Lecture 25

The story about Pythagoras and Lessing [from previous lecture]– both seek after but never possess it. There are seeds of historicism here.

The story is to introduce the question– is it possible for a Christian to follow Pythagoras? Can we be faithful to scripture and follow Pythagoras?

There is an underlying assumption, latent, unexpressed, that there is but one wisdom or truth somewhere in this universe – a knowledge of which God possesses but which to man can only everlastingly strive.

We ought not to be so impressed being possessors of something – but in both cases wisdom and truth, man has in bits and pieces, partially, is the truth God possesses – taken to be identical.

That’s the assumption.
Is there any view in scripture for such a one-dimensional view of wisdom or truth?

Drawing upon everyday experience of the world – the ‘knowledge’ different creatures make use of, is to be understood in terms of functional structure of the creature involved.

[Aside In the social sciences functional and structure are two things that are mutually exclusive. There is a structure, a creation order, of functionality, whereas in the social sciences there are functionalist and there are structuralists.]

A dog ‘knows’ an amazing lot and yet we are aware that the ‘knowledge’ is of a very different sort to our own. It doesn’t mean the same as my father ‘knows’. There is a qualitative difference in kind.

Chimps and dolphins are said to be two intelligent creatures, yet the ‘knowledge’ they apparently have and their means of ‘communication by means of speech’ has to do with animal ‘language’ – it is of an entirely different kind than ours.

In the case of plants there is phototropism (a Greek word); plants move towards the light. The plant ‘knows’ where the light is coming from. Similarly some plants ‘know’ when an insect is close by, something they don’t do when no insect is around.

It would be unprofitable to group these various ‘knowledges’ together and to try to find a common element of ‘knowledge’ in them all.

‘Knowledge’ is the activity of a certain kind of being, plant, animal, human and the nature of the resultant ‘knowledge’ always depends on the internal functional structure of the being engaged in the knowing.

Might it not be the same when we consider human ‘knowledge’ in relation to the divine being and divine ‘knowledge’? And that God’s ‘knowing’ would be related to the being of the creator while man’s ‘knowing’ might be expressive of his creaturely form of existence? If so, then we can no longer think in the Pythagorean way.

(For Pythagoras there is one knowledge. Men and gods come from a common parent – they had different views of gods – “from our mother we draw our breath” (Pindar). Christians have adopted the same idea. If we notice that every kind of creature has ‘knowledge’ that depends on internal functional structure then the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man might be quite different.)

To establish this position look at Mt 11: 25-27 (cf || Lk10:21). No one knows the father except the son – he is saying this to the people of the Torah! That is blasphemy. (What about his disciples?) The context is the return o fthe seventy.

Geerhardus Vos, born in the Netherlands, his family emigrated to the USA. He went back to study in the Netherlands and Germany, then began to teach in the US. He was a supralapsarian when others around him were lapsarian. There was a rift between him and others lecturers – he was given a 25 hour teaching load. He ‘ran’ to Princeton to save his life! He became known as one of the great Reformed dogmatic theologians. His Pauline Eschatology was amillenial.

Have to read his Self-disclosure of Jesus (ch 10 pp 142-160 ± 5) (the pagination is different in different versions)

[A large section is read out]

verse 27 of Mt 11 it makes clear that messiahship is a prerequisite for a wholyy unique relationship to God. Intimacy. A unique mutual recognition – an exclusive knoweldge of Jesus in virtue of being the father. A knowledge of that is intra divine relationship.

What does it mean to reveal? To bring down to the level of human experience – the human level. It is not sharing divine knowledge. We see it emminently in the incarnation: God had to become one of us.

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