But beyond the heavens revealing glory (Psalm 19) and wrath (Romans 1), there’s not a whole lot more that we can learn about God simply from watching a sunrise or a meteor shower.
In fact, if the only tools we had to figure out what God is like were human reason and what we can see in nature then we couldn’t know much about God at all. If we were like the Deists who believe God hasn’t communicated with us then we would have no way to understand that the world is fallen and is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3). And if we didn’t have the doctrine of the fall we’d have to assume the world, as it is, is exactly how God created it be.
This would leave us with no way of explaining evil or suffering. So, without the Bible we would still intuitively know God exists — but we might assume he is either evil or indifferent. And with no doctrine of the fall we could have no hope of redemption or salvation. Whatever is, must be how God wants it to be. Without the Bible we would just be stuck.
That’s not to say we don’t see God’s handiwork in creation. The famous sixteenth century scientist Johann Kepler believed he had “uncovered God’s geometrical plan for the universe” through his study of the natural world. He viewed his scientific work as “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” While studying nature can give us insights into God’s physical design for creation (thinking God’s thoughts after him), it cannot tell us anything about God’s plan for our lives.
Consider a comparison: studying the chemical composition of colors on a piece of paper can only yield so much information. If it is a water color painting from my son to me as a gift then there is much more being said than what could be learned by merely studying the material components. But to know the meaning I would have to know the artist. Or the maker of the painting would have to make it so that his intent is overtly clear. If he painted with large letters on the page “I love you,” that would be a significant clue.
Similarly, we desperately need God to reveal himself to us if we are to know him or his purposes. We need the Bible. We are lost without it — figuratively and literally.
Beyond the invisible attributes that Paul says we can perceive in creation, beside the physical design discoverable through science, we need God to tell us “all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). If Paul is showing us in the first chapter of Romans that we can know something about God from the world, he makes it clear in the tenth chapter of Romans that this can only take us so far, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)
So, while we don’t need the Bible to know God exists (Romans 1), we do need the Bible to know God (Romans 10).
See also my recent post “Why Doesn’t God Just Talk To Me.”