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February 16, 2013 - Through a Glass Darkly



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Lesson 7   16 February, 2013
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Through a Glass Darkly

Major Texts: Job 12:10; 1 Cor 6:19,20; Gen 3:17; John 12:31; 1 Cor 1:18-21

The lesson this week delves into some very interesting and important territory. If its essence were to be distilled into a single, primary question, it would be, subsequent to the fall, how well does the natural world reflect God? Or, put another way. Just how much can we learn about God from the natural world subsequent to the effects of the fall?

We will proceed here along two lines of thought. First, we will look at what theologians refer to as "General Revelation," that kind of information humans can get about God from the study of what God has made. Then we will ask the question about how accurately scientific observations and conclusions would be in terms of telling us about God and the way God made things given the effects of the fall on the natural world.

The question of general revelation postulates that the things a person makes tell something of that person. Extended to God, the postulation is that, since God made the universe, we might learn some things about Him by studying creation Itself. The postulation has been powerful in the western world because it can be said that science as we know it emerged from precisely this idea, that empirically driven data gathering could ultimately tell us something about the Creator. The initial conclusions tended toward the idea that the universe was a vast, highly precise machine made and operated by God. This postulation has fallen on hard times because the universe it not so precise as originally thought. Nevertheless, it can still be said that the natural world reveals some things about God. Because the information in the natural world is generally available to any who will look, and because it is believed that the information gleaned from such study does not get beyond generalities, this category of knowledge is called "General Revelation."

Several points should be made about general revelation:

  • It is usually said that this information can be found in four or five places:
    • The Cosmos itself
    • Human beings and human nature
    • History, but looking for providences
    • Aesthetic beauty
    • Humor
       
  • General revelation has several characteristics:
    • It is general in content and general in availability.
    • It is of most benefit when someone who already believes looks at some event or phenomenon and sees not only the event but "something more," the hand of God. For example, when the rains finally comes and ends a drought, the unbelieving farmer is likely to say, "It's about timel" while the believing farmer is likely to say, "Thank God, the rains have finally cornel" The believer saw something more than Just the natural phenomenon.
    • There is a very big debate as to just how effective general revelation can bein terms of bringing people to a saving faith in God. This debate goes unabated with some thinking it is sufficient, and others vociferously denying such a prospect. We cannot settle that debate herel

The second line of thought proposed at the start of the lesson had to do with the question of how accurately science might be able to reflect God given the effects of the fall. Or, how similar is the cosmos now to the way it was created and what effects has the fall had on the nature of creation? This is actually a very big question that has not been explored very much. It needs a whole lot more consideration:

  • Notice that the earth is now not only post fall, but also post flood. How have these two events tarnished or spoiled the capacity of earth to reveal accurate things about its Maker?
     
  • These matters, it could be argued, could nearly totally dismiss science from the playing field when it comes to investigating and learning about God.
     
  • The effects of the fall could possibly skew scientific findings when compared to what they might have been in Eden to the point that what we have as scientifically driven conclusions now would be very different were they to be run on earth as it originally was.
     
  • To what degree do {or should) current scientists adjust their findings in view of the effects of the fall? To what extent does the natural world still show forth truths about God as compared to what we would have discovered in Eden?
  • How would you open this topic with a group of scientists?

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