Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: The Adequacy Of God Part II

In Part I of our lesson on The Adequacy Of God we looked at issues that were not central to the cultural milleau when Dr. Packer wrote Knowing God. Issues such as Post-modernism in larger world and the Emergent or Emerging Church in the Christian world with its aligned theology of Open Theism, using Clark Pinnock as an illustrative example, are what confront us today. In this lesson we will address how these issues affect Packer’s claim of a wholly adequate God. First, a little housekeeping. If you are new to this study you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at william.meisheid.com though the ones for this chapter are not completed.

One of the general problems with Scripture to the modern mind is that it was not written with us in mind. We, those with a scientifically preconditioned mindset, see things radically different from the audience to whom the biblical authors were directly writing. In Bible studies I often heard the refrain, “Why didn’t <insert author here> just come out and say it?” Well, to be honest, he did, but his context and method of presentation were catering to his direct audience, not us.

Being reared in the age of science and technology we are used to detailed questions and detailed answers, coupled with the general formality of the scientific method of proving our thesis by objective testing and viewable results. We expect repeatability, reliability, measurability. So if God is <insert godly attribute>, prove it. That brings us to an obvious and fundamental question: Is God testable? If I postulate a premise about God, say that he is all-knowing, which would include his knowing the future (directly related to our chapter assertion), how would I test that premise. In historic Christianity you would search the Scriptures to see what they said about God’s all-knowingness. For post-enlightenment, modern scientific minds, that is not the way things are done. You create an experiment to test and verify the claim.

So we encounter a fundamental problem: who are we to question or test God? A whole book of the Bible was written about this problem, the Book of Job. God answers the questions about his actions or lack of them this way.

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Job 38:2

and

Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it. Job 40:2

God goes on to put our questions in their place.

Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you. Job 40:8-14

Job’s response is instructive.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

Yet, we all want God to respond to us, to demonstrate that we matter. This is more fundamental than wanting an answer to prayer. It is wanting to know that we are known and being known that we are cared for and loved. We measure that caring and loving by demonstrable interaction and that is where the rub comes in. It is often difficult to see God acting demonstrably.

For Job the problem was how could a loving God subject him to such trials if he was righteous? For Paul, it was after all I have been through why doesn’t God remove this thorn that causes me such suffering? Job got no real answer other than “I am God.” Paul was told his thorn was a gift to keep him humble. For both the relevant texts are found in two places in Romans, in chapters 8 and 9.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. …What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28, 31, 38-39

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:20-24

There is a difficult balance depicted here. On one hand we have the clay and Job. His wife, believing God had abandoned him, gave him what for and Job responded as clay should respond.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 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. Job 2:9-10

On the other hand we have Paul, who when his thorn is not taken away and he realizes it was given to him to protect him from sinning through pride, learns that when he is weak he is really strong since in his weakness he turns to God for help and it is God who sustains him. Everything that is happening is working for his good and nothing, not this thorn or any of the other trials he has endured or will endure in the future, can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

In all things God is sufficient; he is adequate in both types of circumstances, whether we walk the path of Job or the route of Paul. The hard thing to grasp is that the issue is not God; it is us. It is how we respond. We can be like Job and Paul or we can be like Job’s wife and counselors or like those who elevated themselves and belittled Paul because of his trials, claiming he was no apostle and not their equal because God allowed these things to happen to him.

The Old Testament saints knew:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

God is reliable, trustworthy, and more than adequate, but he is God. He decides, not us, what is best. There is a famous aphorism taken from the work of the 16th century Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (Orlando Furioso ch. XLVI, 35), “Man proposes, and God disposes.” A similar thought came from the 8th century scholar and theologian, Alcuin who said, “Man thinks, God directs.”

So I will say it again. We all want God to respond to us, to demonstrate that we matter to him. We are like children seeking consolation. It is not that God is without compassion, but he wants us to trust him, to respond to what Jesus told Thomas, the apostle who needed to see to believe.

Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29

So, as you think about God’s adequacy remember Job and Paul and Thomas. Remember all the saints of God who have trod this path before you, trusting in their heavenly Father to meet all their needs, learning as Paul learned, to be content in all things.

May God grant you strength to meet your trials and tribulations, peace in the midst of your anguish, and grace to help in your time of need.

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