Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, part 8
Chapter 9 – The Existence of God
Ever doubted that God has existed? I can’t say that I ever really have. I’ve rationally considered the possibility, but never truly had a moment where it was just, like, “God doesn’t exist, oh no!” I’ve doubted many things about God, and how we know him, but never that he doesn’t exist in some way or form. It just seems like one of those impossibilities, so impossible it can’t possibly be true. Yet I have several friends who are outright atheists, although not very militant unless pressed, and for them, I know that they believe there is no God. And yet rationally, I can’t fault them for having that opinion, as I know how much of my own belief in God stems from faith and my upbringing. I still can’t *prove* that God exists, and I don’t think they can prove God doesn’t exist.
“How do we know that God exists? The answer can be given in two parts: First, all people have an inner sense of God. Second, we believe the evidence that is found in Scripture and in nature (pg 141).”
I typically am not one of those Christians who default to the position that ALL atheists are WILLFULLY repressing a deep INNER CERTAINTY that there is a God, because of course, deep inside, you know there is a God. Sure, there are those atheists who deny God out of anger or spite or bitterness, and then deceive themselves and attempt to deceive others that there is no God so of course we can’t really be angry or spiteful or bitter toward something that exists. That’s self-deception, pure and simple, and while many atheists won’t own up to it, I have known a few who do. No, there are still many atheists who just don’t believe in a God, for any number of reasons, some of which aren’t even personal (which is where those ‘bitter’ atheists come from). Could be upbringing, could be culture, could be anything.
I think this where Wayne Grudem begins to stretch himself and his rhetoric a little thin:
“All persons everywhere have a deep, inner sense that God exists, that they are his creatures, and that he is their Creator. Paul says that even Gentile unbelievers “knew God” but did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. He says that wicked unbelievers have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie”, implying that they actively or willfully rejected some truth about God’s existence and character that they knew. Paul says that “what can be known about God is plain to them,” and adds that this is “because God has shown it to them.”
What I bolded is where I think Grudem may be a little off. Included in this understanding of his is the idea that, if an atheist, let’s say this person is 26 years old, had never heard about God or Jesus or really any deity, was to suddenly be told by someone, anyone, that “there is a God”, and that atheist then says “um, what? are you sure? I doubt it”, then that person just automatically rejected certain truth about God. Which is pretty preposterous. Every idea you have heard and either believe or reject was given to you by someone who had to convince you of its truth or falsehood. This includes the idea that there is a God. For all the crap Postmodernists receive, and rightly so, they are at least being honest about certain things that previous generations have ignored or taken for granted. For instance, the idea that all knowledge comes from somewhere and has to be accepted or rejected.
The only reason we, as Christians, can claim that the idea of God and Jesus is TRUTH is because God has definitively proven himself to be truth. If he couldn’t have, then he wouldn’t be truth, and therefore wouldn’t be much of a god, if a god at all. BUT, and this is key, God has only proven Himself as TRUTH to a select few (relatively speaking); now, God promised that one day ALL would know him to be TRUTH, but of course only those who have already been pre-selected (pre-conditioned?) to accept him as TRUTH and what he says as TRUTH accept that this is an event that will one day happen. Others need not apply.
If, it is the “wicked person who first curses and renounces the Lord”, what does that make those people who don’t curse God and don’t renounce God? Why is the choice between renouncing and accepting? How can you renounce something that hasn’t been clearly presented, or which you aren’t aware is being clearly presented? Now, the argument can be made that since everyone is wicked and evil, they have passively, unconsciously suppressed the truth about God, and are thus going to hell, but this may be a minority position. I’m not sure.
Aren’t all people atheists until God says otherwise? Or is that too Calvinist of a thought?
Wayne Grudem puts forth the first verse of Genesis as evidence that even the Bible doesn’t have to prove that there is a God. Um…but of course. This seems like a silly way to prove that there is a God. Or prove the validity of the Bible.
“The wide variety of testimonies to God’s existence from various parts of the created world suggests to us that in one sense everything that exists gives evidence of Gods existence. For those who have eyes to see and evaluate the evidence correctly, every leaf on every tree, every blade of grass, every star in the sky, and every other part of creation all cry out continously, “God made me! God made me! God made me!” (pg 142)
This is of course how I feel about creation and the existence of God. It’s also one of the main reasons I get so frustrated that Christianity has all but given up science and the natural order to atheistic evolutionists, when that neededn’t have been the case at all! Shortsighted, Biblically illiterate Christians misinterpreted the Bible in a radically disastrous way, and then proceeded to villify and demonize any other Christian who bade them hold on a moment and think rationally. Issues like these are why I part ways with the Young Earth Creationism movement, believing it to be ungodly, unbiblical, and demonically inspired. It’s why I consider myself a Historical Creationist, firmly inline with the apostles, Church elders, and the saints throughout history. I want my God’s creation back, when everything is created by God, in his control, part of his design, and can be discovered and sought out SOLELY through nature and the knowledge that there is a God who created and sustains everything. He gave us this world to explore and understand, and when we discovered some wonderful things about this universe he designed, instead of praising him and claiming his truth, we stubbornly clung to our bone headed ideas about how the world works and operates. We were too proud to ask ourselves if we could be wrong. Thankfully, many are now beginning to do that, and have repented. Lord, how we have repented…
I appreciate Wayne Grudem taking the time to list traditional proofs of the existence of God. You truly can classify nearly every argument people make for the existence of God, whether it’s cosmological (everything has a cause, thus God), teleological (harmony and design, thus God), ontological (being greater than imagined, thus God), or moral (sense of right and wrong, thus God). I agree with Grudem that all these proofs are valid proofs if accepted as being true. They are all part of what makes God God.
And kudos to Grudem for ending the chapter with the point I’ve been making all along: “Finally, it must be remembered that in this sinful world God must enable us to be persuaded or we would never believe in him…We are dependant upon God to remove the blindness and irrationality caused by sin and to enable us to evaluate the evidence rightly, believing what Scripture says, and come to saving faith in Christ (pg 144).” As a Christian, I agree wholeheartedly. This is my position. Amen.
My conclusion? Atheism is not nearly as simple as we like to smuggly pretend it is. How about a little more compassion, hearing, and love for those who don’t believe in a God? I somehow doubt Jesus would smuggly berate those who deny His Father exist. He knows better, and I’m sure he’s not challenged by it at all. And, at the end of the day, some of the best atheists make the best Christians.
And vice versa.