Apologetics Cosmological Teleological

Teleology from Psalm 19

Recently, we took a look at the Psalms, Psalm 19 in particular, as resources for Apologetics. In fact I believe I led with the statement that one can easily obtain apologetics from the Psalms.

Psalm 19 begins with one of the great apologetic statements in the Bible…

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1, ESV)

It’s easy to see how this is the premise of the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. That was quickly covered last time.

I also made the claim that verses like v.3 & 4 made it clear that the knowledge of God revealed through his handiwork was inescapable or transcendent. Exclusive words like “no speech” and “whose voice is not heard” leave the reader with no choice but to believe the author is making the claim of transcendence. All people in all places at all times know about God by his handiwork, especially in the Heavens.

But wait! There’s more.

Psalm 19 makes another claim as David worships God in song. It’s one that escapes you if you’re not looking for it.

As David describes God in relation to his General Revelation, what he has done to reveal himself in Creation, he almost inadvertently makes the Teleological Argument or Argument from Design. At the end of v. 4 through v. 6, David poetically describes God’s creation of the Sun and its subordination to God.

This idea of God as the Sun’s creator and the sun as subordinate to God was especially important at that time. The Sun was worshiped and treated as a god by several cultures in David’s time. David made it clear to God’s people in v. 4-6 that sun worship was false worship.

The poetic description of the sun as a groom was intended to undermine a false belief in the sun’s divinity. In the ancient world the sun god, who was also the god of law (later worshiped in Israel, 2 Kg 23:11), was described in a similar way. The psalm, however, places the sun in a subordinate position within God’s creation, as does the Gn account of creation (see Gn 1:14–19, where the heavenly lights appear only on the fourth day). The sun is not a divinity; instead, with its energy it dominates the skies as a testimony to its Creator.[1]

But that’s not all.

David describes the sun as being set in a tent (by God) and running it’s course, rising from the end of the heavens, following its circuit to the end, (SO THAT) nothing is hidden from its heat.

Let me explain why I added “SO THAT” and why I think it can be faithfully drawn from the text.

First of all, when David writes that the sun rises from the end of the heavens and follows its circuit to the end of them, it’s obvious that what he is communicating is the fact that the Sun rises from one end of the horizon, appears to follow a course across the sky, and then sets on the other end of the horizon.

David is not trying to explain the Earth’s orbit around the Sun in scientific detail, he is merely describing the path of the Sun from man’s perspective. The orbit of the Earth is not what is in view here.

What is in view is the inescapability of anything on the Earth from the heat of the Sun. David communicates this when he writes, “nothing is hidden from its heat”.

Plainly, the fact that the Sun effects everything is obvious to the reader and the reason for that is the path of the Sun described by David is all inclusive. That could be said to be incidental. But it’s not.

If the words of Scripture are in fact inspired, infallible, and inerrant, then they must be accurate. They don’t have to be scientific, but they can’t be wrong. So, when David writes down a description of the path of the Sun as it relates to the Earth and he does so under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, it is not necessary for him to include every detail as it would be in a Scientific text book. The Bible is not a science book.

But, what he describes must be accurate to a degree. The Bible is allowed to use grammatical tools like hyperbole, etc., but it may not err in what it says as understood in its genre.

Let me put it this way. David is allowed to make general statements about the Sun and its relation to the Earth from his perspective using poetry as a grammatical device never intending to relay specific scientific data to the reader. He is not allowed to make false statements though in the sense that he cannot say that the Sun doesn’t heat the Earth or that there are parts of the Earth that are not affected by the Sun. Those would be false statements and would have to be considered to be error.

That being said, David must be using a kind of poetic syllogism when he says that a) the Sun begins on one end of the horizon and follows its course or circuit, b) the Sun ends is course on the other covering the entire horizon, and concluding that nothing is hidden from its heat.

He begins by praising God for setting the Sun in its tent.

            In them he has set a tent for lthe sun[2]

It’s interesting that David uses this language. One meaning for the word “tent’ can be habitation.

(2) a house, or habitation of any kind;[3]

That’s important. It seems that David is saying that God has set the boundaries for the sun when he uses the word tent. He has set the Sun in its “habitation”. He has given it boundaries and set its course.

David does more than imply that the Sun has been fixed on a course or set on a circuit. In other words, God has given it a limited and specific path.

Now, from this I don’t believe it would be unfair to say that because God fixed the boundaries of the Sun and directed it on its path, it is not an accident that all things are exposed to its heat. God, being omniscient would know that. God being sovereign, would’ve ordained that. So, a purpose of God’s in setting the Sun in its boundaries and fixing its course would’ve been to expose everything on Earth to the heat of the Sun.

That introduces teleology. That’s design.

Those are a lot of words to show something that is otherwise pretty obvious. This Psalm is an example of several that are great resources for apologetics, including the Teleological Argument.

God’s law, or his Specific Revelation is the focus of the rest of Psalm 19 and maybe we can hit on that soon. But for apologists, it’s easy to see how time memorizing and studying the Psalms can be a great benefit.

 

 

 

 

[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 805). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

l [Eccles. 1:5]

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ps 19:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (p. 17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Donnie
I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice
http://www.southernbyhisgrace.com

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