Genesis 1:1, Romans 1:18-23
How Our World Points us to God
Where we’ve been:
first, Genesis 1 in it’s original context. second, Days of Genesis 1 and it’s relationship to modern science
Today: The fact of creation in Genesis 1 and how the world around us points us to God.
And, to help us to do that, we are going to look at Romans 1 – we’ll be looking at Romans 1 a couple of times in our series on Genesis 1-3, because Romans 1 is sort of like the Apostle Paul’s commentary on Genesis 1-3. And, so you see in these initial verses we read, that Paul considers the creation – the natural world around us 1) as undeniable proof of God and 2) as creating inescapable obligation to live our lives for him – for his praise and his glory, to fear him: to be overwhelmed by a sense of the reality of God in our lives – overwhelmed by the weightiness of his existence, the immensity of his power, the beauty of his character, the depth of his wisdom:
in the world around us – in our very existence, we see the invisible God, made visible by the works of his hand in creation.
If you can wake up in the morning, and look at the sunrise – every morning I walk the dog down the road, and we have kind of a nice view of farmland which extends up to the mountains and the morning mist is rising up off the mountain to meet the blue sun-lit sky, and I walk the dog and sometimes I am too tired or dense to realize the beauty of it but other times, I have eyes to see the power of God who formed the mountains, and I see the wisdom of God who set this earth at just the right distance from the sun such that it can warm and cool without bursting into flames or turning into a block of uninhabitable ice – and I see the goodness of God reflected in the incomparable beauty of the world – you know, artists can do a pretty good job of representing beauty but the best artist can only copy – plagiarize – God’s work – and they can never match or recreate that beauty – it is unsurpassable and incomparable.
And, on those days, when I have the eyes to see that, my heart is drawn to praise God, and to be humbled before him – that I too am his creation, fearfully and wonderfully made – and so all of life is lived before him in his sight, and that every human life must unavoidably deal with the reality of God – and must either embrace him, or deny and reject him.
What Paul is saying – you don’t need to read the bible to be able to see God. You simply need to exist! You simply need to open your eyes! And if you can live in this world – if you can look at this world – if you can consider your own existence, and not be drawn the the reality of God – then you are blind.
Calvin: “God daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe. As a consequence, men cannot open their eyes without being compelled to see God…Upon his individual works he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and prominent that no one can plead the excuse of ignorance… Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no little spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot give one glance to this most vast and beautiful universe, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness. The reason why the author of the Hebrews elegantly calls the universe “the appearance of things invisible” is that this skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible. The reason why the psalmist draws attention to the creation to show that in it lies an sign-pointer to divinity so apparent that it ought not to escape the gaze of anyone. There are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare his wonderful wisdom.”
God made the world – and so the world has his fingerprints all over it, and points any willing honest observer or inquirer directly back to him.
But, of course, the problem is – sin has rendered us blind. The world so clearly points us to God that, Paul says, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”; Since the creation of the world God’s “invisible qualities… have been clearly seen”; he is understood from that which was made by him” –
this revelation is so clear, that “we are without excuse” for our unbelief –
but sin has rendered us so blind that we suppress the truth; & despite the evidence to the contrary we persist in our unbelief and deny the undeniable
It’s irrational, it’s unfathomable, Paul calls it foolishness, but not just foolishness – foolishness by itself is bad enough but there’s something worse than foolishness – foolishness that thinks foolishness is wisdom – is infinitely worse than bare foolishness. v22 – claiming to be wise, they became fools.
Calvin: “All ought, then, to break forth in praise of him, but instead are puffed up and swollen with all the more pride. Nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest to the divine, yet to overlook the Author who gives them to us.”
That is the height of sin, that is the epitome of folly, that is the ugliness of rebellion; but that is what, in our sin, we have done:
Romans 1:21-22 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.
We’re going to consider 4 questions about the world around us and our experience in this world, which point us to God.
But, not only that – they show that the alternative, a world without God, is in a fact a world that no one wants to live in, and beyond that is a world which no one can live consistently with – atheism leaves us with an unlivable world
1. Why is there something instead of nothing?
Where did you come from? Atheism tells you that you are the merely material product of chance – merely physical – no soul which transcends the physical world, & not made with any purpose or plan or identity – mere accident. And, we’ll come back to the problem of finding meaning from that later, but the more primary, more obvious problem – if we for the sake of argument grant that we are mere matter – where did that matter originate from?
An atheistic view of the world can push origins back to a more basic or more simple element of life or matter, but it can never push it back to the ultimate origin of life or matter or the universe – because to that question there is no possible answer – not just no plausible answer but no possible answer – for the atheist as to the question of our ultimate origin.
But, you see, something has to come from somewhere. Something does not simply arise out of nothing.
Nowhere in our experience does something come from nothing. Something comes from something else; but never does something come from nothing.
And either, you can think the universe is eternal – but our world doesn’t have the character of being eternal: our world is expanding such that it appears to have had a beginning; and our world is in fact dying – it is finite and temporal – such that it will end.
even the way science traces the history of life and the universe leads it back to some kind of beginning – the first strain of protein or cell, or the big bang – but you see that even that doesn’t go back far enough, and we’re left wondering, asking, needing an answer to the questions: why is there something instead of nothing?
We exist. Our world exists. and that which exists needs to have a source for it’s existence – an origin.
Another way people have put the argument: It is in motion – and that which is in motion must have been set in motion. And you can move back to a cause, and find a cause for that, and find a cause for that, but eventually you must go back far enough to find what philosophers call “the unmoved mover” – that which is self-existent – eternal – no beginning, and so nothing that caused it to be or set it in motion but that which is the source of all else – an infinite, eternal, self-existent – divine being – God, the creator and source of all that exists.
That’s why God’s covenant name – Yahweh – means “I AM” – he simply exists in and of himself – self-sufficiently with no needs or cause outside himself dependent upon nothing for his existence, while everything else is utterly dependent upon him for its existence.
As I mentioned in the children’s sermon: if you ever doubt God’s existence, just close your eyes for a minute, ask God to give you eyes to see him, and open your eyes. If you exist, if other things exist, if the world exists, if you see something instead of nothing, then rest assured, God is the source of that.
2. Why is there order instead of chaos?
The scientific enterprise, & the scientific method assume order, unity, & consistency in our world – they rely & depend on it. But, how can we explain those things.
Genesis 1 shows God planning our world and infusing it with design & order. But why should we expect those things, if the world originate from mere chance? How can we explain those things if what it ultimate is not a supreme intelligence and a personal powerful designer, but simply random chance occurrence?
In our experience, randomness does not turn into complexity; order doesn’t arise out of disorder; design doesn’t result from chance or without some source of intelligence which plans and has the power and ability to execute that plan.
If you had never seen a watch (old kind with gears) and you just happened to be walking through the woods and encountered upon one, and you examined the complexity of that – and the intricate design in which all the gears precisely made to fit together and work together to perform a coherent function – you would reasonably conclude that they came about from a designer.
And, that kind of complexity is what we see in life:
“Even the simplest organism capable of independent life…is a masterpiece of complexity that makes a spaceship seem low-tech…That a living organism emerged by chance from a prebiotic soup is about as likely as “a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 from the materials therein”… Chance assembly is just a naturalistic way of saying “miracle”.”
Life is incredibly complex. But, life is not just complex – it is what some have called “irreducibly complex” – it’s a type of complexity that only functions in it’s final complex form: such that in a complex system, without one of it’s multitude of parts in place, fully functioning, with it’s proper purpose, it’s not that you have an inferior entity; you have a useless entity.
Scientist: “You cannot . . . gradually improve a mousetrap by adding one part and then the next. A trap having half its parts doesn’t function half as well as a real trap; it doesn’t function at all.”
You see that presents a problem to any theory which insists on gradual, chance mutations to explain life in it’s current form. An irreducibly complex entity can’t come about gradually without something foreseeing the end-point towards which it is headed – without something designing it’s parts for that final purpose. The system doesn’t function at all until all the parts are present and in place ready to perform their individual functions in a cooperative way.
An irreducibly complex organism is best explained by some sort of intelligence designing that organism – putting all the intricate parts in place with purpose and plan. When we find intelligently designed life all around us, there’s much reason to conclude that it is the result of an intelligent designer. The complexity of life points to God & his wisdom.
God’s wisdom conceived of the complex structures of the human body that make it work; God’s creativity conceived of all the diverse and varied species of plant & animal life; God’s goodness infused this world with beauty that ought to draw our hearts towards him in awe.
3. Why do we live in an inescapable moral universe?
Dosteyevski: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”
The realities of good and evil are rooted in God – they come from God, flow out of God, and when you remove God from the picture, the concept of good and evil begin to erode, because they lose their source & basis.
You can either have God and morality; or you can get rid of God and get rid of morality; but you can’t get rid of God and hold onto morality.
But, here’s the problem: we live in an undeniably, inescapably moral universe.
No one is a complete relativist. Everyone acts like we live in a moral universe, even if they say otherwise. 2 proofs of this fact:
- outrage; 2) excuses.
When we see others do things that we don’t like, or hurt us: we are outraged. And, we can’t escape using moral language in that outrage: we can’t escape that little word: “should”.
Should or should not – or it’s synonyms or related concepts – are moral terms: it’s the language of “ought” – and you can’t get ought from is: if all there is is the world we see – the facts and matter and molecules of this world: then there’s no “ought” because there’s no one to say definitively or absolutely what constitutes that “ought” – and so all we’re left with is personal preference and opinion.
But, when we see someone doing something that we think is evil; or when someone is wronging us; we don’t simply say “I don’t prefer that you (for example) steal from me, but hey, you got to survive so good for you”; or “I don’t prefer that you are racist, but hey if that’s what’s right for you” or “I don’t prefer that you murder my family, but you got to follow your heart I guess”. No, we say, that is wrong! you shouldn’t do that!
Excuses: we also see the undeniably moral nature of our world not just in our outrage when we see others doing things we think are wrong, but also, by our instinctive reaction to make excuses when we do something that we think is wrong – whereas if someone else were to do it, we would be outraged; when we do it, there is an excuse; there were extenuating circumstances; there was a good reason. But why bother with an excuse at all, unless there is some moral law above us and independent of us.
If you don’t think there is an objective, universal right and wrong, you’re a fool or a liar. IF you do, then you have to ask, where does that universal objective standard of right and wrong come from?
-society? then not universal & objective.
-majority? then not universal & objective.
-the universe? A material universe can’t provide us with moral values, because moral values are personal, not impersonal. Moral values – obligations – only exist in personal relationships, and absolute moral values then can only come from an absolute person.
Moral laws can only come from a moral law-giver. We can only account for our inescapably moral human experience through the existence and presence of God.
And, if God judges humanity, then our actions matter. Otherwise, what does it matter in the end if you do good or evil, live for what’s right or life for yourself? There’s no final accounting for that – and in the end it doesn’t matter.
But, we all feel that it matters if we do some type of right or wrong – we need that to matter – and it only matters because God exists.
4. How can our lives have any real meaning at all?
If there’s no meaning to the universe, then what meaning can your life have? You can make up a meaning for yourself, but that meaning has no meaning – it’s only made up and it doesn’t count for anything or matter for anything.
If we simply arise by chance – from no where with no purpose; and decay in the ground – going no where with no destiny or judgment – then there is no point to anything.
Bertrand Russell: an athiest, who is trying to summarize life and meaning in a way that is consistent with his atheistic worldview in which this life is all there is:
“Man is the product of causes which had no pre-vision of the end they were achieving; his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; all the labors of all the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.”
Not even love, the thing which everyone believes in, has any meaning if we are mere matter: and if the world around us is ultimately impersonal:
Lewis: “The universe is a universe of nonsense, but since you are here, grab what you can. Unfortunately, however, there is, on these terms, so very little left to grab — only the coarsest sensual pleasures. You can’t except in the lowest animal sense, be in love with a girl if you know (and keep on remembering) that all the beauties both of her person and of her character are a momentary and accidental pattern produced by the collision of atoms, and that your own response to them is only a sort of psychic response arising from the behavior of your genes. You can’t go on getting any very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is pure illusion, that you like it only because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it. You may still, in the lowest sense, have a “good time”; but just in so far as it becomes very good, just in so far as it ever threatens to push you on from cold sensuality into real warmth and enthusiasm and joy, so afar you will be forced to feel the hopeless disharmony between your own emotions and the universe in which you really live.”
But, if the world around us isn’t ultimately impersonal, but ultimately personal, then personal things – like love, and beauty, have meaning – because at the center of the universe is a personal God who is a God of love, and who wants to know you, to be in a relationship with you, to make you his child so that you can know his divine love. Do you know this God?