In the past few months pastoring here at Petersburg Bible Church, I have received a number of outstanding questions from folks in our congregation. Since a lot of these questions are things that may be on the minds of others, I will occasionally share these questions with you and my responses. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I hope that as we wrestle with these things together, God will grant us insight and wisdom as we turn to Him and the Scriptures for help.
Well, we might as well go big with our first question. How do we know God is real?
There are three ways we can know God is real. And I’ll tackle the first in this post and look at the other two in future posts. The three ways we know God is real is through Creation, Conscience, and Christ.
Let’s start with the evidence of God in Creation. What do I mean by this? Well, how about if I just quote the Psalmist who explains it with far more eloquence than I.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4 ESV)
Nature itself testifies to the fact that God is real. Scripture goes as far to say that not only does the world around us point to the existence of God, but that it’s actually pretty obvious that He’s real. Paul, writing about people who deny God, says the following:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.(Romans 1:18-20 ESV)
Paul is saying that man intuitively knows God is real. There is ample evidence in nature that points to a Creator. The Scripture says there are things about God that are made “plain” to us in “the things that have been made.”
Through the amazing wonder of the universe, our own planet, our own bodies, and more, God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature” can be “clearly perceived.” When you consider the vastness of our universe, it tells us that God is powerful. When you see the beauty of creation, it tells us that God is beautiful. Creation tells us that God is artistic, that He is a God of order, and that He is bigger than we can imagine. As you ponder the complexity of the human eye you can see what an incredible and detailed engineer the Creator is. Consider the digital code that is embedded in the DNA molecule. This code directs the construction of all the little machinery the cell needs to stay alive. This speaks to the awesome, advanced intelligence of the One who made it all. When we are in awe of the glories of creation, it tells us that God is glorious.
If the universe did not have a Creator, we are left with absurd and bizarre choices, such as the universe coming into existence by itself, or matter somehow magically rearranging itself on its own to make this complex universe that we see before us. If something as simple as a ham sandwich requires an intelligence to put all the necessary components together the right way, then what are we to think of the intricate nano technology we find in cells complete with rotary engines, sliding clamps, and systems for processing information? Isn’t the answer obvious? Well, yes. But it’s not that simple.
The question remains that if the presence of a Grand Designer is so obvious and so “clearly perceived” as Paul says, why do some people reject the notion that there is a God? Paul tells us. He writes in Romans 1:18-20 that humans are part of a sinful global conspiracy to “suppress the truth” by their unrighteousness. Sinful man does not want to be held accountable to the God of the Bible, so they suppress the truth and live in a state of denial.
It is important to recognize that most people in the world believe in God. In our own country, over 90% of Americans believe in God according to a 2011 Gallup Poll. That does not mean over 90% of Americans are Christians. But it does mean that most people in our country believe in the existence of some sort of deity. It is also important to know that according to Romans 1, when people suppress the truth of God, it doesn’t necessarily lead to atheism. It rather tends to lead to idol worship and the beliefs in other gods that man has made in his own image. (Today this often is manifested in the form of a distortion of the Biblical God. Examples would include Islam’s Allah, the god of Mormonism, or some sort of generic, benevolent, American deity that never judges us, wants us to fulfill our dreams, and is there for us in a pinch.)
The reason why most people don’t become atheists and instead manufacture idols is that it is extremely difficult, even for sinful man, to get away from the notion that there is a god. We know this deep inside. We were made to worship something, and so if we reject the God of Scripture most will reflexively invent a god to fill that need we all have for God. Finally, because man is suppressing the truth about God, it is obvious that this is not an intellectual problem, but rather a deeply spiritual problem. This is why a theist can beat an atheist in a debate and the atheist remains unbelieving. People don’t believe in God due to a lack of evidence, rather they disbelieve due to hard hearts. If you know of an atheist, or someone who has exchanged the truth of God for a false god, you’ll do better praying for them as opposed to getting hung up on how many debate points you manage to score against them. Yes, share the truth in love. Yes, share the evidence for God. By all means give them the facts with gentleness and respect. But remember that in the end the only way a sinner ever comes to faith is through the power of God, not the power of our persuasion. This is good news, because it means that even the most hardened person can be transformed when they are confronted by the awesome, life-changing power of God.
In part 2 of this series, we will look at perhaps an even more compelling evidence for the existence of God, and that is the evidence of our conscience.
Grace and Peace,