If you follow current studies or events, you will know that American society is facing a drastic increase in the “Nones.” These are individuals who do not identify with any religious creed or belief. And yet “spirituality” is on the rise. People are looking for something that will fill a definite need. But why should Christianity be any more qualified to fill that need then the myriad of other means of “spiritual enlightenment” that exist? And let’s be honest, how do we know that Christianity is any different from Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age belief, etc?
For years, there has been an illustration floating around that compares all the religions of the world to a bunch of blind people feeling an elephant. They each are feeling a different part of the elephant, and so they are coming to different conclusions. The point of the illustration is that we all have this need…this desire for a relationship with a Divine Being. But we’re all reaching out to this being as best we know how, leading to different experiences. Some of us feel His trunk, so we assume that God is like a snake. Others feel His side, and think He is more like a wall. Others feel His tail, legs, etc. So in reality, none of us are wrong. We are making the most of the experience that we’ve had. One day we’ll realize that we were all reaching for the same thing.
I am indebted to Pastor Kevin DeYoung for making an observation about this illustration a few years ago. See, the illustration makes perfect sense…unless the elephant speaks. If the elephant turns to all the people feeling different parts of it and says, “hey! I’m an elephant!” At that point, if those who are feeling the elephant continue to insist on their own personal interpretation of their experience, they are placing their own authority above that of the being they are defining. I would submit that this is exactly where we find ourselves as a society. But, where has the elephant spoken?
In Romans chapter 1, we find an eerily accurate description of the society in which we live. Verse 18 states that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” Why is the wrath of God being poured out? Because by their unrighteousness these men “suppress the truth.” So, God is angry. Why? Because there is truth that is being suppressed, pressed down, denied. What is that truth? It is the knowledge of God. In verse 19, Paul tells us “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” God’s wrath is being poured out because the elephant has spoken, and mankind is refusing to listen.
But where has God spoken? There are so many religious traditions. Who gets to decide which one is accurate? We’re going to drill down into how God has revealed Himself in a special way next time. For now, Romans 1 gives us some information in verse 20. “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.” Not only has God revealed something about Himself, but He’s made it clear (so that anyone can see it), and He’s placed it in creation (so that no one is left out).
Now, we need to be careful here. Paul is not saying that we can come to intimately know the God of the universe through nature (more on that next week). Instead, he is telling us that God has revealed enough about Himself in nature (His eternal power and divine nature) that all of mankind can know that there is a God, and know some basic truths about Him. Let’s revisit the elephant illustration. Instead of a group of well-intentioned people groping to find God as best they can, let’s picture it the way Paul writes it. The elephant is yelling, “I’m an elephant.” And the group of people are plugging their ears (suppressing the truth), and redefining the elephant in whatever way they see fit. Why do we do that? Verse 21 gives some insight. Basically, we don’t want to give the God of the universe the honor that He is due. There are a lot of potential reasons for this, but a huge one is that we don’t want to admit that there is a Supreme Judge of the universe to whom we will one day answer for our lives. That alone is enough for us to stick our fingers in our ears and start yelling about the elephant actually being a snake or wall, or something.
In closing, let’s return to the title of this post. Is there a God? Oddly enough, Scripture never tries to prove the existence of God. It assumes it. He is there. He has revealed Himself to us. Now, there are really good philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and if you want to familiarize yourself with them, I’d encourage you to do so. The most common ones are the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Ontological Argument, and the Moral Argument. These logical and philosophical arguments eliminate a lot of hurdles that are thrown in the way of someone believing in God. But to KNOW this God, we must come to Him on His terms, and learn about Him from the ways in which He has revealed Himself. We’ll talk more about that next week. For now, rest in this. There is a God in heaven. He has revealed His power and nature to mankind. The power of our witness to those who reject this revelation is not going to be in the magnificent arguments that we muster, but in the opening of eyes to the truth. It is to this end that we pray and bear witness.