Many an atheist contends that the invisible God is nothing more than a figment of the imagination. How could any intelligent person believe in something that presents no proof that it exists?
Laying aside the naturalistic naïveté of this limited kind of thinking, let’s humor the atheist for a moment. Imagine if the invisible God did, in fact, choose to be silent rather than to disclose Himself. Imagine if Hebrews 1.1-2 were not true—that this invisible, infinite-personal, sovereign Creator did not speak to the fathers “by the prophets at different times and in different ways,” nor did He disclose Himself most fully “in Son” (i.e., in the person and work of Jesus Christ). Imagine that the Bible is nothing more than an intricate piece of literary fiction, but not really inspired communication from the invisible God.
Again, mere human reasoning aside, imagine if God chose to be silent. Reasonably speaking then, no means could exist by which he has communicated. All sacred writings, angels, visions, and any other physically tangible evidence of God would simply be nonsense. We could never hope for any so-called transcendent instruction about life’s ultimate questions—or any question, for that matter—because no genuinely transcendent communication would exist. The cosmic accident that is humanity would be left to grope hopelessly in eternal darkness about any of these things.
If all this were true, if God did choose to be silent, we couldn’t stop at forms of special revelation; we’d also have to include His silence of general revelation. That is, nothing of the invisible God or His nature would be communicated through anything in creation. We would know no love, for God is love. We would know no sense of justice or equity, for God is holy. We’d have no capacity for creativity or cultural progress, for God is Creator. We would know nothing of a diverse and expansive created order, for God is both infinite and Trinity. Oh, and by the way, creation itself would not even exist, for the invisible God alone possesses necessary Being. Everything else is dependent being as an outward expression or communication of his nature and Being.
So, if God chose to be silent, not only would any conversation about the matter be entirely superfluous, it would in fact be non-existent, for everything (except God) would be non-existent.
But God has spoken!
Not only do the heavens declare the reality of the invisible God, but also, in his incarnate Son, He has declared fully and finally, “I AM.” Only the fool says, “Not so.”
Twentieth century theologian Carl F. H. Henry rightly asserted that God’s “speaking” is foundational for knowing anything. Think about it. If God is God and human beings are created in His image, not only does all knowledge originate from Him, but also even the very ability to know—not merely to know Him, but to know anything—is an ability and gift that originates from Him. That is, the same God who created everything out of nothing and crafted humanity in His own image also gave His chief creation the capacity to acquire knowledge. So, God’s communicating is foundational for knowing anything.
The implication for systematic Bible study is clear, then. If God’s revelation—His “speaking”—is foundational for knowing anything, then certainly, exploring His written communication one book at a time is foundational—as the apostle Peter put it—for “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1.3). Further, if that exploration is conducted together by the whole community of faith, in groups of all ages, God’s revelation can best fulfill its purpose of pointing people to Himself in Jesus Christ and transforming the lives of both individuals and the community. This Godward transformation is undoubtedly what the apostle Paul had in mind when he admonished believers at Colossae to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3.16)—the foundational precept, by the way, embodied in the Old Testament’s greatest commandment (Deut 6.4-9).
By means of the divinely inspired Scriptures that testify of the Son to all His priceless image bearers, the invisible God has provided all the answers to the human race’s ultimate questions about why we even exist. Moreover, the same Scriptures provide instruction for how we are to exist, both for our greatest fulfillment and for right acknowledgment of the invisible God as the universe’s supreme—and supremely good—Being.
As the Bible affirms of itself, its instruction is of more value than fine gold; it renders one wiser than all his or her teachers. Because it is speech from the Almighty, only wise God, its precepts are foundational for every facet of life. Every human being, therefore, would “do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1.19).