How will we know?

Henry

By Theuns de Bruyn

Man’s expectation of the future determines his entire attitude towards life. It determines what man does. It determines what man commits himself to. It also determines how man educates his offspring.

Divergent future expectations can be seen in Afrikaners’ behaviour. The fact that there are more and more elderly people who have children abroad speaks volumes. Many Afrikaners do not have a positive expectation of the future here.

However, a growing hope among Afrikaners who still live in South Africa is also observable to a large extent. The fact that institutions are being established for tertiary education in Afrikaans speaks of a much more positive future expectation.

However, no one wants to base their life decisions on random guesses about the future. People would rather keep a calculated eye on trends, extrapolate the future and make decisions based on that. However, it remains nothing more than a calculated guess. The question that Afrikaners will continue to ask themselves: How will I know?

The Disposer of the future

With regard to the future, man wants to understand something about how the world works. If man can mentally get a grip on the workings of the cosmos, he will be able to make informed decisions.

However, the truth is that the world does not work in a closed system. What we see around us is not just mere world. It is not just the result of the operation and application of natural laws. What we see around us is creation. By implication there is therefore a Creator(1). This Creator is not absent in the progress of history either. On the contrary, He is not a God from afar, but from near(2). He is not only Creator, but also Disposer. Future and past are completely in his hands. Logically, informed decisions about the future could therefore be made, if He could be known.

It is at this point that a big problem arises for man. How can man know the invisible God? Is communication between the eternal God and temporal man possible? Will finite people and the infinite God be able to have fellowship with each other. Will He who is incomprehensible reveal Himself in terms in which we can understand Him? The question still remains: How will I know?

The covenant of his grace

In the days of the patriarchs, Abram had the same question. He asked the Lord: How will I know? (3) God answered him by formally and visibly concluding the covenant of grace with him. In the covenant that God established with man therefore lies the answer to the question: “By what will I know?”

The covenant is the bond within which man as a creature can know his Creator. In the covenant, God involves man to let him share in the glorious community that He Triune has in Himself. After all, the covenant is founded in the Triune Being of God(4). The goodness and faithfulness that God Triune has in Himself is covenantally allocated to His children(5). That which is hidden in the Lord, his deepest thoughts which he wants to reveal to man in love, can only be known from his covenant with man(6).

That is why the future can only be conceived covenantally. The highest certainty for the future is revealed from Him who disposes of the future in grace to His children. Goodness and favor are his alone to bestow. The covenant alone teaches us about the way in which He does this. When Afrikaners think about the future, and plan, Psalm 25:14 must be the starting point: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear him, and his covenant to make it known to them.”

Footnotes

(1) C. van Til, The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel, p11.

(2) Jeremiah 23:23

(3) Genesis 15:8

(4) L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p263.

(5) ALA Buys, Firstfruits of God, p31,40.

(6) K. Painter. The Reformation, VI, no 49,3.

  • Theuns de Bruyn is a final year student at the Theological School in Potchefstroom.