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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is a Deist?

This item is available on the Apologetics Press Web site at: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240126

AP Content :: Bible Bullets

Was Thomas Jefferson a Deist?
by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The propaganda that has been spouted incessantly since the 1960s is that the Founders of the American Republic were deists. Deism is currently defined as: “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation” (American Heritage..., 2000, p. 479). This assessment of the Founders’ beliefs is so thoroughly embedded in societal consensus that the one who questions it is immediately discounted as an ignorant fool.

Thomas Jefferson is one of the Founders typically singled out as a deist. Apart from the fact that only a very small handful of the Founders might be legitimately styled “deists”—with the overwhelming majority of the Founders being believers in the God of the Bible and the validity of the Christian religion—it is interesting that Jefferson never actually claimed to be a deist. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. He explicitly claimed to be a Christian. Granted, his writings indicate that he doubted the deity of Christ; nevertheless, he identified himself very clearly with the precepts of Jesus.

Several proofs of this fact are available to the objective appraiser of history. For example, in a letter written from Washington, to prominent Founder Dr. Benjamin Rush, on April 21, 1803, Jefferson explained:

Dear Sir, In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other (1803, emp. added).

Observe that Jefferson insisted that those who accused him of being anti-Christian simply did not know his actual views. In a letter to a longtime friend, Charles Thomson, on January 9, 1816, Jefferson affirmed:

I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw (1816, emp. added).

Based on these two quotations, it is evident that some, perhaps most, of Jefferson’s negativity toward Christianity was, in fact, simply revulsion for the perversions and corruptions of true Christianity. Another proof of this point is seen in Jefferson’s letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse on June 26, 1822:

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. 1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect. 2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments. 3. That to love God with all thy heart, and they neighbor as thyself is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin: 1. That there are three Gods; 2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor are nothing; 3. That faith is everything, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith; 4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use; 5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them, and no virtues of the latter save. Now which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He, who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? or the impious dogmatists of Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say that these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity who have too hastily rejected the supposed Author himself with the horrors so falsely imputed to him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as purely as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian (1822, emp. added).

Regardless of how one feels about Jefferson’s ardent repudiation of Calvinism and the concept of the Trinity, it is nevertheless evident that Jefferson portrayed himself as one who praised Jesus and embraced the basic doctrines of Christianity.

The fact is that, like most of the Founders, Jefferson believed that Christianity was the best system of morality on which to situate the Republic. In a chapter titled, “The Influence of Judaism and Christianity on the American Founding,” Michael Novak relates an account by Ethan Allen who reported a conversation that took place during Jefferson’s presidency. While on his way to church one Sunday morning, he met a friend who questioned his religious convictions. Jefferson retorted: “No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I as chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example” (2000, p. 159). Novak observed that Jefferson believed that Christianity “is crucial to the American Republic...and gave biblical Christianity public support. His letters show that he also believed in a divine Judge and, provisionally, in eternal life” (p. 179; cf. Gaustad, 1996). This same attitude is further manifested in a letter Jefferson wrote to James Fishback on September 27, 1809:

The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [the Creator] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses (1809, emp. added).

Thomas Jefferson was certainly one of the least religious of the Founders of the American Republic. Yet, these few allusions demonstrate that even he regarded Christianity and the doctrines of Jesus Christ to be indispensable to the founding and perpetuation of the nation. That is the salient point. Those who throw up “deist” and other aspersions in an attempt to denigrate the role Christianity played in the founding of America, deserve the same epithet that Jefferson directed toward those of his detractors who misrepresented his views, which, he insisted, were “very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.”

REFERENCES
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.

Gaustad, Edwin (1996), Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Jefferson, Thomas (1803), “Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803, with Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, with Copies,” The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page028.db&recNum=190&itemLink=%2Fammem%2Fcollections%2Fjefferson_papers%2Fmtjser1.html&linkText=6. Also: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/vc006656.jpg.

Jefferson, Thomas (1809), “Thomas Jefferson James Fishback, September 27, 1809,” The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page044.db&recNum=269&itemLink=/ammem/ collections/jefferson_papers/ mtjser1.html&linkText=7& tempFile=./temp/~ammem_8A8E&filecode=mtj&prev_filecode=mtj&itemnum=2& ndocs=2.

Jefferson, Thomas (1816), “Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816,” The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/P?mtj:36:./temp/~ammem_KbiS::.

Jefferson, Thomas (1822), “Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822,” The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page053. db&recNum=252&itemLink=/ammem/collections/ jefferson_papers/mtjser1.html&linkText= 7&tempFile=./temp/~ammem_Wd8k&filecode= mtj&next_filecode=mtj&prev_filecode=mtj&itemnum=14&ndocs=59.

Novak, Michael (2000), “The Influence of Judaism and Christianity on the American Founding,” in Religion and the New Republic: Faith in the Founding of America, ed. James H. Hutson (Rowman & Littlefield), [On-line], URL: http://books.google.com/books? hl=en& id=YwW_g8qr68MC&dq= james+hutson+religion+founding& printsec=frontcover&source= web&ots=5Jcv1w_HPg& sig=LTl2mt1beTOrfAboUcU2igSnTHg& sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum= 1&ct=result#PPA159,M1.





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A Coherent Definition of God

A Coherent Definition of a God
by Kyle Butt, M.A.


Renowned atheistic spokesperson, Dan Barker, has been debating the existence of God for over two decades. One of his favorite assertions is that no one can coherently define God. Since, he claims, no one can define God, we should conclude that there is an extremely high probability that God does not exist. In my debate with him on God’s existence, two minutes and four seconds into his opening speech, he stated: “There’s no coherent definition of a God. How can we debate something that we can’t even define? God is defined as a spirit, but what is that?” He admitted that this argument does not disprove God, but he claimed that it makes the idea of God so unlikely and improbable that we should simply “round up” and disbelieve in God (Butt and Barker, 2009).

As with many of Barker’s other statements, his “no coherent definition” idea is simply an assertion that seems plausible only until it is critically analyzed in light of sound reasoning. First, God can be defined in such a way that brilliant men and women for thousands of years have been able to intelligently discuss God’s attributes, existence, and qualities? In fact, the vast majority of standard dictionaries give a working definition that most third-graders understand. For instance, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives the following definition for “God”: 1. “the supreme or ultimate reality: as a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe” (2009). The American Heritage Dictionary’s primary definition of “God” is: “1. God a. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions” (2000, p. 753). Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a massive volume of almost 3,000 pages, defines “God” as: “the supreme or ultimate reality: the Deity variously conceived in theology, philosophy, and popular religion: as a (1): the holy, infinite, and eternal spiritual reality presented in the Bible as the creator, sustainer, judge, righteous sovereign, and redeemer of the universe who acts with power in history carrying out his purpose...” (1993, p. 973).

So coherent, in fact, is the definition of God that it is absent from books such as The New York Times’ Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, Mispronounced Words (1972). The term “God” is defined in every major dictionary, it is absent from the books that compile words that are difficult to understand, and the term has been used in meaningful conversation for thousands of years since the dawn of humanity. In order for a person to say that God cannot be coherently defined, he would need to change the meanings of the words “coherent” or “defined.” The fact that the term “God” is included in this article, and the reader can differentiate it from all the other concepts and terms being discussed, goes a long way to proving that the term can be meaningfully defined.

But let us dig deeper into Barker’s assertion and deal with another idea he presents. Barker has a problem with the term “spirit,” and he claims that no one knows exactly what a spirit is. Thus, he suggests, God cannot be something that no one can explain. In answer to Barker’s assertion, we could simply give another list of dictionary definitions of the word “spirit.” The Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives several meanings of the word, including: “1: an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms” or “4: the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person” (2009). A lengthy list of dictionary definitions would most likely bore the reader, but it would show that the term “spirit” is used in common parlance, easily understood, and discussed.

The idea that Barker seems to be presenting, then, is not that people have a difficult time defining or discussing terms like “God” or “spirit.” Barker seems to be indicating that since everybody’s definition of a “spirit” is not identical, and since we do not know everything about a “spirit,” then the concept must be unproductive. Of course, if we eliminate all the concepts that we do not unanimously agree upon or that we do not completely understand, our discussions would be extremely limited. For instance, in Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins attempted to define the word “gene,” but he noted: “My definition will not be to everyone’s taste, but there is no universally agreed definition of gene” (2006, p. 28, emp. added). Charles Darwin himself, when discussing the term “species” (which term was in the title of his most famous book) wrote: “Nor shall I here discuss the various definitions which have been given of the term species. No one definition has satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species” (1860, p. 38, emp. added). Quotes like these two could be multiplied and are sufficient to show that there need not be unanimous agreement about a term in order for it to have meaning.

Furthermore, it would be impossible to limit our vocabulary to concepts that are completely and fully understood. Can we use words that describe things that we do not totally understand? Indeed, not only is it permissible, but it is commonly practiced by all. For instance, in his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins stated: “Nobody has yet invented the mathematics for describing the total structure and behaviour of such an object as a physicist, or even of one of his cells. What we can do is understand some of the general principles of how living things work, and why they exist at all” (1996, p. 3, emp. added). Notice that Dawkins admits that we cannot fully understand and describe a single cell, but that does not stop us from defining its generalities and using them to discuss the concept of a “cell.” In Robert Hazen’s series, Origins of Life, he has an entire lecture titled “What is Life?” In that lecture, he attempted to define the term “life,” but he noted that he had seen at least 48 definitions, “Yet, remarkably, no two definitions are the same” (2005, p. 49). He further stated: “As you can imagine, scientists crave an unambiguous definition of life. Such a definition remains elusive” (p. 50). Hazen quipped that many scientists are “loath to draw too narrow a definition [of life—KB] in our present state of ignorance” (p. 51, emp. added); “I would argue that scientists in the early 21st century are in the same boat [as those in the 18th century—KB]—no position to define life.... To summarize this lecture, there is no simple answer to the question, ‘What is life?’” (p. 58). Using Barker’s line of reasoning in light of Dr. Hazen’s lecture on life, there must be no such thing as life, since we do not have a definition upon which all scientists agree. As you can see, such a conclusion is irrational. Furthermore, Barker and the scientific community have no qualms discussing ideas such as dark matter, dark energy, and black holes, even though these concepts cannot be accurately defined.

DEFINING “SPIRIT” POSITIVELY
In the cross-examination section of our debate, Barker asked me what a spirit is. I stated that a spirit is a “non-physical, incorporeal mind.” He responded by saying, “But that doesn’t answer the question. You told us what it is not. You said it is non-corporeal, non-physical. But positively, what is a spirit?” (2009). Notice that my definition included the positive concept of a spirit being a mind. Barker conveniently focused on the words “non-physical” and “incorporeal,” but intentionally ignored the definition of spirit as a mind. Barker refuses to deal with the concept of an immaterial mind because he is a materialist. In his debate with Peter Payne, Barker stated: “We are natural creatures. The natural world is all there is” (2005). What Barker means by the term “natural” is: “composed of physical matter.” His atheistic philosophy will not allow him to admit that there is anything other than matter. This false, materialistic assumption is his fundamental problem with the term “spirit.” It has been shown extensively and definitely, however, that humans possess an immaterial, rational mind that cannot be relegated to mere physical matter (see Harrub and Thompson, 2004; Thompson and Harrub, 2004). The mere fact that you can read, comprehend, analyze, and assess Barker’s assertion proves that something immaterial is at play.

Incidentally, Barker’s assertion that negative terms cannot be used to give positive meaning to something is vacuous. In his book godless, Barker gives a lengthy definition of what he believes the term “atheism” means. He stated: “It turns out that atheism means much less than I had thought. It is merely the lack of theism. It is not a philosophy of life and it offers no value.... [T]o be an atheist, you don’t need any positive philosophy at all.... Basic atheism is not a belief” (p. 98, emp. added, italics in orig.). According to Barker, atheism can be defined in purely negative terms without offering a single positive concept, the very thing he accuses those who define “spirit” of doing.

Furthermore, in answering his question during the cross-examination, I mentioned two words, darkness and cold, that are often understood in negative terms. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines darkness as: “1 a: devoid or partially devoid of light: not receiving, reflecting, transmitting, or radiating light” (2009, emp. added). Even though “darkness” is defined in negative terms as the absence of light, there is no doubt that darkness exists.

CONCLUSION
God is the uncaused, all-powerful, all-knowing, merciful, gracious, eternal Spirit whose personality and attributes are manifested in the pages of the Bible. Virtually every dictionary gives an understandable and reasonable definition of God, books that deal with difficult words omit God, and God has been the main subject of discussion and study of the vast majority of the most brilliant thinkers for millennia. The rhetorical tactic suggesting that God cannot be defined is nothing more than an assertion based on a materialistic philosophy that is unfounded. In truth, God can be clearly defined and delineated from all other entities to such an extent that Dan Barker and I can be involved in a formal debate and both know exactly what (or rather Who) we are discussing—God, the God of the Bible.

REFERENCES
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.

Barker, Dan and Peter Payne (2005), Does Ethics Require God? [On-line], URL: http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.

Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).

Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Darwin, Charles (1860), On the Origin of Species By Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: The Modern Library), second edition.

Dawkins, Richard (1996), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton).

Dawkins, Richard (2006), The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 30th Anniversary Edition.

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “The Origin of the Brain and Mind—Parts 1 & 2,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1.

Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life(Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2009), [On-line], URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.

The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, Mispronounced Words (1972), ed. Laurence Urdang, (New York: Weathervane Books).

Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2004), “The Origin of Consciousness—Parts 1 & 2,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/498.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1993), (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster).





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Copyright © 2009 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Darwin Day Debate" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Does God Know Your Thoughts?

Does God Know Everything?
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The psalmist declared that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (44:21), that His eyes “are in every place” (15:3), and that “His understanding is infinite” (147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.... Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there (139:1-4,6-8).

The New Testament reemphasizes this truth: “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). According to the Bible, there is nothing outside of the awareness of God.

Atheist Dan Barker, however, alleged in his February 12, 2009 debate with Kyle Butt that the Bible paints a contradictory picture of God and His knowledge. Whereas some scriptures indicate that God knows the future, supposedly, the God of the Bible cannot exist because other passages reportedly teach that God does not know the future. Twelve minutes and 54 seconds into his first speech, Barker exclaimed:

Look what God said after he stopped it [Abrham’s sacrifice of Isaac—EL]. He said: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for I know now, I now know, that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld thy son.” I know now? I thought God knew everything. The Bible says God knows the future but here He is saying, “I didn’t even know.” The Bible even says that God searches and understands all the imaginations of the heart. The God of the Bible knows the future. The God of the Bible does not know the future (2009).

Is Barker correct? Does the Bible paint a contradictory picture of God’s knowledge? Do some passages testify to the omniscience of God, while others indicate that He is finite in His understanding?

The kind of language found in Genesis 22:12 actually is present throughout Scripture. As early as Genesis chapter three, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” (3:9). In Genesis four, He asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (4:9). The book of Job reveals that at the beginning of God’s first speech to Job, God asked the patriarch, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4, emp. added). Are we to assume questions like these or statements like those found in Genesis 22:12 and 18:21 (“I will know”) imply a lack of knowledge on God’s part?

First, one must acknowledge that questions often are asked and statements frequently are made for a variety of reasons. Are we really to assume that the Creator of heaven and Earth was ignorant of Adam’s whereabouts when He asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)? Are we to believe that God did not know where Job was when He made the world (Job 38:4)? Certainly not! What father, having seen his son dent a car door, would imply ignorance by asking, “Who did that?” Obviously, the father did not ask the question to obtain information, but to see if the son would admit to something the father knew all along. On occasion, Jesus used questions or made statements for the same purpose. When He questioned the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians regarding whose inscription was on a particular coin, it clearly was not because He did not know (Matthew 22:15-22). Likewise, when Jesus asked the multitude that thronged Him, “Who touched Me?” (Luke 8:45), it was not because the woman who touched Him was hidden from Him (Luke 8:47). Jesus knew the woman who was made well by touching His garment before she confessed to touching Him (Mark 5:32). His question was intended to bring attention to her great faith and His great power (Mark 5:34). In no way are the questions God asks or the statements He makes an indication of Him being less than omniscient.

Second, the term “know” (Hebrew yada, Greek ginosko) or one of its derivatives (i.e., knew, known, etc.) is used in Scripture in a variety of ways. Several times it is used in reference to a man and woman having sexual intercourse (Genesis 4:1,17,25; Judges 11:39; 19:25). Jesus used the term to refer to His regard for His sheep (i.e., people—John 10:27). In contrast to the way of the wicked that will perish, the psalmist wrote that God “knows” (i.e., approves, takes delight in, etc.) the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6). Paul used the term “know” in Ephesians 3:19 in the sense of knowing “experimentally what intellectually is beyond our powers of knowing”—the love of Christ (Jamieson, 1997). The fact is, like so many words in Scripture (and in modern times) the word “know” has a variety of meanings. What’s more, neither Dan Barker nor any Bible critic can prove that the term “know” in Genesis 22:12 directly contradicts God’s omniscience.

Third, the Bible’s usage of phrases such as “now I know” (Genesis 22:12) or “I will know” (Genesis 18:21) in reference to God actually are for the benefit of man. Throughout the Bible, human actions (such as “learning”) frequently are attributed to God for the purpose of helping us better understand His infinity. When Jehovah “came down to see the city and the tower” built at Babel (Genesis 11:5), it was not for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Anthropomorphic expressions such as these are not meant to suggest that God is not always fully aware of everything. Rather, as in the case of Babel, such wording was used to show that He was “officially and judicially taking the situation under direct observation and consideration” (Morris, 1976, p. 272). Almighty God visited Sodom and Gomorrah likely “for appearance’ sake, that men might know directly that God had actually seen the full situation before He acted in judgment” (p. 342). “These cities were to be made ensamples to all future ages of God’s severity, and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive (Ezek 18:23; Jer 18:7)” [Jamieson, 1997]. Similarly, in the case of God testing Abraham regarding Isaac, although God already knew what Abraham would choose to do, there still was a reason to allow Abraham the opportunity to actually show his great faith and know that God indeed had witnessed (in real time and not just in His foreknowledge), Abraham’s actions. God came “to know” of Abraham’s faith by actual experiment. The meaning of the phrase, “now I know” (Genesis 22:12), therefore, “is not that God had, by the events of this probation, obtained information regarding Abraham's character that He did not previously possess; but that these qualities had been made apparent, had been developed by outward acts” (Jamieson, 1997).

Similar to how God instructs man to pray and make “known” to Him our petitions for our benefit (Philippians 4:6), even though He actually already knows of our prayers and needs before they are voiced (Matthew 6:8), for our profit the all-knowing God sometimes is spoken of in accommodative language as acquiring knowledge.

REFERENCES
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).





Apologetics Press
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U.S.A.
Phone (334) 272-8558
http://www.apologeticspress.org