[Note: these are the notes for a talk I gave yesterday as part of an assembly series this year at Logos School.]
The Christian doctrine of creation is in some ways the foundation of the Christian worldview. Nearly everything that needs to be unpacked from the rest of Scripture is found at least in seed form in the first three chapters of Genesis. Today in particular, I want to focus on the theme of God’s Word, Reason, and Scripture. When we say Christian Worldview, I want you to think Biblical Worldview – a coherent, reasonable, and compelling account of human experience in this world based on the Bible.
In the beginning, God…
These are four of the most important words in the history of human language, but their importance is not limited to mere poetry. Their importance rests on their historical accuracy. The point is that if God is before all things, then there is a coherent, rational accounting for all things. If not, then not. In other words, the Bible begins with an origin, a source, and that implies a logic, a divine process by which all things came to be. All other explanations must begin with some sort of order emerging from chaos. Some unbelievers object to the creation story as a myth designed to avoid real explanation (like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny). But that’s only true if the explanation can’t keep explaining. But the narrative goes on: And God said… God created the heavens and the earth by speaking. He created, organized, and designed the world by His Word. So not only does the creation story imply reason, it establishes the meaningfulness of words and language and the rest of the world. Therefore, although our words are not exactly the same as God’s, they’re analogous, and God’s creation invites us to explore meaning of all that God has made because it has meaning.
The Reasonableness of Faith
The Bible does not assume that belief in God is either automatic or irrational. But believers and unbelievers alike frequently assume so. But the Bible says that we must always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). People routinely tell me that they used to believe in God but then they studied science and now they don’t. People frequently say that science is based on facts and reason but God and Christianity are based on faith. The implication is that “faith” is unreasonable and therefore irrational. Even though the Bible does teach that faith is gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9), that doesn’t mean that faith is therefore irrational. Your lungs are gift from God too. In fact, because human beings are made in the image of God and God created the world with divine reason and language, it makes sense that people would care about understanding the world rightly. Even John assumes this with regard to Jesus: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:28-29). And Paul goes to significant effort to establish the reliability of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-5). The first Christians assumed that faith required evidence and witnesses; they were convinced that Jesus was God based on the facts and evidence not just feelings or vibes.
The Reliability of Scripture
Related to the reasonableness of Christian faith is the ancient standard of reliable testimony. Going back at least to Moses there was a high bar for witnesses and people who claimed to speak on behalf of God. First, multiple witnesses were always required to establish truth (Num. 35:30, Dt. 17:6, 19:15). But second, all witnesses were held liable for their testimony. This means that no witness could be considered reliable who couldn’t be cross examined and even more importantly, a false witness would be punished with the penalty that would have fallen on the accused (Dt. 19:16-21). Finally, the same strict standards hold for anyone who would speak for God. Anyone who claimed to speak for God who encouraged Israel to go after other gods was to be automatically rejected and put to death (Dt. 13:2-5). Likewise, if a prophet claims to speak for the Lord, and the word does not come to pass or come true, it is not the Lord who has spoken (Dt. 18:20-22). Putting all of this together, it was pretty high stakes to bear witness on behalf of God. This why only those who performed the miracles of a prophet where considered reliable witnesses. And this is incidentally why the apostles performed miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). The apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Christian Church because they did miracles that validated their right to speak and write on behalf of God (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14). Even then, the actual writing of Scripture was not an irrational, trance-like lightening strike. Luke says he drew from “the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and, “having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you” (Lk. 1:1-3). Likewise, Paul insisted that all reports of apostolic teaching be verified by his written word (2 Thess. 2:2, 2:15, 3:14, 3:17, cf. Eph. 6:11, 1 Cor. 16:21), and it is very likely that Paul kept a carbon copy of all his letters (2 Tim. 4:13). With Luke already with Paul in Rome, Timothy on his way, and tradition placing Peter there around the same time, there’s good reason to believe that the first New Testament canon committee met in Rome in the mid-60s A.D.
All of this underlines human responsibility. Belief in God and creation and Scripture doesn’t give us some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s the foundation of true investigation, questions, arguments, and a hope for answers. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). If you are a human being, you have a responsibility to use the mind God gave you. And if you are a Christian, you have even more responsibility to love the Lord your God with all of your mind. It is an enormous privilege to receive a Christian education, to grow up in a Christian family, to grow up going to Church, but you must not pretend that you can ride your parents’ coattails. You must search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. You must study the world, test it, dig into, and explore it to see if these things are so.
At the very center of this responsibility is the demand for honesty. One of the first things you should notice if you are honest, is the presence of a very irrational force in your heart, which the Bible calls sin. This too is part of the coherence and persuasiveness of the Christian faith. The Bible not only tells the truth about God and creation, but it tells the truth about our sin and God’s plan to take it away and make us clean (Is. 1:18).