Limits of Knowledge

North’s Christian Economics in One Lesson, II: 1, Knowledge and Dominion is a great essay on the foundation and purpose of the Dominion Mandate given by God to Man, and so is of interest to those who wish to extend and expand man’s dominion, in a way that is lawful – that is, respect and submits to God’s Commandments.

(And so, is of interest to myself, who feel that humanity is not only to reside on Earth, but to bring life to and reshape numerous worlds beyond Earth. But before we get there – something that is at best only implied in the Bible (Jesus is King of BOTH the Heavens and the Earth) – we should obey God’s explicit commandment: to organize, husband, nurture, and strengthen the Creation here on Earth, first.)

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them (Gen. 1:25-27).

Nothing about the worlds above us, in the Dominion Mandate. I believe that the Mandate will be eventually extended after the Final Judgement, in the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth, but that’s just my guess. “God made all those worlds for a reason!”

Regarding the Genesis quote above, North continues:

God said this, not man. Having spoken, He then created man. God’s actions followed His word and were in conformity to His word. But unlike His acts of creation on the previous five days, God did not speak man into existence. Man alone was the product of God’s direct interaction with the creation: formed of the dust, with a God-breathed soul (Gen. 2:7). Man is therefore special: made in God’s image, formed originally by God’s specific acts, not just His fiat word.

In what ways is man special? First, man is made in the image of God. He can therefore understand God’s words to him. These words are the words of a master over a servant, but also a father over a son. God gives commands to man, and man is expected by God to respond obediently. To be obedient, man must be able to understand and act accordingly. Man has been given an understanding of cause and effect: first with respect to the coherence of ideas (hearing); second, with respect to human action (doing). This derivative creaturely coherence rests on the absolute coherence of God’s word and the absolute conformity of the creation to God’s coherent word: God’s comprehensive decree. God is absolutely sovereign over the creation, including man. This gives order to the creation.

All useful science and economics rest on God’s Law-Word. Also, all useful and viable political organizations and legal systems.

As a natal consequence, everything that opposes God’s Law-Word eventually descends into chaos, oppression, sterility, poverty, and death.

This leads us to point two: man is subordinately sovereign over the creation, under God. Man is under God in a hierarchy of authority: God > man > nature. This means that man is uniquely and directly responsible before God for his administration of nature. Man can understand God’s word, and he can act in terms of it. Both his understanding and his authority are re-creative, not originally creative. They are therefore inescapably ethical. Man is required to think God’s thought after Him.

Nothing here about the Sovereign Will of the People – however defined (by Race, by Class, by Nationality, by Political Party….)

Third, man has been given a two-fold assignment by God: to exercise dominion and to multiply. He is bounded by the laws associated with this assignment. Man was also given an ethical command: to refrain from eating from a specific tree (Gen. 2:17). This was a test for man: to see if he would honor God by honoring the restrictions God placed on him. Unlike the creatures under his authority, man can understand the operations of nature as aspects of God’s creation and His providential maintenance of nature. This providential administration involves ethical boundaries: restrictions on what man is allowed to do with God’s creation. Man has been given authority to direct the processes of nature by guarding and dressing it (Gen. 2:15).

To direct nature, you have to understand it. Ergo, science.

Man’s exercise of scientific power is possible only because the creation is under God’s law independent of man’s decree.

Exactly. We all know that, if men were in charge of the physical laws of the universe, you wouldn’t have to wait five minutes for everything to become a confused and lawless chaos. But in Christ, all things hold together (Col 1:17)

The vegetable world reproduces in terms of laws given before man arrived on the scene (Gen. 1:11). The world of the heavens — created after the vegetable world (Gen. 1:14-19) — is orderly because it has a purpose: to serve man as a guide for the seasons (v. 14) and to serve nature by providing light (v. 15). The heavens were created for earth’s sake and for man’s sake. That is, the heavenly bodies are teleological: directed by God to meet the needs of as-yet uncreated humanity. Any rival theory of the sequence of the six-day creation undermines the Bible’s explicit announcement of the purposeful aspect of nature. It also undermines men’s faith in the source of this cosmic purposefulness: a Creator God who brings all things to pass in terms of His sovereign word.

Not only the world, but the heavens were created by God for Man’s benefit.

Fourth, man is to respond to God in obedience before he receives further blessings. Adam named the animals (Gen. 2:20) before he was given a wife (Gen. 2:22). This temporal sequence taught him that his reward was performance-driven. Eve was a positive sanction for Adam’s successful completion of the preliminary phase of a specific task. He completed his assignment by naming her (Gen. 2:23). There is a process of sanctions and rewards in history: unmerited gift (creation and life), general assignment (exercising worldwide dominion), specific representative assignment (guarding and dressing the garden), preliminary task (naming the animals), completion of task, reward (Eve), secondary task (naming Eve), next assignment (multiplication).

Serving God is rewarded with blessing, just as opposing God is punished with cursing.

Fifth, there was a promise of heirs and succession: men in the future would leave their fathers’ households to marry (Gen. 2:24). This meant that Adam would have heirs, and they would have heirs. The succession of plants (Gen. 1:11) and animals (Gen. 1:21) would be matched by the succession of man.

This five-point sequence indicates that the dominion assignment is a covenant. Every biblical covenant has all five points: Gods sovereignty, man’s hierarchical authority under God, law, sanctions, and succession. We shall return repeatedly to this biblical theme.

Step by step, Christendom is to grow.

Every God-honoring science must begin with this view of origins. Any theory of origins that deviates in any way from the sequence of creation described in the Bible is an attempt by covenant-breaking man to escape His responsibility under God. To deny the sequence of Genesis 1 — heaven and earth, light, vegetable life, heavenly orbs, animals, and mankind — is to deny God’s explicit revelation of Himself and His creative work, and therefore to deny man’s inescapable responsibility as God’s designated subordinate. All evolutionary systems deny that the earth’s vegetation appeared in history before the heavenly orbs appeared. Every compromise on this point is an attempt to substitute evolutionary process for God’s creation by His fiat word. Every such attempt must be rejected as either heretical or apostate.

The technological possibility of things creating themselves is zero: that is, so small as to be  incapable of being distinguished by zero.

…the Bible affirms something far more teleological than mere variations in a species; it affirms that the stars were created to benefit mankind, prior to the creation of mankind. This, far more than the comparatively minor issue of creation in six literal, 24-hour days, is the offense of the biblical account of creation. The motivation of the evolutionist is not to discover the exact date of creation; his motivation is to strip God’s purpose and law out of the universe. But why? To escape the biblical doctrine of the final judgment. The evolutionist wants above all to deny the doctrine of hell.

In the eyes of modern man, God must shut up, so Man can speak.

You know, real Man. Atheistic Man. Rational Man. Scientific Man. The kind of Man which simply can’t breed… is increasingly isolated and powerless… who depends on the State to teach him right from wrong. Who is slowly but relentlessly stripped of wealth and power over his environment, or even his own nation. (Waves to the migrants from Islamic & African lands.)

From Good to Better

The biblical account of the sequence of the creation week has crucial implications for economics. God created the environment before He created man. He created the heavenly orbs for the purposes of man. Man inherited a ready-made creation. In short, grace precedes law in history. Even before man appeared, the creation was designed to meet his needs.

This view of law and grace rests on the concept of God’s cosmic purpose and His absolutely sovereign eternal decree. Man entered a world that was good, yet it was undeveloped. It was good, yet it could be made better. It is man’s God-given task to make it better.

There is work for Christians, in this life, and in the life to come.

Limits on Knowledge

The creation’s resources are finite. God alone is infinite.

This assumed a bounded, finite universe. I have long  supported an infinite universe, but I am willing to admit that I am wrong, as there are good Christian theological reasons to back a finite universe.

So in some fundamental sense, the creation cannot be infinite. Yet there is a sense in which it is infinite: temporally. This brings us back to the doctrine of heaven and hell. Heaven, like hell, is temporary. The bodily resurrection at the final judgment ends both. Men’s souls are reunited with perfect bodies. A great division then occurs. Men are assigned to one of two final environments: the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev. 21:22) or the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). These environments are eternal, i.e., not bounded by time. There was a beginning of time (Gen. 1:1), but will be no end for any man’s existence.

The Second Death is not annihilation. It is eternal pain and suffering, deep enough to destroy rebellious thought, and so put an end to even mental sins… forever.

There will be intellectual growth. God is infinite. As such, He cannot be perfectly comprehended by man. There are secret things of God (Deut. 29:29). Man is not smart enough to encompass God. Man is finite, yet man can learn. Man is required to learn. He learns more about God, his environment, and the relationships among God, man, and the environment. As a finite creature in a finite world, he can learn more about God forever. The infinity of God and the chronological infinity of man’s existence are different. The creature does not equal the Creator. The being of God is forever distinct from the being of man. The knowledge possessed by God is always greater than the knowledge possessed by man or men. Yet the knowledge possessed by covenant-keeping mankind can and will continue to grow forever. This unbounded growth of knowledge, though approaching creaturely infinity as a limit, cannot bridge the gap between God’s knowledge and man’s. Despite the absence of a chronological limit on covenant-keeping man’s existence, he will never equal God in any respect, including knowledge.

The economist says that in a finite world, there cannot be exponential growth forever. Exponential growth reaches limits. It runs out of resources. Yet in the world beyond the final judgment, there will be exponential growth in knowledge, despite the finitude of man. Man will not multiply forever, but he will gain in knowledge forever. In this sense, knowledge is fundamentally different from physical extension.

If knowledge can and will grow forever, then the well-being of covenant-keeping mankind will grow forever. The dominion process never ends. Man gets richer over time: richer in knowledge, meaning richer in his ability to manipulate and transform the creation. Because man’s knowledge can grow forever, economic growth is infinite in duration despite the creation’s limits on the quantity of “stuff.” The limited supply of “stuff” — matter-energy — is not a limit on man’s ability to make use of this “stuff” in creative, wealth-extending ways.

The fundamental scarce economic resource, therefore, is man: his knowledge. (Grace is the fundamental resource, but it is not scarce, i.e., not bounded by created limits. Men cannot buy it.) Man’s knowledge can continue to grow even though “stuff” does not expand in quantity. Man cannot speak a new creation into existence. God as Creator alone does this, though of course He can do it again if He so chooses. If man runs out of “stuff,” God can always make more. But we are not told that He will do this, nor is it implied that He will. What is implied by the Bible is that covenant-keeping man’s knowledge and worship will grow forever, for as long as the Church persists. The growth process begun in history will extend into eternity.

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God (Col. 2:18-19).

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10).

The fact that there are no chronological limits on the growth of knowledge means that there are limits on knowledge at every point in time it grows; therefore, it is limited today. We do not possess infinite knowledge. Knowledge develops, just as the creation in Adam’s day was supposed to develop under his administration. This means that knowledge is not a zero-price resource. We must give up something of value – money, time, and effort — in order to gain better knowledge. As knowledge grows, wisdom should also grow. It must be actively pursued (Prov. 4:4-5).

Godly wisdom is of great value in the New Creation, as well as this one.

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