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Does God Make Sense?

by John Clayton


If we were to agree that there is a battle going on between good and evil and that the battle is being waged on a spiritual level by sentient beings both physical and angelic, the next level of understanding would be why we exist as we do today in a physical world and how mankind has changed throughout his history. Why should there be an “Old Testament” and a “New Testament”? If God and Jesus are “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), why do we see primitive violence in the Old Testament and commands of nonviolence in the New Testament (Matthew 5:38 – 48)?

We need to begin this discussion by going to the very beginning. God is not a man. We are not in God's physical image. If we were in God's physical image then we would all look alike physically, because we would have all been created in the image of the same thing. If a man's image is on the face of a coin, then every coin that has that man's image on it will look alike. God is a being that exists in a higher dimension than do we. God is outside of space/time, meaning that every bit of space is here and every instant of time is now for God (see Appendixes A [A Help in Understanding What God Is] and B [Who Created God?] for detailed explanations of this concept). Not only is God a being outside of space/time, but he has created beings other than ourselves who are also outside of space/time which we call angels. Angels cannot die because they do not experience time as we do. The Bible is full of references to angels in this frame of reference (see Job 1 and 2; Ephesians 3:10 – 11; Ephesians 6:11 – 12; etc.). We are also told that angels could and did sin against God by rejecting him (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; etc.).

It is important for everyone to understand the concept of dimensions, because it has entered the science of the twenty-first century. In order for time, space, and matter/energy to be created, the creation process has to come from a dimension higher than these created quantities. We can create all kinds of things in two dimensions using a piece of paper or a computer screen to do so. We not only cannot create anything in four dimensions, but we have a difficult time comprehending four dimensions and are unable to maneuver by making time back up or stop. In modern cosmology and quantum mechanics, nearly all explanations come from dimensions far above our own. Proponents of string theory propose eleven spacial dimensions, but the equations that suggest that have over ten to the 500th power different solutions: so, it is a theoretical possibility, not an actual reality. Proverbs 8:22 – 23 finds wisdom speaking “as the first of his works … when the world came to be.” Later in that Proverb the development of the physical world is described, and the progression from a nonphysical origin to the world in which biological, sentient beings could exist is suggested in these verses.

Genesis 1:1 – 3 describes the prehistory of this planet. These verses are not summary verses; they are history and NOT a summary of what is described in the rest of the chapter. Verse one uses the Hebrew word reshith describing the start of something that never existed before. The Hebrew word bara, meaning “to create,” and used only in reference to something God can do, is used in verse one. The Hebrew shamayim, translated “heaven,” is used in reference to “everything up there.” God does not tell us about planetary nebulae or the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram or how heavy elements were created. Those processes are beyond the audience the Bible is written to and unnecessary for the understanding of the Bible's primary message. The second thing described in Genesis 1:1 – 3 is the earth from the Hebrew word erets.This word refers to a working, finished earth — not a blob of gook. If you had landed on the earth at the end of Genesis 1:3, I suggest you would have known you were home.

If you think about that statement for a moment, you will realize that this finished earth was not easy to make. Were there rock layers indicating different origins for the rocks? Were there fossils in the rocks? Were there coal seams, glacial valleys, petroleum seeps, and fracking geysers that caught on fire as we have in today's world? It was a finished earth — so all of these things were present. How were they produced? I would suggest by the same processes we see operational today. These verses are undated and untimed. They do not tell us the details about how the processes worked, or what the area looked like when they were done. This is the prehistory of the earth. The creation week deals specifically with man and man's world — his animals and the biosystem that man could live in. Most of the geological record of the history of the earth is in these first three verses. Light as we know it illuminates the scene in verse 4 and the measurement of time becomes possible. The planet is now ready for man and his domesticated animals. (For a detailed treatment of the Genesis account and the fossil record, see Appendix E.)

This would suggest that man is in a naive, primitive state. From a scientific standpoint he is what anthropologists would call “a gatherer.” He does not need agriculture or animal husbandry because all of his food is available to be simply picked off the trees. Man has no sense of right and wrong and things like territory and politics are not within his grasp. This is not heaven, but it is a paradise. Man has work to do. Genesis 2:15 says that God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In addition to taking care of the garden, man had one other command from God and that was to not eat “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).

It is important to note what is and what is not involved in this statement. First of all, the kind of death that is involved here is very important. It has been a popular religious tradition to say that nothing ever died in the “Garden” until man sinned. That is not only to miss the point of the account, but to take a position that is illogical. Man did not drop dead when he ate the forbidden fruit — not physically. The fruit was not poison in a dietary sense. God did not have to explain to Adam and Eve what death was. Plants die, and eating a tomato means murdering dozens of seeds. Someone might try to argue that it was animals that did not die — not plants. So did insects die? There are plants that eat insects. Bacteria die as do the cells that make up animals. How was topsoil produced — from what organic material? This is a silly discussion. The message of the forbidden fruit is that man died spiritually. Adam and Eve dropped dead spiritually when they ate the forbidden fruit in that they sinned and separated themselves from God. Romans 5:14 – 21 spells out the change, that through one man, Adam, spiritual death entered the world through sin; and through Jesus Christ grace reigns through righteousness into eternal life. First Corinthians 15:44 – 50 recalls the history we have just described. Adam was formed a natural body and then made a life giving spirit. Verse 46 says “Observe, the spiritual does not come first, but the physical. Man the first is from the earth … man the second is from heaven.” 1

Adam and Eve chose to reject God's command. They ate the “forbidden fruit.” Theologians can argue about what the forbidden fruit was — certainly not an apple — but again that is to miss the point of the story. The point of the last paragraph becomes a part of the exchange between Eve and the serpent and what happens to Adam and Eve. When the serpent offers Eve the forbidden fruit, she repeats God's command with death being the consequence of eating the fruit. The serpent replies that they will not die physically (Genesis 3:4), but that they will “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Like many theologians today, the serpent focuses entirely on the physical and minimizes the spiritual aspects of what is about to happen. Like many people today, Eve puts a high priority on the physical to the neglect of the spiritual. Genesis 3:6 tells us that what motivated Eve to eat of the fruit was “the tree was good for food and pleasant to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom … .” The fact that she is disobeying God is pushed out of the way for the physical pleasure the fruit can bring.

In my hippie days it was claimed that the forbidden fruit was LSD (or whatever the drug of choice was at the time and place where you lived). The message of the story is not about drugs or a concern for what the forbidden fruit was, but rather about the emergence of a sentient being capable of knowing good from evil. Passages like 2 Timothy 1:9 speak of God's plan for man being “given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” God knew he was creating a being capable of love and of using free will or choice in all of his decisions. Involved in such a being is the given fact that bad choices will sometimes be made and that consequences will come by those choices. God indicates that he will restore those who obey him and repent and seek restitution with him. Romans 8:29 – 30 tells us “For those whom God chose from the first he also did predestinate to be moulded into the image of his son, … He chose them long ago; when the time came he called them, and whom he called, He brings into right standing with himself … .” 2 Ephesians 1:5 – 11 speaks of God's predestining this progress of man, saying “for by our union with him we became God's Heritage, being predestinated according to the purpose of him for it is he who is at work everywhere, carrying out the designs of his will.” 3 God's predestination is of those who repent and seek to be restored to God; but man must choose whether to have that restoration or not. God will not force man to act against man's desires; and the predestination is of the group that accepts God's grace, not to individuals before they make a response to God's grace.

So man enters the natural world as a sentient being knowing right from wrong. He is changed from a gatherer who just had to pick his food off the trees and bushes to a being who must scratch a living from the earth. “[The earth] will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food …” (Genesis 3:18 – 19). Man's obsession with the physical has separated him from the spiritual, and immediately the consequences of being separated from God appear, seen in the first murder of Abel by Cain. Man's development is slow even in the physical world. Animal husbandry and agriculture start in Genesis 4:2 – 4. Vagabond herdsmen are present by Genesis 4:20. The first musical instruments appear in Genesis 4:21 and the first tools of bronze and iron appear in Genesis 4:22. Religion is not established until Genesis 4:26.

One can speculate about what kind of spiritual activities were taking place prior to Genesis 4:26. With no fixed religious guide mankind wandered away into creations of his own. We see many religions being spawned that involved worship of nature and idols. Paul refers to this in Romans 1:23 when he says they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” He goes on to say that the result of this was that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:24 – 25). This is backed up by Genesis 6 where we are told that the men who had been faithful to God saw the “fallen ones” (nephilim in Hebrew). This word was translated as gigantus in the Vulgate and brought into the King James as “Giant.” The passage is not talking about aliens or spirit creatures. It is the flood chapter and deals with men who have rejected God and his moral commands. So “the sons of God” (men who had remained faithful to God) “saw the daughters of men” (women who were part of the pagan culture of the day), and fell in love and married pagan women. The resulting marriages led them to a total rejection of God and of his moral law which led to the flood of Noah.

The lack of religious structure and of a guide as to how to survive in a primitive culture follows man's development. Modern people living in a western society find it hard to comprehend some of the stories of what happened historically in ancient Israel. The book of Judges ends with the statement, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, KJV). Many of the stories are violent and immoral. This is historical material — not a command of God or something that God sanctions. In Judges 17 – 18 we have the story of Micah who hires a Levite to be a personal priest. A group of Danites comes by and steals the priest as well as graven images that Micah has made. In Judges 19 – 20 we read of a concubine who is literally raped to death by the men of a city named Gibeah. Her husband cuts up her body and sends parts to the tribes of Israel. The tribe that this city is a part of refuse to deal with the situation (Judges 20:13) and in effect defend the city — all of which culminates in a bloody war. This is not something God ordains or commands, and the Bible simply tells it as it is.

It would be foolish for us to blame the local newspaper for a story they have on the front page telling of some tragic event in Africa. To condemn the Bible because of a report in it that tells of violence, abuse, immorality, or war committed by people who refused to obey what God has said is equally foolish. In the struggle between good and evil, God allows man to try to live on his own, without laws or commands to guide him. Man's selfishness, greed, passion, desire for power, arrogance, and ego leads him to sinful living and a rejection of the things that God has given man to guide him in his life. Instead of working to maintain a personal relationship to God, man rejects God and tries to live by his own rules and methods. The result is catastrophic.

It is from this chaos that God forges a nation of his people whose lifestyles have led them into slavery in Egypt. In Moses God finds a leader who can provide direction for God's people and then God give them a fixed set of laws to live by and be governed by. The Ten Commandments give strong order to personal conduct and they are followed by a set of social and legal rules to be followed in everything from marriage to the selling and buying of land.

To enforce these laws specific punishments are given for every offense, and especially when hygienic considerations are involved, the punishment can be severe. The Israelites are strictly forbidden to have contact and intimacy with the nations around them. The reason for this is clear, because the nations around Israel have violated God's commands about not eating blood, quarantining people who have contagious diseases like leprosy, eating of poorly cooked meat and the importance of not eating the meat of scavengers and of pigs. Today we understand how important it is to avoid the spread of disease, and the washings and quarantines that the Israelites were commanded to observe are now known to have a solid pathogenic value to keeping diseases from running rampant in a culture. On rare occasions it was even necessary to eradicate a population and burn the area, killing everything and burning it to stop the diseases that had gone out of control because of the refusal of the people to live as God had commanded. The Amalekite slaughter of 1 Samuel 15:3 is a classic example.

As time goes by, the Israelites are lax in their following of God's commands. In Deuteronomy 28 God spells out the blessings and the curses of following his rules. In the first 14 verses God tells Israel what will happen if they follow his rules and commands. He tells them they will be free of disease, that they will not be conquered by their enemies, that their crops will not fail and they will not experience drought and floods and all the things that are common to that area of the world. He then picks up in verse 15 and for 53 verses tells them all the bad things that will happen to them if they do not live as God has called them to live. Most of the history of the Old Testament is about how the Israelites are blessed when they live as God has called them to live, and what catastrophes happen when they reject God. It is strange that people do not learn from history, but in America today we see a nation following the same pattern. Will America have to be destroyed for its people to come to realize that they cannot live selfishly, materially, and immorally in violation of all God's laws?

As one struggle after another takes place, the people of Israel decide that they need a king like all of the nations around them have (1 Samuel 8:5). Rather than have a personal relationship to God as their king, the Israelites want a political ruler. God warns them that such a king will take a huge toll on their resources, but they are adamant that they want a king. God's response to this is to say to Samuel the priest, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me …” (1 Samuel 8:7). Man has moved from an independent, personal family organizational structure to a political system that is nationalistic in design. It is not of God's choosing, but he does not interfere with it. Israel appoints Saul as king followed by David, and all of the human weaknesses that we see in human rulers come out as these two men try to lead a primitive group of people onto the world stage.

As Israel grows in political and military power, all the problems associated with such power come out. Power struggles erupt in the Israelite leadership. War is a constant product of these human desires. Corruption and competition arises constantly. In the middle of all of this a religious hierarchy develops which establishes a variety of religious activities to keep people in line and to provide more offices for the clergy and the state. By the end of the Old Testament the entire nation of Israel is in captivity, held by the ruthless and powerful nation of Rome which has a huge bureaucracy. The religious bureaucracy has also expanded with countless rules for everything from worship to marriage to food. Every aspect of the common man's life is under someone else's control.

In spite of all of this, Israel has progressed and evolved technologically. Large cities have been built with all of the infrastructure to support them. Society is no longer as mobile, so ways of cooking and preparing food have evolved. Industries to produce commodities have developed and so we see Paul supporting himself as a tent maker and Lydia as a seller of purple. Man has evolved to the point where the rules and regulations designed for a primitive time when man was in a primitive state are no longer applicable. It is time for change.

  1. The New Testament from 26 Translations, 1 Corinthians 15:46 – 47.
  2. The New Testament from 26 Translations, Romans 8:29 – 30.
  3. The New Testament from 26 Translations, Ephesians 1:5 – 11.

Continue to the Chapter 3: THE COMING OF CHRIST

Return to the Chapter 1: THE WAR WE ARE IN