Word for Wednesday… Evidence (Part 2)
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us...1 John 3:16, NRSV
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him.1 John 4:9, NRSV
Last week, in my Word for Wednesday post, I encouraged you all to spend some time observing God’s creation, receiving it as evidence of his wisdom and power. Going on the assumption that everyone who reads these posts is a follower of Jesus, I was confident this would be a positive experience. But what if someone looked to creation as evidence of God apart from any knowledge of Jesus? Would they come away with a similar impression? By itself, how comforting is the knowledge about God we obtain from his creation?
In the field of theology there is a distinction drawn between natural theology, or the knowledge about God we can acquire through our observation of the world around us, and revealed theology, which is the knowledge about God we only possess on account of him communicating it to us directly. Creation can tell us that God is powerful, wise, and intelligent, but it cannot tell us he is loving and good. In fact, for people who have experienced natural disasters, like drought, famine, and earthquakes, it may suggest the exact opposite. It’s easy to understand why early peoples lived in fear of their gods, and why they were willing to go to such lengths as human sacrifice to appease them. We only know that God is good and loves us because of Jesus. Jesus is the evidence that proves these things to us, evidence we accept through faith, believing Jesus was who he said he was.
All New Testament authors would agree with this sentiment, but John, perhaps more than all the others, stressed the importance of God’s revelation in Jesus. As we have discussed in our Easter sermon series on 1 John, there were some early believers who were challenging the mystery of the incarnation, the belief that in Jesus, God “became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). John understood how essential this doctrine was in communicating God’s love for us. Apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we would not know how much God loves us, or even what love is, at least as God defines it. Seeing the world through the lens of Jesus makes the beauty of creation so much greater.