Weekend Broadcast

The Case for God

A Message by R.C. Sproul

 In this Ask R.C. Live event, listeners across North America brought challenging questions to Dr. R.C. Sproul, like “Did God know that we would sin before He created the world?”  And, “Should Christians study philosophy?”  And even, “Should fear play a role in our evangelism?”  As always, Dr. Sproul responds biblically, and with clarity and simplicity.

From the series: Defending Your Faith

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Futility of Life

  2. devotional

    In the Beginning, God

  3. article

    Beyond Reason?

The Futility of Life

There are many people who think life is utterly pointless and meaningless, but few are willing to take this belief to its logical conclusion — like Ernest Hemingway did. After years of saying and writing about how life is without meaning and that the only edge we have over death is the choice of when, where, and how, Hemingway got up in the early morning hours of July 2, 1962, and committed suicide.

Without minimizing his mental illnesses, it must be said that Hemingway came to the conclusion that he did because he was looking at the world from the perspective of one who believed in nothing transcendent, which is nothing short of despair. If there is nothing that transcends everything, then, of course, there is no good reason to do one thing over another. There is no accountability, no judgment. And if there is no one to hold us accountable and it does not matter what we do, then any meaning we find is illusory, lasting only as long as we are conscious.

The utter meaninglessness of life from an earthbound perspective that does not take into account the creator God is one of the main points of the book of Ecclesiastes. Again and again, the Preacher contrasts life “under the sun” with “life under heaven,” the former referring to the perspective that looks at everything and concludes that the only thing that exists is what is visible to the human eye. The conclusions that logically flow from such a perspective are presented repeatedly in Ecclesiastes, only to be refuted from the vantage point that sees things “under heaven” — in reference to the covenant Lord of Israel.

Under the sun, everything is vanity (Eccl. 1:2–3). The term vanity comes from the Hebrew word hebel, which means something like “vapor” or “breath.” What is being conveyed is fleetingness. Like vapor, everything is fleeting apart from reference to the Creator, and therefore everything is ultimately futile. Hard work produces gain for the worker for only a short while until his death (vv. 3–4). People run after new sights and sounds to entertain them, but nothing can satisfy (v. 8). Men and women strive to fill the emptiness they feel, but all their efforts are to no avail.

Only the existence of the transcendent God can provide us with any meaning. Life lived with reference to Him — under heaven — is never an exercise in futility.

In the Beginning, God

Simple enough for the youngest child to understand and yet sufficiently profound to inspire the greatest thinkers to ponder its ramifications, Genesis 1:1 is certainly one of the most beloved and consequential sentences ever written. We often pass over this text quickly, so accustomed are we to the fundamental idea of the Christian worldview — that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. Yet we must pause to consider this verse lest we miss its enormous implications.

Genesis 1:1 is one of the proof texts for question and answer 26 of the Heidelberg Catechism, and the catechism does a good job of outlining some of the consequences of understanding that God is “creator of heaven and earth.” First, we find in the catechism that Genesis 1:1 tells us God made everything out of nothing. In the beginning, the verse tells us, there was nothing else besides the Almighty Himself. We read nothing of angels, human beings, or any physical material. Even time itself did not exist before the Creator acted to bring something out of nothing. Moses can only speak of a “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 because of God’s intervention to get things started. Prior to His work of creation, the Lord alone was, and He was from all eternity. As Hebrews 11:3 tells us, “The universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Question and answer 26 also explain that since God is the Creator, He upholds all things. We will say more about this next week, but today we note that God’s sustaining providence means that every created thing depends on something outside itself for its origin and continuation. This something is God. Unlike His creation, however, our Creator depends on nothing outside Himself for His existence. He is self-existent, having the power of being in Himself. We were created in time, and in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:22–34). God, however, is. We know Him by His covenant name, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). There never was a time when He was not, and there never will be a time when He will not be.

As dependent creatures, we rely on the Lord for our standards of right and wrong, our knowledge, and much more. We know our place in the universe only when we remember that He is our Creator and we are His creatures.

Beyond Reason?

John Lennox

Although science with all of its power cannot address some of the fundamental questions that we ask, nevertheless the universe contains certain clues as to our relationship to it, clues that are scientifically accessible. The rational intelligibility of the universe, for instance, points to the existence of a Mind that was responsible both for the universe and for our minds. It is for this reason that we are able to do science and to discover the beautiful mathematical structures that underlie the phenomena we can observe. Not only that, but our increasing insight into the fine-tuning of the universe in general, and of planet earth in particular, is consistent with the widespread awareness that we are meant to be here. This earth is our home.

But if there is a Mind behind the universe, and if that Mind intends us to be here, the really big question is: What is the purpose of our existence? It is this question above all that exercises the human heart. Scientific analysis of the universe cannot give us the answer. But true science is not embarrassed by its inability at this point — it simply recognizes that it is not equipped to answer such questions. Therefore, it would be a serious logical error in methodology to look only within the ingredients of the universe — its material, structures, and processes — to find out what its purpose is and why we are here. The ultimate answer, if there is one, will have to come from outside the universe.

But how shall we find this out? I have spent much time over the years arguing that there is evidence of a Mind behind the universe, a Mind that intended us to be here. We too have minds. It is, therefore, not illogical that one of the major reasons why we have been given minds is not only that we should be able to explore our fascinating universe home but also that we should be able to understand the Mind that has given us the home.

Long before Aristotle, the book of Genesis was penned. It starts with the words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This statement stands in complete contrast with the other mythical cosmogonies of the time — like the Babylonian, in which the gods were part of the stuff of the universe, and in which the world was made out of a god. Genesis claims that there is a creator God who exists independently of the universe, a claim that is foundational to Christianity. The apostle John puts it this way in his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1–4).

In Greek, the term translated “Word” is logos, which was often used by Greek philosophers for the rational principle that governs the universe. Here we have the theological explanation for the rational intelligibility of the universe, for the fine-tuning of its physical constants as well as its biological complexity. It is the product of a Mind, that of the divine Logos. For what lies behind the universe is much more than a rational principle. It is God, the Creator Himself. It is no abstraction, or even impersonal force, that lies behind the universe. God, the Creator, is a person, and He is not part of the stuff of His universe.

Now, if the ultimate reality behind the universe is a personal God, this has far-reaching implications for the human search for truth, since it opens up new possibilities for knowing ultimate reality other than through the (scientific) study of things. For people communicate in a way that things do not. People can reveal themselves in speech and thereby communicate information about themselves that the most sophisticated scanner applied to their brains could not reveal. Being people ourselves, we can get to know other people. Therefore, the next logical question to ask is: If the Creator is personal, has He spoken directly, as distinct from what we can learn of Him indirectly through the structures of the universe? Has He revealed Himself? For if there is a God, and He has spoken, then what He has said will be of utmost importance in our search for truth. Here we once again encounter the biblical claim that God has spoken in the most profound and direct way possible. He, the Word who is a person, has become human, to demonstrate fully that the ultimate truth behind the universe is personal. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14).

This statement is highly specific. It asserts that at a certain time and place, God the Creator encoded Himself in humanity. It is, of course, a staggering claim to supernatural activity of the highest order. Yet, science has not and cannot eliminate the supernatural.

I submit that, far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point toward His existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by His existence. Inevitably, of course, not only those of us who do science but all of us have to choose the presuppositions with which we start. There are not many options — essentially, just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.

Since the beginning,

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