Chapter Six: The Incomparability of God

December 16, 2008

In this heart-warming chapter Dr. Robert Morey discusses the “Incomparability of God,” an attribute that recognizes his ultimate uniqueness. Dr. Morey begins the chapter defining this often overlooked attribute of God saying:

The God of the prophets and apostles is so wonderful in all His being and attributes that He cannot be reduced to the level of the pagan gods or man. God simply cannot be “compared” to the gods or man as if they were His equals. What the gods are like has no bearing whatsoever on the God who is there and who has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Although natural religions have always interpreted their concept of the gods in terms of their own human finiteness, God has revealed that He is not like man or his false gods. Thus God cannot be compared to them, for He is “better” in quality by being Divine and “greater” in quantity by being Infinite. This is one of the major Biblical themes of God’s glory.

Dr. Morey gives an exposition of several Bible passages that support the doctrine of the incomparability of God. He writes, “God is the incomparable GOD because He is the Creator, the sovereign Lord of all things, and the omniscient One who foreknows the future!”

Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders (Exodus 15:11)?

Miriam’s song of triumph after Pharaoh’s army perished in the Sea magnifies the sovereign power of God. Which of the finite pagan gods can do what Yahweh has done? He is incomparable in His character and power.

There is none like the God of Jeshurun…
The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms…
So Israel dwells in security (Deuteronomy 33:26-28).

In Moses’ farewell blessing, he blesses Asher by teaching him the incomparability of Yahweh. He alone is the “eternal God” who transcends space and time. His sovereign power, or “everlasting arms,” is the only basis of security for God’s people.

My soul shall rejoice in the Lord;
It shall exalt in His salvation.
All my bones will say,
“Lord, who is like Thee,
Who delivers the afflicted
from him who is too strong for him” (Psalm 35:9-10).

As David sees his enemies approaching with a force too great for him to overcome, he cries out to God for deliverance. In his prayer he reminds the Lord that He is incomparable in His mercy as well as in His judgment.

But to the wicked God says,
You thought that I was just like you;

I will reprove you (Psalm 50:16, 21).

God begins His address to the wicked in verse 16. They are condemned because they hypocritically speak of God’s statutes and covenant while rejecting God’s revelation! But their greatest crime is their wicked assumption that God is limited just like them. They are able to abandon themselves to sin because they think that God is limited in knowledge and does not know what they are doing, and that God is limited in power and cannot do anything about it anyway. God is going to “tear them into pieces” because they have “forgotten” what God is really like (v. 22). Humanists always assume God is “just like man.”

For Thy righteousness, O God,
reaches to the heavens;
Thou who hast done great things;
O God, who is like Thee? (Psalm 71:19)

In the context, the Psalmist focuses on the “righteousness,” i.e. justice, of God because it “reaches to the heavens,” i.e., is infinite. This infinite justice of God is declared to be incomparable and becomes the basis of his hope that God will deliver him from his enemies.

There is no one like Thee among the gods, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Thine.
For Thou art great and doest wondrous deeds;
Thou alone art God (Psalm 86:8, 10).

David cries out for deliverance to a sovereign God who is “great” in His being and works. God’s sovereignty is so complete and universal that even David’s enemies are under the control of God! David’s enemies can “choose” to do him harm, but God is in control and will deliver His people.

The Lord is high above all nations;
His glory is above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who is enthroned on High,
Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in heaven and in the earth (Psalm 113:4-6)?

The Psalmist begins in awe with a vision of the transcendence of God over man (“the nations”) and nature (“heavens and earth.”) This transcendent God is sovereign over all things for He is “enthroned on high.” He is called “the Most High God” no fewer than forty-six times in Scripture.

But does this mean that He is not immanent “in” the world because He is transcendent “above” it? No, the Psalmist believes that God is both transcendent and immanent. The Lord “humbles Himself to behold” all that takes place in heaven and in the earth.

The Psalmist thus concludes that God is incomparable because He is transcendent, sovereign, and omniscient. The gods of the heathen are not transcendent, sovereign, or omniscient. They are “of” the world as well as “in” the world. But the True God is “above” the world (transcendent), “over” the world (sovereign), “in” the world (immanent), and knows all “about” the world (omniscient). God is GOD because of these things.

To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him (Isaiah 40:18)?

Isaiah 40 is the passage of full mention on subject of the transcendence of God. He is depicted as the sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe, who sits enthroned far above all earthly powers. The nations are only “a drop in a bucket” or “a speck of dust on the scales” (v. 15).

All the inhabitants of the earth are “like grasshoppers” (v. 22).

Thus it is absurd to make an idol and compare it to God (v. 18). What is an idol but a manmade god (vv. 19f.). How can such ignorant gods compare to the True God, who is omniscient (vv. 13-14)?

To whom then will you liken Me?
That I should be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their hosts by number
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the
strength of His power
Not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:25-26).

God is not only incomparable because He is transcendent and omniscient, but also because He is omnipotent. His omnipotence is revealed in creation and providence. He created the stars. This shows His omnipotence. He knows them all by name which reveals His omniscience. And His power sustains them in their orbits, which reveals His Providence. The gods of the heathen are limited in power and knowledge. The God of Israel should not be compared to these idols.

I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
From the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them
the things that are coming
And the events that are going
to take place (Isaiah 44:6-7).

Isaiah now bases the incomparability of God on His eternity. As “the First and the Last,”God is transcendent over time itself. Thus he appeals to God’s absolute and infallible foreknowledge of the future as proof of His uniqueness. Which of the gods of the heathen can “recount” history from “the beginning to the end”? Which of them can tell us future events? Only the true God can do this.

I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times
things which have not been done,
Saying, “My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish
all My good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

No wonder pagan philosophers have always attacked God’s foreknowledge and foreordination of the future! Since Isaiah records God’s claim that He is GOD because He foreknows and ordains the future, the heathen have always made their chief attack on those very attributes. Once God is denied knowledge and control of the future, then He is “just like” their gods.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Isaiah now tells us that God’s thoughts and ways cannot be compared to man’s thoughts and ways. The limitations of man’s thoughts and ways should not be placed on God. Man is not the measure of all things. God is His own interpreter and He has made it plain that He is not a man and should not be limited in power and knowledge as if He were a man (Numbers 23:19; Hosea 11:9).

Humanistic theologians are forever trying to instruct God as to what He may and may not do. They try to inform the Holy One about what is just and unjust. They are cosmic “back-seat drivers” who gripe and complain about the direction in which history is going, and who then take it upon themselves to tell the Almighty how to run the world He made for His own glory! Their conceit and imprudence know no bounds!

There is none like Thee, O Lord;
Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might.
Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is thy due!
For among all the wise men of the nations,
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like Thee…
But the Lord is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King…
Thus you shall say to them,
“The gods that did not make the heavens
and the earth shall perish
from the earth and from under the heavens.”
It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom;
And by His understanding
He has stretched out the heavens…
Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols;
For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them…
The Portion of Jacob is not like these;
For the Maker of all is He,
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance,
The Lord of hosts is His name (Jeremiah 10:6-16).

The true God cannot be compared to such absurdities. He is the omnipotent Maker and Sustainer of all things. All attempts to lower God down to the level of the finite gods of the heathen are sheer “stupidity,” says Isaiah.

Dr. Morey concludes chapter six by summarizing the chapter saying:

These Biblical passages are clear enough to establish the doctrine of the incomparability of God. Why then should we follow the processians in rejecting those very attributes of God which make Him different from and superior to the gods of the heathen? Why reduce God to the level of pagan deities by claiming that He cannot know or control the future? If God is no better or greater than man or his manmade gods, why believe or worship Him? Are we really any better off if God is no longer GOD?

Such searching questions as these can be ignored only at the peril of one’s immortal soul. Theology is not a game but a matter of eternal life or death. If you want a finite god, then you must choose Baal and serve him. But if you want to serve Jehovah, then you must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in the Bible: the omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth.

Dear explorers, the God that is revealed in Scripture cannot be compared to anything. If you have received the new life given to the Father’s elect by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, then remember this attribute in your worship and praise. As we continue our worshipful exploration of the attributes of God, let us never overlook the attribute discussed in chapter six.


Great Interview With Dr. Robert Morey

November 26, 2008

The Christian Thinker has just published a great interview with Dr. Robert Morey. The interview can be read here and discussed here.


Chapter Five: The Incomprehensibility of God Part 1

January 24, 2008

 Due to the length of this chapter, the posts on the Incomprehensibility of God will be divided into at least three parts, maybe four.  This is a very important doctrine to understand because rejecting it is one of the first steps to apostasy!  If you haven’t picked up a copy of the book yet, then click here and follow along!  It’s on sale for only $9.95.

Dr. Morey begins chapter five with:

The God who has revealed Himself in Scripture tells us that He is going to be “incomprehensible” to us. But does this mean that God is going to be irrational or illogical? No. It means that God is beyond man’s capacity to understand or explain exhaustively. In this sense, God is beyond human reason and logic because He is infinite and we are finite.

The word that stuck out for me that really helped me understand the meaning of incomprehensibility was, “exhaustively.”  For me, this helped clear up the idea that incomprehensibility means that God is “unknowable.”  When I qualify man’s inability to understand God with *exhaustively, then it becomes clear that this is true. 

This is important for Christians that are proponents of the “emerging movement,” or the “emerging church.”  Sometimes, it is claimed that God is unknowable and cannot be defined by propositions and categories created by finite man.  The attempt to do so is attributed to Modernism, and the emerging movement is predominately comprised of adherents to some of the form[s] of Postmodernism.  Emergent types will agree for the most part when Dr. Robert Morey says:

Thus we can build all the little theoretical molds we want, and we can try to force God into these molds, but in the end God will not “fit.” He will always be beyond our grasp. He is too high for us to scale and too deep for us to fathom. We cannot get God in a box. The finite span of the human mind will never encompass the infinite God of Scripture. (pg. 43)

Dr. Morey is not saying that because we are finite and because God is infinite that we cannot know God, or that He is unknowable.  Dr. Morey makes it clear in this chapter that he isn’t using the Greek philosophic dichotomy “man must know either all or nothing.”  He adds:

We can have a true but finite knowledge of God on a personal and intellectual level because God has revealed Himself. Thus while we cannot fully understand the God who has revealed Himself, we can and do know Him. (See Jeremiah 9:23, 24; Daniel 11:32; John 17:3; Galatians 4:8-9; 1 John 4:4-8; 5:18-21).

The above cited Bible verses explicitly state that God is knowable.  It is an unbiblical position to take if one claims that God is unknowable.  For resolution, all one has to do is look up these passages.  God has declared in His word that he is knowable.  Dr. Morey says:

The doctrine of incomprehensibility means that we can only go so far and no further in our understanding of God because we are limited in three ways.

First, we are limited by the finite capacity of our minds. This is a “problem” that cannot be avoided any more than it can be overcome. So, we might as well as admit that we are not gods. Since we are finite creations of an infinite God, we will never understand it all.

Second, we are also limited by the sinfulness of our minds. Thus we have a moral problem as well as a capacity problem. By nature, we do not want the light of Truth. We prefer the darkness of error (Genesis 6:5; John 3:19-21). Sin and Satan have darkened and blinded our minds lest we see the Truth (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Only God’s wondrous grace can overcome our moral aversion to truth and righteousness.

Third, we are limited by revelation. Paul warned the Corinthians “not to go beyond what is written” because it would lead to arrogance (1 Corinthians 4:6). The constraints of revelation are given in order to restrain man’s depraved lust to make gods for himself. We are not free to speculate and come up with our own ideas of God. We are to study the Bible in order to learn God’s ideas about Himself, to think God’s thoughts after Him.

Dr. Morey gives an example of the consequences of rejecting the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God.  He shows that while it is a cheap and easy way to resolve the antinomies and paradoxes of Scripture, it ultimately leads to a rationalistic denial of all Christian doctrine.  Enjoy this sneak peak from the book:

Stephen Davis is a good example of this process. He demands a “precise explanation” that is “coherent” to him, or he will not believe. In other words, if he cannot fully understand some aspect of the Christian God, he will throw it out because “man (in this case Davis) is the measure of all things.” This is the basic assumption of secular and religious humanism.

Davis first applies his humanistic assumption to the issues of divine sovereignty and human accountability. He understands that the historic Christian solution beginning from the Apostolic Fathers is that both divine sovereignty and human accountability are true. Christians for two thousand years have also believed that no one is able to reconcile these two ideas. It is a Biblical mystery that demands faith, not explanation. Since those who hold to both doctrines at the same time openly admit that they cannot give a “precise explanation” of how divine sovereignty and human accountability are both true, Davis has no choice but to reject the Christian position that both are true. He must now choose one and reject the other.

But does he now choose God and exalt His glory? No, as a humanist, Davis will always exalt man at the expense of God. When the choice comes down to either God’s being “free” to do as He pleases with what He made, or man’s being “free” to do as he pleases, a humanist will always make man “free” and God “bound.” Thus Davis argues;

Take the person who tries to reconcile divine predestination of all events with human freedom by saying, “Well, I’m talking about a kind of predestination which allows for human freedom.” Until it is explained precisely what this species of predestination is, we will be suspicious that the proposed reconciliation is spurious.1

While this is a quick and easy way of philosophically dismissing the position of the early Church and the Reformation, we should warn the reader that having established the precedent that “whatever cannot be precisely explained is spurious,” Davis goes on to apply it to such doctrines as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, we would be suspicious of a person who tries to explain how an incorporate being can be spatially located somewhere by the use of what this person calls “an aspatial concept of inside of.” Again, until it is explained precisely what this species of “inside of” is, we will reject the proposed reconciliation.2

Since no one can “precisely explain” how an “incorporate being,” either the Holy Spirit or a demonic spirit, can exist “inside of” someone, Davis rejects the idea. He also calls into question the omnipresence of God, for who can “precisely explain” how God is everywhere present? Davis3 concludes,

If we want to be rational we have no choice but to reject what we judge to be incoherent4

We had better consider the way that someone does theology because it sets a precedent that will be relentlessly applied to more and more Christian teaching until nothing is left. While a denial of predestination is exegetically foolhardy, it is not damnable. But it is damnable to deny the essential attributes of God, such as His omnipresence, or the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christians need to understand that they must first look at where a line of reasoning will take them before they unknowingly start down the “primrose path” to apostasy.

Well, that’s all we have time for today.  On our next exploration of the attributes of God, we’ll look at some Biblical passages that warrant our belief in such a doctrine as the Incomprehensibility of God.  Hope to see you next time.


Chapter Four: Maker of heaven and Earth Part 2

January 24, 2008

  

Biblical Meaning of Evil

In our last exploration of the attributes of God, we began to address the “problem of evil” that arises once God is recognized as the Creator of all things.  When “all things” are said to have been created by God, the question of the origin of evil emerges.  Did God create evil?  Is God the Author of evil?  So we began to look at the first three of four problems regarding how some theologians and philosophers have attempted to skirt the issues surrounding the Bible’s allusions to God “sending” evil, or “creating evil.”

They have created the idea of “nonmoral” evil, allowing for nonmoral evil to be inserted as an acceptable creation of God.  This has confused the understanding of the biblical meaning of evil.  Dr. Morey explains:

In the Bible, the different words for evil (Hebrew ra; Greek kakos, poneros) are used in the following ways:

1.   The word evil is used as a description of the nature of man after the Adam’s Fall. In Luke 11:13, Jesus describes man as “being evil.” The present participle of the verb can be translated, “being and remaining evil.”

2.   Because man by nature is evil, all his thoughts, words, and deeds are called “evil” (Genesis 6:5; Mark 7:21-22; Romans 3:10-18).

3.   The act of sin is “evil” (1 Kings 11:6).

4.   Evil is not only the act of sin but also its resulting pain, suffering, or death. Thus evil can be the result of sin on one’s self or the harm that one can do to others (2 Kings 22:16-17; Jonah 1:7).

5.   God uses evil for His own purposes. (Genesis 50:20; Psalm 119:67-71).

The fourth problem with the idea of nonmoral evil is the fact that such a concept does not solve the problem of evil. It is assumed that it is all right to say that God “creates,” “plans,” or “sends” nonmoral evil. Otherwise how can we explain the judgment of God on sinners? The plagues of Egypt are a good example of God’s causing pain, suffering, and death. Hell, of course, is the greatest evil God ever created.

It has been said that when it comes to moral evil, it is claimed that we must never say that God “creates,” “plans,” or “sends” moral evil, for this would make God the “author” of evil.  Dr. Morey says:

The problem with this line of reasoning is that the Bible clearly speaks of evils that cannot be viewed as anything other than moral evils, and that God not only foresaw but also planned from all eternity! The greatest evil ever perpetrated in human history was the murder of the Son of God. Here we have a real moral evil. Does the Bible tell us that this evil was foreknown and foreordained by God, or does it say that God did not know that Christ would die on the cross for our sins?

In terms of man’s responsibility in the whole affair, Peter laid the entire evil on the shoulders of those who did it.

You have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (Acts 2:23).

The early Church agreed with this and saw Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews as the “author” of this, the greatest of all evils (Acts 4:27).  Yet, while man was “accountable” for this evil because he was the “agent” who did it freely and not under any external constraints, Peter and the early Church believed that this evil was foreknown, predestined, preordained, decreed, predetermined, and planned by God.  Dr. Morey adds:

Thus Peter said that Christ was:

… delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).

To this the Church agreed saying,

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy Servant Jesus … both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentile and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur (Acts 4:27-28).

How can we explain this seeming contradiction? Herod was responsible for doing something not only foreknown but also predetermined by Almighty God! The text cannot be any clearer.  There are only two possible ways of handling this. One way is to pretend that these passages do not exist. The tension is “solved” but at the expense of God’s Word. This is what the emerging church teachers do.

The second way is what Dr. Robert Morey calls:

[T]he historic Christian response, which is to bow before the mysteries of Revelation. When humanistic thinkers demand, “But how does God do this?” we respond that we don’t know. All we know is what we have been told in Scripture. And Scripture tells us that God is “working all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28). This we believe although we cannot explain it.

In closing out the chapter, Dr. Morey offers a doxological exhortation.

            Biblical Christians believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and that everything that exists is part of the Creator’s plan that will bring Him glory and honor both in this world and in the next.

This is hardly a message that we hear preached today.  So many times we hear that God is an old man in the clouds, ringing his hands, hoping and wishing that people will choose to love him.  Compared with the Holy, Righteous, Majestic and Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of ALL THINGS whom is Revealed in Scripture, the old gray-bearded grandpa in the sky concept is not only idolatrous, but absurd!

Dr. Morey provides five questions for discussion of Chapter Four: Maker of Heaven and Earth:

1.   What is the very first thing that God revealed about Himself to man?

2.   With what doctrine does Christian theology begin?

3.   Have you ever wondered about the problem of evil?

4.   Is God the “author” of evil?

5.   What is the biblical solution to the problem of evil?

On our next exploration, we will find out if God is knowable according to man’s capacity to understand or explain exhaustively.  This will be a good study to invite postmodern Emergent types.  The emerging movement has heavily criticized modern religionists for attempting to use language to box God into categories that make Him manageable and so on.  I think that postmodernisms critique of modernism is spot-on in many ways, including this one.  So, email the link, post it on other blogs, mention it in forums, and pray that God blesses our efforts here as we take our next exploration into: The Incomprehensibility of God.  Thanks for reading.  See ya next time!


Chapter Four: Maker of Heaven and Earth Part 1

January 22, 2008

Dear beloved explorers: due to the length of this post, I have decided to break it into two parts.  This is part one, and ends in the midst of a discussion on the “problem of evil” and the philosophical question: “Is God the Author of evil?”  Part two will pick up the discussion where it left off and discuss “The Biblical meaning of Evil.”  Enjoy your exploration!

—————- 

Dr. Morey draws the reader to the very beginning of the Bible and says “[t]he very first thing that God wants us to understand about Himself is that He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Thus the very first attribute is that God is the Creator.” 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth – Genesis 1:1

In this chapter, Dr. Morey explains how the early Church understood this.  He says that “they understood it in a very deep and profound way.”  This truly was profound because they faced a pagan world that believed the universe was eternal and whatever gods existed were only finite parts of this world.  Dr. Morey says:

Thus, according to the early Church, the first essential difference between the Christian God and the gods of the pagans was that He was the “Maker of Heaven and Earth.”

It can be seen in the theology, hymns, and creeds of the early Church, that the doctrine of creation was viewed as the beginning point of all theology.  All of the other attributes of God made sense only in the context of a God who existed prior to, independent of, and apart from the space – time universe that He created out of nothing for His own glory.  Dr. Morey adds:

If God is not the Creator, then He is not GOD.

Maker of heaven and earth as the first essential attribute of God is the first attribute that one must accept in order to continue an exploration of God’s attributes.  If the creation of the universe is attributed to something else, or someone else, then that something, or someone else, is God.  Perhaps this is why Morey began the book with the guiding principles of allowing the Bible to determine our theology rather than our reason, feelings, experience, faith etc. 

Scripture will not allow any other legitimate doctrine to develop other than God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo).  Even the idea that everything is eternal cannot be acceptable when tested by Scripture because if there were no beginning of time, then time would have existed alongside God, and as we’ll see later in the book, eternality is also an essential attribute of God.  Morey calls this a “rival god.”  That everything was created by God distinguishes Him from everything that is not God.  This brings up the popular “problem of evil.”  One may believe that good and evil are rivals with each other, both being eternal and equal.  But the doctrine of creation refutes the Zoroastrian concept of the eternal battle of good and evil, also known as “dualism.” 

A popular philosophical question is: “Is God the Author of evil?”  Recognizing the importance of a solid biblical answer, Morey takes some time to discuss this issue here in chapter four.

When dealing with the “problem of evil,” the first step taken by Scripture is to affirm that “evil” is not eternal and thus it did not coexist with God as a rival god. The Zoroastrian idea of an eternal conflict between good and evil is refuted by the doctrine of creation. Evil is a finite part of the world God made.

So-called “Christian” philosophers do not generally accept this biblical fact.  Instead, they attempt to solve the “problem of evil” by inserting an unbiblical concept: “free will.”  The most vicious form of this indisputably unbiblical concept is called “Libertarian Free Will.”  This is the idea that man is sovereign, and free from any outside cause when making choices, preserving man’s freedom and justifying God’s righteousness.  Many good and godly men and women have agreed with the concept of Libertarian Free Will, but not a one of them ever derived it from the Bible.  It is a pagan concept from Greek philosophy that is believed as true prior to reading the Bible, and then fallaciously read back into the text of Scripture.  Before we continue the discussion on whether or not the Bible teaches the idea of Libertarian Free Will, let’s return to Dr. Morey’s section addressing the question: Is God the Author of evil?

If by “author” one asks if God is the “agent” of evil, the Biblical answer is no. When we sin, we do the sinning, not God. He does not force or tempt anyone into evil according to James 1:13-17. We sin because we choose to do so.

The following few paragraphs is such an essential element of Morey’s argument that I have decided to post the entire section.

If by “author” one asks if God is “responsible” for evil, the answer is still no. The word responsible means accountability to a higher power to whom something is owed and who can demand payment of it. But there is no “higher power” to whom God is accountable. God is not accountable to anyone or anything outside Himself. God has no “Day of Judgment.” Whatever God does or says is always consistent with His own immutable nature.

If by the word evil, one means “an accident of chance or luck,” the answer is no. There is no such thing as “luck” or “chance.” Sin is not an “accident” that we can blame on God, the stars, the cards, or on Lady Luck. The concept of chance totally removes any human responsibility.

But while the Bible clearly teaches that God is not the “author of evil,” at the same time, dozens of passages speak of God creating, sending, planning, and foreordaining evil! These passages are enough to show that while God is not the “author of evil” in the sense of being the agent ,of it, or of being accountable for it, yet, in some sense God “creates evil,” “sends evil,” “means it for good,” etc. Surely these passages mean something and not nothing! (See: Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Job 2:10; Genesis 50:20; Deuteronomy 29:21; Joshua 23:15; Judges 2:15; Judges 9:23-24; 1 Samuel 18:10, 11; 1 Kings 9:9; 1 Kings 21:21, 29; 2 Kings 6:33; Exodus 4:11; 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36.)

Remember, the subtitle of the book is: An Apologetic of the Doctrine of God.  At first, this is a difficult reality to accept.  But since we are exploring God’s attributes, let’s slow it down and take a look at some of these passages to see if what Dr. Morey is saying is in accordance with the Bible.

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Amos 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

1 Kings 9:9 And men shall say, Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought out their fathers from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and they attached themselves to strange gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore the Lord has brought this evil upon them.

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In the passages from the Old Testament quoted above, the Hebrew word that is translated “evil” is [r; – ra` {rah}, meaning evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity, disaster, wickedness.  It is an adjective used to describe the things that Scripture says was brought in by sin (Rom. 5:12).  As we mature as Christians, we must accept more and more of the biblical concepts while shedding more and more of the unbiblical concepts.  This causes for one to sometimes become fearful and feel ungrounded in their faith.  But as we shall see, faith is belief and hope in things unseen.  Many maturing Christians look to Dr. Robert Morey and his ministry, Faith Defenders, for education in Christian apologetics, evangelism, and theology, because Dr. Morey has the gift from God to take difficult Bible concepts that are no doubt taught in Scripture, and instead of reconciling difficulty with pagan philosophy, he trusts that God’s word provides the foundation for all of life’s big questions answers.  This next section is too important for me to try and summarize, so here’s the section in full:

Some theologians have tried to avoid the force of these and many other like passages by arguing that the “evil” spoken of is only “nonmoral evil.” It is assumed that nonmoral evil is not real evil and hence not part of the issue of the problem of evil per se.

Several serious problems are found with this approach. First of all, the concept of nonmoral evil cannot be found anywhere in the text of Scripture. The Bible uses the same Hebrew and Greek words for “evil” whether speaking of sin or sickness. No exegetical basis for the distinction between moral and non-moral evil exists. The distinction between moral and nonmoral evil was a refinement of medieval theology and should not be arbitrarily read back into the text of Scripture.

The second problem with the idea of nonmoral evil is that this does not lessen the reality or gravity of the evils in view. Since the Bible calls all these things “evil,” how these things are not really evil has yet to be explained.

We cannot imagine trying to comfort someone whose child was born blind by claiming that this was not a real evil, or, that the pain and suffering caused by a hurricane or an earthquake are not really evil.

While all evil is not sin per se, all evil comes from sin. For example, while sickness and death are not sins, they are “evils” that come from the Fall of man into sin (Romans 5:12).

Third, when the problem of evil is discussed, the kinds of evils that are raised as objections to God’s foreknowledge, power, goodness, and existence are the exact evils mentioned in the texts. Anything that causes pain and suffering is assumed to be an “evil.” Such things as disease, birth defects, blindness, lameness, ignorance, poverty, deception, war, and death are all considered as “evils.”

The obvious solution is that what the Bible means by the word “evil” is not what pagan philosophers such as Epicurus meant. This never seems to occur to modern theologians. They assume the humanistic definitions of all the key terms used in the “problem of evil.” Like Pavlov’s dogs, whenever they see the word “evil” in the Bible, they yelp that it means “chance-produced evil.” They never bother to exegete the text to see what the Bible means by such words.

Thus when they see the word evil in the above texts, this throws them into a state of confusion because God is pictured as sending evil upon people. In fact the Bible states many times that God predestines and predetermines evil. Evil is apart of His plan, called “His-story.” Thus evil is not “chance-produced.” It is planned by God Almighty!

Do you see how he sticks to the Bible and allows the Bible to speak for itself?  He just as easily could have attempted to repeat some Greek philosopher’s answer to the “problem of evil.”  But if he did, he would be violating the principles he laid out in the first two chapters this book.  Morey knows that the philosophers didn’t have the answers because they didn’t know God, nor did they have access to the Scriptures!  In fact, Scripture forbids the Christian to think like the Gentiles who were in pitch-black darkness, in the futility of their minds.  Dr. Morey is currently working on a book that refutes Natural Theology, and when it comes out we’ll address these issues more fully. 

As this exploration comes to an end, let us be reminded that Paul said “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  If evil is not included in the “all things” that Paul attributes to being from and through God, then either this verse makes a truth claim that is false, or God is not Maker of ALL THINGS, and is not GOD!  Consider these things carefully, and join me next time as we explore the second half of chapter four.  We will look at “The Biblical Meaning of Evil.”  You won’t want to miss this one!


Chapter Three: the Attributes of God

January 19, 2008

 In chapter three, Dr. Morey begins to introduce the attributes of God.  His first goal is to establish the fact that God has attributes.  Dr. Morey says:

“The first thing that must be established is that God has attributes and we can discuss them. This position is clearly based on such Scriptures as Romans 1:20, where the Apostle Paul speaks of God’s ‘attributes.'”

With that being said, the Christian has biblical grounds on which he or she can base his or her discussions about God’s attributes.  In the verse that Dr. Morey refers to, the apostle Paul writes:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 ESV

The text reveals to us that God has invisible attributes.  Paul mentions God’s eternal power and his divine nature, saying that they are clearly perceived, and have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  Dr. Morey goes on to say:

“Secondly, these attributes are not something that man makes up and then projects to God. God has revealed His own attributes in Scripture. Thus we have no choice in the matter whatsoever. We have no freedom to add or subtract to the revealed nature of God. We either accept Him ‘as is’ or reject Him out of hand.”

By accepting God for who He has revealed Himself in Scripture to be, is something that Morey says we have “no choice” in.  Following this line of thought, Morey says:

“Since God has chosen to reveal Himself in Scripture, the attributes of God found in the Bible are to be accepted by faith and not debated by unbelief.”

Like many of Dr. Morey’s books, on page 34 he provides a helpful chart to assist the reader in visualizing the differences in Biblical Theology (God to man) and Manmade Religion (man to god).  Unable to reproduce the chart here, I will offer a summary of what the chart depicts.

Biblical Theology has God as the Origin and man as the receiver.  Therefore, Biblical Theology is:

  •  
    • Revealed by God – not created by man
    • Objective – not subjective
    • Immutable – not mutable
    • Transcendent – not cultural
    • Absolute – not relative
    • Universal – not contextual
    • Knowledge – not speculation
    • Truth – not myth

To see the full value of this chart, simply reverse the summary above and you’ll see that Manmade Religion is:

  •  
    • Created by man – not revealed by God
    • Subjective – not objective
    • Mutable – not immutable
    • Cultural – not transcendent
    • Relative – not absolute
    • Contextual – not universal
    • Speculation – not knowledge
    • Myth – not truth

By illustrating the side-by-side comparison of Biblical Theology and Manmade Religion, we can clearly see that because they have polar opposite starting-points (God vs. man), that the end results are polar opposite as well.  This is the difference in true worship and idolatry.  If you want to avoid idolatry, you must accept God as He is – as He has revealed Himself in Scripture to be.  Dr. Morey discusses some of the distorted theologies that man can produce.  He says:

“Humanistic theologies…assume that God is really unknowable. Since God is unknowable in nature, all His ‘attributes’ are reduced to man’s subjective and relative descriptions of what he ‘thinks’ or ‘feels’ this god is like. The attributes of God in this sense are things man attributes to God. They do not really say anything about God per se. They only point to man’s ideas about God. Thus modern theology either denies outright that God has any attributes or reduces them to some aspect of human psychology.”

An important distinction to notice is how Dr. Morey distinguishes between the attributes of God, and the things man attributes to God.  A truly brilliant observation!  This is because of the unbiblical concepts of God that man creates and attributes to Him, such as the heresy that God doesn’t have “essential attributes.”  This can be seen in many liberal and emerging theologies.  Sniffing out the danger, Morey says:

“With its assumption that no objective revelation of the attributes of God exist, modern theologians are particularly hostile to the idea of God’s having any ‘essential’ attributes. If He did have ‘essential’ attributes, this would limit man’s freedom to mold God into whatever he pleased.”

This is an all-too-true scenario in postmodern America.  Man feels limited and desires to mold God into whatever he pleases.  This is most visible in the Emergent Church, or Emerging Church movement[s].  They’re like kids on a playground, having all sorts of fun molding God into whatever they feel He is to them.  As soon as they encounter a Christian, the emergents “feel” like they are being limited, or at least that the Christian is trying to limit God.  This is a major problem, and I fear many will go to hell because of the destructive teachings that come from the emerging movement.  But just like they do with God, they reinterpret “hell” into something other than “eternal conscious torment of the body and the mind!”  That makes them “feel” better – at least for now.  Enough of my personal commentary.  Let’s get back to Dr. Robert Morey and his great book “Exploring the Attributes of God.”

The next section of chapter three is a discussion of God’s essential attributes.  Dr. Morey affirms that historic Christianity has always believed that God has essential attributes.  Dr. Morey describes essential attributes in the following paragraph:

“The only way we can distinguish one object from another is to identify those ‘attributes’ or qualities that belong exclusively to one of the objects and without which the object cannot exist or be distinguished from anything else.”

Then, using the example of a circle and a square, Dr. Morey says:

“For example, how do we distinguish between a circle and a square? Can we draw a square circle or a circular square? No. The very attempt is absurd. It is obvious that a circle is not a square and a square is not a circle. But how do we know this? The essential ‘attribute’ of a circle that makes a circle a ‘circle’ and that no circle can exist without, in distinction from a square, is that the distance from the center of a circle to any point along its circumference will always be the same.”

In the above citation, Morey is setting up what follows:

“In the same way, God has ‘attributes’ or qualities that make God GOD and without which He could not exist and could not be distinguished from anything else. These attributes cannot be applied to any other being. They belong only to God. Thus it is only by virtue of God’s essential attributes that we can distinguish Him from the world and from the false gods of the heathen.”

Dr. Morey asks,

“How do we identify the essential attributes of God?” 

He answers,

“Christian theology has always taken the position that those attributes that are necessary for the existence of God and that describe His intrinsic nature or being are essential.”

He adds,

“It is in this sense that Christian theology has always viewed God’s attributes of timelessness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, perfection, and sovereignty as ‘essential’ attributes. To deny that God knows the future is to deny one of the essential attributes of God. To deny that God is timeless, immutable, or perfect is to deny that God is GOD.”

In closing out chapter three, Dr. Morey returns to what he said in the beginning of the chapter, that we have no choice in the matter when it comes to accepting the God revealed in Scripture.  In closing, he says:

“The essential attributes of God are nonnegotiable. They all rise or fall together. In principle, if just one attribute is rejected, they must all be rejected. You can’t have one without the others.”

Here are the questions for discussion of chapter three:

1.         Does God have attributes?

2.         What do we mean when we say that God has “attributes?”

3.         What is an “essential” attribute?

4.         Where do man-made religions get their ideas of God?

5.         Where do Christians get their ideas of God?

The next chapter is titled Maker of Heaven and Earth.  Please join our next exploration of the attributes of God as wee look into the very first attribute that God wants us to know about Him: the Creator.  Are we having fun yet?


Chapter Two: The Danger of Idolatry

January 17, 2008

 Something that is inescapable when reading Morey is his worshipful reverence for God.  Rather than simply throw out facts about God with proof-texts, Dr. Morey goes the extra mile[s] by preparing his readers on how to deal with meeting the God of the Bible.  This is how chapter two begins:

“In Christian theology, God is a theological ‘Given’ who has revealed Himself in Scripture. Thus we are not free to ‘pick and choose’ among the attributes of God as if we were in an ice cream parlor. What God is like in His nature and attributes is not left to our personal tastes.

Humanistic thinkers assume that they are ‘free’ to reject any attribute of God that they cannot fully understand, completely explain, rationally reconcile, and feel happy about. If they don’t like a certain attribute of God, they have no qualms about throwing it out. But God demands that we accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. Anything less than this is a rejection of God.

The God who has chosen to reveal Himself in Scripture is a very jealous God. He condemns as idolatry any attempt to add to or subtract from His revealed nature. This is so important that God devoted the first two Commandments of the Decalogue to a condemnation of all attempts to mold God into a manmade image. It does not matter if the image is mental or metal, wooden or woolly, all manmade ideas of God are idolatry.”

After this introduction, Dr. Morey gives a brief and concise exposition of the first two commandments.  The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Ex. 20:3), informs the explorer that “man is not a god-maker, nor is he/she a god-in-the-making.  Any concept of the ‘divinity of man’ is idolatrous.”  There is only one God, and the God that has revealed Himself in Scripture is this God.  In his exposition of the first commandment, Morey states:

“We are not free to make up any ideas on our own of what God is like. It does not matter if our ideas seem ‘reasonable’ or ‘practical’ to us. We cannot have any ideas of God except those revealed in Scripture.”

And…

“God is His own interpreter. He has revealed Himself and interpreted this self-revelation in Scripture. Rationalism, empiricism, mysticism, and all other forms of humanism are hereby condemned as idolatry for they would exalt man’s opinion over God’s self-revelation as given in Scripture.”

The decision of Dr. Morey to begin with the first commandment is very, very wise.  It establishes the boundaries for the explorer that have been set by God Himself!  All one has to do in order to see just how serious God is about His commandment against idolatry, is a cursory reading of the Old Testament.  In it we find God’s wrath being poured out against idolaters time and time again.  A wise warning indeed.

In his exposition of the second commandment, Dr. Morey offers pastoral wisdom and insight into this passage of Scripture.  Here is the second commandment:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for 1, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me, and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).”

Here is Morey’s commentary:

“The text clearly teaches that the greatest evidence of hatred toward God is the refusal to accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. The converse is also true. The greatest evidence of love toward God is the acceptance of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Just as the degree to which we accept revelation is the measure of our love of God, even so the degree to which we follow ‘reason,’ ‘intuition,’ or ‘feelings’ instead of revelation is the measure of our hatred of God.

Any attempt to construct a deity on the basis of what is palatable to our rational or aesthetic tastes is sheer unmitigated idolatry. Here is no middle ground, no two ways about it, no compromise on this point. Either we accept God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture or we are idolaters.

This position is quite humbling to fallen man. We don’t like the idea of God’s telling us what He is like. We would much rather make up our own ideas of what God is. Neither do we like the idea of God’s commanding us to obey Him according to what He says is right or wrong. We would much rather make up our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong.” (pgs.26-27)

The above statement is a portal into the heart of Dr. Morey.  His observation of man’s desire to create a god in man’s own image, a god that man is “comfortable” with, or a god that is contrary to the God revealed in Scripture, is evidence of his love for God and his acceptance of the God revealed in Scripture.  This is a common theme throughout all of Morey’s writings, lectures, and sermons.  He is constantly laboring to not only portray the biblical God as He is revealed in Scripture, but urging and exhorting the Christian to worship the true God of the Bible.  Sometimes this requires tearing down the false ideas about God and exposing these false ideas.  This method of Morey has not always been viewed as polite or kind.  In fact, many times it has been viewed as mean and unloving.  All one has to do is read little books like “Exploring the Attributes of God” or “Studies in the Atonement” or “The Encyclopedia of Practical Christianity” or “The Trinity: Evidence and Issues” or…any of the 45 he’s written!

This chapter includes a brief talk about “Haters of God.”  It is another insightful addition to his already strong biblical warning against idolatry.  The ending section of chapter two is amazing.  Dr. Morey writes about “The Loss of Mystery” in theology.  He says:

“No wonder modern theology is quite arid and sterile. It is insufferably boring. Its world is drab and gray. It is totally bereft of the bright colors of wonder, awe, and mystery. It merely apes the fads of secular philosophy. Thus it is one vast wasteland littered with the bones of those foolish enough to enter it.

But the Bible begins and ends with mystery. Thus the Biblically informed Christian can rejoice in his God. He is not depressed because he can’t explain everything and answer every question. He frankly admits that he does not have everything tied up in neat little packages. By faith he can venture out beyond the shallows of reason into the uncharted and unfathomable depths of God’s mysteries. He is not afraid of accepting by faith alone those mysteries revealed in Scripture.” (pg.28)

This is simply refreshing.  Dr. Morey goes on to note that the word “mystery” appears twenty-seven times in the New Testament.  Mystery is used to describe the Kingdom, God, His Word, His Will, the Gospel, the Faith, and the Church.  Morey says:

“The Biblical concept of ‘mystery’ had no relationship to the Gnostic idea of an esoteric secret told only to an initiated few, as in the ancient mystery religions and modern-day cults and lodges that have secret words, symbols, and rites. The Biblical concept simply meant that God had revealed an idea no human mind ever conceived.”

Dr. Morey ends chapter two by providing expositions on several texts, teaching along the way how the category of “mystery” is essential in understanding how to accept these difficult passages.  After a lengthy treatment on the consequences of refusing to accept mystery in theology, Dr. Morey ends the chapter with the following statement:

“So what if we can’t resolve all the questions that humanistic philosophers raise? Ought we not to please God rather than man? We desire not to judge God’s Word but to be judged by it. We strive not to conform the Word to our opinions but our opinions to the Word. We demand not that revelation be in accord with reason but that reason be in accord with revelation. We seek not to master the Bible but to be mastered by it.” (pg.31) – emphasis on last sentence added by me.

Read that last sentence again.  Being mastered by the Bible is a desire of my heart, and a worshipful and biblically-saturated book like “Exploring the Attributes of God” has served in my own personal understanding of what it means to be “mastered by” rather than “master it.”  As theologians, apologists, evangelists, etc., we have the temptation to deceive ourselves that after studying the Bible we have “mastered it.”  Dr. Morey is a good example of what a man that is “mastered by” it looks like.  It has been a stunning first two chapters, and now, we approach the exploration of God’s attributes.  Looking back, I now see why Morey went to such great lengths in preparing his readers hearts and minds beforehand.  May we heed the warnings and approach the study of God’s attributes with fear and trembling; with reverence and awe.

Here are the study questions for chapter two:

1.   Can we pick and choose when it comes to the attributes of God?

2.   What if you do not like one of His attributes? Can you throw it out?

3.   If everyone’s view of God is right, is idolatry possible?

4.   Does God care what we think about Him?

5.   What does the Bible mean when it talks about “mystery”?

This concludes our review of chapter two.  The next chapter is an introduction to the attributes of God.  Please join us next time as we begin our exploration into the revealed Word of God, and what He has revealed about Himself to us, the receivers of revelation.


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