“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
This is the plea from the Apostle Philip. I think it’s one that many of us can relate to. At least at times.
So honest. So sincere. Life is hard. And faith can be hard sometimes.
And it can be easy to look at the stories of the Old Testament and the stories of God audibly speaking to prophets or displaying glorious signs to the Israelites and to think “It would be so much easier to believe if I could have those glorious displays of divine power.”
In this post, my focus is on Philip’s plea and the question of why God does not more dynamically reveal himself to us? Wouldn’t that be so much easier?
If God wants people to believe, why not just appear? And to be sure, God could compel everyone to believe in him. He could appear in the heavens and do thunderous signs 24/7 or he could have designed people with a brain which would naturally believe in him.
But that is not how God created us or how he has ordained things. Now the Bible does teach that God does wants people to believe in him.
2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
So God does want us to believe. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that God is not desperate for us to believe.
Now we are not left empty-handed. Just because God does not always appear to us in the way in which we might think would be best, that does not mean that God is unknowable.
In theology, there’s a term called General Revelation.
That is the idea that God does reveal qualities of his divine nature through creation.
Creation itself points to God.
Psalm 19:1 says: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In Psalm 8, David marveled at the Lord’s creation:
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
The Bible teaches that nature itself bears witness to God.
In Romans 1:19-20, Paul says: what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world
God reveals himself through his world.
I think it’s the reason why we get a sense of awe when we see a beautiful sunset, or see the mountains, or the ocean or look up to a star-filled sky at night.
God can be known.
And there’s his creation.
It screams to us that it was made by a creator. There are dozens of arguments that philosophers, theologians, and scientists have developed through the centuries in pointing to the existence of God.
And while none of those arguments gives absolute proof of the existence of God, the cumulative weight of the arguments gives only one plausible answer. A creator God. My plan is to talk about some of those arguments this week and next week as we study this passage.
And I want to give two arguments for the existence of God.
I’ve always found these types of arguments to be very edifying and confirming to consider that the God we believe in really is rational and reasonable.
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore the universe has a cause.
It’s my goal to make this explanation clear. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. That idea is taken for granted in literally every other domain of our lives. We never observe anything contrary to this.
None of us are worried that we’ll be sitting in church and a giraffe will just spring into existence out of nowhere. None of us are worried that under our bed se right now, a dump truck has just popped into existence. None of us are worried that the next time we’re driving, we’ll be cut off by another planet or universe springing into existence.
None of us have ever had extra money just materialize in our wallets, as much as we might like that. Why? Because nothing comes from nowhere.
And yet, some want to treat the very existence of the universe as if that is what gigantic exception, and that nothing happens unprovoked or out of nothing, except for the entire universe.
That’s the first premise.
We all know that whatever begins to exist has a cause. But we move to the second point.
The universe began to exist.
I find this fascinating, but that is something that is increasingly agreed upon by cosmologists and physicists. A century ago, the conventional wisdom was that the universe was eternal. It was known as the steady state theory.
But as equipment and telescopes have gotten more sophisticated, and instruments for measurement have gotten more sophisticated, there is more and more evidence that the universe had a beginning.
And how does the Bible begin? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
And that is what happens in creation. That there was literally nothing. And that all time, space, matter, and energy began.
From the fact that the universe is still expanding, the universe is still cooling off, and from the laws of thermodynamics, it all implies a finite beginning of the universe. And there are other reasons from math and science that point to the universe having a beginning.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Whatever the cause is would have to be powerful. Whatever the cause is would have to be immaterial, because the cause created all matter. Whatever the cause is would have to transcend time because the cause created time. It is God who is the uncaused cause. Powerful, immaterial, transcendent of time. And I will argue in my next point that whatever the cause is would have to be intelligent.
Because the way the universe is ordered. And that is my second argument for the existence of God.
There’s a famous analogy from an 18th-19th century philosopher named William Paley called the watchmaker.
If you were walking through the woods, and you found a watch, and you look at the ways in which the gears interact with each other, the precision of the second hand ticking away, you would not suppose that the forces of nature had just happened to create that watch.
You wouldn’t think through thousands or even millions of years, just given the weather, the laws of physics, and erosion, that nature would just happen to form a functional watch.
A friend of mine once went to Mount Rushmore and he took a video of himself looking at the mountain and he joked that it was incredible that through just the wind and erosion, that the faces of four of our great presidents would appear in that mountain.
Obviously that was a joke because Mount Rushmore was planned. And obviously any rational person would know that the watch was also planned. Also designed.
The delicate balance of life. The laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. The predictable regularity of these laws in our world. The complex balance of life in our ecosystem and the way it all works together. It’s astounding.
The fact that we have a world which is capable of supporting and sustaining life is astounding. And that it is more plausible that it is the product of design than change.
Now with life on earth, a person could attempt to explain away design and argue that everything just evolved to exist with the conditions we have. Or maybe the laws of science are simply what governs the universe.
But the issue is so much deeper than that.
Where do the laws of science come from? The laws of physics, chemistry, biology? If there used to be nothing and now there’s something, did those laws create themselves?
Over the last couple of generations, physicists and astronomers have noticed more and more the great precision and fine-tuning with which our universe is governed by laws. There are about 30 constants where even miniscule changes would either make the existence of the universe impossible, life impossible, or which would greatly alter the way in which we live.
I think that should be encouraging to our hearts. We’re not here by accident.
Physicist Paul C. Davies writes;
“To see the problem, imagine playing God with the cosmos. Before you is a designer machine that lets you tinker with the basics of physics. Twiddle this knob and you make all electrons a bit lighter, twiddle that one and you make gravity a bit stronger, and so on. It happens that you need to set thirtysomething knobs to fully describe the world about us. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile.”
So the universe just sprang into being randomly and all of those incredibly precise scientific variables just happened to be perfectly set for the universe and life to be possible?
To give one example. Gravity. If the gravitational force was altered by more than 1 part in 10×40, stars would not exist and neither would we.
That’s a difficult number to wrap our minds around. Imagine that you had a tape measure that was stretched all the way across the universe. It’d be a long tape measure. Billions upon billions upon billions of inches long.
And the entire tape measure represents different gravitational force strengths. And the tape measure is set to a specific place.
If you were to move just one inch in either direction on that measure, our life would not be possible.
And there are numerous other examples from physics and cosmology that if they were altered to the most minute of degrees, would make life impossible. I would argue that believing all of that happened by random chance is a bigger leap of faith than believing in God.
Creation points to a creator.
So with general revelation and the arguments we have for the existence of God, when the question arises of “why doesn’t God just reveal himself?”
He does. Just maybe not always in the way we’d prefer. It can be tempting to think “If only I had this piece of evidence, it would be easier to believe.”
But never underestimate the pride of the human heart. In the Bible, we see plenty of activity of God with the Israelites during their Exodus wanderings. They still sin and rebel. Because just because you believe something is true does not mean that your life is changed by it.
God does not want us to give a vague ascent that “Yeah, I guess I believe you exist.” Millions of people smoke cigarettes knowing how bad they are.
We know all sorts of truths we disregard
I think most people are smart enough to know how to succeed in all sorts of areas of life. How do you succeed in school? Study. Work hard. Pay attention. Ask questions when you’re unsure.Same with succeeding in a job. Work hard. Be proactive. Take pride in what you’re doing.
People don’t always do that. Succeeding in marriage. Time. Communication. Sacrifice. Love. People don’t always do that. Half the marriages in America end in divorce.
And we can know God, but people don’t always want to do that. Why?
As Jesus said in John 3:17. Because men love darkness rather than the light.
The Apostle Paul sums up this condition of the human heart and its refusal to acknowledge God in Romans 1. I quoted part of this verse earlier but to give a fuller picture of what Paul is saying:
what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
The issue is not that we have a lack of reasons to believe in God. But just thinking God exists is not what it’s all about. Because the God who created the universe is powerful, immaterial, transcendent, intelligent.
And personal. “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Philip says this to Jesus on the night before Jesus went to the cross.
And so instead of coming to us in thunderous glory in the clouds and speaking to us with a voice from the heavens, instead, we have a God who became one of us.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God invites us to know him. God invites us into relationship with him. And it is Jesus who makes God known.
John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
God appeared to the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The God who created time entered time. The God who created history entered into history. The God who created man took on flesh.
And that’s the response that Jesus gives to Philip in verse 9: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
All this time. Philip had seen Jesus. He had seen his righteous life. He had personally heard his teaching. He had seen the word who was made flesh and dwelt among us.When Jesus had done his first sign at the wedding feast at Cana, it revealed his glory.
And still, Philip felt like he needed a greater sign. Jesus is the greater sign. He is the fuller revelation of the truth of God. He is the one who makes the Father known. There was no greater sign.
Jesus shows God, he is the way to God, because Jesus is one with God.
John 14:10: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
In her book “Stay Salt,” Rebecca Pippert writes:
One sunny day I was stretched out on the lawn … when I noticed that some ants were busy building a mound. I began to redirect their steps with twigs and leaves. But they simply bounced off and started a new ant mound. I thought, This is like being God! I am redirecting their steps, and they don’t even realize it!
At one point, two ants crawled onto my hands and I thought, Wouldn’t it be funny if one ant turned to the others and said, “Do you believe in Becky? Do you believe Becky really exists?” I imagine the other ant answering, “Don’t be ridiculous! Becky is a myth, a fairy tale!” How comical, I thought–the hubris of that ant declaring that I don’t exist, when I could easily blow it off my hand.
But what if the other ant said, “Oh, I believe that Becky exists!” How would they resolve it? How could they know that I am real? I thought. What would I have to do to reveal to them who I am? Suddenly I realized: the only way to reveal who I am, in a way that they could understand, would be to become an ant myself. I would have to identify totally with their sphere of reality. I sat upright, and I remember thinking, What an amazing thought! The scaling-down of the size of me to perfectly represent who I am in the form of an ant! I know; I would have to do tricks! Things that no other ant could do!
Then it hit me: I had just solved my problem of how finite creatures could ever discover God. God would have to come from the outside and reveal who he is.
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