school-of-athens-euclidCan 2 + 2 = 5 for God? At one time I admit that I would have answered “Yes!” and quite confidently. Then, I read Isaiah 5. In that passage is a searing judgment from the Lord against sinners. What changed my thinking on the issue at hand was when I realized how the passage was describing those sinners. Verse 18 says that they bring with them their iniquity wherever they go “with the cords of falsehood.” In verse 20, those using falsehood are condemned: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

It is not God, but sinners, who revel in contradiction! Sinners say “good” is “evil” (i.e., good = non-good); sinners equate “bitter” and “sweet” (i.e., bitter = non-bitter); sinners confuse darkness and light (i.e., light = non-light). God is not that way, for he is the standard of what is: God is good; God is light; God is sweet—there is no contradiction in him. It changed my thinking, for I had thought it glorifying to speak of God in self-contradictions! Now it seems absurd, even frightening, to put such thoughts into words.

One medieval Christian known as Dionysius the Areopagite succumbed to this very kind of theo(il)logical hyper-talk. He claimed, with all good intentions, I am sure, that God does not existGod is beyond existence![1] To my mind, however, this is no deep spiritual insight; it is simply nonsense. Obviously, God’s existence is unlike any other thing’s existence in the way that he exists. As we say in theology, God’s Aseity makes him the uniquely Necessary Being. All else is contingent upon him. Yet it is foolish to say God’s existence is non-existence! If contradiction is “truth,” then we can know nothing and express no statement that corresponds to reality as it is.

What shall we say, then? I would suggest that even for God, 2 + 2 ≠ 5. Why? Because, in God’s created order, God’s rule has been established: 2 + 2 = 4, and triangles have 3 sides, but darkness is not light, and bitter is not sweet. Most important of all, the truth of God’s rule has established that Jesus is the Way and there is no access to the Father but by him. So, if God is truly sovereign, then God’s order prevails and God does not equate the contradictory, sinners do. We go with the truth, then, believing that it is truth that all can know, including those who suppress it, reject it, lie about it, and oppose it. What else can we do? Yet, even in its temporary rebellion this world is God’s world. And so, we go into it rejoicing, knowing that our proclamation of God’s truth can reach those who need it most. Let us go prepared, therefore, with the whole truth, thinking rightly.

[1] Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names 1.1, in which he says God “is the Universal Cause of existence while Itself not existing, for It is beyond all Being.”