Friday, May 02, 2008
I woke up this morning and my mountain called me. I have made it a habit to climb Table Mountain as often as I can since we moved to Cape Town a few years ago. For the last couple of years I have been living in Cape Town but working in Johannesburg and now, I long for the mountain.
I have been looking forward to this for many weeks and at last it was time.
I got up early. It was still dark. Julie and the kids were still fast asleep.
Water, a warm sweater, my climbing shoes, my phone fully charged – packed in a backpack. I was ready….
I drove up to the base of Platteklip Gorge on the Cable Car side of Table Mountain, facing the Atlantic Ocean.
A cold front was sweeping in from the arctic and the wind was howling!
I started my hike. My mind was racing. My heart was pounding. I have done this too long ago. Lactic acid build up in my mussels caused mild discomfort. I pressed on.
The higher I climbed, the more severe the wind became. Clouds were milling around me. Swirling like in a tornado and then shooting vertically up in the sky.
My mind went back to high school. I was convinced that there is a God who made everything and who held my destiny in his hand.
I remember my discomfort about the state of Bible interpretation by the time I was 18. If there is a God and if the Bible is this God’s speaking to humanity, then it should be possible for us to come to very definite conclusions about his speaking and about his will.
There had to be a “one right” way of interpreting the bible that would every time yield the right interpretation for any given bible text, at any time and any place all over the world. Truth could not be subjective!
I was obsessed with finding this one right approach to the Bible. I remember how life-consuming this was. If it was there, I wanted to find it. This was my Holy Grail. The one thing that I had to do.
I remembered my mentors from Grace Community Church and the Master’s Seminary who taught me the literal, historical, contextual interpretation of the bible. They taught me theology and how to rightly divide Gods word of truth. To me, this was the Holy Grail.
I remember how complete my life has been after I found the Holy Grail.
I remembered the confusion and fear that I felt when I started to discover internal inconsistencies in the Bible.
I remembered when the crack of inconsistency’s started to spread and I started to identify it all over pages of the bible. Later, I saw too many to list all in this account. Some very technical and some very obvious and straightforward. But the common denominator was that they were real and as I was discovering the truth I learned what it meant that the truth will set us free.
I remember the weeks when I started to realise that the Holy Grail that I found was not the one that would unite all Bible interpretation, but was a cup full of poison. The poison of deception from the tree called the “Presuppositional approach to the bible” and all systems of faith. They presume they are right because they pre-suppose and for no other reason.
Before a Christian “learns” anything from the bible, they must believe the existence of God and the truth of the bible “magically” with no evidence and no one to convince you. The Christian pre-suppose that God exists, spoke through the bible and spoke truth. Without this presupposition, the entire system falls apart.
When you start to climb Table Mountain, the noise of the city below irritates you. One can hear the constant hum of the city below, but when one gets above a certain altitude, all of a sudden all goes quiet and all you have is the silence and the wind.
This morning I passed into this quiet zone before I reflected on the ultimate fallacy from the bible.
It is not consistent with life itself.
Time and time again Christians and other people of faith point to the order in creation as the supreme example from nature that proves the existence of God (or at least alludes to this fact).
I wondered, as I climbed, what will be the difference between our perception of order and our perception of equilibrium. In an infinitely complex system as the universe where we live in – I wondered, there must be many points of equilibrium and if one looks at these points of equilibrium, it must look very ordered.
I wonder what a system in equilibrium would look like that is not ordered…
I wondered who defines order and why we find very orderly states in systems that seem to randomly occur on earth. Order may just as well be something that is inherent to the building blocks that make up our world. Even quantum physics with all its weirdness seems to be strangely predictable at a very fundamental level. Even the chaos seems to occur very predictably (orderly).
I was resting far more often on my way up than I did in the past and I was amazed at how unfit I became.
The lactic acid builds up in my mussels changed from a mild irritation to a more severe problem. The fact that I am very asthmatic did not help this morning and neither did the fact that the wind was by this time so strong that at times I was afraid that it would blow me right off the mountain.
I pressed on.
My mind wandered back to the issue of order.
I smiled when I realised that most people present the order in creation as the biggest evidence for the existence of a god of sorts.
It amused me to think that this may in fact be the biggest evidence against the fact that the God of the Bible exists, viewed from an external perspective relative to the Bible.
Basic to everything that the Bible teaches us is the idea that God intervenes. This may very well be one of the most fundamental currents underlying all of the Christian Bible.
Genesis teaches us that God intervened in chaos to order it and to create. Man caused chaos again when it did the thing that is logically imposable namely to, in a world under the absolute control of an Infinite God, interject chaos back into a perfectly controlled and ordered system.
But God had another plan. He again wanted to re-order everything and the rest of the Bible is the outworking of this plan of re-ordering. He would incubate from a family of nomadic wanderer’s from Mesopotamia a race of people called the Israelites who would become the nation from which the redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ would be born.
This plan would eventually culminate in the total destruction of the known universe and the creation of a new earth and a new heaven where perfect order will reign once more.
At every point, God would intervene to make this possible and to secure the successful outcome of his plan.
He would intervene in the ignorance of humans and give us revealed knowledge.
He would intervene in our doubt and give us miracle upon miracle to prove to us that he is who he claims and to prove to us that we can trust him. This is not just true for the Israelites and for the time during which the Bible was written, but for the redeemed church whom Jesus bought back to God through his death and resurrection and whom he personally empowered by giving the church the Holy Spirit and the exact same power as raised Jesus from the dead.
It is therefore not an overstatement of the facts to claim that one of the central themes in the Bible is the fact that God intervenes.
I was getting closer to the top of the mountain. Not only did I notice how the vegetation started to change, but it was markedly colder. I was feeling a lot better and felt that I had more energy. I pressed on. The end was in sight.
My mind was fixed on the concept of God’s intervention. God promised to intervene in so many places in the Bible. In the life of the nation of Israel, in the life of the church and in the life of individual believers.
Among a long list of many “intervention promises” that God made, none is more clear than Luke 11: 9 and 10. “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you; For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened”. (NASB)
God promised to hear the prayer of the believers. The plain meaning of the text stands clear for all time and eternity.
I remember how I one day realised that if any part of the Bible was true, how it should have been possible to identify Gods workings through statistical analysis.
Christians should statistically speaking, have a better tendency to survive life-threatening diseases with believers bringing their plight before the God who promised Luke 11: 9 and 10.
Teenage children of Christians should have a lower mortality rate from car accidents with so many believing parents praying for the safety of their children.
Believers should have a better success rate in business because of the promises given in the Book of Proverbs and again, God promises that prayers will be heard.
But contrary to this, there is absolutely NO statistical evidence of any intervention by God in the lives of the believers.
The church in the 20th and 21st centuries started to realise this and very subtly started to change its doctrine. It tried to reason the clear implications of Gods promise to answer prayers away by saying that God answers the prayers of his faithful in other ways than the believers would expect. Not just most of the time, but in every event that is not consistent with what the outcome would have been in a normal cause and effect way.
In other words, in every event, the normal cause and effect outcome will follow, which is to say that Gods promise of answering prayer does not ever mean that God will actually give the believer what he/she asked for – not ever! God will not intervene and change things.
The fact of the matter is that this is not the clear meaning of the text and secondly, even if this is true, there should still be statistical anomalies in the outcome of events in the life of believers since it is supposed to be removed from the natural cause and effect relationship that exists in the rest of life.
And even besides these, the rest of scripture makes it abundantly clear that the Christian can expect that God will directly intervene in his/her life and “alter” the normal cause of events and as soon as this happens, it will show up in statistical averages.
Prov 3: 5 and 6 states (to mention just one example): “Trust the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
This is a promise of direct intervention!
The order and predictability of life is the clearest argument from nature against the existence of the God of the Bible.
I was finally at the top. I felt exhilarated. My mind was clear.
Later that evening I was sitting in an Internet Cafe in Rondebosch in Cape Town. It is a very “artsy” part of town, close to my home. Big Sansui flat screen television’s against the walls tuned to Fashion TV. Music that I like, but never heard before. Electricity in the air of students, mostly from the University of Cape Town. Life and taking over the world with life and energy and endless possibilities.
Life is predictable. I smiled to myself. I am predictable.
It is predictable, I thought, that I shall return to this topic next week and think about the inconsistent way in which the Bible was delivered to us; the existence of starlight and the question if God wanted to fake it till he could make it. The question of the mental world we live in and why in the world the Bible was written in the first place. I will return to this unless something would happen to prevent me. Cause and effect.
Which outcome will be will only be determined closer to the event, as next week unfolds. It is NOT determined from the foundation of the world!
It was 7:00 pm on a public holiday. The guy who was running the place told me that he was closing in 10 minutes time. Just enough time to e-mail a few friends and to log off. Very predictably. . .
(c) eben van tonder