Reading the Universe: An Examination of Natural Theology

“The book of nature is always misleading, there is nothing that can be gained from nature, without the apriori of commitment to Christ and reading that book through Him. The universe cannot disclose God, only Christ. What has been made clear to us from the beginning is not God, but this man Jesus as God’s Word about God’s Self. To confess His name as Lord, necessarily means rejecting all other claims of revelation.”

What is Natural Theology?

Natural Theology, also known as General Revelation is the idea that God can be known through Reason apart from His Revelation. Or in other words it’s the assumption that man is exalted enough to not need to know the story that God is telling, but can find some other story and use that instead.

The Problem of Creation Science:

As many Christians out there know, the debate between Darwinian Orthodoxy and Christian Fundamentalism has been raging it seems since the dawn of the Twentieth Century and has dominated the cultural engagement between many Christians and their culture at large. But, I think that the whole endeavor of books such as The Case for God are largely if not exclusively adventures in missing the point.

The reasons for this are many, but I will outline three.

  1. Even if you could completely prove God on the basis of reason alone, this is not enough to lead someone to faith in Christ.

    Proofs of the existence of God are often obsessed with interpreting the universe we live in and saying “Aha! That’ll show them.” But Atheists do the same thing. The problem then is not about the content of the universe or of it’s viability. The problem is with the assumptions people have when approaching the evidence. The people open to faith may be more convinced by certain claims, but the people unconvinced will largely if not exclusively remain unconvinced.Further, even this proving does nothing to lead someone to the revelation of Christ, the problem of sin, or engage them with the Christian worldview and story pointing up to Jesus, therefore, it’s always already a broken and stupid endeavor if it’s being used as an apologetic to inspire faith.Either way, making someone a theist does not make them a Christian.

    Even if we manage to find reasonable proofs, these proofs themselves are not really proofs, because proofs assume clear factual support, which is not the case. Proofs for the existence of God are based on logical systems open to interpretation and redrafting, thus are not proofs at all. The only thing that proves God is the life of Jesus Christ, and its continued presence in the place we call Church by the discipline and love of the people there, whose lives are the book of “new nature” showing people that the new creation found in the church is our apologetic, and the call to faith. Only the contents of the church manifest in hospitality and love can ‘prove’ the existence of our God. That’s why it’s imperative that the church have martyrs.

  2. Those who are often obsessed with proving God on the basis of reason exclude all forms of revelation from public discorse and in doing so have assumed liberal ideology’s claims about the nature of public discourse. This can only lead to a self-decapitating system wherein the claims of the faith are jettisoned from discourse not only publicly, but in the very communities claiming to defend their claims on the basis of reason using some  “neutral third language” between faith and society.

    By assuming we can prove god on the basis of Reason, means we’ve already put Christ and the entire Christian story out of the picture. We’ve dismissed all our faith commitments to speak in a language that is not neutral at all, but is at its heart grounded in the idea of human autonomy, and Reason and subsequently atheism. By assuming we can speak the gospel without its story we’ve lost everything, this isn’t a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water, it’s a case of throwing out the baby, but trying to keep the bath water.By ditching the specific language claims of the faith, we’ve lost our guide and sided with atheism over against Christianity. We’ve assumed that culture has the right to dictate on which grounds and how the church will speak to society instead of letting Jesus do so.

    Now, for lay readers, I don’t mean we just go around bible-bashing and throwing scripture out into the air and saying “See! The Bible says so!” What I am saying is that we must educatedly speak the faith to non-believers in a way that they can understand us, but we must always be speaking the gospel. We can’t try to pick up science and force it to play by our rules, because it won’t. We can do “Christian Science” but this can never be a substitute for our role in witnessing to our faith reasonably through the lives we lead from within the Christian story.

    Ditching the gospel and its story as a formative part of our apologetic to society for creation science is not only arrogant, it’s wrong. The only place we have to draw apologetics from is from the worldview that Jesus Himself gives to us, and speaking that story is our first way of defending the faith reasonably. Speaking it educatedly so that the world can understand our convictions in their own terms is our task, but never substituting specific revelation for the idea of God. Theism is not Christianity. A reasonable intellectual assent to the existence of a higher power is not the specific life of discipleship that Jesus calls His disciples to.

  3. The assumption that we can prove “God” makes the idea of God and idol over against the specific Word that God has spoken to us in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

    God is not an idea. God is Jesus the Anointed One of Nazareth. God is not an angry old man sitting on a throne, God is the one who seeing the problem of sin in the world suffers it willingly that we might be brought up into His life, through His grace by the power of His sacrifice in our behalf. God is the One Who Gives Himself for us. We do not argue about the universe and its merits as either able to lead to or away from God, and engaging Darwinism on this level fulfills its fetish with credibility.We cannot know anything about God apart from Jesus, the universe, our feelings, the bible itself are all subject to God’s enduring Word in Jesus. Jesus is God’s testimony to us about who God is, everything we say and know about the God of the Bible is read through this lens, and no other. Darwinism is no threat to Christianity because Christians do not believe in God, we believe in Jesus, who reveals God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Believing in the Trinity is infinitely qualitatively different from believing in God.

    For Christians God is not a quaint idea, a moral principle or a higher power, God is Jesus of Nazareth, and the Spirit of His Presence in the Church and the world. For Christians God is not separable from the story we tell about God, so doing theology any other way may be attesting to a god, but it’s not the Christian God. Speaking of God apart from His story is speaking about a god who is not the Christian God, and therefore an idol. If we look at the universe with our Reason we will only ever project ourselves onto the evidence, as we already do with everything else. The Only Corrective is Christ being the foundation of our God speech, our theology.

I hope that this helps those of you who are looking to get into Karl Barth more, and maybe makes a sensible case against natural theology. Because as Christians we’re not making a case for God, we know that God has made a case for us and for creation, and we are the people gathered to God’s case for the world. We do not defend God, he has already defended us.

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