The End of Creation: Soli Deo Gloria

The first verse in the Bible is a monumental statement that reverberates with earth-shattering implications for the formation of a Christian worldview: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, ESV). Do not miss the magnitude of this statement. Do not downplay the significance of this vital piece of revelation. And be careful to embrace what the Scriptures affirm. Ignoring the clear revelation of God’s truth, in the final analysis, proves to be a costly mistake that will have consequences that extend into eternity.

The German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, accepted biblical revelation and understood the importance of giving credit where credit is due: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.”1To do any less would be tantamount to theological treason. So Kepler does not minimize God’s creative activity; he magnifies it. He does not marginalize the miracle of creation; he marvels at it!

Tragically, some thinkers have not followed Kepler’s lead. These skeptics have discounted Genesis 1:1 and cast the revelation of God into the cosmic rubbish bin. Charles Darwin, who popularized the notion of “natural selection” in his book, Origin of Species also rejected the clear account of creation. Ironically, he is buried in Westminster Abbey. Darwin may be gone but his atheistic ideology continues to dominate the thoughts of many minds, especially in the university.

Carl Sagan, who was a great champion of Darwinian evolutionary theory penned these well-known words: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”2 He continues, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.”3 Such banter may appeal to the itching ears of evolutionists but fails to hold up when scrutinized at the tribunal of truth.

Or consider Richard Dawkins, another defender of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. His rejection of the creation account leads him to a view of God which is blasphemous at best: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”4 The Word of God offers a stern rebuke to this kind of unbelieving thought.

It doesn’t take long to discern some of the catastrophic consequences of giving God’s revelation a vote of “no-confidence.” Francis Schaeffer understood the vast importance of Genesis 1:1. He understood that if we set aside the reality of creation, our worldview collapses. He writes, “Unless our epistemology is right, everything is going to be wrong.”5 The discipline of epistemology addresses the matter of knowledge. That is, it helps unpack what we know about what we know. Schaeffer continues, “The infinite-person God is there, but also he is not silent; that changes the whole world.”6Schaeffer helps us understand that God exists and he has revealed himself, that is, he has spoken. Or to use Schaeffer’s words, “He is not silent.”

That fact that God not only exists but has also revealed himself is a massive reality that every person must come to terms with. This stunning truth should find us on our knees with outstretched arms. It should prompt a humble offer thanksgiving to the living God. But there’s more – Jonathan Edwards understands the motive behind God’s act of creation. He argues that the end for which God created the world was self-communication: ”Seeing that Christ created the world only to communicate his excellency and happiness, hence we learn, that all the excellency, virtue and happiness of the godly is wrought in them by Jesus Christ.”7 The implication of this Edwardian vision of creation are far-reaching and have important practical implications.

So the end of creation is uniquely focused upon God. That is, creation is Godward. Creation is God-centered. In one of his greatest literary achievements, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards demonstrates this God-centeredness: “What God says in his word, naturally leads us to suppose, that the way in which he makes himself his end in his work or works, which he does for his own sake, is in making his glory his end … God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God; and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fulness called in Scripture, the glory of God.8

Consider three important implications of discounting the biblical creation account:

First, discounting the reality of biblical creation leads to a skewed epistemology. And a skewed epistemology, will by definition, influence the way we think about everything else. When God is taken out of the picture or removed from the marketplace, we are left wandering in a wasteland in search of answers. “If God does not exist,” writes Dostoevsky, “then everything is permitted.” The eclipse of God leaves us helpless, hopeless, and lost in a quagmire of meaninglessness.

Second, discounting the reality of biblical creation impugns the character and trustworthiness of God. Scripture is clear about the creation account:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

““Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,” (Job 38:4–6, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

Anyone who discards what God has made plain calls God’s character into question and heaps a great insult upon the worth of his name. Anyone who dares impugn the character of God stands on the precipice of eternal judgment.

Third, discounting the reality of biblical creation fails to glorify God, which is the end of creation. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Think about the tragic irony of rejecting the creation account. The creature who was created to glorify God stands in defiance and mocks the One who gave him breath.

The glory of God is the end of creation. The heavens declare his glory (Ps. 19:1). Is it any wonder that sinful men seek to distort what God has made plain in Scripture?

Soli Deo Gloria!

  1. Johannes Kepler, Cited in Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1999), 51.
  2. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine Books Trade, 1980), 1.
  3. Ibid, 27.
  4. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 31.
  5. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume One, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982), 275-276.
  6. Ibid, 276.
  7. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, The “Miscellanies,” ed. Thomas A. Schaefer, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 277.
  8. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, ed. Edward Hickman (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth, 1834), 107, 119.
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GODFORSAKEN – Dinesh D’Souza (2012)

Dr. Dinesh D’Souza serves as the President of King’s College.  He is also a prolific writer.  His newest work, Godforsaken picks up the theme of human suffering and the problem of evil.  It is clear from the outset that the author is familiar with the various attempts to resolve the so-called “Achilles heel of the Christian faith.”  Unconvinced by the typical atheistic approach to the problem, D’Souza’s goal is to provide an answer that is both rational and practical.

The author begins by admitting the problem of evil.  Both unbelievers and believers wrestle with this age-old problem.  Both respective groups approach suffering with completely different perspectives: “While the atheist merely uses suffering to confirm disbelief in God, the Christian who is suffering feels betrayed by God.  The atheist is intellectually triumphant – See, I told you there is no God! – while the Christian is heartbroken … godforsaken.”

In a surprising twist, D’Souza argues that Christians and atheists seem to be the most perplexed with the problem of suffering.  He demonstrates how Muslims refuse to question the plan of their god.  Hindus and Buddhists assume suffering as a normal part of life.  But Scripture argues in the opposite direction: “In contrast with the Eastern religions, which treat suffering as either illusory or deserved, the Bible portrays suffering as very real and unequivocally bad.”

D’Souza’s approach to the problem of evil appears to be unique.  He argument is essentially this: “God is the divine architect, the Cosmic Designer … [He] wanted to create conscious, rational agents who could understand his creation and also freely relate to him.  Given God’s objective to make humans, God constructed the universe not in the best possible way, but in the only way that it could be constructed.  In other words, God chose the sole option available to produce the result that he wanted.”  D’Souza labels his defense the “Only Way Argument.”  The author is totally unconvinced by the traditional approaches to theodicy.   Our task is to determine if  his approach is any better.

D’Souza’s theodicy is based on the philosophical notion of  free will.  As such he rejects all forms of determinism, even so-called soft-determinism.  The author shows his hand in chapter five: “If God truly has foreknowledge, how is it possible for us to choose differently?  If God knew at the beginning of Creation that at a given point in time, I am going to write this book, then it seems that I cannot choose at that particular time to write a different book instead.”  This notion, otherwise known as libertarian free will is the standard Semi-Pelagian notion that has crept into the church  and has gone largely unchecked.

D’Souza hints at a compatibalistic understanding of free will – where God has comprehensive foreknowledge of free choices, yet allows the creature to make a meaningful free choice (although he does not use the term).  But he rejects what he calls a “halfway concept of free will” and argues that such a notion is “hardly satisfactory.”  Hence, he rejects the biblical notion of compatibalism.

Chapter six sets out to answer the question, “Why did God create a lawful world – that is, a world conforming to discoverable and predictable laws?”  Again, the answer is centered exclusively on the free will of man.  There is no hint of God’s will of decree in D’Souza’s answer: “No wonder there is so much evil in a world where evil is determined not by God’s will but by human choice.”

The author seeks to answer the age-old question, “Why are there natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and other forms of natural suffering?”  His answer relies on scientific data that points to an old earth, which in the final analysis argues for a universe that is billions of years old.  Pain and suffering which is a part of the warp and woof of the universe is not only a fact of life, it is as the author posits, “built into the fabric of nature’s laws … With regard to what we can discern by reason about the only world we can really know, pain and suffering are inextricably bound up with the good.”

D’Souza continues his argument by pointing to the Anthropic principle or the  so-called “finely tuned universe.”  In other words, certain conditions need to be met for human life to flourish (which is the essence of his theodicy).  He holds that “evil and suffering are inextricably bound with the structure of creation.”  The author concludes, “When we consider that God has so finely tuned the universe in such a way as to allow us the freedom to take up our own cross and follow him and also, through that suffering, to draw closer to the divine, the suffering itself can be rendered sublime.”

Dr. D’Souza is a fine writer.  He clearly articulates his views and has a tremendous grasp on the history of intellectual thought and understands the dominant arguments that are emerging from the so-called “new atheists.”  While I appreciate his efforts, his arguments at the end of the day, remain mostly unconvincing.

The first glaring weakness with Godforsaken is an approach that appears to render the Scriptures as secondary.  He admits, “It is written by a professed Christian, yet its purpose is to examine the problem of evil and suffering not primarily on the basis of revelation or sacred authority but on the basis of reason, science, and experience.”  While his approach is understandable, he jettisons the very basis of his hope.  Surely, he starts off on the wrong foot.

The second weakness is a radical commitment to libertarian  free will.  Indeed, the entirety of the book leans on the frail fabric of free will.  And in typical libertarian fashion, the free will of man is pitted against the absolute sovereignty of God.  For example, the author essentially argues that God lacks comprehensive foreknowledge.  “Think about it,” says D’Souza.  “If God truly has foreknowledge, how is it possible for us to choose differently” (p. 85).  The author borrows the libertarian musings of Boethius: “No longer do we have to worry that God, in knowing the future, is in some sense controlling the future.  God is omniscient, but this does not prevent free creatures from making their own choices that God knows about but does not dictate.” Apparently, his prior commitments have clouded his biblical judgment.  He appears to posit a “take it or leave it” mentality.  Either there is libertarian free will or there is  no free will whatsoever.  That is to say, if there are any restrictions on free will; if one does not have the ability of contrary choice, it follows that free will totally evaporates.  This “all or nothing” mentality fails to take into account the biblical position of compatibalism; the view that presents a God who ordains everything that comes to pass and allows creatures to make free choices.

Since the author does not distinguish between God’s will of command and God’s will of decree, he falls stumbles at another point that concerns suffering.  For instance, he posits this crucial point: “Just as man’s use of free will can produce results that were not part of God’s plan or purpose, so the necessary structure of the universe can result in miseries that were also not intended by God” (176).  One wonders where the cross of Christ fits in this confusing scheme.  Surely, the most wicked event is the crucifixion of Jesus, the unjust punishment of the only innocent man in the universe.  Yet it appears as if God is taken off guard.  It appears that something may have happened that he never planned.  And all these things occur to safeguard a commitment to libertarian free will.   This kind of logic must be immediately discarded in universe that is sovereignly controlled by God!

Third, while the author waits until the end of the book to address his beef with Reformed theology, the juices of anti-Calvinistic bias are simmering and quite frankly, render the “stew” unsavory.   For instance, he falsely caricatures the Calvinistic notion of double-predestination and in the process he charges God with sending people to hell who had no intention of going there.

D’Souza minces at a God who may offer grace to some but withhold it to others.  He writes, “I find this concept of God extending grace to some while keeping it from others to be unworthy of God.  It is an idea not lacking in justice, perhaps, but certainly lacking in benevolence.”  He continues by laying his soteriological cards on the table: “… The point seems to be that God has given to every person the grace, which is to say the ability, to decide either way.”  These arguments are nothing new.  Arminians have been advancing the “prevenient grace” argument throughout church history.  What is disturbing is – why is the argument posed here?  What does this have to do with undermining an atheistic worldview?

The author is obviously knowledgeable and seeks to tear down the stronghold of atheism and provide a satisfying answer for the problem of evil.  His writing is engaging.  He is fair-minded and congenial.  He offers several fascinating insights but his reasoning, in the final analysis appears to fall short.  Instead of unifying the tension-points of faith and reason that have been at odds since the days of the Enlightenment, he actually escalates the war that pits reason against faith.

2 stars

A SHOT OF FAITH TO THE HEAD – Mitch Stokes

A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes is a patient and well thought out response to the atheistic musings so common in our world today.  The author sets the parameters at the outset: “The purpose of this book is to take a few of the most important intellectual weapons, tactics, and strategies from recent Christian philosophy and put them in your hands.”  Stokes accomplishes his purpose in this book and proves to be quite accessible.

The book is organized into three parts – rationality, design, and absolute standards.  The conclusion is that these three notions “are brought together in an unexpected way, in  a single concept that cuts deeply across the entire discussion.”  The author argues that these concepts give rise to the notion that atheism is essentially uprooted and ultimately turns in on itself.

Readers familiar with Christian philosophy will recognize some of the arguments that emerge in the book; arguments that have been formulated by Dr. Alvin Plantinga.  His arguments are assessed and articulated in a way that piques the interest of the reader.

A Shot of Faith to the Head is not designed for the beginning reader.  I would suggest beginning students of apologetics to turn to companion books such as The Twilight of Atheism by Alistair McGrath, The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias, and Atheism Remix by Al Mohler.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program.

3 stars

THE TWILIGHT OF ATHEISM – Alistair McGrath (2006)

The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alistair McGrath is a book that deserves to be read.  The author maintains that the “rise and decline of atheism is framed by two pivotal events, separated by precisely two hundred years: the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and that of the Berlin Wall in 1989.”

McGrath skillfully guides readers through a detailed  tour of intellectual thought and demonstrates the corresponding rise and decline of atheism.

Part One: The High Noon of Atheism

Part one includes an excellent overview of the French Revolution.  Voltaire and Marquis de Sade are given special consideration and given special credit in the rise of atheism in France.

McGrath explores the intellectual foundations of atheism in Marx (God as an opiate), Freud (God as an illusion), and Feuerbach (God as an invention).

Atheism is seen through the eyes of science with a superb overview of atheism’s advance primarily through the pen of Charles Darwin.  McGrath demonstrates the rise of the so-called face value dichotomy which has contributed to the rise of secularism: “Science proves things, whereas religion depends on the authoritarian imposition of its dogmas, which fly in the face of evidence.”

Part Two: Twilight

The second half of the book picks up on the theme that Nancy Pearcey has so skillfully described in her book, Total Truth, namely the bifurcation of the sacred and the secular.  McGrath surveys the history of intellectual thought up through the Protestant Reformation and discusses the shortcomings of Protestantism.

Next, McGrath narrows his study to the birth of modernity and demonstrates that “atheism was [and is] perfectly suited to this rational and logical worldview.”

Postmodernity grew out of modernity, which according to McGrath seriously “undermines the plausibility of atheism.”  The reason: “Postmodernism is a cultural mood that celebrates diversity and seeks to undermine those who offer rigid, restrictive, and oppressive views of the world.”  And since atheism proves an incredibly intolerant worldview, the prospects of its growth do not bode well given the presuppositions of postmodernism.  McGrath suggests the reason for the incompatibility of atheism with postmodernism: “For postmodernity is intolerant of any totalizing worldview, precisely because of its propensity to oppress those who resist it” (which in the final analysis excludes atheism).

The book concludes by discussing the “fading appeal of atheism.”  McGrath discusses the shortcomings of this hopeless worldview and leaves the reader wondering what the future holds.  The author maintains, “Western atheism now finds itself in something of a twilight zone.”

The Twilight of Atheism is a welcome addition to an ever-increasing list of books on apologetics, worldviews, and evangelism.

4 stars