Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Part C

Isaiah 42:5, 44:24: God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it…Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone,’ ” (Isaiah 42:5, 44:24)

As the first verse of the Bible states, God is the creator of the material universe and all life in it (Gen. 1:1). He is not a product of the cosmos (being part of it), but rather, it is the product of Him. In fact, contrary to every non-theistic1 religion which believed that the material cosmos was co-eternal with any ordering principle (i.e. gods, forms, etc.), the Scriptures state that God created everything out of nothing. This is called creation-ex-nihilo:

  • “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3)

  • “…(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” (Romans 4:17)

  • “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)2

  • “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

  • (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16-17, Revelation 1:8, 22:133)

This, furthermore, is why, as Isaiah says, everything’s existence and life depend upon His constant upholding power:

  • “You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

  • “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” (Acts 17:24-26)

  • For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

  • “…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

  • “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

  • (Isaiah 40:26, 1 Timothy 6:13)

We stand in awe of His works for they “declare the glory of God” and “the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” (Romans 1:20).4

Isaiah 40:27-28: The Omnipresence of God

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” (Isaiah 40:27-28)

The pagan idolaters thought that YHWH was just another god who was finite and thus limited by space and time. They therefore believed that their evil ways could be hidden from His sight and escape His judgment. However, as the self-existing One who created the space-time universe out of nothing and sustains it by the word of His power, He is everywhere present in His universe and not limited by space or time.

  • “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

  • “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

  • “‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:24)

  • “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;” (Acts 17:26-27)

The great believers of the past took pride in this attribute of God and actually mocked the followers of the false gods for worshipping beings that did not possess it:

“It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’ ” (1 Kings 18:27)

Like the saints of old, it is reassuring to us to know that our God is always with us and there for us (Matthew 28:20).

Isaiah 41:21-24: The Omniscience of God

“‘Present your case,’ the LORD says. ‘Bring forward your strong arguments,’ the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.” (Isaiah 41:21-24)

God calls forth the false gods of the peoples and challenges them to foretell the future. The fact that they did not possess foreknowledge was given as proof that they were false gods. God also mocks the sorcerers and astrologers whom the people of Israel turned to for security:

“Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling. You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you. Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame; there will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before!” (Isaiah 47:12-14)

The fact that the sorcerers were powerless to guide the future and the astrologers were ignorant in foreseeing it was and is proof of the futility of the dark arts.

In contrast to this, God has perfect knowledge of His universe: past, present, and future. In more philosophical language, we would say that God possesses analytical knowledge of His universe. That is, He does not take in information like His creatures (who possess synthetic knowledge), but rather, He has it all at hand:

  • “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.” (1 Samuel 2:3)

  • “For He knows false men, and He sees iniquity without investigating.” (Job 11:11)

  • “…O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds;” (Jeremiah 32:18-19)

  • “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (1 John 3:20)

  • (Job 37:16, Psalm 139:4, 147:5, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:8, Acts 15:18, Hebrews 4:13, etc.)

Over the past century, there have been those who view man’s reason and understanding as the ultimate guide to truth and God. Some of these men, the Open Theists, deny that God can have complete or any knowledge of the future since it is beyond the understanding of man’s mind. Instead, to them the future is open to chance and time, and God as well as man is part of this ebb and flux of unknown history. Of course, not only does this make their god a false god by the standard given by the Lord in Isaiah 41:21-24, it also contradicts some of the most plain texts of Scripture:

  • “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)

  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

  • “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:22-23)

  • “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

  • “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)

  • “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (Revelation 13:8)

  • (Romans 11:2, Galatians 3:8, Ephesians 1:5, 11, 2 Timothy 1:9, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 17:8, etc.)

What about those passages which state that God learned something new? In reading these passages, we must be careful to realize that they are part of the genre of historical narrative showing how God covenantally5 relates to man. As such, God says things and the Bible relates the actions of God in an anthropomorphic way so that man can understand God’s actions. We must read these “secondary” passages (which focus on God’s covenantal condescension in history) in light of the “primary” passages (which focus specifically on the topic of God’s essence as He actually is).6

From knowledge of this attribute of God, we can be assured that nothing takes place without Him knowing about it, and nothing will escape the justice of God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Isaiah 40:27-28).

Isaiah 45:20-24: The Omnipotence of God

“Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; they have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.” (Isaiah 45:20-24)

God again calls the nations and their gods to gather for judgment, and again, the gods of the heathen are declared to be false gods because they did not know the future. Secondly, the heathen who worshipped them for protection did so in vain because they did not exist. Only the Lord, the living and eternal God who created everything out of nothing, the omnipotent One, can deliver them out of the hands of the mightiest foe of the earth as He did for Israel against Assyria (Isaiah 37:14-20, 36). In the end, all shall realize this and bow the knee before YHWH, the God of Israel.7

When speaking of God’s attributes, we must be careful to note that many of these attributes are defined in relation to God’s creation. Thus, omnipotence is defined as that attribute of God in which He has complete power over the created order except for the ability to do something that would cause Him to deny Himself (see The Immutability of God). So, whenever your local village atheist or a moronic freshman philosophy student asserts that God cannot be omnipotent because He can’t make a rock so big that He can’t move it, he is committing the fallacy of the straw-man since that was never how the Bible defined God’s omnipotence in the first place.8 Rather, omnipotence should be defined as the fact that nothing in His creation can limit His power:

  • Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)

  • “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If He passes by or shuts up, or calls an assembly, who can restrain Him?” (Job 11:10)

  • “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

  • “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19)

  • “The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will standFor the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”” (Isaiah 14:24, 27)

  • “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35)

  • “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” (Matthew 19:26)

  • “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

  • (1 Samuel 2:3-10, Job 9:10-12, Psalm 104:5-30, Jeremiah 32:17, Luke 1:27, Acts 17:24-26, etc.)

In fact, YHWH is called “the Almighty” 58 times in the Bible, 31 times in Job alone! We can rest assured that God will triumph over the powers of this world and bring all things to justice.


1 Theism is here being defined as any of the three revealed monotheistic “faiths,” Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Non-theism would thus be everything else.

2 “It may, in fact, have been the writer's intention to correct a widespread tendency in hellenistic Judaism to read Gen 1 in the light of Plato's doctrine in the Timaeus.”

3 This verse is applied to Christ (vv.12, 20) and connects Him with the speaker of Rev. 1:8, “the Lord God…the Almighty”.

4 We’ll discuss this passage at a later time.

5 i.e., how He condescends from His infinitude so that man can interact with and understand Him.

6 Again, Robert Morey notes: “[W]hat do “evangelical” processions do when they want to give a Biblical argument against God’s foreknowledge of the future? They argue that several Biblical passages suggest that God learned something new that He did not know beforehand…[Cites Gen. 3:9, 11:5-7, 22:12.]…

Christian theologians have always interpreted the above passages as being anthropomorphic in nature, i.e., God is described in human terms in a figurative way. Thus whenever the Bible talks about God’s going from place, looking at this or that, having hands, eyes, or ears, none of these should be taken literally any more than when God is described as having the wings of a bird! Thus Adam was asked the question for his benefit, not God’s. It was Abraham who needed to know the condition of his heart, not God.

In terms of hermeneutics, if we must choose between a didactic passage in Scripture where God’s foreknowledge is clearly taught and a historical narrative where figurative language is used, the didactic passages must be given the dominance.” (Morey, op. cit., pp.122-123)

7 It should be noted that Paul applies this verse to Christ in Philippians 2:10, equating Him with YHWH.

8 The assumption made by the atheist and the philosophy student, here, is that “power” should be defined in the pagan Greek philosophic sense of an open-ended chance-based universe. This is something foreign to the Biblical worldview, and thus, it begs the very question under dispute: which worldview is true?

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