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The Knowledge of God

This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

It takes hard work to become an atheist. Truly denying the existence of any god takes work because it is not what comes naturally.

God has placed many witnesses into the world to testify that He exists. Look to the heavens and see the wonder of galaxy upon galaxy. It takes work to deny that some higher being has created the universe.

Study the mechanical design of skeleton, tendons, and muscles in your body, or the self-focusing eye. It takes work to deny that there is a powerful and wise being who designed and made all of these things—things we can only mimic with our inventions while never matching the original.

The witness of the creation around us works in tandem with each person’s conscience to say, “There is someone wiser and more powerful than you who is the source of all this wonder.” This is the natural knowledge of God.

In contrast to the atheist, it does not take much work to be an agnostic. An agnostic does not deny what the natural knowledge of God teaches—he acknowledges a god but believes him to be unknowable and unattainable.

The agnostic cannot see a way to identify and know God because he doesn’t get past the natural knowledge of God, which is limited and incomplete. To know who the one and only true God is requires the revealed knowledge of God, namely, all that He tells us about Himself in Scripture.

Every truth that can be learned from the natural knowledge of God is also revealed in God’s Word. We see God’s creative wonder and then God tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) We see God’s attributes appearing in His creation and God affirms, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” (Romans 1:20)

Only the revealed knowledge teaches the full extent of sin, “I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7) Only the revealed knowledge of God teaches us about His undeserved love, salvation through Jesus, and the faith which the Holy Spirit creates. “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

The natural knowledge of God is a good starting point for a conversation that can progress toward the revealed knowledge of God. For example, when Paul spoke to the Athenians, he began with their multitude of gods—evidence of a natural knowledge of God—and preached his way to Christ and the resurrection. (Acts 17:22-34).

Standing under the conviction of God’s revealed Law, the sinner knows he needs help, but the natural knowledge of God provides none. The Good News about Jesus is the power of God for salvation—only the Gospel saves, and that comes only through the revealed knowledge.

We may spend time in God’s creation, marvel at the beauty He created, and revel in the solitude of sitting by a gurgling mountain stream. Time spent in the midst of God’s creation may encourage reflection and meditation, but time spent in God’s creation cannot, of itself, strengthen our faith, edify our hearts, or build the bond of Christ. Only the revealed knowledge of God in His Word can do this.

Appreciate what creation and conscience teach you and then dive into the revealed knowledge of God in Scripture to find your Savior, Who alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.