Last night in kids ministry we asked the question, “What is creation?” The answer we gave was, “Creation is God’s making everything out of nothing by his powerful Word, and it was all very good.” This question and answer is an adaptation from the Westminster Shorter and Baptist Catechisms. We marveled at how God creates in a way entirely unique to the ways we create. Mostly, we examined how the way God creates means that God’s glory is inescapable.
When God created all things, he revealed glimpses of his glory. Creation is God’s manifestation of his glory. From the deepest sea to the highest mountain, God’s glory can be seen. From the most beautiful sunrise to the dreariest rainy day, God reveals his glory. In fact, Paul says this glory is so evident in creation that no man has an excuse of ignorance of God (Rom. 1:18-20). No man or woman can say they did not have knowledge of God, because creation attests to God. It both humbles and amazes me that God makes himself known in every aspect of his creation. One implication of this is that there is no escaping the glory of God, no matter how hard we may try. Another is that although everyone has a general knowledge of God through creation, this knowledge is not enough to save.
I have made it a point recently to organize my reading. Part of this includes reading certain genres and reading from certain historical periods on certain days. Every Saturday I read a few chapters from one of the greatest works that the Reformation produced–The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. I have just finished Calvin’s section on the knowledge of God. I can safely say that I have read nothing more insightful on what theologians call “general revelation,” which is the way God makes himself known in creation. Even if you vehemently disagree with certain aspects of Calvin’s theology, you would do well to read the Institutes. There are mountains of theological insights that if you take the time to climb, you will be overjoyed with the breathtaking sights.
I want to take time here to share Calvin’s thoughts on how the knowledge of God “shines forth in the fashioning of the universe.” After reading this, I pray you would more clearly see God’s glory in creation and motivate you to seek effective ways to evangelize your lost friends who have a general knowledge of God through creation. I hope this blesses your soul as it has mine.
The final goal of the blessed life, moreover, rests in the knowledge of God [cf. John 17:3]. Lest anyone, then, be excluded from access to happiness, he not only sowed in men’s minds that seeds of religion of which we have spoken but revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe. As a consequence, men cannot open their eyes without being compelled to see him. Indeed, his essence is incomprehensible; hence, his divineness far escapes all human perception. But upon his individual works he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and so prominent that even unlettered and stupid folk cannot plead the excuse of ignorance. Therefore the prophet very aptly exclaims that he is “clad with light as with a garment” [Ps. 104:2]. It is as if he said: Thereafter the Lord began to show himself in the visible splendor of his apparel, ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze…And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace [Ps. 11:4]. Yet, in the first place, wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness. The reason why the author of The Letter to the Hebrews elegantly calls the universe the appearance of things invisible [Heb. 11:3] is that this skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible.
—John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.v.1, emphasis added
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.