This starts a new series by our worship leader, Tyler Cowden, on the Apostles Creed. Be blessed by his writings….
The early Christian confession of belief in God—especially belief in one almighty God—was no less controversial (or necessary) in the late Roman Empire than it is today in the West. There is a sense, though, in which the Apostle’s Creed starts where the Bible does not. Genesis 1:1 begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, the Bible begins with the fact of God’s having created (more on that next time), not a direct statement of the fact of His existence.
There are really only a handful of passages in Scripture that directly address the question of the existence of God. The examples that come to mind are: Hebrews 11:6 (pleasing God by believing that He exists and rewards those who seek Him); Acts 17:16ff (Paul’s masterful and instructive defense of the faith at the Areopagus in Athens); Romans 1:18-20 (Paul’s assertion that all creation effectively reveals His divine nature and power so as to leave all without excuse); and two verses from the Psalms (14:1 and 53:1, where it is said that it is the fool who has said in his heart, “There is no god”).
There are many other passages, of course, which set the true God over against false gods and idols. But the vast majority of Scripture simply assumes the existence of the God of Israel, and interprets the world and historical events in the light of His being and providence. To be sure, there are historical, cosmological, moral, and teleological “evidences” for the existence of the God of the Bible, and the Bible itself mentions them (usually obliquely). The basic structure of thought, though, is normally: Yahweh, the living God, exists and has acted; how then shall we live?
Moving a little beyond the first part of the Creed for just a moment, we like to point out all the incredibly strong historical evidences for the resurrection of Christ. This is commendable. A couple of things are noteworthy, however. First, that Paul never divorces his appeal to eyewitness testimony (a traditional “evidence”) from the divinely authoritative interpretation of those historical facts, given in Scripture itself (1 Corithians 15:1-5; “according to the Scriptures”). Second, in Athens (Acts 17) Paul treats the fact of Christ’s resurrection as a premise rather than a conclusion, saying, in effect, “Christ has been raised; therefore God will judge the world and you Greeks must now repent.”
The point is that the God of the Bible, both because of His immensity and transcendence (Ps. 139:7-12), as well as His voluntary condescension in revealing Himself to us through creation, providence, redemptive acts, and special revelation, is inescapable. Paul drives the point about creation home explicitly in Romans 1, as I mentioned before, and makes a much stronger point than even Alvin Plantinga seems to want to make with his so-called “Reformed epistemology” of “basic beliefs” and “proper function.” In fact God’s revelation always “gets through” to creatures made in His image, whether they acknowledge it in faith or suppress it within themselves, in unrighteousness (cf. Rm. 1:18-23).
Cornelius Van Til called the living God the “all-Conditioner.” God’s creative and providential decree and activity condition and delimit all that is, and whatsoever comes to pass; all of these created realities would be impossible and unintelligible apart from God. Even attempts to argue against His existence end up relying upon laws of logic and processes of reasoning—however fallaciously employed—which have been established by the transcendent, Trinitarian, covenant God of the Bible Himself.
This claim of our faith, based on Scripture’s teaching, is very strong and draws a clear line in the sand of ideologies from age to age. There is no room for agnosticism. For with regard to the Christian God, there is either submissive faith, or (irrational) unbelief and rebellion. If a person says, “I am simply not yet sure if the Christian God exists,” he or she has implicitly but definitely implied that the Christian God—who has said He has already revealed Himself clearly and infallibly to all persons—certainly does not exist. So much for their so-called agnosticism; it is anti-Yahwehism.
The fact of God’s existence is so blatantly obvious that the Bible itself scarcely takes time to insist on it explicitly, but rather assumes it throughout. Why, then, do we take time every week to publicly and corporately confess it at the beginning of the Apostle’s Creed? There are many good reasons that could be cited. But they would include at least the following:
1) It is a statement of defiance against the idolatry of our age, affirming the one true God as the only proper object of worship.
2) It is a declaration of war against the wicked principalities and powers in the heavenlies who work to continually blind the minds of unbelievers to the truth of God.
3) It celebrates the fact that God has graciously squelched the rebellion in our own hearts so we no longer suppress the truth about Him clearly seen in creation and in His Word, but rather submit to Him in faith.
4) It helps us to remind ourselves regularly that today, as in ancient times, the fact of God’s existence alone carries massive implications that should shape our lives every day, lest we live as “practical atheists” who merely profess to know Christ.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8).