Suppose a man is sitting in a closed tool shed. It is pitch-dark, except that there is a tiny crack in the roof, and a single ray of light shines through it. This tool shed, like all tool sheds, is dirty and dusty, and in the dust that floats on the air, that single ray of light is clearly visible.
The man could look at that ray of light from the side, seeing the dust motes dance in it, and admire its beauty. And it is beautiful, is it not?
But if the man wants to see the sun, looking at the ray won’t do the job. He has to sight along it, and if he does that, the ray of light becomes more than a thing in itself; it becomes a pointer, a guide that leads him back to its source.
That is what a proposition about God must do. False propositions point us somewhere else. True propositions can be beautiful, elegant, and so on — and they often are — but to admire them as things-in-themselves is to miss the point. The goal is to sight along the proposition so as to see the God who gave it, and about whom it is speaking.
This is exactly what Romans 10:14 tells us. Your English translation will say something like “How will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard,” but that’s incorrect. (For you Greek guys out there, yes it’s a genitive, but akouw takes genitive direct objects.) The correct translation is “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” In the preaching of the gospel, the unbeliever hears propositions, of course. But Paul says there’s more to it than that: in the preaching of the gospel, the unbeliever hears Christ — not just “about Christ,” but hears Christ — and hearing Him, he believes. Faith in Christ comes by hearing Christ, and hearing Christ comes by the Word of God.
But what are we to do when we discover — as Gordon Clark did, to his considerable embarrassment — that in Scripture different propositions are held up on different occasions as the preaching in which one can encounter Christ and believe in Him? (For example, Rom. 10:10 on one hand, and Jn. 20:30-31 for a different proposition.)
Let’s go back to the toolshed, and extend the analogy a little. Rather than just one crack in the roof, let us say there are three, each one about a foot away from the others. Through each of these three cracks, a ray of light shoots down. Let us further suppose that there are four men in the shed, not just one. Sitting together in the corner of the shed, they look across the small room at the three rays of light.
“That one, over on the left?” the first man says. “That one’s sunlight. I can tell.”
“No, Larry,” says the second man. “The one in the middle is sunlight.”
The argue for a while, and then the third man says, “You’re both wrong. The one on the right is sunlight.”
“Curly, you idiot!” the first man says. “It has to be one of the first two. Right?” He looks at the second man for confirmation. The second man nods enthusiastically, and the bickering continues.
Meanwhile, unnoticed by the three, a fourth, quiet man gets up from the corner and walks across the shed. He goes to the first ray of light, and looks up along it, through the crack in the roof. Then he goes to the second ray and does the same, and then the third. He frowns and shakes his head, and repeats the process. And then, slowly, a smile spreads across his face.
“Excuse me, guys,” he says.
The three men look up from their bickering. “What is it, Elihu?”