How Do You Know There's a God?

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Psalm 19:1-4

And the good news is that God has revealed himself to the world. There is a revelation that everyone can see and understand.

This is the testimony of the 19th Psalm:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

One of our broadcast partners received a letter from a student in China who wrote: “I have three classmates; one is studying medicine and has many doubts and cannot believe in a God that is invisible. Another one is interested in any and all religions, adopting the attitude that you have to believe in something but you can’t believe totally. The third one feels it is impossible for God to exist. He’s an atheist. Would you please tell me how to make them know the true God?”

There are millions of people like those three young Chinese students. How is it possible for them or for anyone for that matter to know the true God?

For starters, we have to acknowledge the problems involved in knowing God. After all, those Chinese students are right; God is invisible. This might seem too obvious to mention, but no one can see God. God is a spirit. The Bible says that God “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). So if we are going to know him, it will have to be by some other means than our senses. Furthermore, the Bible says that we cannot know God by our own, unaided efforts. “Can you find out the deep things of God?” asks the book of Job (Job 11:7). And the answer is no. It is not possible for us to discover God or to come to an understanding of him by observation, or exploration, or by the exercise of pure reason and intellect.

So if we are to know God, if we are to find God, he must help us. He has to do something first before we can even hope to succeed in our quest to come to any certainty about him. What is needed is Revelation; God must reveal himself to us. To reveal means to unveil or uncover something that is hidden. And the good news is that God has revealed himself to the world; there is a revelation that everyone can see and understand.

THE HEAVENS ARE TELLING

Psalm 19 points out one answer to the question of how you can know there is a God. It opens by saying that the universe itself testifies to its Creator, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the psalmist. “The skies proclaim the work of his hands” (v. 1). In the psalmist’s world, most people worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, thinking that these heavenly bodies were powerful deities who ruled the world. They also believed strongly in astrology, the idea that the stars controlled human destiny by their movements.

But the people of Israel knew differently. They had come to know that the sun, moon and stars were not alive, but were themselves part of the creation. They understood that there is a strict separation, an absolute distinction, between the creation and its Creator. The people of the Bible learned to reverence the world of nature, not because it contained the gods and goddesses that their pagan neighbors saw there, but because nature bore witness to them of the true God, the living God. Listen to this fine passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions:

“And what is this God?” I asked the earth and it answered: “I am not He,” and all the things that are on the earth confessed the same answer. I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things with living souls, and they replied, “We are not your God. Look above us.” I asked the blowing breezes, and the universal air with all its inhabitants answered: “I am not God.” I asked the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, and “No,” they said, “we are not the God for whom you are looking.” And I said to all those things which stand about the gates of my senses: “Tell me something about my God, you who are not He. Tell me something about Him.” And they cried out in a loud voice: “He made us.”

Isn’t that wonderful? So the only power the heavens and earth possess is the powerful witness of their beauty, order and splendor to the existence of an almighty Creator. When we explore the complexities of the universe we will see and be awed by:

  • the goodness of God that called it into being
  • the wisdom of God that composed it
  • the power of God that undergirds it
  • the justice of God that maintains balance in it, and
  • the mercy of God that sustains life and being.

The Bible suggests that if we look at it objectively, the universe will send us a message. It will speak to us of the God who is there, who created all things, a God of infinite power, intelligence and glory.

WORDLESS SPEECH

So both the greatness and the design of the cosmos point to the existence of the Creator, and they do so in a way that is universal. These are signs which can be seen and understood by everyone. That is why the testimony of the world of nature to the existence of God is called General Revelation. Creation reveals God generally to all people because it communicates without using words. The psalmist says, “There is no speech, nor are their words . . . yet their voice goes out through all the earth” (vv. 3-4).

Everyone in theory at least can understand what the universe is trying to teach us about God. Anyone can gaze into the infinite depths of space and read what is written there about God in the heavens. Creation is like a book without words, which even the illiterate are able to read. As an old confession of the church states:

We know [God] . . . by the creation, preservation and government of the universe, since that universe is set before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures great and small are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.

Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 2

So the truth about God becomes visible to everybody, thus making each person responsible for whether they accept or reject him. No one can claim that they didn’t have enough information to make up their mind. No one will be able to say that they lacked enough evidence to decide for or against God. The Bible says that “ever since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

But now we come to some bad news. That last text I just quoted is from the first chapter of the book of Romans. Paul says there that people should know God clearly just from looking at the wonders of the creation all around them. General Revelation ought to be enough. Everyone should believe in God as naturally as they believe in the ocean or the mountains or the sun and stars. But they don’t. In fact, they can’t, at least, not any longer. Something has happened to the human race, as the apostle goes on to explain.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans 1:21-23

The creation may be an open book testifying to the existence of God, but we no longer are able to read it rightly for we have turned away from God and exchanged the truth about him for a lie. We no longer naturally worship the Creator but rather created things, gods, idols, made in the image of others. Sin has darkened our minds and our hearts; we no longer can think straight or see clearly.

So a further revelation is necessary. General Revelation isn’t enough anymore because we do not have the capacity to understand it or the willingness to receive it. As theologian J. I. Packer explains, if we are to come to know God, “Two veils must be taken away: that which hides God’s mind, and that which clouds our heart. God in his mercy removes both. Thus our knowledge of God,” he says, “first to last, is his gracious gift” (God’s Words). What we need, in addition to general revelation, is a special revelation from God that can explain to us in words we can understand all the truth we need to come to know him as we were meant to. And that is exactly what the Bible is. In the Bible, Packer says, God tells us all about himself his past achievements, his present line of work, his future plans, what he thinks, what he values, and what he wants from us.

So we need the Book; we’ve got to have the Book!