What is the most foundational area of Christian faith?
Christians talk about and express faith in a variety of ways. It might be faith to take a new job not knowing how that's going to work out, or to teach a Sunday school class, or that type of thing. It might also be faith to move to Iraq and plant a church, that God is going to provide, that his will is going to be done, that the gospel will be spread. It might be faith that you placed in Jesus for salvation - you're trusting in Him to secure your salvation.
Today I want us to consider what I believe is the most foundational of all faiths, not as in religions, but as in the “type of things were we would exercise faith.” I want to read from Hebrews 11:1. You might be thinking, "Isn't this the faith chapter where people are commended for acting in such and such a way?" It is, and for the longest time, when I would read Hebrews 11, I would see the first verse, and then I would read on down and read about Noah and Abraham and all these other “heroes” of faith. But there is something very interesting in Verses 2 and 3. Let's start reading in Verse 1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it the people of old received their commendation. 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." That's a description of creation.
Isn't that interesting that when the writer to the Hebrews starts listing things about faith, he first says that it's an assurance, it's a trust, it's a conviction of things not seen. I think all of those words communicate better today than the word “fait”h in our culture. Not that we let culture dictate what we believe, but we should always be striving for effective ways to communicate a timeless truth in our culture, and so one of those might be using a different word than faith. For instance, “assurance”, and I actually think “conviction” is better. That's the reason why it's the subtitle of the book Unapologetic, A Guide for Defending Your Christian Convictions. I remember people asking, "Why not faith?" I explained to them, "That word doesn't communicate well in our culture."
The writer to the Hebrews is using that same type of vocabulary: assurance, conviction. What is the first conviction he lists? He lists that by faith (or by conviction) we understand that the universe was created by God, so that literally the things that are visible, the things that are material, were made out of thing that were invisible (non-material). By faith we understand that God created, and I believe that this is the most foundational of all areas where Christians must exercise faith.
The World Is Knowable
Now, could you never think about this in exercising Saving Faith in Jesus for Salvation? Yes, but as a part of a cohesive Christian worldview, knowledge of the fact that God created is foundational. I'm going to walk us through a few areas that demonstrate this. The first reason that having faith and trusting in the fact that God created everything is important is because this means the universe is orderly. You might be saying, "So what? I like things in their places, but what does it matter if the universe is orderly?" In an orderly universe, knowledge is possible. Actually coming to discover things that are true about reality is only possible in an ordered universe. This is what the whole scientific method is based on. The idea that you can do an experiment and you could do this experiment many times, it's repeatable, and you would get the same results if you were testing that same thing and controlling for the same types of things.
The way we discover knowledge in this universe is only possible because the universe is ordered, and an ordered universe only makes sense if there is a mind behind it, a mind that created it (The mind of God). The very fact that we can always arrive at the same place when we follow the same directions, or when we measure the weight of something that it's always the same, is based in the idea, and ordered around the fact that God created the universe and it's orderly. The very idea that we can know things is foundational to just living in this world, but it's only possible because God created it.
Now, everything else flows from this, right? Anything we talk about, and claim is accurate or reflects reality, is ultimately a claim to knowledge, but knowledge is only possible because of God.
The Resurrection & Miracles
Let's talk about some other areas where a faith (a trust, assurance, a conviction, however you want to say it) in God creating is very important. The next one is going to be salvation. You might say, "Why does it matter if God created for me to understand salvation?" You know, it's interesting, when I talk with Christians, sometimes they say, "I struggle believing the resurrection actually happened. Now, I think it did, but you know, from time to time I have some doubts."
I understand that personally. As I've shared before of my testimony, there was a time when I didn't really think God existed, and if he did, I didn't think he was good. That whole resurrection - man coming back from the dead - type of thing didn't sit too well with me. I think this is a reflection of our culture where the supernatural is just super silly. It doesn't fit, and if you believe those type of things, well, that's worse than magic, at least in our society today. This influences how even Christians view the resurrection.
Why does it matter if God created everything? Because I think there is excellent evidence for this, as we've said before, the Kalam Cosmological Argument: everything that begins to exist has a cause and the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe must have a cause. That's excellent evidence for the universe being created by God, as we've established on previous episodes.
The fine tuning of the universe, how things just work so well. That would have not have been the case in the result of some random explosion. Of course, where do you get the raw materials for an explosion if there is no creator. You literally have nothing coming from nothing with no cause for no reason, and that makes no sense. Nonetheless, there is excellent evidence for God creating, and as a result, when we come to view the resurrection and we say, "Well, could a man come back from the dead?" This is where the foundational faith or trust in God creating everything comes into play. Because I am very convinced that all the evidence - scientific, spiritual, material, non-material - is on the side of God creating, when I have this question about the resurrection I am reminded of a quote from William Lane Craig, philosopher and apologist, who says, " For the God who can create everything, the odd resurrection would be child's play." Gosh, isn't that true?
Sometimes we read the miracles in the Bible, like interpreting dreams of Daniel , or the miracles Jesus did, or even the very resurrection of our savior, and we think, "Well, could that really happen?" All of these events took place in space and time in a universe that, as the author to The Hebrew says, "Was created by the very word of God at His command." Since there is good evidence for that, there's excellent reason to believe that God can do whatever He wants within that universe He created. It's literally his. "He sustains it," Paul says in Colossians. It finds its subsistence in Him. It holds together in Him. This should give us greater confidence when we think about the resurrection. But there is excellent evidence on its own, there is no theory beside the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, bodily, after being dead for three days, that holds any water, that has even a shred of credibility when you examine the evidence, even without a Christian view.
Yes, the evidence for the resurrection on its own is great, but when you also include the fact that this is an event that occurred in time and in history, in a universe that God created, the case is a slam dunk.
We've looked at two areas, so far, that flow from the foundational faith that God created the universe. This means that the world is actually knowable because it's orderly. It also means that there's even stronger evidence for the resurrection because for a God who could create everything, the odd resurrection would be child's play. It also says something else about gender and marriage and sexuality. Whole books have been written on this, but I'm going to touch on each of these areas briefly.
Gender & Sexuality
A faith in God creating everyone and the universe being orderly means that there is a designed intent to gender and sexuality, and as a result, the relationships that form between different genders and sexes. Now, firstly, on gender, it's not a mistake that gender is first talked about in the context of creation in Genesis 1:26-27. God created humans, male and female, distinct, different, both created in His image, and that is what gives us any worth and dignity that we have, because we're image bearers of God, so we're co-equal in our intrinsic worth and dignity because of that image-bearing quality we have, but we are also created distinct, and yet complimentary. On a biological level this is just obvious, but it's also obvious when you start to understand the kind of personality dispositions and emotional dispositions of a man and a woman.
Man left on his own is not nearly as good as man coupled with woman. This comes out in parenting also. If you just have two fathers, that doesn't work out nearly as well for a child, studies have shown, as having a mother and a father. It's not the fact that a child just needs two parents. No, they need two sexes that are parenting cohesively together, or as well as that can work out in a fallen world.
So, do I get to chose my gender based on how I feel? If God created the world, and I believe that, well, that means that the way I am created fits a purpose and I don't just get to redefine what reality should be based on my feelings. I have to go with the objective reality of how God has ordered me, how He's knit me together in my mother' womb, to be. More so, how He's created my type of sex to be. If I'm a man, well, I have certain responsibilities. I fulfill certain functions as a man. The same with a woman.
A lot of times we don't like that as fallen beings. We want to be something else. We want to redefine what we can do in our own image and in our own preference, but if we have a conviction that God created the world a certain way, and He defines how things should work since it's His world and His creation, well then that affects how we look at gender. That affects how we look at gender roles in marriage. It affects how we look at sexuality. If man was made separate and distinct from woman, and God also says in Genesis that man was meant to leave his mother and father, and woman was meant to leave her mother and father, and join together as Jesus repeats in Matthew 19, then that means all sexual expressions outside of that one man-one woman relationship, that’s monogamous for a lifetime, is excluded. It's not part of His design.
Now, could we know that just innately by looking at nature? There are some good clues that man is meant for woman, but there aren't clues as a part of the natural world that man is meant to only be with one woman for one lifetime. We take this on faith. We take this on trust, and on conviction because God says it in His word, and God created the world we live in. This is another out-flowing of the truth that God created everything, of that foundational faith.
We've talked about the fact that the universe is ordered as a result of God creating it, and that the evidence for the resurrection is even stronger, and that just says something about how relationships are supposed to be structured, and how gender and sexuality should be, but the last example I want to leave you with, of something that flows from the foundational faith that God created everything, is actually the truths about the last things.
Jesus is Coming Back
Yes, the last thing I want to share with you is actually the “last things.” What do I mean when I say last things? I mean the things that are yet to come, the “end times”, that Jesus is coming back, that there will be a resurrection of you and of me, and we will join Jesus to rule with Him for all of eternity. Can I know that by looking at the world? No, I can't. I have to take that on faith, on trust by conviction. Not in spite of the evidence, but because of the evidence, because of the things I know and believe to be true, I believe that Jesus is coming back.
One of those foundational faiths that leads me to trust Him when He says He's coming back for me is that he created the world. You might say, "What's the connection there?" Like I said previously, the evidence that creation happened, that God made everything from nothing, is excellent, and because of that, that gives me an added confidence in the other claims God makes. It's like this: in any other relationship when you're building trust, the more times someone says they did something, or they are going to do something, and then they actually do it, the more trust you have. The larger the area they say they are going to do something in and they actually do it, you have all the more trust. That' exactly how it works in our Christian life.
We look at the promises of God in scripture and we see that the natural world testifies to the same things He says. Today we probably don't have to exercise as much faith to believe that God created the world. We have so much more evidence today than they did when the letter to the Hebrews was written, and yet, isn't it still a struggle in the church in our society?
I think it's very important to think on this topic because the fact that God created is essential to understanding our accountability to Him, and the reason why ultimately sin is against Him, because we are His created beings. It's also fundamental to understanding how any knowledge is even possible and, by extension, has claims on how we understand gender and how we structure our marriages and our relationship, and how we even view our gender identity and sexuality.
It also has great bearing on the fact that God is coming back in the person of Jesus Christ to take those He has ransomed, and paid the price for sin, home to be with Him to rule for all eternity. We believe these things on faith. The most foundational of these faiths is that God created everything. It really does start all the way back at the beginning.
I look forward to talking with you next week on Unapologetic.