The Authority of Scripture #1
We will be taking a brief three-week break from our current series in 2 Corinthians in order to spend our time on what might be called a “back to school” special. Here at Christ Church, and at King’s Cross, and at CCD, we will all be addressing the same topics for these three weeks, and using the same texts. The reason for this is that our adversaries are not opposed to us for no particular reason. No, they have arguments, and we have a responsibility to address them. But as we do this, we want to do it on God’s terms, not theirs.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:15–17).
Summary of the Text
Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (v. 15). As such, He is the firstborn over all creation (v. 15). He is the firstborn over all creation because He is the Creator of all things in that created order (v. 16). This means, in the first instance, that He is not contained by that created order—He is the Lord of it, the Lord over it (v. 16). He created everything in Heaven, and on earth. He created all the visible creatures and all the invisible creatures. He created the thrones, the dominions, the principalities, the powers, and all things else (v. 16). Not only was everything created by Him, it was also created for Him (v. 16). He is prior to, and underneath, everything. He is the one who sustains everything that He has made (v. 17). This means that He created everything, and that He holds together all that He has created. He both created and sustains. So the basic takeaway for Christians should be that Darwinism is the Ur-enemy.
That Word Science
What is the most basic question we can ask about knowledge? The word science comes from the Latin scire, “to know,” and so science lays claim to knowledge about the material world. But because most people think that our debates about science and reason and revelation are debates about what we know, we go astray.
The foundational question rather is this—what are the preconditions for being able to know anything at all? How do we know? What kind of a universe is necessary for it to be possible for bits of that universe to know things? How does it come about that we can know? What must we assume in order to make knowledge (i.e. science) possible?
The scriptural answer to this is plain. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).
But what is the fear of the Lord? What does that look like? The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13). The fear of the Lord is clean (Ps. 19:9). The fear of the Lord renders praise and honor to Him (Ps. 22:23), and the fear of the Lord stands in awe of Him (Ps. 33:8). This is the beginning of knowledge.
And so in the context of our text from Colossians this morning, just down from our text, the Creator of all things was made incarnate so that He might reconcile to Himself all the things that He had made, things which had been estranged from Him because of our sin. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Col. 1:21). Our intellectual gropings are the result of sin. Sin does not arise from ignorance. Rather, ignorance arises from sin and rebellion.
Enemies in your minds. In your knowing. This includes scientific knowing. Engineered knowing. Historical knowing. Practical knowing. Bitterness is an epistemological issue. Lust is an epistemological issue. Carnal anger is a way of shouting down knowledge.
And so what this means is that the fear of the Lord is not the rival of science. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of science, the foundation of science, the ground of all science. It is what must be assumed in order for there to be any such thing as science. “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them” (Psalm 111:2).
The Real Question
The materialistic and atheistic scientist wants to treat this subject as a matter of what we know. He thinks the question of whether God made the world or not is the same kind of question as whether or not it is raining outside. “Let’s just apply the scientific method and go check.” But if there is no Creator, and the universe is just an infinite concourse of atoms banging down the corridors of infinite time, then no knowledge of anything is possible—and this would include the idea that the universe is a concourse of atoms. That means it is not the same kind of question at all. It is not the same category of question.
Now I know that this might seem heady to some of you, but it is really important. You might be thinking that your preacher has gone meta, but bear with me for a moment more. If the cosmos is just the debris field of the Big Bang, and there is no God, then it is just simply a huge accident. But if you want to know what happened in an accident, the one thing you don’t do is ask the accident. It doesn’t know. It’s the accident. As soon throw thousands of Scrabble tiles in the air and then eagerly expect them to spell out for you a detailed explanation of how no one actually ever invented the game of Scrabble. If it did spell that out, I for one would be dubious.
The Pursuit of Truth
The pursuit of truth, any kind of truth, scientific and philosophical included, requires an antecedent commitment to the idea that there is such a thing as truth. Why search for something if you believe it isn’t there? And yet we cannot escape the foundational conviction that it is there. The most ardent deniers of truth keep claiming that they have somehow discovered it. And so if someone denies reality, saying there is no truth, just ask him if that is true. If anyone’s worldview says that there is really no reason to believe anything he says, then feel free to not.
Earlier generations of unbelieving scientists were like the prodigal son before he ran out of his money. They were still spending the capital they had inherited from their fathers. Compare an atheist scientist in 1820, with massive amounts of Christian capital down at the bottom of his brain, and an atheist scientist today, who has to function in a world where the bottom has fallen out of any possibility of knowing. And so now, just like the prodigal son had no money, they have no basis for truth. Yet they still say that matter is the only thing that exists . . . but truth is not material. What color is it? How much does it weigh? What chemicals make it up? The truth represented by the statement that “all is material” is not itself material.
So the scientific method cannot consistently conclude no God. This is because the scientific method cannot consistently conclude with no scientific method. Does science make the idea of God incoherent? Not a bit of it. Rather a godless science makes science incoherent. A godless science denies the very possibility of divine intervention and incarnation from outside the world and is therefore an antichrist, and so what we are witnessing today, to use an old Bunyan title, is antichrist and his ruin.
Christ the Arche
And so we do not deploy our minds in order to defend the faith. Rather we recognize that it is the Christian faith that defends our minds. The Christian faith establishes the very possibility of minds.
In the verse just after our text, it says that Christ is the beginning (arche), the preeminent one, the one who was firstborn from the dead. Christ is everything. It means that He is the first principle. He is the integration point of all things. He is the cornerstone. He is the ultimate elemental, the final Word. Christ is Lord. In the gift of Jesus to us, God the Father poured the footings for all possible knowing. Footings, for those who might not know, are the concrete under the foundation wall.
But never forget the fact that the foundation of every form of lawful knowing, including the true gift of the scientific method, was established by a bleeding Christ. The crucified and risen one is the one who was given universal dominion, which means that His humility is the foundation of His exaltation. In turn that means that His humiliation is the deep foundation that enables us to know anything. So the doctrine of the Trinity, and the glorious message of the Incarnation, are not bits of information in the world, or data about the world, that we can go check on. They are not doctrines we can look at through a telescope, or put under a microscope. Rather, they are God’s self-revelation about the framework of all reality that make it possible for lost sinners—in a very dark world—to make sense of anything at all. And this, for the very first time.
Again, it is Christ or chaos.