One of the blessings of being Christians today is that, unlike people all around us, we know who we are and why we’re here. Today, Sinclair Ferguson explains why a denial of God’s existence inevitably results in an identity crisis.
Yesterday, I said that I thought we probably needed to think more about this biblical idea that since the whole of creation is a revelation of God, then nothing is ultimately atheistic. There’s no last exit from divine revelation. I mentioned a Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck. Let me mention another great Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper. Here’s a beautiful statement he makes in his encyclopedia of theology when he says, “If the cosmos is the theater of revelation, in this theater, man is both actor and spectator.” We were thinking yesterday about being spectators of revelation, but we’re also actors on the stage. Why is that? Because we are made as the image of God; we’re made to reflect God. The creation account in Genesis 1 climaxes with God making man in a different way from the way He had made other creatures, making man after holding a divine council, and making him in particular as His image in order to reflect Him and to imitate Him.
And so, you see in the opening two chapters of the Bible that as God has created all things and filled all things, so man as His image is given a little garden, and he’s told to tend it and keep it and to fill it, and indeed, to extend it. It’s almost as though God wanted Adam and Eve to be able to walk with Him in the cool of the day and to discuss the things they had in common. It’s a beautiful picture, but you see what it means. It means that we can never escape the revelation of God, not only because we are surrounded by it, but because in a sense, we carry it around with us even although we have defaced and deformed it, which is exactly the point that Paul makes in his sermon to the Athenians when he quotes a couple of pagan writers as saying, “In [God] we live and move and have our being. And we are indeed his offspring” (Acts 17:28). So that it’s not only that there is no last exit from divine revelation that surrounds us, it actually invades us.
Remember how Ecclesiastes puts it? God has set this burden upon us: He has set eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). “Our hearts,” as the great theologian Augustine said, “are restless until they find their rest in God.” I’m sure you’ve noticed from the opinion polls that it’s really become cool and modern to say that you don’t believe in God. Actually, I think it’s rather like what smoking cigarettes used to be to teenagers. Some of that was fueled by kicking over the traces, wasn’t it? It was cool; it was what everybody else was doing. And then ultimately, it became a habit and it lasted a lifetime until, in many cases, it killed you. And it’s rather the same today with atheism. It’s become cool as long as you don’t think about it. But here’s what the Bible is teaching us: that ultimately, if you deny the existence of God, it’s not only that God collapses from your world and life view, it’s that your own identity collapses from your world and life view, and you no longer know who you really are.
You’ve got to make up your own version of how the world came to be. And at the end of the day, as we are so often told nowadays, you’ve actually got to make up your own identity. And we’re living, at least in the Western world, in a pandemic of identity crisis. We deny God, and we lose our own identity. We no longer know who we are. We become lost souls, and the result is our governments and our agencies and our programs and our schools spend billions and billions of dollars in the Western world trying to help young people know what their identity is, but they have cut off the source of that identity in God. And our young people no longer know the answer to the question “Who am I?” Now listen to this, especially if you might be a teenager listening. One of the greatest blessings today of being a Christian is that in distinction from all the people around you, you know who you are, and you know what you are for.
You were made as God’s image, to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to be with Him. And I want to say to you, that makes all the difference in the world, and yes, also in the world to come.