Nature of Reality,Will the Real YHWH Please Step Forward 6) Who is YHWH?
Can you read this? I can't
YHWH is the transliteration of the tetragrammaton
YHWH is the transliteration of the tetragrammaton in Hebrew of the words used by God of himself to Moses on Mount Sinai. Again, I am using this word to be specific about who I am discussing because we seem to think we cam make up whatever we want to about him.
But he is an objective person who is a certain way and not another. The Hebrews received his initial revelations through prophets, and for us to know anything about him, he is the kind of being that must tell us what he is like. We can't just guess, or speculate as they did in Athens. Until Jesus, we could not make observations about him, and even then our observations could not tell the whole story.
The Bible claims to the Word of YHWH to man. Knowledge revealed through specific people from a transcendent God (YHWH) who created the universe, and is therefore outside of that universe and superior to it, therefore not subject to any normal “scientific” test we could independently perform, through people he spoke to in time and history.
(Natural sciences need things that can be repeated over and over again, it is the testing of the normal way things run in the physical universe, not things that happen once or interruptions of the norm.)
I used the term “independently” of tests we could perform because there are independent tests as well as dependent tests. Some things that are spoken I can test to see if they are true or false. Does Egypt exist? Yes it does, I went there and saw it.
Some things spoken of in the Bible we cannot test. If I am told the streets of heaven are made of gold, I can’t go there to see if it is true. (The Bible does not make this claim, it claims this is so of the New Earth, man’s final destination of your relationship to YHWH is restored, what I call, Extreme Makeover, Earth Edition, if the text is true, but this is likely a metaphor.)
That these things are the claim of the Bible cannot be denied, unless of course you are ignorant of what it states quite clearly.
The Bible claims YHWH created the world as we know it sometime in the past. Some thousands of years later he told Noah to build an ark because in the future there would be a worldwide flood.
Thousands of years later, according to the text, about 2100BC he confused the language of peoples at Babel, in modern day Iraq.
Later he sent Abram to Egypt. Later still he made covenants with Abram, and then gave him a new name, Abraham. Hundreds of years later he talked to Moses and told him to return to Egypt to get his people out.
He then acts repeatedly at different times over the next weeks or months to get his people out of Egypt, and accompanies them toward the land he had promised Israel (the person of that name).
This is an entirely different subject but, for now, let’s assume at least for those who believe in YHWH that the Bible is true, and that it correctly represents itself and YHWH. This is YHWH revealing himself, who he is, how he thinks, and how he acts.
I will repeat this, however, for this particular God it is important to understand that there is only one way for humans to know him. He needs to reveal himself to us.
Throughout this writing I am using YHWH to distinguish the God of the Bible from other ideas about gods. Understand that the term “god” or the Hebrew term eloheim, or Arabic allah are all generic words that can be used for any superior being whether fake or real exactly as we use “god” or “gods” in English. It is the context that makes it more specific.
YHWH is specific, as are other Bible terms, but here I am using this only to clarify who I am talking about.
So YHWH is someone specific, a person or personality (not a human person, at least not until the incarnation of the second member of the Trinity, Jesus), God that transcends the universe, and so to know anything about him we are dependent on him to reveal himself to us.
That is what is described in the Bible, and that is what the Evangelicals, have killed. Let me show you how the crime was committed.
“But” said he, “we live in a scientific world, so we must exclude the idea of revelation from a supernatural being since they simply don’t exist, and so cannot reveal anything.”
Said I, “So, if you directly observed an event, with five hundred others, an event you could not explain by natural laws, what would you call it?”
Said he, “It does not matter as long as it is not called a miracle.”
Said I, “your presuppositions prevent you from recognizing that the only reasonable answer might be one of supernatural origin. It seems then that your “science” is rather limited by your own assumptions.”
First allow me to say that if your a priori (before seeing the evidence) preconceived notion is that there is nothing other than nature you ought to stop communicating because that in itself is a metaphysical event which is mediated through human physicality, so, obviously there is the metaphysical, as our communication proves.
Second there are tens of thousands of near death experiences (“NDE”) repeatedly proving there is life after death. How do you prove an NDE is real as opposed to merely making up an excuse for why these people think that saw something which they actually did not? (In other words, force on it a naturalistic explanation against the observation?)
Many thousands of people experience NDEs every year and about 10% of the people who do experience a NDE return with independently verifiable data that they had no way of knowing otherwise than for their conscience, or mind, or spirit to have traveled about while the body was clinically dead.
So this is a valid way to study whether there is life after death. It keeps repeating itself.
Do you get this point? This group of people had experiences while their body was dead that could be verified when they revived, and these experiences were about the real world (sometimes about the afterlife itself) not a dream about something, fairies, or flying like Superman, but independently verifiable information which they did not know before they died.
Sometimes it is historical information such as meeting a dead relative who gives them verifiable information.
By “independently verifiable” I mean things other humans can check out to see if they are true or false. Some detail of reality that someone else verifies. A conversation between living people, or something specific in a room they had not been in before, and so forth.
Falsifiable data is a hallmark of modern science. (Ask a cosmologist how their claims of billions of earth like planets exist and there are also billion of universes like ours can be falsified. They cannot, but then, there is little evidence for the planets and no evidence for the multiverse. This is science? No, it is not.) Here, with NDEs we have falsifiable data, and there are thousands of these to verify or validate.
This is not to say everyone who nearly dies has a real experience, there are plenty of cases where dreams, good or bad happen and they are only dreams, there are cases where the person has no experience.
We are not concerned here with those, only those with independently verifiable data. Clearly something metaphysical is involved, clearly the mind or spirit, whatever you wish to call it, survives the death of the body.
Third, how can natural sciences, who deal only with recurring events which can be measured have anything at all to say about an event that only happens once?
This is rhetorical, allow me to make a positive statement.
Modern naturalistic science has nothing whatsoever to say about events that happen only once. (Before you go off on that, the Big Bang, or whatever origin of the universe model you choose to believe happened only once and is not scientifically verifiable.)
I could go on for volumes, but I digress.
So, there are metaphysical things, the next question is, what kind of metaphysical things are there?
If there is a God such as the Bible claims YHWH is, then we much only be able to know him by him revealing himself to us. We do not have the capability to go find him nor can we simply guess what he is like. Lastly, we cannot make up principals we like and then assume he must be like those principles suggest.
The Bible claims then that there is a God, that that God created, and then revealed himself to us. He did this directly, if we are to believe the text of Genesis when he walked and talked with the first humans, Adam and Eve, then withdrew slowly as man corrupted himself. Slowly he reengaged man through prophets, in this case using that word to mean people he directly spoke with. Let’s reveal what he showed of himself.
What Was Revealed?
If YHWH is real and who he says he is, then this is what we know of him from his revelation to us:
The first chapter of the Bible starts with:
[Gen 1:1-5 NIV] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.
This not only tells us something directly, it also implies something by logical necessity. These things are:
1) YHWH made something. To make something you must exist, and you cannot make yourself because you must exist in order to make something. Ergo, he created something other than himself.
2) He created something, but contrary to what is often said, the text itself does not imply ex nehilo (from nothing) creation. To continue in Latin phraseology, ex nihilo nihil fit, from nothing comes nothing. More on that in a different book perhaps, but if you believe in invisible mass (aether or dark matter/dark energy), then I think he might have started with that, which nothing whatsoever in the Bible contradicts. Prove me wrong, but both are speculations on the text, not revealed knowledge.
3) He created the heavens and earth. Again, not to be pedantic but it does not say he crated space-time here, the word simply refers to the heavens as we would use it, say, in 1950, the sky, and space above that. The words might have meant he reworked the earth and sky to make life possible, we really can’t say. We are not told how much of that was then created, it doesn’t specify. Every person who says more than this is reading what they want into the text, in other words it is pretext, of proof texting. Until Hubble, we defined outer space as the galaxy we are in. (I would have said the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is so redundant since “galaxy” means “milky way”.) You can believe that it is all of the physical universe if you like, but it did not come directly from the Bible, you are inducing that idea from the single Hebrew word shamayim, ‘heavens.’ You are extending the text, but so would I be if I said it was just remaking the earth to make it fit for life. Do you see how it starts? (BTW, If you did pin me down I would say it was the whole shooting match, and, not so long ago.) Adding things to the text does not clarify the text, it extends the text and no expert is good enough to know whether this extension is valid or not. Please be aware of what you know and what you don’t know.
For the purposes of this chapter, the first point is the important one. This is the claim the Bible makes in the first three words, YHWH made the earth and heavens at that specific point in time.
To the YHWHists (those who believe in YHWH, and this is a very old word) the only way to get information about the God who created, who, according to the text that lays the very foundation of the Bible, he transcends the universe, and (not from the text but from experience) we cannot go to him to examine and observe him, he must reveal himself to us for us to learn anything. The text says YHWH made something different than himself. You are not free to rearrange that or to take what you want and ignore the logical implications of it.
Frankly, neither are you free to speculate and then give your speculations the same weight or value as the scriptures (apologies to the Popes, and all the people who believe they hear from God directly, don’t check your brain at the door.
These two errors are the flip side of the same coin, one subtracts from the text, the reverse of the coin adds to the text, a merely converse process of altering the text.
Don’t alter the text. Don’t say what it doesn’t say.
This is a somewhat meaningless string of tautologies, but the Bible says what it says. It is what it is. It does not say what it does not say.
So where does this leave man? How can we know or understand this YHWH seeing he is outside of the universe? Both transcendent and personal, active, and creative.
The answer is clear: You can only understand him from what he tells us, or otherwise reveals to us of himself, or from observations we could make when and if and when he came/comes to earth.
Yes, I would insist that the Intelligent Design people are revealing information about his skills just as when an engineer reverse engineers something learns something about the skills of the original engineer, but not personal things.
We will call these two methods (God speaking to Prophets, God revealing himself as Jesus) together, “revelation.”
My wife and I were at the theater. The play was a take on a fairytale. The witch was an old hag who suddenly removed her wig and threw off her outer garments to reveal the beautiful actress underneath. It was well done and a truly stunning revelation on stage.
The word “revelation” means to uncover or reveal something. So appearing to someone is a form of revelation.
I can either make up things, or take them from some revelation. Under the pain of idiocy don’t confuse the two. Which would you think would be more accurate?
Only revelation with correct logical implications will be accurate, not speculation, guessing, or mistaking thoughts for communication from God.
Let’s make a science (a body of knowledge) of information about God or gods and call it “god-logic” or “god-study,” or we could use the Greek word, “theology,” the science or body of knowledge about god(s). So, if I want to know about YHWH, how do I do so? Where, what is/are valid sources of information?
If, and only if he has revealed himself to someone in some manner can I know this type, this kind, this specie of god (small “g” here because I could describe false gods with similar characteristics where you could only get information from revelation, but you will be waiting, like the SETI people, for a very long time).
If I don’t particularly care if it is correct or not then I can speculate just as I did with my car and make up whatever I want to. But we must understand the difference between information given to us from an authoritative source and ideas that present themselves in my imagination or to my reasoning ability, or someone else’s.
If YHWH is real and the God presented in the Bible, then the only good or true source of information humans can have is from YHWH revealing himself to us.
These two sources, revelation and imagination are not the same nor do they carry the same weight in the discussion.
Guessing what a transcendent being is like is foolishness to the highest degree. You are mistaking your ideas for revelation. This is no more effective than guessing what the President is having for dinner tonight.
It seems though that there are hundreds of personality characteristics and descriptions and so guessing what YHWH is like without revelation is very much like throwing darts at a board to pick the characteristics.
Or, perhaps we could get some really smart people to sit around and speculate about what he is like, but not include anyone who claims to have actually seen or talked with him. Here we want pure speculation.
Since they are really smart they may start with certain assumptions, or preconceived ideas then make up principles that sound good, and then describe what god would be like if those were true.
This is called having normative presuppositions, it is a form of ‘a priori’ thinking, that is, thinking about something before seeing the evidence.
Ask yourself, would that be a valid method of determining what someone is like that cannot be seen or heard or studied by humans?
I will take a stab at it and assume you agree, the only way to understand a God like YHWH is for him to reveal himself, and that is the only valid source of information you can have.
God made man to understand beauty. Enjoy!Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Transcendent God
How do you get information about a God that is not a part of the physical universe?
Peter Kreft said it well, but fails to follow his own advice (as a deeply committed catholic he also believes the Pope and forefathers have the same weight as the Word of God). Let me paraphrase because I can remember exactly but it goes much like this:
If I want information about a rock I can go to the rock, pick it up and study it. I can get all the basic information I needs about the current state of the rock by doing so. I can weight it, test to see how hard it is, crush it, analyze it using all available methods.
If I want information about a dog, I can dissect the dog to figure out it’s physiology and chemistry, but now we also have behaviors to study, and so I need to observe the dog or many dogs in many different situations, and then I need to interact with it to see if it can learn, if it is cooperative, and so forth. There are aspects of psychology we need the dog’s cooperation to study and understand.
When we want to know about humans this issue is significantly intensified, and complicated. We must interact with them to know them. We can also do the previously mentioned physical studies on a corpse, and medical studies. We can alter their physical appearance significantly. We can make boys look like girls for instance.
But when I turn to God, the God of the Abraham, a transcendent being (not part of the physical universe), I have no ability to go study him at all and in any manner whatsoever (my emphasis here), and so I am fully dependent on him to reveal himself to me. (Jesus was a revelation also, so observing him is also gathering information from him.)
Professor Kreft was spot on in this analysis of the problem.
One More Attempt
Please forgive me for bringing up yet another method, but, what if we actually mixed the two methods above? What if we did both, that is mixed the revealed information with speculation? Would that be a valid thing to do to determine what YHWH was like?
Well, evangelicals have a habit of accusing the Roman Catholic Church of syncretizing their beliefs with different beliefs around the world and so making admixtures of beliefs, and conservative theologians don’t like it one bit.
For instance, in Haiti we have Catholicism with Voodoo mixed in, and so many criticize that admixture and say this is not valid, it isn’t pure, it isn’t the way to operate. (I am actually making a different point here.)
This happens to some degree worldwide. So what are we to do with that particular form of Catholicism after it has been mixed? Can the admixture be partly correct? I mean, perhaps the native religion had some useful things to say about YHWH that were not from the Bible, maybe there are outside sources of information?
(To be fair, this happens in many religions, not just Catholicism.)
Evangelicals and many other denominations repudiate this idea of taking this admixture and worshiping from that base. They would insist that we return to the Bible and use it exclusively.
In fact there is one statement that came out of the Reformation that is almost with the entire movement itself, “Sola Scriptura” meaning, of course, “only the scriptures” are a valid way of determining the absolute truths about God.
This was put into place to filter out all those other admixtures ostensibly leaving only the Bible as the source of information about YHWH.
But the evangelicals do this also, but it was already in the Catholic church went they broke away, they carried it out and kept it, the teachings of Augustine, Aquinas, and other Greek speculative philosophers that had already been syncretized. It was actually syncretization with Rome itself, the Greco-Roman culture that Rome had adapted for hundreds of years, and the church at all levels would pay for this error.
So we turn to the book itself to see what YHWH is like, does this make sense to you?
Remember, this isn’t Berger King, you can’t have it your way.
So, what does The Book (Latin: “Bible”) actually tell us about YHWH?
© 2015 Ronald A Newcomb