In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
Richard Lewontin is a professor of genetics at Harvard University. He doesn’t believe in God, but he freely admits that his rejection of a Creator is not based on evidence. It’s where he starts. From the very beginning, before considering any facts or evidence, Lewontin rules out all “supernatural explanations of the world.” He makes it clear that he would rather believe in a system that includes absurd, made-up theories than allow any place for God in his thinking. Lewontin speaks frankly of “the patent absurdity” and the unfounded “just-so stories” that are tolerated among scientists who deny God, but he still sides with their atheistic approach. Why? “Because,” he declares, “we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”
What is materialism? Sometimes the word materialism means being greedy for money, boats, cars, houses, and so forth, but that’s not what Lewontin means by materialism. In his words, materialism is the belief that “we exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of material relations among material entities.” We must assume from the start that nothing exists but matter and energy. Even before we study any evidence, we must rule out the possibility that God exists, says Lewontin, and must make an up-front commitment to materialism. “That materialism is absolute,” he explains, “for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door… anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”
It’s helpful to have such a clear statement from an atheistic scientist. Schools and universities might give students the impression that if a scientific theory denies the Creator, the denial is based on evidence. But it’s a prior commitment to materialism, not evidence, that makes people deny the Creator.
There’s nothing about true science that makes it impossible to believe in creation. On the contrary, many of history’s greatest scientists believed in God the Creator, and still today many scientists are believers. But if you make up your mind ahead of time not to believe in the Creator, then you’ve already decided that special creation is unbelievable, regardless of the evidence, and you’ll be eager to believe in whatever alternative you can find. In the words of a noted scientist, “Darwinism is more a religion than a science.”
It takes a lot of faith to believe that the universe and everything in it came into being without a Creator. Try as they might, atheistic scientists have not come up with a consistent, comprehensive, convincing explanation of how nothing could produce something, how chaos could produce design, how dead matter could produce life, or how intelligence could somehow emerge from mindless material.
Anti-creationist authors and educators may give readers and students the impression that explanations have been found and have been proven beyond a doubt, and that all scientists agree on these explanations. In reality, though, there is sharp disagreement. Richard Lewontin, hardcore atheist though he is, attacks the books of some atheistic scientists who are popular with general readers. He says they put unproven or false claims at the very center of their best-selling books. Lewontin says E. O. Wilson’s books “rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims.” He says Richard Dawkins vulgarizes Darwinism and is at odds with recent scientific advances.
One writer whom Lewontin doesn’t attack is Stephen Jay Gould, a fellow professor at Harvard. Does this mean Gould’s ideas about evolution have convinced most of the leading atheistic scientists? Hardly! John Maynard Smith, a British neo-Darwinist, says of Gould, “The evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed [Gould’s] work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists.”
Now, if one group of Darwin’s disciples claim that another group’s theories rest on a quaking marsh, and the second group says that the first group’s “ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with,” perhaps we shouldn’t take any of them too seriously if they claim to have a rock-solid explanation which excludes God. We should realize that there is no such thing as “the theory of evolution;” there are various theories of evolution, often contradicting each other.
We should also remind ourselves that any theory which claims that the universe and all living things evolved by chance, without the Creator’s design and direction, is not based on observation or logical proof at all. It is based on a decision to rule God out from the beginning and a belief that even the shakiest materialistic explanation is better than belief in divine creation and design.
What it all boils down to is this: your starting point shapes the rest of your thinking. If your starting point is the Darwinist dogma that there must be a natural, material explanation for everything, then one thing you absolutely cannot do is to consider any supernatural explanation. You’ve decided from the beginning not to “allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
In the Beginning, God
In order to think differently, you need a different starting point. The starting point of the Bible is this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s Genesis 1:1, the first sentence in Scripture.
The Bible doesn’t offer arguments or proofs for this. It simply declares, “In the beginning God created!” Why make such a declaration without trying to prove it? Well, the authority of God’s Word is greater than any proof. Besides, all thinking has to start somewhere. You can’t prove everything. Something has to be taken as a given, as the place to begin, as a truth that is too basic to be based on other truths, a truth which itself forms the basis of other truths.
The Darwinist dogma of materialism starts by saying, “In the beginning, matter.” The Bible starts by saying, “In the beginning, God.” The starting point of truth is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. You can’t base that truth on a collection of evidence, because you can’t begin to see what the evidence is saying or understand its meaning unless you begin with the Creator.
It’s often said, “Seeing is believing.” But sometimes believing is seeing: what we believe determines what we can or can’t see. The faith we take as our starting point shapes the way we understand everything else. Faith in atheistic materialism blinds us to the reality of God which shines in everything around us; faith in the Creator opens our eyes to see him shining, and opens our ears to hear him speaking, in the world he has made.
Some of us see God’s handiwork all around us; others see a universe with no place for God.
What if an atheist and a believer could both go back and watch the key moments in the formation of the universe. Would that end the disagreement over whether there is a Creator? Not necessarily. Maybe seeing some sudden and striking miracles of creation would make an observer believe in God, but then again, it might not. After all, God is invisible, so even if an atheist was right there watching the creation of the world, he wouldn’t see God; he would only see the things God made, and he would most likely figure those things popped into existence by themselves.
Would that be too far-fetched for an atheist to believe? Apparently not. Just look at what atheists presently believe about origins. Atheists believe that matter and energy somehow exploded into existence without God. So even if they could go back in time and observe something come from nothing at the first moment of creation, what would convince them that God was making it happen?
Atheists believe a materialistic theory of evolution which says that life somehow emerged from non-life without God. So even if they could go back in time and see life forms emerging where there had been no life before, what would convince them that God was making it happen? Atheists believe that human intelligence and moral conscience emerged from non-intelligent, non-moral ancestry, without any activity of God. So even if they could go back and actually see a living, thinking, morally responsible human being emerged from lifeless, thoughtless, conscience-less dust, what would convince him that God was making it happen?
Atheists know that each human cell contains enough DNA information to fill 1,000 books of 500 pages each, but they believe that this came about by accident. So even if they could go back and actually see that vast amount of information being encoded for the first time, what would convince them that God was making it happen? If a person can insist with a straight face that these amazing DNA libraries have come into existence by accident without any authorship, what could ever convince them to believe in the reality of an author?
So even if someone could go back and see creation taking shape, would they believe in the Creator? If we could go travel back in time and actually watch the key moments of creation, it might give us a more detailed picture of some chemical and biological details, and it might settle some disagreements about the timing and sequence of events in the formation and development of things. We might get a better idea of how accurately we’ve been interpreting fossils and other data, and Christians might have a sharper understanding of how literally or symbolically we should interpret certain elements in the Genesis record of creation. But aside from that, would anyone’s mind change about whether God made it all happen? Christians would still be Christians, and atheists would probably still be atheists. Anyone who can’t recognize God’s handiwork now probably wouldn’t able to recognize God at work in the beginning either.
Meanwhile, of course, we don’t have any way to go back to the beginning. What we do have is the Word of the One who was there in the beginning—the One who made it all happen and still directs the universe today. In the Bible God asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4) That’s a question to silence any know-it-all: “Where were you?” The obvious answer is, “We weren’t anywhere; we didn’t exist.” But God was there, and he is here today, telling us in Scripture what he did in the beginning. The only way to know who founded the earth is to take the word of the one who did it and accept by faith what he says.
But, you might wonder, isn’t faith a flimsy foundation for all the rest of knowledge to be based on? Well, it’s flimsy if you equate faith with blind brainlessness or wishful thinking. But true faith isn’t blind; it’s the discovery that although once you were blind, now you can see! And faith isn’t wishful thinking; it’s the knowledge and conviction that you are in touch with the greatest, surest Reality there is. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” says Hebrews 11:1. That kind of faith, being “certain of what we do not see,” is a gift from God. The Lord impresses his reality on our mind and spirit so that our knowledge of the unseen Creator is more solid and basic than what we can see or touch.
God makes us certain of what we can’t see, and that certainty is the starting point for understanding what we do see. Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” By faith we understand where everything comes from, and we begin to understand its true meaning. Faith in the Creator is foundational for making sense of who we are and what we’re meant to be like as human beings. Let me highlight three areas where faith in the Creator makes a huge difference.
First, faith in the Creator is the beginning and foundation for having any confidence at all in the human mind. The only way an atheist can believe in the power of reason is by contradicting his own starting point. As Charles Darwin once asked, “Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind?” Darwin knew that his theory undermined confidence in human thinking. If you deny the Creator and claim that your mind is nothing but a bunch of chemical reactions that are the accidental outcome of a random, mindless process, what basis do you have for supposing that your mind is in touch with reality or that your train of thought is valid? None at all. But if you begin with the belief that a supreme Intellect made the world intelligible and made your mind intelligent (to some degree, at least), then you have a basis for thinking your mind can really know something about the world around you. Faith in the Creator is foundational for having confidence that your mind can know anything at all.
Second, faith in the Creator is the beginning and foundation of human morality. If we are nothing but the result of bodily evolution, then, in the words of Charles Darwin, “wickedness is no more a man’s fault than bodily disease!” If the conscience is really nothing but chemicals, why pay attention to it? For that matter, if there’s no Creator, why suppose there’s any supreme standard of right and wrong at all? The prominent evolutionist William Provine equates modern science with atheistic materialism and says, “Modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society.” Is there any objective reason to say that a serial rapist is worse than Mother Teresa? In fact, from the standpoint of materialistic evolution, the rapist might be better, since rape might produce offspring to carry on his genes. Hideous as that sounds, there’s nothing in atheism to counter this. This doesn’t mean all atheists are vicious and cruel, but it does mean that there’s nothing in their belief system to ground the belief that kindness is always better than cruelty. However, when you believe in God and know that he created humanity, male and female, in his own image, you know that the Creator holds you accountable to love God and each other. Faith in the Creator is foundational for morality.
Third, faith in the Creator is the beginning and foundation of human hope. Bertrand Russell, a promoter of atheistic materialism, said, “There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing.” Other atheists in the scientific establishment have likewise emphasized that the universe is indifferent to us and that we have no eternal soul. When your starting point is atheistic materialism, your end point is despair and death. But when your starting point is faith in the Creator, you thank him for every taste of his goodness and praise him for every sign of his greatness in creation, and you put your hope in the future he promises, a future of eternal life and joy for those who trust him.
So, then, faith in the Creator is the beginning and foundation of human rationality, morality, and hope.
In the Beginning Was the Word
But who is this Creator? Suppose you believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. What now? How do you know who he is and what he is like? You can gather some hints from the world he has made, but is there any way to get a clear, definite knowledge of him? Indeed there is.
Don’t stop at the first verse of the Bible. Go on to read the rest of the Bible. The God who created all things also gave us every word in the Bible. And all biblical words reveal an original, living Word, the Word that is also a Person.
Genesis begins with, “In the beginning, God…” The New Testament Gospel of John begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)
I remember watching a debate on public television where this verse was quoted. Believe it or not, the man quoting it was a lobbyist for keeping creationism out of schools and teaching only evolution. This man claimed to believe in a God of some sort, but he didn’t want God mentioned in school, only evolution. To support his position, he quoted from the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word.” Then he added, “What if that word was, ‘Evolve!’” When I heard him say that, I felt like throwing something at my TV set. I didn’t, of course, but I was outraged at such a vile twisting of God’s message. When the Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word,” the Word was not “Evolve.” The Word was Jesus! The living Word of God, the eternal Son of God, is not an impersonal process but an all-powerful Person.
And this Person has not remained invisible and unavailable. He has become human in order to make himself known to us and in order to make us right with our Maker. After the Gospel says that in the beginning was the divine Word who made all things, the Gospel goes on to announce, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Jesus was born in a stable, lived and walked among us, spoke as no man ever spoke before, and did miracles that showed his command over nature as its Creator and Ruler. He was nailed to a cross to pay for our sins, and then he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. There he lives and reigns, and he is coming again to create a new heaven and earth.
Atheist Richard Lewontin say that as a scientist, he “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” because “anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything… the regularities of nature may be ruptured … miracles may happen.” At least he’s right about something: if you believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, then, yes, anything is possible. Miracles may indeed happen. Is that so bad?
Belief in God does not prevent good science. Scientists can still do their valuable work of observing “the regularities of nature.” It’s helpful to know the usual patterns in God’s governance of the created world, and the Christian faith is a great supporter of scientific investigation. But why try to exclude God from his own creation? Why be against miracles?
Why not bow instead before the Lord Jesus Christ? Admit your sin and unbelief and ask forgiveness. Praise him as the One through whom all things were made. Trust him as the one who saves you from sin. Love him as the one who promises eternal life. By faith, believe in the Lord’s original creation of everything, and by faith, become a new creation in Christ!
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.