Summary: God desires for himself to be known and therefore he has revealed himself generally to all people through creation and through the conscience. These are given so that we might seek after and come to know God more.
After studying the benefits of knowing God and seeing how knowing him is the attainment of the highest good, we now will answer the questions: “How can we get to know God more?” and also “How can we know that God exists? What is the evidence?”
Let’s start by looking at how Scripture handles the existence of God.
The Bible Assumes the Existence of God
When we open our Bibles, some might expect to find a large apologetic treatise on the existence of God. It would be expected that the writers of the Bible would begin by proving and defending his existence. “These are the reasons and proofs that there is a God...” However, the Bible does not begin this way, because the Bible assumes that all mankind believes in God. Genesis begins with this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Similarly, Paul speaks of the entire world having knowledge of God, and therefore, being without excuse for not believing in him. Romans 1:20 says this:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Why does the Bible teach that every person knows that there is God? How is God revealed? What are the evidences of his existence?
The reason Scripture does not argue the existence of God is because God has made himself known to all of mankind. Theologians call God making himself known “revelation.” God has revealed himself to man, and therefore, man is without excuse for not believing in him (Romans 1:20).
Implied in the word “revelation” is the fact that God must make himself known to us. On our own, we cannot know God. Revelation must come from his initiative. Consider what Wayne Grudem says about revelation: “If we are to know God at all, it is necessary that he reveal himself to us. Even when discussing the revelation of God that comes through nature, Paul says that what can be known about God is plain to people ‘because God has shown it to them’ (Rom. 1:19).”
In what ways has God revealed himself? There are two primary forms of revelation. The first is called general revelation, which is revelation that everybody has received. Charles Ryrie explains general revelation this way:
General revelation is exactly that—general. It is general in its scope; that is, it reaches to all people (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17). It is general in geography; that is, it encompasses the entire globe (Ps. 19:2). It is general in its methodology; that is, it employs universal means like the heat of the sun (vv. 4–6) and human conscience (Rom. 2:14–15). Simply because it is a revelation that affects all people wherever they are and whenever they have lived it can bring light and truth to all, or, if rejected, it brings condemnation.
The second is specific revelation, which only some people have. Erickson defines special revelation this way: “God’s manifestation of himself to particular persons at definite times and places, enabling those persons to enter into a redemptive relationship with him.” We will look at both of these revelations, but we will be considering general revelation first.
General Revelation in Creation Shows That God Exists
As mentioned previously, some of the greatest evidence that we have of a creator is his creation. David says in Psalm 19:1–4:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun (emphasis mine)
David says the “heavens declare the glory of God.” He says they speak about him day after day and night after night. Creation declares that there is a God.
Here is an apologetic for the evidence of God. Let’s say a tribal person was walking outside and found a watch on the ground. He had previously never seen a watch or heard of anything like it before. He would pick up the watch and notice seconds moving, the hours moving. If he managed to open the watch, he would see screws, chips, and advanced technology.
The tribal person would not say, “Wow, this must have all just come together somehow.” No, he would say to himself, “I don’t know what this is, but I’m sure it had a creator.” In fact, by looking at the dynamics of the watch, he would probably say, “This creator must be very intelligent because I have never seen anything like this.” The watch’s features would scream, “Designed by some great intelligence!” It certainly wouldn’t suggest that it came together accidentally and without purpose. It had to have intention behind it. It had to have purpose. Accidents like this don’t happen. A tribal person would naturally believe there was a creator, and you could not tell him otherwise.