THE WONDROUS WORKS OF GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-16-64 8:15 a.m.
The sermon What The Fool Says In His Heart was divided in two parts. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," And last Sunday morning the message concerned the first part. This Sunday morning it is the second part. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" [Psalm 14:1]. And because he rejects the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, we turn to God’s other book.
God is the author of two books: this one which is written that I hold in my hand; God is also the author of another book, the world of creation in which we live and of which we ourselves are a part. So we are reading what God says of Himself, not in the Bible, but in the great letters with which God has revealed His power, and His majesty, and His glory in the works of His hands.
Now, last Sunday morning the message concerned the inner witness, the intuitive witness that a man has in his soul when he is born into this world. All men everywhere of all generations and of all time possess that inner witness that God is, that God lives. There is also the witness on the outside, the world around us; in the nineteenth verse of the first [first chapter of the Book of Romans], "That which may be known of God is manifested in us! God hath showed it unto us" [Romans 1:19]. That’s the inner witness, the intuitive witness we possess of the Lord.
Now, the next verse is that outer and visible witness, "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" [Romans 1:20]. So the inner witness, the intuitive witness of God inside of us, is explicated and confirmed by the glorious witness God hath given and made to Himself beyond us. The nineteenth Psalm that I had you read; those are present tenses. "The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and the firmament is showing His handiwork. Day unto day – every day keeps on talking to us – uttering speech, and night unto night keeps on showing us the knowledge of God" [Psalm 19:1-2]. So the message this morning, we are reading God’s words, and God’s thoughts, and God’s letters, and God’s message in the world of creation around us.
Sir Christopher Wren, the incomparable architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, is buried in the cathedral. Many of you have stood at the crypt that contains the mortal remains of that immortal architect. And in Latin above his name are these words, "Si monumentum requiris circumspice." "Reader, lector, if you seek a monument, look around you." If you seek God, look around you.
No man, not even a fool, no man can deny the majesty, and the glory, and the power, and the wonder of the created world around us. So what the fool does, he identifies that creation as God. "That’s what God is. Everything is God and God is everything. Matter is God and God is matter. Nature is God and God is nature." And they say, the fool that says in his heart, There is no God, who cannot deny the glory of the world around him, he says, "This work, this matter, this creation is eternal. It is self-sufficient. It is self created, and it gave birth to mind, and will, and intelligence, and personality. Where we came from and all of our being and life is a product of the eternity of matter. This is God, what you see." You call that pantheism. And pantheism has been a curse of the stream of human thought from the time that men began to think.
The Roman poet Lucan said, "Whatever thou seest is God." Seneca the Roman philosopher, the teacher of Nero, said, "What is God? God is all that you see, and all that you do not see." Here is a poem ascribed to Orpheus,
Female is God. Immortal God is male.
God the broad earth, the heavens irradiant pale.
God is the boundless spirit. God the fire that warms the world
With feeling and desire. The sea is God. The sun, the lunar ball,
God king supreme, the sovereign source of all.
All power is his. To him all glory give.
For his best form embraces all that live.
That is pantheism. God is everything, and everything you see is God, and nobody created this world or this universe, it is eternal, and it has always been here.
Practically all of your pseudo-scientists, all of your materialists, all of your modern rationalists, philosophers believe that. "There wasn’t any time when this was created, it was always here. And if you’re looking for God, this is only God you’ll ever see, the God that is around you, the material universe which gave birth to you in the evolving cycles of the ages." That is the religion of modern education and modern philosophy.
There are many, many things to be said about it, and we’d need hours to recount it. Let us begin. There is a vast innate, essential, fundamental difference between mind and matter, between phenomena and personality. There is as wide a gulf between inert, inanimate stuff, substance, matter, and a man’s thinking, and a man’s personality, and a man’s worship, and man’s thoughts, as the heavens are higher than the earth. They are two different things.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in 1869 answering a question, "Yes," he said, "It is true that there are moments when the flesh is nothing to me, when I know and feel the flesh to be a vision. God and the spiritual is the real. It belongs to me more than my hand and my foot. You may tell me that my hand and my foot are only imaginary symbols of my existence, and I could believe you. But you never, never can convince me that the eye is not an eternal reality, and that the spiritual is not the real and the true part of me."
I am not just my hand and my foot. There is a real me that lives on the inside of this human frame, and I am that eye, and it is different from the decay of the matter that turns back to the dust of the ground. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul, speaking of our great Lord, "One God and Father of all. . .who is through all" [Ephesians 4:6]. That’d be pantheism, did it stand by itself. God in everything, and everything is God. "In you all." That would be mysticism. God just in us, we have the visions, and we conjure up the ideas, and we create all of these spiritual realities, God in us. But he has a third one there, "God above all" [Ephesians 4:6]. That is the separateness, the transcendence of the Almighty God. He is above and beyond us and the creation of His hands.
A man’s works is not the man himself. The cabinet is not the carpenter, and the bridge is not the engineer. So God’s works are separate from God Himself. God is one thing, and God’s created works is another thing. Even we ourselves are not a part of God anymore so than our children are a part of us, or the subjects of a kingdom were all a part of the king. God is separate from His created works. God is infinite; nature, creation is finite. God is omnipotent; creation is impotent in itself. God is immutable; nature is mutable. God is eternal; nature experiences birth and death.
One of the most unusual persuasions is for the materialist to seek to convince us, the pseudoscientific philosopher to seek to persuade us that inert matter which itself is unconscious and under the law of necessity, could create mind and spirit and personality of a man who is free. Inert matter does not give birth to mind and spirit and personality. And the grovelings of the pseudoscientists and the materialists, seeking to find the birth of personality in physicochemical combinations and reactions, to me, is like a creature, those creatures who bury themselves in the muck and the mire and refuse to lift up their eyes to see the glory of the spiritual world.
Creation is one thing. Mind and spirit and personality is another thing. May I make one other comment before I leave, just incidentally? Whenever you identify this matter as eternity, and whenever you identify this created world as God, you obliterate therein all moral distinction. The entire, the entire list of human crime is as much a part of God as virtue itself, because if God is everything, then there’s not any virtue, and there’s not any crime, it’s all the same, mixed up in this matter that we have identified as being God.
Behind the veil of this universe, and behind the experience that we in our sensual life conceive and see and understand as being a created universe, behind that is an infinite intelligence and infinite personality. That which feels and sees and hears is more real than what is thought or heard or seen. There is only one place where we are able to get behind matter, to see what is behind it, and that is in a man’s brain.
And when you get behind a man’s brain, which is matter, when you get behind it, what do you find? You find a self. You find a personality. You find you. And if we can get behind the veil of matter, the created universe around us, you will meet there the infinite self and the infinite personality, the Almighty God.
It takes intelligence to trace out the workings of God in His universe. And the intelligence that can do that, that can think God’s thoughts after Him, that can see all of the marvelous intricacies and complexities that God hath wrought in creation, that mind and that intelligence that can see those things is in itself a persuasion, a proof that there was intelligence that did it in the first place. For we are thinking those thoughts after they have been thought. We are seeing those works after they have been created. We are not creating them ourselves.
When the astronomer looks into the heavens, he’s not creating astronomy. He is just following the infinite works of somebody who has gone before him. And for a man to negate mind, and intelligence, and personality in this world is madness because we possess it. And if we possess it, how is it we can deny it to the great Creator who first thought those thoughts, and who first did those things, and who first created these marvelous, marvelous gifts.
I tell you in the ninety-fourth Psalm is one of the most pungent, potent arguments I ever read in my life. Listen to it:
You that say the Lord cannot see,
You that say the Lord cannot see,
Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, can He not see?
He that chastiseth the nation, shall He not correct? And He that teacheth knowledge, does He not know?
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are vanity.
The great Creator that formed the ear, do you mean He can’t hear? The great Creator who formed the eye, you mean He cannot see? That’s what the ninety-fourth psalmist is saying. The very fact of our seeing, and knowing, and thinking is the infinite persuasion to a man who would be fair, and just, and honest – that the One who created that can see, and hear, and think. In that infinite will, in that infinite personality, there is purpose in all that He does, and there is purpose seen throughout all the created works of the mighty God.
Purpose: the loom doesn’t weave a beautiful damask pattern – as some of you’ve been in Damascus, and have you watched those looms as they weave those intricate patterns; the loom doesn’t do it without first the weaver. The glove that is assembling an electrical generator is impotent without the guiding hand that is in it. A house does not assemble itself. Over here in the Book of Hebrews the author says, "Every house is builded by some man; and He that built all things is God" [Hebrews 3:4]. No house ever assembles itself. There must be back of it the architect who thinks it and who guides the assembly of that material and matter. There never was a great mill or a great plant that was born of itself. There is a mechanical engineer, and an architect, and a thinker who assembles it together. That’s purposiveness.
An atheist is like a man who would examine an assembled mill, and he sees the wheels, and he sees all of the working parts, and he traces it back to a great shaft that comes out of the wall, and then he thinks he ‘s got an explanation all sufficient when he sees the shaft turning out of the brick wall. Oh, beyond these things is the infinite mind that built these things for a purpose, and that purpose is seen everywhere in all God’s creation.
Look, think now. Look. In the secret depths of the mother’s womb no light ever falls, yet there is a guiding executive that is building an eye, and watches over and executes carefully all of the parts in building an eye way down in the secret depths of the maternal womb. For what? Because there is purpose in God’s creative genius, building an eye for a reason, for a reason. That is throughout this universe, purposiveness.
Then in the fin of a fish, in the hoof of a horse, in the wing of a bird, in the hand of a man, it is throughout God’s creation. And when you see the solar system with its heat, and its light, and its gravitational pull, back of it lies that infinite purposiveness!
As a book is written not by the laws of grammar and spelling but according to those laws, so the great universe above us is created not by the laws of heat, and light, and electricity but according to those laws, and for the great infinite purpose that God has read into it. When you see a ship, the use of the ship is not just the happenstance of its existence, but it was created and constructed for that purpose. So the infinite creation around you has all through it the purposiveness of God. God put it there.
We must hasten. The intelligent personality that created what our eyes look upon and placed purposiveness in it, that same creative intelligence is seen in the infinite design and order that pervades all God’s creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth His" – and one of those authors, one of those translators I mean translated that word and "showeth His lacework," His lacework – "showeth His handywork, His lacework" [Psalm 19:1]. There is order. There is an useful collocation. There is magnificent relationship in all of the manifold, marvelous works of the Lord God.
In the text that I chose for this message, one hundred fourth Psalm, twenty-fourth verse, "O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches" [Psalm 104:24]. There is relationship, proportion. There is order in all that God has wrought. There is an infinite mind that makes those relationships constant throughout the great universe.
For example, we will argue from one apple to all of the other apples on the tree. Newton argued from the fall of one apple, the gravitation on the moon, and throughout the sidereal spheres. Rowland argued, from the chemistry that he saw in his test-tube to the chemistry on Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. That mind of God and those laws of God of order, and balance, and proportion, and relationship are throughout God’s universe.
And you see it in how things look; atomic structure, snowflakes. Ever look at snowflakes? The most glorious proportion and order. You see it in flowers. You see it in leaves. You see it in botany. You see it in biology. You see it in zoology. You see it in astronomy. You see it everywhere. When an atomic scientist, for example, seeks to explain to you atomic proportion and relationship, he will do it with geometric figures.
Are those things just by accident? Those geometric figures that are at the base of all that God is done, the order that you see in flower, and leaf, and solar system, and atomic structure; are those things just by accident? Reduplicated a thousand times and a million times, whether they’re in a form of a star or here in a test-tube you have in your hand – the same infinite mind through it all. A boy’s marbles; one of them might accidentally be round, but a hundred are not going to be exactly alike. Let me quote from the eloquent Cicero.
Can anything be done by chance that has all the marks of design? Four dice – and I’m not particularly enthusiastic about Cicero’s illustrations, but his thought is magnificent – Can anything be done by chance that has all the marks of design? Four dice may by chance turn up their aces – that means their ones – but do you think that four hundred dice when thrown by chance will turn up four hundred aces? Colors when thrown upon canvas without design may have some resemblance to a human face, but do you think they could make a picture as beautiful as the Coan Venus? A hog in turning up the ground with his nose may make something in the form of a letter A, but do you think that a hog could describe on the ground an Aristotelian treatise on Greek drama? The truth is indeed that chance never perfectly imitates design. Never.
And the infinite, infinite, infinite, infinite geometric figures that God describes in this world in the flower, and a million of them, in a leaf, and a billion times a trillion infinitude of them, and the whole structure of the world in proportion, in beauty, in order, in relationship. "God geometrizes," says Plato. "Number is the essence of reality," said Pythagoras. "The heavens are nothing but crystallized mathematics." A crystal, ever hold one in your hand? Ever break one of them? A crystal is solid geometry. All of the laws of energy are mathematical. And the inner change of energy and chemical combination is according to numerical laws, and no science finds its ultimate form until it is mathematically expressed. "God geometrizes," says Plato.
May I read, oh, I wish we had hours, may I read, and I have to close, may I read the conversion of a skeptic? And he’s not a religionist, and he’s not reading religious literature. Listen to him. Listen to him:
Some years ago, I had the misfortune to meet the fallacies of Hume on the subject of causation. His specious sophistry shook the faith of my reason as to the being of a God. One beautiful evening in May, I was reading by the light of a setting sun, my favorite Plato. I was seated on the grass, which was interwoven with golden flowers. I was perusing one of the academician’s most starry dreams. It laid fast hold of my fancy. I wept to think it
Now Plato was a man who believed in God, that the spiritual was the real. Plato was not a materialist. You know some of the sorrows I sense in my soul when I read these things of those men, the Greek philosophers, oh, that they could have known Jesus. That Socrates, that Plato, that Aristotle could have known Jesus. They came nearer finding the true God than any men who ever lived. It just shows that natural mind cannot know God, God has to reveal Himself. You don’t know His name, well anyway:
one of those academician’s fancies and I wept to think it could not be true. At length, I came to that startling sentence, "God geometrizes." – that’s one of Plato’s sentences – "God geometrizes." "Vain reverie!’" I exclaimed as I cast the volume at my feet. It fell close by a beautiful little flower. I began to examine its structure. Its stamens were five in number. Its calyx had five parts. Its delicate coral base were five parting rays. This combination of five in the same blossom appeared to me very singular. The last sentence I had just read from the pupil of Socrates was ringing in my ears, "God geometrizes." There was the text written by that philosopher long centuries ago and here this little flower in the remote wilderness furnished the commentary. I calculated the chances against the production of those three equations of five in just one flower. There were one hundred twenty five chances against it.
Now by that he means it could have been one, four, and five. It could have been three, two, and four, it could have been any, but five, a series of five in the leaf, the stamen, the petal, the calyx, the series of five:
I calculated the chances against the production of those three equations of five. There were one hundred twenty five chances against it. I extended the calculation to two flowers that the same sequence of five would be found in two flowers. I extended the calculation to two flowers by squaring the sums last mentioned. The chances amounted that you’d have that five sequence in two flowers, the chances amounted against it to fifteen thousand six hundred twenty-five. That it would happen in just two flowers. I cast my eyes around the forest. The old woods were literally alive with those golden blooms, all of them in that series of five. I will not attempt to describe my feelings. I took up my beloved Plato. I kissed the book and the blossom, alternately bedewing them both with tears of joy. In my wild enthusiasm I called to the little birds on the green boughs cooing their cheery farewells to the parting day and I said, "Sing on, sing on sunny birds. Sing on, sweet minstrels. Lo, ye and I have a God."
[from "The Existence of the Deity," Andrew Jackson Davis, 1847]
We’re talking outside of the Bible. We’re talking about God’s other book. And when you look upon the mysteries, and the order, and the relationships of divine intelligence and creation, you just join the psalmist, "O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all" [Psalm 104:24].
Now my conclusion was an appeal, but we’ve gone over the time and I haven’t time. "Sustained by the word of God, upholding all things by the word of His power" [Hebrews 1:3]. If God is taken out of this universe, it loses all form, and fashion, and meaning. And when God is taken out of our lives, and when we separate ourselves from the Lord, we are empty and destitute; there’s no meaning, there’s no purpose, there’s no destiny, there’s no future.
Our existence, and our reality, and our destiny lies in the Lord God, and that’s why we’re Christian people. That’s why we love Jesus. That’s why we say He is our life, and our light, and our hope, and our glory forever. And in answer to that appeal, to put your life with us, to give your life to Jesus, however God would say the word and lead in the way, on the first note of this first stanza, would you come and stand by me, while we stand and while we sing?