This article will look at what we can discover about God from his creation. For the purposes of this post, I will assume that we do not have the Bible. What can we know about God simply by looking at what he has made?
The Existence of God
Does God exist? I believe that he does. But I cannot conclusively prove that to you. I believe that he exists for two primary reasons. The first is based primarily on my own experience, and secondarily on the experience of others. That there is a God, a God who is interested in me, and who is working in my life, is the best explanation I have for who I am and for what I have experienced. And I am not just an isolated example. I have personally known others, and read about countless others, whose experiences have been similar to my own. I cannot prove to you that God exists, but I believe he has proven his existence to me.
The second primary reason I believe in the existence of God is that it makes more rational sense to me than the alternative. I simply cannot wrap my head around the thought that this universe, including the planet we live on, life itself, and the ability to think rationally are simply the product of blind chance. There are some really smart people who seem to have no problem with accepting that, but I just cannot.
I must also confess that my upbringing in a Christian family has had an impact on me. Some would say that I was brainwashed, but I am grateful for that push in the right direction. I may have believed at one time because of my parents, but that time is long past.
Proofs for the Existence of God
If I cannot prove to you that God exists, why would I include a section on proofs of his existence? While I do not believe that conclusive proof is possible, there have been many attempts over the years to provide logical proof for God’s existence. These ‘proofs’ will not convince everyone of God’s existence. But they can remove stumbling blocks that stand in the way of belief. Many are convinced that belief in God is irrational. These proofs can demonstrate the rationality of belief. These proofs include:
There are a variety of cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Each of these is centered on causation or change. Among the most familiar of these is the Kalām argument. This proof takes the form of:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe had a cause
If the initial two premises are correct, then the conclusion is also correct. This seems like a good proof. But you will not have to use it very many times before you find those who will disagree with one or both of the initial premises. To me, their reasons for disputing the premises seem far-fetched or flimsy. But to those who do not want to believe, any excuse will work.
The teleological argument is also known as the argument from design. Essentially the argument is that the universe, and life, are too finely tuned to have been an accident; there must have been a designer. Today, the intelligent design movement is championing the teleological argument. Like all of the arguments listed here, there are those who dispute that the appearance of design requires a designer. It could, for instance, simply be that there are an infinite number of universes. And this one just won the cosmic jackpot and was able to support life.
Of all of the logical proofs presented here, this is, to me, the most confusing. A variation of this argument goes something like this.
- God is, by definition, the greatest being that you can conceive of.
- But what is greater, that which is only conceived, or that which is actualized?
- That which is actualized is greater, so a god that actually exists is greater than a god who is only conceptualized.
- Therefore God is actual.
Confusing; yes. But it does have its proponents.
A miracle is defined as an event that is caused by a supernatural entity. So if miracles occur, then there must be a supernatural entity, God, behind them. So if miracles can be demonstrated to occur, or to have occurred in the past, then there must be a God. The biggest miracle ever to occur is the creation of the universe, so God does exist.
Seemingly hardwired into humanity is a sense of right and wrong, and of fairness. There is also a willingness to self-sacrifice, a willingness that seems contrary to a purely naturalistic understanding of life. What is the source of this morality? Is it a trait that evolution has left us with? Is it culturally derived? Or is it a divine moral lawgiver? There are problems with the first two, so it must be the third.
For more on this argument, see “The Moral Argument: Objective Goodness Requires God“.
Throughout time and place, wherever modern man has been found, there is some trace of religion. An acknowledgment of something greater than ourselves. That is quite a coincidence. Unless the creator has built into us a desire to know him.
What can I know about God apart from the Bible? This is generally what is considered to be general revelation, what is revealed about God through some source other than the Bible or other God-inspired writings. General revelation can include:
- Nature: The creation itself bears witness to its creator (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-23).
- History: Sometimes, in historical, or even current, events, we can dimly see the hand of God at work.
- Conscience: Why do we have a conscience? Romans 2:14-15 identifies the conscience as God’s law written on our hearts.
The evidence for God through general revelation is available to everyone who lives or has lived. But for the most part, humanity ignores the witness of general revelation. Living their lives as if there were no God. General revelation does not tell us anything very specific about the creator. And it is best understood in light of his more directed revelation of himself in the Bible. But it is adequate to point a seeker to God.
The Nature of God from General Revelation
So just what can a person know about God based on general revelation? There are a number of attributes of God that can be derived just from what we can see in the creation. And others that are likely.
In my way of thinking, power is required to produce something. And the bigger and grander the product, the more power is required to produce it. As humans, we think of ourselves as pretty powerful. Yet producing something the size of the moon is well beyond our ability to execute. I cannot imagine the amount of power that would be required to produce a universe. Even a universe that unrolls from a singularity would require an amazing amount of power to start it and to keep it unrolling.
I have no idea about what lies beyond the universe we inhabit. Nor what limits there might be on a universe creator in that realm. But within the context of the creation, I think it is safe to identify the creator as all-powerful or omnipotent; without equal in power and ability; able to do whatever he chooses.
Space and time are two limitations that we are very familiar with. Everything in this universe is limited to being in a single location at any one moment in time. And everything that I am aware of experiences the passage of time in a forward-only manner. But the creator would be distinct from his creation, independent of it, and not limited by it. The term for this is transcendence.
Not being bound by space means that the creator can be in multiple places at any one instance in time. Or even in every place within the universe. This means that the creator could be omnipresent, everywhere at once.
Even more interesting is that the creator would not be bound by time. This means that he could move both forward and backward in time; be in multiple time periods simultaneously, or even be concurrently present at all points in time. That is admittedly hard to visualize. But if, as scientists claim, time is just another dimension, then it is really little different than being in multiple places at one time.
The more complex and elegant the design, the more intelligence is required to produce it. And can you think of anything that is more complex or elegant than the universe, apart from its creator? Is there anything about the creation that its creator would not know?
If the creator is intelligent enough to create our universe and is able to be everywhere within it, both in space and in time, then he could know everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen. He would be omniscient.
A miracle is generally defined as something that has a supernatural origin, an act of a deity. Much of the argument against miracles assumes that there is no creator. There are those who will argue that even an omnipotent and omniscient creator would be unable to produce a miracle. But that does not really make sense, since creation itself is an act of the creator, a miracle. I can find no rational argument for supposing that a creator would be unable to interact with his creation, i.e. perform miracles. He may choose not to perform miracles, but that is different than being unable to.
I was a software developer for many years, the creator of little software worlds. Most users of those applications were limited by the user interface in what they could do. But I was able to tweak the underlying data in ways that they could not. This allowed me to accomplish things that the average user could not. That is really no different than the creator manipulating the underlying laws and constants that drive our universe to accomplish something that I would be unable to.
Miracles are impossible if there is no creator. But if there is a creator, then miracles should not be a surprise, even miracles that we do not recognize as such; rather, they should be expected.
For more on miracles, see “Miracles: Impossible, or to be Expected?“
While it is by no means certain to me, it does seem likely that a creator would have a purpose in his creation. In other words, he had a reason for producing a life-friendly universe.
And if he had a purpose in creation, and especially if that purpose included intelligent life, it would seem reasonable to assume that he would be active in his creation, at least enough to make sure his purpose was fulfilled. It would also seem likely that he might want any intelligent life that developed to have some concept of himself and his purpose.
For more on God’s purpose, see “God’s Purpose in Creation“.
As you can see, there are a number of reasonable assumptions we can make about the attributes of God based on general revelation. While none of the attributes discussed above can be conclusively proven, they do seem reasonable to me, as well as to many others. Some of the posts later in this series will spend more time discussing each of these attributes.
- An Introduction to Systematic Theology (5/21/2021) - This is an introduction to the topic of systematic theology. It will be providing some general guidelines for a systematic study of theology.
- The God of General Revelation: What Creation Tells Us (5/28/2021) - Does God exist? How can we know that? And if he does exist, what is he like? What can we learn about God apart from the Bible?
- The Doctrine of the Bible (6/12/2021) - From the human perspective, the Bible is a diverse collection of literature written over a long period of time. From a divine perspective, it is the authoritative guide to faith and practice.
- The Doctrine of the Nature of God (12/30/2017) - What is the nature of God? This post is a quick look at the attributes of God, the Trinity, his will, and some commonly raised questions.
- The Doctrine of the Work of God (1/7/2018) - What is the work of God? It involves creation of the cosmos as well as providence, the sustaining and governance of his creation.
- The Doctrine of Humanity (3/2/2017) - Who are we as humans? Where did we come from? Why are we here? The doctrine of humanity provides answers to those questions.
- The Doctrine of Sin (3/19/2018) - The doctrine of sin is one of the foundational truths of the Christian faith. It describes an aspect of our nature that is opposed to God.
- The Doctrine of the Nature of Jesus Christ (4/12/2018) - The nature of Jesus . . . He is the second person of the Trinity. And he is both fully God and fully man, perfectly united into one person.
- The Doctrine of the Work of Jesus Christ (4/29/2018) - The primary work of Jesus is offering himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus' atonement for us is essential for our salvation.
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (6/4/2018) - The Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity, brings conviction of sin, enables life as a believer, and equips for service in the Kingdom.
- The Doctrine of Salvation (6/27/2018) - The doctrine of salvation encompasses our initial salvation experience, our ongoing walk with Christ, and our final deliverance.
- The Doctrine of the Church (7/29/2018) - What is the church? What is it's purpose? Questions about government, baptism and Lord's Supper. These are topics addressed by the doctrine of the church.
- The Doctrine of Last Things (9/15/2018) - The doctrine of last things includes the global events preceding Christ's return, as well as the more personal aspects; what happens to me in the end.