The Genesis of Apologetics
he late agnostic scientist Stephen J. Gould thought that religion and science speak of, to, and from separate domains. He described religion and science as two ships passing in the night. “Science gets the age of rocks,” he wrote, “and religion the rock of ages; science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven.” Both skeptics and Bible-believing Christians alike have rejected Gould’s description, as the Christian religion does make claims about the physical world and not merely about internal human values.
The Bible has plenty to say about the physical world, like “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . .” The Bible lays claim, not on some part of humanity, but rather, on the entirety of the Cosmos. That is why I believe that all creation passages in the Bible are fundamentally concerned with two things: authorship and ownership. God made it all and he is the boss.
As Abraham Kuyper reminded us, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” This is of course not a persuasive line of argument for someone who rejects the authority of God and the Bible. But it is indeed the point of the Bible.
The celebrity atheist, Richard Dawkins, glibly responded to Christian apologist John Lennox that the Bible’s accuracy about the origin of the universe was of little importance. The Cosmos either did or did not have a beginning, he reasoned. His point was that the Bible being right was as coincidental as flipping a coin and guessing correctly as to on which side it might land. Lennox, never at a loss for wit, conceded the odds, but reminded Dawkins that it was the Bible, not secular scientists, that was on the right side of the issue literally since the beginning of time.
Lennox is right to start with the beginning. If the time, space, matter, and energy universe had a beginning that would suggest that something outside of time, space, matter, and energy brought it into being. It is not a leap of logic to suggest that the source of the cosmos is eternal (outside time), omnipresent (outside of spatial constraints), spirit (immaterial), and omnipotent (all powerful). As Edgar Andrews, emeritus professor of materials at the University of London, says, the hypothesis of God accounts for the world in which we find ourselves as thinking and feeling beings who care both for physical realities that science seeks to explain, and for all the immaterial things like love and justice that are outside the scope of science, but are the very things that make life worth living.
To be clear, the Bible does not begin with an apologetic for God. It begins with an assertion, “In the beginning God created . . . ” (Gen. 1:1). The Bible operates on the belief that God exists and that his existence cannot ultimately be denied—though it can be suppressed (Rom. 1). Nonetheless, apologetics is ubiquitous in the biblical corpus.
For example, the biblical writers draw upon creation as itself serving an apologetic function. In this way, creation tells a story. It speaks of the glory of God (Psalm 19). Yet it also reveals the wrath of God to those who exchange the glory of the Creator to serve and worship the creation (Rom. 1). The glory and wrath of God are an inescapable message revealed by the heavens.
Even skeptic scientists sometimes concede this cosmic pull towards something outside of nature. Take, for example, the late agnostic scientist Robert Jastrow who worked for NASA. Jastrow felt that the existence of a finite universe like ours points to something outside of nature, something supernatural. As Jastrow said, the existence of the universe is itself empirical proof of the supernatural. Historically, philosophers and scientists who preferred a model of the universe without reference to the supernatural have advanced and defended the eternality of the cosmos.
That is why Carl Sagan’s famous quote, “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be” should be seen as a declaration of worship. It is clear why many skeptics would prefer this model. If the universe did not have a beginning, if the Cosmos is all that ever was, then references to something outside of the natural world would be unnecessary, they reason. However, this interpretation of the Cosmos as existing by and for itself is without a scientific basis. Science does not support the idea that the Cosmos is all there ever was. The facts point the opposite direction.
Arno Penzias, along with his research partner, discovered some of these physical facts that point to the Cosmos having a beginning. After seeking to eliminate interference with their sensitive horn antennas they realized that what they thought was a problem was actually a discovery. No matter where they pointed the antennas they received a uniform amount of interference from space. They realized they had discovered proof of what scientists had for decades predicted, that if the universe had a beginning and was not eternal, there would be residue from this explosive creation event.
Penzias brought an interpretation of these discoveries that was informed by Scripture. He told interviewers that what he found was exactly what he would have expected to find if he had nothing to go but the “writings of Moses.” That’s because the Bible clearly leads us to believe the universe had a beginning — which means that evidence supporting a beginning should in no way be surprising. Yet, Christians do not begin with the evidence. They begin with a commitment to the authority of Scripture and the conviction that the God spoken of in its pages truly exists.
Finding evidence in science, or demonstrating consistency with philosophical arguments, can be helpful and encouraging. Biblical apologetics, however, is not dependent upon scientific or philosophical justification. As the Apostle reminds us, “Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” (Romans 3:4). Still, the biblical apologist should not shun scientific or philosophical corroboration, even as they refuse to depend upon them.
The Bible unapologetically asserts God’s role in the creation of the world. His existence is everywhere assumed in the pages of the Bible. Yet, even apart from Scripture, the world he spoke into existence serves as a powerful apologetic to God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, so that men are without an excuse (Romans 1). The Bible explains creation as serving in this apologetic function of pointing to a transcendent source that is powerful and divine. Yet it is a source that must be interpreted, and for that we are wholly dependent upon God to reveal himself to us in a way that allows us to do more than know of him, but to know him.
To understand God’s world we must begin with God’s Word. We cannot understand who we are until we first understand who God is (Psalm 8). We cannot understand who God is until we understand Scripture (Romans 10). And as pastor and author A.W. Tozer reminds us, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Every thinking person must come to terms with the God of creation as revealed in the Bible. Our relationship to the Creator is the most important thing about us.