Why I Don't Believe in Atheists (Phil Johnson)

Romans 1:19-20   |   Sunday, December 28, 2014   |   Code: 2014-12-28am-PJ

We're going to consider the biblical account of creation in

light of two verses in Romans 1, but while you are turning

there, I want to begin with Genesis 1:1, where creation is

first mentioned and summarized for us in a single verse. You

probably know Genesis 1:1 by heart, so you can be turning

in your Bibles to Romans 1:19 if you like. But before we get

into the Romans text, I want to think through with you some

of the important implications of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning,

God created the heavens and the earth."

I recently listened to a message by A. W. Tozer in which

he said that's the single most important verse in all of

Scripture, even surpassing John 3:16.

Something in me recoils from the idea of trying to rank

the relative importance of key Bible verses, because "All

Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable"Cbut (of course)

Tozer believed that as well. So I think I understand what he

meant when he ranked Genesis 1:1 as the Bible's most

important text. This is the necessary starting-point and

foundation for everything else the Bible has to say.

There is no text in the whole Bible that contains more or

explains more than Genesis 1:1. Literally everything is in this

verse. Everything you can see; everything in existence that

Romans 1:19-20 2

you can't see; and everything that ever was or ever will be is

encompassed in Genesis 1:1.

Carl Sagan famously opened his television broadcast by

declaring that the ordered universe itself is all that is, or ever

was, or ever will be. That's a fair summary of atheistic

materialism, and it is refuted and corrected in a very pithy

way by Genesis 1:1. Here both materialism and atheism are

answered in the fewest possible words, without any

discussion and without any polemics.

And that's an important point to notice: Scripture is not

putting a theory up for debate. The Bible is not making an

argument here; this text simply declares that God alone is

eternal, and He is the Creator of everything else that is, or

ever was, or ever will be. And it states those truths as brute

facts, not hypotheses looking for proofs. "In the beginning, God

created the heavens and the earth." You either believe that or

you don't. Moses wasn't trying to start a dialogue about

whether it's true or not. He wasn't proposing a premise to be

modified by the dialectical process.

So I'm not going to argue the point, either.

But here's what I want to stress before we get to the

Romans text: In a brilliant economy of words, Genesis 1:1

gives us a clear and stable starting point from which to look

for all the answers to all the great metaphysical questions we

wonder about. Where did everything come from? What does

it all mean? A true understanding of everything you find

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 3

mysterious and incomprehensible begins right here, in

Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the


That is the starting point and the opening line of the story

the universe. It's also the introduction to Act One in the

drama of redemption. But its implications are even more

far-reaching than that. Everything we believe about anything

is grounded here. This text lays the necessary foundation for

a truly biblical worldview. It tells us an essential truth, and

it's the very first of all the inspired biblical dogmas.

In other words, this is the vital starting point of all truth.

Do away with the truth that God created everything out of

nothing, and whatever theory on life and the meaning of the

universe you come up with after that will not only be

unbiblical; your worldview will also be irrational, or fanciful,

or incomplete, or internally inconsistent, or devoid of any

moral absolutes, or otherwise lacking in both coherence and


You simply cannot construct a logical, comprehensive,

intellectually-defensible understanding of life and reality

without knowing where we came from and why. For

example: If you don't know something as basic as where

intelligence comes from, how could you ever actually know

that you know anything? How could you be certain of the

true meaning of anything? If you reject the idea of an

intelligent Creator as the source of all true knowledge, you

Romans 1:19-20 4

can't intelligently explain intelligence. And if you don't know

where human intelligence comes fromCif you have no clue

how we might gain true knowledge of the very first

principles of our own existenceCthen you have no way to

account for whatever else you think you know or perceive.

And that means you ultimately cannot know anything for


Postmodern thinkers have figured this out and basically

embraced the consequences. This is the dilemma they have

created for themselves: They recognize that the minute you

remove creation and an all-wise Creator from the bottom row

of your intellectual Jenga-stack, everything else that rests on

that foundation instantly collapses. You can't really have a

clear, consistent, coherent worldview if you can't even figure

out where the world came fromC right? If you don't know

how the universe started, your worldview by definition is

grossly deficient from the very outset. If you have no

answers for life's most basic questions, how could you ever

truly be certain of anything? Answer: you couldn't.

That's why, starting in the secular academic world,

certainty and settled knowledge are practically regarded as

outmoded relics of a naive and over-confident past. Open

skepticism is now praised as a kind of "humility." And that

makes perfect sense from a postmodern perspective, because

to imagine that you know something for sure, or to declare

anything objectively true when you lack the necessary

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 5

foundation for any kind of knowledge is the very height of

arrogance, right? If it takes humility to confess that you don't

know something, it is the very essence of humility to admit

that you aren't really sure of anything. And by that same

value-system, love means never having to say anyone else's

point of view is wrong.

That's the currently-dominant value system in much of

our culture: skepticism and liberal tolerance seen through the

postmodern lens become "humility" and "love." But that's the

height of irrationality, because if you start with the premise

that there is no God, is not possible to justify the belief that

humility and love are inherently better than the alternatives.

Once you eliminate God from your thoughts, what would

ever make you think modesty is better than arrogance, or that

sacrificial love is morally superior to larceny? Many atheists

claim that they do believe it's better to be humble than

egotistical, and more noble to share than to steal. But atheism

doesn't really furnish any rational ground for that kind of

moral hierarchy. In a system where good and bad are defined

by the survival of the fittest, raw reason would suggest that

vulnerability is the evil of evils.

Virtues like love, humility, meekness, and longsuffering

belong to the Christian worldview. Skeptics who believe

such things are virtuous have simply borrowed values from

the very faith they disavow. And inevitably, they twist those

Romans 1:19-20 6

values out of shape, opting instead for counterfeit love and a

false humility.

See: If you give up belief in an intelligent Creator, every

spiritual, moral, and intellectual fact you think you know

suddenly loses its clarity under a murky cloud of perpetual

uncertainty. You simply can't know anything with settled

conviction, and you can't have any kind of fixed, objective

moral standards. Everything becomes hopelessly relative.

And yet, with full awareness of those consequences, fallen

human minds are still determined to reject God and suppress

the truth about him. That's one of the points we're going to

see in Romans 1. But listen also to Romans 8:7: "The mind

that is set on the flesh is hostile to God." Unregenerate people

hate the God who reveals himself in creation and in

Scripture. So even though the devoted postmodernist realizes

his skepticism undermines and will ultimately collapse his

whole moral framework and his fundamental understanding

of the universe, he refuses to set aside his unbelief and affirm

the necessity of a Creator. Instead, he repudiates the

possibility of an orderly and comprehensive worldview.

That's why meaning is so elusive in postmodern


Now think this through with me one more time, and I'll

say it in the simplest way I know how: The skeptic looks at

the question of how everything came from nothing, and he

tells himself, This is a question that cannot be answered. But

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 7

if you have no explanation for how anything came to be in

existence, then (quite literally) what you are saying is that

you don't know the first thing about anything. That's the high

cost of skepticism. Eliminate God from your knowledge, and

you basically give up knowledge altogether. You forfeit the

possibility of certainty about anything.

As I said, the postmodern mind has essentially accepted

those consequences. That's why uncertainty is the defining

characteristic of postmodern thought. Postmodernists are

pretty certain that certainty is an impossibility. So they reject

all the necessary tools of intelligible discourseCclarity,

specificity, noncontradiction, fixed definitions, objective

facts, and ultimately settled knowledge itself. Those things

are simply impossible concepts for postmodern people to

embrace. The postmodernist claims no one can really know

the true meaning of anythingCor even say for certain that

anything has "true meaning." Because the postmodern mind

has rejected the very foundation of understanding from the

get-go. The only option is irrationality and infinite


That's an option that sane and sober minds used to reject.

Give up knowledge; throw out every hint of certainty;

eliminate all objective truth; and you have completely given

up the possibility of true meaning. But meaningless is a

sure-fire recipe for human despair. It's a suicidal path in

many ways.

Romans 1:19-20 8

For one thing, if you rule out God at the start, and then

follow that trail without flinching or compromising or

pretending or turning aside, it is a direct path to moral and

intellectual nihilism. Eliminate the truth of creation and the

Person of the Creator from your understanding, and the toll

on your character along with the damage done to your

understanding is a price too high for anyone to pay.

So what we believe about the origin of the universe has

dramatic practical consequences. Creation is not just an

interesting a theoretical enigma. The question of where we

came from is not a riddle for fun that you can safely set aside

like a sudoku puzzle that was too hard to solve. We are

dealing here with one of the fundamental issues of human

life and existence. Every sentient being wonders about these

things: Where did everything come from, and what set it all

in motion?

That's the very question Genesis 1:1 gives a definitive

answer to. And because it's such an important question, with

profound ramifications and far-reaching consequences, the

answer the Bible gives is not complex. It's not deeply

philosophical. It's not hard to understand. It's the very

essence of simplicity: "In the beginning, God created the heavens

and the earth."

One other thing by way of introduction, before we turn to

Romans 1: That question ("Where did everything come from,

and what set it all in motion?") is not a conundrum that can

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 9

be untangled using bare human reason, intuition, philosophy,

or dialectics. God Himself had to reveal the answer. The

answer doesn't lie within us. It is also not a question that can

be settled by natural science, because science deals with

observable, repeatable phenomena that can be tested,

measured, demonstrated, and verified. By definition, creation

ex nihilo (begetting everything out of nothing) is not one of

those activities you can run experiments with.

Obviously, astrophysicists, cosmologists, geologists,

theoretical physicists, and other scientific types talk about

the issue and acknowledge the difficulty of it. They put forth

various theories about big-bangs, dark energy, endless cycles

of existence, or whatever. One thing all the currently popular

academic theories have in common is the idea that creation

occurs spontaneously, without any concept of God or an

intelligent designer. But the truth is, none of those theories

could ever be proved by the scientific method, because there

is simply no way to recreate the process. Plus, the whole idea

of spontaneous creation is totally fanciful, not scientific. That

should be obvious on the face of things.

It also needs to be said that the issue of origins is not

answered, even theoretically, by evolution. Evolution posits

gradual changes between species. It doesn't even address the

question of where everything came from in the first place.

Evolution sidesteps that questionCand for a very simple

reason: evolution cannot account for the origin of life, much

Romans 1:19-20 10

less the origin of matter, motion, energy, and the rest of the


So where did it all come from? Scripture says our eternal,

omnipotent, intelligent God has the power to call things into

existence out of nothing by His Word, and that's how the

universe began. Hebrews 11:3: "By faith we understand that the

universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was

not made out of things that are visible." Try to answer the

question of origins leaving out God and you end up with this

impossible, irrational formula: Nobody plus nothing equals

everything. That's the equation you have to accept in order to

be an atheist.

Atheism is sheer nonsense. Only a "fool says in his heart,

'There is no God.'" No matter how many scientists are

comfortable with it, and no matter how many

academically-credentialed geniuses add their amen to it, it is

simply not rational to think that this vast, dynamic, orderly

universe sprang from nothingCwith no intelligent architect

and for no particular reason.

There are people, determined to sustain their disbelief in

God, who suggest the possibility that human life was planted

on earth by extra-terrestrialsCintelligent beings from other

planets or different dimensions. I mentioned Carl Sagan, the

astronomer and astrophysicist who attained celebrity status

though his television series on PBS. He was devoted to

projects that went looking for life elsewhere in the universe.

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 11

But intelligent life in outer space would only push the cosmic

questions further out there. Where did your hypothetical

space-aliens get their start? Who created them? And where

did they get their superior intelligence?

Any theory about the origin of the universe that eliminates

God as Creator turns out to be impossible nonsense. Without

God, where did the original stuff (matter, energy, ectoplasm,

or whatever) come from? Or if you think matter has been

here eternallyCif time and matter are the ultimate

realitiesCwhy isn't everything inert? If you think energy is

the ultimate reality, what keeps it in constant flux, and how

does it produce so much order and so many

perfectly-designed systems and organisms? The relentless

return to those very same questions demonstrates the

irrationality of the atheist's position. It's a bottomless hole of

infinite regress.

On the other hand, the biblical account of creation is truth

revealed by the one Being who was actually present at

creation. Here is the one true answer to the great cosmic

conundrum from the Creator Himself: "In the beginning, God

created the heavens and the earth." That truly is a vitally

important fact. Without it, nothing else makes good, sound,

rational sense.

Romans 1:19-20 12

Now with all of that in mind, look with me at Romans

1:19-20, and let's talk about some of the vital truths God has

built into creation.

Romans 1:19-20. Here's some context: Paul has just stated

in verse 18 that unrighteousness is the motive that causes

people to suppress the truth about God. In our natural, fallen

state, the only way we can live with our own guilt is to deny

what we know to be true about God. Guilty sinners cannot

abide God's wrath against sin, His holiness, or any of His

other righteous attributesCand in the end, the determined

sinner will even deny that God exists.

But, the Bible says, they know better. Their own

consciences bear witness to both their guilt and their God.

Furthermore (verse 19): "What can be known about God is plain

to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible

attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been

clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things

that have been made. So they are without excuse."

That's our text, and the central idea of that text is simple:

God plainly reveals Himself in creation. All of creation is

divine revelation. The universe itself is designed to reveal

God and put His glory on display. Furthermore, creation is

His most obvious self-revelation.

In the words of Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of

God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Anyone who

simply looks at creation can see ample truth about God,

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 13

clearly revealed. Listen to the next few verses from Psalm

19. Creation speaks at all times: "Day to day . . . and night to

night" (v. 2). It speaks in all languages: "There is no speech, nor

are there words, whose voice is not heard" (v. 3). It speaks to all

people: "Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words

to the end of the world" (v. 4). So the universe reveals God in a

way that is always accessible across every language barrier

to everyone without exception. There is no excuse for not

seeing that.

Now, it makes perfect sense that if you reject the most

basic and most conspicuous truth that God has revealed

about Himself, of course you won't be able to make good

sense of God or anything else. And that's exactly what the

Bible teaches. First Corinthians 2:14: "The natural person does

not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him,

and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually


So here's the point I want to zero in on: No matter how

popular it may be to object to creation on supposedly

scientific grounds; no matter how many great minds among

the academic elite reject the truth creation reveals, there is no

excuse and no justification for their skepticism, because

creation itself is a brilliant work of revelation. That's why the

universe is so vast and awesome; to make obvious the

immeasurable greatness of the Creator. Creation is God's

Romans 1:19-20 14

self-revelation. The truth is right there, wherever you look

around you.

So what truths are revealed in God's creation? What kind

of truth about God, His character, His attributes, the way He

works, or other points of theology are spread out for us and

"clearly perceived . . . in the things that have been made"?

I see three categories of vital doctrine that are obvious on

the face of the visible universe. Here's how I would classify

the key truths God has revealed in creation: 1. The

magnificent glory of God; 2. The fallen glory of humanity;

and 3. The awful curse of sin. Let's look at those categories,

one at a time. First, consider:


Now, as Scripture says, this is obvious. "What can be known

about God is plain to them" (v. 19). That doesn't mean, of

course, that everything you could possibly know about God

is revealed in nature, because you would never discern the

truth of the TrinityCor the incarnation and mediatorial work

of ChristCby looking at nature. Some of the truth we need to

know about God must be taught to us by special revelation.

That's what the Scriptures are for.

But the stress here is on the clarity of the revelation given

to us through creation. To paraphrase: "what can be known

about God [in nature] is plain to [see]." Creation is not a vague or

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 15

indistinct revelation. Its message is crystal-clear, and it's

everywhere you look.

Furthermore, the universe actually has a lot to say about

God. A host of God's attributes are patently obvious in

creationCHis vast power, His wisdom, His love of beauty

and order, and even His lovingkindness and His sovereignty.

Those are just some samples of the divine attributes

Scripture points out and says they are visible in nature.

To cite one obvious example: Jesus said God's

lovingkindness and sovereignty can be discerned from the

fact that He dresses the lilies in glorious clothing, and He

knows every movement of every sparrow.

Or consider the book of Job. I think the second half of the

book of Job is one of the most breathtakingly amazing

sections in all the Bible. Job has suffered unspeakable grief.

He has been subjected to a confusing mix of some pretty

good and lots of really bad counsel from his friends. He has

deflected their accusations against him; he has complained

bitterly about his circumstances (just as you and I would);

and he has questioned and challenged God regarding the

reasons for his sufferings. Then when Job has pretty much

hit rock bottom in his despair, God finally arrives on the

sceneCnot with words of comfort and an explanation for Job.

God comes in a whirlwind, with a rebuke aimed at Job.

Now bear something in mind; God Himself had already

said this about Job: "There is none like him on the earth, a

Romans 1:19-20 16

blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from

evil." Those were God's words of affirmation, spoken to the

devil about Job in Job 1:8.

But God's words to Job himself were of a different sort.

The Lord scolded him for thinking too little of GodCfor

entertaining thoughts about God that underestimated and

miniaturized the Almighty. (And by the way, if God scolded

a man like Job for having stunted thoughts about God, what

do you think He would say to the rest of us?)

Anyway, chapters 38 through 41 of Job record the Lord's

reprimand, and it's a catalogue of truths about God that are

visible in nature. He starts out in Job 38:4: "Where were you

when I laid the foundation of the earth?" That's a reference not

only to the Lord's omnipotent strength, but also His infinite

wisdom. Continuing in verse 4: "Tell me, [Job,] if you have

understanding[, the Lord says]. Who determined [the earth's]

measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the

morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for

joy?" That's a poetic description of the creation event.

The Lord's rebuke goes on for four full chapters, citing

things only the Lord Himself can doCthings that are beyond

the realm of human power or comprehension; things the

Lord has made that are too wonderful for the human

imagination; and things the Lord knows, that are hidden to

every creature.

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 17

For example, he challenges Job with the classic

epistemological conundrum (v. 36): "Who has put wisdom in

the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?" He points to

animal instinct as proof that knowledge has been placed in

the minds of living creatures by a mind infinitely wiser than

the most intelligent human. Chapter 37, verses 27-28: "Is it at

your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on

high? On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag

and stronghold."

By the time you get to chapter 40, God is still speaking:

"Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with

God, let him answer it." In other words, if you think you are

entitled to question God or doubt Him, look at all that He has

made, and then think again.

The point is that God's power and His wisdom are so

clearly on display in creation that even a righteous man like

Job had no right whatsoever to question GodCeven though

Job was in the deepest pit of despair without any explanation

of why, and even though he was suffering without so much

as a single word of comfort or hope from God. It was not his

place to subject God to cross-examination.

Now: the point here is not to magnify Job's guilt. The

Bible expressly says he was the best of men. The point is to

magnify the glory of God. That glory fills the universe; it is

written in capital letters and bold type for anyone who has

eyes to see.

Romans 1:19-20 18

That is, in fact, the most obvious truth we learn about God

from nature: He is glorious. Every molecule of the universe

unveils and declares God's glory. You can see amazing,

majestic displays of incomprehensible glory from any

conceivable perspective. The glory of God is on display in

vivid, intense, and graphic detailCno matter where you turn

your eyes.

Look in the most powerful telescope at the outer edges of

the current technology's ability to see, and what you will

observe is breathtaking glory.

Look in a microscope at any random drop of pond-water

and you'll see glory of a different kind, but equally


Take even the ugliest, most grotesque-looking insect, and

examine it closely under a powerful lens. You cannot help

being astonished at the intricacy, the ingenuity, and even the

beauty of the way that bug was designed and made. The eyes

of a common housefly are a thousand times more marvelous

than the greatest of human inventions.

Creation will astonish you whether you view it close up

or far awayCwith a wide-angle lens or with a magnifying

glass. All of creation is impressive beyond words in every

dimension and in every detailCand it fairly screams out the

wisdom and glory of its Maker.

And God created it all out of nothing. What is "nothing"?

You can't conceive of it. You probably think of empty space,

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 19

but even that is something. Spurgeon said, "You have never

yet grasped the idea of nothing. The eye cannot see it. . . . the

eye could not look on nothing. It would be blinded. Nothing

is a thing which the senses cannot grasp, and yet it is out of

this awful nothing that God made the sun and moon and stars

and all things that are."

That's what Scripture says. This vast, incredible universe

is the work of God, the Creator, and His intention from one

end of the universe to the other is to show us some of His

glory. All of creation is one massive display of divine glory

that no one can possibly overlook. A universe full of truth

about God is right there, in your face, all the time, assaulting

all the human senses with undeniable facts that God wants us

to know about himself.

I simply don't have time to recite a catalogue of the

wonders of creation. There are whole books full of

information about creatures with incredible features that defy

the theory that all these species evolved by chance. The point

is that Scripture says the truth of creation is obvious, and

people are without excuse when they try to suppress that


By the way, the psalmist writes frequently about how God

is revealed in creation. I quoted from Psalm 19 already. The

first half of that psalm is an anthem about the glory of God in

nature. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above

proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 8 takes up the same theme, in

Romans 1:19-20 20

a prayer addressed to the Creator: "O LORD, our Lord, how

majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above

the heavens." That's Psalm 8:1. It's one of David's psalms. As

He observes the glory of God in creation, he is smitten with a

sense of his own unworthiness. He writes, "When I look at your

heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you

have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the

son of man that you care for him?" The vastness of the heavens

makes him feel his own insignificance.

Imagine if David knew what we know about how big the

universe is. He was limited to what he could see with the

naked eye. We've got the Hubble Space telescope that can

see further than you could possibly imagine.

In late 2009, NASA pointed the Hubble telescope at a tiny

remote spot in far-off space where there are no visible stars

and exposed its camera for 48 hours with infrared light

filters. What appeared in the photograph was a large field of

galaxiesCnot stars, but galaxies (some of them bigger than

the milky way). Scientists say they are eighty-one

billion-trillion miles away. I can't conceive of a distance that

largeCand neither can you. That's 81 with 108 zeros trailing.

Traveling at the normal speed of light, it would take you

thirteen and a half billion years to get thereCso if you're

going there, better pack a lunch.

The vastness of the universe puts our relative

insignificance in perspective, doesn't it?

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 21

And yet, as David says, the glory of God is revealed in the

human creature in a unique and particular way. Psalm 8:5-6:

"Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and

crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion

over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his


Of all the creatures on earth and all the galaxies in the

heavens, none gives a more articulate and obvious revelation

of God's glory than man, who was made in God's very


And that's the second category of theological truths

creation teaches us:


Humanity bears the stamp of God's likeness. No other

creatureCnot even the highest archangelCwas made in God's

image. We can see the image of God imprinted on the human

soul in humanity's unique moral and spiritual

attributesCthose things that set us apart from the animals.

For example, the human intellect is uniquely capable of

self-reflection. We're creative. We are moved by beauty. We

speak a variety of complex languages. Our moral instinct

(that innate sense of right and wrong) is unparalleled in the

animal kingdom. We have a conscience that declares our

guilt when we do wrong. And no other creature manifests

Romans 1:19-20 22

anything like the human craving for communion with God.

Animals don't practice religion of any kind.

And yet, it is clear that the human race is fallen. People do

evil things. All people do. Romans 3:10: "None is righteous, no,

not one. . . . All have turned aside; together they have become

worthless." Sin is a plague on humanity, and you can see that

in the headlines at the Drudge Report every day.

Furthermore, as the apostle says in the verse immediately

preceding our text, Romans 1:18, "[Fallen] men, [in] their

unrighteousness suppress the truth" they see in nature. They

willfully disclaim and deny what they ought to be able to see

with their own eyes. They try to conceal it from their own

consciences. And they intentionally pretend it isn't even

there. But, Paul says, that is no excuse (v. 19): "For what can

be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to

them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and

divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of

the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without


Notice verse 19: "Knowledge of God is obvious within them."

That's a literal rendering of verse 19. The knowledge of God

is within them (not just "among" them or "around" them).

And in the words of the ESV, it is "plain to them." Verse 21:

"They knew God."

This means vital knowledge of God is innate in the human

mindCimprinted there by the Creator Himself. You were

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 23

born with knowledge already in your mind. A totally blank

mind would be like a computer without a program. It would

have no means of interpreting or cataloguing data. We must

know something in order to make sense of anything.

Where does that original knowledge come from? Here is

your answer: God put it there. Some rudimentary knowledge

is innate in the human heart, and its centerpiece is an

awareness of the God who put it there. It's not a complete

and comprehensive understanding of all truth about God,

obviouslyCbut it certainly includes some sense of right and

wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice.

God puts knowledge, including some knowledge of

himself, in the human heart. Elihu was speaking truth in Job

32:8 when he said, "It is the spirit in man, the breath of the

Almighty, that makes him understand." When God breathed the

breath of life into Adam, He gave us a basic moral compass,

and (according to Romans 2:15) a conscience that either

accuses or excuses us. Romans 2:15 expressly says that

God's moral law is inscribed in some fashion on the human

heart. A set of fundamental spiritual truths was engraved on

our souls at creation. It's not exhaustive knowledge, but it's

enough to remove the excuse of total ignoranceCenough to

make us aware of God and His glory. Verse 19: "What can be

known about God is [obvious within] them."

At the same time, there is a tendency in every human

heart to suppress or ignore that knowledge. That's the proof

Romans 1:19-20 24

that the human race is fallen. The doctrine of original sin is

not the most popular dogma in Christian theology, but it is

the one vital doctrine that is vividly proved by empirical

evidence. Everyone sins. Human history is a story filled with

wars and atrocities and monstrous horrors that are the fruit of

our fallenness.

Furthermore, we are conscious of our own sin. We feel

guilt. We sense our accountability to Someone higher than

us. We try to suppress the guilt feelings, and some people are

amazingly successful at that, but suppressing guilt only

makes a person worse, not more well-adjusted. Someone

who feels no guilt whatsoever is a psychopath.

So we are sufficiently aware of the human dilemma by the

light of nature alone. Humanity is a fallen race. Time doesn't

permit me to be long-winded about this, so I hope you see

the point.

Let me move now to the third category of truths we learn

from creation. The order and reality of created things shows

us not only the magnificent glory of God, and the fallen

glory of humanity. Here's category number 3. Nature shows


Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 25


Again, time doesn't permit me to be verbose here, but I

don't need to say much about this anyway. There is ample

evidence in nature that something has utterly devastated

creationCespecially in the realm of human activity. Anything

humanity touches is ruined.

Skeptics and scoffers will try to blame God (or His

absence) for anything that goes wrong: "Where was God

when the latest catastrophe occurred?" or, "If God is such a

loving and masterful Creator, why did He create viruses and

mosquitos?" "Why do things break down, and people die?"

"Why is this world so full of pain, and toil, and tragedy?"

Scripture, of course, answers those questions definitively.

Creation is cursed because of humanity's sin. That's Genesis

3. But the point here is that the reality of evil and the effects

of the curse are perfectly obvious in nature. In the words of

Romans 8:22, "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of

childbirth together." We groan. Human life generally starts with

a cry and ends with a groan. Everyone dies. Everyone

experiences deep sorrow. Trouble defines the human

condition. Job 5:7: "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly

upward." Something is clearly wrong.

And we can tell (both intuitively from what our

conscience tells us, and experientially from observing the

laws of the universeCwe can tell) that whatever is wrong has

something to do with human sin. Even the materialistic

Romans 1:19-20 26

atheists, fretting about climate change, are certain what's

wrong in the world is humanity's fault.

So even the awful curse of sin is obvious in when we look

at creation.

God's majestic glory; man's fallen glory; and sin's awful

curseCall of that is loudly proclaimed by the things that are

made, if you have ears to listen.

On the other hand, the good newsCthe answer to the

human dilemmaCis revealed only through special revelation.

God gave us His Word, the Bible, to show the way of

salvation and redemption from the curse. And then He sent

His Son (the ultimate, final self-revelation of God, Jesus

Christ) to verify and fulfill everything Scripture ever

promised. That's not just "special" revelation; that is perfect


Christ lived a perfect life, navigating this cursed world

without ever once being defiled by sin Himself. Then He

died to pay sin's penalty, offering an atonement more than

sufficient for all the sins of everyone who will ever believe.

Therefore He offers eternal life in a redeemed universeCa

new heaven and earth untainted by sin and uncorrupted by

the curseCto those who confess their fallenness, repent, and

trust in Him alone as Lord and Savior.

That is the gospel in a nutshell. That's the truth that all

nature ultimately points to and prompts us to look into. If

Why I Don't Believe in Atheists 27

creation is the foundation of all truth, the gospel is the central

truth to which all other truth leads, and Christ Himself is the

very pinnacle and incarnation of all truth. If you have not yet

embraced Him as "the way, and the truth, and the life," my prayer

for you is that God will open your eyes to see, and that your

entire life and worldview will be transformed by the truth of