BIBLICAL ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS, 1

Chance or Creation?

The first seven words of Genesis are the foundation of all that follows.   If a person cannot accept this clear and concise statement about the Creator and the Creation, then they will have a very difficult time accepting the veracity of the rest of the Bible.  We either believe in the truthfulness of the Bible in its entirety or we don’t.  To disbelieve the Creation narratives is to cast doubt on the miraculous nature of Scripture.  If Genesis 1 and 2 are to be considered myth or legend, then why stop there?  Surely it is just has hard to believe in the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection as it is in the literal six days of creation!

The Bible is not a science textbook; it is a book of faith.  Although some have sought to use science to disprove various aspects of the Bible, their efforts have resulted in the exact opposite:  science has never been able disprove the claims made by Scripture.  That is not to say Christians need to have their faith in Scripture vindicated; our faith in Scripture has its roots in our faith in the Creator, for He cannot be separated from His Word.  Science is a wonderful thing, but science is not God; it does not have all the answers.  The claims of science change all the time.  When I was growing up, the earth facing an impending ice age; lately science has claimed the earth is heating up.  Now we find out global warming is a hoax, based on dubious science, lies and fraud.  The message of the Bible has not changed in thousands of years; time and again both history and science have supported the claims of Scripture, despite their best efforts to the contrary.   One of the greatest accomplishments of science has been to humble man and make him realize that he is not the center of the universe.

1.  God’s amazing design of creation, Genesis 1:1—26; Psalm 19:1—4

(1)  The beginning of time, verses 1, 2

The purpose of the first verse of Genesis 1 is three-fold:

  • To identify the Creator;
  • To explain the origin of the material universe;
  • To tie the work of God in the past to His work in the future.

It all happened “in the beginning.”  The word translated “beginning” is the Hebrew bereshith.  This interesting word means “at the commencement of time.”  God’s creative acts had a starting point, though He Himself did not.

The brevity of the account belies its importance.  As “the created,” we naturally would like more information, but God has told us exactly what need to know.  The creative week began at the beginning of time.  Dominating the scene is the Master Creator, God, who is portrayed as speaking the material universe into order.  This is the answer to the question, “Who made all things?”  The answer is simple:  God did.  The word used is elohim, which means “the mighty one.”  Curiously, no attempt was made to explain where God came from or what He was doing before He began creating the material universe.  The author simply states that when time began, God was already there.  However, the Creator-God of Genesis is not some faceless deity, like the gods of other “creation legends.”   The creation account must always be read in context of the Pentateuch as a whole, where God is seen interacting with His creation personally, making covenants with them, leading His covenant people to live in a “good land,” delivering them from bondage, and building them into a nation that has stood the test of time.   At the very beginning, though, He is the mighty one, creating the material universe.

The word for “create” is bara, and means a “decree” or a “pronouncement.”  In other words, God thought it, He spoke it and it happened.  This is an important idea being conveyed by the author of Genesis.  The God who created all was before all and above all.  The earth cannot be a god because it was created.  Nature in general should not be worshiped as a god because all things in nature were created.  There is only one God who should be worshiped because only one God was before all things.  All that we see around us is the result of His handiwork.  The folly of idolatry is indirectly addressed in the very first verse.  Why worship things that had to be created?  Does it not make more sense to worship the One who brought all things into being?

(2)  The crowning achievement of creation, verses 24—31

As the week of creation wound down, we get to the day of animals and man; the sixth day of creation.  The Lord gave the command, “Let the earth bring forth…” and God filled that earth with all manner of animals, from the largest to the smallest.  But this sixth day would become the crowning day of creation.  The God-head in counsel said,

“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  (verse 26)

This “man” was to be different from all other creatures.  Only in the case of man did God say, “Let us make man in our image.”  What a phenomenal statement!  Here we have an example of the Trinity in action and man’s unique place in creation.  He was created in the “image” of his Creator; meaning, man was created having “some resemblance to the reality but lacking its fullness.”  Man was not created to be an exact duplicate of God, nor was he created to be a “little God,” but he was created to be the bearer of spiritual distinctives which mark him as uniquely higher than the animals (Heinish).   Some of those distinctives included (but are not limited to):

  • Man’s right to dominion, verse 28.  God made man to be a ruler, which presupposes God has given man the intellectual capacity to think and to reason, to organize, plan, and evaluate.
  • Man was created possessing self-consciousness, self-determination, and inward holiness (see Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).
  • God granted man the right to use nature for his own uses, like food.  This does not mean that man was granted the right to abuse nature however he pleases.   Proper care of his environment is implied in the Creation account (2:15).

While God blessed the animals in verse 22, the blessing upon man is much broader in meaning (verse 28).  Man, unlike animals, is capable of understanding that he has been blessed and he is able to respond to it.  “Blessing” as it relates to a rational, thinking being, is an act of conveying God’s will to the one being blessed.   So man’s authority over the earth is not to be considered “exclusive,” for it is a delegated authority, coming from his Creator.  Everything man does in relation to his environment should be done with an eye to God’s will.

(c)  The visible declaration of God, Psalm 19:1—4

Rightly understood, all nature bears witness to God, the Creator.  Psalm 19 is thought to be one of the most majestic psalms in the Psalter.  C.S. Lewis wrote:  “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”

Obviously from what we read in the Creation account in Genesis, the Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of God, but rather it does point to the material universe as evidence of the majesty, wisdom, and existence of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  (verse 1)

The glory and wisdom of God are evident in the vastness of space.  The declaration is emphatic:  “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.”  Theirs is a continuous declaration, and as in the Genesis account of creation, the word used here for “God” is El, denoting the might of God.   Though wars and misery on earth often obscure this proclamation, it goes forth nonetheless, for man to see.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  (verse 2)

The repetition of “day” and “night” reveals the consistency of God’s creation:  the cycle of day and night, night and day will never end.  This thought is mentioned in Genesis 8:22—

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

You can depend on God’s creation; there is nothing human beings can do to change it.  What has always been will always be.  God, like what He created, can be depended upon.  All of nature reveals this.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  (verse 3)

This is a difficult verse to translate.  It may mean that the testimony of creation is as wide as the human race; there is no place on earth a human being can hide from nature’s testimony; or it could mean nature’s testimony is silent and does not depend on words.  In other words, nature’s testimony may be silent but it is powerful and profound and can’t be missed.

Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun.  (verse 4)

Nature’s declaration of God’s glory is without words and is therefore universal, unrestricted by the division of culture or language.  Calvin observed:

When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest plants.

While the universe may declare the glory of God, it was never meant to be worshiped or thought of as deity.

2.  The folly of denying God, Psalm 14:1—3; Romans 1:18—25; Colossians 1:16—18

(a)  God’s view of the unbeliever, Psalm 14:1—3

We call people who claim to not believe in God “atheists” or sometimes “agnostics.”  But the Bible has a much more pointed and politically incorrect name for them:  “fools.”

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.  (Psalm 14:1)

“Fool” or “folly” in the Bible is always a matter of moral wrong and even wickedness, not intellectual limitation.  Here is a fine example of the psalmist’s opinion of a human being who would dare to think there is no God:  he is morally perverse.   Consider the fact of God’s self-revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ—

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

God dwelled among human beings!  God’s glory is revealed in the material universe.  As far as the psalmist was concerned, only a morally perverse person could possibly deny God’s existence, so obvious is the proof.  Of “fool,” Leslie M’Caw wrote:

“Fool” or “vile person” is a man wholly indifferent to the moral standards of the law, and who daily adopts as his own principle the belief that deity cares nothing about the differences between men’s behavior.   Such persons cannot but live a dissolute life and be incapable of “doing good.”

That is the psalmist’s view of anybody who rejects the reality of God’s existence.  Where God is denied, hearts are corrupt, deeds are vile, and a person cannot possibly do good.

In verse 2, we have a picture of God that is sad—

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

Imagine the sadness God must feel as He looks down from heaven, looking for signs of spiritual understanding and for hearts inclined toward Him.  What does He find?  God finds nothing He is looking for.  Isaiah 53:6a perfectly describes the scene on earth and the state of God’s created beings—

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way

It gets even worse for those who refuse to believe in God—

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.  (Psalm 14:3, KJV)

The phrase, “all together become filthy” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “tainted, gone bad, turned sour.”  Here is how the sinner appears to our holy God.  Here is an insight, as well, into the nature of sin:  it corrupts and spoils what could have been good.

(b)  Man’s view of God, Romans 1:18ff

Not only does the Bible teach that God’s glory is made clear in creation, something else is seen in creation:  God’s wrath—

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  (Romans 1:18)

Unrepentant man is existing under the wrath of God, which is revealed from heaven.  In verse 17 we read that God’s righteousness is also revealed from heaven.   These two aspects of God’s nature can be seen by two groups of people, the saved and the unsaved.  To those of us who are saved, we see God’s righteousness as plain as day.  But to the unsaved, their view of God is horribly skewed by sin for they see His wrath.  Every human being without exception knows either God’s righteousness or God’s wrath—His lovingkindness or His displeasure, His saving power or His judgment.  Martin Luther boiled it down to one pithy sentence:

In Christ, God is love.  Outside of Christ, our God is a consuming fire.

What exactly is “God’s wrath?”  The word “wrath” is used infrequently in the NT in connection with God, but when it is so used, it never suggests anger; it never portrays God being angry.   Some scholars see God’s wrath as being wholly impersonal and objective, and they use Galatians 6:7 (a man reaps what he sows) and Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death) to make their case.  They say God has created a moral order in which sin is its own punishment and destruction and Romans 1 teaches that God has given man up to the consequences of their rebellion.

There is merit to that teaching.  However, are we to believe that our sins have no effect on God personally?  That our outright rebellion does not move Him at all?  P.T. Forsyth asks even more penetrating questions:

When a man piles up his sin and rejoices in iniquity, is God simply a bystander and spectator in the process?  Does not God’s pressure on the man blind him, urge him, stiffen him, shut him up into sin, if only that he might be shut up to mercy alone?

John Murray taught that God’s wrath is “the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is a contradiction of his holiness.”   A.M. Richardson once gave an excellent working definition of God wrath as “his holy love reacting against evil—the adverse wind of the divine will blowing against the sinner, not only on judgment day, but now, resulting in the degeneration and debasement of the sinner.”

Because God is God, His wrath is a real and terrible reality.  However, wrath is not hate.  It is God’s love that continually offers sinners a way out.  This is what Paul means when he says that the wrath of God is being revealed along with His righteousness; man sees both, chooses one, and lives under his choice:  wrath or righteousness.

(c)  Man’s appropriate response, Revelation 4:11

When God is viewed as the Bible portrays Him, the only reasonable response from His creation is worship.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

Every aspect of creation was designed to bring glory to God (Romans 8:19—21).  All worship begins with a decision of the will (mind), moves to the emotions (heart), and is expressed in how we act (body).  In the setting of this verse, we are in the very throne room of heaven and 24 elders have fallen down in an act of obedience and acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty.  The response of those elders should be ours as well.  When we look at the world around us and the heavens above us, we should be so moved to acknowledge what the heavenly elders did:

  • God’s distinctive worthiness; He deserves our praise and worship (You are worthy);
  • God’s absolute sovereignty over our lives (our Lord);
  • His matchless splendor and majesty (glory and honor and power);
  • His primacy above all creation (you created all things);
  • God’s dominion and design—all things including man exist to bring Him glory and accomplish His will (all created things have their being in Him).

We live on a wonderful planet in a glorious, mysterious universe created by God for us.  We should never take any of God’s creation for granted.  His “fingerprints” may be seen in everything He created.  We have no excuse for denying God’s existence since His creation testifies to His existence.  He created the earth for us and He continues to create within us a new heart if we let Him (Psalm 51:10).

(c)  2010 WitzEnd
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