Strengths and Weaknesses of Proofs for God’s Existence from General Revelation
This is just a small sampling of the many proposed “proofs” for God’s existence drawn from General Revelation; there are many more that we could spend our time reviewing. Yet, these six do a good job demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of such proofs. The strength of the proof is that it demonstrates the truth of Romans 1 and Psalm 14 (as well as many other places) where the Bible states that even natural man is able to recognize that there is a God that is greater than him. And by definition, if there is one who is greater than you who has created you, you have an obligation to him. Thus, in refusing to worship the one true God, man knows that he is condemned in sin. Hence, human responsibility to live acceptable lives before this God is affirmed indirectly by these proofs.
The weakness of the proof is that it does not explain who this God is, it does not teach us how we may come into relationship with him, and it does not teach us what are obligations toward that God are or how our past failure to fulfill our obligations to him may be redressed. I daresay that another weakness of this argument, at least from a purely naturalistic or secularistic perspective, is that these arguments assume a God like whom the Bible describes. For a conclusion to be valid, the premise must be valid. We need scripture to affirm the premise of an infinite God who is the creator, designer, or first mover in a meaningful way. Anselm’s definition of that which is “greater” is a definition, for example, that assumes benevolence to be a necessary aspect. Yet, what of one who defines “greater” in terms of maliciousness? Even Anselm’s definition, then, is predicated on the Biblical idea of God. These proofs demonstrate why it is so essential to begin with the presuppositional stance of Biblical inspiration as defined earlier.
Limitations of General Revelation:
Thus, one can argue from General Revelation that God exists, which is consistent with what Paul teaches about General Revelation in Romans 1:20. What else may we discern from General Revelation? We can discern something of the orderly and moral nature of God from the orderly way the creation functions and behaves. We can also observe that we are created to be religious, as everywhere and in every culture, religion of one form or another arises. More will be said on this when we speak of Anthropology, but let it suffice to say that given the evidence around us, man is a moral and religious creature. Finally, we must confess that General Revelation is rather insufficient for any system of thought, either religious or otherwise. General Revelation is dependent upon our ability to interpret evidence, something that is limited first by our fallen and finite minds and second by our ability to observe the world around us. How many scientific principles have changed through the years when advances in technology allowed us to observe something that was previously unobservable. The electron microscope, for example, revolutionized the study of the cell and turned the scientific world on its head. Prior to this discovery, the cell was thought to be a simple organism, and in fact, the whole Darwinian theory of evolution was based on the premise that the cell was simple and not complex, easily able to be mutated and adapted into different things. This is clearly not the case, as electron microscopes have allowed us to look into the cell and discover that they are far more complex than even the most intricate factories or machines that humans have ever made. In fact, human machines pale in comparison to the complexity of what was once thought of as a “simple” cell. As a result, there is a move within the scientific establishment away from evolution back to the idea of Intelligent Design. Many Intelligent Design proponents are not willing to admit to the designer being the God of the Bible, but they at least recognize that we are created by design and not random chance. As a result of this one invention, more than 100 years of science has been shown to be faulty and scientists must begin again in making their arguments. Like science, psychology and philosophy are in a constant state of flux. Thus, if General Revelation is insufficient, then what must we have if we are to walk faithfully before God in this world?
The answer to the limitation of General Revelation is Special Revelation, or, revelation that comes directly from God. We have already demonstrated, by the weakness of General Revelation, that Special Revelation is essential. Without Special Revelation, we would have no way to understand the fullness of God’s nature, the depravity of our sinful state, the means to which man may enter into a relationship with the creator God, or the means by which we may be redeemed from our wretched estate of sin. Without Special Revelation, we truly would have no meaningful way to understand the world, for Special Revelation provides us with a lens to look through that is not distorted by the effects of the fall. In fact, Special Revelation is the only undistorted lens by which we may see and understand even the things in the scientific world clearly and properly. Mankind did not need to invent the electron microscope to know that the cell was a complex entity and thus all things were made by a Grand Intelligence. God told us as much in Genesis 1 and 2.