The first thing God ever told us is that he’s the Creator. The main verb of the first sentence in the Bible is “created,” and “God” is the subject.
That’s the first thing. Not that he’s holy, not that he’s good, not that he’s infinite—though he is all of those things and much more.
He started by telling us that he’s the Creator (Ge 1.1). And he then continued by stating that everything we see in the cosmos—everything—is from his hand (Ge 1.2-31).
Given where I work, you won’t be surprised that I’m strongly committed to the primary authority of Scripture. My school’s creed starts with the line, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments.” I spend a lot of time thinking about, and teaching others to think about, what the Bible teaches about this or that. And “this or that” includes a LOT of things—I would say, in fact, that it includes everything we need to know about who God is, how we can know him, and then how we can serve him.
But the same Bible that I hold to be authoritative also says that it’s not the only place where can learn about God—or more precisely, it’s not the only form of divine revelation. The Bible famously says that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19.1) and that “the invisible things of [God] are clearly seen through the things that are made” (Ro 1.20). In other words, you can see what God has to say by just looking around.
Since God made everything, what he has made—like the artwork any artist produces—tells us something about him. You can learn a lot about Picasso by studying his paintings (he did have toxic relationships with women, now, didn’t he?), and no one reading Hemingway will be surprised that one day he walked out into the Idaho woods and ended his own life.
You learn about an artist by studying his art. You learn about the Creator by studying what he’s created.
By looking around.
Of course, what we’re looking around at—what the theologians call “general revelation”—isn’t in the same category as the Scripture, for a simple reason: it’s not exactly what God created. It’s busted.
Since sin entered creation through Adam, all kinds of things about it have changed—most obviously death has come upon us all, and pain of various kinds, and frustration, and who knows what else.
So we have to temper our conclusions about the Creator by deleting from the original design what’s changed since it was executed. If somebody splashes bright pink paint all over a Picasso, you don’t blame Pablo for it.
Although, in this case the bright pink paint might actually be an improvement—but no analogy is perfect, especially when it involves God, who is unlike anyone or anything else.
Even if we have no Bible, even if we’ve never seen one or even heard of one, we can learn about God by just looking around—at the heavens, at the earth, macroscopically or microscopically.
That book of revelation is infinite and inexhaustible.
The Scripture helps us by repeatedly referring back to Creation and drawing various theological points from it. Some years ago my colleague Bill Lovegrove suggested surveying the Scripture for all of those references and noting what conclusions the biblical writers themselves draw. I can commend that study to you as well.
What I’d like to do is spend a few posts dipping a toe in the shallow end of that pool.
Next time—so what do we learn by looking around?