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, as all the rain that falls on the west of the divide will flow toward and into the Pacific Ocean and precipitation that falls on the eastern side of the divide will flow toward and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Like a continental divide, the topic of origins is a watershed issue.
Depending on which side of the divide you fall will determine how you view the world and your place in it.
Where you fall will influence how you think about everything, how you process ideas, how you react to events, how you think about God, yourself, and how you make decisions.
Here is the divide: Does a personal, creator God really exist?
Let’s not be too quick to answer. The stakes are 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, but there is no referent for truth — for what is good, right, and beautiful.
Without a universal touchstone for truth, everything becomes relative and ultimately meaningless.
That was the conclusion of King Solomon writing Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, who determined that if there is no god, then the pursuit of truth is futile, 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 having randomly evolved from primordial chemical reactions.
I’m asking us to be ruthlessly honest.
If there is no personal, creator God who has given a unique value to human life, then neither a child in the womb, a teenager shot in a gang hit, or the elderly in a nursing home is of no more value than roadkill.
But if there is a personal, creator God, then there is a reference point for truth — for that which is good, right, and beautiful. In that case, all human life is valuable — even sacred — regardless of age, color, nationality, or even religion.
If there is a personal creator, then life is not meaningless. Everything and everyone is infused with value and purpose.
Does a personal creator God exist?
As a watershed issue, we must not assume the answer. This is true for the long-time churchgoer as well as the most committed atheist.
We all need to step back and examine the evidence. If we are going to say that there is a personal, creator, then we need to be convinced, without reservation. The implications are just too significant.
Let’s take a look at our focus passage in Romans 1:19–20.
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.
In this text in Romans, Paul claims that 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. It is 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 suppress the evidence, denying the existence of the sun by refusing to look up while it shines overhead.
Paul is saying that the evidence for a personal creator is like asking if the sun exists as it shines in the sky.
The theological category expressed inverse 19 is called General Revelation, where God has revealed himself in a general way to all people through the physical, material universe. In General Revelation, God reveals himself as the Creator.
Special Revelation is where this Creator reveals himself as Redeemer. This is revealed in the biblical story of deliverance, where the Lord rescues his people from judgment. Understanding the big picture of the Bible will be our focus in the next chapter.
For now, 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 and to stop asking questions.
When my eldest child, Ann Ferris, was six or seven years old, she had a crisis of faith. The church where I served as pastor recited 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.
One Sunday after the service, she informed 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 were 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.”
With that story, the nickel dropped for Ann Ferris and the next Sunday she again recited the Apostles’ Creed, not out of habit but with great confidence and joy. She was convinced. Not because I told her to believe, but because the evidence was undeniable.
The demand for evidence is not an unreasonable request.
In verse 20 of Romans 1, 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.”
Paul claims unequivocally that the universe has been intelligently 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 challenging us to examine 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,observing that matter naturally moves from a state of order to disorder rather than disorder to order.
One scientist who was willing to be honest with the scientific record was Albert Einstein.
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 destroy order.
Yet many of us learned in school as fact that an impersonal, cosmic explosion resulted in the creation of 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 — like 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 supreme intelligence, or else we are forced to believe that the explosion that established the universe defied 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.”
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 that it looks designed.”
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, “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, fossil record has not revealed a finely graduated organic chain. The scientific findings are just the opposite.
Furthermore, the principle of irreducible complexity has demonstrated that there are numerous complex organisms, animals, birds, and insects that could not 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.
Charles Darwin admitted that his theories could be undone with data.
Based on the scientific evidence available and in view of Darwin’s own words, I find it curious that Darwinian evolution is still being taught in schools as a proven scientific fact rather than as a largely discredited theory.
In ancient times, people observed the material world and concluded that there must be a 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 what the ancients knew. There is a designer, after all.
In my opinion, it takes more faith to look at the house in the woods and conclude that its 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 agrees. In his commentary on Romans, he writes, “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 like we have been told. For the greatest scientist is not Einstein or Newton but God himself — the God who created science.
Science and Scripture are not at odds like we have been told.
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 merely an intellectual question. It is a spiritual issue with eternal consequences.
After all, in verse 20, Paul says that the evidence for a creator reveals his “eternal power and divine nature.”
Wielding this eternal power, God created the laws of physics, as well as the laws governing biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Some have called this “natural law” because these laws are simply observable in nature.
God as Creator also established a “moral law,” which is the context for Paul bringing up the topic of General Revelation. He is not concerned about winning an intellectual argument, but to leverage a spiritual point.
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.”
Having rejected the referent of divine truth, humanity stands in judgment before the creator’s moral law. We have rejected the wisdom, the ways, and the will of this God of eternal power and authority, substituting ourselves in his rightful place as Creator of truth and Governor of humanity.
However, if we track back just one more verse, we discover something truly astonishing about this God.
Verse 17 reads, “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.’”
The Creator God knows each of us stands condemned in our unrighteousness before his moral law. The staggering message of Special Revelation is that he has intervened — not to judge us, but to save us.
On a Roman execution implement called a cross, Jesus, as our substitute, endured and fulfilled the justice that God’s moral law demanded. He received judgment so that we could receive mercy. In the gospel, we don’t get what we deserved. We get what he deserved.
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…
When that comes home to the heart, we, like that little girl, will begin to dance with joy.
What is Wrong with the World?
Should You Really Trust an Ancient Religious Document to Guide Your Life in the Modern World?
What is the Fundamental Entrance Requirement for Membership in the Kingdom of God?
Does Your Repentance Feel Like Death Yet?
What if Jesus is Still Buried?
The Grace of Adoption
God’s Work For Us Versus In Us
The Gospel is Not a Second Chance nor a Clean Slate
The Grade Exchange
The Heart of the Christian Message
The Question Everyone Gets Wrong
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