In our last post we looked at the centrality of the Creator/creature distinction to Christian theology, and to our apologetic. With this post, I’d like to look at the importance of it in regards to objections offered and our response to them. These objections can come in a variety of forms – the so-called problem of evil, the supposed “evil god” objections, objections to Scriptural tenets, or what have you. At bottom, however, I’d advance the theory that they all boil down to a denial of God’s transcendence. Why do I say this?
At bottom, every objection that is offered posits that something is wrong with God Himself, His word, or His precepts; wrong logically, wrong morally, or wrong in some other fashion. What does this assume, however? It assumes that God is subject to these criticisms – that there is an authority which binds Him, somehow, to whatever conception these objectors have of Him or His works. Now, it must be said that God is indeed immanent – He is near, and accessible to us. On the other hand, we must also account for the fact that He transcends us, and is unapproachable. Van Til’s use of analogy is incredibly useful in that it explains how these two are quite paradoxical, yet not contradictory. In analogy, we have indirect comparison – God is like, but also unlike. Near, but also far. What this revolves around is the means of His immanence, and the ontological necessity of His transcendence. To break that down, let’s look at the two, so that it might become more clear what is meant.
In Christ, we have Immanuel – God with us. The coming of Christ is the turning point of history. All prior to His coming looked forward to that coming, while all after His coming looked back to it. In Christ we have forgiveness of sins, He is our mediator before the Father, and sends us the Helper to sanctify us. On the other hand, while He did walk among us, and was one of us – He was also God who took on flesh. He is the God-man. While He took on flesh, Chalcedon is quite insistent on something; that He is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person…” Note that there is no confusion between the natures. There is a distinction between the natures. Yet, they are in hypostatic union – unchangeably, indivisbly, and inseparably.
In Christ Himself, as Mediator, we have the immanence of God wedded exquisitely to His transcendence. Yet, when it comes to objections, they all seem to assume that God can be “indicted” for “crimes against humanity” or somesuch. As Lewis puts it; “[t]he ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.” It’s always the case that the unbeliever thinks that they have some standard of morality that God can be held accountable to – and that God’s actions are somehow culpable by these standards. What does this assume? It at least assumes that they and God are on the same level. In point of fact, however, it assumes that they are superior to God. What is not explained by these objectors is how the transcendent God – the one who created both the world they live in and the mind they are using to indict Him, is accountable to them in the first place. It is merely assumed, and their central place in the universe asserted confidently. Why on earth should we let them make this grandiose claim? There is no reason to allow them the conceit that they can “bring God up on charges”, let alone the baffling insistence that these so-called charges are just!
Think about this for a moment, as an example. The so-called problem of evil revolves entirely upon you acquiescing the legitimacy of it’s claim that God is “liable” for evil. The “horns” of the dilemma only exist if you grant that their worldview is true. What reason do we have to do so? Christian theology has a well-developed doctrine of God, of sin, of the Fall, and of Redemption. These doctrines, taken together, give a completely different account for evil than does the objector’s worldview. On what basis should we accept an objection as valid which comes from a worldview which does not account for these matters in any coherent fashion? In this example, we see how very important it is to have a proper focus on the distinction between Creator and creature. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of granting legitimacy to positions that have none of themselves. Most (if not all) objections to Christianity persist simply because we don’t treat them as they deserve – and it is Christians who have allowed them to persist as “claimants” when they are doing nothing but borrowing from the legitimacy of Christianity for that claim.
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