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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does the God of the Bible Exist?

Don Stewart :: What Does Nature Tell Us about the Existence of the God of Scripture?

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What Does Nature Tell Us about the Existence of the God of Scripture? (Natural Theology)

Does the God of the Bible Exist? – Question 13

The Bible says that nature, or the world around us, is one of the ways in which God has revealed Himself to humanity. What exactly does nature 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.” The following points need to be made.

God’s Existence And Precision Are Evident In Nature

The Bible asserts that the entire universe is a testimony to God’s existence and precision. The psalmist had this to say.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. (Psalm 19:1-3 NET)

Gods’ existence can be seen from an examination of the universe around us.

The Apostle Paul told the people in Lystra that God has left a witness of Himself to everyone in the world. He said,

“Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own ways, yet he did not leave himself without a witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:15-17 NET)

Again, the created universe testifies to the existence of God. Everyone has this witness.

To the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote,

From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20 NLT)

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 About God Can Be Known From Nature?

There has been a debate concerning how much information about God can be derived from nature. Christians hold a number of different positions on this subject.

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. We can make the following observations about each of these arguments.

Option 1: There Are No Truths About God That Can Be Seen Through 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 our original perfect state, we are now totally corrupted by sin. This fact holds true for believer and unbeliever alike. While there may be truths about God that are found in nature, none of us can see it.

Option 2: Only Believers Can Understand Truths About God From Nature

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.

Option 3: Nature Can Prove God’s Existence To Everyone

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.

Option 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 there is enough in this revelation of God to save an individual.

Option 5: Nature Provides A Basic Knowledge Of God, Nothing More

The final 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.

In addition, human beings have either consciously, or subconsciously, suppressed these things that can be known. Therefore, nature is of very little help.

Evaluation: Option 5 Seems To Best Fit The Evidence

Option five seems to be the best way to understand what Scripture has to say on this subject. While 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 humanity to know Him.

Paul Explained The Unknown God To The Athenians

When the Apostle Paul went to the city of Athens, he spoke to the people about the God of the Bible. While the Athenians recognized that some unknown God may exist, his nature had to be explained to them by Paul. The Bible records what happened as follows.

So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.” (Act 17:22, 23 NET)

The unknown God had to be explained. 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, it certainly is 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 for the existence of the God of Scripture. Therefore, any help that nature can give is only minimal for people misinterpret God’s revelation in nature. It is the Bible alone that tells us how to understand nature.

The World Religions Give Testimony To The Need Of Written Scripture

In addition, nature cannot tell us anything about where sin came from, how it can be pardoned, or how to live a holy life. The various religions of the world give testimony to this fact. They all have the witness of nature before them yet they reach different conclusions about which God exists and what is demanded from human beings. For these things, we must go to God’s special revelation, the Bible. Divine revelation gives us explicit knowledge about God.

Thus, any conclusions about God’s character and purpose which one might derive from nature must be evaluated in light of what God has said about Himself, and what Jesus Christ revealed about God. Nature is indeed 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 purpose of God’s written Word, the Bible.

Summary – Question 13
What Does Nature Tell Us about God’s Existence? (Natural Theology)

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. They believe that nature is a dead end. In other words, it offers no help whatsoever.

Others think that only believers can benefit from the truths about God found in nature. Since we have the benefit of God’s Word we can draw some conclusions from nature.

There is also the position that nature can actually prove God’s existence. This view holds that those who have only nature to testify to them have enough to know that there is a God but they do not have enough evidence to save them.

There is also the argument that nature gives enough evidence about God to actually save those who do not have access to Scripture. Nature replaces Scripture for these people.

The best view seems to be that nature can provide basic truths to humanity, but falls short of giving any absolute truth. It tells us that there is a God who is majestic and powerful but nothing more. It is the Bible alone that tells human beings how to understand the testimony of God from nature.

We find that Scripture supports this idea. When Paul went to Athens, he preached to the Athenians about the unknown God which they worshipped. He had to explain the exact the identity of this unknown God. While they had the testimony of nature, it could not tell them what God is like. The Apostle preached Jesus Christ to them. Without his preaching they would not know His identity.

This is why the Bible is so necessary. It alone tells us which God exists, what He is like as well as what He requires from us.

Why Do Some Believers Think the Traditional Arguments for God's Existence Should Not Be Given? ← Prior Section
How Do We Know That the God of the Bible Is the God Who Exists? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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