This world presents pressing problems, but you can never solve those problems aright unless you first face the question of your relation to God. That is the all-important thing, and the distresses of the present time only serve to press it still more insistently upon our attention.
But if it is important for us to face the question of our relation to God, how can God be known to us? How can we discover whether there is a God at all, and then, if there is, what sort of being he is?
I have something rather simple to say about that. It is something that seems to me to be rather obvious, and yet it is something that is quite generally ignored. It is simply this—that if we are really to know anything about God it will probably be because God has chosen to tell it to us.
Many persons seem to go on a very different assumption. They seem to think that if they are to know anything about God they must discover God for themselves.
That assumption seems to me to be extremely unlikely. Just supposing for the sake of the argument that there is a being of such a kind as that he may with any propriety be called “God,” it does seem antecedently very improbable that weak and limited creatures of a day, such as we are, should discover him by our own efforts without any will on his part to make himself known to us. At least, I think we can say that a god who could be discovered in that way would hardly be worth discovering. A mere passive subject of human investigation is certainly not a living God who can satisfy the longing of our souls. A divine being that could be discovered by my efforts, apart from his gracious will to reveal himself to me and to others, would be either a mere name for a certain aspect of man’s own nature, a God that we could find within us, or else at best a mere passive thing that would be subject to investigation like the substances that are analyzed in a laboratory.
I think we ought to stick to that principle rather firmly. I think we ought to be rather sure that we cannot know God unless God has been pleased to reveal himself to us.
How, then, has God revealed himself to us?
In the first place, he has revealed himself by the universe that he has made. How did the world come into being? It is here. That cannot be denied. But how did it come to be?
I think the universe itself provides the answer to that question. The answer is itself a mystery, but it is a mystery in which we can rest. The world came into being because God made it. It is the work of an infinite and all-wise and all-powerful God.
That answer presses itself upon different people in different ways. It has been defended by philosophers and theologians by way of detailed reasoning. That reasoning has been divided logically into what are called the “theistic proofs”—indications in the world itself that point to the existence of a personal God, creator and ruler of the world.
The revelation of God through nature has the stamp of approval put upon it by the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches that nature reveals the glory of God. In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul says that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Here the Bible approves the arguments of those who in systematic fashion argue from the existence of the world to the existence of a divine Maker of the world. But the Bible also approves those more unreasoned flashes of knowledge in which suddenly we see God’s workmanship in the beauty and the majesty of his world. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork,” says the Psalmist.
All that is true. The revelation of God through nature is a very precious thing. But then a serious question arises. If God has revealed himself through the things that he has made, why do so very few men listen to the revelation? The plain fact is that very few men arrive by a contemplation of nature at a true belief in a personal God. Even those scientists whose religious views are sometimes being incautiously welcomed by Christian people are often found upon closer examination to believe only in a God who is identical with a spiritual purpose supposed to inhere in the world process itself and are found not to believe at all in a living and holy God, are found not to believe at all in the true God who created the heavens and the earth.
Why is that so? If God has revealed himself so plainly through the world that he has made, why do men not see? Well, when men do not see something, there are two possible explanations of fact. One is that there is nothing there to see. The other is that the men who do not see are blind.
It is this latter explanation which the Bible gives of the failure of men to know God through the things that he has made. The Bible puts it very plainly in that same passage already quoted from the first chapter of Romans. “Their foolish heart,” says Paul, “was darkened.” Hence they did not see. The fault did not lie in nature. Men were “without excuse,” Paul says, when they did not see what nature had to show. Their minds were blinded by sin. That is a hard saying, but like many other hard sayings it is true.—J. G. M.
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