Oversimplifying God

 

I.         The American poet, John Godfrey Saxe, wrote a poem based on a fable told in India.

            A.        It is an example of how limited perceptions can lead to misinterpretations.

            B.        Oversimplification leads to misconceptions and misunderstandings

The Blind Men and the Elephant

by John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“Oh! But the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, “Ho! What have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceedingly stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

            C.        Oversimplification applies to a man’s evaluation of an elephant. It also applies to our frail and feeble efforts to understand the true and living God.

II.        What do we mean by oversimplification?

            A.        Definition: “to simplify to the point of causing misrepresentation, misconception, or error. To cause distortion or error by extreme simplification of a subject.”

            B.        This is an ever present danger when limited man tries to understand the unlimited one true God.

                        1.         The Bible reveals various facets of the person and power of God.

                        2.         Yet, in spite of everything, our efforts to conceptualize God often lead us to compartmentalize and categorize God.

                        3.         An infinite, all-powerful God cannot be dissected.

                        4.         We must vigorously avoid trying to put God in a box

            C.        Ps 106:2 - We can’t describe all that God has done

            D.        Ps 139:1-6 - We can’t describe all that God knows

            E.        Ps 145:3 - God’s greatness is beyond us

            F.        Ps 147:5 - God’s understanding is infinite

            G.        Paul’s description of God - Rom 11:33-34

III.       Oversimplification of God’s Love Leads to Universalism

            A.        “Since God is all loving, he will not condemn sinners to eternal punishment.”

            B.        This is an oversimplification of God. It is called Universalism

                        1.         An assumption that God is too loving, too patient, too kind, too longsuffering to cast erring men into the flames of Hell.

            C.        God’s love is beyond measure -

                        1.         John 3:16 - The extent of God’s love

                        2.         Eph 2:4-7 - The riches of His mercy

                        3.         I John 3:1-2 - To make us children of God

            D.        However, this does not mean that God will not condemn sinners to eternal punishment. God is also a God of justice who will avenge evil

                        1.         Ps 11:4-7 - God tests us and punishes the wicked

                        2.         Romans 2:5-11 - God renders to each according to his deeds

                        3.         Heb 10:26-31 - It is a fearful thing to face the wrath of God

IV.      Oversimplification of God’s Omniscience Leads to Skepticism

            A.        “Since God is all-knowing, he is responsible for all human suffering.”

            B.        An oversimplification that leads to the disbelief called Skepticism

                        1.         God’s knowledge of human suffering renders him accountable for the same.

            C.        God is all-knowing

                        1.         Ex 3:7 - God knew the Israelites problems

                        2.         Isa 37:28 - God knows where we are and our thoughts

                        3.         Isa 46:9-11 - Declares the end at the beginning

            D.        However this does not mean God is responsible for human suffering.

                        1.         God is a God of laws that have consequences

                                    a.         Violation of God’s moral law brings sin and death into the world

                                                (1)       Gen 2:16-17 - The Law

                                                (2)       Gen 3:16-19 - The Consequences

                                                (3)       Romans 5:12 - Because of one man, sin entered the world and spreads because all sin

                                    b.         Violation of God’s natural law brings pain and sometimes fatal consequences

                        2.         Do not blame God for the consequences of sin.

                                    a.         Satan is to blame

                                    b.         We are to blame

                                    c.         But God is innocent

V.        Oversimplification of God’s Sovereignty Leads to Calvinism

            A.        “Since God is omnipotent, he directly controls the eternal destiny of each individual.”

            B.        Following this oversimplification leads to Calvanism

                        1.         If God is all-sovereign, he must be ultimately responsible for deciding who will be saved and who will be lost.

            C.        God is all-powerful

                        1.         Isa 40:12 - God knows values we only guess at

                        2.         Jer 32:17 - Nothing is too hard for God

                        3.         Amos 4:13 - Examples of God’s power

            D.        However, this doesn’t mean God directly controls the destiny of each individual

                        1.         God has unlimited power and authority, but we must not forget that God created man with a free will

                                    a.         Joshua 24:15 - Choose whom you will serve

                                    b.         I Kings 18:21 - Make a choice between God and Baal

                                    c.         Ezekiel 18:4,20 - Man is responsible for his destiny

                        2.         We can choose to follow the steps of Jesus or walk in the pathway of Satan

                        3.         God does not force us one way or the other

                        4.         The choice and the ultimate consequences are our own.

VI.      Conclusion

            A.        We know certain things about God

                        1.         He is a God of love and justice

                        2.         He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent

                        3.         He is holy. He is good. He is longsuffering, patient, and kind

            B.        However, never forget that all of man’s efforts to systemize the doctrine of God are doomed to failure.

                        1.         Deity cannot be reduced to distinct, discrete component parts

                        2.         God cannot be catalogued, classified, or codified.

                        3.         Our Lord cannot be pigeonholed.

                        4.         An infinite God must of necessity exist in part beyond the experience and understanding of finite man.

            C.        We can only know God to the degree that he has revealed himself

                        1.         Any approach that overemphasizes one characteristic of God to the neglect of others leads to a false understanding of God.

                        2.         Accept what the Bible says and leave it at that

                        3.         Speak only as the Bible teaches - I Peter 4:11

                        4.         Deut 29:29 - The secret things are God’s, the revealed things are ours.

 


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