Summary: God alone is self-existent; we depend on him for life and being.
Thomas Boston pastored from 1699–1731. A biographer wrote of his ministry: “If Scotland had been searched during the early part of the eighteenth century there was not a minister of Christ within its bounds who, both in personal character and in the discharge of his
pastoral functions, approached nearer the apostolic model than did this man of God.”
When Boston sought to explain the nature of God in his commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, he began with a story: “Simonides, a heathen poet, asked by Hiero king of Syracuse, ‘What is God?’ desired a day to think upon it. When that day was at an end, he wanted two days; and when these were past, he asked four [more]. Thus he continued to double the number of days in which he desired to think of God, ere he would give an answer. Upon which the king, expressing his surprise at his behavior, asked him what he meant by this. To which the poet answered, ‘The more I think of God, he is still the more dark and unknown to me.’
Boston comments on Simonides’ response: “Indeed no wonder that he made such an answer; for he that would tell what God is, in a measure suitable to his excellency and glory, had need to know God even as he is known of him, which is not competent to any man upon earth.”
As Boston rightly observes, that which is incomprehensible cannot be perfectly known. Yet God does reveals himself sufficiently in the Scriptures so that we can know of him and believe in him to the saving of our souls. This morning then, by the grace of God, we seek to say something of his being and nature and glory. Our texts are three; please give your attention to this reading of God’s word.
German Philosopher Martin Heidegger said that the most basic question of all is: why is there something and not nothing? (Sinclair Ferguson, “Forward,” in John Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists?, 9).
In 1952, Mortimer Adler co-edited a series of philosophy essays for Encyclopedia Britannica. When asked why the article on “God” was the longest, he said: “More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other question.”
Isaiah Berlin, philosopher, Oxford professor, president of the Aristotelian Society, founder and first president of the Wolfson College, Oxford, knighted in 1957, awarded the Order of Merit in 1971, and president of the British Academy, said, “The world of a man who believes that God created him for a specific purpose, that he has an immortal soul, that there is an afterlife in which his sins will be visited upon him, is radically different from the world of a man who believes in none of these things; and the reasons for action, the moral codes, the political beliefs, the tastes, the personal relationships of the former will deeply and systematically differ from those of the latter” (Concepts and Categories, quoted in Blanchard, 13).
Stephen Evans (professor of philosophy at Calvin College) points out, believing in God is not like believing in the Loch Ness monster: “The Loch Ness monster is merely ‘one more thing’…. God, however, is not merely ‘one more thing’…. The person who believes in God and the person who does not believe in God do not merely disagree about God. They disagree about
the very character of the universe” (The Quest for Faith, quoted in Blanchard, 14).
Because belief in God so shapes our thoughts and actions, theologians work hard proving God’s existence. Four great philosophical arguments are often made.
The ontological argument, or proof from being, is traced to the 11th century theologian, Anselm, who said that God is something of which nothing greater can be conceived. The laws of logic dictate that there must be an end to thoughts of perfection, and that end is the God who exists. There is a logical necessity to the perfection of being.
The cosmological, or first cause argument, observes that since the universe exists, there must be a God who created it. Sometimes called the unmoved mover, God is that which is outside of all and set thime and matter into motion.
The third proof is the teleological argument, sometimes called the argument from design. Just as the complexity of a watch demands an watchmaker, so the marvel of the universe necessitates an intelligent designer whom we name God.
Fourth is the moral argument, based on universal standards of ethics which transcend cultures and times. Every human believes in right and wrong; thus there must be a transcendent moral being, in other words, God.
[Because this is a somewhat technical introduction, let me review what we have covered so far. A) Quotes from a variety of perspectives all noting the significance of belief in God for the behaviors of people. B) Traditional philosophical proofs for God’s existence.]