It all started with a bang.
At the beginning of time, there was no form to that which existed. Everything was formless. There was a void. Nothing substantial existed. And then, there was a flash. An explosion. And out of this explosion poured stars and galaxies and planets and nebulae. God spoke, and in a brilliant flash of light, creation began.
But this is not where the Judeo-Christian tradition begins. According to the first line of the Pentateuch,
In the beginning God… (Genesis 1:1a TNIV)
Our religious text begins with a presupposition. God exists. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures begin under the assumption that there is a Divine Being somewhere up there who started this whole thing.
The foundation of the Christian religion is a belief, an idea. The foundational idea of Christianity is God.
It is possible to dismantle many of the beliefs within the Christian tradition without causing any permanent harm to the religion. Things like the inerrancy of Scripture, eternal hell, and soul sleep can be debated and deconstructed and even proven false without Christianity feeling any lasting harm. And by some they are. But to deny the existence of God is to remove the foundation from the religion. And without that foundation, the rest of the religion is baseless.
If there were no God, Jesus could not be the incarnation of Him, much less His offspring. If there were no God, He would not be the inspiration of the Scriptures. If there were no God, then the Scriptures begin with a lie: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Proving that God exists is another issue entirely. But I do not believe that it is necessary to do so.
The Christian religion actually has a twofold foundation. The other element in the foundation of the Christian religion is faith. According to the Bible,
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3 TNIV)
We understand, or believe, that God created the universe not because it can be proven by empirical evidence, but rather by faith. But there is a little more to it than that.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 TNIV)
It pleases God that we have faith in Him, not that we can prove His existence in the face of atheistic blowhards.
But faith in God does not end at the idea stage. While a God of ideas works for some people, particularly those who have their lives all together and are comfortably numb in their little suburban households. For people like that, God need not be anything more than an idea. The fact that God exists is enough for them. They have no need for incarnation for their lives are right without that. In fact, Jesus basically said the same thing.
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:12b, 13b TNIV)
But for the rest of us, God came into our world as one of us and lived as one of us. He was suffering, He was poor, He was in prison. In essence, He became what He wanted to save: sick.
If He were not real, He could not have come into our lives. God’s existence opens the door for redemption. But it is by faith that we understand this. We do not understand God’s creative activity in our world by any mental works of our own, but rather by faith. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” It is like sitting in a chair or driving over a suspension bridge or jumping from a diving board. We sit down, believing that the chair will hold us. We drive across the bridge believing that it will carry us to the other side of the river. We dive off the diving board believing that gravity will hold and we will fall into the water.
We trust God because we have faith that He exists. We see the world around us and we cannot help but wonder Who started it all. The Christian does not need evidence of God’s reality, just faith.
But faith is not an end in itself. We must still seek understanding. Understanding of what we have faith in as well as understanding of the way the created world works. But we must understand creation under the presupposition that God is the one who set it all in motion…long ago…with a Big Bang.