Lift Up Your Eyes for Perspective and Purpose

Though God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, God invites us into his perspective and purpose.

We live “under the sun”, as the writer of Ecclesiastes describes our existence, filled with existential angst.  We live year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, and moment by moment. The inertia of our lives is focused on the here and now, with our dying always looming in the near distance like a great mountain range rising up to the clouds we cannot conquer.

Our perspective is limited. It is finite. We stand at any given time on a small planet in a small solar system in one of billions of galaxies that exist in a universe. We stand “under the sun”, and our perspective, therefore, limited.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:9)

That verse from Isaiah is a way of saying that God has a different perspective than we do. God has a purpose, and he invites us to consider the difference between His perspective and ours. He desires for us to seek to understand His perspective and to align with His purpose.

When Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, I believe he was encouraging us, at least in part, to understand and to adopt his perspective and his purpose. Our momentary lives include existential angst, dread, suffering and pain, but God has a purpose and a plan for us that is greater than what we see and experience under the sun, and it is liberating!

I see three concrete examples in scripture of the difference between God’s perspective and purpose and ours. (I am sure there are many more.) As God invites us to consider that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, I think it is appropriate to consider and meditate on these three examples.

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What Does It Mean that the Word of God Was Inspired by God and Received and Passed on By Men?

The Bible, itself, doesn’t claim to be one hundred percent, word for word, accurate (or even inerrant). The closest we get to a statement like that is that it is “God-breathed” (inspired), and that the people who were “inspired” by God received that inspiration and passed it on.

The written word of God was so important to the Jewish culture that scribes were a distinguished, respected and critical role in Jewish society. The importance of the painstaking process and precision with which they copied Torah, the Prophets and Writings was embedded into the foundation of Jewish culture going back to Moses.

Moses produced the Ten Commandments etched in stone. Those stone tablets were carefully placed into the Ark of the Covenant, carried with the nation of Israel as they traveled through the desert, and kept with ritual detail in the most sacred place in the Tent of Meeting wherever they came to rest.

Scribes who carefully and painstakingly copied Scripture were still honored at the top of Hebrew culture in the First Century when Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus, was trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees under Gamliel, the most respected scholar of his day.

For that reason, I find it interesting, to say the least, the way Paul described the process by which the word of God was given by God to the people. He would have been intimately acquainted with the disciplined, careful and thorough way a scribe would copy Scripture. Yet Paul says,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

God-breathed, or inspired, is the way Paul described how people received God’s word and passed it on. If Paul wanted to convey the idea of dictation from God, as Muhammed claimed with the Quran, he would have likely described the process like a scribe taking dictation from God, but he didn’t.

I wrestled with what inspiration means in recent articles here and here. Given the way people like Paul described the way Scripture was conveyed and received, it is very likely he didn’t mean verbatim dictation from God.

Instructive are the other ways Scripture is characterized in the New Testament. Peter, for instance, wrote the following in his second epistle:

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture becomes a matter of someone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)

Peter seems to be saying saying that the prophecy was not initiated by human agency, but by divine agency, and it was not interpreted by the people who were moved to communicate what was revealed. They simply communicated what they received.

The Greek word translated “moved” in this text is φέρω (pheró), meaning “to bear, carry, bring forth”. It has the same connotation as the idea of a conduit or conduction.

If Paul meant to say that the Word of God was “dictated” and copied down verbatim, like the scribes copied Scriptures, he would have likely used a word related to “scribe”, rather than inspiration or receipt, as in conduction.

Paul describes his own encounter with the risen Christ in this way. He says:

“For I would have you know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel which was preached by me is not of human invention. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

Galatians 1:11 (NIV)

Paul uses the same language in his first letter to the Corinthians when he says:

“For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received….”

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NASB)

But what does it mean that the writers of Scripture were inspired, did not invent it, and passed (merely) on what they received without interpretation?

If they didn’t take “dictation” from God, what does it mean that God inspired men, and they passed on what they received?

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Perspective: As the Heavens Are Higher than the Earth

We can perceive and feel our way to understand that time had a beginning at the point of a quantum vacuum, but we can go no further even to perceive, but for speculation, what lies beyond. We are left to grasp by pure faith that God initiated the universe into being.

Photo from the James Webb Telescope

Perspective can make all the difference in the way we perceive and understand anything. Our view from a position under the canopy of a dense forest will be different than our view from a drone in the same location flying over the same forest canopy. The higher we fly that drone, the more our perspective expands and understanding of our location grows.

From a great height, we see the expanse and contours of the forest, the streams and rivers that run through and beyond it, the mountains in and the oceans in the distance where the forest transitions into the hills, the foothills, the mountains slopes and the peaks in one direction, and the openings, meadow, plains, and coastlands in another direction.

The higher we go and farther out we see, the more we see and understand the forest in relation to other geographical features that surround it and the savannas, valleys, deserts, and coastlands and oceans in the grater world beyond the forest.


“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9


This verse has become so often quoted that it might seem trite to us. “Yea, yea!” we say. “We need to trust God. I get it.”

It’s hard to grasp and trust in the perspective God has from our place where light filters sparingly through the forest canopy. Our perspective is not much better in the barren expanse of a vast desert or on the waves of a vast ocean as far as the human eye can see. Knowing that the forest canopy, barren desert or vast ocean gives way to a different reality can seem like a small consolation from where we stand.

We have a harder time grasping and appreciating that God sees out over the universe where our planet sits tucked among other planets circling the sun in an opportune place in the Milky Way solar system where we peer out, however tentatively, into an expanse of other solar systems stretching out in all directions beyond our capabilities even to observe.

Ninety five percent of the universe we can see is comprised of dark matter and dark energy that we know exists, but we cannot even observe. Mystery surrounds us in every direction and beyond our capability to go or even to glimpse.

We can perceive and feel our way to understand that time had a beginning at the point of a quantum vacuum, but we can go no further even to perceive, but for speculation, what lies beyond. We are left to grasp by pure faith that God initiated the universe into being by His very Word and expends still into some unknown future and “void”.

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If God Desires All People to Know Him, Shouldn’t All People Know Him?

On logical syllogisms, the hiddenness of God, and unimaginable treasure


Many people make logical arguments that begin with assumptions about God. The latest one I saw was a syllogism beginning with the following premise: God desires all humans to know Him…. As the syllogism goes, it states that all people do not know God, and it ends with the conclusion. “Therefore God does not exist.”

The critical thing about syllogisms on the existence of God is that initial premises make some assumptions about God. Immanuel Kant famously developed a logical syllogism proving that God exists; then he turned around and developed a logical syllogism proving God does not exist. Both syllogisms were well-constructed, and the conclusions logically flowed from the initial premises.

That’s the thing with logic: we need to set the initial assumptions, and the conclusions are dependent on those assumptions. The logical syllogism I saw this morning seems solid at first glance, but it leaves out a critical word that makes all the difference.

Logic can be abstracted from reality and still make sense. The exact terms of the assumptions are critical. If the assumptions are inaccurate or poorly stated, our conclusions will be false, no matter how logical they are.

In this case, the assumption is that God desires for all humans to know Him. For the assumption to make real sense, though, we would need to add one word.

Implicit in this premise is that God desires only for humans to know Him, and He has no other desire, purpose or goal. If the initial premise is that God desires only for humans to know him, that God has no other desire, purpose, or goal for humans, then the logic follows.

If God’s only desire, purpose, goal is for humans to know Him, He could so dominate and overwhelm us that we would have no choice but to know and acknowledge Him. The fact that people are not overwhelmed or dominated by God, and that people do not know God, would prove, on this syllogism, that God doesn’t exist.

We have to ask, though: Is that really God’s only desire, purpose, and goal for humans is to know that He exists? Is God that simple-minded?

If God is really God, God is (at least) as complex as the universe He created. Taking note of the sublime nuances of physics, quantum mechanics, biology and chemistry, we should assume God is (at least) as sublime and nuanced as the world He made with these elements.

Does it make sense that God has one singular desire, purpose, and goal for humans? Is the entire thrust of creation summed up by an unconditional desire by God for humans to know Him and acknowledge His existence?

The problem with logical syllogisms is in the initial assumptions. We have to presume to know the mind and purposes of God. If we are wrong, even if God really does exist, we will come to the wrong conclusion.

As finite, limited creatures of an infinite Creator of the universe, we do not have the capability of knowing on our own why God created the world such as it is and what His purposes are. I believe we have no capacity to know these things apart from God revealing them to us.

The Bible purports to be that revelation from God to man, so let’s take a look at what it says. If we are going to be “scientific” about the Bible, we shouldn’t come to it with preconceived notions. We should consider what it says on its own merits and come to our own conclusions.

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Wrestling with the Accuracy and Inspiration of the Bible

In episode #82 on the BEMA Discipleship Podcast (dealing with “textual criticism” of the Bible), Marty Solomon made the following statement about growing up in a fundamentalist church: “Inspiration means accuracy in the world I grew up in.” Now he says, “That’s not what inspiration means. Inspiration means it was inspired by God.”

Solomon is talking about one of the few verses in the Bible that gives us explicit insight into how we should view Scripture:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness….” 

2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)

That Scripture is “inspired by God” is what those with a “high view” of Scripture hang our hat on, but what does “inspired by God” mean exactly?

Jesus revered Scripture, and he quoted from it often, He quoted from the Torah at least 21 times and from the Prophets at least 18 times. He referenced those writings when he said,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” 

Matthew 5:17-19

His words seem to suggest a high standard of accuracy in “the Law”, but I have often noted that the quotations of Jesus in the New Testament do not often match (if ever) the exact phrases from the passages he quotes. He doesn’t cite “chapter and verse” because there were no chapters or verses then.

Further, the Scriptural texts were written out carefully by scribes who were highly specialized in the tedium of copying the text verbatim, but many people could not read or write. Scripture was committed to memory and quoted often from memory.

Solomon’s comment reveals how his position has changed from the view of the church in which he grew up. He still believes the Bible is inspired by God, but he no longer believes that inspiration means accuracy.

The exact words quoted in the New Testament writings that were spoken by Jesus were likely spoken in Hebrew, or maybe Aramaic, and they were translated into Greek. We have Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and Latin manuscripts. We also have manuscripts in Coptic, Syriac, and other languages.

We have a virtual treasure of manuscripts of the biblical texts, so much that they dwarf the text of any other ancient writing many, many times over. We also have many modern translations, each with differences in words, sentence structure, phraseology, etc.

The Bible we have is magnitudes more certain in its reliability and integrity than any other ancient text. We can trust that we have a very, very close approximation in the Bible of what was originally said because of the wealth of texts we can compare to each other. But can we say it is 100%, word for word, accurate in every jot and tittle?

Solomon has a “high view” of Scripture, as I do, but he doesn’t necessarily demand, expect, or hold on to it as if every word is accurate (without error). This can be a difficult “concession” for many people who are Christians and believe the Bible must be viewed as 100% accurate in every word and detail.

A “high view” of Scripture, to me, means to view it with the utmost respect, to embrace it as authoritative and inspired, and to study it regularly as food for the soul/spirit, for guidance in knowing and understanding God and His purposes and how to live as one who would follow Christ.

The idea that the Bible is inerrant (without error) is not to be found in the Bible. Rather, we can find in the Bible that it was inspired by God. In the second letter Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy, he said:

Most people who claim to be Christians, and some people who don’t, agree that the Bible is inspired. The idea that the Bible was inspired, and inspired by God, is somewhat noncontroversial, but some people take it further: they say that every word in our modern Bible is from God; they say the Bible is without error; they say the Bible is inerrant (meaning, incapable of being wrong).

When Paul said all scripture is inspired by God, he was likely talking about the Old Testament, as there was no New Testament as we know it when Paul wrote his letter to Timothy. He also doesn’t clarify what he would include in the term, “Scripture”. We have to try to fill in those blanks.

Can we really say the Bible – every word of the text we have today – is 100% accurate to the words that were originally inspired by God, spoken and written down? Which translation? In which language?

Maybe there is a reason Paul did not say that Scripture is an accurate, word for word, and verbatim script of God’s words to the people who were inspired to receive them. Muslims claim that is what the angel Gabriel did with Muhammed. They claim the angel dictated to Muhammed, who wrote down everything exactly as it was spoken to him. The biblical text doesn’t make that claim about itself.

Paul says that Scripture is “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness“. He implicitly says we can trust it and rely on it. He holds it in the highest regard, but he doesn’t say what we try to claim about the Bible.

Maybe we shouldn’t go as far in our claims as we do. In writing this piece, I am not suggesting that we should not trust the Bible or rely on it. I am not saying we should disregard it or discount it.

I believe Scripture is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Does it need to be 100% accurate to do that? Does it need to “inerrant”?

NT Wright makes the bold claim that we have the Scripture God wanted us to have. Human beings have a strong desire to categorize, define, and reduce to certainty. Maybe we should resist that temptation.

“God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” We are finite and limited beings. We will always have a measure of uncertainty. Faith involves placing our trust in what we believe is trustworthy. Faith doesn’t require certainty.

We will never have certainty because we are finite, limited beings. We are not gods, and we are certainly not God.

I realize I have not, perhaps, brought much clarity to the subject. I do have some more thoughts on the subject, including what Peter has to say, and what Peter and Paul say about each other. I will pick where I leave off here in future writings.