July 8, 2014 Broadcast

The God Who Is There

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Ever since the Enlightenment, Westerners have struggled to make convincing arguments for the existence of God. As a result, we live in a culture that is increasingly secular and atheistic. Now more than ever, we must learn to recognize God’s activity in the world so that we can point others to Him. 

From the series: Ultimate Issues

Get the Providence: God in Control Series on CD and the Does God Control Everything? Booklet for a Gift of Any Amount

Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Natural Law

  2. devotional

    Recognizing the Earth Is the Lord's

  3. devotional

    Does God Necessarily Exist?

Natural Law

Martin Luther’s speech when the Diet of Worms called him to recant his theological views is familiar to most of us: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by evident reason I cannot recant. For my conscience is held captive to the Word of God.” Of course, the term cannot does not mean Luther was intellectually or vocally unable to take back his statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What he meant was that he would not be able to recant without any consequences. Being subject to the Lord Himself, he could not bow to a different law with impunity.

As a consequence of being the Creator, God is the supreme authority for the entire universe. Everything in creation exists by His good pleasure, so He answers to none other (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:5). The lesser authorities found in the government and family derive their right to govern from the Lord (Rom. 13:1–7), but their rule over us is not absolute. Only His moral law binds our consciences, and we must obey Him even when doing so means we disobey lesser rulers in certain situations.

Our society has embraced moral relativism with a vengeance, at least verbally, but that any laws exist at all is a testimony to the existence of a supreme, objective authority. Human beings write laws because we know instinctively that there is a proper moral order to the universe. We make law because God’s law exists, in some sense, on the hearts of all people. Today’s passage leads us to this conclusion. Romans 2:14 cannot be read as giving the Gentiles the right to choose what is right and wrong from a variety of competing options. All Paul means is that the ethical standards of even the non-believers prove that all people are made in the Lord’s image and therefore have His moral principles on their consciences. Even those without access to Scripture outlaw the killing of innocent human beings and have clear determinations of when killing is murder and when it is not. The law of God on their hearts tells them there are cases when killing is clearly wrong, even if they do not always interpret this law rightly.

The lex naturalis, or natural law, is what theologians have called the universal sense of right and wrong. Western jurisprudence has been decisively shaped by it, although recent years have seen public education, elected officials, and law schools increasingly turn their backs on this time-honored concept.

Recognizing the Earth Is the Lord's

It was Bonaventure who offered the thought: “In order that we may be able to extol and glorify God, and in order that we may advance to the knowledge of God, we must transfer to the divine that which pertains to the creature . . . nearly all creatures possess certain noble characteristics which furnish a source for our understanding of God, e.g., the lion possesses fortitude; the lamb, meekness; the rock, solidity; the serpent, prudencehence it is necessary that many names be transferred to God.” 

John Calvin agreed with these sentiments. “There is not an atom of the universe in which you cannot see some brilliant sparks at least of His glory.” 

The earth, nature that surrounds us, the world—everything is full of God. Nature is a glorious theater, a spectacular sound-and-light show of the beauty of God. But nature is not God. To worship the whole or any part of nature is idolatry. To confuse God and nature is to fall into pantheism, an intolerable monism that obscures the distinction between creatures and Creator.

 But the universe is God’s handiwork. It sparkles with the revelation of its Maker. It is not an independent entity existing alongside and apart from God. There is no dualism divorcing God from the world. The earth is the Lord’s. 


Does God Necessarily Exist?

We live in an age of unparalleled skepticism about the essential content of the Christian faith. There is a tremendous doubt concerning the origin of human life and of the universe. It is held that we are cosmic accidents, grown-up germs that have emerged from the slime, having no significance and no dignity.

The secular skeptic knows that if he can demonstrate that God as Creator is unknowable or unprovable, that is as far as he needs to go to destroy all the truth claims of Christianity. This is because if there is no act of creation, then the whole idea of a redemption of that creation is just an illusion. All we have is "endless, changeless being" with "no vestige of beginning, no prospect of an end."

Thus, the technical and abstract question of whether or not we can demonstrate that there is some eternal, transcendent, self-existing Creator from whom all other life and reality derives is a critical issue. In fact, what we decide about this issue touches heavily upon everything else the church proclaims about Christ and God.

The philosophical argument for God's existence is this: If something exists now, then Something exists necessarily. What we mean by "necessary existence" is that there is Something that has the power of existence within itself eternally. That Being cannot not exist. It exists by the sheer power of what it is.

To come at it another way, let's assume that there was a time when there was absolutely nothing. You don't have to be a philosopher to answer the following question: If there were a time when there was absolutely nothing, then what would there be now? Absolutely nothing. You cannot get something from nothing. So, since the world presently does exist, there has to be something that has always existed. And, that Something must have sheer existence within itself.

Could this be the universe itself? No, because if the universe as a whole were self-existent, it could not change. Change means something is contingent, dependent, derived. Therefore, the self-existent Being must be the Creator of the universe of time and change.

Since the beginning,

our aim has been to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to share it, and how to live it…

More about Renewing Your Mind