We're going to consider the biblical account of creation in
light of two verses in Romans 1, but while you are turning
there, I want to begin with Genesis 1:1, where creation is
first mentioned and summarized for us in a single verse. You
probably know Genesis 1:1 by heart, so you can be turning
in your Bibles to Romans 1:19 if you like. But before we get
into the Romans text, I want to think through with you some
of the important implications of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth."
I recently listened to a message by A. W. Tozer in which
he said that's the single most important verse in all of
Scripture, even surpassing John 3:16.
Something in me recoils from the idea of trying to rank
the relative importance of key Bible verses, because "All
Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable"Cbut (of course)
Tozer believed that as well. So I think I understand what he
meant when he ranked Genesis 1:1 as the Bible's most
important text. This is the necessary starting-point and
foundation for everything else the Bible has to say.
There is no text in the whole Bible that contains more or
explains more than Genesis 1:1. Literally everything is in this
verse. Everything you can see; everything in existence that
Romans 1:19-20 2
you can't see; and everything that ever was or ever will be is
encompassed in Genesis 1:1.
Carl Sagan famously opened his television broadcast by
declaring that the ordered universe itself is all that is, or ever
was, or ever will be. That's a fair summary of atheistic
materialism, and it is refuted and corrected in a very pithy
way by Genesis 1:1. Here both materialism and atheism are
answered in the fewest possible words, without any
discussion and without any polemics.
And that's an important point to notice: Scripture is not
putting a theory up for debate. The Bible is not making an
argument here; this text simply declares that God alone is
eternal, and He is the Creator of everything else that is, or
ever was, or ever will be. And it states those truths as brute
facts, not hypotheses looking for proofs. "In the beginning, God
created the heavens and the earth." You either believe that or
you don't. Moses wasn't trying to start a dialogue about
whether it's true or not. He wasn't proposing a premise to be
modified by the dialectical process.
So I'm not going to argue the point, either.
But here's what I want to stress before we get to the
Romans text: In a brilliant economy of words, Genesis 1:1
gives us a clear and stable starting point from which to look
for all the answers to all the great metaphysical questions we
wonder about. Where did everything come from? What does
it all mean? A true understanding of everything you find
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 3
mysterious and incomprehensible begins right here, in
Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
That is the starting point and the opening line of the story
the universe. It's also the introduction to Act One in the
drama of redemption. But its implications are even more
far-reaching than that. Everything we believe about anything
is grounded here. This text lays the necessary foundation for
a truly biblical worldview. It tells us an essential truth, and
it's the very first of all the inspired biblical dogmas.
In other words, this is the vital starting point of all truth.
Do away with the truth that God created everything out of
nothing, and whatever theory on life and the meaning of the
universe you come up with after that will not only be
unbiblical; your worldview will also be irrational, or fanciful,
or incomplete, or internally inconsistent, or devoid of any
moral absolutes, or otherwise lacking in both coherence and
You simply cannot construct a logical, comprehensive,
intellectually-defensible understanding of life and reality
without knowing where we came from and why. For
example: If you don't know something as basic as where
intelligence comes from, how could you ever actually know
that you know anything? How could you be certain of the
true meaning of anything? If you reject the idea of an
intelligent Creator as the source of all true knowledge, you
Romans 1:19-20 4
can't intelligently explain intelligence. And if you don't know
where human intelligence comes fromCif you have no clue
how we might gain true knowledge of the very first
principles of our own existenceCthen you have no way to
account for whatever else you think you know or perceive.
And that means you ultimately cannot know anything for
Postmodern thinkers have figured this out and basically
embraced the consequences. This is the dilemma they have
created for themselves: They recognize that the minute you
remove creation and an all-wise Creator from the bottom row
of your intellectual Jenga-stack, everything else that rests on
that foundation instantly collapses. You can't really have a
clear, consistent, coherent worldview if you can't even figure
out where the world came fromC right? If you don't know
how the universe started, your worldview by definition is
grossly deficient from the very outset. If you have no
answers for life's most basic questions, how could you ever
truly be certain of anything? Answer: you couldn't.
That's why, starting in the secular academic world,
certainty and settled knowledge are practically regarded as
outmoded relics of a naive and over-confident past. Open
skepticism is now praised as a kind of "humility." And that
makes perfect sense from a postmodern perspective, because
to imagine that you know something for sure, or to declare
anything objectively true when you lack the necessary
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 5
foundation for any kind of knowledge is the very height of
arrogance, right? If it takes humility to confess that you don't
know something, it is the very essence of humility to admit
that you aren't really sure of anything. And by that same
value-system, love means never having to say anyone else's
point of view is wrong.
That's the currently-dominant value system in much of
our culture: skepticism and liberal tolerance seen through the
postmodern lens become "humility" and "love." But that's the
height of irrationality, because if you start with the premise
that there is no God, is not possible to justify the belief that
humility and love are inherently better than the alternatives.
Once you eliminate God from your thoughts, what would
ever make you think modesty is better than arrogance, or that
sacrificial love is morally superior to larceny? Many atheists
claim that they do believe it's better to be humble than
egotistical, and more noble to share than to steal. But atheism
doesn't really furnish any rational ground for that kind of
moral hierarchy. In a system where good and bad are defined
by the survival of the fittest, raw reason would suggest that
vulnerability is the evil of evils.
Virtues like love, humility, meekness, and longsuffering
belong to the Christian worldview. Skeptics who believe
such things are virtuous have simply borrowed values from
the very faith they disavow. And inevitably, they twist those
Romans 1:19-20 6
values out of shape, opting instead for counterfeit love and a
See: If you give up belief in an intelligent Creator, every
spiritual, moral, and intellectual fact you think you know
suddenly loses its clarity under a murky cloud of perpetual
uncertainty. You simply can't know anything with settled
conviction, and you can't have any kind of fixed, objective
moral standards. Everything becomes hopelessly relative.
And yet, with full awareness of those consequences, fallen
human minds are still determined to reject God and suppress
the truth about him. That's one of the points we're going to
see in Romans 1. But listen also to Romans 8:7: "The mind
that is set on the flesh is hostile to God." Unregenerate people
hate the God who reveals himself in creation and in
Scripture. So even though the devoted postmodernist realizes
his skepticism undermines and will ultimately collapse his
whole moral framework and his fundamental understanding
of the universe, he refuses to set aside his unbelief and affirm
the necessity of a Creator. Instead, he repudiates the
possibility of an orderly and comprehensive worldview.
That's why meaning is so elusive in postmodern
Now think this through with me one more time, and I'll
say it in the simplest way I know how: The skeptic looks at
the question of how everything came from nothing, and he
tells himself, This is a question that cannot be answered. But
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 7
if you have no explanation for how anything came to be in
existence, then (quite literally) what you are saying is that
you don't know the first thing about anything. That's the high
cost of skepticism. Eliminate God from your knowledge, and
you basically give up knowledge altogether. You forfeit the
possibility of certainty about anything.
As I said, the postmodern mind has essentially accepted
those consequences. That's why uncertainty is the defining
characteristic of postmodern thought. Postmodernists are
pretty certain that certainty is an impossibility. So they reject
all the necessary tools of intelligible discourseCclarity,
specificity, noncontradiction, fixed definitions, objective
facts, and ultimately settled knowledge itself. Those things
are simply impossible concepts for postmodern people to
embrace. The postmodernist claims no one can really know
the true meaning of anythingCor even say for certain that
anything has "true meaning." Because the postmodern mind
has rejected the very foundation of understanding from the
get-go. The only option is irrationality and infinite
That's an option that sane and sober minds used to reject.
Give up knowledge; throw out every hint of certainty;
eliminate all objective truth; and you have completely given
up the possibility of true meaning. But meaningless is a
sure-fire recipe for human despair. It's a suicidal path in
Romans 1:19-20 8
For one thing, if you rule out God at the start, and then
follow that trail without flinching or compromising or
pretending or turning aside, it is a direct path to moral and
intellectual nihilism. Eliminate the truth of creation and the
Person of the Creator from your understanding, and the toll
on your character along with the damage done to your
understanding is a price too high for anyone to pay.
So what we believe about the origin of the universe has
dramatic practical consequences. Creation is not just an
interesting a theoretical enigma. The question of where we
came from is not a riddle for fun that you can safely set aside
like a sudoku puzzle that was too hard to solve. We are
dealing here with one of the fundamental issues of human
life and existence. Every sentient being wonders about these
things: Where did everything come from, and what set it all
That's the very question Genesis 1:1 gives a definitive
answer to. And because it's such an important question, with
profound ramifications and far-reaching consequences, the
answer the Bible gives is not complex. It's not deeply
philosophical. It's not hard to understand. It's the very
essence of simplicity: "In the beginning, God created the heavens
and the earth."
One other thing by way of introduction, before we turn to
Romans 1: That question ("Where did everything come from,
and what set it all in motion?") is not a conundrum that can
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 9
be untangled using bare human reason, intuition, philosophy,
or dialectics. God Himself had to reveal the answer. The
answer doesn't lie within us. It is also not a question that can
be settled by natural science, because science deals with
observable, repeatable phenomena that can be tested,
measured, demonstrated, and verified. By definition, creation
ex nihilo (begetting everything out of nothing) is not one of
those activities you can run experiments with.
Obviously, astrophysicists, cosmologists, geologists,
theoretical physicists, and other scientific types talk about
the issue and acknowledge the difficulty of it. They put forth
various theories about big-bangs, dark energy, endless cycles
of existence, or whatever. One thing all the currently popular
academic theories have in common is the idea that creation
occurs spontaneously, without any concept of God or an
intelligent designer. But the truth is, none of those theories
could ever be proved by the scientific method, because there
is simply no way to recreate the process. Plus, the whole idea
of spontaneous creation is totally fanciful, not scientific. That
should be obvious on the face of things.
It also needs to be said that the issue of origins is not
answered, even theoretically, by evolution. Evolution posits
gradual changes between species. It doesn't even address the
question of where everything came from in the first place.
Evolution sidesteps that questionCand for a very simple
reason: evolution cannot account for the origin of life, much
Romans 1:19-20 10
less the origin of matter, motion, energy, and the rest of the
So where did it all come from? Scripture says our eternal,
omnipotent, intelligent God has the power to call things into
existence out of nothing by His Word, and that's how the
universe began. Hebrews 11:3: "By faith we understand that the
universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was
not made out of things that are visible." Try to answer the
question of origins leaving out God and you end up with this
impossible, irrational formula: Nobody plus nothing equals
everything. That's the equation you have to accept in order to
be an atheist.
Atheism is sheer nonsense. Only a "fool says in his heart,
'There is no God.'" No matter how many scientists are
comfortable with it, and no matter how many
academically-credentialed geniuses add their amen to it, it is
simply not rational to think that this vast, dynamic, orderly
universe sprang from nothingCwith no intelligent architect
and for no particular reason.
There are people, determined to sustain their disbelief in
God, who suggest the possibility that human life was planted
on earth by extra-terrestrialsCintelligent beings from other
planets or different dimensions. I mentioned Carl Sagan, the
astronomer and astrophysicist who attained celebrity status
though his television series on PBS. He was devoted to
projects that went looking for life elsewhere in the universe.
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 11
But intelligent life in outer space would only push the cosmic
questions further out there. Where did your hypothetical
space-aliens get their start? Who created them? And where
did they get their superior intelligence?
Any theory about the origin of the universe that eliminates
God as Creator turns out to be impossible nonsense. Without
God, where did the original stuff (matter, energy, ectoplasm,
or whatever) come from? Or if you think matter has been
here eternallyCif time and matter are the ultimate
realitiesCwhy isn't everything inert? If you think energy is
the ultimate reality, what keeps it in constant flux, and how
does it produce so much order and so many
perfectly-designed systems and organisms? The relentless
return to those very same questions demonstrates the
irrationality of the atheist's position. It's a bottomless hole of
On the other hand, the biblical account of creation is truth
revealed by the one Being who was actually present at
creation. Here is the one true answer to the great cosmic
conundrum from the Creator Himself: "In the beginning, God
created the heavens and the earth." That truly is a vitally
important fact. Without it, nothing else makes good, sound,
Romans 1:19-20 12
Now with all of that in mind, look with me at Romans
1:19-20, and let's talk about some of the vital truths God has
built into creation.
Romans 1:19-20. Here's some context: Paul has just stated
in verse 18 that unrighteousness is the motive that causes
people to suppress the truth about God. In our natural, fallen
state, the only way we can live with our own guilt is to deny
what we know to be true about God. Guilty sinners cannot
abide God's wrath against sin, His holiness, or any of His
other righteous attributesCand in the end, the determined
sinner will even deny that God exists.
But, the Bible says, they know better. Their own
consciences bear witness to both their guilt and their God.
Furthermore (verse 19): "What can be known about God is plain
to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible
attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been
clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things
that have been made. So they are without excuse."
That's our text, and the central idea of that text is simple:
God plainly reveals Himself in creation. All of creation is
divine revelation. The universe itself is designed to reveal
God and put His glory on display. Furthermore, creation is
His most obvious self-revelation.
In the words of Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of
God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Anyone who
simply looks at creation can see ample truth about God,
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 13
clearly revealed. Listen to the next few verses from Psalm
19. Creation speaks at all times: "Day to day . . . and night to
night" (v. 2). It speaks in all languages: "There is no speech, nor
are there words, whose voice is not heard" (v. 3). It speaks to all
people: "Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words
to the end of the world" (v. 4). So the universe reveals God in a
way that is always accessible across every language barrier
to everyone without exception. There is no excuse for not
Now, it makes perfect sense that if you reject the most
basic and most conspicuous truth that God has revealed
about Himself, of course you won't be able to make good
sense of God or anything else. And that's exactly what the
Bible teaches. First Corinthians 2:14: "The natural person does
not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him,
and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually
So here's the point I want to zero in on: No matter how
popular it may be to object to creation on supposedly
scientific grounds; no matter how many great minds among
the academic elite reject the truth creation reveals, there is no
excuse and no justification for their skepticism, because
creation itself is a brilliant work of revelation. That's why the
universe is so vast and awesome; to make obvious the
immeasurable greatness of the Creator. Creation is God's
Romans 1:19-20 14
self-revelation. The truth is right there, wherever you look
So what truths are revealed in God's creation? What kind
of truth about God, His character, His attributes, the way He
works, or other points of theology are spread out for us and
"clearly perceived . . . in the things that have been made"?
I see three categories of vital doctrine that are obvious on
the face of the visible universe. Here's how I would classify
the key truths God has revealed in creation: 1. The
magnificent glory of God; 2. The fallen glory of humanity;
and 3. The awful curse of sin. Let's look at those categories,
one at a time. First, consider:
1. THE MAGNIFICENT GLORY OF GOD
Now, as Scripture says, this is obvious. "What can be known
about God is plain to them" (v. 19). That doesn't mean, of
course, that everything you could possibly know about God
is revealed in nature, because you would never discern the
truth of the TrinityCor the incarnation and mediatorial work
of ChristCby looking at nature. Some of the truth we need to
know about God must be taught to us by special revelation.
That's what the Scriptures are for.
But the stress here is on the clarity of the revelation given
to us through creation. To paraphrase: "what can be known
about God [in nature] is plain to [see]." Creation is not a vague or
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 15
indistinct revelation. Its message is crystal-clear, and it's
everywhere you look.
Furthermore, the universe actually has a lot to say about
God. A host of God's attributes are patently obvious in
creationCHis vast power, His wisdom, His love of beauty
and order, and even His lovingkindness and His sovereignty.
Those are just some samples of the divine attributes
Scripture points out and says they are visible in nature.
To cite one obvious example: Jesus said God's
lovingkindness and sovereignty can be discerned from the
fact that He dresses the lilies in glorious clothing, and He
knows every movement of every sparrow.
Or consider the book of Job. I think the second half of the
book of Job is one of the most breathtakingly amazing
sections in all the Bible. Job has suffered unspeakable grief.
He has been subjected to a confusing mix of some pretty
good and lots of really bad counsel from his friends. He has
deflected their accusations against him; he has complained
bitterly about his circumstances (just as you and I would);
and he has questioned and challenged God regarding the
reasons for his sufferings. Then when Job has pretty much
hit rock bottom in his despair, God finally arrives on the
sceneCnot with words of comfort and an explanation for Job.
God comes in a whirlwind, with a rebuke aimed at Job.
Now bear something in mind; God Himself had already
said this about Job: "There is none like him on the earth, a
Romans 1:19-20 16
blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from
evil." Those were God's words of affirmation, spoken to the
devil about Job in Job 1:8.
But God's words to Job himself were of a different sort.
The Lord scolded him for thinking too little of GodCfor
entertaining thoughts about God that underestimated and
miniaturized the Almighty. (And by the way, if God scolded
a man like Job for having stunted thoughts about God, what
do you think He would say to the rest of us?)
Anyway, chapters 38 through 41 of Job record the Lord's
reprimand, and it's a catalogue of truths about God that are
visible in nature. He starts out in Job 38:4: "Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?" That's a reference not
only to the Lord's omnipotent strength, but also His infinite
wisdom. Continuing in verse 4: "Tell me, [Job,] if you have
understanding[, the Lord says]. Who determined [the earth's]
measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the
morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for
joy?" That's a poetic description of the creation event.
The Lord's rebuke goes on for four full chapters, citing
things only the Lord Himself can doCthings that are beyond
the realm of human power or comprehension; things the
Lord has made that are too wonderful for the human
imagination; and things the Lord knows, that are hidden to
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 17
For example, he challenges Job with the classic
epistemological conundrum (v. 36): "Who has put wisdom in
the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?" He points to
animal instinct as proof that knowledge has been placed in
the minds of living creatures by a mind infinitely wiser than
the most intelligent human. Chapter 37, verses 27-28: "Is it at
your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on
high? On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag
By the time you get to chapter 40, God is still speaking:
"Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with
God, let him answer it." In other words, if you think you are
entitled to question God or doubt Him, look at all that He has
made, and then think again.
The point is that God's power and His wisdom are so
clearly on display in creation that even a righteous man like
Job had no right whatsoever to question GodCeven though
Job was in the deepest pit of despair without any explanation
of why, and even though he was suffering without so much
as a single word of comfort or hope from God. It was not his
place to subject God to cross-examination.
Now: the point here is not to magnify Job's guilt. The
Bible expressly says he was the best of men. The point is to
magnify the glory of God. That glory fills the universe; it is
written in capital letters and bold type for anyone who has
eyes to see.
Romans 1:19-20 18
That is, in fact, the most obvious truth we learn about God
from nature: He is glorious. Every molecule of the universe
unveils and declares God's glory. You can see amazing,
majestic displays of incomprehensible glory from any
conceivable perspective. The glory of God is on display in
vivid, intense, and graphic detailCno matter where you turn
Look in the most powerful telescope at the outer edges of
the current technology's ability to see, and what you will
observe is breathtaking glory.
Look in a microscope at any random drop of pond-water
and you'll see glory of a different kind, but equally
Take even the ugliest, most grotesque-looking insect, and
examine it closely under a powerful lens. You cannot help
being astonished at the intricacy, the ingenuity, and even the
beauty of the way that bug was designed and made. The eyes
of a common housefly are a thousand times more marvelous
than the greatest of human inventions.
Creation will astonish you whether you view it close up
or far awayCwith a wide-angle lens or with a magnifying
glass. All of creation is impressive beyond words in every
dimension and in every detailCand it fairly screams out the
wisdom and glory of its Maker.
And God created it all out of nothing. What is "nothing"?
You can't conceive of it. You probably think of empty space,
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 19
but even that is something. Spurgeon said, "You have never
yet grasped the idea of nothing. The eye cannot see it. . . . the
eye could not look on nothing. It would be blinded. Nothing
is a thing which the senses cannot grasp, and yet it is out of
this awful nothing that God made the sun and moon and stars
and all things that are."
That's what Scripture says. This vast, incredible universe
is the work of God, the Creator, and His intention from one
end of the universe to the other is to show us some of His
glory. All of creation is one massive display of divine glory
that no one can possibly overlook. A universe full of truth
about God is right there, in your face, all the time, assaulting
all the human senses with undeniable facts that God wants us
to know about himself.
I simply don't have time to recite a catalogue of the
wonders of creation. There are whole books full of
information about creatures with incredible features that defy
the theory that all these species evolved by chance. The point
is that Scripture says the truth of creation is obvious, and
people are without excuse when they try to suppress that
By the way, the psalmist writes frequently about how God
is revealed in creation. I quoted from Psalm 19 already. The
first half of that psalm is an anthem about the glory of God in
nature. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above
proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 8 takes up the same theme, in
Romans 1:19-20 20
a prayer addressed to the Creator: "O LORD, our Lord, how
majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above
the heavens." That's Psalm 8:1. It's one of David's psalms. As
He observes the glory of God in creation, he is smitten with a
sense of his own unworthiness. He writes, "When I look at your
heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you
have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the
son of man that you care for him?" The vastness of the heavens
makes him feel his own insignificance.
Imagine if David knew what we know about how big the
universe is. He was limited to what he could see with the
naked eye. We've got the Hubble Space telescope that can
see further than you could possibly imagine.
In late 2009, NASA pointed the Hubble telescope at a tiny
remote spot in far-off space where there are no visible stars
and exposed its camera for 48 hours with infrared light
filters. What appeared in the photograph was a large field of
galaxiesCnot stars, but galaxies (some of them bigger than
the milky way). Scientists say they are eighty-one
billion-trillion miles away. I can't conceive of a distance that
largeCand neither can you. That's 81 with 108 zeros trailing.
Traveling at the normal speed of light, it would take you
thirteen and a half billion years to get thereCso if you're
going there, better pack a lunch.
The vastness of the universe puts our relative
insignificance in perspective, doesn't it?
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 21
And yet, as David says, the glory of God is revealed in the
human creature in a unique and particular way. Psalm 8:5-6:
"Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and
crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion
over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his
Of all the creatures on earth and all the galaxies in the
heavens, none gives a more articulate and obvious revelation
of God's glory than man, who was made in God's very
And that's the second category of theological truths
creation teaches us:
2. THE FALLEN GLORY OF HUMANITY
Humanity bears the stamp of God's likeness. No other
creatureCnot even the highest archangelCwas made in God's
image. We can see the image of God imprinted on the human
soul in humanity's unique moral and spiritual
attributesCthose things that set us apart from the animals.
For example, the human intellect is uniquely capable of
self-reflection. We're creative. We are moved by beauty. We
speak a variety of complex languages. Our moral instinct
(that innate sense of right and wrong) is unparalleled in the
animal kingdom. We have a conscience that declares our
guilt when we do wrong. And no other creature manifests
Romans 1:19-20 22
anything like the human craving for communion with God.
Animals don't practice religion of any kind.
And yet, it is clear that the human race is fallen. People do
evil things. All people do. Romans 3:10: "None is righteous, no,
not one. . . . All have turned aside; together they have become
worthless." Sin is a plague on humanity, and you can see that
in the headlines at the Drudge Report every day.
Furthermore, as the apostle says in the verse immediately
preceding our text, Romans 1:18, "[Fallen] men, [in] their
unrighteousness suppress the truth" they see in nature. They
willfully disclaim and deny what they ought to be able to see
with their own eyes. They try to conceal it from their own
consciences. And they intentionally pretend it isn't even
there. But, Paul says, that is no excuse (v. 19): "For what can
be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to
them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and
divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of
the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without
Notice verse 19: "Knowledge of God is obvious within them."
That's a literal rendering of verse 19. The knowledge of God
is within them (not just "among" them or "around" them).
And in the words of the ESV, it is "plain to them." Verse 21:
"They knew God."
This means vital knowledge of God is innate in the human
mindCimprinted there by the Creator Himself. You were
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 23
born with knowledge already in your mind. A totally blank
mind would be like a computer without a program. It would
have no means of interpreting or cataloguing data. We must
know something in order to make sense of anything.
Where does that original knowledge come from? Here is
your answer: God put it there. Some rudimentary knowledge
is innate in the human heart, and its centerpiece is an
awareness of the God who put it there. It's not a complete
and comprehensive understanding of all truth about God,
obviouslyCbut it certainly includes some sense of right and
wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice.
God puts knowledge, including some knowledge of
himself, in the human heart. Elihu was speaking truth in Job
32:8 when he said, "It is the spirit in man, the breath of the
Almighty, that makes him understand." When God breathed the
breath of life into Adam, He gave us a basic moral compass,
and (according to Romans 2:15) a conscience that either
accuses or excuses us. Romans 2:15 expressly says that
God's moral law is inscribed in some fashion on the human
heart. A set of fundamental spiritual truths was engraved on
our souls at creation. It's not exhaustive knowledge, but it's
enough to remove the excuse of total ignoranceCenough to
make us aware of God and His glory. Verse 19: "What can be
known about God is [obvious within] them."
At the same time, there is a tendency in every human
heart to suppress or ignore that knowledge. That's the proof
Romans 1:19-20 24
that the human race is fallen. The doctrine of original sin is
not the most popular dogma in Christian theology, but it is
the one vital doctrine that is vividly proved by empirical
evidence. Everyone sins. Human history is a story filled with
wars and atrocities and monstrous horrors that are the fruit of
Furthermore, we are conscious of our own sin. We feel
guilt. We sense our accountability to Someone higher than
us. We try to suppress the guilt feelings, and some people are
amazingly successful at that, but suppressing guilt only
makes a person worse, not more well-adjusted. Someone
who feels no guilt whatsoever is a psychopath.
So we are sufficiently aware of the human dilemma by the
light of nature alone. Humanity is a fallen race. Time doesn't
permit me to be long-winded about this, so I hope you see
Let me move now to the third category of truths we learn
from creation. The order and reality of created things shows
us not only the magnificent glory of God, and the fallen
glory of humanity. Here's category number 3. Nature shows
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 25
3. THE AWFUL CURSE OF SIN.
Again, time doesn't permit me to be verbose here, but I
don't need to say much about this anyway. There is ample
evidence in nature that something has utterly devastated
creationCespecially in the realm of human activity. Anything
humanity touches is ruined.
Skeptics and scoffers will try to blame God (or His
absence) for anything that goes wrong: "Where was God
when the latest catastrophe occurred?" or, "If God is such a
loving and masterful Creator, why did He create viruses and
mosquitos?" "Why do things break down, and people die?"
"Why is this world so full of pain, and toil, and tragedy?"
Scripture, of course, answers those questions definitively.
Creation is cursed because of humanity's sin. That's Genesis
3. But the point here is that the reality of evil and the effects
of the curse are perfectly obvious in nature. In the words of
Romans 8:22, "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of
childbirth together." We groan. Human life generally starts with
a cry and ends with a groan. Everyone dies. Everyone
experiences deep sorrow. Trouble defines the human
condition. Job 5:7: "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly
upward." Something is clearly wrong.
And we can tell (both intuitively from what our
conscience tells us, and experientially from observing the
laws of the universeCwe can tell) that whatever is wrong has
something to do with human sin. Even the materialistic
Romans 1:19-20 26
atheists, fretting about climate change, are certain what's
wrong in the world is humanity's fault.
So even the awful curse of sin is obvious in when we look
God's majestic glory; man's fallen glory; and sin's awful
curseCall of that is loudly proclaimed by the things that are
made, if you have ears to listen.
On the other hand, the good newsCthe answer to the
human dilemmaCis revealed only through special revelation.
God gave us His Word, the Bible, to show the way of
salvation and redemption from the curse. And then He sent
His Son (the ultimate, final self-revelation of God, Jesus
Christ) to verify and fulfill everything Scripture ever
promised. That's not just "special" revelation; that is perfect
Christ lived a perfect life, navigating this cursed world
without ever once being defiled by sin Himself. Then He
died to pay sin's penalty, offering an atonement more than
sufficient for all the sins of everyone who will ever believe.
Therefore He offers eternal life in a redeemed universeCa
new heaven and earth untainted by sin and uncorrupted by
the curseCto those who confess their fallenness, repent, and
trust in Him alone as Lord and Savior.
That is the gospel in a nutshell. That's the truth that all
nature ultimately points to and prompts us to look into. If
Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 27
creation is the foundation of all truth, the gospel is the central
truth to which all other truth leads, and Christ Himself is the
very pinnacle and incarnation of all truth. If you have not yet
embraced Him as "the way, and the truth, and the life," my prayer
for you is that God will open your eyes to see, and that your
entire life and worldview will be transformed by the truth of