19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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.
The Great Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait in northern Alaska, through Canada, from Montana to New Mexico and all the way through Central and South America to the Strait of Magellan, in southern Chile.
The divide is not named because it slices the continents into two halves. It is a hydrological divide that separates two macro-watersheds, for all the rain that falls on the west of the divide will flow toward and into the Pacific Ocean, while rain that falls on the eastern side of the divide will flow toward and into the Atlantic Ocean
Depending on which side of the issue we fall is going to determine how we view the world and our place in it. Where I fall will influence how I think about everything, how I process ideas, how I react to events, and how I make decisions. It is a watershed issue.
Here is the divide: Does a personal, creator God really exist?
Let’s not be too quick to answer. The stakes are just too high. The implications are too profound.
After all, if there isn’t a personal, creator God, not only are we wasting our time here this morning, but there is no longer any referent for truth, and for what is good, right, and beautiful.
Without a universal referent, everything becomes relative and, let’s be honest, ultimately meaningless.
That was the conclusion of King Solomon writing Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. He concluded that if there is no god, then everything is ultimately meaningless, regardless of how hard we try to suppress that reality by making some temporal meaning out of the fact that we are nothing more than advanced organisms that have evolved from primordial slime.
I’m just asking us to be ruthlessly honest.
If there is no personal, creator god who has given unique value to human life, then a child in the womb or the kid killed in the hood really is of no more value than a dead possum in the middle of the road
But if there is a personal, creator God, then there is a referent for truth, and for what is good, right and beautiful. Human life is valuable–even sacred–regardless of someone’s age, color, nationality, or even religion.
If there is a personal, creator, then life is not meaningless. Everything is infused with value and purpose.
This really is a watershed issue, which is why I don’t want us to assume the answer. Some of us will be tempted to check out because you think you know what I am going to say.
But if you are an atheist, you may be right. Or, you may be wrong.
If those of us who are not atheists will be honest, we will confess that we live as functional atheists more than we think we do or will admit that we do.
We need to step back and examine the evidence. If we are going to say that there is a personal, creator, then I want us to be absolutely convinced, without reservation. The implications are just too significant.
In Romans 1:19-20, Paul claims that the evidence for a personal, creator is incontrovertible for the honest observer.
In verse 19, he says that “what can be known about God is plain.” The Greek word for “plain” is phaneros, which
comes from a word that means “bright, shining.” God’s revelation of himself in the material universe is not just clear, but unavoidably clear.
This is “because God has shown it to them.” Again, our English word shown in the Greek is the verb form of plain, phaneroo—the same word!
Paul is saying that the evidence for a personal creator is like asking if the sun exists as it shines in the sky. The only way to miss it would be to intentionally suppress the evidence where you just don’t want to see it, or be blind and can’t see it.
The theological category expressed in verse 19 is what we call General Revelation, where God has revealed himself in a general way to all people through the physical, material universe, what we call creation. In General Revelation, God reveals himself as an authoritative creator.
Special Revelation is where this authoritative creator reveals himself as merciful savior. This is revealed in the story of redemption that is contained in the Bible. Understanding the big picture of the Bible will be our focus next week.
For today, Paul’s assumption of incontrovertible evidence means that we are not to tell skeptics to “just believe.” When our kids have doubts, we must not simply tell them to accept our word for it.
THE DEMAND FOR EVIDENCE IS NOT UNREASONABLE
When my eldest child, Ann Ferris, was six or seven years old, she had a crisis of faith. The church where I was lead pastor then would recite the Apostles’ Creed every week. The creed begins, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.”
At some point, she began to question the existence of God. In order to be intellectually honest, she wanted proof. She demanded evidence.
She came to Kristy and me and told us that she could no longer recite the Apostles’ Creed in good conscience until she was personally convinced that God really existed.
Not long after that conversation, she came upon a story in a book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay that invited the reader to imagine that he or she is hiking through a great forest. She puts it like this.
“A storm sets in. You’re relieved to see a hut in the clearing. A light shines from the window, and smoke curls from the chimney. You run to the door, hoping to find shelter.
You knock. No answer.
You call. No voice replies.
You go to the window to look in. What a relief!
The hut is occupied. There is a fire burning, and a kettle bubbling merrily over it. The table is set for supper, and a freshly baked pie sits in the center.
The author then asks the reader, “Using scientific observation, what do you know about this setting?
You know that someone lives in this hut, even though no one is home at the moment.
Someone had to build the hut and build the fire, put water in the kettle, set the table and bake the pie. Based on the evidence you may assume that the person will come back soon to eat the supper he has prepared. You are not alone in the forest.
Her conclusion is that “You cannot see the owner of the hut any more than you can see God. Yet the evidence of the owner’s existence is overwhelming.” [Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, How to be Your Own Selfish Pig, 34-35]
With that story, the nickel dropped for Ann Ferris and the next Sunday she was back to reciting the Apostles’ Creed, but now with great confidence and joy. She was convinced. Not because I told her to believe, but because the evidence was so clear.
The demand for evidence is not an unreasonable request.
CONVINCING THE SCIENTISTS
In verse 20, we read, “[God’s] invisible attributes… have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world… in the things that have been made.”
The New English Bible translates the phrase “clearly perceived” as “visible … to the eye of reason.”
In just two verses Paul has made the point unequivocally that the universe has been intelligently fashioned or designed. In fact, I think Paul would say that the evidence for an intelligent design of the material universe by a creator God is sufficient to convince even the most brilliant scientists.
Paul seems to be inviting, even challenging us, to examine the scientific record–to apply reason to the scientific record.
One scientist who was willing to be honest with the scientific record was Albert Einstein, who wrote, “The religious inclination lies in the dim consciousness that dwells in humans that all nature, including the humans in it, is in no way an accidental game, but… that there is a fundamental cause of all existence.”
In an essay entitled, The Religiousness of Science, Einstein states, “The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation… His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”
Einstein also understood the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which observes that matter naturally goes from state of order to disorder, not disorder to order.
This law was demonstrated last year in Las Vegas, as one of the older hotels on the strip was imploded by controlled demolition to make space for a new hotel. Explosives were not used to create the new hotel because explosions do not create order; they create disorder.
Yet many of us learned in school as fact that an impersonal, cosmic explosion resulted in a complex universe that, from every angle of honest observation, appears to have been designed with intricate, intelligent detail, adhering to universal scientific laws of physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics.
Remember, explosions, big bangs, do not create order, they destroy it.
If there were a big bang, it would have to be an explosion controlled by a superior intelligence, or else the big bang, by nature of being an explosion, defies the most basic laws of science
University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne, in his book Why Evolution is True, wrote: “If anything is true about nature, it is that plants and animals seem intricately and almost perfectly designed for living their lives.”[iii]
Atheist author Michael Shermer, in his book Why Darwin Matters, claims: “The design inference comes naturally. The reason people think that a Designer created the world is because it looks designed.”[iv]
This is why a creationist such as Michael Behe can say, “The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself—not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs.”
Even Charles Darwin, himself, admitted that his theories could be undone with data. When he published On the Origin of the Species in 1859, Darwin wrote this, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organism existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down…. Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
Yet the geological, or fossil record, has not revealed a finely graduated organic chain. The scientific findings are just the opposite.
Furthermore, the principle of irreducible complexity has revealed that there are numerous complex organisms, animals, birds and insects that cannot possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications.
In Darwin’s own words, modern scientific discoveries since 1859 have “absolutely broken down” his theory of origins
In ancient times, people observed the material world and concluded that there must be designer, or creator.
In modern times, scientific observation at both the macro and micro levels has confirmed that the laws of science, from physics, to biology, to chemistry and mathematics all consistently declare, proclaim and reveal a Designer.
In my opinion, it takes more faith to look at the house in the woods and conclude that it’s design is accidental than it does to believe that someone personal created it and lives there — even though you can’t see him.
Robert Mounce, in his commentary on Romans says, “Disbelief (in the reality of a personal, creator) requires an act of rebellion against common sense.”
So be encouraged, science and Scripture are not at odds. Scripture reveals that the greatest scientist is not Einstein or Newton. God himself is the great scientist. He created science.
Now if this conversation has offended you, please know that my intent is not to offend. My concern is with truth–with evidence–regardless of how offensive or uncomfortable we may find it.
The evidence of a personal, creator God has eternal implications.
In verse 20, in light of the clarity of a personal creator, Paul says that “we are without excuse.”
You see, the divide of whether or not there is a personal creator is not primarily an intellectual question. It is a personal issue. It is a spiritual issue and an eternal issue. But it is also a now issue.
Because in verse 20, Paul says that the evidence for a creator reveals his “eternal power and divine nature.”
Wielding this eternal power, he is the law-maker. He has created the laws of physics, and the laws governing biology, chemistry and mathematics. Some have called this “natural law” because these laws are simply observable.
This creator also has established “moral law,” which is the context for Paul bringing up the topic of General Revelation. He is not concerned to win an intellectual argument, but to share what the Bible calls the gospel, or good news.
If we track back from verse 19, we read in verse 18 a sobering reality: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
People have rejected the referent of divine truth and stand in judgement before the creator’s moral law. We have rejected the wisdom, ways and will of this God of eternal power and authority.
However, if we track back just one more verse, we discover something truly astonishing about this God.
In verse 17, we read, “In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
This God knows we all stand condemned in our unrighteousness before his moral law. The astonishing news is that he has intervened—not to judge us, but to save us.
On a Roman cross of judgement, Jesus, as our substitute, endured the justice that God’s moral law demanded so that we could receive mercy. We don’t get what we deserve. We do not receive justice but mercy. Total forgiveness. Complete reconciliation and acceptance with this God, no longer as a condemning judge, but as a forgiving, loving Father
Sofia Cavaletti is a researcher who has pioneered the study of spirituality in young children. During her research, she interviewed a family with a three-year old little girl. This family had no church connection at all and didn’t even own a Bible. The father, who was a self-professed atheist, had told his young daughter that God did not exist.
During the interview, Cavaletti asked the father, “Where did the world come from?”
After a pause, he said, “There are some people who say that all this comes from a very powerful being, and they call him God.” At this, the little girl began unexpectedly to dance around the room, causing a commotion.
When asked why she was dancing, she looked at her father and replied, “I knew what you told me wasn’t true—God is real!”
Somehow, even a 3-year old knew, by nature, that there is a personal, creator God — and it filled her with joy.
When the reality of God comes home to the heart…
- that there is a creator who also is a Savior…
- that life isn’t meaningless…
- that we can glory in and savor the creational greatness and the redemptive grace of God…
- that in view of the cross, this life becomes a prelude to eternal joy in the presence of Jesus.
Then we, like that little girl, we will begin to dance with joy.
Material adapted from the book, Theological Foundations, Dr. McKay Caston.
Does God Really Exist – Review and Discussion Guide
- How is the existence of God a watershed issue?
- Discuss this statement: “Without a universal referent, everything becomes relative.”
- How would you defend the statement that there is “incontrovertible evidence” for the existence of God?
- Why is the demand for evidence for God not unreasonable?
- Why would Darwin not be a Darwinist today?
- What are the eternal implications for the existence of a Creator God?
 Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 78.