How did history’s premier missionary strategist use the Argument from Design to confront and penetrate a culture that was ignorant of God? What evangelistic approach had results that energized the Church for 20 centuries? Read on to learn about this vital strategy.
What evidence would I give for the existence of God?
In the prequels of the Evidence for God series I outlined my answer if asked to give evidence for the existence of God. A video of a well-known creationist debater failing to adequately answer this question from a sixth-grade atheist at a Creation vs. Evolution debate stimulated this series.
One argument I gave was the Argument from Design, also known as the teleological argument. It’s the “Watch requires a Watchmaker” argument of chemist Robert Boyle that was later popularized by William Paley.
The Argument from Design is the best argument to give when asked for evidence of God. I have 3 reasons for making this best argument claim:
1. The Argument from Design is Simple
2. The Argument from Design is Logical
3. The Argument from Design is Biblical
The prequel 8. Evidence for God – Design Is Best Argument for God – Old Testament
expanded on the Argument from Design is Biblical by giving examples of the use of the Design Argument in the Old Testament.
The present article gives examples of the use of the Design Argument in the New Testament.
New Testament Examples of the Design Argument
The Argument from Design appears throughout the New Testament, either explicitly or implicitly. Some examples follow.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)
At the beginning of his gospel, the Apostle John introduces Jesus as the Creator.
Jesus performed many miracles of creation. Healing miracles often involved creating new flesh or bone, neural brain connections, or even muscle memory. Jesus created visible, delectable wine, bread, and fish. He demonstrated instantaneous control of weather. The point of these miracles, according to His own words, was to show precisely who Jesus was. He demonstrated His identity as the Creator by performing miracles of creation.
“…the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36; cf. John 10:25)
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:” (Revelation 3:14)
Christ is the one speaking here, and His own description of Himself includes His identity as the Beginning (or Source) of Creation.
And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer. (Revelation 10:5-6)
The mighty angel at the end of time swore by One whom he identified as the Creator of absolutely everything.
One of the New Testament’s most explicit uses of the Design Argument is in Romans 1:18-23. Paul said men are without excuse because the evidence of God the Creator is plain in nature. (See Design Argument Is Biblical for details).
The Design Argument and Pagan Culture
The Apostle Paul was history’s premier missionary strategist. In Lystra and Athens, he confronted pagan cultures that were ignorant of God. How did Paul penetrate cultures resistant to the Gospel?
Paul’s strategy was to introduce God to them the same way God identified Himself to people in Old Testament times — as the Creator. He used Creation to point to Yahweh. This is the Argument from Design.
In Lystra on Paul’s First Missionary Journey, he began with a miracle of creation (Acts 14:8-10). He healed a man who had been lame from birth who had never walked. As a result his leg muscles had surely atrophied. To provide the ability to walk, new flesh had to be created – muscles, sinews, bone, nerve fibers, etc.
The Lystrans properly understood that this miracle of creation indicated deity. They went wild with excitement and immediately began to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods and sought to offer sacrifices to them. The Lystrans simply applied the Design Argument to conclude that Paul and Barnabas were gods, since the Lystrans had seen them “create.”
Paul corrected their thinking by pointing them to the “living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:15)
Paul told the Lystrans that God’s daily work in creation of doing good and sending rains, fruitful seasons, food, and gladness provided a witness to Himself (Acts 14:17). Paul was arguing from effects in creation back to God as the original cause. This is the Design Argument.
Paul’s creation-evangelism strategy at Lystra established a sound church with enduring fruit. Paul’s portrait of the Creator resonated with Scripture that Timothy, a Lystra native, knew from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy was likely converted at this time, for Paul calls Timothy his beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2), and Timothy was already a respected believer when Paul returned at the beginning of his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:1-2).
In Lystra’s creation-sown church, Timothy matured to high regard and was drafted to accompany Paul on his Second Missionary Journey. Timothy’s crucial assignments included supervising the Ephesian church after the silversmith riot and reminding the fractious Corinthian church of Paul’s doctrine. Timothy helped author six Pauline epistles and was the addressee of two others. Thus creation evangelism at Lystra overflowed to energize the Church for 20 centuries.
On his Second Missionary Journey, Paul went to Athens and confronted another metropolis that was steeped in the darkness of ignorance and sin. In his classic “Unknown God” address Paul identified the true God to the Athenians as the “God who made the world and all things in it,” the one who “gives to all life and breath”, and the one who “made from one [man] every nation of mankind.” (Acts 17:24-26)
In Athens, creation evangelism intrigued even skeptical philosophers. Some hearers believed—like Dionysius, a high official in the Athenian Council. The Roman historian, Biblical exegete, and Christian apologist Eusebius (263-339 AD) reported that Dionysius became the first bishop of Athens and was martyred. Paul’s Design Argument pierced the darkness of Athens, as he pointed to the one who made the world and all things in it as the God to worship and serve.
In both Lystra and Athens Paul was addressing a pagan culture which did not know the God of the Old Testament as the Jews did. He therefore introduced God to the people of that culture the same way God identified Himself to the Jews in the Old Testament—as the Creator. He pointed to Creation and said God is the one who made this. This is the Design Argument.
Creation is the essential foundation of the Gospel
Why does the Bible begin by identifying God as the Creator?
Why does the Gospel of John begin by identifying Jesus as the Creator?
Why did the Apostle Paul introduce God to pagans as the Creator?
Answer: This is the essential starting point for knowing who God is!
The purpose of the Bible is to teach man about God and to lead him to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus the Bible must introduce God and Jesus to man. The Bible introduces us to God and to Jesus with the most awesome identification which we can understand, God the Creator.
Creation is the essential foundation of the Gospel! In the same breath with rescue, redemption, and forgiveness, Paul’s Gospel explanation spotlighted Jesus’ identity as the Creator: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:13-23).
God’s angel on the cusp of eternity includes Creation as part of the Gospel:
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
Revelation’s angel broadcasts the “eternal gospel” summoning all men to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea.” The “eternal gospel” includes the identity of the one men are to worship — namely, the Creator of heaven and earth.
Today we live in a post-Christian culture in which there is little Biblical knowledge upon which to build. To lead people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we must start with who God is and why He has a claim on their lives. Therefore, like Paul with the Lystrans and Athenians, we must introduce God to people of our day as The Creator, the One who made the universe.
Questions to Ponder
- Paul’s evangelistic strategy was to introduce God as the Creator to pagans whose worldview was utterly opposed. Do you think Paul’s strategy works today?
- Do you agree that the proper starting point for introducing God to people is His identity as the Creator? If not, where would you start?
- Today many people advise avoiding the Biblical history of Creation and the Flood as recorded in Genesis, because they say it puts a stumbling block in front of evolution-oriented secular people. What rebuttal would you give to that argument?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the ninth article in the Evidence for God series that discusses the question,
“Is There Evidence for God?”
Read the prequels:
1. Evidence for God – Can You Answer a 6th-Grader?
2. Evidence for God – Design
3. Evidence for God – Experience
4. Evidence for God – Can You Prove God Exists?
5. Evidence for God – Design Is Best Argument for God – Simple
6. Evidence for God – Design Is Best Argument for God – Logical
7. Evidence for God – Design Is Best Argument for God – Biblical
8. Evidence for God – Design Is Best Argument for God – Old Testament
Read the sequel:
10. Evidence for God – Stephen King and the Argument from Design
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday August 14, 2013 A.D.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)