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Marc Roby:  Today’s podcast is again a special session. It’s the second part of an interview with Professor Henry Schaefer III.  Professor Schaefer received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Physics from MIT and his PhD in the same area from Stanford University. He is currently the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and the Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He is also one of the world’s most highly accomplished and regarded physical chemists. He has over 1600 publications and it has been reported that he has been nominated for a Nobel prize five times. He has won so many awards and has given so many talks all over the world that it would be silly to even begin to list them.

But the most important thing about Prof. Schaefer, is that he is a Bible-believing Christian and unashamedly speaks of Christ wherever he goes. Before we begin I would like to point out that Dr. Schaefer has written an excellent book called, Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?, which is in its second edition. Dr. Spencer was able to interview Prof. Schaefer on Wednesday afternoon, October 3, 2018, prior to Schaefer giving his lecture at the University of California in Davis.

Dr. Spencer: This is Dr. Spencer, and I’m here with Professor Henry Schaefer and I welcome our listeners back for the second half of our interview.  Professor Schaefer, have you had any particular discoveries or observations in your career that really bolstered your faith as a Christian?

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, just one.  We have been interested in the structures and properties of small molecules for a long time, going back to the work on CH2, the methylene molecule, that made me a household word in a small number of households. But one of the most exciting molecules is Si2H2, which is a molecule which is similar in many ways to acetylene, which is a linear molecule, structure HCCH all in a line and we were able to show that Si2H2, the silicon analogy of acetylene, has many different structures, some of which are truly unique.  And that was an aha moment, and it was of course very satisfying when experiments came back five or six years later and showed that all of our predictions of quantum mechanics were true.

Dr. Spencer: That’s pretty amazing.

Prof. Schaefer: That was very gratifying.

Dr. Spencer: So, it shows Schrödinger’s equation was right.

Prof. Schaefer: Schrödinger was right, yeah.

Dr. Spencer: Alrighty. I have a question that is sort of related to science, but not really directly really, in a sense, and that is, do you think that science is an objective discipline, at the end of the day. I mean, clearly individual scientists are not objective fully. They’re observers and they bring their own worldview to the work that they’re doing, so it affects the way they see the evidence and it affects the questions they might ask and so forth. But what about science collectively, when you think about the way it works with people trying to work, do build on what other people have done, and so forth?  Do you think on the whole that it’s an objective discipline?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, scientists have many failures. This is indisputable. The hope is that as time goes by, these failures will be corrected, and we’ll get on a more clear path toward the truth.  Sometimes this takes a long time, sometimes this takes a long time, and so, yeah. I mean, we hope science is self-correcting. I think that in the broadest sense it’s true, but it sure takes a long time to get corrected sometimes.

Dr. Spencer: That’s certainly true. Now you’ve been teaching a course at the University of Georgia on Science and Christianity, a freshman seminar kind of class. What do you find to be the most common misconception young people have about Christianity?

Prof. Schaefer: It’s that science has disproved God.

Dr. Spencer: Alright, have they said why they think science has disproved God, or is this just a general idea that they have floating in their head?

Prof. Schaefer: We’re about halfway through the semester now, and I asked the students on the first day of class, “How many have heard somebody say that science has disproved God?” They all raised their hands, all seventeen students, they all raised their hands.

Dr. Spencer: Interesting.

Prof. Schaefer: So, it’s out there.

Dr. Spencer: But then can they explain that at all, if you asked them how or why?

Prof. Schaefer: Some teacher told me so.  My parents told me so.  I heard of a famous scientist who said this.  That’s the kind of answers you get.

Dr. Spencer: Alright, that’s pretty amazing.

Prof. Schaefer: Most of them don’t buy it, just for the record.  They’ve heard it, but they don’t buy it.

Dr. Spencer: Well, that’s encouraging.

Prof. Schaefer: It is encouraging.

Dr. Spencer: And we know from Romans 1, that they’re suppressing the truth anyway, so…

Prof. Schaefer: Yes.

Dr. Spencer: I have another question that’s really off-base, but it is scientific in a sense.  What do you think of the strong view of artificial intelligence? I don’t know if you’ve read the book from the eighties, Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter or not, but the whole idea that if computers get sufficiently complicated and the software gets sufficiently sophisticated with enough layers of self-referential ability and everything that it will develop all of the characteristics of intelligent beings like you and me?

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, a person in my field, Christopher Longuet-Higgins, went from quantum mechanics to artificial intelligence, and he made this most remarkable statement, that artificial intelligence will never account for natural stupidity.  There’s nothing in artificial intelligence that hasn’t been programmed by some human being, so it can only do what we tell it to do, so I’m not frightened by artificial intelligence.  My whole life is using computers to solve equations, so no, I don’t see that coming.  I mean, artificial intelligence is okay.  I mean, we find patterns, this is what artificial intelligence is all about, we find patterns in nature and sometimes, using the computer, they make sense a lot faster than just looking at, you know, if we could, billions and billions and billions of pieces of data.  So it’s useful, but it only does what it’s been told.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. Do you have any thoughts or comments you’d like to share about the current climate on college campuses with regard to free speech?  For example, you give talks all over the world about faith, and you were telling me a little bit earlier about some troubles you had years ago in India with a talk, so what do you think about the current climate, what needs to be done there, or…?

Prof. Schaefer: It varies from campus to campus.  You know, at my campus, the University of Georgia, I think it’s true that most anything goes, most anything can be said.  That doesn’t mean you won’t run into a lot of controversy. There’s a certain number of our students, and it’s a small minority, who don’t mind being, how shall I say this, violent.  And this is sad when you see this, at my university or any other.  And one hopes that universities would take a strong stand against this.  The University of Chicago has taken a very strong stand against this, there are no safe spaces at the University of Chicago.  If you don’t want to be challenged in your ideas, please don’t come.  I wish more of our prominent universities would make statements like that.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. What do you think about the changes that have occurred over the last, well, even 150 years, in the definition of science.  I mean, 150 years ago, theology was considered the queen of the sciences, and for most of the last 150 years the definition of science if you look in old dictionaries has something to do with some sort of a systematic way of looking for knowledge, but in the past 50 years a lot of prominent organizations for science education and so forth, I think in response to us learning a whole lot more about the nature of life and the complexity of life, have started to argue that the definition of science should include a limitation that you are looking for a natural cause for all events, or all things.  What do you think?  That seems to me to be damaging the very core of science.

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, I don’t agree with that, I think we need to follow the evidence wherever it leads.  And sometimes it leads in the direction of a sovereign God of the universe.  If you exclude that, your worldview is going to be incomplete, in my opinion.

Dr. Spencer: Um-hmm.  The big bang theory, and the mass of evidence that has been gathered in the support of it, has convinced most scientists that this universe had a beginning, and it also supports the creation narrative in the Bible.  Is there any specific finding in your field that you think points to the existence of God in a similarly compelling way?

Prof. Schaefer: Chemists are very impressed by the beauty of their molecules.  Not all molecules have gorgeous symmetry, but many do, and even, I would say that in some cases, new discoveries of molecular structures, like C60, buckyball, Buckminsterfullerene.  When a lot of people saw that for the first time, it kind of took their breath away. So you know, something of that beauty, and that was never known.  When does chemistry begin, Robert Boyle, and wow, more than 500 years, and to see that somebody’s made it, they can put it in a bottle, you can scratch it, you can rub it. You can’t eat it. But for many chemists I think that was an inspiring experience, and it just naturally raises the question, how many other things like this are out there that we don’t have a clue about?  And that I think provides some motivation for people to try to keep making new things and understanding the things we already have.

Dr. Spencer: Well, mentioning Boyle is interesting too, because I’ve read a biography of him, and talk about an amazing Christian, I mean, the man taught himself biblical Hebrew and Greek, and if I remember right I think even Aramaic, so that he could read the entire Bible in the original languages.

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, he was what we now call polymath.

Dr. Spencer: Yeah.

Prof. Schaefer: It’s harder to be a polymath these days because there’s an awful lot of knowledge out there to absorb, so I don’t know if we’re ever going to have another polymath.  There’s just too much…the range of things from high-energy physics to molecular biology is so huge that it’s really pretty hard to know everything.  Even in my own field of quantum chemistry things have changed so much.  I used to read all the journals and I would say that I have to depend a lot more on my students to tell me what’s important. There are still some really good ones that I read pretty much cover to cover, but for the others I depend on others to tell me what’s really exciting out there.

Dr. Spencer: Now you worked with Professor Phillip Johnson at UC Berkeley and he’s considered by many to be the father of the intelligent design movement.  What do you think about intelligent design?

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, well, intelligent design.  I mean, I know most of these people. Quite a few of them are my friends.  Phillip Johnson, law professor at Berkeley really got this whole thing started with his book, “Darwin on Trial”, and Phil didn’t know too much science, but he sensed in his own mind that the evolutionary picture was not satisfying, and he recruited a whole bunch of very bright younger people to take up the cause, like Mike Behe, Bill Dembski, Steve Meyer, so all these people are my friends.  I’m not exactly on their team. I agree with them about a lot of things. But to me, much more important than the idea of an intelligent designer, is who is the intelligent designer? For to me, it’s more important to know that Jesus Christ is the designer of our universe, he’s the one who crafted the whole thing, than the brute fact that there was a designer.  So we’re a bit in disagreement on these things, but I respect what they have to say, I read their stuff, I enjoy it.  I think they’ve created a discussion about these things, which I think is wholesome, whether they’re exactly right about it or not. I think that it does service to science.

Dr. Spencer: I think, you know, Cornelius Van Til with his presuppositional apologetics would say that the place for evidential apologetics like that is in making an unbeliever be uncomfortable in their worldview. And so, I assume you’ve read Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer?

Prof. Schaefer: I haven’t read the whole thing.

Dr. Spencer: Yeah and you go through those numbers and you look at, if I remember the numbers correctly, the minimum complexity cell that biologists think would be viable would have 250 proteins or something, and if you assume those are typically 150 amino acids long, and you say how likely is it to get 250 proteins of that length by random combinations of amino acids, and you come up with a number like 1 in 1041,000 power or something, which is completely absurd, obviously, at some level.

Prof. Schaefer: I think Steve Meyer has become the leader of the intelligent design movement, he’s a very, very bright guy, and it’s interesting to read his stuff.  These guys, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, they’re brave, I mean they’ve got almost the entire biological community up in arms against them. So they’ve taken a lot of hits.

Dr. Spencer: I think, often though, and I think I’ve read something of yours where you would agree with this statement, that the reason unbelievers are sometimes hostile, is because they know in fact God exists, as Romans 1 says, and so, really underneath their hostility is not a hostility toward you or what you’re saying so much as it is a hostility toward a God that they know someday is going to judge them.

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, that is sometimes true. Yeah, that definitely is sometimes true.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is, and I think with that we’re out of time for the day, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions or comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org, and we would appreciate hearing from you.


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Marc Roby: Today’s podcast is a special session. It’s our great pleasure to be able to interview Prof. Henry Schaefer III. Prof. Schaefer received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Physics from MIT and his PhD in the same area from Stanford University. He is currently the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and the Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He is also one of the world’s most highly accomplished and regarded physical chemists. He has over 1600 publications and it has been reported that he has been nominated for a Nobel prize five times. He has won so many awards and has given so many talks all over the world that it would be silly to even begin to list them.

But the most important thing about Prof. Schaefer, is that he is a Bible-believing Christian and unashamedly speaks of Christ wherever he goes. Before we begin I would like to point out that Dr. Schaefer has written an excellent book called, Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?, which is in its second edition. Dr. Spencer was able to interview Prof. Schaefer on Wednesday afternoon, October 3, 2018, prior to Schaefer giving a lecture at the University of California in Davis.

Dr. Spencer: Well, Professor Schaefer, it’s a pleasure to have you as a guest on What Does the Word Say? And thank you for agreeing to do the interview.

Prof. Schaefer: Thank you, good to be here.

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin with a few questions just to let our listeners know a little bit more about you. So, you were born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but attended public schools in New York and California before graduating from High School in Grand Rapids. So, why did you move so much?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, my dad worked for the largest company in Grand Rapids, called American Seating Company.  School seats, stadium seats, auditorium seats. And they just kept moving around until they got far enough up in the food chain in Grand Rapids. They stayed there for the rest of his career.

Dr. Spencer: Alrighty.  And right at the moment you are a professor obviously working in quantum chemistry.  So, how would you explain what you do for a living to someone who doesn’t have much of a science background?

Prof. Schaefer: Quantum chemistry is chemistry without test tubes. Odorless chemistry.  We use the equations of quantum mechanics to make predictions of all manner of things that experimentalists are either too cowardly to do, or just impossible.  So, we try to guide real chemists using the computer.

Dr. Spencer: Alright, can you explain for somebody who is not in science what quantum mechanics is all about a little bit?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, quantum mechanics begins in 1926 with a series of papers by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in which he carried out in a mathematical way the idea that waves and particles are related. Particle behavior can be described in a wavelike manner and wavelike things can described in a particle like manner.  So, these equations go way back to 1926, probably the most important year in the history of modern physics.

Dr. Spencer: Alrighty.  Were you raised in a Christian home?

Prof. Schaefer: No, I was not, I was raised in a loving home by parents that were concerned about me from my birth until the month they both died in 1988.

Dr. Spencer:  They both died in the same month?

Prof. Schaefer: My mom died of a heart attack, and my dad had Alzheimer’s, or something like it, and he died of a broken heart a week later.

Dr. Spencer: O my goodness, that’s a terrible thing to go through. How old were you?

Prof. Schaefer: I was forty-three.

Dr. Spencer:  Forty-tree.

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah.

Dr. Spencer: Now in one of your writings, though, you say that the Jesus you knew in childhood was a well-intentioned infinitely tolerant person who laid down some simple moral rules, so if you weren’t raised in a Christian home, did you go to church with friends, or how did you learn about Jesus?

Prof. Schaefer: My parents went to church, we went to the Episcopal Church.

Dr. Spencer: Okay.

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, we went to church, but there wasn’t too much about Jesus.

Dr. Spencer: Alright.

Prof. Schaefer: It was, if you wanted to be prominent in Grand Rapids, being a member of Grace Episcopal Church was a very good thing.

Dr. Spencer: Alright.

Prof. Schaefer: Gerald Ford, President of the United States, became president, he and my dad were best friends growing up.  Neither one came from wealthy families, and Gerry was a member of Grace Episcopal Church, and if you wanted to get into the Kent Country Club, the most prestigious place in the county, it would be good to be a member of Grace Episcopal Church.

Dr. Spencer: That’s interesting. Well then, how did you become a Christian?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, it’s … as with many, it’s a long story, it began at age 17 when I started to think seriously about things, and it ended, that lost stage of my life ended … well, it began to end just as I completed my PhD at Stanford University, but it really didn’t happen until about four years later, when I was a young professor at the University of California at Berkeley.  So, a lot took place, God was trying to get my attention for a long, long time and as is always the case, he got it.

Dr. Spencer: He doesn’t miss, does he?

Prof. Schaefer: Right.

Dr. Spencer: Was there any particular event that precipitated your coming to Christ or just…?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, four years before I became a Christian I began to think about the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, and after about three years of that I decided that not only is the resurrection true, but it is one of the best attested facts in all of ancient history, and then there was another year to kind of get things together before I received Christ into my life.

Dr. Spencer: Alright. Now you and your wife went through the terrible experience of having a baby die of SIDS.  Can you explain how your faith helped you get through that period?

Prof. Schaefer: Yeah, this was in 1979, and we had not been Christians for too long, December 9, 1979, and this was a stage in my life when I was trying to become famous.  I had a very nice offer from the University of Texas, an endowed Chair and an institute that was going to be started just for me and so I was spending about half the time in Texas and half the time in Berkeley, and being paid half a salary by both, and went to church on a Sunday morning, December 9, and got back to my office, instead of just staying in a hotel, and my wife called me and told me that our son Pierre had died.  So, it was the hardest thing I’ve been through yet.

Dr. Spencer: And how did your faith help with that, do you think, in terms of coping with it?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, I would say that neither Kären nor I ever felt any anger toward God, you know, we were far enough along that we understood that all things work for good for those who love Christ, so we knew good things were coming, and we were surrounded by Christian friends at that point.  We’d been in Berkeley for, yeah… So, I was in Texas, our son died in California, so I hurried back, and we were just…I was met at the airport by a dozen people, all of whom we loved, and taken back to the house, and they just watched over us for quite a few days.

Dr. Spencer: Okay.  Well, do you have a favorite book of the Bible or a favorite verse, and why?

Prof. Schaefer: 1 John 5:13:

Dr. Spencer: Okay.  Which says?

Prof. Schaefer: These things have I written, that you may know that you have eternal life, you that believe in the name of the Son of God.  That verse was a significant part of my becoming a Christian. I was actually leading a Bible study of some high school kids at a Lutheran church, even though I wasn’t a Christian. And I knew I didn’t know much about the Bible, but I had been reading a chapter in the Bible since I was 17 years old, but I didn’t know much.  But I knew that a lot of these youngsters, we probably had 15 high school kids in that class, several of them were Christians.  So, we’d get to a passage and if I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, I would ask them, the students, what do you think this means?  Somebody would always have a good answer, and went back home with my wife Kären, and we looked at the verse together, and said, you know it looks like you can know you’re going to heaven if you believe in Jesus Christ.  And it wasn’t more than a day after that that I realized that I was going to heaven.  Now I can’t tell you when, that might have happened some time before that, but that was the point at which I was cognizant that I had become a Christian.

Dr. Spencer: Well, and of course, it sounds like the church you were in … I seem to remember the last time you were here, you said something about the main requirement for being a leader of a youth group was that you had a Suburban?

Prof. Schaefer: We had a brand new bright red Chevrolet Suburban, and there were no rules about seatbelts, we could put twenty-five kids into that Suburban and take them wherever they wanted to go.

Dr. Spencer: That’s sort of a lamentable comment about the state of the church, isn’t it?

Prof. Schaefer: Well, that’s why we were chosen by the pastor, he saw the car in the parking lot.

Dr. Spencer: Alright. And so you wrote at one point, also, you said that, unlike the childhood Jesus you knew that was this infinitely tolerant person you found out that the Jesus described in the pages of the New Testament is a little less tolerant.

Prof. Schaefer: Yes, yes, yeah, he’s certainly all-loving, all-perfect, but he demands fidelity from his people.

Dr. Spencer: And holy living.

Prof. Schaefer: Yep.

Dr. Spencer: We are called to holy life. Alright, well, let’s move to something a little bit more along the lines of science here. We live at an amazing time in history, I think, anyway.  We’ve learned so much in the last 150 years, both biblical archaeology confirming many of the details of the Bible, and then in terms of science, we know so much more, about the complexity of the origin of life, and also about the origin of the universe, that I think it is simply intellectually untenable to be an atheist.  Do you agree with that?

Prof. Schaefer: Intellectually untenable…I would almost agree with that.

Dr. Spencer: Alright.

Prof. Schaefer:  I think there is good evidence for the existence of God.  I don’t think it comes to proof, certainly not mathematical proof, but I think there is very good evidence.

Dr. Spencer: Alright. What would you say is the best evidence?

Prof. Schaefer: I’d say the best evidence is the comprehensibility of the universe, why things make sense, why one can use mathematical physics to understand so many things, why the universe makes sense rather than nonsense.  I would say that’s what I would put up at the top of the list.

Dr. Spencer:  I know you’ve taught a number of times before about the history of science, and of course there is this mistaken idea out there that originated back in the 1800’s that there was warfare between science and Christianity, which is not really true.

Prof. Schaefer: Right.

Dr. Spencer: And you’ve spoken a lot about that.

Prof. Schaefer: You’ll hear a little bit about that tonight.

Dr. Spencer: Right, alright. And the origin of science coming from sort of a Christian worldview.  Why do you think that is, what do you think is the main reason that science was mostly continuously and steadily developed in a Christian society?

Prof. Schaefer: A number of reasons.  I don’t want to take too long on them because your listeners should get my book Science and Christianity because it goes through a bunch of these reasons in great detail. One can argue that science might have developed in the absence of the Christian faith of its founders, but in fact it never did.  It never did.  There were moments, certainly there were moments, in science where persons of other philosophies made progress, but they weren’t continuous. The most striking example I know is that of the famous observatory in Istanbul, the Galata Observatory.  Now this is contemporary with Tycho Brahe who had this amazing observatory in the West and discovered all sorts of things. Tycho Brahe, and you may have heard of him as the guy who had a gold nose.  He lost his nose in a duel as a youth and he had a gold nose, and of course his body was dug up many, many times by people looking for his gold nose, but I’m not even sure the gold nose was buried with him.  But anyway, he made revolutionary advances.  The Galata Observatory was completed and within just a few days it was burned, it was razed to the ground by a mob instigated by the local Muslim leader. Now something like that could happen anywhere, due to any religion. But the point is, it was another, goodness sakes, 300 years before a major observatory was constructed in the Middle East.  So there really was an inability to go forward with science.  So that’s a part of it, I would say.

Dr. Spencer: Alrighty. Well, as someone who’s thought deeply about the structure of nature and also as a Bible-believing Christian, I’m curious what you think about the origin of consciousness and volition.

Prof. Schaefer: I think the honest answer is not very much.  I mean, these are tough, tough subjects. I mean, I don’t think it makes any sense other than a belief in the sovereign God of the universe.  You know, to argue how this happened. This is complicated. We are talking chemistry. This is remarkably complicated. The idea that it just happened seems pretty improbable to me.

Dr. Spencer: How has being a Christian impacted your work as a scientist?

Prof. Schaefer: It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for science.  The idea that, which has struck me a number of times, when you find something really new, and you look at it, and you ponder it a bit, and you say, wow, so that’s how God did it.  And that’s a special feeling. That’s a very special feeling. Yeah.

Dr. Spencer:  Yeah, it’s always amazing when you get to learn more about God, isn’t it, whether it’s from the book of nature or the book of God’s word. And I think this is a good place to take a short break, so let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.  We’d love to hear from you.


[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s communicable attributes.  Dr. Spencer, we finished with God’s wisdom last time, so are we moving on to the next attribute examined by Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we are. The next attribute he examines is God’s truthfulness.[1] Which immediately brings to mind Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”[2]

Marc Roby: It also brings to mind Pilate’s famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Dr. Spencer: You had to bring that up, didn’t you?

Marc Roby: Well, it is a question that is extremely relevant in this day and age.

Dr. Spencer: I have to admit that. In a 2001 poll, Barna found that only 22% of Americans believed in absolute truth.[3] Then, in a 2016 poll, he found that only 59% of professing Christians believed that moral truth is absolute and that only 15% of people listing no religion thought so.[4] These results seem inconsistent to me, and there are others out there that vary widely too, but all of them show a very disturbing pattern that many, if not most, people in the United States reject the idea of absolute truth, at least with respect to morality. So, it is certainly well worth taking some time to discuss what truth is.

Marc Roby: I agree. So, how would you define truth?

Dr. Spencer: As with many questions there is a short answer and there is a very long answer. Let me begin with brief summary of the very long answer. But first, let me preface my comments with a disclaimer. I’m not going to try and give a detailed, exhaustive or precise presentation, I’m just going to give the general flavor of the arguments because it will lead us to an important conclusion.

Marc Roby: OK, your disclaimer is duly noted.

Dr. Spencer: The question of how we define truth is, not surprisingly, one that philosophers have spent a considerable amount of time on. There are three major theories I’d like to look at. The correspondence theory of truth, the coherence theory of truth and the pragmatic theory of truth. There is significant overlap among them as we will see, but virtually all other theories boil down to some version or combination of these three. Now, when I say that I have to add that I am simply ignoring so-called theories of truth that deny the existence of absolute truth.

Marc Roby: You mean like the idea that all truth is relative?

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. All the postmodern ideas that deny the existence of absolute truth are complete failures of human reasoning. Let me quote from The Great Ideas, which is a summary analysis of the great books of the western world. It summarizes the arguments against any view that is skeptical about the existence of real truth claims. It says that “Across the centuries the arguments against the skeptic seem to be the same. If the skeptic does not mind contradicting himself when he tries to defend the truth of the proposition that all propositions are equally true or false, he can perhaps be challenged by the fact that he does not act according to his view. If all opinions are equally true or false, then why, Aristotle asks, does not the denier of truth walk ‘into a well or over a precipice’ instead of avoiding such things.”[5]

Marc Roby: That’s a great quote. I think it is extremely important to point out that the idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth is self-contradictory and, frankly, silly.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly is. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then that statement itself is also not an absolute truth, which means that absolute truth can exist. Or, as the Great Ideas put it, if someone says that all propositions are equally true or false, then that proposition itself is also equally true or false, which negates it.

That is why I’m not going to spend any time dealing with these postmodern ideas. And it is also why I find the poll results I noted at the beginning so disturbing; our educational system has failed in a massive way if a majority, or even a large percentage, of people in this country do not believe in absolute truth. As I noted before, that is a complete failure of human reasoning, it is irrationality.

Marc Roby: Very well, let’s get back then to the correspondence, coherence and pragmatic theories that you mentioned. Can you give a brief synopsis of these three?

Dr. Spencer: Certainly. The pragmatic theory of truth simply says that whatever works is true. But that obviously begs the question of what you mean by saying that something works.

Marc Roby: It seems to me that it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to give a completely general description of what you mean by saying that something works.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. And, in fact, that idea can lead you far astray. For example, if I were to define what works by saying that a given statement is true if it gets me out of some difficult situation, then I’m in serious trouble in terms of defining truth, because a lie will often work to get me out of some difficult situation. Therefore, I would be saying that a lie is true.

Marc Roby: That is, unfortunately, true.

Dr. Spencer: Nice pun. In one sense the pragmatic theory is the least important of the three precisely because it is difficult to define what you mean by saying that something works. On the other hand, both the coherence and correspondence theories could be thought of as versions of the pragmatic theory with specific definitions for what it means for something to work. So, if I look at it that way, I could say that the pragmatic theory is the only theory of truth.

Marc Roby: OK, so what are these other two theories then?

Dr. Spencer: According the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the coherence theory says the truth of a given proposition “consists in its coherence with some specified set of propositions.”[6] Of course, that leaves us with the problem of defining this set of propositions, or statements. But, at the very least, we can certainly say that whatever set of propositions we consider to be true the statements should all be consistent, or coherent, with one other.

Now I must say that I don’t see how this theory can stand by itself. You need to say what the “specified set of propositions” is, and there is no guidance provided by this theory as to how you guarantee those propositions are true. You can imagine concocting a set of propositions that are entirely self-consistent, that is, coherent, and yet are false.

Marc Roby: In other words, that theory is missing any notion that our ideas have to, at least in some way, correspond to the physical world.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And that leads us to the correspondence theory of truth; which says that whatever corresponds to reality is true. Personally, I think that at the end of the day a good definition of truth has to have a combination of correspondence and coherence. Certainly, any statement we make that can be tested must correspond to reality to be called true, but it also seems that all of the statements you believe to be true must be consistent, in other words, they must cohere.

To give a couple of examples, if I tell you that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can easily test to see whether or not what I have said is true. But, if I tell you that murder is wrong, how do you check to see if that corresponds to reality?

Marc Roby: I don’t think there is any observation or test I could make to answer that question.

Dr. Spencer: I don’t think there is. But I am quite confident that it is true that murder is wrong. And, as a Christian, I would defend that statement by saying that God tells us it is wrong.

Marc Roby: But that statement obviously begs the question of how you can know that God exists and that he tells the truth.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. In previous sessions we have discussed the fact that the Bible claims to be the infallible word of God. And we have given a large amount of extra-biblical evidence to corroborate that claim. We have also shown in other ways that the biblical worldview is coherent and corresponds to reality. In fact, I would say that the biblical worldview is the only worldview that is completely consistent and in accord with reality. But let’s put off that discussion for another time.

Marc Roby: That sounds reasonable, we could obviously spend far more time than we want to right now discussing that.

Dr. Spencer: We certainly could. The study of how we know what we know and how we can determine if our beliefs are rationally justified is called epistemology. It is a very important field and we will get into it in more detail in a later session. But the question Pilate asked, “What is truth?” is often used to avoid a meaningful discussion. In fact, in one sense the question is a waste of time.

Marc Roby: Now hold on a minute, you just offended the philosophers in our audience. How can you make such a statement?

Dr. Spencer: I first said that such inquiries are very important, so hopefully the philosophers will forgive me. But when I said that the question is, in one sense, a waste of time, what I meant is very easily illustrated.

Suppose someone throws a rock through my living-room window and I run outside and find a five-year-old boy in the front yard playing with rocks. If I ask him, “Did you throw the rock that just came through my window?” Do you think he knows the difference between telling me the truth or a lie?

Marc Roby: Well, any normal five-year-old certainly would.

Dr. Spencer: And that is precisely my point. On a very practical day-to-day level we all understand what truth is. It is that which corresponds to reality. If he had, in fact, thrown the rock that went through my window he and I both understand it would be a lie for him to say he had not done so. And we also both know that he would be telling the truth if he admitted that he had done so. Now, we must grant that it can be far more difficult to deal with the meaning of truth when we get to some other topics, but most of the time it is obvious.

Marc Roby: I see your point. And so I assume this is also the short answer to the question that you noted at the start; that the truth is that which corresponds to reality.

Dr. Spencer: That is the short answer, yes.

Marc Roby: Have you said all that you want to for now in response to the question, “What is truth?”

Dr. Spencer: Not quite. There is an incredibly important related point to discuss here, and that is the subject of worldview. I used that word a minute ago without definition because most people have a reasonable idea of what it means, but I think Phil Johnson, who is a retired law professor from UC Berkeley, gives a wonderful definition. In his forward to Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth he wrote that “Understanding worldview is a bit like trying to see the lens of one’s own eye. We do not ordinarily see our own worldview, but we see everything else by looking through it. Put simply, our worldview is the window by which we view the world, and decide, often subconsciously, what is real and important, or unreal and unimportant.”[7]

Marc Roby: That is a great definition, and it explains why our worldview is so important, it affects everything we think.

Dr. Spencer: And because our worldview has such a pervasive influence on what we believe to be true, it is an important thing to examine. We should ask ourselves whether or not our worldview itself is true! Phil Johnson said it is a bit like the lens of our eye, and we know that if the lens is bad, our vision will be bad. We will not see things correctly.

Marc Roby: It seems as though our worldview is something which is formed mostly unconsciously though, so how could we examine it?

Dr. Spencer: We can test whether or not some of the fundamental tenets of our worldview are true or not.

Marc Roby: And so, we get back to the definition of truth.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we do.

Marc Roby: Can you give me an example of how we can test our worldview?

Dr. Spencer: I’d love to. Suppose, for example, that I am convinced that there is no God. In other words, my worldview is an atheistic worldview, matter and energy and the laws of physics are all that exist. If that worldview is true, then there are certain conclusions that simply must be true.

Marc Roby: Such as?

Dr. Spencer: Such as the conclusion that there cannot be any such thing as a moral absolute.

Marc Roby: Why do you say that?

Dr. Spencer: Because the laws of physics certainly do not contain any moral commands, they simply specify how matter and energy can interact. Moral laws require authority. If you tell me that I’m not allowed to take my neighbor’s car for example, I can ask, “Who says I can’t take my neighbor’s car?”

Marc Roby: I assume that your neighbor, for one, wouldn’t like it very much.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure that’s true, but suppose I’m much stronger than my neighbor and I take it anyway. Who is to say that is wrong? Obviously, our society has laws that say it is wrong, but why should I obey those laws?

Marc Roby: Well, because you’ll end up in jail if you don’t.

Dr. Spencer: And that makes my point nicely. The ultimate test of a moral law is whether or not someone has authority to enforce it. So, ultimately, without authority, there is no moral law. But, without God, the only authority that exists is raw human power. Either the power of an individual, or the power of some group.

Crudely speaking, our government is founded on the principle that the majority should decide the laws. So, the authority of the government is actually the authority of the majority, which is based, ultimately, on the power of the majority. But there is no moral law that says majority rule is right and a dictatorship is wrong for example. So, if I am an atheist, I cannot say that a dictatorship is immoral. I can say that I don’t like it, but I cannot be logically consistent and say that it is morally wrong. And now, let me take this argument to the final step. If I am an atheist, I am being logically inconsistent, in other words irrational, if I claim that what Hitler did in the holocaust was morally wrong.

Marc Roby: I’m sure that statement will raise a few hackles.

Dr. Spencer: I hope it does, because my point is to try and shock people into thinking carefully. If you don’t believe in God, you cannot rationally believe in moral absolutes. The conclusion is that morality is defined by whoever has the power to enforce the rules.

Marc Roby: In other words, might does make right.

Dr. Spencer: If you’re going to be a logically consistent atheist, yes, you have to say that. You can certainly say that you don’t like what Hitler did, and you think it was wrong and, by the way, I would certainly agree with you. But, if there were no God, Hitler, if he were still around to answer for himself, could simply say, “Who are you to tell me what is right or wrong?”

Marc Roby: Of course, World War II sort of answered that question. The ones who were telling Hitler what he was doing was wrong were the ones who defeated his armies and removed him from power.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. In other words, it is another example of might makes right in a human sense. But Hitler died and then he faced the only perfect judge of all men and received his final, eternal judgment.

Marc Roby: That is a sobering thought. You said at the beginning that discussing the meaning of truth would lead us to an important conclusion. Can you state that conclusion now?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, I can. The important conclusion is that at the end of the day truth really does depend on power because it depends on authority. The word authority comes, of course, from the word author, which means the person who creates something. We give the word authority a broader meaning based on power. For example, one dictionary I looked in says that authority is the power to give orders or make decisions. But, the greatest authority comes from being the one who creates something. If I author a book, I can make it say whatever I want it to say. And God is the author of the universe. He created it to be exactly the way he wanted it to be. And he sustains it and governs it to continue to be exactly the way he wants it to be. So, he has ultimate authority and, in a very real sense, he is truth. Whatever God thinks is true, is true because he has the power to make it be true.

Marc Roby: And so we get right back to John 14:6, which you quoted at the beginning, Jesus saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. Truth, in the ultimate sense, is not a property of a statement, it is a person. It is God.

Marc Roby: That seems like a great place to end, so let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions or comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 195

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] See http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_poll5.htm

[4] See https://www.barna.com/research/the-end-of-absolutes-americas-new-moral-code/

[5] The Great Ideas, A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, Vol. II, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, pg. 915

[6] See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-coherence/

[7] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth; Liberating Christianity form its Cultural Captivity, Crossway Books, 2004, pg. 11


[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s communicable attributes.  Dr. Spencer, we were discussing God’s wisdom last time, what else would you like to say about it?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin today by reading a quote from Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. He has a wonderful statement in his section on the wisdom of God.

Marc Roby: Please proceed.

Dr. Spencer: Hodge wrote, “As there is abundant evidence of design in the works of nature, so all the works of God declare his wisdom. They show, from the most minute to the greatest, the most wonderful adaptation of means to accomplish the high end of the good of his creatures and the manifestation of his own glory. So also, in the whole course of history, we see evidence of the controlling power of God making all things work together for the best interests of his people, and the promotion of his kingdom upon earth. It is, however, in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.”[1]

Marc Roby: That is a great statement. And it points out clearly that it is the creation of the Church of Christ, God’s holy people, that is the pinnacle of God’s creative acts.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s right. This world will one day be destroyed and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, all of those who have not surrendered to Christ will be sent to eternal hell to make God’s perfect justice manifest, and all of those who have surrendered all to Christ will spend eternity with God in heaven. And all of this is for God’s glory.

Paul tells us this in Philippians 2:9-11, where we read about God exalting Jesus Christ because of his obedience in carrying out the work of redemption. Paul wrote, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [2]

Marc Roby: That does clearly show that God’s ultimate purpose for creation is his own glory.

Dr. Spencer: And the tremendous wisdom displayed by God in his ultimate goal and the means he is using to accomplish that goal should cause us to break into praise with the apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Marc Roby: That is such a wonderful passage. We cannot know the mind of God completely, but he has revealed enough that we can stand in awe of his great wisdom and power. Even the great apostle Paul, who had such a deep understanding given to him as he wrote that magnificent letter to the church in Rome, even he is reduced to simple worship as he meditated on these things.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we should all be brought to a place of great worship as we consider God’s attributes. But I want to return to the statement by Hodge. He said that all of creation accomplishes, “the high end of the good of his creatures and the manifestation of his own glory.” So, he has added something here that is very important, especially to us! God’s ultimate purpose in creation is his own glory, but in making his glory manifest he simultaneously does that which is good for his creatures.

Marc Roby: Which includes you, me and all of our listeners.

Dr. Spencer: And all of the angels too. Notice that if the purpose of God’s creation is to make his glory manifest, we must ask, to whom is it made manifest? God knows himself perfectly, so it can’t be that he will somehow see his own glory more clearly. I think it would be biblical to say that God’s purpose in creation is the joy he derives from making creatures who are capable of having fellowship with him and then making his glory manifest to those creatures.

Marc Roby: Now, how would you back that statement up biblically?

Dr. Spencer: Well, first, remember that Hodge said, at the end of his statement about God’s wisdom, that it is “in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” Therefore, my first point in support of my contention is that the church is God’s treasure, it is what he delights in.

In the Old Testament we are told six times that God’s people are his “treasured possession”. For example, in Exodus 19:4-6 we read that when Moses went up onto Mount Sinai and spoke with God, God told him to say the people, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Marc Roby: That’s hard to fathom; that we could be God’s treasured possession. And in the New Testament the apostle Peter quoted from this verse. In 1 Peter 2:9 he writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s wonderful. The church consists of all born-again believers. In the Old Testament it is usually referred to as being synonymous with the nation of Israel, but the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”

Marc Roby: By which, of course, Paul means that not all people who are physically descended from Jacob, who was renamed Israel, are part of the true people called Israel.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly what he means. Paul goes on to write, in Verses 7 and 8, “Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

Marc Roby: That passage could again use some explanation.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. Paul is distinguishing between two groups of people among Abraham’s descendants. Those whom God has chosen to save, who are called “children of the promise”, and those whom God has chosen to pass over and treat with justice, who are called “the natural children”.

Marc Roby: You know, that shows how silly some modern ecumenical movements are when they speak about the children of Abraham, or the Abrahamic religions, and act as if we all worship the same God.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s right. But getting back to the point I was making, we must remember that when God promised Abraham and Sarah they would have an heir it didn’t happen for a long time. During that time, Sarah became impatient as she got well past the age of child bearing, so she determined to solve the problem herself.

Marc Roby: That’s usually not a good idea. When we stop trusting God and take matters into our own hands we usually mess things up.

Dr. Spencer: And she did mess things up quite badly. As was the custom at the time, she gave her young handmaiden Hagar to Abraham and he had a son with her, who was named Ishmael. But this was not God’s plan. And so, years later, God came and told Abraham he would have a son through Sarah, even though they were both past the age where people can normally have children, and God’s promise miraculously came true. Sarah conceived and bore Isaac. Paul wrote in Galatians 4:23 that Abraham’s “son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” And then in Verse 28 of that chapter he wrote, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

Marc Roby: Which establishes that salvation is not based on physical descent from Abraham or anyone else, it is based on God’s divine promise and his electing love.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it certainly is. And this group of people, the children of promise, having been chosen by God, are called his treasured possession. We are told in Psalm 149:4 that “the LORD takes delight in his people”. And, then again, in Zephaniah 3 the prophet tells the people about the salvation that God will ultimately bring about and in Verse 17 he says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Marc Roby: That is almost impossible to imagine. God will delight in us? He will rejoice over us with singing?

Dr. Spencer: It is almost beyond belief. If God’s word didn’t tell it to us, I don’t think anyone could have expected so much. But in this life, we still sin and grieve the Holy Spirit and make God angry, so he disciplines us as a father disciplines a child we are told in Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:10. God is in the business of making us holy so that we can come into his presence. We are told in Hebrews 12:14 that “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the apostle Paul addresses his letter, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy”. Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1:4 that God chose us in Christ “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” But, we are not holy yet.

Marc Roby: I think that is abundantly obvious.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly is. And the process of making us holy began with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins. We are told in Hebrews 13:12 that Jesus “suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” And in Hebrews 12:2 we are told, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That is an amazing statement. Jesus went to the cross and endured the wrath of God on our behalf “for the joy set before him.”

Marc Roby: That joy must be something really wonderful.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly must be. In John 15:9-11 we read that Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Look at that last statement; Christ’s joy will be in us, we will have the same joy that he has.

Marc Roby: That is amazing. But that passage also equates obedience with love, which is not something most modern Churches would say.

Dr. Spencer: Churches might not say it, but Jesus did! And notice that joy comes from obedience, which comes from love. Getting back to Hebrews 12:2, when it said that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, we should ask, “What is that joy?”

In his commentary on this passage, Pastor P.G. Mathew points out that this joy that was set before him had two aspects.[3]  One was the joy of pleasing the Father, which was a joy that he had throughout his life, even, I’m sure, on the cross. In other words, it was the joy that comes from obedience. And the other aspect was the coming joy of being restored to fellowship with the Father when his work was completed. But given what we read earlier, that God will delight in us and rejoice over us with singing, I think it is fair to add that this second aspect of Christ’s joy is fellowship with the Father and with his treasured possession, which is the church, it is us.

Marc Roby: Alright. You have been providing biblical support for the statement you made a few minutes ago, that “God’s purpose in creation is the joy he derives from making creatures who are capable of having fellowship with him and then making his glory manifest to those creatures.” You first showed that the church, in other words God’s chosen people, are his treasured possession. And you showed that God will delight in his people and derive joy from fellowship with them in heaven.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And let me tie it back in with the statement made by Hodge. With regard to God’s attribute of wisdom he wrote that “It is, however, in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” The work of redemption is God’s working in this world to create his church.

Marc Roby: So, we could reword Hodge’s statement a bit and say that God’s divine wisdom is most especially revealed in his work of creating the church.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s a fair statement. And it is interesting to also note that no matter how long it is until Christ’s second coming, it will be a finite time. But the church, which consists of all of those people God has redeemed out of the world, will spend eternity in God’s presence in heaven, which is literally infinitely longer than however long this universe lasts. So, we can say that the whole purpose of this present universe and of all human history is simply to serve as the backdrop if you will to God’s work of creating the true church. This present world bears the same relationship to eternity that a caterpillar does to a butterfly.

Marc Roby: That’s incredible to think about and certainly is an amazing display of God’s wisdom.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. And notice that Hodge said that by the Church, “God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.” And Hodge was right, the angels and demons are watching now and stand amazed at what God is doing. We are told in 1 Peter 1:12 that “Even angels long to look into these things.”

And the Old Testament tells us that the nations and the kings of the earth will see this great work. In Isaiah 62:1-4 the prophet declares, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

Marc Roby: A truly incredible prophecy. We will be a “crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand”. I can’t wait for that day. And Isaiah’s words remind me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:10-11 Paul wrote that God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great passage to make the same point. The church is the ultimate expression of the wisdom of God.

Marc Roby: Do you have anything more to say about God’s wisdom?

Dr. Spencer: I want to close by pointing out that it is radically different from what this world considers wisdom. People are often offended by the gospel message. It disturbs them greatly that God would be wrathful against sin and that he would require a blood sacrifice to pay for it. But we must remember what the apostle Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 1:21-25, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Marc Roby: That is a humbling conclusion to the topic. But before we sign off, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We’d love to hear from you.

[1] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. 1, pg. 401

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] P.G. Mathew, Muscular Christianity, Grace and Glory Ministries, 2010, pg. 346