Pagans say that matter has always existed, whether they are primitive pagans (“the cosmic egg”) or Greek pagans (“the co-eternity of matter and form”) or modern scientific pagans (“the Big Bang”). They refuse to accept that God could and did create matter out of nothing. This would point to a God Who presently sustains His creation personally, which in turn points to the existence of a God Who judges His creation continually. Pagans seek above all else to escape God’s judgment — Ray Sutton, That You May Prosper, 25.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a young man on the street in Grants Pass. He indicated that he was an atheist. People believe in God because they don’t believe in themselves; belief in God is wish fulfillment, a crutch to help people who are too weak, who lack self-confidence. In the course of the conversation, he kept saying that he had examined the evidence and that there was no evidence for God’s existence.
But then he made a telling admission. In response to something I asked (I forget what), he said that he hoped God didn’t exist. Why not? Because if God did exist, then he would have to submit to him. “I don’t want to submit,” he said.
He’s not alone. When we encounter atheists, we ought to recognize that their problem is not simply intellectual, as if they just haven’t heard the right arguments (our arguments, perhaps) for the existence of God. Rather, their problem is moral. They don’t want to submit.
I think I learned this from Doug Wilson: the young man who goes to college and abandons the faith probably doesn’t do so because he heard arguments in a philosophy class. He does so because he wants to sleep with his girlfriend. Any arguments he hears against God’s existence — whether philosophical or ethical or scientific, as in Sutton’s example above, or whatever — suddenly take on new cogency because they help him soothe his fears. No God means no need to submit. No God means no Judge.
When you come along and argue for the existence of God, he doesn’t hear you neutrally. He doesn’t hear you as a “rational man” who is interested in following your argument, wherever it leads. He hears you arguing for the existence of the very God who forbids him his sin and who will judge him for it, and he’s not interested in hearing anything that suggests that conclusion. If he’s honest, he’ll tell you so, as the young man in Grants Pass told me: “I don’t want to submit.”
One of the tragedies of growing up is that we get used to things. It has its good side of course, since irritations may cease to be irritations. But there is immense loss when we get used to the redness of the rising sun, and the roundness of the moon, and the whiteness of the snow, the wetness of rain, the blueness of the sky, the buzzing of bumble bees, the stitching of crickets, the invisibility of wind, the unconscious constancy of heart and diaphragm, the weirdness of noses and ears, the number of the gains of sand on a thousand beaches, the never-ceasing crash crash crash of countless waves, and ten million kingly-clad flowers flourishing and withering in woods and mountain valleys where no one sees but God. I invite you … to seek a “freshness of vision,” to look, as though it were the first time, not at the empty product of accumulated millennia of aimless evolutionary accidents (which no child ever dreamed of), but at the personal handiwork of an infinitely strong, creative, and exuberant Artist who made the earth and the sea and everything in them — John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 96.
God had no reason to make the world in six days, except as a pattern for His image, man, to follow — James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes, 11.
All too often, when we look at Genesis 1, we see it simply as a story about how the world was created. It’s background for the rest of the story, and so it is important for that reason. It is also something about which we debate. Perhaps the first thing that comes to our minds today when we think of Genesis 1 is controversy: creation vs. evolution, literal chronological six-day creation vs. the framework hypothesis, and so forth.
Those debates are not unimportant, but we do Genesis 1 a diservice when we reduce it to a topic for debate or see it simply as background. God did not have to create the world in six days. He could have created it at once, already structured and populated and lit up the way it was at the end of Day 6. But instead He didn’t. He created with “problems” built in — dark, unstructured, unpopulated — and then spent six days fixing those “problems.” Why? If we don’t ask that question, we haven’t yet begun to see the importance of Genesis 1.
The theme of the Bible is not simply redemption. In fact, that becomes an important theme only in Genesis 3. But from Genesis 1 on, we have another prominent theme, the theme of maturation. God creates the world and then works with it, maturing it, making it more and more like heaven: lit up, structured, populated.
But that process isn’t complete by the end of Day 6: God tells man to be fruitful and multiply, thereby indicating that the completion of the heavenization of the world is a task given to man. As Jordan says,“Man is to labor to take the raw material of the earth and remodel it according to the heavenly blueprint: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’” (Through New Eyes, 42). And therefore what God does in the six days is designed to teach us wisdom about our own work.
And even if we get distracted by controversies or, for some other reason, fail to see this theme clearly in Genesis 1, we recognize it implicitly. After all, it’s the basis of our own seven-day week.