Scholars generally break down the arguments for God’s existence into three broad categories: scripture, nature, and philosophy. Arguments from philosophy – such as the cosmological, design, and moral arguments – often go over our heads. And unbelievers may reject arguments from scripture as nothing more than myths and legends.
But the apostle Paul makes a good case from nature in Romans 1. The argument is so clear that Paul states emphatically every person will stand before God one day without excuse. That’s because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways.
1. God has revealed Himself in our conscience. Rom. 1:19 reads: “… since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.”
“Them” refers to unbelievers who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” They do not allow the truth to work in their lives. Rather, they suppress it so they might continue to live their lives independently of God.
Later, Paul says they turn the truth into a lie, and become like brute beasts in their thinking, so that God gives them up to their way of living. This results in “godlessness” and “unrighteousness,” which draw the “wrath” of God.
Willmington’s Bible Handbook explains it this way: “God does not reap wrath where he has not sown knowledge.”
A person will either acknowledge the truth and repent, or suppress the truth until the conscience is “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2).
God has placed within every human heart a knowledge of right and wrong, along with an understanding that these standards are objective – coming from outside ourselves.
Some people – even some cultures – suppress that knowledge, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The fact that people around the world – regardless of societal advancement or religious practice – know that stealing, murder, rape and other such actions are wrong is a testimony to the truth that there is a sovereign God who created us and to whom we must give an account.
2. God has revealed Himself in creation. Rom. 1:20 reads: “From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”
Warren Wiersbe writes: “Human history is not the story of a beast that worshiped idols, and then evolved into a man worshiping one God. Human history is just the opposite: man began knowing God, but turned from the truth and rejected God. God revealed Himself to man through creation…. From the world around him, man knew that there was a God who had the wisdom to plan and the power to create.”
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” The things that are invisible of God, namely, His eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen in the things He made.
“What a paradox,” writes Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, “invisible things which are visible…. Man, reasoning upon the basis of the law of cause and effect, which law requires an adequate cause for every effect, is forced to the conclusion that such a tremendous effect as the universe, demands a Being of eternal power and divine attributes. That Being must be the Deity who should be worshipped.”
Wuest continues, “Thus, through the light of the created universe, unsaved man recognizes the fact that there is a supreme Being who created it, who has eternal power and divine attributes, a Being to whom worship and obedience are due.”
It’s important to note that Paul is not saying the full gospel message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is clear to all people from the testimony of creation, for that requires God’s further revelation of His Son through the preaching of the Word and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
But Paul is saying that all people are rendered without defense for rejecting God because God has shown all people He exists and is to be the sole object of their worship.
So, how do we answer the person who asks, “Is God real?” A simple response is: “When I look at the universe – so big and complex – I am driven to the conclusion that someone started it all. And when I think that people everywhere somehow know in their hearts what’s right and what’s wrong, I feel certain someone put that conscience there. Because of these things – creation and conscience – I believe God is real. How about you?”
This response will not persuade skeptics, of course, but it may start a conversation with someone seeking the truth. In the end, the sovereign Creator of the universe gets to ask the questions. And as the apostle Paul makes clear, no one gets a pass for saying, “I didn’t know there was a God.”
This column first appeared Oct. 23, 2012, in The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.