This month we are looking at "Salvation". This first week, we are addressing certain foundational concepts that will help us understand Salvation in-depth. In yesterday's post, we discussed "Resolution". This is the ability to separate what looks to be one large concept into two or more specific concepts. Today, we are going to perform "Resolution" on a large concept: IMPOSSIBLE.
The word "impossible" only occurs in the New Testament. The word is Strong's #102 adunatos - "unable, could not do".
When it comes to modeling the Bible and God, we pay special attention to extreme words because they are the "ultimate cases"...they stretch the variables and clarify the cause to effect relationships. We can learn A LOT from these extreme words...
In this post, we are going to look at the difference between "impossible" and "possible, but not going to happen". Some people consider these two concepts to be the SAME. They are NOT.
In the Bible, there are very few things that are impossible. There are a lot of things that are possible, but aren't going to happen. If we take the things in the Bible that are "possible, but aren't going to happen" and make them "impossible", then we have created the man-made doctrine of predestination and we have made God unjust. Before I give an example, let's look at the make God-given principle that will bring us Resolution: Causality.
When we speak about things "happening", we are really discussing an effect. The "happening" is an effect. However, causality says that effects are the natural occurrence of causes...effects and causes are halves of an inseparable whole. So, discussing "happening" REQUIRES us to identify a cause.
Said another way, the ABILITY for an event to "happen" depends on the ABILITY for the cause to exist...which requires us to identify it.
Take some time to let this sink in...if the cause doesn't exist or is not possible, then the effect is impossible. Notice, in order to PROVE something is possible, you would have to know the causes that would result in the possible action. Likewise, if you wanted to PROVE something is impossible, you would have to know the causes that would result in the impossible action. It is NOT good enough to say something is impossible because you can't identify the causes.
If the cause does exist and is possible, but the odds of it happening are very, very slim, then the effect is NOT impossible.
So, when we read the word "impossible", it means the cause is identifiable and does NOT exist and/or is NOT possible to exist. Let's look at an example of "impossible"...
"6 And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him." (Hebrews 11:6, ASV)
This statement is saying that "well-pleasing" to God is the effect and faith is AT LEAST one of the necessary causes. There may be more causes, but faith is a necessary cause.
Said another way, if faith DOESN'T exist, then pleasing God is impossible...it is NOT (even) possible.
Notice, if the Bible says something is impossible, it doesn't have to tell us the causes...only if a person wants to project this intent on the Bible where it is not stated. However, I chose this verse because it actually gives the reason (WHY) this statement is true! Everything after the "for" is the REASON...
REASON #1: he that cometh to God must believe that He is.
A cause to pleasing God is to believe that God exists. If you don't believe God exists, then it is NOT possible to please God. To complete this loop...how is believing God exists tied to faith?
Five verses earlier, Hebrews 11:1 says:
"1 Now faith is...a conviction of things not seen."
In order to believe God exists, you must believe in something that you can't see...which is the definition of faith!
REASON #2: he that cometh to God must believe...that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him.
A cause to pleasing God is to believe that God will reward those that seek after Him. If you don't believe God will reward you for seeking after Him, then it is NOT possible to please God. To complete this loop...how is believing God will reward you AFTER seeking Him tied to faith?
Again, five verses earlier, Hebrews 11:1 says:
"1 Now faith is assurance of things hoped for..."
In order to believe that God will reward you AFTER seeking Him, you must believe in something that hasn't happened yet...in things hoped for...which is the definition of faith!
Notice, you CANNOT please God if you don't believe in God rewarding you...which we will address next week. For now, we can say that something that is "impossible" is ONLY something that has identifiable causes that don't exist.
Let's look at an example of something that was possible, but was never going to happen...
Was it possible for Adam and Eve to avoid eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
The answer depends on two things:
1) Was there an identifiable cause to not eating the fruit
2) Did a way to avoid the cause exist?
What was the cause of Adam and Eve eating the fruit?
"1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat:
3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."
(Eve knew that eating the fruit would lead to death. Notice that God gave this command BEFORE Eve was created. Don't believe me? Look at Genesis 2:15-17 for the command and Genesis 2:21-22 for Eve's creation.)
"4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil."
(The serpent spoke facts in verse 5, but the objective was destruction and the lie in verse 4 makes the entire statement NOT TRUTH.)
"6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat."
Eve ate of the fruit because she saw that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desired to make one wise. On the one hand, Eve has a fact that said she would die (Long Term effect). On the other hand she had three facts that would benefit her in the short-term.
Eve looked comparatively...she intentionally looked at three facts that allowed her to do what she wanted and intentionally ignored one fact that prevented her from doing what she wanted.
What would have caused her not to eat the fruit? Answer: Contrastive Thinking...the most powerful God-given principle.
Did contrastive thinking exist? Yes!
It was possible for Adam and Eve to have avoided eating the fruit if they had thought contrastively.
Said another way, it was NOT impossible for Adam and Eve to have avoided eating the fruit because they could have done the cause that would have avoided eating the fruit.
Separately, what are the odds that they would have been able to do this? Very slim. They didn't have knowledge of good and evil...so their understanding was limited...so their wisdom was hampered. Their ability to make good decisions was handicapped. When you take into account that they were up against the subtlest of enemies, their ability to avoid eating the fruit was possible, but wasn't going to happen.
If it was impossible for them to have avoided eating the fruit, then this would make God unjust...God would have rigged the system and made it impossible for them to do anything different.
THAT is the key result from lumping "impossible" and "possible, but not going to happen"...it results in God being unjust. People try to give an abstract answer why God is NOT unjust in this case, but they eventually have to say they can't identify the cause but it does exist. You CANNOT claim something is IMPOSSIBLE if you CANNOT identify the cause.
Tomorrow we will look at another "impossible" verse...
...and it concerned God's "ability".