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Is creation sufficient to convert sinners?

Romans 1:1, 20 NASB
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, [20] 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.

It is often said that all the unconverted are without excuse, irrespective of whether or not they have heard and understood the gospel.  It seems to be assumed, without question that just because someone preached at them, and mentioned the name of Jesus, that they have now officiallu heard but is thus true?

The verse prior to it says:

Romans 1:18-19 NASB
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19] because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

This brings up the question as what it means to suppress the truth.  Many preachers think it means that these unbeliever are suppressing the “witness” of the truth in themselves.  Yet when Paul was in Athens he spoke of an unknown God.

Acts 17:22-23 NASB
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. [23] “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

Therefore the indication is that it does seem to be possible to be ignorant of God today.  Of particular interest is that this was after the Holy Spirit had been given and yet it implies that they did not know God.  Yet Romans 1:19 suggests that they did know Him.  Apparently a contradiction if this popular interpretation is taken to be true.

However if Romans 1 is talking about the Jews, rather than the Gentiles, then it is easier to understand.  It was the Jews who knew God but then worshipped idols.  They made the golden calf when Moses went up on the mountain even though they had seen many miracles.

Romans 1:20 NASB
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.

Again, who is without excuse?  Was it those who believe in a god, but not the one true God?  Does it include all those who have never heard the gospel?

Romans 1:32 NASB
and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Do they all really know the ordinance of God?  Do all atheists know the ordinance of God?  Do they all really know about not coveting “thy neighbours ox”?  There is no law against that in my country as long as you don’t steal it but it is against God’s law, indeed the ten commandments.

I do believe that once they have had the gospel preached to them and the Holy Spirit has spoken to them through the gospel they are indeed accountable.  However, I am not convinced that all human endeavours performed in the name of “evangelism” is effective, and in many cases, nor do I believe it can be.

Romans 1:21 NASB
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.

There is a difference to knowing God and simply knowing about God.  Do atheists really know God?  I think there is a difference between knowing about creation and knowing about God also.

In conclusion I find it hard to personally accept that the existence of creation is sufficient to convert an atheist, even in principle.  I still believe that that is the role of the gospel and that the gospel as demonstrated and spoken by an evangelist or the witness of a believer.  I still don’t believe the existence of creation, as spendid as nature can be, is sufficient to convert an unbeliever alone.

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