Nature is one of the ways in which God has revealed Himself to humanity. What exactly does nature, that is the universe around us, tell us about God? Can we find evidence of God's existence from looking at the world in which we live? The examination of what evidence nature can provide is known as "Natural Theology."
God's Existence And Precision Are Evident In Nature
The Bible asserts that the universe is a testimony to God's existence and precision. The psalmist had this to say:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard (Psalm 19:1-3).
The Apostle Paul told the people in Lystra.
You should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he did not leave himself without witness, in that he did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:15-17).
To the church at Rome the Apostle Paul wrote:
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
These passages are reminders that God's creative work can be observed in nature. He created things to function in an orderly fashion and He continues to keep things in order. His handiwork is present everywhere for all to view. One need only look around.How Much Information Can Be Known?
There has been a debate concerning how much information about God can be derived from nature. Basically there are five points of view: nature can teach us nothing about God, only believers can understand truth about God from nature, nature can actually prove that God exists, nature provides enough truth as to be able to save people, nature provides everyone a knowledge of God's existence but not enough to save.
1. There Is No Truth From Nature
Some Bible students argue that natural theology, as such, does not exist. Fallen humanity cannot derive any truth from nature. Because humankind has fallen from their original perfect state we are now totally corrupted by sin. This fact holds true for believer and unbeliever alike.
2. Only Believers Can Understand It
Some Christians have argued that only believers can understand the testimony of nature concerning the things of God. Those who have the benefit of God's Word can clearly understand the physical world because of the testimony of Scripture. Without Scripture, nature tells unbelievers nothing.
3. Nature Can Prove God's Existence
It has also been argued that nature can actually prove that God exists. Those who hold this view do not believe that nature is sufficient to save individuals from their sin, but they can know, for a fact, that God does exist.
4. Nature Is Able To Save Lost Sinners
There have been some theologians who have argued that truths from nature can actually save those who have not had any acquaintance with special revelation. They believe it is enough in this revelation of God to save an individual.
5. Nature Provides A Basic Knowledge Of God
The biblical position is that nature can provide a basic knowledge of God. All people, at all times, know that God exists through what He has revealed. Yet nature only tells us the basic facts about God. We do not know any specific information abut God
Nature Is Not Enough
Though nature testifies that God does exist, in the final analysis it is only God Himself who can give us knowledge of His own being. The Bible makes it clear that God's revelation of Himself in nature is not sufficient knowledge for sinful man to know Him.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the one, whom you worship without knowing, him I proclaim to you' (Act 17:22,23).
Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
To me . . . this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:8,9).
Nature, by itself, is an inadequate source to know the God of the Bible. While the evidence from nature may give some secondary attesting to God's existence, they certainly are not enough for anyone to know which God exists or what God expects from humanity. At best, the arguments from nature are consistent with other arguments that can be brought forward the existence of the God of Scripture. Therefore any help that nature can give is only minimal.
In addition, nature cannot tell us anything about where sin came from, how it can be pardoned, or how to live a holy life. For these things we must go to God's revelation – the Bible
We Need God's Written Word
Any conclusions about God's character and purpose one might make from nature must be evaluated in light of what God has said about Himself and what Jesus revealed about God when He invaded history. Nature is a witness to God's might and power but it does not supply all the knowledge a sinner needs to develop a personal relationship with God. That is the job of God's written Word—the Bible.
Nature gives evidence to the precision and creative hand of God. This is called "Natural Theology." It is debated as to how much information that it alone can provide humanity. Some feel nature can teach humanity nothing about God while others think that only believers can benefit from the truths about God found in nature. Others feel that nature can actually prove God's existence. There is also the argument that nature gives enough evidence about God to save those who do not have access to Scripture. The best view seems to be that nature can provide basic truths to humanity but falls short of giving any absolute truth.