Q.2: Ought everyone to believe there is a God?
A. Everyone ought to believe there is a God;1 and it is their great sin and folly who do not.2
The world is full of art critics. Everywhere we go, we see people standing in awe of great art. They study it, they marvel at it, and they even try to duplicate it. What they will not do, however, is recognize the existence of the great Artist who gave it birth. This great art of which I speak is the art of creation, and the great Artist, of course, is the Creator. God is not merely an Artist, though. He wears many hats. Like the great Leonardo di Vinci, God assumes the titles of Artist, Engineer, Innovator, Inventor, and a great many others. However, unlike Leonardo, God is the Chief among all others in these fields. He far surpasses all His creatures, as we noted in the previous section.
One great difference between God and all others is that His art, His engineering, His innovation and inventiveness pervades all of His creation. Painters place their signatures in the corners of their paintings. The signature of the Divine is pervasive throughout the vast scope of creation and notable in every detail of every element and atom. God is at once immensely God and intimately God. He is both the God of the stars and the planets (Job 38:31-33; Ps. 8:3; 136:7-9) and the God of our grief and our joy (Mt. 6:25-34).
This God is unavoidable and, as such, He is undeniable. He consumes and pervades all around us and all within us, though He is completely distinct from us. It is at once our familiarity with Him and the odd otherness of Him that bids us recognize Him. This too is by divine design. The signature in the bottom right corner of a painting is not so recognizable because it so readily melds into the motif of the painting. It stands out as different so that it might be recognized, but it is not so different that it does not complement the general beauty of the painting.
In the economy of God’s created order, the highest good for man is that He know God and, as such, honor Him. God’s artful creation, then, does not exist for art’s sake. Rather, God’s artful creation exists to point man to the Artist Himself. As we recognize the art and, more importantly, the great Artist behind the art, we fulfill our great purpose as the only creatures made in His image.
This was the great purpose for which God created man: that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him. However, it is impossible to glorify and enjoy One we do not believe to exist. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Heb. 11:6a; NASB). Thus, because God loves His creation, He has made Himself known through His creation. God’s existence is evident to all through two distinct witnesses: the internal witness and the external witness.
God reveals Himself internally through our consciences. Each of us has the works of the law written on our hearts from birth (Rom. 2:14-16). None of us can rightly claim ignorance of God before the God who reveals Himself to us through our consciences. None are without excuse, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them,” (Rom. 1:19; NASB). We are programmed to have an innate knowledge of God’s existence. It is inescapable.
Furthermore, we are programmed to receive knowledge of God’s existence from our surroundings. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse,” (Rom. 1:20; NASB). The sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, and the world and everything in it all call out to us proclaiming God’s divine artistry.
“1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat,” (Ps. 19:1-6; NASB).
If God is so evident in His creation, then, why do men still deny Him? It is not because they are necessarily convinced that He does not exist. Rather, it is out of a willful, sinful, foolish suppression of the truth that men deny Him. “Sin involved every aspect of man’s personality. All of man’s reactions in every relation in which God had set him were ethical and not merely intellectual; the intellectual itself is ethical,” (Van Til, Defense, 70.). Thus, when a man deceives himself by denying God’s existence, he is acting out of a corrupt heart and committing abominable deeds.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good,” (Psalm 97:9; NASB).
The default belief of man is not the nonexistence of God, but His existence. Out of the corruption of the fallen heart and mind, unregenerate men suppress the truth of God’s existence: “as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Rom. 1:17b-18; NKJV). The contrast here is between those of faith and those who suppress the truth. “The just shall live by faith,” but the unrighteous and ungodly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Paul means to say that the active suppression of truth required to disbelieve in God is an act of willful rebellion against Him.
Adam and Eve knew of God’s existence, for He walked among them (Gen. 3:10). Godly men of the earliest ages also know God existed and called upon His name (4:26). Men and women of all nations have always known Him, but they do not glorify Him as God (Rom. 1:21). Belief in God, then, is the default (Benjamin Beddome, A Scriptural Exposition of the Baptist Catechism. Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham. 2006, pg. 3). The suppression of this belief then is absolute rebellion. This is no mere intellectual exercise. This is an active, willful sinning against the God who reveals Himself to us in His creation.
One of the duties, then, that Christians owe to one another is to spur one another on to greater faith (Heb. 10:23-25). If unbelief is sin, then we should seek how we might aid one another in avoiding it. If I, as an ember in the fire of the church, rely on the other embers to keep me burning, with what zeal should I blow on my fellow embers until I feel the return of the warm glow of their faith in Christ? In the same way, it benefits all members of the church to encourage others in their faith and purity, for it will only reap returns of greater faith and purity in their own lives.