Using God’s Design to Communicate Faith
A lot of Christians seem to see evangelism as a “ball and chain.” Either they lug it around with guilt–because they think they aren’t doing it enough–or they try to sever the chain completely. Isn’t there any way to make evangelism “easier”?
Yes there is! The Apostle Paul’s ministry gives us a model for ministry and evangelism that can help us remove this burden–and change our entire focus of ministry. Paul’s mission was to evangelize the Gentiles–people who had little knowledge of the Scriptures. So Paul knew he had to “build a bridge.” He did so by appealing to nature as evidence for the existence of God–and this approach gave him some “common ground” with non-believers.
In Romans chapter one Paul explains that all people know about God simply by observing the design of the created world. And in Acts 17 he uses this “design argument” to point the Greek listeners to God as the Grand Designer of the world and of their lives as well.
For several centuries Christians used design as evidence for God. But then, after Darwin published his book The Origin of Species, many people, including many Christians, concluded that “survival of the fittest” is a better model for explaining the apparent design of our universe rather than God. The design argument seemed to die out for quite a long time.
But recently, with the influx of scientific data, there has been a revival of the design argument. God has designed the universe with specific purposes in mind–to reveal His character through creation and to allow for joyous human existence! The design argument can change our entire focus of evangelism!
In this essay we’ll examine four aspects of the design argument, as well as how to utilize this evidence to communicate Jesus Christ to non-believers.
The Design of Biological LifePerhaps the best evidence for design of biological life is found in the DNA molecule. The DNA carries highly complex information as to how living cells should operate. The human body contains millions of bits of information–more than most computers! This “information code” gives human cells very specific tasks to carry out–whether that task be to help form bones or muscles, or to regulate skin color, body size, etc. So all of this information acts as an incredible organizational system! The question therefore is, how did all that information “get” in there? What’s the source?
Some scientists would say we cannot interpret the source because to do so we are moving into the realm of theology, which only gives subjective, unprovable answers. But interpreting the DNA actually has more to do with our basic experiences of life than with theology.
For example, if I see someone’s name carved in a tree, I know by experience that an intelligent creature carved that name. It wasn’t created by the natural processes of the wind and rain. On the other hand, if I see the shape of an animal in a cloud, I conclude this shape was formed by natural causes. So by experience we easily recognize when an intelligent agent has been at work.
Our experience also tells us that a complex code such as that found in the DNA molecule could only come through intelligence. The discovery of the information code contained in the DNA molecule should make it obvious not only to us but to seeking non-believers as well that God is the intelligent designer! I thank God that He has given Christian biologists and geneticists such a natural bridge for sharing their faith in Him!
Design of the EarthThe Bible warns us in Romans 2:15-16 that the universe has been created and that one day its Creator will call us to account for our every thought and deed. The stakes are so high, as the philosopher Pascal once pointed out, that it would be foolish for us to live as though the universe itself was eternal, without carefully examining the data it provides about its origin.
To discover this data, we can begin as far back as Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece, who were impressed with the order that pervades the cosmos and ascribed that order to the work of an intelligent mind who fashioned the universe. But now the rise of scientific investigation in the 20th century “space age” has led to a huge amount of new data regarding the universe we live in, and the planet we live on. It seems to be an almost inescapable conclusion that the heavens and the earth have been perfectly designed and adapted for the habitation of biological life.
How has our universe been fine-tuned for biological life? Hugh Ross (Ph.D. in astronomy) has listed twenty-four examples of this in his book Creator and the Cosmos (Navpress, 1994). Let’s look at two of these:
The force of gravity. If this constant force were just a bit stronger or weaker, we would not have life as we know it. This is because the existence of stars depends on the gravitational constant, and without stars, there would obviously be no sun, no light, and no heat!
The speed of light–186,000 miles per second. If this speed were a little more or less, then the stars would be either too bright or too dim, and life as we know it would be greatly altered.
Other forces to consider are the average distance between stars, the strength of the force that operates within atoms, the frequency of supernova eruptions, and the ratio of protons to electrons–all calibrated perfectly thus allowing life to exist.
We also can find many examples of this fine-tuning of our own planet. Three examples of the fine-tuning of the earth are:
The tilt of the earth upon its axis. If this tilt were just a bit more or less the temperature variance would be too great to allow for life.
If the thickness of the earth’s crust were much thicker or thinner, the oxygen content in the air would be either too small or too great.
Even the amount of earthquake activity is crucial. If it were much greater, too many life-forms would be destroyed, but if much less, the oceans would die out for lack of recycling of nutrients.
Other crucial forces include the strength of the magnetic field, the period of rotation, the ozone level in the atmosphere, and the gravitational interaction with the moon.
What are the chances of one planet having all the parameters necessary for life-support? “Not bad,” we might say after watching an episode of Star Trek. But in reality, the chances are infinitesimal.
Such parameters can be used with non-believers and particularly with astronomers as strong evidence that a Grand Designer has set the earth in its place in preparation for the creation of man. This evidence points not only to a God who is incredibly wise and intelligent but One who is incredibly kind as well!
Design of HistoryCan God predict the future? What if the Bible gave hundreds of predictions that all came true? Would this be good evidence that God has designed the course of history?
Many people claim to have the gift of prophecy, but certain criteria must be met before we believe anything they say. For example, the prediction must be given prior to the fulfillment! This seems obvious, but it isn’t. A preface page of the Book of Mormon, for example, claims that America’s history is foretold within, that Columbus and the Puritans were “predicted” in First Nephi chapter 13. These would be incredible prophecies except for one problem: The earliest date for any known manuscript of the Book of Mormon is 1827, long after these events were fulfilled! Also, the prophet must always be accurate. Even Jeanne Dixon, who predicted President Kennedy’s assassination, made many predictions which did not come true at all.
And yet in Deuteronomy 18:20-22, God asserts that complete predictive accuracy will characterize His prophets, and that if anyone who claimed to be a prophet of the Lord ever made a mistake in even one prediction, he was to be executed!
Old Testament prophets made dozens of predictions regarding the future fate of many large cities. One was Babylon. Isaiah prophesied sometime between 750 and 550 B.C. that “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations.” Jeremiah also predicted that Babylon would be “desolate forever.”
At the time Babylon was the largest city in the ancient East. Today the site of Babylon is one of complete desolation–so much so that even non-religious archaeologists who visit the site are amazed that Isaiah’s picture of the ruins of Babylon is so accurate.
Another city is Ninevah. The prophet Zephaniah predicted in 630 B.C. that “(God) will destroy Assyria, leaving Ninevah utterly desolate and dry as the desert. Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind.” This prophecy was fulfilled about 610 B.C. when the Assyrian empire collapsed. The site has remained completely desolate for thousands of years, a surprising destiny for the capital city of a former world power. But now, according to Austen Layard, the site has become good grazing land for sheep and other wild animals. In fact, the largest mound of the site bears the Arabic name which means “many sheep.”
In both cases the specific details of the prophecies have come to pass. And yet these are only two of dozens of cities that find their biblical fate fulfilled in time. And the Bible contains hundreds of other prophecies that have a documented fulfillment– including over 300 concerning the coming of the Messiah fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ! The odds of any one man fulfilling even 8 of these 300 prophecies is astronomical! As a result, anyone who studies history must contend with the place of prophecy as strong evidence of a Grand Designer of history.
As an atheist, and just before my conversion, I was impressed with the book of Revelation, which confidently makes detailed predictions for the future. One of those predictions is the second coming of Jesus Christ. According to Revelation 19, He is coming in preparation for a great supper to be attended by all believers. Surely that prophecy will come true in the future just as certainly as these others have come true in the past!
Moral DesignDo you believe in right and wrong? If so, have you ever considered the basis for your belief? Many people seem to base their moral philosophy on one line from a famous commercial, “It just feels right!” But can personal feelings really qualify as a good basis for morality? What if I just happen to feel that murder is okay?
The truth is, we all critique other people’s behavior and idealogy–especially people like Hitler. But when making such a critique, we are relying upon a standard–our own standard perhaps–but some standard we think all people should operate by. And this standard must stem from something beyond human opinion and feelings, simply because Hitler’s opinion does not change the standard. And this something beyond human opinion we call an objective moral law.
C. S. Lewis tells us we see the moral law every time we hear people quarreling. “That’s my seat, I was there first!” or “Come on, you promised!” In a quarrel we appeal to some kind of widely known standard of behavior which we expect the other person to know about. In the Moral Law, Lewis says, we see somebody or something from beyond the material universe actually getting at us! WHAT?
The idea here is that behind the Moral Law is a Moral Lawgiver. The universe has actually been designed not only with a physical design, but with a moral design. And that leads to a Moral Designer.
When I was an atheist I began to think about this. At first the idea of a moral design really shook me up! That implies that I’m accountable to someone or something! But then I was forced to really think about this–during a high school tennis match! At the most crucial point in my humble career, and for the first time I could remember, I tried to cheat! At first I wanted to make it right, but then I thought, “why should I?” Who says what I did was wrong? Where does right and wrong come from? You know, its not easy to play tennis while thinking through your philosophy of life!
Finally I concluded that I wasn’t the source of right and wrong. I would never make myself feel guilty! Also that society wasn’t the source either–society is always changing. Finally I concluded God must exist–that He is the definition of right and wrong!
Many people will argue that God does not qualify as a good standard of right and wrong because of the evil that exists in the world. Either God is not good–He’d stop the evil if He were–or He’s not very powerful–because He can’t stop it!
But this line of thinking is very flawed. The blame for the evil of the world has been placed on God. That’s like a son blaming his father for all his crimes committed. Sure, the father could have locked the son in a closet at night, but that would not be a loving father.
The atheist forgets that he himself is in at least a small way a propagator of that evil too. What’s more, as Lewis pointed out, evil can only be understood by knowing that there is good. And if there is good and evil, once again there must be a moral law on which to judge between good and evil–which once again points to a moral lawgiver, which points to God.
The moral argument can be utilized with skeptics not only to show the necessity of a moral Designer, but to point to our need for Christ–the only One who can forgive our moral defectiveness.
Using Design to Communicate FaithChristians believe that God exists. And though they know they cannot prove God’s existence to anyone, they can show some reasonable evidence as to why they believe this is true.
In this essay we have discussed some reasonable evidence for believing in God, evidence found in the design of the universe, of morality, and of history. That evidence can begin to wake people up to the reality of God in their world.
Imagine how a baby girl might begin to think. She opens her eyes and slowly begins to make out figures and shapes. She is discovering through simple reason that the external world exists! Her mind awakens to a world has some sort of order to it. She feels the movement of an arm supporting her. There are other existing creatures in her world. Soon she infers that she exists too. These assumptions become the building-blocks for all other learning.
When people discover the design of the universe, they likewise begin a spiritual “awakening” process based on simple reason. By examining the apparent design of the created world they deduct that a Grand Designer must exist. “Reason,” said Thomas Aquinas, “is the handmaid of faith.” In other words, our reasonable deductions about the design of the universe, or history, and of morality can bring non-believers to the point of seeing their need for Christ and placing their faith in Him.
Christianity is an objective faith. A Christian puts his or her faith in Christ–not in faith itself. This is why we should never tell someone to just “have faith.” We should explain who Christ is- -and why He is so worthy of our trust.
Perhaps the best way to communicate the knowledge of a personal God is through your own occupational or educational field. Why? In this essay we have examined God as the designer of the universe, of life, of history and of morality. Now think about this. You can actually utilize the idea of God’s design in whatever context you find yourself. No matter what you do you can find God’s design at the foundation and use that design as a platform to explain your faith in Christ. If you are a lawyer, for example, you may be familiar with Old Testament Law. But have you considered how Old Testament Law provides our only true basis for objectivity within today’s legal system? Once you do, you will have a new basis, a new “evidence” for communicating your faith.
What if you are a homemaker with five children? Perhaps you can investigate God’s design for parenting, or for the family, as a platform for communicating faith. You don’t have to be an astronomer to use the design argument, just an active and thoughtful Christian with a deep burden for reaching the lost in your own sphere of influence. So we see that God is not only the designer of the universe, of history, and of morality. He is the designer of your life as well! His design is one that allows you to view your life in light of eternity and then to take that heavenly design and apply it on planet earth for His glory. Do you know how God is shaping your life, your talents, and your gifts to demonstrate His existence and His character in real world settings? You may want to ask God about this–and then be ready for His answer.
Copyright 1995 John Studebaker