THE WONDROUS WORKS OF GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-16-64 10:50 a.m.
On television, you are watching the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Wondrous Works of God. In the one hundred fourth Psalm, the twenty fourth verse, there is an exclamation of the psalmist.
O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches.
This is the second part of a sermon from the first verse of the fourteenth Psalm, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" [Psalm 14:1]. And last Sunday morning we took the first part of that message, What The Fool Says In His Heart: there is no God. We do not seek an answer for the materialism, and the pseudoscience, and the atheism, and the communism, and all of the other philosophies that deny God. We are not finding in these two sermons an answer in the Bible, because they do not accept the Bible. To them, the Word of God written in the Holy Scriptures is nothing. It is a non-entity. It is not authoritative. It is not acceptable. So we have not sought an answer in the Bible. We are seeking an answer in the undeniable world in which all mankind lives. And God has written of Himself as lucidly, as plainly, in the works of His hands as God has written of Himself by the inspired prophets and apostles.
In last Sunday’s sermon, we spoke of the intuitive witness to God in a man’s heart. As it is written here in the nineteenth verse of the first chapter of Romans, "That which may be known of God is manifested in us" [Romans 1:19]. There is an intuitive, instinctive witness of the great Almighty which is written in a man’s soul, inlaid in a man’s heart.
Now today we take the next great witness, which is written in the works of creation beyond the man himself. The twentieth verse follows the nineteenth: "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." The invisible God is presented, and delineated, and glorified in the things that are made, "even His eternal power and Godhead" [Romans 1:20]. "The heavens declare" – those are present tenses – "the heavens are declaring the glory of God. The firmament is showing forth His handiwork. Day unto day he utters speech," He speaks every day of Himself, night unto night he shows knowledge, the knowledge of God [Psalm 19:1-2]. These things are witnesses of the personality, and the intelligence, and the will, and the mind of the great Maker and Creator of the world.
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a monument to Sir Christopher Wren, the incomparable architect. He is buried in the cathedral. And many of you have stood at that tomb and have read the Latin inscription above his name, "Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice." "Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you." So with the great Almighty God; "Sir, if you would see Him, and know Him, and realize His presence, look around you."
Now, when the fool says in his heart, when the atheist says in his heart, when the communist says in his heart, when the materialist says in his heart, when the pseudoscientist says in his heart, when the shallow metaphysician and philosopher says in his heart, when the cheap college student who’s just been introduced to a little knowledge says in his heart, "There is no God"; he cannot deny and remain sane, he cannot deny the majesty, and the glory, and the wonder, and the power of the world around him.
So what he does is this: he identifies God with materiality. This is God, the only God there is: everything is God and God is everything. Nature is God and God is nature. Matter is God and God is matter. It is eternal; it’s always been here, this world of matter, this creation around us. It is self-sustaining. It is self-sufficient. It is self-created. And this innate, inert, unconscious matter gave birth, they say, to mind, and intelligence, and will, and personality. That’s call pantheism; the identification of God with the world of matter is called pantheism. And pantheism has been the curse of the human race ever since men first began to think.
Lucan the Roman poet, for example, wrote, "Whatsoever thou seest is God." Seneca, the Roman philosopher who taught Nero said, "What is God? God is all that you see and all that you do not see." I have copied here a poem dedicated to Orpheus.
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 vast form endures, embraces all that lives.
That is pantheism, that God is everything we see, that matter is eternal, and that there is none other beside this material world in which we live, which has been here from the beginning.
Well, there are many things to be said about such a materialistic, atheistic philosophy. To begin with, to me it is undeniable that there is a vast chasm between matter and mind, between phenomena and personality, between stuff, stuff, matter, earth, dirt, world, creation – there is a vast gulf between matter and the personality that we know exists in the world because it exists in us. You think, you see, you hear, you act, you’re free in choice. What a gulf between you and inert, dead matter, the world around us. That which feels, and touches, and tastes, and sees, and hears is as real as what is felt, or tasted, or touched, or seen. There are two things in this world. There’s not one thing, there are two things in this world; matter is one thing, but mind is an altogether different thing.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for example, 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 the hand and the 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 of me, the eye was not an eternal reality, and that the spiritual is not the real and true part of me.
There is more in this world than just materiality, stuff, substance, matter and dirt. There is also mind, and thought, and will, and emotion, and life, and personality. You will find that expressed in the apostle Paul when he is describing the one God and Father of all in the sixth verse of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, "One God and Father of all, who is through all." That alone would be pantheism; left alone that would be pantheism. This is God. Everything is God. But he also says this God is "in you all" [Ephesians 4:6]. Now, left alone that would be mysticism – the esoteric denominator in a man that can think, and visualize, and dream, and conjure up visions and all, mysticism.
But he has a third there; God, the Father of all who is "above all" [Ephesians 4:6]; transcendent, separate! This great God who has mind, and personality, and will is separate from His works, and above His works. God’s works and God are not the same thing, no more than a man and his works are the same thing. A cabinet is not the carpenter, and a bridge is not the engineer. A man’s works are separate from the man himself; so God’s works are separate from God Himself. And even we ourselves are no more the part of God than our children are a part of us, or that the subject would be a part of the king.
We are different and separate, and God is separate from His great creation. God is infinite; creation is finite, it can be measured. God is omnipotent; creation of itself is impotent and inert except that it is moved by the will of God. God is immutable; creation is mutable, malleable. God is eternal; creation experiences birth and decay. The identification of God with matter, the avowal that this creation is eternal and it is itself God, is a monstrous doctrine.
For matter, inert, dead, unconscious itself unto the law of necessity, matter could never in my humble judgment and opinion, matter could never create or give birth to mind, and soul, and spirit, and will, and emotion, and thought, and personality. And these materialists, and pseudoscientists, and metaphysicians who seek for the source of mind, and spirit, and personality in some physiochemical combination, to me, they’re like creatures who bury themselves in the muck, and the mire, and the dirt of the earth and refuse to lift up their eyes to see what’s above them.
For mind, and spirit, and personality come from some other source than inert, dead material essence, matter. I have another comment that must be made rapidly. Whenever one identifies God with the created universe – pantheism, whenever a man makes God the world around him and calls it eternal being – when a man does that, he obliterates all moral distinction, all of it. For the lists, the category of human crime becomes as worthy as virtue itself because it’s all God; if God is everything and everything is God, then there are no distinctions to be made in what is, because what is, is God. Whether it’s violence and blood, or whether it is nobility and virtue, that is a senseless, and a hopeless, and a dishonoring doctrine. And yet that is the faith of the ordinary professor, and the ordinary college institution, and the ordinary philosopher, and the ordinary teacher, and the ordinary metaphysician, and the ordinary scientist. By the main and by the large, this whole earth in its academic profession has given itself to the belief that this material universe is eternal, self-creative, self-sustaining, and has never known a personal God.
Let us seek behind the veil of matter and see what we can find. It is my thesis that behind the veil of matter you will find intelligence. You will find mind. You will find a person. You will find the infinite and supreme personality, Almighty God.
Now let’s take one instance, the only instance whereby we are able to get behind matter and look at it. The only way, the only time, the only instance we can ever do that is with our own brain. Your brain can be weighed and measured. It is something you can hold in your hand, your head, your brain. You get behind that matter, get behind that lump, get behind that piece of decaying clay; get behind it and what do you find? You find you! You find a self. You find a mind. You find a person, somebody that can think, and love, or hate, or will, or choose, lives, you! Now, using that as a typical instance of all creation, if we could get behind matter, and get behind substance, and get behind creation, if we can get behind it you will find there a person, a mind, a personality, a thinking intellectual.
A man’s mind is able to trace God’s thoughts and God’s works throughout the universe. Would it not be a strange and impossible contradiction in any man’s thinking mind that he can think thoughts, but nobody ever thought those thoughts before him? He can follow the great, intelligent workmanship of God, but there was no intelligent workmanship going before. It is inanity itself because when we think those thoughts, they were there before we were born! And when we trace God’s works, they were there before our minds realized them, before we were cognizant of them. For a man to deny mind and thought in this world is a madness because we possess it! And what we’re thinking and what we’re seeing is what some other mind far transcendant of our own has done and wrought. When a man takes his telescope and sweeps the heaven, he’s not creating astronomy; he’s just looking at what some great mind has already wrought. And wouldn’t it be a marvelous and strange thing if the great Creator of this world couldn’t think? That the great Creator of this world couldn’t see? That the great Creator of this world couldn’t hear? That He couldn’t think?
One of the most terrific of all of the things I have found in the Bible is in the ninety-fourth Psalm,
You that say the Lord cannot see,
Understand, ye brutish among the people; and ye fools: when shall ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?
He that chastiseth the nations, shall He not correct? And He that teacheth knowledge, shall He not know?
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
Vanity! Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing, the psalmist says, that the One that created an eye couldn’t see, that He is blind? That the one who created the ear couldn’t hear, that He is deaf. That the One who thought this great complexity around us couldn’t think? The intelligence of God, the mind of God, can be seen in the purposiveness that He has placed all through this universe, all through it.
In the infinitely, infinitude above us, in the infinitesimally small minutiae below us, the purpose that God hath placed and written large in this whole universe. Whenever you visit Damascus and see a loom weaving their damask, those beautiful cloths with designs in them, it’d be a unusual man look at that loom and say those magnificent patterns are woven by the loom itself, without a weaver. Why, back of the thing, of necessity lies the purpose of a man’s mind who made that beautiful pattern.
Wouldn’t it be an astonishing thing for a man to say those gloves assembling that electric generator, what a marvelous astuteness in those gloves; why, without a hand in it that guides, the glove is nothing. What an amazing thing for a man to think that houses build themselves. They assemble themselves.
In the third chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the fourth verse, the author there says, "Every house is builded by some man." He writes that as truism. Wouldn’t you believe that? You couldn’t have a house without a builder. Some man would have to construct it. Then he uses it so, "all things that are built are of God!" [Hebrews 3:4]. For a man to persuade himself that a thing could assemble itself with a designed purpose, and no purpose back of it, and no mind to give vent to it, or thought to it, or execute it is an impossible conception!
Way down deep in the dark secrets, in the dark secrets of the maternal womb, where no light ever falls, way down in the secrets of life an eye will be formed. No light has fallen. It is dark and secret. But there is a purposiveness that is forming and shaping that eye and guides and executes its building. For what? Because out there in the world God created light [Genesis 1:3-4]. And the purposiveness of God’s creation is found in the making of an eye, for to look upon that light. And that purposiveness of God is found throughout His universe.
A fin will grow on a fish, a hoof will grow on a horse, a wing will grow on a bird, a hand will grow on a man for a reason; and God’s whole universe is purposive, all of it, all of it; back of it there lies that infinite intelligence.
When you look into the starry heavens and there’s heat, and there’s light, and there’s gravitational pull, it is for a great meaning that makes possible our world. And for a man to read out the meaning, to obviate the meaning, to forget the meaning, to be blind to the meaning is to be blind to the thing itself, for the thing itself lies in its meaning!
Like a book: no book is written by grammar and spelling, but according to the laws of grammar and spelling; and the idea, and the thought, and the meaning, and the purpose is the great thing in writing a book. So it is in God’s great book of creation. This thing wasn’t constructed and built by the laws of heat, or electricity, or gravitational pull, but this thing was made according to those great laws for a meaning and for a purpose. And the great reality lies in the idea, in the meaning, in the purpose.
Like a ship: a ship isn’t just fortuitously, accidentally used because of its existence there, but a ship was made that way in its basic, ultimate, primary construction; it was made for that! So the things in God’s universe lie in a purposive will. Again, that infinite intelligence is found in the design and order that you find throughout, throughout all God’s creation.
Everything has its relationship; the little chemical elements, the atomic structures, the solar systems in their orbits, everything is according to infinite design and pattern. Useful collocations obtain everywhere, and everything is in its proportion, quantitative, qualitative, and there is an infinite mind that governs and wills all through the pattern and design and order of God’s universe. And to meet it here is to know what it is there.
For example, one apple on a tree; you could argue from it to all of the other apples on the tree. Newton argued from the fall of one apple to the ground – he argued from the fall of one apple to gravity on the moon and throughout the sidereal spheres.
Rowland, for example, argued from the chemistry in his one little test-tube to the chemistry on Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. And wherever you find God’s work, there will you find that same mind, that same order, that same relationship unbreakable and immutable by the will and mandate and thought of an intelligent God.
You can see that in how things look: God making things, all things, according to pattern, and design, and order, and collocation. You can see it in the snowflakes; what marvelous, ingenious, geometrical patterns, no two alike, created by the infinite intelligence of God, who loves order and relationship. You can see it in snowflakes. You can see it in the solar system. You can see it in flowers, and in leaves, in botany, in chemistry, in anatomy, in astronomy, in biology, in zoology. You can see it in the basic atomic construction of all that God has created.
Whenever a scientist takes his stick and takes his crayon, takes his chalk, and he writes up there a demonstration of atomic structure, he will always use geometric patterns in doing it. And those geometric patterns are reproduced exactly alike ten hundred times five hundred billion, trillion infinitudes, the same mind through it all. Could such a thing be by accident? Why, man, one little boy might have a marble that is accidentally round, but if he has a dozen that are round, they are manufactured, they are made that way by somebody’s mind and purpose and design.
So it is with the infinitude of the designs God hath made in this world. It couldn’t be by accident. I am quoting from the eloquent Latin orator, Cicero. Listen to that pagan who didn’t know the name of God, but who believes, waiting the day of revelation when we’d know His name, who believes in the great Almighty. Listen to the eloquent Cicero.
Can anything be done by chance that has all the marks of design? Four dice –
and I apologized for this at the eight fifteen o’clock service. I’m not, I have no affinity with craps, no, but this is what he said. And this is Cicero –
Four dice may by chance turn up their aces, their ones –
know more about it than you thought I did –
four dice may by chance turn up their aces, but – says this eloquent Cicero – do you think that four hundred dice when thrown by chance will turn up four hundred aces? Colors – says the eloquent Cicero – when thrown up on 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 ground Aristotelian treaties on Greek drama? The truth is that chance never imitates design.
Talk about four hundred aces, when you talk about the creative work of God, you’re talking about four hundred million billion infinitudes, every one of them exactly alike according to the word of God, the mandate of God, the will of God, the mind and intelligence of God.
Plato said, "God geometrizes." Pythagoras said number is the essence of reality. The heavens above are just crystallized mathematics; a crystal you can hold in your hand, break it and look at it, see how it’s formed in its atomic structure, a crystal is nothing but solid geometry. All of the laws of force are numerically expressed and the interchange of energy in chemical combinations is numerical, always and no science reaches its final form until it is ultimately mathematical.
Here, and I must hasten, and I must close. Here is the personal testimony of a skeptic that became a Christian:
Some years ago, I had the misfortune, he says, to meet the fallacies of Hume, the atheist Hume, the evolutionist Hume. I had the misfortune to meet the fallacies of Hume on the subject of causation, where everything came from. His special sophistry shook the faith of my reason as to the being of a God. One beautiful morning 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 pursuing one of the academician’s most starry dreams. I laid fast, it laid fast hold of my fancy. I wept to think it could not be true. Plato was an idealist, he believed in God though he didn’t know His name. At length, I came to that startling sentence, "God geometrizes," one of the famous sentences in all philosophy and all literature. "God geometrizes." "Vain reverie!" I exclaimed as I cast the volume at my feet. It happened to fall close by one of those beautiful little flowers. 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. The 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 ear, "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 only one flower. There were one hundred twenty five chances against it. I extended the calculation to two flowers by squaring the sums last mentioned. The chances amounted to the large sum of fifteen thousand six hundred twenty-five. If you had just two flowers and each one had a sequence of five three times, there would be fifteen thousand six hundred twenty-five chances against it in just two flowers. I cast my eyes around the forest. The old woods were literally alive with those golden blooms, every one of which had five stamen, and five calyxes, and five coral parting rays beside the five beautiful petals. 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, "Sing on, sunny birds. Sing on, sweet minstrels. Lo, you and I have a God."
[from "The Existence of the Deity," Andrew Jackson Davis, 1847]
This is the conversion of a man who reputed the Book, the Bible, but he found the great Lord God in the wondrous works of His hands. Ah, how meaningful my text. "O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches" [Psalm 104:24].
Why, I feel like saying to the isles of the sea, and to the farthest peoples of the earth, "Oh come, let us bow down. Let us worship. Let us call upon His name, the great God, our Savior" [Psalm 95:6]. That’s what makes a man a man, makes mankind mankind, lifts us up and exalt us from the muck, and the mire, and the dirt of the world; made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27].
We must close and press our appeal. As we sing our song, somebody to give his heart this day to the Lord Jesus. "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God, and here I am. Here I stand." A family to put their lives in the fellowship of this great church, "Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today." One somebody you, a couple you, a child or youth, as God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it now. Make it now. Come this morning, while we stand, and while we sing.