Why We Believe in God
Alan D. Strange
We believe in God because God has revealed himself to us. How has God revealed himself? He has revealed himself in creation (which we call general revelation) and in the Holy Scriptures (which we call special revelation).
In Psalm 19:1 we read that God has revealed himself in creation itself: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." We also read in Romans 1:19-20 that "what may be known of God is manifest.... For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." This general revelation of God in creation is objective: God has so shown himself in nature that everyone who denies him is "without excuse" (vs. 20). Everyone knows God because of this revelation.
Indeed, God has revealed himself not only externally in creation, but also internally. All men have the witness of God in their conscience, having "the work of the law written in their hearts" (Rom. 2:15). Thus, we have a dual witness in general revelation to God: in nature around us and in our hearts within us.
In the original creation, before the fall of man, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect communion with God and with each other. As a part of this perfect communion with God, they saw him clearly as he had revealed himself in creation. But because of their wicked desires and actions, they "did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:21). In other words, when Adam and Eve fell, their fall involved more than the loss of original righteousness; it also involved the corruption of their whole nature, including their understanding. Because this is my Father's world, and continues to be after the Fall, the objective validity of God's witness to himself in creation remains, but unregenerate man cannot and will not recognize it.
For man now rightly to understand general revelation, he must wear the glasses of special revelation (the Word of God). To put it another way, fallen man needs to believe the Bible in order to understand the world properly. Man in his rebellion must have his soul converted and his eyes enlightened. And this is just what "the law of the Lord does: it makes wise the simple, allowing sinful man to see what he cannot see in his natural blindness" (Ps. 19:7-8).
Thus, it is God, by his Spiritworking in, by, and through the Wordwho converts our sinful hearts. Because of the Fall, we need to be saved in every sense of the word. We need to be washed in the blood of Christ and robed in his righteousness, to be sure, but we also need to be put in our right minds. Special revelation is particularly important after the Fall because only in it do we discover that "salvation is of the Lord," through the person and work of our Redeemer. And we need special revelation to reorient our perversion of the witness to God in general revelation.
Making Sense of Things
If I did not believe in God, I could not make sense out of anything, even in general revelation. This means that if I did not believe in God, not only would my soul be lost eternally, but my intellect would be lost now and I would be a fool (Ps. 14:1), lacking all real understanding.
When I speak of belief in God, I do not mean belief in a god, but belief in the God of the Scriptures, the God who is eternally three-in-one and who has supremely revealed himself in the Christ who bears witness to himself in the Word. No deity but this God is sufficient to make sense out of what we see in general revelation. So belief in a god other than the God of the Bibleas well as the denial of God and deity altogetherwill render everything meaningless.
Why does the denial of God render everything meaningless? It does so because apart from the three-in-one God of the Bible, we cannot make any sense out of anything that we see in the world around us. In the world, we see that reality is composed of many distinct things, and that at the same time everything is not so distinct as to make communication and therefore knowledge impossible. The world is not simply one massive, undifferentiated blob of stuff, but consists of many different particulars: I am not you, and my cap is not my chair. But if everything is particular, why do we think in terms of universals as well? The answer is that while particulars exist, they are not so individuated that there is no connection between any two of them. That is to say, you and I are not the same thingwe are different persons. But we are the same in another sensewe are both human. If there were no connectionor basis of unitywe could have no understanding (no science, no communication), just as we could have no understanding if everything were radically one, admitting of no distinctions.
Clearly, both the one (the unity that permits us to speak of humans as a whole) and the many (all the particular humans) exist. How to account for both the one and the many, and how to relate the two, is a problem that has bedeviled Western philosophy, exercising the most able minds. The solution to the problem is found not in some Absolute other than God, but in the God who is a plurality (three) within a unity (one). Only by believing in such a God can we make sense of the world around us.
Does this mean that I believe in such a God because it is rational to believe in such a God? I believe in God because the Holy Spirit has enabled me to receive the revelation (general and special) of God. But, yes, it is rational to believe in such a God, and not to believe in such a God is irrational because such a failure renders everything meaningless.
Perhaps the atheist (or, better, the antitheistthe one who does not believe in the God of the Bible) would say at this point, "I don't believe in God, and I do believe that everything is meaningless." Of course, to affirm that everything is meaningless is irrational, even as it is impossible meaningfully to affirm that everything is irrational. All such statements manifestly contradict themselves and prove that meaning and rationality do exist because one is able to understand the statement that everything is irrational.
My believing in God does not mean that I don't think rationally or that I have no reasons for believing in God. The world is full of reasons to believe in God. Anyone who thinks that the apologetical stance of Cornelius Van Til (which I follow) is based on faith, over against reason and evidence, has not begun to understand him.
I believe in God because of his revelation, which renders all understanding possible. Revelation is not opposed to reason, but foundational to reason. Without revelation, reason has no sphere in which to operate and knowledge has no foundation. The real proof of the existence of God, then, is the impossibility of the contrary. Christianity furnishes the answer to life's most perplexing philosophical problems and provides a foundation for logic, science, ethics, etc. Deny Christianity and you have denied the foundation of all knowledge, leaving knowledge hanging in midair, as it were.
The laws of logic, the laws of science, and ethical norms cannot account for themselves. Take science, for example. I remember Dr. Knudsen telling us that that which is foundational to science is not itself of the nature of science. Indeed. Scientific methodology is not arrived at by the use of scientific methodology. Rather, scientific methodology is presupposed. This does not make it untrue or less honorable than something that is proved.
Indeed, a presupposition (if true) is knowledge of the highest order. Scripture, for instance, is not proved to be the Word of God, but is presupposed to be the Word of God. We must presuppose it because if we deny it, then we make knowledge impossible. If the Bible is the Word of God, then, to go to anything outside of it to prove it, would be to disprove it, because anything that is appealed to as proof would assume a position of superiority over the Word and thus disprove the Word's claim to be that above which nothing is higher.
Antitheists generally regard as absurd the claim that the rejection of the God of Scripture renders knowledge impossible. So do many Christians. They rightly observe that countless numbers of non-Christians regularly operate with great success throughout the created order, composing music, discovering planets, and working successfully in the laboratory, all the while denying God. How can this be?
While the rejection of Christianity does put one in an impossible position, even fallen, unregenerate man is created in the image of God. And he continues to live in the world that God has created. He is in contact with the truth at every point of the created order, but he suppresses that truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
Yet he does know God and cannot escape knowing God. The antitheist, in fact, presupposes theism. He must presuppose theism even to argue against it, because without the three-in-one God of Christian theism, we can't make any sense of anything. The only way that one can employ argumentation in denying the God of the Bible is by first assuming the God of the Bible who makes such argumentation possible.
This article, then, cannot be limited to why I believe in God, but really addresses why I believe in anything at all. Only the God of the Bible makes knowledge possible. And we know that God, because he has revealed himself to us, his creatures.
Mr. Strange, associate pastor of New Covenant Community Church (OPC) in New Lenox, Ill., teaches at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 2000.