Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Big Time Heavy Theology Alert - "Antinomy"
I'm sorta kidding about "big time heavy theology".
Really what I want to say in this article is quite simple.
It's just that it's so far above our way of thinking that it's...well, it's from the mind of God.
We accept it as true, even though it boggles our minds. It goes against the grain of our Earthbound logic, as we sometimes understand logic.
Logic Is Good
I'm not at all knocking logic. Logic is a wonderful gift from God.
In fact, what I'm going to lay out in a moment is actually quite logical. It's just that logic doesn't require truth, and so we rationalize untrue things all the time.
For example, look at the following syllogism:
1. All zebras are green [premise 1].
2. That animal over there is a zebra [premise 2].
3. Therefore that animal over there is green [conclusion].
That is PERFECTLY logical...really. But it's not TRUE. That was Spock's problem.
So in order to use logic rightly, we ought to begin with TRUE premises. And there are no truer premises than those that come from the Word of God RIGHTLY DIVIDED.
Sidenote: I say "rightly divided" because Scripture can be wildly taken out of context, applied "logically", and yet end in the ridiculous. Something stupid like combining "Judas hanged himself" with "Go thou and do likewise" (Humorous, but I'm only slightly exaggerating the abuses some use of this kind of "logic").
God's Ways and Thoughts
One of the most important Scriptures we should know as humans comes from Isaiah 55:8,9. Here it is:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor 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."
Do you have a pet? Or have you ever had a pet?
We have a wiener dog. He is not the brightest dog on the Planet (we say he's nothing but love), but let's assume for a moment that he is the smartest of all dogs.
Do you think that if I tried to explain to him why we're leaving him on a Sunday morning to go to church that he would understand that? And not be so unhappy to see us leave, but rejoice that we are going to fellowship and hear the Word of God?
Ridiculous, isn't it?
Why? Because our ways are higher than his, and our thoughts are higher than his. I can't even ease his mind, because all he "knows" is that he wants us to be home with him. Well, also he "knows" we love him. And he's pretty happy with that, especially when we come back home.
Now, if you think that is an extreme illustration of God's ways and thoughts being higher than ours, you're wrong. Infinitely wrong. God's ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that we can't even comprehend how much higher they are!
And yet He has condescended to reveal some of His ways and thoughts to us, in ways that we can actually understand and react to them.
But here's the beginning of the point of this article: Some of what God reveals to us appears to contradict itself, but yet He declares that it is true.
Which leads to our direct subject, the concept of the Antinomy.
What Is An Antinomy?
Before defining the concept of an antinomy, I want to make a rather bold statement:
Until you understand the concept of "antinomy", there is much of Scripture that will elude you or confuse you.
But when you understand the concept of "antinomy", Scriptures that you never understood will shine with truth in a way that glorifies the Lord Whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours.
Here's an informal working definition of Antinomy for our purposes here:
An Antinomy exists when we have TWO TRUTHS from Scripture that APPEAR to contradict themselves, yet BOTH ARE TRUE for the simple reason that GOD'S WORD DECLARES THEM TO BE TRUE.
We see illustrations of this in the natural world. A pan of water is water, but clouds are water. To the ignorant that would appear as a contradiction, but we know both are true.
On a psychological level, we may say Hitler was a monster of evil, yet a nephew of his may say he is a loving doting Uncle. Apparent contradiction, yet both may be true (I don't know if Hitler even had a nephew).
No illustration does justice to a biblical antinomy, however, since no level of truth rises to the level of biblical truth in it's absoluteness.
Although there are several antinomies in Scripture, I will use one as an example.
God's Love For All As An Antinomy
The question of whether God loves all men or just some has been a long-standing controversy.
And like many controversies, I believe the problem is in a lack of understanding of the concept of Antinomy.
And so the result of the controversy is almost invariably a twisting of Scriptures to fit one view or the other.
1. The "God Loves Everybody" school reasons, "John 3:16 says God loved the world, the world means everybody, and 'God is love', isn't He, and that settles it."
Well, I believe that does settle it, but this school of thought often has difficulty, then, in explaining God's wrath, eternal punishment, and hatred. They usually end up in blaming "free will", when the truth is that if every person was left to their own "free will" they would continue in their rejection of God, all the way to the Lake of Fire.
2. The "God Does NOT Love Everybody" school reasons, "God couldn't love everybody and still send them to Hell. Does not Scripture say that God hates the wicked? That God hated Esau, but loved Jacob?"
This idea has been widely spread among Reformed believers through the writings of A.W. Pink in his famous book The Sovereignty of God (a great book overall, by the way). Pink argues that John 3:16, "God so loved the world...", is referring merely to "the world of the Elect".
Pink's argument, in my opinion, is a truly pathetic piece of biblical interpretation, which begins with a premise (God simply couldn't love the wicked), and concludes with a twisting of John 3:16 which is monumental. Hardly a more simple and clear statement could be made than that God loves the world, and therefore sent His Son.
Why would Pink engage in such twisting of Scripture?
Simple. He did not "get" the concept of Antinomy. He reasoned that the hatred and wrath of God could not co-exist with His love.
But His ways and thoughts are higher than ours and we have to ask TWO honest questions:
1. Does Scripture SEEM to say that God loves everyone? I believe the answer is a clear, "Yes". God IS love. That's a reference to His essence. He could not deny His essence.
That's how in Ezekiel 33:11 we can read, "Say to them, `As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, `I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live."
If God did not love the wicked, it would make no sense for Him to NOT delight in their death.
Do you see how an understanding of Antinomy can open up your understanding of Scriptures? (This is just one of MANY examples, which space does not permit relating here).
2. Does Scripture SEEM to say that God Hates The Wicked? If we're honest, we have to say, "Yes".
But that's illogical, you cry!
No, it only SEEMS to be a contradiction, but both statements are true. Why? Because God has declared them to be true in His Word!
Puny little man, as J. Vernon McGee used to say, thinks he HAS to figure it out by his own LIMITED thoughts. He must reconcile the two truths by denying one of them, and twisting the other.
This is arrogance of the highest variety, and a denial of the pretty-darn-clear Word of God.
God's Justice And an Illustration
We might finally ask, then, "How can God send someone to the Lake of Fire if He loves them?
We have to admit we simply cannot FULLY understand this.
But that doesn't mean that we can't SOMEWHAT understand it, if we understand two seemingly unrelated concepts, Justice and Love.
When a human Judge in a court sentences someone to be hanged for a crime, he is exercising Justice. The criminal, we say, *deserves* to be hung by the neck until dead.
But suppose the criminal is the wife of the Judge, or his son or daughter, whom he loves dearly? Does the Judge abandon his LOVE...or his JUSTICE?
Neither, if He is a good Judge.
He is quite capable of sentencing his loved one to the gallows, with sobs of grief, tears in his eyes, but doing right.
How much more the infinite Creator of the Universe cannot deny Himself as the God Who is Love, who loved the whole world and whose love prompted Him to send His Son, Who in turn declared, "If ANYONE will come to Me, I will in no way cast him out", and wept over the Israelites who rejected Him.