Christianity vs The World - Spirituality vs Materialism
Textual Study of Romans 1:18-25
Contextual Study (1:1-3:20)
It is necessary when handling a textual study that we deal with its entire context. The immediate context of our study begins with 1:18 and carries its thought to completion at 3:20 (cf. Grubbs; Reese).
Universality (1:1-17). In order to introduce the Roman Christians to his thesis, the prolific Paul first declared the universality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "...to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (1:17).
Individuality (1:18-32). The design of this section (incidentally, the one we deal with in our study) was individuality; i.e. to dismiss the notion that non-Jews (termed in the New Testament "Gentiles") were safe from the wrath of Jehovah by virtue of their supposed ignorance of His existence, and thus, His requirements.
Impartiality (2:1-16). This portion of inspiration displays the fact that God's expectations were evident to all, though all were not subject to the same particulars (Judaism, Patriarchy). Hence, all men are guilty of sin and worthy of condemnation, Jew or Gentile notwithstanding.
Spirituality (2:17-29). Here the arrogance of those Jews who spoke (teachers) but did not practice, who professed but did not perform, is under attack. Though the Gentiles were condemned for hardening themselves against the knowledge of God, the Jews were actually in worse condition due to their choice position. Thus, the law in which they boasted served as their condemnation. They lacked a true spirituality by exercising a form of godliness while being void of inward purity.
Responsibility (3:1-8). The privilege to exhibit and profess the glory of God has its benefits, but also severe consequences in the event of neglect. Many of the Jews had failed in this dutiful honor. The Law of Moses was insufficient through man's inability to keep it without error. The conscience and morality of man was/is insufficient to save all others. Only "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2) is the wisdom of God that can be both preached and lived by man sufficiently, for it alone accounts for the moral and spiritual shortcomings of man—sin.
Universality (3:9-20). Now, Paul draws the conclusion with which he began: "...For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin" (3:9). This is why a universal salvation was necessary, because of universal sin!
May we also point out at this juncture that the basis of many false teachings touching the authority of the Old and New Testaments would be silenced if people would concede the inability of the Old Testament alone to procure even a national salvation for the Jews, much less being part of a universal one in some supposed future dispensation. The inferiority of the Old Testament was only in man's futile attempt to be justified by it (Romans 3:20; 7:7). The Law merely pointed the way to the one who could render faultless obedience to the Father (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 5:8-9); and thus, by keeping the law of God perfectly a universal salvation from sin was opened for man (Zechariah 13:1-9). Concerning this doctrine of salvation, Milligan summarized well when he said:
[T]here are but two conceivable schemes of Justification; viz., (a) That which is by and through works of law. (b) That which is by grace, through faith... It is implied, that though the former is conceivable, it is utterly impracticable. .. Hence it is implied that all such persons are condemned by law: and if saved at all, it must be by grace through faith. (341)
Textual Study (1:18-25)
Christianity vs. the world. Spirituality vs. Materialism. In no other place of Holy writ are these themes more ably amplified than our current text. We have broken down this section into four points, which are as follows: (1) God's Wrath Justified, (2) Man's Excuses Nullified, (3) Humanism Glorified, and (4) God Dissatisfied.
God's Wrath is Justified (vv. 8-19). In verse eighteen God's Wrath Revealed. The present tense of "revealed" indicates it had a definite starting point with a continual, lasting effect (linear). Concerning the manifestation of God's wrath, Grubbs remarked:
It clearly signifies, not a subjective feeling on the part of God, but the objective penalty annexed to the transgression of law—the curse that it entails upon the transgressor, or condemnation that it pronounces upon the wrong-doer. (41)
Thus, this manifestation of the holiness and justice of God against sin (here termed "wrath") begins immediately with the advent of personal sin, and continues to radiate into society through its adverse physical effects (cf. Genesis 3:16-19). Lusk described these aspects of the wrath of God as the "headwind" or "opposition" all are made to feel in this temporal realm due to sin (4). Finally, though, at the consummation of the ages and the final judgment, it will be demonstrated fully in the eschatological sense (Romans 2:5-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).
The two primary things against which God's wrath ultimately is manifested may be summed up as such: (1) ungodliness; and (2) unrighteousness. Lard translated these, "impiety" and "injustice," respectively, stating, "[i]mpiety, asebeian, means a failure in our duties to God; injustice, adikan, [means] a failure in our duties to men" (48). Little wonder then that Jesus gave the "greatest commandment," and the "second like unto it" as "Love the Lord thy God," followed by, "love thy neighbor" (cf. Matthew 22:37-40).
In verse nineteen we find Man Concealed God's revelation (not that of His wrath, as above). The phrase, "manifest in them" (KJV, NKJV) is given a more proper sense by using, "manifest among them" (Lard 46) or "evident within them" (NASB; Reese 26). In other words, it does not seem likely this is talking about an innate knowledge of God" (26). Hence, Lusk described the evidence as "the observable phenomena around them" (6). The means by which man comes to this knowledge is in the following climactic verse(s).
Man's Excuses Nullified (v.20). First, from the natural creation, the apostle argues the case against man's excuses. Paul uses an interesting word play to begin verse twenty, telling us that God's "invisible things are clearly visible" (Vincent 670). The only manner in which this is possible is by observing and honoring the rigid laws of thought, which is the only means of arriving at what might be termed "non-empirical" truths. For example, there are no visibly defined limitations for gravity, as there is with a ball. The ball has observable physical properties through which one can easily deduce its existence, as well as its limitations. Nevertheless with gravity, the only explanation is to deduce by contemplation that one ultimate source of ''Center" exists somewhere around which, and by which, and through which, all things gravitate, the thing itself not being limited by its effects. The inimitable Campbell remarked:
Circles, cycles and centres compose the machinery of the universe. Suns, moons and stars have their respective centres, their orbits and their cycles. But there is one centre that regulates and that governs all other centres; for every centre is both attractive and radiating. It communicates and it receives. It supports and is supported. There must, then, be one self-sustaining centre, and that centre must be forever at rest. It is both the centre of gravity and the centre of motion. And that centre is not God Himself, for he is everywhere. He is Himself a circle, whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere. There is a reason for everything, if there be any reason in any thing. Of what use light, if there be not an eye? And of what use an eye, if there be not light? Creator and creature are correlates. The one implies the other. There is, therefore, in the human mind, a necessity for the being and perfections of God. His existence is essential to ours; but our existence is not essential to His. We are, because He was. Had He not been, we never could have been. We are not self-existent. He must, then, be self-existent; consequently, infinite, eternal and immutable. (Popular Lectures 163)
Continuing, Paul goes so far as to draw two conclusions that, at one time, were clearly perceived about God by the Gentile world: (1) The scope and nature of His power is immaterial ("... even His everlasting power" v.20, emp. added); and (2) This power, if its scope and nature is immaterial (i.e. greater than material), must be divine (". . . and divinity" v.20, emp. added)!
Therefore, we may properly say, "From the physical, the spiritual is clearly seen;" or, "From the material, the immaterial is clearly seen;" or, "From the contingent, the non-contingent is clearly seen." All of these are equal; all of these are true. The apostle argues from these three principles (of logic) to draw his conclusion: (1) Observation, "clearly seen" (2) Contemplation, "being understood' and (3) Deduction "everlasting power and divinity." This is the only way to arrive at truth with respect to immaterial things. By inspiration as well as the natural human experience of rationality, he describes the process by which, and at which, truths of an immaterial nature are arrived. (It is furthermore implied, then, that this process is a required process, as man is considered inexcusable for refusing or abusing it as a means of arriving at truth.)
"Seeing" these things, from the creation, in verse twenty, we next observe the conclusion: there is no defense. The word "excuse" (KJV) is translated from the Greek anapologetous. Lusk stated of its use here:
A defense, logical argumentation presented in defense... with the [alpha] prefix it is "no defense, inexcusable" Newman and Nida translate the latter part of this verse, "As a result, they cannot have any excuse for what they have done" or, there is no way in which they can defend what they have done." (8)
Inasmuch as Peter in the Spirit required of Christ's followers to offer up a rational defense (apologia, 1 Peter 3:15) for our faith, those who act irrationally, or think illogically, or both, have no excuse for skipping out on truths available to the mind God created for just such a process. In Reese's commentary, at the conclusion of verse nineteen, he states, "What was 'known' about God is specified in the next verse [v. 20], and so is how it came to be known (by observation and contemplation)" (26, emp. added). It is therefore implied that the process of observation and contemplation regarding immaterial truths are as rational and defensible as material ones.
Humanism Glorified (vv.21-23). We use this definition of "humanism," "a system of beliefs that has removed God from reality... and a group of believers who... believe that human beings are the ultimate intelligence in existence" (Hatcher 16) This passage that at one time these Gentiles "knew God." What happened? At this point in the text, Kingsley stated:
I think it may be proved from the facts that any given people, down to the lowest savages, has at any period of its life known far more than it has done: known quite enough to have enabled It to have got on comfortably, thriven and developed, if it had only done what no man does, all that it knew it ought to do and could do. (qtd. in Vincent 670)
This is what happened to the Gentile nations—they gave up their knowledge of God! It was not for lack of evidence. It was not contradiction with the evidence. It was not confusion over the evidence. It was a refusal to take the time necessary to contemplate and draw conclusions! Winters remarked, "They acted contrary to the knowledge they possessed. They thus sinned against knowledge. They knowingly rejected right for wrong" (22). It was moral laziness that led to idolatry, materialism, humanism—atheism! And it is the same moral laziness that leads to these corruptions today.
Consequently, what happens to the intellect and volition of an individual whose reasoning has become vain and materialistic? Spiritual darkness (v.21). What happens when the darkness is glorified and magnified as the truth (Isaiah 5:20-21)? The incorruptible God vanishes, and one is left with a temporal, hedonistic elevation of mankind above his eternal Source. Some wisdom (v. 22b)! Lard remarked, "When men are reasoning God and truth out of their souls, they usually make large pretensions to wisdom" (55). In this self-deception, momentary gratification takes over as the test of truth, and you are left with nothing. After all, once the material is gone, there is but emptiness. That is the end of materialism—nothing (v. 23). That is where the Gentiles placed themselves, as Paul also described in another place (no hope, because they wereatheos, "without God," Ephesians 2:12).
Finally, we examine God Dissatisfied (vv, 24-25). These two verses offer us two thoughts, First, God Gave Them Up (v. 24). There is no state of life worse than being rejected by God (cf. Romans 9:13; Hebrews 12:16-17). But the ultimate result of only following one's subjective inclinations in this life is misery and nations live in (1) uncleanness, which indicates that which is to be discarded; and (2) dishonoring of the defiled when it is assumed the use of the body is human for self-gratification, will eventually inflict the punishment of this evil upon those who practice the same (Romans 1:26-27). Moral degeneration and de-sensitivity marks the impending demise of nearly every known fallen nation in history. The Gentile nations were no exception.
Second, They Gave Up Truth (v. 25). Before commencing this verse, notice two things (1) the irrevocable pattern of moral degeneration does not stop the human desire to, and (2) even in the degenerate world, there is a difference between "worship" and "service"
This verse states that they did their obeisance to the created "more than" the Creator. However, as several agree (Reese, Whiteside, Vincent, Lard, etc.) the best use of the preposition para in this instance should be "rather than" Reese explains, "'Rather than' implies that they worshipped the creature only, and the Creator not at all" (36). Agreeing, Lard translated it, "instead of' (46).
When truth is forfeited, its premium compromised, the floodgates open, allowing any and every form of carnal ambition to reign in the hearts of men. Everything is permitted, save only an objection to permissive practice, Freedom from this slavery to personal satisfaction is only possible by knowing and obeying 'The truth" (John 8:32).
Any nation of history whose morality is degenerating, rather than progressing, is blowing out the candle on the light of revelation—natural or supernatural. However, as with the Jews and Gentiles, a people once impressed with the light of the Gospel face a "sorer punishment" (Hebrews 10:29). The implications of having truth and giving it up, or "exchanging" it for a lie is inexcusable to the highest degree. Irrespective of the case, God is just in judgment against "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men...so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18, 20). We conclude our textual study with these timeless words of Milligan:
[A]ll who are acquainted with the present condition of the heathen world know perfectly well that the state of the morals is even now no better than it was among the ancients. Indeed, it has been clearly proved by the testimony of missionaries, as well as by the acknowledgments of the heathen themselves, that Paul's description of the moral state of the Gentile world, given in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, is still a true and faithful picture of the moral condition of all nations that are without light and influence of a revelation from God. (39)
The Bible's Claim Can Be Proved
While this article is based on the textual study of the above explicated passage, we have been asked also to give special attention to the implications involved in verse twenty. It is not our purpose to posit the evidences for the existence of God. It is not our primary purpose to dispose with false claims about the "non-existence" of God (i.e., "injustices," eternal punishment, "pointless" sufferings, etc.). It is not even really our primary purpose to consider whether or not He exists (though that is obviously a prerequisite and is handled in other portions of this book). Our purpose is to discuss one of the implications of the claims. We affirm that the process by which these truths are ascertained is valid, and the Bible's claim can be proven to the highest degree of satisfaction and assurance possible. The existence of God is not guesswork. It is reliable according to the same fundamental laws of thought by which any other intangible entity is deduced.
Usually when one speaks of the existence of God, he affirms its truth and then begins aligning evidences, the conclusion of which is: "Therefore, God exists." Given the fact those evidences are valid (i.e. both true and relevant to the conclusion), then, the truth of the matter can be ascertained. This is called rationality and its process has been formally given a title in the discipline of logic, "the Law of Rationality." This workable definition is suitable for our purposes, ''one should only draw such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence" (Warren, Logic 1). The Law of Rationality simply identifies the process to which men mentally appeal in order to arrive then, at truth(s). It has not been invented by men. It has been identified and described. In other words, the process existed first. The philosopher Thomas Aquinas (ca. AD 1225-1274) has been described as the first to give this process "detailed theological explanation" (Hackett 117). It is the process by which the intellect is introduced to certain things empirically and deductions are made. When the process is undertaken objectively (honestly, uprightly), truth can be obtained (as truth is a moral station). When this process is applied to religion, it is possible to come to the conclusion: Therefore, God exists, with doubtlessness.
But to take the process a step further, it is also suggested in our text (Romans 1:18-25) not only that the existence of God can be ascertained by properly reasoning from empirical observation, but also that something of this Being's nature can be understood. This is all the case because of at least two truths: (1) the process is the oldest known process for arriving at truth, and (2) no better process of arriving at truth has ever been discovered without contradiction (or, self-defeat).
Therefore, we conclude that the process of deducing truth from evidence properly reasoned (tangible or intangible) is the only process of deducing it, and the result of doing such will not only bring a person to truth, but will also give him absolute assurance of that truth when he arrives there. In other words, when Jesus said, "ye shall know the truth" (John 8:32), He was not just talking to hear Himself talk. It is as much a natural part of being human that we must arrive at truth as it is a divine requirement for the same. If this were not possible, humanity would be, on the whole, unreasonable, and God would be, in the least, malicious for requiring it of us.
At this time, then, let us revisit Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." Part of the reason we are examining this topic here is to address the continuing trend to which many (even some in the brotherhood of Christ) have attached themselves concerning just how sure we can be about the existence of Him who is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 90:2). A number of years ago, Deaver addressed this same concern in the book, Ascertaining Bible Authority, when he quoted several who were, "teaching the doctrine that it is impossible for us to know that God is, and that the Bible is the word of God" (27). In this concise treatise are listed several opinions respecting the limitations of knowledge in this area, such as these:
1. "There is no way to prove that God exists. We are compelled to accept the idea...by faith.
2. "There is no way really to know.'
3. "Absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept."
4. [T]here is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption, or faith that God exists. (27 emp. added)
Let us examine these one at a time.
#1: It is not acceptable to say, "We are compelled to accept the idea." Why is this so? If there is evidence at all, it must lead to something. And in the case of God, it can only lead to the fact that He exists, or He doesn't. There is no alternative. To summarize the quote, "Evidence will not compel us to accept the actual existence of God, but at the same time, that evidence compels us to accept the idea of the existence of God." Does that even make sense? If the idea of God is demanded by the evidence, then God is demanded by that same evidence (this is sometimes referred to as the ontological argument for the existence of God)!
#2: "There is no way really to know." This universal affirmation is impossible to make. To say there is no way to know is to say no person anywhere, at any time could prove the existence of God. This claim of knowledge is greater than the theist's claim. I have a cassette of a lecture delivered by Thomas Warren several years ago in which he related how he illustrated three possibilities of human knowledge by displaying a chart (or chalk board) with three boxes for all to see, and next to those boxes he wrote, #1 I know everything. #2: I know nothing. #3: I know some things. He related how a seven-year-old child reacted to his query:
A little boy was seven years of age, I asked him how old he was. He came up and sat down on the seat, rather timidly, and he said, "Brother Warren, I've watched your chart this morning." I said, "Yes? You did? And what'd you think about it?" He said, "Well, as I heard what you said, I knew what you were gonna mark." He said, "And I knew what I'd mark. I said, "Well, which one was it?" He said, "'Something. "' He said, "Nobody' knows everything, and nobody knows nothing, but everybody knows something." Seven years old! We've got Ph.D.'s in the church today that don't know that! You see... honesty is the greatest factor in your learning the truth of God. It's of more value than getting a Ph.D. from Harvard. You go up there and do a Ph.D. in theology and you may come out not knowing what your name is! It’s not a matter of just education, that's the matter, it's the matter of people not being honest. How could a fella that's honest let anybody convince him that he doesn't know anything? It’s simply not true! ("Will of God")
So when we affirm we can know, we mean what Warren further said in these words:
To know means that you have such certainty about it, that you cannot be wrong. That's what "know" means... I'm saying something more than that I merely claim to know it; or, that I have strong conviction about it; or, that I know a lot of other people who agree with me about it; or, that I have counted noses, and there are a hundred million people that say the same thing. That's not what it means to "know." It means that you are in a position to know the facts; and that you have the mind to properly deal with the facts; and, that, as a matter of fact, you have dealt with those facts, and that you have certainty about it, so that you cannot be wrong ("Will of God").
#3: "Absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept." We reply, then, the fact that "absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept" is itself but a theoretical concept as well. What an absurdity to declare, with certainty of truth, that certainty of truth is impossible. This type of subjectivity always contradicts itself. Winters said:
What could be more foolish than to deny the trustworthiness of the human mind to correctly reason to a proper conclusion? If the mind's power to reason cannot be trusted then how can it be thought trustworthy when it reasons to its own untrustworthiness? How can it be untrustworthy when it reasons back to a Creator but untrustworthy when it reasons to deny the power of reason (especially the reason which concludes that god [sic] is the Author and Creator of all things)? (23)
#4: "There is not enough evidence anywhere." This again is hard to hear. First, how could any single person, or entire field of persons, or generation of persons, come to the unfathomable knowledge that there is not enough evidence anywhere to prove God's existence? What would this imply? Such an individual would need infinite knowledge. For a person to claim such is irrational at the very least, and eccentric at best.
Yet, the second portion of the quote is quite telling, "but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption." So at this point we reduce the Law of Rationality to this: "We ought to justify our assumptions with adequate evidence, rather than our conclusions." To put it in relative terms, this implies the view that the existence of God is not subject to the Law of Rationality in the same way the existence of gravity is. For example, when it comes to gravity, do we say, "The evidence only takes me so far, then I take a 'leap of faith." Nobody takes a leap of faith, or leap in the dark when it comes to gravity, do they? Only in the instance of suicide, perhaps. Do you know why? Because they are absolutely certain what will happen. If you stood atop a ten story building, would you then say there is only enough evidence to warrant an assumption about the existence of gravity, but there is really no way to know for sure? After all, you cannot see it, only its effects. Probably not (if so, there are some obvious psychological problems at hand that should be addressed immediately). Yet, when it comes to God, some will take a "leap of faith" into eternity—a much harder, longer fall to say the very least.
Plainly stated, if we cannot absolutely prove God, then there is no evidence strong enough to warrant an assumption in favor of His existence. And the Bible affirmatively declares it can be proved (Romans 1:20). In fact the Bible says it must be proved (1 Thessalonians 5:21), that is, to conclude with absolute certainty with respect to the available evidence. If not, the Bible is the most wicked and regretful book ever to fall into the hands of men.
Some Implications of Rejecting the Bible's Claim
As with any belief, there are implications or natural consequences of those beliefs. The mishandling of the Law of Rationality with respect to the existence of God is no exception. We wish to offer two crucial ones.
#1. It Is to Reject the Fundamental Laws of Thought. Rationality demands that our conclusions are drawn from adequate evidence that corresponds to the conclusion. Notice, we are not saying, "If God does not exist, these are the implications." We are before that. We are saying, if the process of deduction by comprehension is incapable of leading us to absolute knowledge of things not empirical, then these things are the result, and many more. But if we cannot use the process of deduction by comprehension to deduce the absolute knowledge of unseen things, pray tell, what other process shall we use?
So we affirm that these statements are an irrational indictment against the laws of thought. However, we should say that the individuals who made the comments we quoted do believe God exists (perhaps while holding this position "tentatively," reasoning that either the evidence provided or the manner in which the data is processed, or both, is inadequate). Some would have us believe that because they reject rationality when it comes to the existence of God, that either the existence of God, or the process of coming to that conclusion is questionable, or both. In light of this, Bales asked:
Can all reality be grasped with forceps? When one attends a lecture does he carry forceps to pick up ideas and a bottle with a cork in which to keep them? It is not a reflection of the lecturer, or forceps, or ideas just because one cannot capture them in this manner. The reflection is on the individual who thinks all reality can be grasped with forceps. (7 emp. added)
At this point we wish to mention something of the nature of the evidence from which we reason the existence of God. The evidence for, and the process by which the existence of God is deduced, falls between two categories: (1) It is not so overwhelming that one's free will is nullified (a matter of infringement), but (2) It is not so withdrawn that a proper deduction cannot be made without undue difficulty (a matter of improbability). It is absolutely perfect. Warren described it as an "epistemic distance," and paraphrasing Hackett, described it thus:
It would reveal God to man without overwhelming man so that he is not really free. Yet, it would not necessitate a gap so large that man could not be drawn to God. It would be one which was both law-abiding and teleological (one which was designed for this specific purpose and upon which man could depend for regularity of response)." (Atheists 45)
Again, we quote Campbell, who rightly enjoins the responsibility of human morality to the process, and elaborated on the subject in these terms:
There is a distance which is properly called the speaking distance, or the hearing distance; beyond which the voice reaches not, and the ears hear not. To hear another, we must come within that circle which the voice audibly fills.
Now we may with propriety say, that as it respects God, there is an understanding distance. All beyond that distance cannot understand God; all within it can easily understand him in all matters of piety and morality. God Himself is the center of that circle, and humility is its circumference. (Christian System, 5 emp. added)
We must admit that Campbell was commenting with respect to the written revelation of God (Bible), but what applies to God's supernatural revelation, in essence, certainly applies to the natural revelation of God as well, as God is the author of both. Rejecting the laws of thought does not eliminate them, it rather implies a lack of dignity toward truth. In other words, to reject the Bible's claim that the existence of God can be deduced, is to admit our dishonesty in handling the evidence.
#2. It Is an Indictment of God's Character (mercy, holiness, love, etc.). We propose a simple argument to this end: If God exists, but withholds information relative to His existence, He is immoral and unworthy of our obedience and gratitude. We deny that God is immoral and unworthy of our obedience and gratitude, thus we affirm that He exists and does not withhold information concerning the same.
There are about three basic possibilities relative to the evidence: (1) God chose to give man no information, (2) God chose to reveal everything to man, or (3) God chose to reveal some things. Those with whom we are dealing in our lecture do not believe God revealed nothing, so number one is, by concession, false. Also by concession, we agree that did not everything. So number two is false. Therefore, we agree on number three, "God chose to reveal some things."
However, with respect to number three, "God chose to reveal some things," we are faced with at least two possibilities about those things He chose to reveal. They are either: (a) enough to properly deduce His existence with assurance; or, (b) not enough to properly deduce His existence with assurance.
Let us examine possiblity b, for this is the one to which agnostics adhere, and, if false, then amust be true. If God gave us some things, but those things were not enough, or constantly misled us, God would be manipulative and cruel, considering the will He authored gives divine mandates to all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3), and "always be ready to give a defense" (apologia, "rational defense") for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Such a 'god' is not worthv of worship, affection, etc. In order to believe this, and comply faithfully with the implications of it, one would have to conclude that Christianity is "cruel and unusual punishment" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:19)! But God is neither manipulative nor cruel. This is contrary to His nature. Neither is living the Christian life cruel, as it is patterned after the perfect life of Christ Himself.
We state furthermore that those to whom we refer here are practitioners of Christianity. (The positions of stricter agnostics and atheists are dealt with otherwise in this volume) Therefore, for one to speak this way about the revelation of God, while practicing Christianity admits defeat by his life. It would be humiliating and illogical to follow a system of beliefs about which you had such doubt. To say, "I am a Christian, but I believe the evidence that the God I believe in revealed is often misleading or lacking," is a position that denies the basic foundation of Christianity: conclusive evidence! It should be emphasized, then, that God never leaves Himself without plenty of witness (cf. Acts 14:17; 17:25-27, et al.), and one who holds this position denies this fact as true.
Hence, we conclude: It is false that God has given either not enough or too much information relative to His existence. It is false the information God has given with respect to his nature and will is either lacking or misleading. Then, it is true that God has revealed Himself (and his will) to mankind, in a manner able to be understood by rational persons, and man must be responsible for the association he chooses to have therewith.God exists. This we know. Not because it is better to assume this than anything else. Not because the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction, even though such evidence stops short of actually proving it. Not just because we want to believe it, nor because it is "better" than not believing (after all, "better" would be merely a relative term if He didn't exist, as there would be no standard by which "better" could be judged). No, but because all the available evidence leads to the inevitable and justifiable conclusion: therefore, God exists.
We affirm the existence of God is something that is provable to a degree of assurance and satisfaction neither lesser nor greater than any other immaterial, intangible truth to which we enjoin ourselves. The fact that visibility often gives a material richness to the experience of human reason is surrendered, but not to the end that invisibility lessens the credibility of an otherwise knowable thing. In other words, the invisibility of God does no injustice whatever to the case for His existence. However, the visible evidence of His creation, coupled with the rationality of that solitary species upon which is conferred the highest honor of intellect and will, provide adequate resources by which we confidently draw the conclusion: "Therefore, God exists." There is no other way to arrive at this truth. There will never be another way on Earth but this: to practice with honesty the rigid laws of thought (rationality).
Nevertheless, we must not stop at this point, that it can be proven (although that is the extent of our lesson). The rest of this printed volume serves to prove it, and should urge the reader to understand the moral injunctions that it must be proven, and such an injunction is justified, in light of who He is, and what we are.
West Virginia School of Preaching Victory Lectures (2005)
Denver Cooper, Director
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Rick Kelley lives in Massillon, Ohio and may be reached at email@example.com.