This phrase comes from Rom. 1:18-20:
God’s rage is being revealed from heaven against every kind of irreverence and injustice committed by people who unjustly suppress the truth. And it’s because what can be known about God is obvious among them, since God has shown it to them. For his invisible qualities can be seen by means of the creation of the world; we catch a glimpse of them— as well as his unknowable power and divinity— by his achievements, so that people are without excuse.This is typically used in debates with unbelievers, who then respond by pointing out that nature doesn’t tell us anything specific about God. Then the Christians concede and merely state that people instinctively know that all this couldn’t happen by accident. But I think we can do better than that.
Lately I’ve been reading/watching more about ancient knowledge and technology, as well as some incredible math and geometry “coincidences”.1 Along with universities who aren’t necessarily telling students everything (as with evolution), and who aren’t immune from poor logic, the text of the Bible has also been under relentless attack as never before. At first it was from the angle that the text was unreliable or historically inaccurate, but there has been too much evidence to the contrary.2 So the tactic changed to allegorization of pretty much anything and everything, because of the Bible’s similarities to other ANE (ancient near-east) writings, but that too is faulty.3 Now, through popular fiction which is essentially being promoted as fact, the claim is that the Bible is just a small part of one singular story: that either the world was seeded by aliens, or all the religions and secret societies were just trying to preserve (while hiding it from the unwashed masses) ancient knowledge of the “vibrational” essence and unity of all existence.
Knowledge is not evil or scary, in spite of the pervasive claim that this is what the Bible teaches. Many people erroneously (and quite irritatingly) cite as proof “the Tree of Knowledge” when in fact it is “the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. God never feared or tried to hide knowledge/wisdom in general, and in fact there are many, many injunctions for people to get more of it. But he did warn us of wanting to know things that come with great spiritual danger, identified as consulting mediums or invoking angels. Today, the world tries to mock such a warning by presenting such things as good and beneficial. But rather than using the old frontal assault (attacking the Bible), the method now is to re-interpret the Bible as somehow teaching these dangerous spiritual practices. The “church” at large has already fallen for the first stages: contemplative prayer, walking labyrinths, practicing mind-emptying meditation techniques, using talismans (“touch your TV screen for a blessing”, “send a donation and you’ll get a blessed hanky”), etc.
So there is nothing dangerous about studying the technology and knowledge of the past in the areas of math or philosophy, but be very careful not to passively accept the conclusions many of the researchers or teachers jump to. I’ve often exposed the faulty logic that underlies such leaps, and this is especially important on topics that touch on the foundations of our faith. For example, in many documentaries or articles on “sacred geometry”, they either infer or conclude that since there are many uncanny numerological similarities between the Bible and esoteric knowledge, then the Bible is not from God or is no more so than other religious writings.
But the logical error here is the same as for evolutionary claims concerning genetics. That is, evo errs in looking only at genetic similarities while ignoring the vital differences; so also do the “Bible code” or other numerology theories focus on the similarities but ignore the differences. In addition, all the alternative Bible interpretations ignore the problem of evil or try to write it off as “bad vibrations” or an illusion (tell that one to the people who have suffered the most!). This failure to emphasize the differences is also behind the oft-repeated claim that “we all worship the same God”.
So exactly what is it about “nature” that the passage in Romans uses as proof of God? Design, engineering, programming, and information. No matter what the topic, be it biology or astronomy or math or physics or electricity or communication theory, ingenious design is undeniable. The latest studies of ancient knowledge also show an incredible unity as well, a universal language if you will. And this, of course, begs the question of who the Designer could be. People have tried in the past to write off belief in a God or gods to primitive culture and fear of nature, but as knowledge has increased it has only proved more rigorously that the universe is the product of intelligent design. A classic quote comes to mind:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, W.W. Norton, New York, 1978, p. 116)Once again the plot of the enemies of God is thwarted; their own headlong rush away from him has only served to prove that God truly is everywhere. As it will obviously be in the coming Tribulation, the question is no longer whether there is a God and which God it is, but whether we will accept him or reject him. The denial that is atheism can stand no more since there is simply too much evidence for intelligent design in the universe, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Now who are the “religious zealots” or “nutters” or “science deniers”? Whose faith is truly blind? Whose religous views are holding back scientific progress?
But none of the theories about vibrations or calculations or ancient aliens can account for morality and evil, because like evo they don’t face the problem of origins. If we are all “god”, how did we ever become otherwise? If everything is vibration, what distrubed it? If it all began with a “big bang”, what made it “bang” and where did “it” come from? If there is a prototype or original human, what produced it? If there was great knowledge in the ancient past, where did we get it and how was it lost?
The Bible, however, answers them all. If those who so love to apply Ockham’s Razor would be honest with themselves, they’d conclude that the Bible’s explanation is the simplest and least embellished. But this brings up an important point: God often uses the very scientific laws he created to work miracles.
For example: In Ex. 14:21 the Bible tells us that the way God dried up a path through the Red Sea was to “drive the sea back with a strong east wind”; in Joshua 3:16 God did something similar at the Jordan River by “piling up the water” at a town called Adam. Why didn’t God just speak as he did in creating the world? We aren’t told, but the point is that finding a natural or scientific cause is not proof that God was not involved; the timing and predictability of various miracles is what makes them such. And of course, who ever would think that the sea or a river could be dried up in a matter of hours, or that water could turn instantly into wine? Who would consider it natural for the blind to be healed with mud spread on their eyes--- or that someone could rise from the dead after three days and nights in a pinpoint fulfillment of prophecy? No matter how elaborate or clever a scientific/natural cause could be found, the context cannot be ignored.
Who invented the laws of physics? Who created energy? Who decided to make everything with atoms, or determined that we could calculate the order and even the size of the universe with a few basic mathematical principles? Who invented language, or music, or poetry, or love? How did the first humans even learn how to eat or procreate or cultivate or mine or cook or use their imaginations? Who programmed animals to do incredible things that their tiny brains can’t possibly account for? 4
Truly, and scientifically, people are “without excuse” for knowing that there is a Designer, a Programmer, an Engineer--- a God. As for the specifics, remember what Paul said to the Greek philosophers?
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship— and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.First Paul uses their shrine to “The Unknown God” as a hook to introduce his topic (NOT, as I’ve pointed out before, to sanction or affirm their religion!). Then he appeals to reason: by definition, God would not need what people make but is the source of everything and everyone. But notice the curious statement about God marking out the appointed times and boundaries of lands as a way for people to find him. Here again we see order and limitations and historical progression--- things that don’t happen by accident. Notice also that the intelligent and educated Greeks did not ridicule or dispute Paul at this point. Finally, Paul presents the logical conclusion: that since there is one God who made everything, and now you know who he is by his having raised Jesus from the dead, you are “without excuse”--- God “commands all people everywhere to repent”.
”The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone— an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” -- Acts 17:22-31
So while “the heavens declare the glory of God”, it is the Body of Christ by which people know his identity and characteristics. Now do you see why it’s so vital that we know the gospel clearly, and we don’t compromise on his identity? Otherwise the lost are left in the dark, since Jesus called us to be “light” (and NOT in the sense of “light beings” or “light workers”, but just “earthenware jars” containing the Light of Christ to shine truth on the world). The reason people don’t know which God is the right one is because we have failed to tell them--- and in many cases that’s because we ourselves do not really know him. We have swallowed the lie that all gods are the same or that “Christ” is some form of consciousness; we have been pressured to trade the Jesus who is the only “way, truth, and life” and who rose bodily from the dead for a “light worker” or “ascended master” or just a good teacher. Like many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, “They loved praise from people more than even praise from God” (John 12:43).
Sadly, such who are afraid to be mocked due to standing firm in the truth are many, and many of them are leaders in the Christian community. They want to be seen as tolerant and loving toward people, more than faithful and loving toward God. They dishonor him equating him with the gods of other religions, whose Son they redefine as someone the lost don’t really have to know to be saved. Thus they render the gospel unimportant or mythical or esoteric. Yet by claiming to know the Bible (and bragging that they know it better than these “fundies” who take it at face value rather than as part of ANE “wisdom literature”), they incriminate themselves much as did the Pharisees in John 9:39-41: “... since you say that you see, your guilt remains.” That is, they are “without excuse”.