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FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FAITH

by Carl Henry.

1. REVEALED RELIGION -- GORDON H. CLARK

FEW QUESTIONS IF any are as important as the status of revealed

religion. From an immediately practical point of view, revelation is the

divide separating Bertrand Russell’s unyielding atheistic despair from the

Christian hope of eternal life.

Even such a positivist as Herbert Feigl, in the opening sentences of his

important Logical Empiricism, writes, “Probably the most decisive division

among philosophical attitudes is the one between the worldly and the

other-worldly types of thought… Very likely there is here an irreconcilable

divergence. It goes deeper than disagreement in doctrine; at bottom it is a

difference in basic aim and interest… The very issue of the jurisdictive

power of the appeal to logic and experience (and with it the question of

just what empirical evidence can establish) is at stake.”

Now, the hope of eternal life in another world depends on God; and to

deny the existence of God is to reduce the universe to a pitiless inhuman

machine, or, since scientific mechanism cannot in reality be sustained, to a

purposeless chaos in which human life is a tragic futility.

From a more academic viewpoint, yet mediately just as practical, the status

of revelation determines the specific nature of religion. In doing so, it not

only sets the ethical standards of daily living but also modifies or controls

the theory of psychology and of politics and the philosophy of history. For

example, a good argument can be framed to show that in political theory

atheism and even some forms of religion imply tyranny, whereas the

justification of minority rights and the authority of a limited government

depend on a specific type of revelation (see my A Christian View of Men

and Things, chapters 3 and 4).

These few paragraphs are sufficient to indicate the importance of revealed

religion. No effort will be made here to prove the existence of God or the

possibility of a divine revelation, though in so far as objections are

removed, the following argument will have an indirect bearing upon these

questions. What the contemporary situation requires is that the term

revelation be explained. In good English the word is used in several senses.

Each has more or less content. One meaning may prove to be virtually

worthless; another may serve as the basis for a multitude of detailed

conclusions; and a third may be placed midway between the two in

fruitfulness.

What follows begins with this third type of meaning, a meaning, however,

that is chronologically early. Then come some contemporary views of

revelation that turn out to be logically sterile. And finally there will be an

examination of one that is both chronologically early and satisfactorily

productive both logically and practically.

That God reveals Himself to man in nature is a very early view of the mode

of revelation. It is found in Aristotle and other pagan philosophers, with

whom we shall not have much to do, and of course it is expressed in many

parts of the Bible. But the acknowledgment that the heavens ,declare the

glory of God has been developed in two rather different formulations.

STRICT NATURAL THEOLOGY

The first of these may be called natural theology in the strictest sense.

Thomas Aquinas and the Roman Catholic Church hold, not merely that

God can be known in nature, but that the existence of God can irrefragably

be demonstrated, without any a priori equipment, from the data of sensory

perception. To make good this claim, Thomas, following the lead of

Aristotle, worked out an amazingly intricate system of philosophy.

This tremendous achievement merits professional and meticulous

examination. The limits of the present argument, however, preclude any

such elaborate analysis. In another volume (Thales to Dewey, pp. 274-78),

I have tried to show that technical analysis can indicate several points (e.g.,

the concepts of potentiality and motion, the circular argument on infinite

regress, the theory of analogy) at which the chain of Thomas’ syllogisms

breaks down. Surely it is extreme to claim, as the Thomists do, that the

Apostle Paul in <450120>Romans 1:20 guarantees the validity of the complete

argument. Now, if the Thomistic proofs are fallacious, as many non-

Romanists are willing to admit, this would eliminate natural theology from

any further consideration.

But for those who are suspicious of or unfamiliar with philosophy, there is

a more obviously theological objection to Thomism. Karl Barth in our day

has become well known for his stringent opposition to all natural theology;

and a part of his argument, in the form of a destructive hypothetical

syllogism, maintains that if the theistic proofs were in fact valid, they would

quite demolish all Christianity.

Significant knowledge of God cannot be had, argues Barth, if “we reserve

the question to which the doctrine of the Trinity is the answer (namely,

Who God is) and deal first with his existence and his nature, as if this That

and What could be determined otherwise than on the presupposition of the

Who” (Church Dogmatics, I, 345). On the next page he continues, “If we

do not know God in the way in which he reveals himself as the one,

namely, distincte in tribus personis, the inevitable result is that nudum et

inane duntaxat Dei nomen sine vero Deo in cerebro nostro volitat”

(Calvin, Institutes, 1, xiii, 2). Or, in English, if we do not know God as one

substance in three Persons, the inevitable result is a blank, empty name

floating in our brains without any idea of the true God.

A third reference to Barth, in which he quotes C. J. Nitsch with approval,

takes us a step further. “So long as theism ‘only distinguishes God and the

world and never God from God, it is always caught in the reversion or

transition to the pantheistic or other denial of absolute being. A perfect

protection against atheism, polytheism, pantheism, or dualism there can

only be with the doctrine of the Trinity’“ (Church Dogmatics, I, 347).

If it seems strange to accuse St. Thomas of aiding and abetting atheism and

pantheism, the direction of natural theology can better be seen as it worked

itself out in Hegel and the theologians who followed him. The connection

with St. Thomas lies in the fact that his terms denoting God are all neuters:

ens perfectissimum, primum movens, and so on. This Aristotelian

construction, essentially pagan, obscures the personality of God, with the

result that an elevation of this neuter to the status of the Christian Trinity

becomes an insuperable difficulty. With the advent of Hegelian absolutism,

a person becomes an individual mode of the Absolute Spirit, while the

Spirit, being Absolute, cannot be a person.

Theologians such as Siebeck, Lotze, Rothe, and Ritschl, who attempted to

preserve the personality of God, found their principles unequal to the task.

God became merely the content of the highest human values, so that in

modernism the object of worship became man himself (cf. Church

Dogmatics, I, 2, pp. 286-97).

At this point three conclusions may be drawn: (a) the theistic proofs are

destructive of Christianity; (b) but fortunately they are invalid, so that

Christianity escapes this danger; and (c) in so far as natural theology is an

impossibility, the need of a revealed religion becomes clearer.

LESS AND MORE

Schleiermacher represents a type of theology that is less strict logically

than Thomas’ claimed to be but that at the same time hoped to extend itself

to more doctrines. Thomas, of course, added biblical revelation to his

natural theology, and only in that could he find the truth of the Trinity,

Creation, Atonement, and so on. Schleiermacher turns from the

Aristotelian apparatus of motion and prime mover and expects to uncover

the whole of Christianity by an analysis of human nature, or, more

accurately, the Christian consciousness.

Influenced by Pietism, Schleiermacher made emotion the essence of

religion. Whereas the Reformers had based Christian experience on ideas

and doctrine, for him theology is precisely the description of religious

experience. The center of this experience is a feeling of absolute

dependence, and God exists because we feel dependent on Him. It is not

that the feeling is dependent on a prior knowledge of God but rather that

the knowledge is dependent on the feeling. Doctrines, to say it again, are

descriptions of this feeling.

Schleiermacher was in fact a pantheist, and his influence combined with

that of Hegel to deny the personality of God, as explained above. Karl

Barth showed how modernism developed from Schleiermacher, and why

this type of religion substituted man for God as the object of worship. The

empirical nature of his theology led away from the original “Christian”

consciousness to a nondescript psychology of religion, and became the

foundation of contemporary humanism. The story is interesting and

complex (cf. Richard B. Brandt, The Philosophy of Schleiermacher,

Harper and Brothers, 1941; Edwin A. Burtt, Types of Religious

Philosophy, revised edition, chapter 2; and for a summary of Barth’s

criticisms, Gordon H. Clark, Karl Barth’s Theological Method,

Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963).

So far as logical status is concerned, however, the procedure of

Schleiermacher, since it cannot be classed with the alleged irrefragable

demonstrations of Thomas, must either be judged more glaringly fallacious

or be classified with the loose form of natural theology in the next

paragraph.

LOOSE NATURAL THEOLOGY

There is another and looser sense of natural theology to which the

preceding arguments do not seem to apply. Instead of attempting an

irrefragable demonstration of the existence of an ens perfectissimum, one

might claim merely that the heavens declare the glory of God. Certainly

this is natural, though perhaps it should not be labeled theology. Theology

is commonly supposed to be somewhat systematic, and this is a most

unsystematic knowledge of God.

Not only is it unsystematic; it is also quite inadequate and minimal at best.

Without examining too closely the logic involved, let us ask what may be

known of God by an examination of nature. First of all, it will be said that

the planets as they move according to Kepler’s three laws show that God is

a great mathematician— at least as good a mathematician as Kepler, and

perhaps even better.

Since this amount of knowledge does not equal omniscience, someone may

claim that the creation of the planets and stars is evidence of omnipotence.

This claim, however, must be disallowed, not because creation would be

insufficient evidence of omnipotence but because we have no empirical

evidence of creation. We do indeed see the stars, but we did not see God

create them. If, now, instead of relying on observation, the claimant

attempts to argue that the visible existence of the stars proves that they

were created, we would have to return to an examination of natural

theology in its strict sense. And we should save to do this with even less

hope of success, for an argument that proves creation is considerably more

difficult to construct than one that proves only the existence of some God.

In fact, Thomas Aquinas himself, who worked out in such detail, laid such

stress on, and was so certain of his theistic proofs, says explicitly, “That the

world did not always exist, we hold by faith alone: it cannot be proved

demonstratively” (Summa Theologica, I, Q. 46, Art. 2).

If, of course, we have some other source of knowledge, a bona fide

revelation, that assures us of divine creation, we can then ascribe to the

Creator the amount of power displayed in the heavens. But even so, and

aside from the fact that we are now depending on special revelation, this

amount of power, great as it is, cannot be omnipotence. Beyond the

amount we observe, there can always be more.

Observation of nature is a very unsatisfactory method of obtaining

knowledge of God. Christians are often unwilling to face the difficulties

involved, and they sometimes try to ignore what their opponents see so

clearly. The theory of evolution has described nature as red in tooth and

claw. How can we see God in animal pain? Human beings are a part of

nature, too; and the brutalities of Hitler and Stalin, the Red Chinese

massacre of the Tibetans, and nearly all the rest of human history make a

sorry picture. On such observations as these, Voltaire wrote this outlandish

Candide, Hume his restrained Dialogues on Natural Religion (chapters 10

and 11), and Julian Huxley, with an air of superiority, his Religion Without

Revelation.

Again, let us insist, if we have some source of information other than

observation of nature, if God has revealed some parts of a philosophy of

history, we can handle these unpleasant facts. Candid opponents of

Christianity admit this possibility. But natural theology cannot handle them,

and candid Christians ought to admit it.

To do the best for this loose form of natural theology, we may well say

that the heavens make some display of God’s power and glory; that the

brutality of tyrants elicits a disaffection that attests the existence of a dim

and feeble conscience that can serve as the ground of moral responsibility;

but that nothing in the way of practical plans for amelioration is

forthcoming.

Though dim and restricted, this natural knowledge of God is not to be

denied. <450120>Romans 1:20 may not guarantee the validity of the theistic

proofs, but it plainly asserts some knowledge of God derived from “the

things that are made.” <450215>Romans 2:15 shows a minimal a priori

knowledge of moral principles. On such natural knowledge human

responsibility depends. When Karl Barth argues that the heathen Paul has

in view are not the heathen generally but only those to whom he preached

the Gospel, so that all the others have no knowledge of God at all, we

regret that his exegetical powers failed him (cf. Church Dogmatics, II, 1,

pp. 119ft.). Yet this natural knowledge is minimal in extent and practically

useless in communicating the way of salvation. Who can deny that the

savage tribes of the jungles know very little about God?

In view of these considerations, the position of orthodox Protestantism

seems soundly based, as expressed in the Westminster Confession, which,

combining observation of nature with what I take to be a reference to

innate moral ideas, pronounces this definitive judgment on natural theology

in its opening sentence: “Although the light of nature, and the works of

creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and

power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to

give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto

salvation.” It would seem therefore that some sort of revealed religion is a

necessity.

ENCOUNTER

Such is the flexibility of the English language that there is nothing improper

in a Thomist’s or a modernist’s assertion that nature, physical or human, is

a “revelation” of God. This meaning of revelation, however, gives rise to a

dry scholasticism and barren deism that, even if the validity of their

arguments is not questioned, seem at best to enervate true and vital

religion. Hence, without disallowing the usages of English, some devout

writers prefer to indicate by the term revelation something more direct and

personal. Having repudiated natural theology, they equate revelation with

“encounter.”

This contemporary idea of revelation, revelation as a living encounter, is

foreshadowed in earlier movements. The Pietists sought a more personal

religion than intellectual theology seemed to offer. The Quakers spoke of

an inner light and waited for the Spirit to move them to speak in meeting.

Even biblical terminology allows for a testimony of the Holy Spirit, which

could be construed as a living revelation. There have always been

individuals who sought God’s immediate guidance both for the practical

details of daily conduct and for the proper forms of divine worship. Some

people saw visions and dreamed dreams while Joan of Arc heard voices.

Then there were the outright mystics who fell into trances. The droplets of

their personality were poured out into the ocean of God’s being. Like air,

when it is so impregnated with light that it is more light than air, and like

iron, which in the fire looks more like fire than iron, so the mystic soul

becomes ineffably divine. No conceptual information is thus received, but it

is a deeply satisfying experience.

This mystic or pietistic type of mind, exemplified in all ages, provides a

fertile ground for the more recent developments. However, the

contemporary movement that hangs its vital religion on event or encounter

is not a lineal and direct descendant of mysticism or pietism. Certain

modem complications must be taken into account. These will be considered

later on. But first a most important point of similarity between the earlier

and the current movements requires emphasis. The similarity is their antiintellectualism.

As St. Bernard was distressed by the “rationalism” of

Abelard, so Soren Kierkegaard reacted against the omniscience of Hegel.

Hegelianism purports to furnish us with a completely rational explanation

of all the universe. The philosopher had begun his system with the most

empty and most general of all concepts. An analysis of this concept gave

rise to its opposite or contradictory. Then Hegel’s genius discovered how

to harmonize the contradiction in a higher synthesis. The synthesis in turn

gives rise to its contradictory, and these are then harmonized, and so on

until the Concrete Absolute Universal synthesizes everything. In Hegelian

philosophy, no problem escapes this dialectic solution.

Kierkegaard rejects the thesis-antithesis-synthesis scheme in favor of a

two-term dialectic. Each concept has its contradictory, but no synthesis is

possible. The final word is not Absolute, but Paradox.

The motivation for the attack against Hegel was supplied by the hypocrisy,

the complacency, and the stupidity of the state church. Kierkegaard was

fed up with the sawdust fare Hegelian pastors were feeding their

parishioners. Literally and symbolically the pastors reduced Christ’s miracle

of the loaves and fishes to an ordinary picnic; and original sin became an

inherited stomach disorder that was caused by Adam’s eating some

poisonous food. In such a theology, God and supernaturalism play no part.

The spirit of the age had replaced the Holy Spirit and time had swallowed

up eternity. One got his Christianity as one got his citizenship— by being

born in Denmark. Piety was conformity to custom, and society had

submerged the individual. It was in opposition to hypocrisy, citizen-

Christianity, and socialism that Kierkegaard cried for a passionate

individual decision. Hegelian philosophy had magnified conceptual abstract

knowledge; but true religion, says Kierkegaard, does not consist in

understanding anything: religion is a matter of feeling, of anti-intellectual

passionateness. What one believes is of no importance; how one believes it

makes all the difference in the world.

In one passage Kierkegaard describes two men at prayer. One is in a

Lutheran church and entertains a true conception of God. But because he

prays in a false spirit, he is in reality praying to an idol. The other man is in

a heathen temple praying to idols; but since he prays with an infinite

passion, he is in truth praying to God, for truth lies in the inward How, not

in the external What.

Two quotations from Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript

state the general position. “An objective uncertainty held fast in an

appropriation process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the

highest truth attainable for an existing individual.” And, second, “If one

asks subjectively about the truth, one is reflecting subjectively about the

relation of the individual; if only the How of this relation is in truth, then

the individual is in truth, even though he is thus related to untruth.”

Kierkegaard spoke in vain to his generation. No one paid any attention.

Everyone remained complacent and hypocritical. It took events of another

character— events that had no parallel in the days when St. Bernard

opposed the rationalism of Abelard— to force the meaning of Kierkegaard

on the twentieth century. Today the modernistic optimism of the nineteenth

century, a modernism that viewed original sin as a stomach disorder to be

cured by the advances of medical science, has been shattered by the

incredible devastation of two world wars. Complacency has given way to

anxiety. Tragedy, torture, and death have been our lot, and a still worse

World War III looms over us. Despairing of intellectual solutions in a

world of insane chaos, the theologians of the twentieth century

remembered the iconoclastic Dane.

The first of these was Karl Barth, who seized upon the notion of paradox

and emphasized the opposition between time and eternity, but whose later

writings toned down these themes. Emil Brunner was his early companion,

though later there was a rift between them. Brunner made more of paradox

and remained more outspoken against logic. Rudolf Bultmann, profoundly

influenced by the philosopher Heidegger, is a still different color on the

same spectrum. Bultmann may rather properly be called an existentialist,

though Barth explicitly rejects existentialism. And finally one ought to

mention Jean-Paul Sartre, who exemplifies the atheistic wing of this

movement.

The differences among these men make it impossible to frame any

summary that would apply accurately to them all. But there is a basic thesis

that unites them. They are all anti-Hegelian; they all agree that

intellectualism is superficial; they or their followers are apt to use the

slogans of romanticism— such as, life is deeper than logic, and, experience

is more real than thought; and finally they all more or less explicitly put

paradox and contradiction at the heart of reality and assert that some

problems are inherently insoluble.

This neo-orthodoxy, this neo-supernaturalism, or, in philosophic language,

this existentialism, is not to be defined simply as an interest in matters of

ultimate concern. Some existentialists try to do this and then claim that

Augustine and Luther were existentialists. This is bad logic and bad

scholarship. The important thing is that existentialism repudiates rational

thought, as Augustine and Luther never did. Sometimes Pascal is called a

forerunner of existentialism; but Pascal wrote, as Brunner and Sartre never

could write, “All our dignity consists in thought.” The essential point about

these twentieth-century theologians is that they repudiate thought and extol

non-intellectual experience.

Jean-Paul Sartre attempts to give a more positive and more technical

summary of existentialism. He asserts its common thesis to be “existence

precedes essence.” This anti-Platonic and anti-Hegelian phrase means that

the Aristotelian That precedes the Aristotelian What. For example, if a

carpenter wishes to make a cabinet, he must first know what a cabinet is

and what particular size and shape of cabinet he intends to make. Here the

What precedes the That: essence precedes existence. So too the Christian

idea of God includes the notion that God knew what He was going to

create before He created it. The doctrine of Providence ascribes to God a

knowledge or plan of history that antedates the events. This is what Sartre

denies. There is no pre-existent plan of history, nor even a determinate

human nature that all men must have. Each man makes himself what he

becomes. The What follows the That.

There are good reasons for selecting this as the definite principle of

existentialism, even in its theological forms. These authors emphasize

human freedom, an open universe, an indeterminate nature, in such a way

that by implication at least God can have no plan. For example, Langdon

Gilkey, although he is not a thoroughgoing existentialist, has absorbed

enough of it to write: “Existence, while revealing an ultimate coherence

and meaning, will not be completely reduced to any clear and precise

sequence of relationships. There are depths of freedom, of creativity, and

even of incoherence, within the mystery of being, which defy the attempt to

organize life into simple rational patterns. Thus the very goal of philosophy

is fatal to full understanding… The insistent intuitions that our purposes

are effective and our individuality is of value, belie systems in which all is

determined from beyond ourselves … ” (Maker of Heaven and Earth, p.

145). In spite of the phrase “an ultimate coherence,” and the word “simple”

in the phrase “simple rational patterns,” the thought denies ultimate, allinclusive

order and refuses to acknowledge a God beyond us who has

foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Similar and perhaps even stronger

denials of providence and predestination can be found in other writers.

Whereas Sartre sees clearly the atheistic implications of his definition of

existentialism and his defense of freedom, the theologians attempt to

escape them. To repeat, Karl Barth in particular asserts that he will have no

part in “existential screaming and the like.”

Yet Barth can hardly escape the charge of anti-intellectualism, and still less

can Brunner. These men and those whom they have influenced argue that

the intellect deals with abstractions and class concepts; it cannot handle the

unique. But every individual, especially every human individual, is unique.

We do not know persons the way we know things. There is an It-Truth and

a Thou-Truth; there is knowledge about and there is knowledge by

acquaintance. Now, God is a person. Therefore we cannot know about

Him; we must encounter Him in a face-to-face confrontation. As

Kierkegaard said, truth, non-intellectual truth, real truth is subjective. It is

not knowledge, but a passionate experience.

These characterizations, though they give scant information on the details

of Barth’s twenty volumes of Church Dogmatics or on Sartre’s long Being

and Nothingness, are, I believe, about as accurate as possible. With them in

mind it is now time to examine more closely the idea of revelation as

encounter. First, let us return to Kierkegaard for a moment.

Kierkegaard’s type of religion faces an obvious and inevitable question. If

it makes no difference What one believes, if only the How is important, and

if praying to idols is satisfactory, would not a passionate appropriation of

the devil be as praiseworthy as a decision for Christ?

Kierkegaard notices this question and makes a feeble attempt to answer it.

He tries to distinguish between the inwardness of infinity and the

inwardness of the finite. The former is a Christian inwardness and is based

on God; the latter relates to some other object.

This answer, however, is upside down. If there were a prior objective

knowledge of God, a person could use this objective knowledge as a basis

to judge that his passionate appropriation was infinite. But if there is no

prior objective knowledge of God, and if therefore one is limited to the

introspection of his own feelings, no qualitative difference between an idol

is as satisfactory as God, why would not the socialism of Hegel and Marx

be as acceptable as Kierkegaard and individualism? Communists are rather

passionate, are they not?

It is this inability to justify one decision in contradistinction to the opposite

decision, it is the equal value of encounter with God and encounter with an

idol, it is the emphasis on the How and the rejection of the What, that has

in one form and another plagued the existentialist movement down to the

present. For example, the defects in Kierkegaard’s subjectivism have not

been removed in Emil Brunner’s development of the same theme. Brunner

doubtless improves upon Kierkegaard in that he interprets the passionate

appropriation and moment of decision to be, what Kierkgaard did not

clearly say, a personal encounter. Yet this religious experience gives no

theological knowledge. It differs from ordinary cognition because of the

distinction between It-Truth and Thou-Truth. In the religious field this

bifurcation of knowledge was anticipated by Ferdinand Ebner and Martin

Buber; while in secular philosophy Brunner strangely finds himself in the

company of Maurice Schlick, who separated Erleben from Erkennen, and

Bertrand Russell, who distinguished between knowledge by acquaintance

and knowledge by description.

In fact the religious form of this bifurcation is more devastating to

knowledge than the secular form. It prevents us from even thinking about

God. Brunner writes, “God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually

exclusive. God is personal and discloses himself only in the medium of

personality, hence in a personal way, not through being thought… One

cannot be related to God by way of thinking… To know about God does

not mean merely to know about God, but to be personally encountered of

him” (Philosophie und Offenbarung, p. 50).

How little of thought and knowledge Brunner leaves to religion can be

seen in tracing through his argument in The Divine-Human Encounter. He

opens with the lament that the early Church succumbed to the evil Greek

influence that made revelation a communication of truth, and made faith an

acceptance of these truths; then nearly a hundred pages later he concludes:

“All words have only an instrumental value. Neither the spoken words nor

their conceptual content are the Word itself, but only its frame” (pp. 19,

110, italics mine).

In this anti-intellectualism, faith, if there be such a thing, becomes a

paradox. The paradoxes of faith, Brunner says, are not merely problems

difficult to solve but are “necessary contradictions in themselves and

therefore also contradictions against the fundamental law of all knowledge,

the law of contradiction, ergo no knowledge” (Philosophie und

Offenbarung, p. 34). Specifically, he identifies the Trinity and the two

natures of Christ as “logical monstrosities” — precious possessions of the

Church, no doubt, but nonetheless logical monstrosities. Theology, that is,

Brunner’s theology, is not concerned with the univocal truth of reason;

revelation must not be equated with a system of revealed doctrine; rather,

theology has to do with incomprehensible personal unity that binds its

contradictions together. (For a very thorough analysis and criticism see

Paul K. Jewett, Emil Brunner’s Concept of Revelation, James Clarke and

Co., Ltd., 1954.) In other words, namely, in my words, faith is insanity.

A criticism of the encounter theory of revelation need not spend much time

on the philosophic intricacies of Heidegger or Sartre, because every detail

is subject to the all-encompassing theory of knowledge and truth. The

bifurcation of truth into It-Truth and Thou-Truth makes the term “truth”

equivocal; and besides this, if it preserves anything at all on the side of

encounter or Erlebnis, it preserves it as an unknowable Ding an sich.

Confusion or deception then arises by talking about truth and by making

believe that the talk, or the books published, are in some sense intelligible.

They are not intelligible, for truth as encounter just is not truth at all.

In addition to the untenable and unresolved dualism, the evidence adduced

actually tells against the conclusion. Phraseology such as, “We rationally

analyze things, but we meet people,” may be good rhetoric; but to deny

that a person can be an object of thought flies in the face of our everyday

procedures. Granted that our best knowledge of persons comes, not from

our observation of them as physical objects, but from their voluntary selfdisclosure,

this self-disclosure is best made by speaking and by speaking

intelligibly. If a person should refuse to talk, what good would it do to

meet him? This is equally true in the case of God. Granted again, or, rather,

demanded and insisted upon, that any knowledge a man may have of God

depends on God’s voluntary self-disclosure, what good would it be — for

religion, for daily conduct, for theology or philosophy — to meet God if he

disclosed nothing? Of course, persons should be met; but they should be

met in order to converse with them.

For this reason the seemingly pious notion that Jesus Christ is God’s

revelation and that all our religion and theology derives from meeting

Christ precludes systematic theology and all definite religion as well.

Of course, Jesus is the living Word of God. We do not for a moment deny

it. Of course, God has in these last days revealed Himself to us in His Son.

But if the person of Christ is divorced from what Jesus of Nazareth said,

and if the person of Christ is divorced from what God said about Him

through the apostles, how can we know what Christ has done for us? A

mere encounter would leave the terms “regeneration,” “imputation,” and

“justification” meaningless. Indeed, if there were no intelligible speech or

thought, we could never know whether an encounter was an encounter

with Christ the Son of God or whether it was Kierkegaard’s encounter

with an idol. The very identification of Jesus as the Son of God cannot

possibly be made without intelligible thought.

Knowledge by acquaintance, in the anti-intellectual sense of encounter,

Begegnung, or Erlebnis, will result in no religion other than some

emotional entertainment. Theology there cannot be.

This point needs some emphasis and repetition. A meeting in which no

conceptual knowledge or intellectual content was conveyed would not give

the subject any reason for thinking he had met God. Nor could such an

inarticulate experience point to anything definite beyond itself. Though the

experience might still be stubbornly called religion by those who think or,

better, feel that emotion is the essence of religion, it could never be

identified as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. These three require ideas, a

What, and not merely a How.

That existentialism is a new religion, completely different from Christianity,

is unwittingly made clear in Pittsburgh Perspective, a publication of the

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In an article, “The Bible, Orthodoxy, and

Karl Barth” (March, 1963), the author, after giving various detailed

reasons in opposition to the orthodox doctrine of inspiration, brings his

argument to its culmination by contrasting two types of religion. The one is

“rationalistic”; its conception of “personal knowledge is painfully barren”;

“the character of the revelatory word as an existential address is almost

entirely overlooked in favor of the idea that the word provides true

information”; one orthodox writer mentions the need for worship and for

ethical conduct, and “these help to mitigate the intellectualism of his

concept of theology. But they do not yet carry his thought into the range of

problems that arise in the existentialistic-personalistic way of thinking.”

The author is obviously contrasting two types of religion; and the type he

prefers is not historic Christianity.

The existentialistic phraseology about encounter and personality seems

attractive to many who do not think beyond the language of propaganda.

Examples of impressive but completely empty phrases abound. Another

author insisted that religion is an “intensely personal” affair. No doubt it is.

So is the study of calculus— no one can do it for you. And brushing your

teeth. But no conclusions as to the nature, characteristics, value, or

importance of the activity, or as to what we should properly do about it,

can be drawn from the phrase “intensely personal.” Such language is

merely an emotional outburst. It is an empty phrase from an empty mind.

That existentialism and the personalistic way of thinking, or, better, the

personalistic way of not thinking, is the antithesis of Christianity needs to

be impressed upon all. The fact that Nietzsche was one of the forerunners

of existentialism, the fact that Heidegger was a Nazi who ended his

speeches with Heil Hitler, and the fact that Sartre is an atheist may fall

short of full proof that existentialism is anti-Christian. But strictly

theological considerations do not fall short of full proof.

The fundamental antagonism between existentialism and Christianity is

substantiated by examining the relation between encounter and the belief in

a future life. Existentialism, in its reaction against abstract, eternal truths,

has emphasized death — my death — the death of the individual.

Heidegger speaks of death as the end whereby a man’s existence becomes

complete. His capacity to anticipate death, not as a common phenomenon

but his own death, is the basis of his ability to grasp his existence as a

whole. So far as society is concerned, one man can be replaced by another.

When a banker retires, another continues the same functions. But man is

not a function; and I must do my own dying. Without anticipating death, a

man cannot live “authentically.”

But what can revelation as encounter tell us about death and a future life?

Particularly, what can encounter tells us about a bodily resurrection from

the dead? A non-conceptual, unintelligible encounter could never give us

the information that Christ will return to raise the dead. It cannot even give

us the minimum assurance of some sort of future life. Suppose with infinite

passion I commit myself to freedom, or decide to live authentically instead

of committing suicide or submerging myself in the masses: how could this

emotional experience possibly inform me that I shall be conscious one

hundred years from today, and what the quality of that consciousness will

be? In the face of death, what we need is not infinite passion but definite

information.

Other details of Christian theology and ecclesiology vanish. How does

Erlebnis convince me of infant baptism or of the immersion of adults? By

what standard do I determine the number of the sacraments and the forms

of their administration? Apart from revealed information, can papacy,

episcopacy, presbyterianism, or congregationalism be defended or

attacked? Is it not rather clear that anti-intellectual religion can settle the

nature of the Church only by an arbitrary decision on the part of its human

officers?

And for a final point, the same difficulty is found in questions of morality

also. That this should be true of Sartre’s atheistic existentialism need not be

surprising. What is surprising is Sartre’s explicit recommendations of one

type of life above another. If all is permitted, if man is the sole source of his

values, if he is responsible even for his physio-psychological makeup and

for the situation in which he finds himself (all of which Sartre apparently

asserts), then how can Sartre implicitly require all men to choose freedom

and live authentically?

The attenuated theism of the other neo-orthodox writers gives no better

foundation for the distinction between right and wrong. It is true that

Brunner says, “God … discloses himself … through actual address,

summons, command.” In fact, he says this in the very passage in which he

asserts, “God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually exclusive,”

and where he also says, “One cannot be related to God by way of

thinking.” But thinking is required, if God is to address us by way of

command. A God who speaks intelligibly can issue the Ten

Commandments; but an encounter commands as little as it informs. Once

more all the forms of worship are left to ecclesiastical politics, and all

forms of morality too.

The great difficulty, as should now be clear, is the refusal to accept the law

of contradiction. Erlebnis, faith, or encounter curbs logic. The result is

inconsistency beyond excuse. Only the people Alice encountered in

Wonderland can believe contradictions and logical monstrosities.

VERBAL REVELATION

It is now time to turn to something logical, consistent, and intelligible. The

Christian view of revelation, while it admits to an empirical display of

God’s power in astronomy, and requires the a priori of the divine image in

man, and while it above all makes possible an “encounter” with the mind of

God, mainly identifies God’s revelation with the words of Scripture. God

has told us some things; He has spoken; He has given us information.

In several of the neo-orthodox writers there are statements that the idea of

a verbal revelation, according to which God gives man true information,

was an invention of a late Protestant scholasticism that had lost the original

religious fervor of the Reformers.

Now, it is to be admitted, indeed it is to be insisted upon, that the later

creeds, which, scholastic or not, represent the most authoritative and most

mature conclusion of Reformation thought, teach the doctrine of biblical

infallibility. Of all the creeds the Westminster Confession is the longest and

the most carefully composed. The official doctrinal position of all

Presbyterian denominations, it states that the Holy Scripture or Word of

God, which it defines by naming the sixty-six books, is to be believed and

obeyed because of the authority of God, its author. The Bible is to be

received, continues the confession, because it is the Word of God, who is

truth itself. Since the whole counsel of God is found in the Bible, nothing

whatever is to be added to it. In all controversies the Church is to make its

final appeal to the Bible, and the Supreme Judge by which all councils and

opinions are to be examined is no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the

Scriptures. To avoid the hypocritical objection that the Spirit may speak in

some parts of the Bible but not in others, the confession not only defines

the Word of God as the sixty-six books but also later explains saving faith

as follows: “By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is

revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaketh therein.”

An earlier confession, the Belgic Confession of 1561, states the same

doctrine of Scripture:. “We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained

in two books, namely, the Old and New Testaments, which are canonical,

against which nothing can be alleged.” This is an assertion of inerrancy;

and to make it clear that inerrancy characterizes all the Bible and not just

some portions, the Belgic Confession, after naming the sixty-six books,

adds the words, “We receive all these books … believing, without any

doubt, all things contained in them… “

The Second Helvetic Confession reads: “Credimus et confitemur Scripturas

Canonicas sanctorum Prophetarum et Apostolorum utriusque Testamenti

ipsum verum esse verbum Dei… Nam Deus ipse locutus est Patribus,

Prophetis, et Apostolis, et loquitur adhuc nobis per Scripturas Sanctas …

ne ei aliquid vel addatur vel detrahatur.” (“We believe and confess that the

canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments

are the very word of God… For God himself spoke by the fathers,

prophets and apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures …

to which nothing may be added or subtracted.”)

These credal positions are clearly and explicitly incompatible with then eoorthodox

view of the Bible. But is it true that this creedal position can be

properly referred to by the derogatory term “scholasticism”? Do the creeds

add artificial doctrines that differ from the preaching of Calvin and Luther?

Did the Reformers deny that the Bible is the very Word of God? Did they

deny the inerrancy of verbal inspiration?

First, let us look at Calvin. Since the truthfulness of Scripture was not

formally denied by the Romanists, the subject is less thoroughly treated in

the writings of the Reformers than is the doctrine of free grace. But

Calvin’s incidental remarks are clear enough. (For a fuller account of the

matter see “Calvin and the Holy Scriptures,” by Kenneth S. Kantzer, in

Inspiration and Interpretation, edited by John W. Walvoord, Eerdmans,

1957.) In one place he says, “God is its Author. The principal proof

therefore of the Scriptures is everywhere derived from the character of the

Divine Speaker. The prophets … bring forth the sacred name of God to

compel the submission of the whole world… This use of the divine name is

neither rash nor fallacious… The Scripture exhibits the plainest evidences

that it is God who speaks in it” (Institutes, I, vii, 4).

Indeed, instead of attributing to Calvin a looser view of Scripture than that

of the Westminster Confession, it is easier to understand or misunderstand

him as holding a more stringent view. In describing the method of

inspiration Calvin uses the much maligned word “dictation.” He says, “The

Holy Spirit dictated to the prophets and the apostles” exactly what He

wanted the finished writing to contain. And this is not a lone reference.

Calvin’s work abounds with references to the divine dictation of Scripture.

Some samples of Calvin’s phraseology, which may be checked in Kantzer’s

work, are these: “God was pleased to commit his word to writing…

Historical details were added, which are also the composition of prophets

but dictated by the Holy Spirit.” “For the Word of God is not distinguished

from the words of the prophet, as though the prophet had added anything

of his own.” Calvin refers to Scripture as the “sure and infallible record”

and as the “unerring standard,” “free from every stain or defect.” With

regard to the imprecatory Psalms, Calvin says, “David did not rashly or

unadvisedly utter curses against his enemies, but strictly adhered to what

the Spirit dictated.”

Calvin’s view of the nature of dictation and the orthodox doctrine of verbal

inspiration have so frequently been misunderstood, and the

misunderstanding has been so frequently pointed out, that one is forced to

surmise that the misrepresentation is deliberate. Those who attack the

orthodox Protestant doctrine try to reduce divine dictation to the so-called

mechanical dictation of a business office. The liberals would have us think

that orthodox theologians never even dreamed that God could use a

prophet’s personality. They, the liberals, constantly and mistakenly argue

that verbal inspiration makes stylistic differences inexplicable. But this

contention is historically false, as anyone can see by reading the orthodox

theologians from Warfield in this century all the way back to Calvin

himself.

Yet the misunderstanding would only go to show that the later confessions

were not “scholastic additions” to the Reformation doctrines. Which way

do the liberals want it? Did Calvin teach mechanical dictation or are the

creeds scholastic? They cannot have both.

On the other hand, Calvin’s acknowledgment of textual criticism and his

remarks on canonicity have been used to attribute to him a looser view of

inspiration. This might keep the creeds scholastic, but it flies in the face of

all his emphasis on dictation. However, this attribution to Calvin of a

looser view is also based on a misunderstanding. The type of passages from

which the alleged evidence is taken show clearly that Calvin taught the

verbal and plenary inspiration of God’s Word.

The same is true of Luther. J. Theodore Mueller writes, “When church

historians ascribe to Luther the merit of having established the

Schriftpritkzip, that is, the axiomatic truth that Holy Scripture is the sole

principle by which divine truth is truly and unmistakably known, they do

this in full justice to the Wittenberg Reformer, whose alleged ‘liberal

attitude’ toward Scripture theological liberals, contrary to historical fact, in

vain are trying to demonstrate” (Inspiration and Interpretation, p. 88; see

all of Chapter 3 for justification of the following details).

Quenstedt, whom the liberals cite as a theologian who corrupted the freer

Reformation doctrine of inspiration, wrote, “The canonical Holy Scriptures

in the original text are the infallible truth and are free from every error; in

other words, in the canonical sacred Scriptures there is found no lie, no

falsity, no error, not even the least, whether in subject matter or

expressions, but in all things and all the details that are handed down in

them, they are most certainly true, whether they pertain to doctrine or

morals, to history or chronology, to topography or nomenclature. No

ignorance, no thoughtlessness, no forgetfulness, no lapse of memory can

and dare be ascribed to the amanuenses of the Holy Ghost in their penning

the Sacred Writings.”

In spite of what the liberals say, these assertions of Quenstedt are not later

corruptions. Everything in the above quotation can be found in Luther

himself. For example, “The Scriptures have never erred” and “It is

impossible that Scripture should contradict itself; it appears so only to the

senseless and obstinate hypocrites.” Further examples are: “The Scriptures

are divine; in them God speaks and they are his Word” and “Unless I am

convinced by testimony from Scripture or evident reasons — for I believe

neither the Pope nor the Councils alone, since it is established that they

have often erred and contradicted themselves — I am conquered by the

writings cited by me, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.

Therefore I will not and cannot recant anything since it is neither safe nor

honest to do anything against conscience.”

Detached from its context, this last quotation may seem to show that

Luther could appeal to “evident reasons” in addition and out of relation to

the Bible. An examination of the context and the historical situation

requires us to acknowledge that “evident reasons” means correct

deductions from Scripture, and that conscience means his conscience as

bound by the Bible. The famous declaration therefore is an assertion of

Sola Scriptura.

If this is sufficient to convince one of what the Reformers’ position actually

was, the next step is to see whether the doctrine was a new invention or

whether it can be found earlier. Or, more pertinently, the next step is to see

whether the doctrine of verbal inspiration is the teaching of the Bible itself.

If the neo-orthodox claim to be biblical theologians, if their theology is

called the theology of the Word, it is most important to see what the Word

says about itself. Fortunately this is one of the easiest biblical doctrines to

determine. Assertions or implications of plenary and verbal inspiration

abound from Genesis to Revelation.

The best known, of course, is, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of

God.” A better and more literal translation would be, “All Scripture has

been breathed out by God.” It is to be noted, as orthodox theologians have

repeatedly pointed out, that what God breathed forth were the words

written on the manuscript. The verse does not say that God inspired the

thoughts of the authors, nor even their speech. It is Scripture, the written

words, that God breathed out.

Of course the verse does not deny that God inspired the thoughts of the

authors. The point simply is that, whatever else God did, He also breathed

out the written words. Because of the liberals’ persistent misrepresentation

of verbal inspiration as mechanical dictation, it might be well at this point

to repeat that the prophets’ mental processes remained normal throughout.

The idea that verbal inspiration would conflict with a prophet’s literary

style depends on a deistic conception of God, which the liberals either hold

for themselves or wrongly attribute to the orthodox theologians. This

deistic conception of God pictures Him in the role of a business executive

whose control over the stenographer is external and limited. He did not

direct her education nor does he control her every thought. None of her

personality is transferred to the typed wording. But the Christian view of

God is of one in whom we live and move and have our being. He creates

our personality and forms our literary style. He foreordains our education

and guides our every thought. Hence God from all eternity decreed to lead

the Jews out of slavery by the hand of Moses. To this end He determined

the date of Moses’ birth and arranged for his princely training and so on,

until, when the time came, Moses’ mentality and literary style were the

instruments precisely fitted to speak and write God’s words. Between

Moses and God Omnipotent there was an inner union, an identity of

purpose, a cooperation of will, such that the words Moses wrote were

God’s own words and Moses’ own words at the same time.

Sometimes it is objected that the verse in Second Timothy applies only to

the Old Testament. Perhaps it does, but it is amusing to see the liberals so

determined to exalt the authority of the Old Testament in order to debase

the New. At any rate, the New Testament repeatedly asserts the truth of

the Old. One can examine our Lord’s treatment of Scripture, i.e., the Old

Testament. He defeats the devil, confounds the Sadducees, and reduces the

Pharisees to angry silence by quoting Scripture.

The Old Testament also teaches its own infallibility, and this pushes the

doctrine well into the past. In addition to many instances of phrases such as

“The Lord hath spoken” and “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it,” a

composite of <051818>Deuteronomy 18:18 and <240109>Jeremiah 1:9 will say, “I

have put my words in thy mouth,” and “whosoever will not hearken to my

words which he [the prophet] shall speak in my name, I will require it of

him.”

So much for the Old Testament. The question now is whether the New

Testament makes the same claims for itself. In the first place the New

Testament pervasively presupposes its superiority to the Old. Explicitly,

John the Baptist is said to be a greater prophet than those of the Old

Testament, and the New Testament prophets are greater than John.

The superiority, of course, did not lie in a greater truthfulness, for this they

could not have. However, had they been less truthful, they could not have

been superior. Note that Peter says, “… our beloved brother Paul also

according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in

all his epistles … in which are some things hard to be understood, which

they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other

scriptures, unto their own destruction” (<610315>2 Peter 3:15, 16). Here Peter

puts all of the epistles of Paul into the category of Holy Scripture. Paul

himself claims to be a prophet: “When ye read [what he had written before

in a few words], ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ

… as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”

(<490304>Ephesians 3:4, 5). The term “prophet” puts Paul on a level with Old

Testament prophets; the term apostles puts him above them, for “God hath

set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers

… ” (<461228>1 Corinthians 12:28).

If an almost exhaustive list of similar claims for the Scripture is desired,

one may read Louis Gaussen’s Theopneustia. The small number quoted

here only bespeaks confidence in the extremely large number easily located.

But if anyone would prefer to have a final quotation, let it be <610121>2 Peter

1:21, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men

of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Verbal and plenary

inspiration, i.e., infallibility,i nerrancy, is the claim the Bible makes for

itself; and if the Bible does not correctly represent itself, there seems to be

no good reason for taking it very seriously on any other subject.

Yet this doctrine on which all other doctrines depend is the one most

viciously attacked of all. By a satanic instinct, the battle against Christianity

is directed against its citadel. Barth writes, “The prophets and Apostles as

such, even in their office.., were … actually guilty of error in their spoken

and written word” (Church Dogmatics, I, 2, pp. 528, 529). Brunner asserts

that the Bible “is full of errors, contradiction, erroneous opinions

concerning all kinds of human, natural, historical situations. It contains

many contradictions in the report about Jesus’ life, it is overgrown with

legendary material even in the New Testament” (Philosophy of Religion, p.

155). Bultmann leaves even less uncontested than Brunner. With such a

derogatory opinion of the Bible, their use of it for any religious purpose is

another of their insoluble paradoxes.

But are their accusations true? Is the Bible really “full of errors,

contradictions, erroneous opinions”? Is the Bible so utterly untrustworthy

as Brunner and Bultmann say?

So far as accusations of doctrinal error are concerned, no general reply can

be made. One would have to know on what philosophic ground the

accusation was based. For example, the doctrines of original sin and total

depravity were largely denied by modernism on the basis of an evolutionary

optimism. The nineteeth-century theologians thought that evil was almost

eradicated from the face of the earth and that socialism, perhaps national

socialism, would usher in the Kingdom of God. The idea of original sin,

therefore, and total depravity, was an error in doctrine. Likewise attempts

are sometimes made to undermine the doctrine of predestination either

through a particular interpretation of divine love or by an appeal to the

principle of indeterminacy that Heisenberg tried to introduce into physics.

A full argument to show that these biblical doctrines are true and that the

liberals are wrong cannot be included here. In the case of predestination,

surely no one wants at this spot a discussion of theoretical physics. So far

as the liberals depend on their interpretation of divine love, it would be

necessary to examine what source of information they use to obtain their

concept of God. It is not the biblical concept. Do they then have another

revelation? It ought to be a better one, since they consider the Scriptures

so untrustworthy. In the case of total depravity versus the inherent

goodness of human nature, an argument might try to disprove biological

evolution, or it might deny that the principles of biological evolution can be

extended to society and religion, or it might show that evolution, far from

being optimistic, portrays nature red in tooth and claw. Since the

backgrounds of the accusation are so varied, full arguments would be too

long for the present purpose, and the matter of doctrinal error must rest

with these hints.

If, however, the Bible is charged with error on the basis that it contains

accounts of miracles, a different reply would be required. Although the

denial of miracles impugns omnipotence and returns us to the source of our

knowledge of God, the more common argument against miracles is that

science has disproved their possibility. Here is needed a philosophy of

science to question the finality of Newtonian mechanics. Such an argument

I have published elsewhere (The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God,

The Craig Press, 1964)

When, next, Brunner claims that the New Testament is false because it is

overgrown with legendary material, one can indicate that the early dates of

the Gospels allow no time for legends to grow. If the Old Testament is

criticized on this ground one may ask, What is a legend? If a legend is

distinguished from history simply by reason of its fragmentary character,

Brunner will have to prove that whatever is fragmentary must be false.

Press this consistently and the result is that all history books are false

because all are fragmentary. No book contains everything.

In the next place, destructive criticism of the Wellhausen type has been a

still more popular basis for charging the Bible with error. The alleged

errors are historical and cultural in nature, though they are sometimes

loosely called contradictions.

In general, replies to these accusations are not difficult to make. Some of

the “contradictions” clearly exist only in the critic’s mind. For example,

Edwin A. Burtt, professor of philosophy at Cornell University, in his Types

of Religious Philosophy (second edition, p. 311) — a book that was

acclaimed for its fairness of presentation — alleges the following

contradiction: “In Ezekiel 26 the prophet proclaims as a divine revelation

the message that the city of Tyre is to meet destruction at the hands of

Nebuchadrezzar, King of Babylon... After a hard assault, however,

Nebuchadrezzar failed to capture Tyre… Accordingly, in Ezekiel 29 the

prophet announces another revelation in which God promises the conquest

of Egypt to Nebuchadrezzar as a recompense for his defeat by the Tyrians.

There is no hint in the later of these passages that he now doubts the

authenticity of the earlier revelation because the prophecy it contained

failed to be verified as and when he expected. Apparently, what is essential

to a divine revelation, in his mind, is not its factual infallibility, but the truth

of the moral lesson it embodies.”

If this is impartial scholarship, scholarship and impartiality are both in a bad

way Burtt’s charge is based on complete ignorance of what the Bible says.

Ezekiel 26 nowhere prophesies that Nebuchadrezzar will conquer Tyre. In

fact, it definitely implies that he will not, for <262603>Ezekiel 26:3 reads,

“Behold I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come

up against thee.” Then follows a description of the damage, considerable

enough, that Nebuchadrezzar will inflict (verses 7-11), after which they,

the many nations, will so complete the destruction that the site of Tyre will

be a bare rock. Hence the contradiction between Ezekiel 26 and Ezekiel 29

exists only in Burtt’s impartial and scholarly mind.

Or, again, the critics’ assertion that the Hittite nation never existed, that

camels were unknown in Egypt in the time of Abraham, that sevenstemmed

lamps were first made in the late Persian empire, and numerous

other denials of biblical statements have been so thoroughly refuted by

archaeology that the liberals should hang their heads in shame.

Different in nature from these historical and cultural items are the cases

where the term “contradiction” is used in its strictly logical sense. For

example if one Gospel says there was one angel and no more at the tomb

on Easter morning and another Gospel says there were two, this would be

logical contradiction. Or, again, if two passages differ as to the exact

number of Jacob’s family that went down to Egypt, the two passages

would produce a formal logical contradiction.

Such alleged contradictions, however, can be easily handled, even though

in some cases we may not know which of two or three possibilities is the

correct one. They are easily handled because in most instances the actual

texts are not in formal contradiction. No Gospel says there was only one

angel at the tomb all Easter morning.

Even the two genealogies of Christ can be shown not to be contradictory,

however difficult it may be to reconstruct the actual history (see J.

Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth, Harper and Brothers, 1932).

These considerations and the several volumes referred to are sufficient to

show good reason for accepting the Bible as true; they are conclusive

against the plausibility of the liberal theory on these points.

We must now consider a different type of objection to the verbal

inspiration of Scripture. Briefly the objection is that God cannot speak.

Once again this objection to verbal inspiration depends on a non-biblical

concept of God. With its inheritance from Schleiermacher and Hegel, the

older modernism denied that God could speak because it held an essentially

pantheistic view of God. God was entirely immanent in or actually

identified with the processes of nature. He was prohibited from interrupting

these processes by any miracle, any intrusion into history, any once-for-all

event, of which speaking would be an example.

The new liberals are not so fond of Hegel; they talk of God’s

transcendence; they try to find a divine action somewhere in history, even if

only at an unexpected point. But they shy away from the idea that God can

use words, such as, “Behold a virgin shall conceive,” and “whom God set

forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”

What they assert is that God produced some emotional or vaguely defined

state of mind in the prophet and then the prophet relied on his own wisdom

to talk about his experience.

Since this denial that God can use words is another denial of His

omnipotence, the question of religious knowledge must again be raised

with increasing emphasis. Where do these theologians obtain their

information as to what God can or cannot do? Their ideas do not come

from the Bible. Have they then another “revelation,” or have they with

Schleiermacher reduced “God” to a description of their own state of

consciousness? Orthodox theologians do well to press this question and

prevent the liberals from evading an answer. This orthodox strategy is

sound because the liberal answers, when spelled out, are so obviously

inadequate.

In addition to entailing a non-biblical concept of God, the thesis that God

cannot speak depends on a theory of language. Human language on this

theory is supposed to have evolved from the chirping of birds and the

grunts of pigs, or at least to have had a totally sensory origin. Since

therefore all terms derive from the visible and tangible things of the

material universe, language is inadequate to express divine truth. When

language is highly developed by figures of speech, metaphors, and analogy,

words like “atonement” or “justification” can be used symbolically to

suggest or point to something divine. But their literal meanings are

spiritually false, because they can never be completely detached from their

origin in sensation. William Marshall Urban has a most interesting 700-

page volume along these lines; and E. L. Mascall is a noted English thinker

who vigorously supports such views.

To defend the Bible as the Word of God, a reliance on God’s omnipotence

is sufficient. It takes a very brave man to deny that God can speak. But it is

more persuasive if a conservative theologian also furnishes an alternate

theory of linguistics. The Scriptures lay down the principles of such a

theory. Instead of language being an evolutionary extension of the

chattering of monkeys, Scripture teaches that man was created in the image

of God. Basically this image is human reason. And language is its

expression. No doubt God intended language to be applicable to the visible

and tangible parts of nature; but there is also no doubt that God intended

language to be used in worshiping Him, in conversing with Him, arid in His

conversing with Adam and the subsequent prophets. Naturally a nontheistic

linguistic has difficulty with a verbal revelation. Naturally also there

is no difficulty on a theistic basis. (See my Religion, Reason, and

Revelation, chapter 3, “Inspiration and Language,” Presbyterian and

Reformed, 1961.)

Now, finally, the thesis that God cannot speak entails not only a non-

Christian concept of God and of language but also a non-Christian form of

religion. It is a religion without truth. The prophet had his emotional

experience and he describes it to us. His description may be very much

mistaken. But no matter, Brunner assures us that God can “speak” His

word to man even through false doctrine. The only trouble is that the

doctrine is false and God does not speak. In agreement with the theory of

language just discussed Brunner writes, “All words have only an

instrumental value. Neither the spoken words nor their conceptual content

are the Word itself, but only its frame” (The Divine-Human Encounter, p.

110).

This type of religion is anti-intellectual and thoroughly irrational. It may

consist of an emotional jag, an aesthetic experience, or a mystic trance. But

it is totally devoid of knowledge. What Brunner calls the Word of God has

no conceptual content. It despises logic, glories in contradictions, and

deifies paradox.

But Christianity claims that God is the God of truth; that He is wisdom;

that His Son is His Logos, the logic, the Word of God. Man was created a

reasonable being so that he could understand God’s message to him. And

God gave him a message by breathing out all the Scripture, having

foreordained the complete process, including the three stages of the

thoughts of the prophet’s mind, the words in his mouth, and the finished

manuscript. Christianity is a rational religion. It has an intellectually

apprehensible content. Its revelation can be understood. And because God

speaks in intelligible words, He can give and has given commands. We

know what these commands mean, and therefore we should obey them.

If, now, anyone prefers a symbolism that points to some unknowable, if

anyone takes pleasure in irrational paradox, if anyone enjoys wordless

encounters, further words and ideas will not change his emotions.
 
 

2. GOD: HIS NAMES AND NATURE --

HAROLD B. KUHN

ALTHOUGH, AS St. Augustine pointed out, the human spirit was made

for God and finds no rest except as it finds it in Him, many moderns find it

difficult or impossible to give serious regard to the existence of a living,

personal, and loving God. The conception of such a Being as Scripture

presents — the Creator of all things and the God and Father of our Lord

Jesus Christ — has been misrepresented and often caricatured, until God

seems to many people to be no more than a figment of the imagination,

reflecting, perhaps, the condition of their immediate social environment.

Whatever the reason, it is fashionable to regard faith as atavistic and to

conclude that the educated person’s philosophy of life must be built on a

form of naturalism in which nature is regarded as self-explanatory and as

exempt from the presence and direction of any Being transcending it or

superior to it.

Not only so, but the conception of the Deity among the less sophisticated

is frequently a parody of the biblical understanding of God. Some think of

Him as little more than a celestial computer or transcendent Univac. Others

see Him exclusively as a harsh and vindictive Judge, while many others

regard Him as a genial and ancient grandfather, either too remote from

human affairs to be worthy of notice or else too indulgent to be an all-wise

Sovereign. There is, moreover, a general tendency to insist that God must

conform to the demands of the human self and so be a sort of superprojection

of it. Thus, apart from revelation, men usually form and hold a

truncated or distorted notion of God.

Too frequently, theologians who call themselves Christian yield to the

temptation to adapt and attenuate their definitions of God to suit the small

dimensions of current thought. By some easy expedient, such as identifying

God with something that indisputably exists, they feel they have

“demonstrated” to the modern mind that God is. Too seldom are

theologians of our times willing to listen with patient devotion to Holy

Writ at this point.

It is the purpose of this essay to approach the subject in three ways. First,

attention will be given to the typical forms of response that have in recent

times been made to the question of the existence of a Supreme Being. Note

will be taken of the outcome of modern denials of God’s existence.

Second, there will be a survey of the divine names, with special reference

to the order of their appearance and the increasing insight they afford into

the Being they reveal. Thus the groundwork will be laid for the third

consideration, that of the nature and character of God as revealed in Holy

Scripture.

The method will be to affirm the historic Christian understanding of God

rather than to give a detailed refutation of inadequate views. Trends in

contemporary mediating theology will be recognized, but the major

emphasis will be upon the positive thrust of the Christian Scriptures on this

all-important subject.

BELIEF IN GOD: ITS CRUCIAL SIGNIFICANCE

To define God as that with which man is ultimately concerned is currently

fashionable. There is an element of truth in the definition. Certainly man

should be concerned with ultimate issues and supremely concerned with

the One we confess when saying, “I believe in God the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.” The evangelical’s criticism of the definition

noted above is that man’s ultimate concern ought to be the God who is

known to man in self-disclosure rather than that which man might, in a

merely personal and idiosyncratic way, come to regard as a matter of

ultimate interest.

Belief in God or in gods has been almost universal among all peoples.

Some have concluded from this that in the earlier stages of his

development man felt the need for the “idea of God” because of his limited

understanding of the processes of the world and his inability to direct his

own destiny. Whatever be the truth of this contention, the Christian cannot

accept it as an explanation for the origin of belief in God. Nor can he admit

that, with the advance of man’s knowledge, the idea of God will become

superfluous.

Assuming for the moment that belief in God or in gods is an observed fact

of human experience, we should recognize that an apparent specialization

of religious faith is also discernible. The Hebrew people seem from their

earliest recorded beginnings to have had an understanding of God that was

qualitatively unique among the belief-patterns of ancient peoples. This can

be denied only by radically revising Hebrew religious literature. After some

fifteen or twenty centuries (depending upon whether one reckons from

Moses or from Abraham), there emerged from the matrix of the Hebrew

religion a faith that presupposed the Israelitish tradition and at the same

time professed to carry it to its completion. Its center was the appearance

of Jesus of Nazareth, one who impressed those who followed Him, both

immediately and through the centuries, as unique in His origin and quality

of life, in His death and rising again.

The Christian movement brought into the history of the Western world

profound elements of belief. At its core lay belief in “God the Father

Almighty.” God’s existence has been for the Christian a powerfully

controlling motif. While some within the Christian movement have either

distorted its central principles or drawn faulty implications from them,

belief in God has always been a vital element in the thinking of Christians.

As A. Seth Pringle-Pattison notes in his Gifford Lectures for 1912-1913,

“To them it meant undoubtedly a doctrine which, if true, must profoundly

affect our whole view of the universe and our conduct in it” (The Idea of

God, 1917, p. 23).

That belief in God’s existence has in recent times been a powerful and

determinative motif finds oblique support in the extraordinary efforts put

forth in the past two or three centuries either to eliminate belief in God or

render it innocuous. After the movement known as the Enlightenment, in

which the Deity was imagined to be so far above the world of men as to be

irrelevant to them, there came the venomous attack upon belief in God in

Voltaire’s Écrasez l’infâme! (“Crush the infamous thing!”). On November

10, 1793, the leaders of the Commune of Paris marched into the Cathedral

of Notre Dame and in the name of Reason declared the demise of

Christianity, replacing the altar of the cathedral with an “altar of Reason.”

This so-called cult of Brumaire, mixing its anti-Christian animosity with its

proclamation of liberty, was short-lived; but, as the historian Mathiez

wrote in 1904, while the trappings of the revolutionary cults were things of

the past, the spirit that impelled them lived on (M. Mathiez, La

Théophilanthropie et le Culte Décadaire, p. 609).

Certainly this anti-Christian spirit was not confined to the Republic of

France; Thomas Paine translated it into American terms, while David

Hume gave it philosophical expression in the British Isles. Not only did

Christianity, which was the basic religion of the West, undergo savage

frontal attacks from her foes, but there was also substituted for Christian

theistic belief the so-called religion of humanity (i.e., of humanity

conceived in its ideal and collective aspect), which proclaimed “God” to be

a projection of the human mind and thus irrelevant to man in an age of

increasing scientific knowledge. Ludwig Feuerbach openly declared that

belief in God was but an unconscious self-projection, and proposed that the

time had come to recognize as subjective that which had formerly been

thought to be objective.

This development paved the way for a second level of attack upon historic

belief in God, the “death of God” movement. It was Friedrich Nietzsche

who gave dramatic literary expression to this idea. In The Joyful Wisdom

he causes his madman to appear in the town square and proclaim, “God is

dead!” And man himself was God’s executioner. It is significant that this

message was, in Nietzsche’s view, to be proclaimed in the marketplace to

the masses, even though they appeared there, as also at Zarathustra’s

public proclamation of the Superman, to be indifferent to the news. But

Nietzsche saw that the growing skepticism about God’s existence was

reaching down from the philosophers and sages to the common man.

What was meant by the “death of God” was the death of human faith in

God’s existence and almightiness. And it was an easy step from the

psychologism of Feuerbach and the nihilism of Nietzsche to Karl Marx’s

assertion that belief in God was but an instrumental idea, invented by the

oppressing class to hold the oppressed masses in line. To him, the “death of

God” was an inevitable concomitant of the coming disappearance of all

religious faith, when the revolution he envisioned would sweep away the

capitalist regime and the existing class structure.

The net result has been neither the universalization of reason’s attack upon

Christian faith nor the achievement of the goals set by Karl Marx. It has

been far more insidious. The foundations upon which Christian faith rests

have been systematically eroded until modern man feels himself an orphan.

He no longer has a Father! Whereas his grandfather peered into the

heavens and beheld the eyes of God, modern man sees only burnt-out

holes. He looks out upon a horizon infinitely broader than that known to

his ancestors and discerns no God, only vastness. Beyond the realm where

the final shadow cast by Being disappears, he sees only the eternal storm,

raging over the trackless abyss and tamed by none. Losing his view of

God, man has lost himself in time. Having lost his awareness of his own

dependence upon the God of the universe, he is left a victim of unnamed

and intangible anxiety. For him, God seems to be dead. Therefore, one

looks out over the wasteland of modern man’s existence and asks himself,

“Can this estranged creature find himself again?” And the insistent answer

cannot be evaded: He can find himself only as he rediscovers for himself

the living God.

It follows from the foregoing that the affirmation or denial of the existence

and being of God is crucial for the whole of the human outlook. No

thinking person can afford to be neutral on this question. Despite the

contrary views of religious humanists, human character and human purpose

cannot be sustained apart from a vital belief in God as an exalted Being,

worthy of man’s faith and worship. Even moral values cannot sustain

themselves apart from reference to a Supreme Being in whom they reside

and from whom they proceed to inform the life of His creatures. Nor can

worship have meaning if it is based on anything short of the devoted and

loving relation of a willing human heart to a Sovereign Father.

Christian faith faces imposing and well-organized opposition in our day.

This opposition is entrenched in our institutions of higher learning and is

reinforced by the tremendous prestige science enjoys today. Without

minimizing the imposing achievements of scientific endeavor, we must

recognize that the contemporary “cult of science” has not added to man’s

understanding of, or belief in, God. If He is to be made known, the Church

must renew her vision and her efforts to give out that which has been

entrusted to her in revelation. Her task is, in the last analysis, to proclaim

what she has received. The balance of this essay will sketch the outlines of

this heritage and will endeavor to clarify it in relation to some of the

currents of anti-theistic thought.

THE DIVINE NAMES

The Hebrew-Christian Scriptures are unique among the religious

documents of the race in that their names for the Deity are not merely

human constructs but divinely given designations. While philosophical

systems name the Deity in terms of some central quality they may affirm of

Him, the names for God given in the biblical record embody the features of

His progressive self-revelation. Thus there may be seen in Holy Scripture a

series of names of deepening significance, each expressing a more perfect

manifestation of Him to His people.

The peoples of antiquity (and certainly the Hebrews among them) had a

deeper feeling for names than men of our time. A person’s name was

regarded not merely as a possession but as something distinctively his, and

often as an expression of his personal character. It is probable that some

cultures have carried this idea too far. In some usages, the person seeks to

conceal his real name; in others, persons are mentioned only by

circumlocutions. The ancients seem at times to have believed that knowing

the name of a person gave them a certain magical power over him. There

was elaborate speculation over the importance of concealed and secret

names of deities.

While there is no evidence that the peoples of the Old Testament shared

the more extreme and superstitious of these common assumptions, it is

clear that they did assign a deep significance to the names by which their

God was called. The Hebrews regarded the names of the Deity, as, in and

of themselves, self-revealing. God, in His adaptation of His revelation to

man, respected this belief.

In some parts of Scripture, the name of God is regarded in a strictly

singular sense, as in the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not take the name of the

Lord thy God in vain” (<022007>Exodus 20:7). Here the term is generic and

would exclude the frivolous or fraudulent use of any one of the

appellations of the Deity. In other words, the entire pattern of words by

which God is named was commanded to be held in respect and reverence.

While the name of God may be diversified, so as to embody a number of

personal designations and thus indicate progressive levels of selfdisclosure,

His Name is to be regarded as “excellent” in all the earth. No

level of His revealed nature is to be taken lightly.

It is the use of the name, of course, and not merely its form or derivation,

that is significant in Holy Scripture. While etymology is a legitimate study,

its conclusions cannot by themselves determine the meaning of the divine

names. There has been much discussion of the basic Semitic name for the

Deity, El, which appears in the Old Testament in the plural form, Elohim,

and in such compounds as El Shadday. That the conceptions attached to El

among other and earlier Semitic peoples are at times unworthy of the God

of the Bible cannot obscure the fact that among this racial stock the term

was common, and presumably very old. It is reasonable to infer that the

name may reflect an original revelation, an Uroffenbarung, held and

sustained with varying degrees of purity among the Phoenicians,

Babylonians, Aramaeans, Arabs, and Hebrews. The name El seems to

suggest power and authority. John P. Lange says in this connection:

Power, greatness, vastness, height, according as they are represented by the

conceptions of the day, carried to the fullest extent allowed by the knowledge of

the day; this is the ideal of El and Elohim, as seen in the etymological

congruity of the epithets joined to those in Genesis [John P. Lunge,

Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, 1, 109n.].

Thus, the name El as applied to God is general and inclusive, reflecting a

primeval monotheism from which the polytheism of the ancient world was

a lapse. Its core of meaning is that of strength, authority, and majesty. The

name El (in Babylonian îlu, in Arabic ‘Allah) is used frequently in the Old

Testament, chiefly in Job and Psalms. It often appears with a coordinate

noun or adjective, as El ‘Elyôn or El Rô’i, such usages underscoring the

Deity’s excellent and lofty Person or his divine prerogatives.

It is significant that the plural form, Elohim, as applied to the one Deity

occurs only in the usages of the Hebrews, and that it is the most frequent

Old Testament noun for God. The usage appears to be definitely

mathematical and collective. And while one must not press too far the

element of plurality in the name, it seems valid to observe that the name

suggests a diversity and richness within the Divine Life that both avoids the

tendency toward undue abstractness and aloofness of the Deity and makes

a place for the later disclosure of the triune nature of God. That is to say,

in the light of the usage of this name among the Hebrew people, the New

Testament revelation of the tripersonality within the one God did not

appear as a complete innovation. Viewed grammatically, the name Elohim,

plural in form, governs a singular verb or adjective when applied to the

God of the Old Testament. It is occasionally applied to those who

represent Him or to those who serve in His presence.

Observe also that beside the mathematical and collective quality of the

plural usage, there is the possible understanding of the term in its intensive

and emphatic quality. Franz Delitzsch calls attention to this usage in the

Hebrew and suggests that it is employed here (Lange, op. cit., I, 112). The

stress falls upon the unique quality of God’s being — a uniqueness that

lays upon men the necessity of recognizing and serving Him. The call of

Abraham was designed to teach the uniqueness of God and to provide for

the transmission of monotheistic belief. It appears that even the immediate

family of Abraham had fallen into polytheism ( <062402>Joshua 24:2); thus the

father of the faithful was called to a lonely walk, in spiritual isolation. It

was the call to walk with God in a separate tradition that made Israel a race

apart. And the ancient name of their Deity, stressing extension and dignity,

emphasized the distinctness of His Person.

The compound name of El Shadday represents a progression in the selfdisclosure

of God to the men of the patriarchal period. Thus in revealing

himself to Abraham as El Shadday or “the Almighty God,” the Deity

moved beyond the concept of Himself as mighty Creator and Sustainer of

the cosmos to the view of His role as maker and keeper of covenant

agreement. As such He moves actively into the human sphere, shaping the

forces of nature to accomplish His purposes. The name itself is poetic; it is

regarded, by some scholars at least, as the Hebrew form of a Babylonian

word meaning “the mountain.” Thus it suggests majestic stability, the

strong refuge, the pillar that remains unmoved in the most turbulent times.

The disclosure of this name is most closely associated with the covenant

with Abraham recorded in Genesis 17. Here the events chronicled are

intimate, personal events, centering in the birth of Isaac, the institution of

circumcision, and the provision for a place for Ishmael. It is clear that the

disclosure of this name for the Deity was a clear advance in the revelation

of His nature. It is not surprising that El Shadday became the major name

for God during the partriarchal period, a period in which God’s

providences were made known in a unique way to the progenitors of the

Hebrew race. This name was prominent in the pedagogy of the nation of

Israel during this epoch. In a certain sense, its use formed a bridge in the

thinking of the Hebrew mind, a means of transition from the period in

which Elohim was the main designation of the Deity to the time of the

revelation of the intensely redemptive name, Yahweh or Jehovah.

Another name that occurs frequently during this period is Adhon or

Adhônay, usually transliterated Adonai. The term means, basically, master

or lord. In the earliest usage it seems to have been a more transcendent

term, suggesting God’s role as high and over all things. But in later usage it

came to suggest a more intimate and personal relation between Deity and

people. The name is derived from the Hebrew word Adhôn, which was also

found in the Egyptian language and dates at least from the Hyksos period

(i.e., the time of Joseph). The term denotes especially “a master of

servants” and is used of Abram by one of his personal servants in

<012412>Genesis 24:12, 14. Thus it denotes not only gradations of relationship

but also obligations and duties (Melvin Grove Kyle, Moses and the

Monuments, Oberlin, Ohio, 1920, pp. 14f.).

The names El Olam and El ‘Elyôn, both compounds of the original Semitic

name for Deity, represent variant emphases. The former calls attention

especially to God’s eternal duration, his agelessness and perpetuity. The

latter (El ‘Eliôn or El ‘Elyôn), a more poetic form, describes the Deity as

“Most High” and suggests His quality as the Exalted One (<011418>Genesis

14:18; <197835>Psalm 78:35). The combination of ‘Elyôn with Elohim also

occurs occasionally (<194502>Psalm 45:2; 78:56). That this name is employed

early in the Old Testament points to the existence of monotheism at the

beginning of Israel’s history. This usage elaborates the more transcendent

qualities suggested by the earlier name, Elohim.

During the patriarchal period, the names El, Elohim, Adonai, El Olam, El

‘Elyôn, and Elohim ‘Elyôn were employed as more general names for the

Deity, while the name El Shadday was more personal and more specific in

its designation of the divine activity among men. The entire usage of this

period emphasizes the view that to the Hebrew the conception of Deity

was concrete and specific, not abstract and metaphysical. Moreover, the

nomenclature of this period affords no evidence that the Hebrew

conceptions of Deity in the patriarchal era were abstracted from their

experience with the powers of nature.

The most specific particularized name of the Deity in the history of Israel

was, of course, that indicated by the tetragram YHWH, which when

supplied with vowels is usually written Yahweh or Jehovah (“he who is”).

It was by this name that God disclosed Himself specifically to Moses

(<020313>Exodus 3:13-16; 6:2-8), although we are assured that with the birth of

Enos, grandson of Adam, men began to proclaim the name of Jehovah

(<010426>Genesis 4:26). And while Abraham knew the Deity by this name

(<011507>Genesis 15:7), it seems that this level of God’s disclosure was not

sustained during the age of the patriarchs, whose deepest and most

intimate name for God was El Shadday (<020603>Exodus 6:3).

The name Yahweh or Jehovah was given a larger interpretation and a

deeper significance with the call of Moses. It was revealed as an intensely

personal name, not merely a name that is generic or essential, as for

example, the names El, Elohim, and Shadday. As such, its disclosure and

use highlights the Old Testament insistence upon the possibility of the

Deity’s being known as a person. Thus the very name Yahweh became a

channel of a special revelation. And while it did not appear as an

innovation in Mosaic times, at that time it not only gained general currency

and specific acceptance but also became intimately related to the life of

Israel as a people. That is to say, it became the hallmark of a crucial and

pivotal self-disclosure of God to His people — a disclosure that

intertwined the mighty acts connected with the Exodus with the people’s

actual consciousness of the birth of their nation, and that at the same time

wove into their national awareness the significance of the cataclysmic

events associated with Sinai. This multiple-stranded revelation impressed

upon the Hebrews their unique covenant relation with a Deity who took

the initiative and stepped unmistakably into their national affairs.

It is also significant that the use of this name was unique with the Israelites.

The other Semites seemingly did not know it, or at least did not use it to

refer to Deity, save as forcible contacts with the Hebrews brought it to

their attention. It was a particular possession of the Covenant People. The

name gathered so much significance that the scribes had an almost

superstitious fear of pronouncing it. Scribal usage inserted the vowels of

the name Adonai into the tetragram YHWH (the Covenant Name) and read

the name as Yahweh. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament,

the combination was translated Kurios, the Greek equivalent of Adonai.

The grasp by the Hebrew people of the name Yahweh or Jehovah was, as

has been noted, a landmark in their spiritual awareness and religious

experience. With the Exodus, the Deity took upon Himself, in the minds of

the Hebrews, a specifically redemptive role. His “mighty acts” were at the

same time “saving acts” and were so understood. As thus revealed,

Jehovah was the One who bent the forces of nature to the ends of grace,

the One who brought the action of His power and personality to bear upon

the Hebrews at a time of their historical emergency. Thus, to use

contemporary terminology, there developed at the Exodus the

proclamation (the kerygma) of the Israelites: “I am Jehovah your God that

brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

Here appears the specific and specialized direction of God’s self-disclosure.

We are not unaware of the charges leveled against the historic

understanding of the election of Israel by such thinkers as Douglas Clyde

Macintosh, who holds that for God to have revealed Himself especially and

exclusively to the Hebrew people would have been an act unworthy of the

nature of God, and ultimately an immoral act. Here, as much as at any

point, the antithesis between mere human thought and the biblical insight

appears.

The Christian is not moved by the objection just noted but rather sees

God’s choice of Israel as the glory of divine grace. Mankind in general has

been estranged from God by sin. The knowledge-bond that held God and

unfallen man together has been fractured. The knowledge of God in any

clear and saving sense is no more a part of man’s general endowment. It is

not the common possession of the race. If that knowledge is to be restored,

it must be restored at God’s initiative. And in the exercise of that initiative,

God saw fit to work from a specialized segment of the human race, into

whose experience He moved at certain crucial points. Far from showing an

errant partiality in His special self-disclosure to the Hebrew people, He

began to demonstrate, in this form of revelation, an active desire to show

mercy to all. And it was through His revelation to Israel of Himself under

the name of Yahweh or Jehovah that the unfolding of saving history

became effective and conspicuous. Few moments were as significant for

the entire human race as those moments in which the Deity thus unveiled

His nature by giving to Moses and the Chosen People this name

(<020603>Exodus 6:3).

At this point, something needs to be said about the answer given by

Jehovah to Moses’ question, “What shall I say unto them?” (i.e., when the

Israelites inquire who has sent him to them) in <020314>Exodus 3:14. Here the

Deity speaks of Himself as the I AM THAT I AM. Some have found in

these words little more than a statement of what was later given as a

metaphysical abstraction by Aristotle and the Scholastics. While there may

be deep philosophical implications in this self-designation by the Deity, it is

more to our point to observe that God evidently intended the phrase to be

interpretative of His nature as Jehovah. W. T. Davison suggests that the

words I AM THAT I AM are “descriptive of the nature of God as then

making Himself known — the one, true God, self-existent and selfsufficient,

the cause and ground of all being faithful to His promise, and

constant in all His relations with His people” (“God, Biblical and

Christian,” in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by James Hastings,

1922, VI, 254).

Thus, Jehovah here emphasizes to Moses (and through him to Israel) that

Jehovah as their God requires no explanation for His existence, suggests

no prior source out of which He has come, and, above all, will perfectly

fulfill His pledged word. It is significant that the term, I AM THAT I AM,

has not in itself been preserved as a divine name in the Old Testament; but

one is impressed by the fact that when our Lord used the emphatic form,

ego eimi (“I am”), in the Gospels, particularly as a reply, unusual results

sometimes followed (see <431806>John 18:6).

In addition to the major names for God that we have noted, there are

several other designations that, though they occur less often, do reveal

much of the nature of God as grasped by the Hebrew people. Several of

these deserve brief attention.

The name Elohim Tsebha’ôth (often written God of Sabaoth, occurring

sometimes as Jehovah or Lord Sabaoth) is found in <241120>Jeremiah 11:20 and

is transliterated in <450929>Romans 9:29 and <590504>James 5:4. The term means

literally “God or Lord of Hosts” and indicates God’s role as controller of

all created agencies and beings. Thus it brings together the ideas of Divine

Maker and Divine Controller.

The name Tsûr (“Rock”) occurs five times in the Song of Moses

(<053204>Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31) and also in Psalms, Isaiah, and

elsewhere. It is a richly figurative name, suggesting God’s role as fortress

or shield. The name Qedhôsh (“Holy One”) occurs in the Psalms and

especially in Isaiah, where it is found some thirty-two times. It signifies the

transcendence of God over the earth and, as well, His special relation to

Israel. The name Abhir (“Mighty One”) is used in connection with the

names of Israel or of Jacob; it is, taken with a proper name, a poetic title.

The name Gibbôr (“Mighty”) bears the same significance and is found in

connection with the names El and Yahweh (<230906>Isaiah 9:6; <243218>Jeremiah

32:18; <234213>Isaiah 42:13). The name El Rô’î (“God of seeing”) is used once

(<011613>Genesis 16:13) by Hagar in connection with her flight from the

persecution of Sarah. Tsedeq (“Righteous One”) speaks of God’s fidelity

to Himself, and of His nature as Covenant-Keeper. It has thus much in

common with the name Yahweh. Finally, the name Qannâ (“God of

Righteous Zeal”) suggests the demand of God for exclusive devotion. The

name is, as in <023414>Exodus 34:14, translated “jealous,” a term that in this

usage is free from the unworthy qualities we ordinarily attach to it.

The names for the Deity in the New Testament continue and also simplify

the nomenclature of the Old Covenant. The most common name is, of

course, Theos, which occurs more than one thousand times. It

corresponds, in general, to the names El and Elohim and their compounds

and expresses essential Deity, with emphasis upon self-sufficiency, selfdetermination,

and absolute righteousness (see Edward Mack, “God,

Names of,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915, II, 1268).

The name Kurios (“Lord”) occurs very frequently. It seems to gather into

itself the combined significance of Adonai, of which it is the equivalent and

Yahweh or Jehovah. The name is applied with equal clarity to God the

Father and to Jesus Christ. Thus in the unfolding of the redemptive

message of the New Testament, the richness of Old Testament

nomenclature for the Deity was presupposed. Not only is this richness

gathered up in the wide range of usage of the names Theos and Kurios, but

some of the attributive names for the Deity are also carried over. One

recalls, for example, the names Highest, Most High, and Almighty,

corresponding to ‘Elyôn, Abhir, and Shadday.

The most distinctive development in the use of divine names in the New

Testament is the introduction of the name Father. The idea of “God as

Father” was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, both in the relation

between God and Israel and in the more intimate strains of the devotional

literature between God and the devout among His people. It was made

concrete by the usage of our Lord. To Him the term was natural, and as

the Divine Son He used it often. It is noteworthy that His first recorded

words (<420249>Luke 2:49) reveal His awareness of being about His Father’s

business, and that His last words on earth were concerned with “the

promise of my Father” (<422449>Luke 24:49).

Our Lord’s language is not philosophical but filial. He claimed that God

was Father to Him in a unique sense (see <430518>John 5:18). But during His

ministry He also proclaimed that God’s Fatherhood was something to be

shared (<400711>Matthew 7:11; <421113>Luke 11:13). In the parable of the Prodigal

Son He extends the concept, showing by a moving human story the

Heavenly Father’s concern for all men. Throughout His ministry the perfect

Son manifested the heart of the Father, laying bare before the eyes of men

the redemptive desire that impelled the Incarnation of the Son. Thus the

Christian community came very early to speak of God as “the Father of our

Lord Jesus Christ.” It is in terms such as this that the writers of the New

Testament Epistles emphasize that God is the Father of all men in the sense

of being the Creator and Sustainer of all, while noting specifically that

there is an essentially Christian sense in which He is the Father of the

twice-born. It is, of course, within the context of Christian redemption that

the name Father comes to its fullest significance, a point that will be

amplified in the next section.

THE DIVINE NATURE

Few tasks are more difficult than answering the simple question, “What is

God like?” Yet this is a query which is frequently heard, and which merits

some kind of intelligible reply. Asking the question presupposes that

human beings are capable of some knowledge of God, and that this

understanding can be put into intelligible verbal form. The existence of

God is not argued in detail in Holy Scripture. The psalmist felt that God’s

existence was something so clearly seen that only “the fool” says in his

heart, “There is no God” (<191301>Psalm 13:1). Later writers of the Bible

recognized that God’s existence is not so obvious that no one might

legitimately question it.

There are several grades of atheism. First, there is the atheism of the casual

scoffer who lives in disdain of “things sacred.” The second type is the

atheism that rises from the agnostic spirit, which, whatever its source, is by

no means either simple or frivolous. Third, there is dogmatic atheism,

typical of the man who has adopted, in advance of evidence, a position

(often systematic materialism) that rules out any serious contemplation of

God’s existence. Finally, there is the practical type of atheism expressed in

lives lived as if God did not exist.

This is not the place to set forth in detail the reasons for doubt of the divine

existence. Men of our time often demand forms of evidence for the

existence of God that are not likely to be found within the scope of

scientific endeavor, particularly that endeavor oriented in naturalism. But

the expanding quality of today’s knowledge gives little logical support to

the dogmatic denial that any evidence for the divine existence can or “will

be found. Such a denial contradicts the ideal of scientific inquiry and

presupposes a sort of omniscience upon the part of the one making it.

But to return to our original line of thought, Scripture uniformly teaches

not only that man can come to a knowledge that God is but also that

concerning God’s nature something may be known that is correct, at least

so far as it goes. St. Paul takes it for granted in his writings (especially the

Epistle to the Romans) that something may be known of God through the

study of the created universe, namely, “his eternal power and Godhead.”

He goes further to note that the book of nature reveals enough of God’s

nature that men who peer into its pages are “without excuse” if they do not

see Him (<450120>Romans 1:20).

It is doubtless possible to attribute to “natural” knowledge of God much

that has actually been derived from other sources. For the human mind is a

very limited instrument, and those who take seriously the abiding effects of

moral evil upon the human intellect recognize that the book of nature

cannot be read easily and quickly by fallen men. This is not to agree with

Immanuel Kant, who held that human knowledge (i.e., discursive

knowledge) is limited in such a way that the mind cannot know whether or

not God (or even a super-temporal realm) can exist. Rather, it is to point

out that if man fails to see God in the light of the “things which are made,”

this failure is often due to a preassumed stance — a determination that the

knower will not have God in his thoughts. And we are on good ground

when we observe that at least some towering minds have, apart from

special revelation, attained to some knowledge of God; namely that He

exists, that He is related to the origin of the universe, and that He maintains

some degree of control over it.

This is, to be sure, an exceedingly thin form of theology with which the

Christian cannot remain satisfied. To the believer’s desire for a more

adequate knowledge of God’s nature, the Christian revelation asserts its

own form of reply. Its statements concerning the divine nature go beyond

the conclusion of the observer of nature or those of the speculative thinker.

It is, therefore, to the scriptural statements that the discussion must turn

with the understanding that we shall cross-check revealed statements with

the best of that which thinkers unaided by the biblical message have

proposed.

The scriptural revelation begins by asserting the spirituality and personality

of God. Already the Old Testament has implied these two qualities as most

deeply characteristic of Jehovah. At times, the Old Testament conception

appears excessively anthropomorphic; but in describing Him as a “jealous

God” capable of wrath and anger and as having (in figurative expression)

members like those of our bodies, the Old Testament writers are saying

that He is a self-conscious, intelligent, and moral agent and thus are

affirming His personality. Likewise there are clear indications of His

spirituality, so that it comes to us as no surprise when our Lord announces

that “God is spirit” (<430424>John 4:24). As such, He possesses a real

substantive existence.

The twin qualities of spirituality and personality shine through very much

that is said about other aspects of His being. It is to these we turn, and at

the end of this discussion more will be said about them. For the present, let

us remember that Scripture asserts uniformly that God exists without a

mixture of what we know as matter, and that the qualities we commonly

associate with personality exist in superlative quality in Him, so that He

cannot be thought to consist in mere thought, force, or power.

The biblical revelation suggests, first, that God is sovereignly free; He is

utterly above any determination from outside Himself. He existed before

the world and is in no way dependent upon it for His existence. Thus the

basic affirmation of the so-called Apostles’ Creed is: “I believe in God, the

Father almighty.” Here the accent falls upon the absence of any extrinsic

limitation in the being of God. He is unique in this freedom, being eternal

and unchanging. Moreover, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that as He

acts by free choice, He does so in conformity with the objectives He

determines for Himself. Thus He is sovereign in both the means and the

ends of the exercise of His will.

Again, His uniqueness has as its clear corollary the unitary quality of His

Being. He answers to the Shema of <050604>Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel,

the Lord thy God, the Lord is One.” These words sum up the Jewish view

of God, a truth that by the time of the birth of our Lord had been indelibly

impressed upon the Hebrew mind. The core of meaning at this point is

continued in the New Testament, being clearly proclaimed in such passages

as <411229>Mark 12:29; <450330>Romans 3:30, and <490406>Ephesians 4:6. We are

aware, of course, that God’s unity is not static or monolithic. Aristotle

perceived by the light of reason the unitary quality of God; but this was an

abstract unity, whose highest characteristic was aloofness from the world.

The Stoics also proclaimed the unity of God but immediately proceeded to

announce that God was all and all was God. Nothing is further from the

biblical understanding of God than this form of pantheism, whether

proclaimed by the Stoics or, in a more refined way, in the system of Baruch

Spinoza.

As a unity, God is not composed of separate elements or attributes. These

latter are properties essential to the nature of a Supreme Being and are part

of our idea of God. Nor are His attributes transcendental “blurbs,” all

meaning the same thing and only separate as objects of our thought. His

unity inheres in His majestic aloneness in the order of uncreated Being.

But God is not only sovereignly unique and exclusively unitary; He is also

sovereign Father. At this point, the Christian understanding of Him towers

supremely over the highest conceptions attained by the speculative

philosophers. In the classical period of Greece, investigation plus

speculation banished the old gods, one by one, into a far corner of the field

of nature, largely as a result of the growing understanding of the universe

as a harmonious whole. In place of the nature-gods of polytheism, there

was posited a deity who was a first cause, and perhaps a general supervisor

of the cosmos. But He was not necessarily an object of man’s worship and

could logically lay no obligation upon man’s moral conduct. Thus a mere

logically attained belief in God did not and could not satisfy the religious

instinct and religious longings of men.

It is quite other with “God the Father almighty.” Here sovereignty and

Fatherhood are inseparably joined, something seemingly impossible in the

non-revelatory systems. Although the concept of God’s Fatherhood has

been overworked in our century, particularly by those terming themselves

“liberals,” the careful reader of Scripture will not for this reason neglect the

proper doctrine of God’s Fatherhood, a doctrine that largely superseded

the regal aspect of God stressed in the Old Testament in general, and

particularly in the language of the Psalms.

The conception of God as Father was, as suggested earlier, implied in such

Old Testament passages as <19A313>Psalm 103:13: “Like as a father pitieth his

children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him.” However, the concept was

not a determinative one in the Old Testament, this unfolding having been

reserved for the revelation of the New Covenant. In the words of our Lord,

God was pre-eminently revealed as Father. Thomas Rees reminds us:

He meant that the essential nature of God, and His relation to men, is best

expressed by the attitude and relation of a father to his children; but God is

Father in an infinitely higher and more perfect degree than any man [“God,” in

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1943, II, 1261].

God is most basically, of course, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus

Christ. His Fatherhood has meaning for all men, in that He is creator of all

and all are the objects of His gracious care. He does not will that any

should perish (<401814>Matthew 18:14). Even if by evil choice men refuse to

own Him as God, He still awaits to receive those who will return in

penitence. There is reason to believe that even those who remain finally

impenitent and who at length go into outer darkness forever will in doing

so bring a pang to the Father’s heart.

God does, of course, have an especial relation as Father to those who

through faith in His Son become His adopted sons. These, as “heirs of God

and joint heirs” with the Son, enjoy a relation that is morally based, and

that goes infinitely beyond the relation of creatureliness and dependence

which all men by nature sustain to Him.

The doctrines of the Sovereignty and the Fatherhood of God are further

analyzable. That is to say, they have implication-doctrines that cast light

upon them and serve to round out the basic elements just mentioned.

Sovereign freedom implies the pattern of omni-attributes — omnipresence,

omnipotence, and omniscience. The agnostic rejects every all-conception,

while the humanist holds that a deity, even though He possessed these

attributes, would not qualify as an object of worship. The Christian,

however, believes that God’s “everywhereness,” all-capability, and allknowingness

enrich the doctrine of God as sovereign Lord; indeed, they

are part of the conception of any Being who is really God.

God’s omnipresence suggests that, while His power and presence may be

somewhere localized, yet there is no part of the universe where His

presence is not manifested. We are aware of the objections raised by Paul

Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, and others, and presented in popular fashion by

Bishop Robinson, to the effect that modern scientific thought has rendered

belief in a God “up there” or “out there” absurd, so that the only remaining

alternative for the educated man is to believe in a “God” inside his own

being. What advocates of this form of “theology” overlook is that

dimensions outside our three-dimensional understanding may exist within

which the power and presence of God may be localized, and from which

He may express His “thereness” in every part of the universe He has made.

God’s omnipotence implies that nothing lies outside His capability except,

of course, the self-contradictory or the morally deleterious. His power, as

distinct from the exercise of His power, knows no limitations. If it may be

properly said that at a given moment He is not doing all He might do, then

this comes from a self-imposed limitation upon the exercise of His ability.

There is no hint in Scripture that He is subject to any necessary extrinsic

limitation or restriction. And in the role of the omnipotent One, He is the

Creator (i.e., the source of the absolute origination) of the universe and its

mighty Sustainer as well. Thus as the all-capable One, He is “maker of

heaven and earth.”

His omniscience flows, not from any metaphysical consideration, but from

His being as free from any restrictions of power or will. Whereas we know

things, persons, and events seriatim, it seems clear that His knowledge is

complete in an eternal now — that is, there is no point in the divine career

in which all things are not immediately present to His mind. He knows the

end from the beginning and is subject to no surprises. Thus He can view

the whole unrolling drama of the universal (and human) enterprise with

complete calm — and, we may add cautiously, even with a sense of humor.

Closely related to His omniscience is His wisdom. It is no accident that in

one of the New Testament benedictions He is called the “all-wise God.”

This “wisdom” consists not merely in the ability to reproduce facts (a vast

computer might do this) but in His ability to adapt, with perfect congruity,

means to ends. In Him are, we are confident, no false starts, no lost

motion, no tentativity. What He has promised, He is able also to perform.

His will is being wrought, even amid the contrary winds of human

perversity; and the “new heavens and the new earth” will proclaim with

eternal eloquence the infinite wisdom of God.

It is clear from the foregoing that one cannot draw a completely neat line

between God’s “natural” qualities on the one hand and his “moral”

attributes on the other. His nature and being are, at the deepest level,

moral. It was this factor that differentiated Yahweh or Jehovah from the

deities of the lands surrounding Israel. There is a discernible pattern of

qualities within His Being that are more specifically exercised toward the

moral needs of the race and form a special ingredient in God’s specific

relation to other personalities. Among these attributes there stand in a preeminent

place holiness, love, and mercy.

In the Old Testament, holiness is a quality that shines forth with great

intensity from God’s self-revelation. In Leviticus, Moses quotes God as

saying, “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” It does not answer to the realities

of Old Testament usage to contend that “holiness” was originally a morally

neutral category, connoting some vague “numinous” or mysterious quality

that elicited a sense of awe. Such a view as this, given classic form in

Rudolf Otto’s Idea of the Holy, rests upon a radical reinterpretation of the

history of Israel’s religion, a readjustment that is far from being evidently

justified. With the prophets, the ideas of holiness and of righteousness were

applied to Jehovah as virtually equivalent. While in places in the Old

Testament record Jehovah was shown to be unapproachable in His

“holiness,” yet against the backdrop of human iniquity the prophets

proclaimed Him to be holy in a deeply moral sense.

His holiness is also analyzable into components — i.e., as this quality is

seen from our human point of view. First, holiness in action produces the

twin categories of righteousness and justice. In other words, holiness when

expressed in action implies both strict rectitude and an aggressive form of

justice. Holiness in God was a permeate quality that gave direction, depth,

and tone to all He did and does. In the extension of mercy or of grace, He

will not violate the norms set by holiness. At this level, His justice appears

as a closely related aspect of His holiness.

In the light of the inclusiveness of this category, many elements in the

Bible, and especially in the Old Testament, fall into their proper place.

Thomas Rees reminds us in this connection,

Jehovah’s rule is no longer limited to Israel, nor concerned only with the nation

as a collective whole, but he deals impartially with every individual and nation

alike. Other limitations also disappear. His anger and wrath, that once

appeared irrational and unjust, now become the intensity of his righteousness

[“God,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1943, II, 1257].

Thus God’s holiness shares and conditions every expression of His

personality, every extension of His power. It does not cancel any other of

His qualities or render any other attributes superfluous.

The simple statement, “God is love,” tantalizes us as we seek to explore

the nature of God. Here again the evangelical may tend to draw back in

reaction to those who have set God’s love in antithesis to His holiness and

His justice. It is true that those calling themselves “liberals” have stressed

love in such a way as to depreciate any expression of divine justice. But, as

Carl F. H. Henry points out, it is not necessary to apply the attribute of

love in such a manner as to cancel out the quality of holiness, or vice versa

(Notes on the Doctrine of God, 1948, pp. 103ff.). Actually, love and

righteousness (or holiness) express differing aspects of the same quality in

God’s being.

Love in God approaches very nearly the definition given by Charles Hodge

of God’s quality of goodness, including “benevolence, love, mercy and

grace” (Systematic Theology, 1871, p. 427). We would see love as the

primary element in His being and see benevolence, mercy, and grace as

derived from it. God’s love moves Him to communicate with His crcatures,

to impart Himself to them for their highest good, and, in case of need, to

use His fullest and best resources to redeem them.

This forms a suitable point of transition to a brief statement concerning

God’s triune or tri-personal nature. Other essays in this series will

elaborate this theme, but it should be noted here that the richness of the

Divine Life suggested by the Old Testament’s use of the plural name

Elohim is unfolded in the New Testament. There the one, unitary Divine

Being is shown to exist in a union of three centers of self-conscious

activity, each capable of proper designation by the singular personal

pronouns. These “persons” are declared to be related in the most intimate

fashion: as Father, as Son of the Father by generation from eternity, and as

Holy Spirit proceeding from eternity from Father and Son. This teaching

may be legitimately and clearly inferred from the events connected with the

Incarnation. The doctrine is basically unfolded through direct revelation,

since we have for the Trinity no precise analogue in nature.

The doctrine of the Trinity serves to round out and crown the New

Testament understanding of God. It affords, we believe, the framework

within which His personality may be understood with the greatest clarity

possible to our finite minds. As One God (i.e., one in the deepest ground of

His Being), He exists as the embodiment of three distinct and intimately

interrelated Persons. In this, the Divine Life expresses to a degree

impossible to us finite personalities the fullest manifestation oft he

personal. The doctrine of the Trinity is the great conserver of Christian

theism. In the reverent contemplation and loving understanding of the

Triune God, man attains to a full-orbed (though always limited in depth)

grasp of the nature of Him with whom we have to do, God the Father

Almighty.

CONCLUSION

Barbara Ward is correct in saying that “faith will not be restored in the

West because people believe it to be useful. It will return only when they

find that it is true” (Faith and Freedom, p. 265). This essay has not

concerned itself largely with “the idea of God” or the mere “meaning of

God for man’s experience.” No attempt has been made to survey the

several arguments claiming to afford rational grounds for belief in His

existence. These may have value in confirming belief in those already

disposed to faith; but with the emergence of new scientific categories,

“proofs for God” no longer have the force they exerted in the medieval and

early modern periods. The emphasis in this study is upon the manner in

which the Living God has taken the initiative in unveiling Himself to His

creatures.

Belief in God has been a vital ingredient in the lives of those who have held

it. The absence of faith has done its devastating work in human lives and

human society. Restoration of biblical faith is, however, of pre-eminent

importance because of what God is, and because all must ultimately stand

before Him. Revelation has for its primary aim not the satisfaction of

human curiosity but the healing of a fractured relationship between man

and his Creator. This can become a reality only as God the Lord, as He has

manifested His names and the qualities of His Being, becomes a relational

reality in human lives.

Theoretical knowledge of God cannot in itself guarantee that this will

occur. A profound pattern of insight is revealed in the words, “This is life

eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ

whom thou hast sent” (<431703>John 17:3). There is a deeper knowledge of

God that is realized only as the individual is confronted by the demanding

claims of Emmanuel-el, the Second Person of the Godhead, appearing

among us in time and in a Sacred Land. In Him the depth of God’s being

and purpose are externalized in a manner comprehensible to us, and in His

Cross there came to full view the love of God that will not let us go. At

Golgotha the Father expressed His inner heart. Incarnation and Atonement

crown our understanding of God and afford us unassailable ground for our

hope.