Knowing God in the Sphere of Nature

As mentioned in a previous blog post, there are three questions that I’m asked pretty often:

Why aren’t there more Black Reformed Christians? This question was answered in a blog series, in which I asserted (and attempted to demonstrate) that traditional Black spirituality is quite different than Reformed spirituality. The second question is similar to the first.

Why have I chosen to join a church with no other minorities? This question is usually asked from other Black Christians, and it’s a question that deals with the matter of ethnic solidarity vs. doctrinal convictions. However, the question that I want to answer is as follows:

How do I reconcile my vocation as a physics professor with my confession of Christ? This question is asked by Christians and non-Christians alike. When the question is phrased by an unbeliever, it can be a statement of curiosity (usually in the best case scenario) or it can be a statement of incredulity (usually the common scenario). When the question is phrased by a believer, it usually is a question about the scientific method, the creation debate, and the claims from modern scientifically-minded atheists.

Whatever the case may be, ultimately these questions devolve into questions regarding apologetics. At the end of the day, every Christian must be able to give an answer to at least three basic questions: (1) Why do you believe that God exists? (2) Why do you believe that God can be known by us? (3) Why do you believe the Bible? From the perspective of a scientist, I’m usually asked to answer the first two questions more often than the third so in this blog series, I want to address the first two questions from a scientist’s perspective.

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As an broad introduction in addressing these questions, I want to address the topic of how God reveals Himself to us, apart from special revelation. This is answered in Chapter 1, Paragraph 1 in the 1689 LBCF.

… although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary unto salvation.

This states that God reveals Himself to us internally (through our religious consciousness and moral conscience) and externally (through His works of creation and providence).

It’s also important to note that both modes of natural revelation depend upon each other. On one hand, if there was no preceding innate knowledge of God, no amount of observation from nature through scientific processes would lead to an adequate conception of God. On the other hand, our innate knowledge of God is not complete in itself apart from our external knowledge of God from creation – in other words, the works of creation and providence gives our innate knowledge of God richness and concreteness. This can be observed in Romans 1, and it explains why the scripture never assumes (even in regard to the atheist) that man must be taught the existence of God. Rather, when the scriptures exhort unbelievers to know God, this is a call for unbelievers to become acquainted with Him through knowing what He truly is.

With the entrance of sin, the structure of natural revelation itself is greatly disturbed and put in need of correction. In most discussions of this topic, emphasis is given on how sin has affected our innate knowledge of God such that both our religious and moral sense of God have become blunted and blinded. Now, it is true that man’s innate sense of God is more seriously affected by sin than his outward observation of God’s work in nature. This explains why the scripture exhorts unbelievers to correct their foolish pre-conceptions of the nature of God through proper attention to the works of creation (cf. Isaiah 40:25-26; Psalm 94:5-11).

The fundamental Christian argument is that God has intentionally designed our world (and the universe in general) to declare His glory and to make Himself known. In this blog series, I will answer the question of God’s existence and knowability by emphasizing the contingent complexity of our physical world (which is a statement of God’s purpose and wisdom), the existence of the governing laws of nature (which is a description of God’s covenant faithfulness to His creation), and the internal consistency of His creation with His Word (which is a description of God’s self-disclosure to the world).

Another way to address these questions is to examine how man’s knowledge of God through nature has also been made subject to error and distortion because of the effects of sin. In this blog series, I also want to examine how otherwise brilliant scientists make significant errors in interpreting the complexity of our physical world, give irrational and illogical explanations regarding the governing laws of nature, and express various internal inconsistencies concerning various knowledge claims. This is to demonstrate that sin doesn’t remove the existence of natural revelation in our understanding of creation, but it does significantly distort it.

These considerations demonstrate that special revelation is needed not just to reveal things to our inner knowledge, but it is needed in order to correct our misconceptions of nature. The main correction of the natural knowledge of God cannot come from within nature itself, but it must be supplied by special revelation. I want to end this post by quoting Geerhardus Vos in his work Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments:

Redemption in a supernatural way restores to fallen man also the normalcy and efficiency of his cognition of God in the sphere of nature. How true this is, may be seen from the fact that the best system of Theism, i.e. Natural Theology, has not been produced from the sphere of heathenism, however splendidly endowed in the cultivation of philosophy, but from Christian sources.

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One thought on “Knowing God in the Sphere of Nature

  1. Pingback: The Evidence of God in the Origins of the Universe | CredoCovenant

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