth is by nature, His everlasting word is by nature, immutable. It is only the adventitious imperfections of man which may find error; God is without error. His word controls all, and it is HIS! Where freedom is created, then rebellion is enabled; but not in conformity to construction, quite the contrary, in defilement of it that leads directly to death.
WILL NOT WILL O’ THE WISP
This wilful witlessness is dramatically illustrated in Jeremiah 44, where the nation having been decimated, Jerusalem ruined, a few only left with Jeremiah, they are not yet humbled. They ASK him for the word of God, for their guidance; and when he tells them, they reject it, declaring this (44:17):
"We will certainly do whatever comes out of our own mouth."
Every evil way, God hates, and this He has defined as evil in Jeremiah 23. He does not implement His will by what He hates, since He has no limit, no need, no constraint to perform, nothing to attenuate His decisions or create effectual opposition. From beginning to end, creating or not, He has it all as He will, even including the freedom He loves, and the results He secures.
Further, as we see in Lord of Life Ch. 6 and esp. in Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Ch. 7, with Ch. 9, there were various discernible things that MIGHT have been done, in the absolute and primary sense; but what the good Lord chose to do was so in accord with His infinite mercy, brilliance and grace, that it stands before us, with head bowed, its admirers as we worship the One who has wrought it, brought it to pass.
Moreover, as to the results for His kingdom, He actually bought them, paying in anguish for deliverance, not for Himself, but for us who believe. SO FAR is He from deviating in the least degree from the standards of utter purity, utter blamelessness, entire cordiality and love, that love is WHY He sent, grace is WHAT He gave and GIFT is what is to be received!
What God did at the outset was institute the liberty without which love is impossible (and God is love), in man. Clockwork does not love, nor does any other conspectus where liberty is ruled out. What lacks freedom is merely programmatically responsive, or constitutively controlled, an attestation to the power of the programmer or the controller. That is why it is to be realised as essential that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, THERE is liberty" as Paul declares in II Cor. 3.
He is not to be taken to be declaring that where the Lord is there is NOT liberty; for this is no interpretation, but simple rejection. He was assuredly in Eden, and it is now declared that
"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are as ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."
Does God implore the world in which He was reconciling it to Himself, to be what He precludes ? Is there no freedom to be implored ? Does He address through Paul what IN PRINCIPLE is irrelevant, and not merely through the sin which God knows how to deal with ? The question is the answer, and merely intensifies what we have already seen.
With what are we then left ? We find this.
The word of God endures for ever, and is not mutable, but beautiful. The liberty of man is created and donated as to God's image, and is misused. God brings in consequences as He stated from the first, and makes these cumulative in His own way where the disobedience is sequential and insistent (cf. II Chronicles 36) ..."till there was no remedy", exhorting, remonstrating, appealing, offering in the meantime, and weeping in the person of Christ when the point is past (cf. Isaiah 57:15): where there is no longer any way back for man.
How zealous was He, "rising up early and sending" His prophets, "because He had compassion"; but they were not heeded. Did He have then compassion on what was not made in the first place that it could receive and respond ? What sort of compassion is it which pities the unpitiable ?
How He tested this liberty which He gave to man, though it had been defiled in no small way, by using His own knowledge and sovereignty! How He answered it by using His own love, as it is written, GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT ... HOW MUCH ? that He gave His only begotten Son, the ONLY ONE born to woman because it is the ONLY ONE who as the eternal word of God, would suffice. Flagrant contradiction times without number is not supportable if you are going to interpret!
As He declares through the prophet Jeremaih in the midst of judgment, in Lamentations, He does not willingly afflict the children of men. This really sums up the whole matter, since no one and nothing can impel the will of God, which is His own, and as to the God who IS love, and "He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lamentations 3:33, I John 4:7ff.).
If liberty and love bring grief through the wilfulness of man, in wanton disregard first of whose we are, then of what we are, and even after that, of what He has done to remedy it, then this is the cost of discipleship. Yet it is not a placement by disregard: rather is it one by regard for the nature of man, infinitely removed from being a manipulee for some plan, and wholly constructed in integrity, for integrity, to walk in the light and know the love which passes all understanding in that life which God is and has, and is willing to confer freely.
God does not weep because He ruthlessly carries out a plan to make things do what they are made to do. He is not sad and indeed grief-stricken because with all eternity, and without haste, He has done what He knew would end the way it did, thus on such a misconstruction of divine beauty, weeping at His own incompetence. Hardly is such a conception of fantasy to be considered as worthy of regard at all, like a bye in cricket (except that it may cost): for He weeps because of their obstinate heart which ruins them, despite His contrary appeal, and He says so (cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff.). Rebellion, the divinely repeated charge, is not even possible for what cannot freely will by nature (cf. I Samuel 15:22-23).
"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king."
God chose freedom for good reason; condemns its misuse for no lesser reason; and paid its remedy for misuse with good love; and His sufferings are for good cause.
These last, they are the final criterion of His motivation, compassion and control; for they are effective in redemption without exception, for all who become His by faith, and there is not one whom He forgets, since with all power His desire that all might be reconciled is certain to be fulfilled in His own way, in the Redeemer (Colossians 1:19ff.). Sin is a detestable thing, not only with suffering for man, and profound grief, and in the person of the eternal Word of God made flesh, but also with acute agony for Christ; but God has its measure, has measured it and disposed of it, dispossessed it of its flaunting glories, and with the gory made grace prevail. Love takes whom it may, and sovereignty would have it so, for GOD IS LOVE!
Thus, not only are these cases quintessentially clear, the divine pangs and pity, and the human pain that was consistently gained by insistent failure at the uttermost height of the matter, and its most profound depths, but the generic is manifest as in Colossians 1 and I Timothy 2 (cf. Great Execrations ...Chs. 7 and 9), as in the very nature of the incarnation, where for any and for all, He is made available, taking far more than any, that none be uncovered by mere omission, or lack of largesse.
Let us leave then the Moslems to their own mandates in their own imaginary universe, and let them face the consequences of evil where no redemption is provided sought by the Lord for all, and no hope is to be found but from what is available in the works of man, who must make his own way to meet an unknown standard, with an unknown cut-off, with resources of unknown relevance, and what it implies in the sovereign whom they imagined and constructed in their own minds, without evidence to verify, to run the show (cf. More Marvels Ch. 4). Small wonder violence is so common both in the Koran and in history in such a desperate situation! (cf. Divine Agenda ... Ch. 6). Our God is not like that, and has remedy, not performance requirement, as essence of the way on, up and out.
Not in circumstances but in Christ is the criterion. The world is not left to its debacles as the last word, for Christ has the last word, just as He is the first word, and the eternal word, and His compassion is the guarantee that nothing will be lost, which in integrity of love, He would gain (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1).
Our Bible is infinitely disparate on this point. Our Christ is infinitely disparate on this point. There is nothing that man MUST do, to SATISFY God, for GOD has done it (Romans 3:25ff.). The rest follows in faith. HE has the grief at our woeful ways, HE bore the sin or our departures, for every one who comes to Him, and HIS is the focus where sin, where on the part of every believer it is said, "On Him is laid the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53). Neither will nor blood nor race can frustrate His glorious seeking; and neither divine dictate plus or minus, nor human inability is bar sufficient. For God SO loves the world that He gave, and THIS, this is His dictate, that He loves and that we should do the same.
So far, then, from simply overseeing a whirling world of sin, and demanding righteousness, in Him the intervention is explicit, His power operative, not ours, to secure deliverance. To be sure, we are saved without works, but not without faith, and faith works; but the faith is in HIM who having done the works to secure His people, grants them the grace to continue, the divine operative, unwilling to let man climb about in his world, as if he could master it or himself, but realistically providing the way IN HIMSELF, and coming to show it and to do it (John 10:9,27-28, Romans 3, Galatians 3).
Let us underline this point.
says the Lord (Isaiah 48:18),
"that you had heeded My commandments!
is not apostrophising Israel concerning its failed opportunities
Thus it would indeed be wrong for all this sin and evil to be in the world by simple direction. It would contradict the word of God multiply. Further and consequential evils result.
Thus the word of God in that case would level guilt at Himself; but HE levels it at man, and further, makes it superabundantly clear that He has done ALL, for man, in correlation with His revealed longing, commands and sorrows for man, even to the point of becoming a man and dying for the difference between what man because of sin has done, and what he ought to have done (cf. Hebrews 2, 9, II Corinthians 5:17-21).
There is nothing further from Him than devising evil that good may come, which as Paul shows, is a principle of an horrendous and confused distortion of the very meaning of righteousness (Romans 3:8). Now this condemned pragmatic principle is far from being a 'merely human' consideration, since the word of God in this place STARTS with the divine application, showing it both as a caricature and a thing of revulsion, and then applies it to the human case. It is with respect to God that it starts, to man that it ends.
Thus, it is NOT, repeat NOT, says Paul (Romans 3:3ff.) a matter of a sinner being used as a sort of pawn to demonstrate just how very right God is; for this would be tantamount to saying an utter evil, to making "God unjust who inflicts wrath". Rather, says the faithful apostle, "Let God be true but every man a lie". In other words, such a conception is a gross enormity of autonomous imagination, and before HIS integrity all such vain attributions must fail at once.
If failure in man demonstrates that God is correct in His actions, this no more implicates God who then overcomes the evil and validates His word, than does the absence of light impute evil to it. MAN does the evil, God rules the world, in justice, righteousness, integrity and according to the principles He enunciates. That is the teaching in Romans 3. The contrary is impeached!
It is by cognisance of the relationship between sin and evil, or wrong and retribution and remedy, and all that is bound up in that, on which topic He often speaks, that God judges man. Man might imagine that God would have His own standards, and ignoring all protest, institute His own will, contrary to what He put out for man. Yet God is infinitely higher than man, and His ways are not as those of debased human beings, despised for their ways even by their fellows!
This alien and manipulative concept in only one aspect has it correct, that God does indeed have unbreachable sovereignty; but it is wholly wrong in another aspect, namely His unimpeachable integrity. This is manifest on all sides, by reason and revelation, for not only is it true that "He does not willingly afflict the children of men", but that He has declared "the thoughts of His heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). What He is, He says, and in terms of it, speaks and requires, and gives, and grants salvation or with grief, judgment.
As Delitzsch expounds this cited phrase in the Psalm, it means "the ideas, which form the utmost part, the ultimate motives of everything that takes place." That, that is the 'thoughts of His heart". Heart MEANS NOT the superficial, but the ultimate, not the passing but the profound, as in I Corinthians 2:9-13 where the DEEP THINGS of God are shown to be revealed. If we are to WALK IN THE LIGHT, then HE IS THE LIGHT. This we see in John 12:35-36 and 8:12 where in the latter Christ declares that He is the light of the world, while in the former He states this (Contemporary English Version):
|"The light will be with you for only a little longer.|
"Walk in the
light while you can.
"Then you won’t be caught walking blindly in the dark.
Have faith in the light while it is with you, and you will be children of the light."
(This is here left in red rather than the usual blue, as it is an extreme caution.)
Believe in the light,
and do not imagine things concerning it,
as if it were contrary to itself, or held inscrutable darkness.
Even we who believe are to be FILLED with light, having no part dark (Luke 11:33-35),
and as to God, He dwells in light unsearchable (I Timothy 6:16), radiant in glory,
not deviant into darkness contrary to its own expression of itself!
Let us see this declaration of Christ in Luke:
"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, puts it in a secret place,
neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when your eye is single,
your whole body also is full of light; but when your eye is evil,
your body also is full of darkness.
"Take heed therefore that the light which is in you be not darkness.
If your whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark,
the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle gives you light. "
Eye brings light, light insurgent overcomes the darkness within; let it wholly in and you will be wholly enlightened. By what then ?
By HIS light who IS the light of the world, and WHO IS LIGHT,
so that there is no darkness in Him at all (I John 1).
Indeed, in I John 1:5ff., we read this, that -
"God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him,
and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light,
as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin."
Thus by walking in the light we have fellowship with the Light; anything contrary to this light, to its intrinsic self, brings not conjunction but what is nearer to disjunction, because of this. Moreover, since we are all made relative to this light, one resultant is this, that so walking in it brings fellowship with each other. Where it is failed in, so that darkness sends in some spearhead, then the blood of Christ, the measure of the zeal of God for righteousness, of the love of God to bring man to his proper inheritance and fellowship with Himself, cleanses from this disjunctive force.
It is what GOD IS, which is the criterion, LIGHT, and in this we must walk.
In complete parallel and consistent harmony, John 1:9-10 shows moreover,
that HE who is the LIGHT, is the true light who gives light to every man
coming into the world,
In other words, we are made in His
image, His light being what is our basis and illuminative source, so that
when He came, it was that true light, God Himself in human form.
Accordingly, only by divine
There is one morality, one
eternity, one source of mind, God Himself, one righteousness
What then ? He DOES have His own standards, CANNOT be judged by what is a mere derivative; this is true. Yet He being who He is, I AM THAT I AM, has chosen to present in perfect righteousness and divine light to man in His image, the very thoughts of His heart, so that He does not merely 'measure up' to them, but as Author and original, delights in these very things, and of course is in nothing contrary to them. Defining light by Himself, He imparts it in creation, and restores it in redemption.
Indeed, He has gone so far in performing these very thoughts of His heart, that He send His Son to be the Saviour of the world (I John 4:4:14) by a means horrifying to the heart, wonderful to the sinner and triumphant for His compassion.
His integrity required it,
His light willed it,
BUT JOY HAS ONE BASE
Further, it is so far from being a foolish thing to impute to God that He made the world as He did for good purposes, in the definitions of good that HE GIVES IN HIS WORD, for not only does He declare the criteria of justice, compassion, love, mercy and truth, but there are in fact many reasons why He injects judgment (called 'evil' in a catastrophic but not moral sense). First of all, it is as in the first, a decreed result of breach of His law, His desire impressed into words.
In particular, divine discipline is not bad, according to His written word (Hebrews 12); divine exposure of folly is not bad, in the same setting. Divine plans to test, as in Job, and show the result, are not bad in His word.
What is the problem then ? This world is a scene of disrupted innocence, declaimed remedy and divine discipline, in which sorrows come partly because of sin, partly because of tests and trials, partly because of divine educative exhibits for all time, partly because of judgment, and for as many GOOD reasons as the Lord desires. There is no slightest difficulty about His word and His world.
(You may wish to see more on this in the file: pain,suffering,evil. There is much to be found on Job's particular case in terms of suffering*2 and pain and that particular illustration of their genesis, in Importunity, Opportunity and Purity of Heart Chs. 1, 2, 3.)
It is therefore far removed from truth is the concept that it is only because God CAN do no evil, that this world can be shown to fulfil divine principles as stated to man. In fact, He does not need to tell us all, but all that He tells is true, and this includes the whole TYPE of case in view (as in Amos 3-4), such as progressive penalties for cumulative alienation and divine restraint from obliterative judgment summarily (II Peter 3:9), though truth will out at last (II Peter 3:10ff.). Vast is the confusion, the pretension, the pride, the arrogance, the intractability in man, to truth; vast is the payment God has made to secure redemption; and vast is the wonder of His love.
Man is apt to complain that
the pangs of myriad-minded sin within (though unrecognised frequently) and without,
caricatures of divine compassion,
deletion of divine creation,
delinquency from divine morality,
should not bring such a contortion and abortion in this world as it does;
but in fact, the distortion is man's, and the results are what you get when you distort.
The case would not arise, were it not the case that only in mercy the Lord so diminishes judgment that life can continue, while the Gospel comes to every door, more and more. Yet man in his dudgeons at what is deserved by this world, to which all are liable without the Lord, frequently becomes flighty, like a frequent flier, and begins even now to imagine He can kill God off and run away with His world. And this ? It is all right ? It is surprising that this theft has some restraint, some demonstration of its entire corruption, coming from the Lord ? It is in some sense surprising ? Are we dreaming!
God has given man freedom, and man is giving account, while God is showing mercy as the world runs rioting to its just conclusion, the judgment interrupted with the Gospel, while the truth presented in its power, the light vindicated in its perfection. Is it not written, that God has done all this in the redemption through Christ that HE MIGHT BE JUST! (Romans 3:23ff.). There is no bending of His principles, whether of mercy or judgment, of His righteousness, whether for a little or a lot, for He does not change (Psalm 102). Thus these magnificent features in the Lord are a criterion so profound that the payment knows no limit, even the death as sin-bearer of the eternally and incandescently pure Word of God in the flesh! So does He act that He might be just AND the justifier (for mercy's sake) of anyone who believes in Jesus. That is what the word of the Lord shows in Romans 3.
To the contrary, then, endeavouring to make God just by having some standards which are above and beyond, by simple definition from the name 'God' simply in its sovereign aspect, then, is wholly diverse from the manifestation of God in word and in flesh, the criterion of truth which is Christ, who spoke, and whose is the word of truth, the man who told us the truth, as He declared. He is just by the standards which HE has announced, in His word which is forever true. This fact is an infinitely important one. What He is, His Father is, the one an exact representation of the other (Hebrews1).
Accordingly, such a simplistic view, as Clark here adumbrates on this point, ignores the matter of God's complex and pure dealings. He is to the contrary at PAINS to show that He is acting in such terms as He presents to man!
You see this again for example in Isaiah 1, Hebrews 12, Amos 4. There is progressive impulsion to man to awaken, that he might believe, and realise. It is its breach that brings the penalty for negligence at the last. The penalty is not for conforming to necessity, but for failing to configure to righteousness, always resisting the conviction of God (cf. Stephen's speech in Acts 7:51ff.)! -
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.
“As your fathers did, so do you."
Their eyes THEY have closed as Christ disclosed (Matthew 13:14) LEST they should believe and He should heal them. Accordingly, in the pangs of vast grief did He weep (Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff.). His beneficent therapy, costly to the uttermost in context of the cross, they made sure that their actual gifts did not take. Not deprived by God that they might lack freedom, but depriving themselves of His mercy, lest He should heal them, they annulled His willingness with their wilfulness; but not so that they surprised Him, or that they spoiled or foiled His plans. He knew them from before; and His plans had already wrought so that they would become means to it, even in killing Him (cf. Acts 2:23).
In Amos 4, again, you see His outrage at their unjust and unsavoury dealings, and His negative actions to awaken them to these, this being followed by His direct meeting in devastating judgment. He charges them as He brought in differing relatively minor judgments, with failing to RETURN TO HIM; until, this being so, the fateful judgment came. Did He design them so to do, that He might tell them that their programs or propulsive equipment was preventing them from coming to Him ? Not at all, He told them that they acted in despite of His grace in not so coming. As to God, He speaks truth!
WHY will He so confront man ? It is because He is God who declares to man what His thought is (Amos 4:13) as these chapters illustrate, and man in repeatedly transgressing these thoughts of God, and the sanctions they embrace, and ignoring the divine corrections in moderation and measure at first, with tenacity, receives more rigour at length!
Thus we find in this chapter, that man comes to the very point of meeting the God who spoke, because it is of Himself and His OWN thoughts that He spoke, even from the heart, and because therefore man is at war with no lesser a being than God Himself. Thus he must then MEET that very being whose very words spoke of His very thoughts, with a jot and tittle precision (Amos 4:12). That, the Lord there assured recalcitrant man, would therefore ensure, it would happen, it would come because of these wayward wilfulnesses.
What then do we find ? Step by step in this case, man brings on himself the slowly roused anger of God, making complete confrontation with that Being who HAS these thoughts: for they are His own, and will NOT have them contravened. "Prepare to meet your God!" at last He asseverates.
So far from being different from His word, from His revelation, being one thing in one phase and another in some other way, as if it were playing charades, He is the always same, and the divergence from His word, is actually therefore from Himself. THEREFORE sinning man then meets DIRECT.
Thus when the WORD OF GOD comes as in Revelation 19 to judge, it is He who shares the throne with His Father (Rev. 5, 21-22), who is that same word alive, which by His Spirit was indited earlier in the Bible. God has expressed Himself in many ways; He has spoken by the prophets and now by His Son; He has given words by His Spirit, and now in direct outshining of His very person to the uttermost point, has spoken in His Son. There is nowhere else to go. Pragmatic pollution is as alien from this as smog from the highest snow. Here is the definitive expression of His very self! (Hebrews 1:3).
It is LIGHT which has come into the world, as distinct from darkness and the failure to prefer this which is the ultimate source of final condemnation. We know for God tells us it is so (John 3:16-19,36). So far from REQUIRING man to do things which are in fact evil, a view Paul expunges as we have seen: God in many ways over a long time has worked and acted in ingenious fashions to impel man to cease from these evil things, and only with extreme reluctance did He bring the impending judgment on such things, which they ultimately require, upon man.
It is so in Jeremiah (as for example in Jeremiah17:19ff.), and in Jesus (Luke 19). Light it was which shone in the word, but the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1). It is Christ who is the light of the world, and who precludes one's walking in darkness, when one has come in faith to Him, in repentance and in reception of His objective truth, of His divine nature and His everlasting mercy. The God who dwells in light unapproachable (I Timothy 6:16) does not have some other light. This is He: see Him, see His Father.
As to the consequences of the misuse of this freedom in man, in the face of the light of truth and of God: You see the same in Hosea 11:8, where the divine poignancy and indeed pangs and grief at giving up the recalcitrant people are exposed. This is not a direction to go astray, but a result of man's doing so; and if the result of so much love, tenderness and mercy from God WHO LOVES to be merciful (Micah 7:19ff.), because HE IS SO, and to meet justice, because HE IS JUST, is judgment, there is no option, for there is no other remedy but that provided. Thus the image-of-God bearers must now face the results of pre-empting a preference for darkness, as if indulged in their wantonry.
Such will be the result. God did not make man in His own image in order that it should not be present. He does not see man defile it and refuse restoration without a divine grief at this, because the misuse of the granted liberty to misuse is grievous: He is the God of truth. He does not have this grief and not take action to enable a better result; nor does He evacuate the image of God in man in order to gain it. God is just, truth, merciful and loving; and does not force. PUT UP YOUR SWORD! said He to Peter, a far better way than irrelevant violence by vile deeds wrought by impenitent man for his own religiosity.
Thus in Hosea 11:8, God is not remonstrating, "How shall I give you up ..." because in cold fact He made it so that this was a simple programmatic matter, and could never have been otherwise, because of the nature of liberty-free man, for whom freedom is a non est!
There is clowning and there is clowning, but this would be the
summit. To exempt man from the liberty which enables performance, while
declaiming against what is missing by creation, and paying for what was not
worthy of payment, because not even relevant, by oversight: this is the very
crown of confusion. Not thus, in such contradictions of the word of God and
reason itself, is truth to be found!
When God so thunders, and so churns in grief, it is because, He the truth finds it so. He does not institute grief because His plan was to institute it, like some puppet. He does not suffer grief because man is made to do what is grievous by His own will. There is nothing grievous about making a sure-fire missile that does not miss!
In the Old Testament in the prophets, as in the New direct in Christ, the grief is profound because the offer is wonderful, the life is His, the light is His, and there is no way it is to be changed to what is impure, so that the utmost is to give what is pure, to make up the difference, and send this Son for sacrifice to enable free restoration to righteousness and reality. Neither the sin nor the gift is contrived. Both are grievous in cost. Each is from the light which knows no darkness, nor yet change (James 1:17)
That is why we can read in Hosea 11:6, of the uttermost of grief for the uttermost of reasons for the innermost need of man to receive the unalterable light of God:
"How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred."
Grief explodes from His heart because of their folly, transmitted not from Him, but Adam; and to him, not by constitution but by defilement through liberty. Certainly God knew it would come; but does it make the execution of a son of some loving father by the gross brutality of al Qaeda improve when it happens, because it might have been foreseen! You do not grieve at what you smash on purpose, but at what, with prospects of good, finds its own evil. Why ? it is because otherwise you SIMPLY grieve yourself because of your self, which means you are an inadequate and grievous self, which is to assume that God is a sinner direct! immature, or imperfect, and not even able to satisfy His own will. If you see the implications, they are deadly, and defile the very name of God, defy His very power.
Though wayward thoughts concerning God are common, this is certainly no exposition of the Bible! or derivation from fact.
Thus David was a man after God's own heart, for that is what is in His heart, and what he finds in substantial measure in his redeemed child, David. Similarly, what He SPEAKS, from up high, to us below, conveying what He is and what are His principles is Himself. What then does Psalm 33:11 tell us but this very thing: "The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." As a man thinks in his heart, we read, so is; and as God thinks in His heart, so is He. It is the very thoughts of His heart which He has told us, and absolute truth is the result. More is to come; but not less, no not a jot, not a tittle.
THE BEAUTY OF THE DIVINE HOLINESS
DOES NOT MIX WITH THE ALIEN ASCRIPTIONS
The final principles are in complete consort with this. Thus, God EXPLICITLY would like all to be saved (Col. 1:19ff., I Tim. 2, Luke 19); but equally explicitly, when in His predestinative foreknowledge, they WILL NOT (and it is known in advance, and they are chosen BY HIM in advance, outside mere history - Romans 9 - but in His perfect understanding): then they are not. Will not what ? Receive Him despite His so loving that world, and desiring that all be reconciled. Are not what ? Are not saved.
SINCE they are not, they do all sorts of things, the righteous suffer and are tried and so on. Principles and codes of philosophy are thus tried out, and to all eternity the ways of God are shown in their integrity and there is for ever no answer (cf. Ephesians 3:9-10). It is shown, demonstrated and without inhibition shown. History like a giant laboratory leaves liberty in much, to be seen as evil as such. In this sense also, the dead yet speaks!
Job in the book of that name, is simply one ILLUSTRATION of this fact; for God allowed the evil to occur (not moral evil, but actions potentially devastating in kind), so that the good might be shown! He did not contrive or connive to get what appals and brings churning grief to His heart, His Son to the Cross, but He did plan perfection, and it holds vast grief to attain in its beauty of spiritual life, once sin defiles.
Does this annul the plan ? Far from it. Does God defile in order to have defilement ? Does he do evil that good may come ? Of course not, He is not so limited. He does good that good may come, and when in fact evil comes from the liberty which being in His image necessarily brings, then more good does He do, to rescue. Does He impale man to receive Him now ? Far from it: for He is impaled in the presentation of liberty to man, and sends out His Gospel of liberty that man might be impelled to receive Him. Man cannot come without Him, but He will not drag any into the kingdom in violation of the reality of the integrity which in man He has made. Hence He does it Himself, but with this restraint and this reality of what love is, not dominance or domineering but rather opportunity and aid.
Thus God did not make sin, but merely test, and it is for this reason: for the desire and the confidence was that Job would be shown upright. God allowed trial for this reason. His knowledge of the result in no way makes it a compelled result, for that is to confuse knowledge with implementation, and test with no test, which is in any case a contradiction in terms.
Will a man tell God that He cannot on His own STATED principles, do such things ? That He cannot test man ? How ? If God wants to make manifest the authenticity of faith as I Peter declares, what is wrong in that! If He exposes shame with judgment, encourages the smouldering flax slowly into flame, if he confronts evil, or allows it to reach that height when all can see, if He divulges the light and confronts the darkness, when it is thick, as in Egypt in the day of Pharaoh, so that all might see where salvation lies, and not walk in darkness but rather in the light, if He is deep and understanding as well as compassionate and just, then God is God and not man; but His heart is as He has declared, His plans and counsel as He states, and His motivation as He confirms.
In Him there is NO iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4 - and it is HE who defines it, and Himself in contrast repeatedly), and HIS is the light into which man is invited.
Hence Clark is fundamentally in error here*3, and contrary to the many scriptures of that kind. One of his errors in that respect is, as noted, to be found in detail in SMR Appendix B (namely, Matthew 23:37, which of course Luke 19:42 confirms categorically in any case).
Not in the attribution to God of some other light, some other standards, some other heart, some other wisdom, some other counsel do we find the nature of pain, suffering and evil in this world; but in terms of that light which enlightens every man, which in its original purity is the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, whose ways are indeed past finding out, but whose principles are not only found out, but revealed, declared and confirmed in what is nothing less than the very incarnation of the One who GOD IS, as man, that we might see the light that IS God actually moving as man, first under the law, then when its time of Old Covenant aspect was complete, with His own law, His words which are truth, for man. At that, not a jot or tittle will pass from the law or prophets. He SAID SO. This is He who is the light, and this is the history of light, being God for ever, and becoming man to manifest who He is definitively, His words truth.
This is the criterion, here is the truth, here is the characterisation of the mind and heart of God, here are the words to apply.
So much then, on certain aspects of Gordon Clark's work in the volume noted, which need attention. It is not my purpose to seek to review the works of this brilliant man; but simply to respond to the question raised with necessary caveats concerning error, and to pass on some basics where systematic care is needed, in case it should help any others.
One has sought, on the other hand, to answer the question in a sufficiently fundamental way to cover the major impact, and to show that there is indeed a totally cogent way to show that God is and that His divine nature is just that; and that, further, there is a way to show that the Bible is the word of God, whether people like it or not; and to this end have I laboured not a little, but especially at the outset, in SMR, which does just that. There are no residual problems0.
One does not need to examine cake-shops for cakes, when one has excellent ones that meet all needs; nor to travel to the ends of the earth to find new philosophies, when all philosophy fails before the word of God, or new and stunning theologies, when the Bible is pellucidly clear, or new apologetics, since the reason is most adequate already. One does not need to imitate the Athens of Acts 17, galvanized by every glamorised new thing. It is the issues which count. It is the truth which matters.
The word that matters is the word of God, the thoughts that matter are the thoughts of the heart of God, and the reasoning that is to be sustained, is that which shows that the word of God, where and what it is. God has given to us both these things, the reason to indicate, and the revelation which it indicates; the power to find, and the thing to find. What more loving than He!
Yet if someone has a problem, yes then one may be moved to seek to serve by showing the answer as the Lord enables in some field. Is anything too hard for the Lord ? It may be to indicate an answer, or to supply it. It is enough that it is there.
Is this not what a ministry is supposed to do ? If someone wants to co-operate in some way which will bring the Lord glory, then as He leads, so may it be done.
May Christ then be glorified, and may we avoid stumbling by walking in anything contrary to His word. Again, what more loving than this, that He supplies life in the first place, spiritual life in the second place, by making our race in His image so that all these wonderful things are available, these almost inordinate co-ordinations, knowing what He is doing to such an extent, even infinite, that our sin is His occasion for finding and funding our redemption.
Though it rightly appals Him,
yet He chose to suffer appallingly rather than merely to be appalled,
that we might be delivered and find once more,
not merely in probative opportunity as in Adam's day,
but in unimprovable certainty,
in ineluctable, ineludible, ineradible, iinexpugnable and unimprovable surety,
abundance and fulness
that place in His heart for children adopted.
To be kept in the heart of God,
what more could anyone want,
for in His truth, mercy, faithfulness, love, kindness and comfort,
in His consolation, strength and unutterable brilliance,
there is peace and rest, vision and vigour, health and strength.
Being called, converted, regenerated and enabled,
we His children come to Him,
who came for us,
and He comes again for us, who are His,
that those past and present,
in one multiplied and convivial assemblage of wonder and adoration,
might appreciate Him for ever.
Nor is it simply in stanzas of delight,
but in standards of perfection,
that He both is and comes,
both lives and confers in grace.
For it is he who
imbued with light as the dazzling diamond
in the irradiating sun,
comforting in conquest,
holy in integrity,
triune in company,
is life eternal,
manifest in its eternal Giver,
sent into this world,
formed in the womb as Jesus Christ,
fashioned in the life as the Saviour,
filled with grace and truth.
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all;
and as to us, we are to walk in that light.
There are not two of them!
and Christ is the eternal outshining,
the word of God is the scribal deposition.
even of well-intentioned philosophy,
are not needed
to defend the word of God.
It speaks for itself.
As to Him who has come, and is coming:
Jesus Christ, God incarnate,
and that blessed all-loving trinity:
Once found, all else is confounded;
once tasted, its knowledge is good,
and once imbibed, the waters of His wonder
are as streams that flood into lakes of loveliness,
with the paths of peace surrounding,
vital, invigorating, filled with zest.
See Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, *1, and Light of Dawn Ch. 1.
See on evil, pain and
suffering, not only
the file of that name, but News
125, and Swift Witness
5, with News
74, Biblical Blessings
Ch. 7, The Kingdom of Heaven
Question and Answer 1. See also Lord of Life Ch. 6.
*3 See Clark’s Religion, Reason and Revelation pp.239-240.
Not only are all problems solves in and for reason, after all as a creation in man to show its integral facility and felicity, but nothing else either can or does resolve the problems of philosophy or the revealing assaults of antinomies. While this has been shown from the first in SMR 1-3,10, it is also reviewed broadly, but succinctly with this background, in the next volume, No 82,
Outrageous Outages and Awesome Inputs, Ch. 2.