How do we know God? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “How can finite human beings know the infinite and eternal God?” I believe it was John Stott who said, “God has two books; He has His works in creation that reveal His glory, and He has His words in Scripture that reveal His Grace. The first we call nature and the latter we call Scripture.” Theologians refer to the first as general revelation and the latter as special revelation.
His Works in Creation
From creation, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20). When we go outside and we see the stars and the sky, the mountains, the animals, the beautiful sun, we know that there is a creator God. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” cries the Psalmist! Creation points to a creator. Every civilization throughout history has had some notion of God. Their reflection on their world led them to believe in His existence. Yet, many of these civilizations failed to distinguish between the creator and His creation, leading to the spiral of darkness we see towards the end of Romans 1.
The existence of God is also evident from our conscience, which is a part of general revelation. Conscience is latin for “with knowledge.” We all have knowledge of right and wrong, and God gives this knowledge. There is an absolute standard for morality. There are certain things that are absolutely wrong, at any given time, anywhere. As hard as we try to deny it, there are moral absolutes and when push comes to shove we all recognize it. I remember talking with a guy who told me, “I don’t believe rape is wrong. I mean who says it’s wrong?” As he spoke, I sat there agape, and then I responded, “That may work well in your bubble, but if you were faced with rape, would that be ok?” His silent facial response was priceless. It’s humorous that people will believe there is no moral standard until someone wrongs them.
Revelation from Creation is Limited
Even though we know God through creation, this revelation is limited. Being in awe at creation doesn’t help me enter a relationship with God. Even our own faculties are limited in knowing God personally. God is infinite and we are finite human beings. It was the French Astronomer Laplace who, while looking at the sky with his telescope, said pointedly, “There is no evidence of God.” President Sawyer, when he heard this, he said, “Laplace may as well have swept his kitchen with a broom, looking for God because you can just as easily find God in your kitchen while sweeping as you can by using a scientific instrument.” Through natural means, one cannot evaluate the supernatural. Any well-minded scientist will tell you that the method you use to investigate an object must correspond to the object itself. For instance, if it is a material object, then the means of investigation must be materialistic. Similarly, if you are investigating God, then your method must correspond to God Himself.
His Words in Scripture
God is incomprehensible, but He can be apprehended because He has revealed Himself in Scripture. God has given us His Word so that we can know Him. Apart from God’s Word, it is impossible to know God personally. Granted, through creation we can know God’s existence, but it is only through the Bible that we can know God intimately and know the Gospel. We can liken this experience to knowing another person. I know my friends and family because we have spoken to each other. They have told me about themselves. If they didn’t communicate, I wouldn’t know them. If God didn’t speak through His Word, we would not know Him. This is why it’s important to read God’s Word. That’s the means God has ordained for us to know Him.
I remember sharing the Gospel with a Hindu. I kept telling him, “You can only truly know God through His Word.” He kept insisting that creation was enough to know God intimately, and so I told him again, “You can only truly know God through His Word.” As I kept repeating myself, I felt so convicted, God has revealed Himself through the Bible, and I have not been giving the Bible its due weight.
A non-Christian said to me recently, “If I were a Christian I would study the Bible cover to cover. I don’t think I would be able to put it down. I mean, if you’re telling me that it’s the Word of God, that’s what I would do. But… I’m not a Christian.” From the mouth of a pagan, truer words have never been spoken. God has given us His Word; let’s pay heed to it.