Ezekiel 33:11 … It Doesn’t Mean what the Non-Calvinists say it Means

Say unto them: ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?’

Ezekiel 33:11

This passage is often presented by non-Calvinists of various hues and stripes to try and prove that Calvinism is all wet with its affirmation of God’s total Sovereignty. The idea as presented by the Arminian is that here in Ezekiel we find God wanting something (the wicked turning) that He can’t get. Poor God, frustrated by the sovereign will of the Arminian and Molinist wicked.

However when we read this text as against other passages we know that a frustrated God, who can’t get the wicked to turn, is not an option.

Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases. 

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.

Daniel 4:35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

So, how do we read this Ezekiel 33:11 so as to eliminate the idea that there is a contradiction here while at the same time frustrating Arminian and Molinist misconstructions?

The answer is to read the Ezekiel text in light of another text that explicitly says that there are some deaths of some people over which God does delight,

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones.

God does not delight in the death of the wicked. God does delight in the death of His saints. It would seem what we must conclude is that whether or not God delights in the death of someone is determined by their covenant standing with Jehovah. If one is part of the covenant community then God delights (and ordains) their death. If one is not part of the covenant community God does not delight (but does ordain) their death. So, God not delighting in the death of the wicked does not speak to a frustrated God but does speak to a God who delights in His people’s deaths because they are covenantally related to Him, but who does not delight in the deaths of those not His people because they are not covenantally related to Him and His wrath lies upon them. God not delighting in the death of the wicked then is a covenantal pejorative. It is as if God says to the wicked dying, “You’re outside the covenant. I could care less about your death.”

This would be consistent with God’s character we find elsewhere in Scripture. God is the one whom wicked men are to fear,

Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

He (God) has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The Lord our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:23)

So, we see here that essential to God’s character marker of being Just is His absolute delight in defending His name against rebels by exercising Justice and Vengeance against the wicked. He does not delight in the death of the wicked because in the death of the wicked His disposition is Wrath against them as not being covenantally united to Christ.

So, what the Arminian has done with this text is to make it teach the opposite of what it does teach. The Arminian has a nasty habit of this kind of “exegesis.” The Arminian or the Molinist has to overturn the perspicuous plain teaching of countless Scripture in order to read this passage the way they do and they are perfectly willing to do so in order to get a frustrated God who wants to save the wicked but can’t and  then loses sleep over their loss.

Of course, this text is good news to the wicked because it reminds them again that there is only one solution to God’s lack of delight in their death and that is for them to repent and trust Christ who is the assuagement of God’s just anger against the wickedness.

Hat Tip Dan Brannan for putting me on this. 

Ask the Pastor…. “But Christians Aren’t Under the Law?”


Dear Pastor,

Scripture says that we (Christians) are no longer under law. Can you explain to me why you teach that Christians are obliged to walk by God’s Law-Word?

Colon, Michigan

Dear Patrick,

Let’s look at the passage that you reference

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Paul is using the word “law” here to designate that which must be fulfilled as a required precursor to acceptance with God. The Christian has been delivered from being under law as a means of find peace with God. As such, when St. Paul says here that we are not “under law” he is not suggesting that God’s law is no longer relevant to the Christian. Paul is saying that the Christian is not under law as a systematic program to escape condemnation.

If Christians did yet remain under the law as a totalistic program for righteousness then sin would continue to have dominion over the Christian since the law, as a program for righteousness, cannot deliver but can only accuse. Because the Christian is under the reign of grace as God’s means of righteousness the Christian can refuse to let sin reign in their mortal bodies. “Under the reign of Grace” provides a power source for dealing with sin that “Under the reign of Law” could never provide, dead as we were in Adam.

Note also, though that at the Apostle repeatedly talks about “sin.” This implies a necessity for the concept of law because there is no way to even know what sin is apart from a standard (God’s Law) by which sin can be defined and identified. If we were to be done with the law, as many Christians advocate, then we would also be done with any concept of sin. It does me no good to encourage me to say no to sin or to lust if at the same time there is no law that standardizes what sin is.  How could we possibly know what behavior, thinking, attitudes please our great Liege-Lord apart from His Law-Word?

Christ did not redeem us so that we might walk contrary to His Law-Word. The Law’s intent is not so that by the keeping of it we can be saved. We can’t keep it as it is needed to be kept. That is why Christ came as our covenant head. Our Lord Christ fulfilled the law in our stead and because of the righteousness accounted to us we are counted Law keepers. Similarly, our covenant head, the Lord Christ, bore our penalty in our place on the Cross that our indebtedness to the Law is fulfilled as we are united to Christ.

BUT now that the law has been fulfilled for us in Christ’s law keeping and penalty bearing we now walk in terms of God’s law. We delight in God’s law now, not as means of gaining something we do not have. We delight in God’s law now, as a consequence of being given something, via imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that we could not earn or merit.

As WCF IX:18 notes, “Law and grace do doth sweetly comply (agree).” We can not posit Grace against law for the Christian. God’s law for the Christian is gracious and God’s grace unto the Christian was due to its honoring all that the law required.

So, now we study God’s law in order to more fully delight in God’s grace.

Some will contend that we have been delivered from the law and so interpret that to mean that we have nothing to do with the law. This is an unfortunate error in interpreting and thinking. The aspect of the law that we have been delivered from is the condemning aspect of the law. Because we are in Christ we are delivered from the law’s condemnation. There is, after all, therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, deliverance from the law’s condemnation is not equal to the idea of no longer having anything to do with the law. This is why the inspired Apostle can say that; “The law is Holy, Righteous, and Good.”

Praise God for His kindness to usward as expressed by giving us His Law-Word. Praise God that the Lord Christ was and remains the embodiment and incarnation of God’s Law. To properly love God’s law is to love Christ. Correspondingly a lack of love for God’s Law-Word is a lack of love for Christ.

Sundry Observations On Genesis 11 … A Small Case For Biblical Nationalism

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone,and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

As we come to the passage we want to give some immediate context which will guide our understanding of the text,

The unfolding of the events in Genesis 9-11 is

1.) God makes covenant with Noah and so mankind

2.) God ordains that mankind will under Government, which compliment patriarchal rule. (Genesis 9:6).

3.) Noah’s descendants are then ordered to disperse (Be fruitful and multiply) and inhabit their own territory per ethnic/family divisions, (Gen. 10).

10:5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

10:20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

10:31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

Notice the connection between clans, lands, languages, and nations. Clearly, the idea is presented that languages are unique to the various unique Nations. This will be important later.

***When we look at Genesis 9 we get a sense of embryonic Nations that God always intended to flower. What I am saying is that the dividing of Shem, Ham, and Japheth in cursing and blessing implies, at the very least, the nations which would later arise in connection with God’s actions at Babel. Noah had to understand that by blessing Shem with early dominance, and then Japheth with latter dominance, and no blessing upon Ham except that his children would be servants, he was clearly segregating them after a fashion.

***Genesis 10 gives us the results of Genesis 11. Genesis 11 explains how Genesis 10 happened in detail. I think it happened this way in order to put Gen. 11 and Gen. 12 in sharp relief.

***There is no contradiction here; Moses merely put the effect before the cause. Genesis 10 gives an overview, and then Genesis 11 fills in the details.

***Also, the way that it is organized with the placing of the Tower of Babel incident just prior to the stories of Abram and his descendants, the biblical writer is suggesting, in the first place, that post-flood humanity is as wicked as pre-flood humanity. Rather than sending something as devastating as a flood to annihilate mankind, however, God now places His hope in a covenant with Abraham as a powerful solution to humanity’s sinfulness. This problem (Genesis 11) and solution (Genesis 12) are brought into immediate juxtaposition

4.) Instead of dispersing they decide, in disobedience to God to fill the earth, to congregate at Babel to build what we can legitimately call an amalgamated and conglomerated New World Order Empire with the purpose of making a name for themselves.

5.) God confuses the tongues with the purpose of compelling what He originally intended, to wit, the separation of the Nations as nations. The confusion of languages was salutary discipline for the disobedience of not filling the earth by nations.

1.) One lip and one tongue

This seems to suggest that both the substance of speech and the form of speech were the same among the inhabitants of Babel. If this is correct then what is being pointed at here is that the denizens of Babel not only had a shared language but they also had a shared pagan worldview, as seen in the unified resolve to be disobedient to God.

God had told the families and nations (Genesis 10) to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:2) but the nations (Genesis 10) decided, instead, to congeal and coagulate on the plain of Shinar with the humanistic purpose to make a name for themselves.

Genesis 11 cannot be read accurately apart from the prior establishment of the table of nations in Genesis 10 and the command to multiply and fill the earth in Genesis 9. The natural reading of this, would be that God intended the nations as nations (Gen. 10) to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9)  but instead the nations decided to build a uni-polar world of no nations or all nations in order to establish themselves as God walking on the earth.

Brief Definition of Nation

According to Dr. Bruce Waltke, in his “Old Testament Theology,” a Nation. according to Scripture, is defined as

1.) A common people (Genesis)
2.) Sharing a common history (Exodus)
3.) Having a common law (Deuteronomy)
4.) With a common land (Joshua)
5.) And a Kin King (David’s Kingship)

2.) “As they journeyed Eastward” vs. 2

Traveling to the east, in Scripture, is often identified with traveling away from God’s presence and into exile, into captivity, or away from God’s presence. Moving east is a bad idea because it’s moving away from God.

Adam and Eve are sent away “East of Eden.” (2:24)

Cain was exiled to the east after killing Abel

People travelled east to build the Tower of Babel.

When Abraham and Lot decided to go their separate ways, Lot went east and ended up in Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Israelites were exiled to Babylon, in the east.

So, if we are to follow the hints of Scripture the very fact that we have this movement Eastward is suggestive that they are fleeing the presence of God.

2.) Let us build for ourselves a city and a tower

The desire to build a Tower lends the religious feel to the passage. In the ancient world this tower (Ziggurat) would have been the center building of a Temple complex where worship of the gods was practiced. The Ziggurat, in the ancient world, were believed to have been the dwelling places of the gods and naturally enough only the priest class were permitted on the ziggurat to care for the gods.

***Clearly, what is going on, on the plain of Shinar, is the building of a religious community in defiance of God. As all false gods are but man said loudly. Babel was the exercise of man made and defined religion committed to the end of man worshiping himself.

While we are at it here we should note that all social orders are held together by some religion or religious expression. Religion is an inescapable concept for both individuals and social orders.  In point of fact all social orders or cultures are, are religion externalized or made visible. When one looks at a culture or social order one is, at the same time, looking at religion.

“The culture of a people [is] an incarnation of its religion,” and “no culture has appeared or developed — except together with a religion. . . .”  
T. S. Eliot
Notes towards the Definition of Culture, pp. 32, 13

Now that is clearer in some social orders than others. We see it clearly in Muslim countries where the Koran births sharia law that all have to follow.

But we need to understand that all culture … all social orders are organized around religion, theology, and faith commitment.


This means that there are no “ages of irreligion,” or “ages of skepticism.” Organized religions may recede but they recede in favor of unorganized or embryonic religions. Curiously, it is the “so called” skeptics who write the books denouncing religion who are most obviously full of the inescapable religious impulse. Their objection is not religion as it is other people’s religion that they don’t approve of — a disapproval only arrived at as informed by whatever religion they harbor.

So, here men are denying God’s authority and sovereignty but they haven’t escaped the authority and sovereignty of some god, they have merely transferred the quality of godness to their city-state Babel. If man denies such qualities of God such as predestination to the God of the Bible, predestination doesn’t go away, it merely transfers to the new god in town.

Example — School to work program // Social engineering intended to push people in a set direction.

If man denies such qualities of God as transcendence to the God of the Bible, transcendence doesn’t go away, it merely transfers to the new god in town.

If man denies the qualities of God such as His authority as found in God’s law  divine law doesn’t go away, but that authority is merely transferred to a new god’s authoritative law.

Men are forever seeking to build new cities and new towers in defiance of the God of the Bible. Men will go to all lengths to escape the presence of God and part of those lengths they will go to is build religious-social orders on the back of false religions and false gods.

3.) With the Babel project we are right back to the fall in the garden in Genesis 11. Just as the Serpent had said there, “Hath God really said,” so man here has determined that God had not really said to “multiply and fill the earth.” Just as the project in the garden was man’s attempt to en-god himself by holding to his putative fiat word over God’s revelational Word so here on the plain of Shinar man is seeking to en-god himself by seeking to give reality to his fiat word as opposed to submitting to God’s Word which creates and governs all real reality.

***4.)  let us make a name for ourselves — Let us make us a name.

It is interesting that man attempts to make a name for themselves apart from God in Genesis 11, while in Genesis 12 God tells Abram that God Himself will make Abram’s name great (12:2). Obviously, therefore, the desire for a great name is not sinful in itself. The sin is found in seeking a great name autonomously, apart from God and His character and His Law-Word.

***In the desire to make themselves a name we find the desire to define themselves and to establish their own authority.

RJR offers here,

“Instead of being defined by the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), man now held that he would be his own creature and creation and would define himself. If man becomes a self-definer, he then, like a god, names or defines everything else. ”

***4a.) Lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth

In this new Babel religion which the social order reflected, there was a desire for uniformity. No scattering allowed. I submit to you that this fear of being scattered was theological. These men are seeking to unite as god to be god as is seen in their defiance of god in building babel. In order to do that, there had to be a unity of the godhead and that unity is found in fear of scattering.

Every  attempt to replace God with a one world order breeds a fear of scattering. There must be unity in the humanistic godhead. All people must be uniform under the god-state.

“All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” –

Benito Mussolini

This is why Socrates drank the hemlock rather than being exiled.

This is what we find in our social order. There is a fear of scattering in our speech and so we have Political Correctness to monitor speech. There is a fear of scattering in our thinking and so we have the equivalent of political commissars in Social Justice warriors in order to monitor proper thinking. There must be no scattering in our allegiance and so we have propaganda piled on top of propaganda to make sure we are not thinking contrary to those who would make war against the God of the Bible.

5.) And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built

This is not a case where God didn’t know about the details of what was going on in the building project at Babel. Often in Genesis we find divine investigation as prior to divine judgment (Genesis 3:11-13, 4:9-10, 18:21). What we find here, as opposed to a denial of divine omniscience, is a anthropomorphic setting forth of God’s investigative activity in order to communicate that God’s judgments are altogether just. As God is a personal God, God Himself personally investigates the disobedience of man.

6.) Behold they are One people

At this point the question needs to be asked, “One people as opposed to what (?)” God’s answer clearly is, per Genesis 10, “One people as opposed to the Nations in which I had divided them into.” God had ordained a Biblical Nationalism and man’s response was to pursue a pagan Internationalism. We can say perhaps, that this was the attempt at the first New World Order. The Shinar Ziggurat was the ancient version of the United Nations Building. God has set forth Nations and man responded in rebellion by pursuing an amalgamation that leads to an integration downward into the void.

God clearly did not intend the people to be one. Nothing in Scripture suggests that God today has changed His mind so that He today intends the people to be one.

Let me say this as clearly as I can. God is opposed to all plans which would end in an amalgamated faith (Chrislam) and amalgamated culture (multiculturalism) or an amalgamated people. God as Creator ordained distinctions between peoples, faiths, and cultures and Christ’s work of Redemption does not destroy those Creaturely distinctions but instead redeems them.

Christians do not sing

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

Instead Christians sing

3. We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
hath sent us his Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

7.) “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Here the question that needs be asked is who are the pronouns “their” and “they” referring to. The obvious answer is the inhabitants of Babel. However, we need to go on and ask, “Who are the inhabitants of Babel,” and with the answer to that question we are right back at Genesis 10 and the table of nations. So, the confusing of “their language” is the confusing of the language of the nations who had disobediently sought to create a uni-polar world in defiance of God.

Now, if we grant that it is a small step to think that the confusion of the languages was in keeping with the existence of the nations so that each nation, as descended from Noah, was confused with a language in keeping with its national identity.

The reason I point this out is that there exists a kind of school of thought that denies the familial-national dynamic in this passage insisting instead that the division here was not familial-national but only linguistic. The argument seemingly goes that the division at Babel was of such a nature that men from the different family-nations of Genesis 10 were all jumbled up together in the linguistic dispersion. We are therefore expected to believe that all those people who God divided by language were each and all nationally mixed in the linguistic division that God visited them with.

I am suggesting that the weight of the context of the passage is overwhelmingly against that kind of reading. Genesis 11 is not merely a linguistic division but it is a linguistic division in keeping with the already pre-existing familial-national distinctions. God wanted distinct people group Nations and the language confusion was pursuant to that end.

At Babel God makes the physical aspect of the divisions between the Nations explicit. One can easily envision that each Nation is given a distinct tongue at Babel.  This connection between peoples and tongues is underscored, when millennial later at Pentecost devout men from every nation under heaven all hear the Gospel in their own tongue. I submit in both cases (Babel and Pentecost) the differing tongues is emblematic for differing nations.

Those who would treat the passage as “linguistics alone” are also bedeviled by the reality that, per their theory, these jumbled up linguistic units comprised of men from all the varying nations (Gen. 10) in each linguistic sub-unit eventually, over the course of time, do become nationally distinct. If each and all of the linguistic units from Babel were amalgamated entities all sharing the same gene pool of the various nations in Genesis 10 how did they eventually end up being so ethnically distinct one from one another?

All of this then sheds light on Genesis 10:32

32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

Babel was a nation spreading event and the way God spread the nations was to give them each a tongue so they could not create the uni-polar world that defied God and so they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him (Acts 17:27).

All of this is more than suggestive that God’s plan for the World is a Biblical Nationalism wherein there is a God-ordained unity and diversity honored. The diversity is found in the reality of nations and the unity is envisioned in each diverse and distinct nation submitting to God as their Creator, Christ as their Redeemer and the Holy Spirit as their Sanctifier.

There is no biblical postmillennialism that puts all the Nations into a blender as a result of the Nations being Redeemed. We do not lose the identities God has created us with all because God redeems us.

All this is supported by the fact we find the “Nations” in Revelation

Rev. 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. …  22:5 The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations

**** 8.)  And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Compare that with Genesis 3

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man,

In both cases there was an aspiration to be God. In both cases God prevents man from arising to the most high. In both cases God drives them from their respective sanctuaries. In both cases grace was mixed with judgment.

*****9.) So the Lord scattered them abroad

God scattering already is a theme in Genesis. God scatters Adam and Eve from the Temple-Garden.  God scatters Cain so that he is a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth. God scatters wicked humanity by drowning them in the flood. Here God scatters the inhabitants of Babel. They had gathered to find unity and instead were visited with alienation. They had gathered here to make a famous name for themselves and instead they made their names to be a byword of folly. They had gathered out of fear of being scattered and the result was their being scattered.

The last word in this judgment though is grace. In this expulsion and dispersal Nations are ratified with the purpose that in their isolation they may more readily turn to God (Acts 17:26-27).

11.) Back to the Ziggurat

Remember, as we said earlier, the Ziggurat was in essence a “Stairway to Heaven.” (Cue Led Zepplen song.) This is man’s attempt to rise up to God. Just as in the Garden man had fallen by their ambition to be God so now man has fallen and now they are trying to ascend unto the heavens to arise unto God.

God blocks man’s efforts to arise unto God via this Ziggurat but that doesn’t mean that God will not lift man up to God on His own terms.

Turn a few chapter to Gen. 28:10-17

Jacob has conned his Brother and Father and is on the run. One night he has a dream of a Ziggurat. Only we call it a ladder. In your Geneva Study Bibles that we give to the graduates you will find a note that says,

“Probably a vast stone ramp with steps. The phrase in Gen. 28 “top reached to the heaven”  recalls the description of the Tower of Babel. Jacob may have seen a Ziggurat. This is supported by the reality that Jacob calls what he has seen “the gate of heaven,” and “the house of God.” One seldom refers to an extension ladder as the “house of God.”

On  that Ziggurat Jacob sees angels going up and down.

So, here we’ve got the image of another ziggurat. However, this time it is in a positive context. This time what is communicated is that God intends to have concourse with man on His terms. Those terms include establishing Jacob (later Israel) as a nation and then blessing the nations through the descendant of Israel.

And who is Jacob’s most famous descendent?

The answer is Christ.

Jesus, who in John chapter 1, tells his new disciple Nathanael: “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The image echoes Jacob’s dream.

Concourse with God is NOT by us building Ziggurats to God.
Concourse with God is NOT by esteeming Israel as some kind of Ziggurat.
Concourse with God is a Cross as the only Ziggurat to God.

The real stairway to heaven the Son of Man – Jesus himself, through the Cross.


Babel = Confusion
Ancient Akkadian meaning = Gate of god

Both remain true depending which worldview you drop the word Babel in. If the word resides in a Biblica Worldview then it does mean confusion and it means confusion because man is seeking to create a world apart from the only one who can give order. Confusion results when any people seeks to create order apart from God.

If the word resides in a humanistic worldview then Babel does mean “gate of God,” inasmuch as man believes that by deleting God they can be on the cusp of being god themselves.

At Babel man is at war with God.

The good news is that Christ has come so that man can sue for peace. Christ has turned away God’s warrior wrath against insolent Babel builders who find themselves weary of prosecuting war against God.

Christ is our Akkadian Babel. He is the true gate of God. Only through a known Christ can men find peace with God.



God’s Call for Virgin Skin … Leviticus 19 & Tattoos

Leviticus 19:2 Speak unto all the Congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy….

26 Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantments, nor practise augury. 27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. 28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo yourselves: I am Jehovah.

29 Profane not thy daughter, to make her a harlot; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

I am going to try and make the case that this portion of Leviticus cannot be dismissed out of hand. Some would like to do so simply because it is Old Testament law. Just this morning I viewed a clip on the “Christian Broadcasting Network,” with Pat Robertson answering a question regarding this passage which finds Pat boldly saying, “We’re not under the Old Testament. Leviticus does not apply to Christians.”  Those who might want to take the Old Testament seriously are inclined to say about this passage that since the whole hair and beard thing don’t apply therefore the prohibition against scarification or tattooing doesn’t apply.

Another problem we confront in seeking to esteem the ongoing validity of God’s word is conflicting hermeneutics. Some denominations have an emphasis on discontinuity so that much of God’s Old Testament word is seen as automatically void unless repeated in the New Testament, whereas other hermeneutical understandings emphasize continuity so that unless God’s Word in the Old Testament is repudiated in the New Testament that Word remains in force today.  Those who believe that the Old Testament case laws, with their general equity application, are still in force are never going to rest comfortably with those who would dismiss God’s earlier word out of hand.

The first thing we must note in this Leviticus passage is that God is giving here instructions for the Hebrew social order. God, being Holy, is forming a Holy community and God is giving instructions to that end. We should all be able to agree that God is still interested in the formation of a Holy community.

God begins by speaking,

Vs. 26a — Ye shall not eat anything with blood

That this remains in force is seen by the Apostle’s communication to the new Gentile believers in Acts 15:20

“19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. “

Vs. 26b — “neither shall ye use enchantments, nor practise augury.”

These were practices of sorcery, occult, or witchcraft. For the community of God to involve themselves in these matters was to make league with God’s ancient enemy, Lucifer.  As such these are forbidden to the people of God. I doubt many Christians today would argue that this law is no longer in force. It clearly is an extension of the first Commandment which prohibits have any other gods before God.

The usage of these kinds of occult indicated a trust in man’s ability to manipulate nature by his power. God would have His people trust Him and Him alone when it came to matters of providence.

Vs. 27  — Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

This verse becomes a bit controversial as we consider whether or not this law is still applicable. It seems what is  being gone after here is a prohibition to disfigure one’s hair or beard so that it does not conform naturally to the contour of the head or the face.  In other words, in terms of the head, this would be a prohibition against Mohawks or against Tonsures haircuts. In terms of the beard it would be a prohibition against trimming your beard so that it looks like a giant question mark, or so that it looks like a Batman insignia. The Hebrew word “shachath” indicates that the edges of an existing beard on the face are not to be altered. In other words, the hair on the skin of the face is not to be shaped into an unnatural configuration that is inconsistent with the way God shaped us.

I’m not sure why this law would not still apply for those men who have beards.

Some scholars have offered that this passage needs to be read in conjunction with the fact that the reason that God prohibited this among His people is that often the nations surrounding Israel would involve themselves in this kind of practice and by the weird shapes of haircuts and beard-cuts they would be identifying with their pagan gods.  Other scholars suggest that this kind of behavior among the pagans was often associated with the grieving of the pagans in the context of the loss of loved ones (cmp. Leviticus 21:1ff).

What seems to be underlying this is the idea of a natural order. God gives men hair and beards and that hair and those beards, which are natural unto men, are to be had as unto God.  They were to be worn as God naturally gave it to them, and that is, in the case of hair as the hair fits the head, and in the case of beards, as beard conforms to the contour of the face.

It is interesting that even hairstyle and facial hair fashions are not outside of God’s totalizing law authority. God has a legislating word on these matters. There is nothing here that we should immediately insist is not applicable in our current cultural context. Hair fits the head. A beard naturally extends from the facial contours regardless the length. Rushdoony offers here,

“The relevance of God’s law is a continuing one. Unnatural styles too often warped man’s head and body.”

28a Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,

Some have noted that the Hebrew word for “flesh” here as reference to the whole person and not merely the body. The thrust of this would be that there are ways that the mind can be scarified via trauma or perverse reading material of various sorts.

Turning to the body, in the ancient world of animism and superstition, this kind of scarification of the body was done in the context of grieving for the dead and was pursued as a kind of honor for the dead. In my lifetime the women folk of the deceased in Papua New Guinea, for example, would cut off finger ends to show proper grieving for the dead.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary offers here,

 “The practice of making deep gashes on the face and arms and legs, in time of bereavement, was universal among the heathen, and it was deemed a becoming mark of respect for the dead, as well as a sort of propitiatory offering to the deities who presided over death and the grave. The Jews learned this custom in Egypt, and though weaned from it, relapsed in a later and degenerate age into this old superstition (Isa 15:2; Jer 16:6; 41:5).”

Does this still apply to today? Are we still prohibited from this kind of scarification for the dead? Well, nothing in the New Testament repeats this case law requirement so does that mean scarification is permissible for Christians?  I believe most Christians would instinctually say, “yes, this law still applies. Christians may not scar themselves for the dead.” Yet, though Christians might agree with that those Christians who would dismiss God’s law would have a hard time justifying their belief that this law remains in force.

Before we get to verse 28b, we should note that so far that what God is doing here is creating a “set apart” (Holy) community (cmp. Leviticus 19:1). The prohibitions given here were all, in one way another, characteristic of the heathen communities surrounding the Hebrew children. All of these prohibitions were to the end that the Hebrews might be a distinct community.

We should note also that this scarification for the dead is making a comeback in the West. Tattoos that are dedicated to the dead are already quite popular among heathens and Christians alike. It isn’t unusual to meet believers who have a deceased relative’s name, or even their portrait on them. I just read an account where a chap tatted himself using his Father’s ashes as ink.

28b — nor tattoo yourselves: I am Jehovah.

God’s people were to have clean skin. This would be in contrast to the heathen nations that surrounded them who often decorated the finished work of God with assorted marring of God’s perfect canvas.

Barnes — Notes on the Bible offers here,

Tattooing was probably practiced in ancient Egypt, as it is now by the lower classes of the modern Egyptians, and was connected with superstitious notions. Any voluntary disfigurement of the person was in itself an outrage upon God’s workmanship, and might well form the subject of a law.

Ah … now the real controversy is afoot given the current popularity of tattoos among even Christian people. These Christian people, who would insist that scarification is not permissible for Christians are likely to be people who insist that tattoos are permissible for Christians. But by what standard? The New Testament, we know, does not speak an explicit prohibition against scarification and so those Christians, who insist that there is likewise no New Testament prohibition against tattooing, are in a pickle. How are they going to teach their children that scarification for the dead is wrong while tattooing is acceptable?

The response might be, “but no one in the West today wants to scarify themselves for the dead.” And my response is, “not yet.”

I think it is clear that this passage wherein God speaks against tattooing remains in force and remains clearly in force for today’s Christians. If the main thrust of what is going on in these individual prohibitions is that God’s people are to be different than the people around them (Holy — cmp. Leviticus 19:1) then that necessity remains today upon God’s people.

What Ellicott offers in his commentary remains just so,

“Nor print any marks upon you.—This, according to the ancient authorities, was effected by making punctures in the skin to impress certain figures or words, and then filling the cut places with stibium, ink, or some other colour. The practice of tattooing prevailed among all nations of antiquity, both among savages and civilised nations, The slave had impressed upon his body the initials of his master, the soldier those of his general, and the worshipper the image of his tutelar deity. To obviate this disfiguration of the body which bore the impress of God’s image, and yet to exhibit the emblem of his creed, the Mosaic Law enacted that the Hebrew should have phylacteries which he is to bind as “a sign” upon his hand, and as “a memorial” between his eyes “that the Lord’s law may be in his mouth” (Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18).”

Of course we no longer use phylacteries because God’s law, in the New Covenant, is written on our hearts but we still retain God’s prohibition to disfigure the body either with scarification or with tatting.

Rushdoony chimes in here also in his commentary on the 6th commandment,

“The body must be used under God and kept for his purposes and is not to be defaced. It is significant that the tattoo mark has an origin in religion, in paganism. It indicated two things in pagan societies: one, that the person was a slave of a particular God. Second, that he was the slave of a particular person. A tattoo is a mark of slavery, and it is ironic that it should become so popular for it has always, until fairly recent times, retained that meaning. And slaves were tattooed. This was until fairly recent times, the means of identification, and still is in some parts of the world. But in bible times not even a slave could be tattooed, he was still God’s before he was mans.”

So, what many Christians are eagerly pursuing by way of cultural popularity was not allowed even among the slaves of God’s people.

A fair reading of the New Testament as read as consistent with the word here in Leviticus offers up the same conclusion.

I Corinthians 6:19 What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you and which ye have from God, and that ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Again, we see in the New Testament that God is concerned with the body.  In the context of Corinthians the concern has to do with sexual unions between Christian men and harlots, however, the broader contextual concern does not allow us to limit God’s concern with Christian bodies to unlawful unions alone. Our bodies are Temples of God. Just as in the Old Testament God prohibited the bodies of His people being disfigured with tattoos even more in the New and Better covenant are the bodies of God’s people as God’s temple not to be disfigured.

This reasoning is underscored and supported by British Old Testament scholar Dr. Gordon J. Wenham in his commentary on Leviticus

“Man is not to disfigure the divine likeness implanted in him by scarring his body. The external appearance of the people should reflect their internal status as the chosen and holy people of God (Dt. 14:1-2). Paul uses a similar line of argument in I Cor. 6. The body of the believer belongs to Christ, therefore, “glorify God in your body.”

Some might try to argue here that just as the Temple in the OT had beautiful engravings so believers, as God’s temple, can engrave themselves with beautiful tattoos. The problem with this line of reasoning is that God was specific as to what was and was not to be engraved in His Old Testament temple. God’s silence on any engravings upon our bodies, as His temple, should be a silence that silences this type of reasoning.

In future installments we will be considering other aspects of this Tatting issue that is before the Church. For myself, I believe that tatting is a kind of “gateway drug” to other more serious disobedience to God’s explicit word. That some people take the gateway drug but never move on to the use of harder drugs doesn’t mitigate the danger of the gateway drug.


Titus 3:5 He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

In teaching the covenant children on Baptism I often times will us the illustration that Baptism is like God’s branding us with His mark of ownership. I will tell them just as a Rancher might brand his cattle, so God brands us with the mark of Baptism that is indelible to His eyes. When He looks at us He sees that we are marked with His mark and so treats us as His own.

In Baptism we are marked with God’s mark. It is the mark wherein we find our identity. It is the only mark that we need have placed upon us. Indeed, by marking ourselves with other permanent marks it could be easily argued that we are putting marks on ourselves that are in identity competition with God’s mark of Baptism.

In this vein it is interesting that historically tattoos have been used as an identifying mark that one belongs to this or that god. The gods were thought to have required that their people be marked with their mark. Of course, today no one in the modern West would, upon receiving a tattoo, think that they were doing so as a mark of belonging to some ancient tribal deity but perhaps worse yet what being tatted today demonstrates and signals is the god-like power one seizes over one’s own body.  If one views themselves as autonomous beings then they will mark themselves with their own marks. This is understandable but the Christian who has been marked with God’s mark of Baptism should not want to be marked with any other mark.

Not only should they not want to be marked with any other mark they are forbidden to be marked out with any other mark. The Priest class in the Old Testament was not allowed to be tattooed, like the pagans around them,

Leviticus 21:5 They (the Priests) shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.

This is relevant to those who profess Christ today who resolve to be tattooed because in the New Testament it is the Church and Christians who are identified as God’s Priest class.

I Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

All God’s people today are prophets, priests, and kings under sovereign God, and so all God’s people today, as God’s Priests, are proscribed by God from making any cuts on their body. And why should they want any other marks on their bodies since they’ve been marked by their God in Baptism?

Why this desire, by professing Christians, for a further marking beside God’s mark of Baptism? One wonders if the increase of tattooing isn’t due to God’s people not understanding their identity in Christ. In so many ways Westerners have been separated and stripped from, and of, their Christian history — and so their identity — that perhaps, at some level, the reason body modification is being pursued by Christians so intently is because they are trying to find a meaning that has eluded them. The modern Western man has been deracinated to the point that he no longer is even sure about gender, and is now treated as an interchangeable cog in a vast impersonal machine culture. Given that, it is not a wonder that the modern Western man, be he Christian or non-Christian, is exploring all avenues, including tattooing, to imbue his life with some possible meaning.

Of course, modern Western man does not speak to himself in such terms. He probably couldn’t and wouldn’t articulate his thinking (if he even thinks about it at all) in such a way. For modern man tattooing one’s self is just what people do. Modern man would insist that tattooing doesn’t mean anything except, “it’s cool and it’s pretty and my peers are doing it and I want to fit in.”

However, if Christians who are also Moderns, had explained to them what God’s mark of Baptism means then just possibly they would see that pursuing any other mark, besides the mark of Baptism, would be a pursuing of a counter claim by a different god.





Did God Learn New Information per Genesis 22:12? McAtee contra Vander Zee

Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him. For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.

“If you read the text (Genesis 22, especially vs. 12) on its own terms — I mean without all the layers of interpretations and explanations — it is really quite astounding. I used to think, and I’ve preached the text this way, that this test was for Abraham’s sake. You know like a teacher might say to you or a prof might say to you, ‘This test isn’t for me, it is for you. It is for you to learn.’ So here, Abraham learns to trust God.

Great Sermon.

Or perhaps little Isaac learns the importance of faith from his Dad’s own obedience. But the text doesn’t say anything about Abraham learning something. What it does say is that God learned something. At the end of the story the Angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham, just as he is about to slice into the thin neck of his son and says, ‘Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld thy son, thy only son from me.’

It’s those words from God, ‘Now I know,’ that are so astounding and intriguing. God isn’t teaching Abraham anything here, God is learning something about Abraham.

Wait a minute. God learning something?

What kind of God learns something? Evidently the God of this story. The God of the Bible. Of course it goes against everything we think we know about God. God is infinite. God is eternal. God is unchangeable. God knows everything before it happens. We tend to think about God in terms of abstract terms like, omniscience, and immutability and omnipotence. But the Bible is not a set of concepts about God. It’s mostly stories about God and about how God interacts with us and how we interact with God and these stories bring God from the rarefied atmosphere of omniscience and immutability into our world — into the way we live and the way we experience God in our lives.

It’s not that these theological concepts (i.e. — Omniscience, Omnipotence, Immutability) aren’t worth thinking about or that they are not true. It is that they cannot contain the deeply textured, multi-layered mystery, that is God. And that is what these stories try to do and that is why they are so mysterious to us.”

Rev. Len Vander Zee
River Terrace Christian Reformed Church
Lansing, Michigan
Sermon — January 31, 2016

Recent Sermons

Starting at 13:21 and moving through to the 15:57 mark.

Normally, I wouldn’t take the time to correct a sermon by another minister in another Church. Were I to make that my routine I would be spending my life in futility as a modern day Sisyphus. I only take time to dissect this mishandling of the Genesis 22:12 text due to the fact that a couple of the lambs in the flock I serve were in attendance when this sermon was preached and came to me confused about some of what was said.  After I listened to this sermon, I understood why they were confused. Confusing sermons tend to cause confusion.

As such, I intend to unravel the confusion and point out the alarming errors in the quote above. Then I intend to bring it to the direct attention to my young charges while I tell them to stay away from any Church where this kind of confusion is articulated from the pulpit.

1.) Note the implied complaint about reading the Genesis 22:12 text “with layers of interpretation and explanation.”  The Minister seems to be suggesting that unlike all others who heap layers of interpretation and explanation upon the text he is just going to let the text speak by itself.

The problem with this, is that by not reading the text in its context of the whole of Scripture the result is that God is made to be not God. More about that in a minute. For now, let us consider what happens when we do not read texts with layers of proper interpretation and explanation.

Well, when we do not read texts with layers of proper interpretation and explanation what we get is the Roman Catholic Mass. After all, the “layer-less” text finds Jesus saying, “this is my body.” What more proof do we need that the Roman Catholic Mass is true? When we read the text without “layers” then we must conclude that Infant Baptism shouldn’t be done because the “layer-less” text says nothing about Baptizing babies. When we read the text without layers of interpretation and explanation we must conclude that the idea of the Trinity is not true since no text uses the word “Trinity.”  Layer-less texts finds us required to greet the Brethren with a Holy Kiss. Layer-less text would require Christians to embrace some form of Communism since the “layer-less” text teaches that the believers in Acts “had all things in common.”

Clearly we see that the last thing we want in our preaching is “layer-less” texts. One reason we send men to be trained in Seminaries is so that they will learn how to handle texts aright and will understand that all texts must be read in light of all other texts and that the lest clear texts must be layered by the explanation and interpretations of the more clear texts.

To read a text naked, as if no broader context exists is to enter into the realm of subjectivity and eisegesis.

2.) The text does not say “God learned something.”  The text has the Angel of the Lord saying to Abraham, “Now I know …” The fact that the good Reverend here says that the text says that “God learned something,” is instead a layer of explanation and interpretation that is neither faithful to the text nor to the context.

3.) Note the humongous, begging to be noticed, contradiction in the Reverend’s words. First the Preacher insists that God learned something and then within a few sentence the Preacher says that “it’s not that these theological concepts (i.e. -Omniscience) aren’t true.” One finds one’s self screaming at the audio, “Well either God learned something and so never was omniscient or God was omniscient and so can’t learn anything.” Rev. Vander Zee can’t have it both ways.

4.) Rev. Vander Zee emphasizes here the fact that God isn’t omniscient. God learned something he tells us. The idea that God is not omniscient is of course the error of what is called “Free Will Theism.” Free Will Theism is the denial that God is a God who knows all, ordains all, predestines all, and conditions all. Free Will Theism is the anti-Calvinism theology. In Open Theism God is dependent upon man’s choices and God learns along with man. In Open Theism God shares His sovereignty with man so that man and God work things out together.

Now, it is altogether possible that Rev. Vander Zee does not realize he has wandered into this territory.

5.) Notice that the Preacher presents the idea that God learning something “goes against everything we think we know about God.” The clear implication here is that we think we know that God is eternal, infinite, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, but it may well be the case that those things are not really true of God. We only think we know that. Again, this undermines our confidence in Scripture which repeatedly teaches the non-communicable attributes of God.

6.) Rev. Vander Zee suggests that concepts about God are bad while stories about God are good. Of course it is those very stories that undergird the concepts and teach us that God is eternal (Genesis 1), immutable (I Samuel 15), omnipotent (Job 38-40), omniscient (Genesis 45, 50).

7.) Rev. Vander Zee misses the point that it is the stories that give us the concepts. Every story has within it a conceptual point to make. One simply can divorce story from concept, or concept from story. We see Rev. Vander Zee extrapolating here concept from story by his errant explanation and interpretation of this story in Genesis 22. We have a story, and Rev. Vander Zee is trying to give a concept (God’s non omniscience) that communicates the meaning of the story. Now, Rev. Vander Zee is not doing the story justice because he has not read it as comparing the less clear scripture with the more clear didactic scripture that teaches that,

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5).

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16).

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

“… for whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

Rev. Vander Zee ignores all this context … ignores the explicit statements of Scripture in order to insist that God learned and he does this all the while still affirming that what he denies in this sermon as true, is true.

8.) Rev. Vander Zee claims that terms like “omniscience, omnipotence, immutability, eternality,” are abstract terms that are naughty. The listener is left to infer that terms like “non-omniscience, non-omnipotence, mutability, and non eternality” are good abstract terms that can be proven by bad interpretations and explanations as drawn from Genesis 22.

9.) Rev. Vander Zee says that the Bible is about how God interacts with us and how we interact with God. Unfortunately this is just not true. The Bible is about how God alone does all the saving of a sin besotted people via the God-man keeping covenant as on a bloody Cross. Only then is it about how a sin besotted people respond in gratitude to God’s grace.

10.) Rev. Vander Zee insists that our theological language of omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, and eternality, cannot contain God. However, that the God of the Bible is more than all those does mean He is other than all those. God cannot both be and not be omniscient. God cannot both be and not be omnipotent. God cannot both be and not be immutable. God cannot both be and not be eternal. To insist that He is, is to turn God into a  surd. If Rev. Vander Zee desires to define God as contradiction then he would have to insist, in order to be consistent with His own hermeneutic here, that God cannot be defined as contradiction. If God is contradiction then God is not contradiction.

11.) Rev. Vander Zee appeals to a deeply textured and multi-layered mystery that is God. This is poetic smoke to hide Rev. Vander Zee’s appeal to contradiction to explain God. Again, if we  appeal to the hoist in Rev. Vander Zee’s petard we would have to say that if God is a deeply textured and multi-layered mystery then God isn’t a deeply textured and multi-layered mystery.

12.) Though Rev. Vander Zee may not realize this, when Rev. Vander Zee calls into question God’s omniscience in Genesis 22:12, he, at the same time, calls into question God’s omnipotence. God’s omniscience is based on the foundation of His omnipotence. Because God determines, ordains, and predestines all things therefore He knows all things. It is not possible to be non-omniscient and sovereign and omnipotent at the same time. How does a God, that orders and predestines every detail of all reality and all of what will happen, learn? He can’t. To insist that God learns, the way that Rev. Vander Zee is insisting that God learns, is to put him in direct denial of God’s omnipotence.

13.)  Though Rev. Vander Zee may not realize this, when Rev. Vander Zee calls into question God’s omniscience in Genesis 22:12, he, at the same time, calls into question God’s immutability. If God does not change then God cannot learn for to learn something is to change by going from a state of non-knowing to a state of knowing.

14.) There is not a lick of rationality or intelligence in any of this. This kind of preaching is insulting to the integrity of Scripture, the character of God, and the intelligence of the congregation listening. That likely isn’t the intent of Rev. Vander Zee, but it is surely the result.

Now having exposed the in-congruence in the sermon with the goals of restoring God’s honor and protecting God’s lambs we turn to briefly explain what is going on in Genesis 22:12. In John Calvin’s commentary (a commentary that used to be consulted by CRC ministers) on this passage Calvin offers up that,

“by condescending to the manner of men, God here says that what he has proved by experiment, is now made known to himself. And he speaks thus with us, not according to his own infinite wisdom, but according to our infirmity.”

Calvin thus appeals to the idea that God speaks to Abraham here anthropopathically, which is to say that God is speaking to Abraham in such a way as to attribute a human passion (“now I know”) to God.  More on this anthropopathism in just a bit.

To break Genesis 22:12 down more specifically we see that on the surface, as taken as naked without the context of all of Scripture, the text suggests that God went from a state of not knowing something to having learned something new. However, as the Scripture above cites we know that God’s “understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5), and that God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10), and that God has foreknown and predestinated us from the foundation of the world (Rom. 8:29–30).  As such, unless we  embrace a hermeneutic of contradiction (which would, at the same time mean that we would not embrace a hermeneutic of contradiction) we cannot allow a conclusion on Genesis 22:12 to mean that God was a good student who had a large capacity to learn.

The solution then is to concede, per Scripture, that because God is omniscient that God knew exactly what Abraham would do with Isaac precisely because God predestined exactly what Abraham would do with Isaac. What happens in Genesis 22 is that which God knew by omnipotence and omniscience He now knows by the demonstration of Abraham’s faith.

Remember, we must think in terms of the literary technique that Scripture repeatedly employs called anthropopathism.  The Bible, written for a human audience, often ascribes to deity those passions, feelings, and emotions of humans so that we might better be able to comprehend.

We speak like this sometimes in our own professions. As a minister, I might say, “Let’s see if we can learn from Scripture what omniscience means,” and then after demonstrating it, as I have in this essay, I might declare to the congregation I serve, “Now, I along with you, have learned what omniscience means by looking at Scripture,” and this even though I knew what omniscient meant before the lesson began.

Therefore Joshua and Sarah, Genesis 22:12 does not mean what Rev. Vander Zee wrongly made it mean.