Four words into God’s living and active autobiography and, boom, there He is. Front and center. No beating around the bush. After all, from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36), so it should be no surprise that the Bible begins with Him.
Here in Genesis 1, we see God already present at the beginning of time itself, creating and setting in order the world we see and know and feel and inhabit. Revelation 22:21 closes the Bible with the grace of Jesus Christ, God who came down to live in and redeem the world He Himself created. From beginning to end, this Book describes the character of God, pictures the work of God, sings the praises of God. In it we have everything we need to know about God and even more than we can understand in this lifetime. “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” (Romans 11:33)
In all of this, though, one element is remarkably absent. Notice where Genesis 1:1 starts. “In the beginning, God…” No explanation, no arguments for God’s existence, no attempts to prove He’s real. He’s just there. His existence is assumed. Presupposed.
Think about this for a minute. Is there any place in the pages of Scripture where its human authors felt the need to justify their belief in the existence of God?
Quite on the contrary. Not only does the Bible not try to defend or prove that God exists, it tells us that no such proof is necessary. Why?
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
His invisible attributes have been clearly perceived. Verse 21 says flat out that people “know God.” Nobody needs proof that God exists. Every person already knows. They suppress that truth in unrighteousness (verse 18), which is why the wrath of God is against them.
If indeed these things are so, how can we attempt to prove the existence of God to an unbeliever as though they, rather than God, were the judge? (See my mom’s post about the problem with evidence.)
We can’t. Not if we want to be consistent. You cannot acknowledge that God is the rightful Judge of all the earth and proceed to speak in ways that make it seem like His creatures have the authority to determine whether that’s true.
Then What Do You Do?
Does this mean we can’t defend the faith at all?
By no means! Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (2 Corinthians 5:11). What we need now is a Biblical understanding of how this works.
Peter tells us to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). However, what he says right before that is critical: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” The NASB here reads, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” This is actually the command in the verse, and “always being ready” is to flow from it.
The lordship of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the entire Christian life. It is our foundational commitment, on which we are in the process of building our beliefs about and responses to literally everything in the world. It is our worldview.
Put another way, we presuppose that Christ, as God, is the ultimate Authority over all things. He created the world. He owns it. He has the right to govern it. And He does so through His divinely inspired Word. This is our starting point. The truth about God, given to us in the Bible, is the source from which we get our knowledge about what is true and right.
Here’s the thing. Everyone has to have a starting point. Everyone has to have a basic commitment that shapes what they will accept as true. Most people think that facts are neutral, that the world is the way it is because it is and everybody just accepts it. This isn’t accurate.
What is math? To the Christian, math describes the world God created. It isn’t coincidence. Our God assembled the cosmos in an orderly fashion; when we engage in mathematical or scientific thought, we are, as Johannes Kepler is often quoted as saying, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Would an unbeliever think about it this way?
Colossians 2:3 tells us that “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Everything we know comes from God our Maker. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
If God is not someone’s basis for reality and truth, what is? Once again, this is a matter of authority. You’re going to have to trust something or someone as a foundation, a root for all other understanding. Where is a person’s faith when God is forcibly removed from the picture?
Ultimately, human reason. Our ability to come to our own conclusions about life.
The concept of autonomy is the original lie Satan told Eve way back in Genesis 3. “Did God really say?” This challenge to the sovereign Ruler of the universe was the first domino in a cosmic, catastrophic chain reaction that resulted in worldwide suppression of the truth. Ever since Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the idea has remained in our heads that we are like God and aren’t dependent on Him to understand how to live in His world. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, we don’t need to be told what to do.
Every other worldview that exists can, in light of Romans 1, be boiled down to a denial of God’s sovereign rule as detailed for us in Scripture. There are, in the end, only two worldviews. There is the one that sees fit to acknowledge God, and the one that does not.
The Power of God
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)
If humanity’s number one problem is that they do not see fit to acknowledge the God they know is there, our number one goal in reaching them should be to point Him out. We saw in Romans that His invisible attributes are “clearly perceived” in the world He created, leaving people without excuse. Our responsibility in both apologetics and evangelism is to bring Him to others’ attention so that they may repent of their truth-suppression, bow their knees and confess Christ as Lord now rather than when they come face to face with Him as Judge.
But. Our responsibility is not to change their hearts. That is God’s responsibility. He who formed the earth and everything in it is also in the business of creating new hearts in people, by His Spirit, through the power of His Word (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ezekiel 36). Our job is to be faithful to the trustworthy word as taught in Scripture. God’s job is to work the miracle of regeneration, as He chooses, through the Gospel we proclaim.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 ESV, emphasis mine)