Culture

To Know God, We Must First Confess Not Knowing Much

Yes. Mole men. Bear with me. It'll make sense.

Yes. Mole men. Bear with me. It’ll make sense.

Lies. Damned Lies. And statistics. Propagandists commonly spin the latter utilizing a trick called the end-point fallacy, cherry-picking the range of measured data in order to create the false impression of a trend. Climate alarmists love the tactic, sculpting favorable data to create an impression of imminent environmental catastrophe.

Consider. If you choose to track the outdoor temperature from four in the morning until noon and extrapolate a trend absent any other context, you might predict an imminent roast of all life on Earth. Of course, no one would believe such a claim, because even the children among us have enough experience with the day and night cycle to understand that temperature regularly rises to a high, than falls to a low before rising again.

But what if you were dealing with some ignorant community of subterranean mole men who had never seen the sun? Until experience enlightened them, they could be convinced that a morning’s warming might continue unhindered.

Many illusions rely upon an application of the endpoint fallacy. In television’s golden age, George Reeves created the illusion that he could fly by leaping into the air as Superman. The film would cut at the apex of his jump, propelling him in our mind’s eye and suspending disbelief.

Extrapolated to a contemplation of the universe and its whole history, the endpoint fallacy suggests that many of our assumptions about existence may be flawed. We assume that things have always been the way they are now, that what we can observe today accurately reflects what occurred in the past, that perceived constants have always been so, that rates of decay, expansion, consumption, and adaptation can be extrapolated into both past and future. Yet, an honest assessment must concede that our mortality, limited perception, and incomplete view of history place us in a position not unlike that community of mole men. On a cosmic scale, our experience with the universe seems comparable to a cave-dweller’s first dawn.

More than a curious hypothetical, the notion of our cosmic ignorance proves highly likely. Consider how we today impugn deniers of new discoveries as “flat-earthers.” Of course, there was a time when the notion of a flat Earth stood as the scientific consensus. The accuracy of our knowledge has always been determined in large part by its breadth. Knowing the Earth curves beyond the horizon requires us to reach beyond the scope of our sight.

Acknowledging that fosters humility, and humility prepares us to encounter God. From the perspective of our brief and finite existence, life seems ordered a certain way. We’re born. We grow. We do our best to pursue temporal values. Then we yield to the ravages of time and die. We arise driven toward some inarticulate purpose, trying to fill a yearning for… what? Money? Possessions? Sex? Love? The greater good? Achievement? Success? We try them all, and find them lacking.

In his book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole, pastor Eric Mason defers to scripture for God’s perspective on our life and its purpose. According to the biblical view of our genesis, that yearning we seek so futilely to satiate with acquisitions, accomplishments, and relationships can only be satisfied by fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.

As an image bearer, man was to reflect God’s heavenly reign on earth. In other words, man represents God by virtue of being in His image. In representing God, man was to glorify the God who created him.

This is an incredible responsibility. Both Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 describe this responsibility as the act of subduing and caring for creation. The general meaning of the verb in those passages appears to be “to bring under one’s control for one’s advantage.” In subduing creation, man is given the ability to use it for his personal benefit on God’s terms. In that light, the command in Genesis 1:28 might be paraphrased like this: “Harness its potential and use its resources for your benefit.” Since God would later create the woman to come along side the man in this task, it’s understood that they together would understand and embrace their role and pass this understanding onto their children.

Unsurprisingly, even an entirely objective atheistic view of human existence leads inexorably to the conviction that man should bring the world under his control for his advantage, just as the God of the Bible intended. Ayn Rand concluded:

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action – which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

Yet, no matter how well we act to support, further, fulfill, and enjoy our life, we ultimately fail. We eventually die. Along the way, our moments of elation disperse like puffs of smoke on the wind. Something is missing. If we limit consideration of the void in our hearts to the scope of our earthbound perception, we will never find the object of our yearning, because it lies beyond a perceptual horizon where we cannot see.

The Bible reveals that object to be God. We were formed by our creator to live in relationship with Him. This proves difficult to accept given the endpoint fallacy which emerges from our finite existence. We have never known God. We have never seen Him. We cannot hear Him speak or embrace Him bodily. All we know is the cycle of birth, pursuit, and inevitable death into which we were born. To accept the reality of God and his role in our lives, we must see beyond the horizon of our experience to the elevated perspective revealed in scripture.

AdamAndEve

Genesis tells us that the life-cycle we take for granted was not always so, that the first man was formed and acted to support, further, fulfill, and enjoy his life in relationship with God. Then something happened which cast that relationship aside. Mason writes:

There was much more wrapped up in that piece of fruit in the garden than just a bad decision. With sin, there always is. We talk ourselves into thinking that sin is just a bad choice; it’s not. It’s much deeper than that for us, just as it was for Adam. When Adam chose willful rebellion against the law of God, he was choosing to forfeit his birthright by rejecting his calling to represent, be responsible, and enjoy his relationship with God, his wife, and the rest of creation. This single act placed in motion the initial and progressive fall of creation and its order, one whose effects still ravage every facet of the world today. We could speak at length on all things that were lost – peace, harmony, joy, order – these were put aside for temporary pleasure.

Did Adam know the full implications of his choice? Probably not. But sin is like that. It blinds us to the consequences of our actions. We get so nearsighted when we see something we want to experience that everything else fades away. Adam chose to set aside his representation of God, responsibility for God, and relationship with God, and these things were lost because of the price of his sin.

Mortality became the curse upon man, and with it a separation from our God and a blindness to our purpose. Though death arose in accordance with His plan, God did not create us to die. He created us to live. Specifically, He created us to live alongside Him. Death and separation from God leave us floundering about in the dark, truly lost, utterly hopeless, and in need of a savior. Such is our life viewed from the perch of eternity.

Look for future posts dissecting a study of Eric Mason’s Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole.