Can We Understand God’s Ways?

by Dr. Jason Lisle on March 12, 2010
Featured in Feedback

A supportive pastor asks us why we teach that God’s ways are understandable to humans. But as Dr. Jason Lisle, AiG–U.S., points out, understanding God’s ways is impossible for finite minds.

A supportive pastor in Pennsylvania sent us a letter on January 5. In that letter, he curiously wrote that “[Answers in Genesis] should not tell people that God’s ways are always understandable to the natural rebellious mind.” This is not what we teach, and, so, we had Dr. Jason Lisle of our staff (and the author of The Ultimate Proof) respond to him in a letter—which we post here:

Hello Pastor,

Thank you for your letter, your encouragement, and your constructive criticism. I’m delighted that Answers in Genesis has been a blessing in your life, and we pray it will continue to be so. I will try to address your concerns to the best of my ability.

First, allow me to clarify what we mean by “autonomous human reason.” By this phrase we mean how some people attempt to rely on the conclusions of the mind without using biblical presuppositions. Biblical presuppositions include such things as laws of logic, induction, the basic reliability of memory, and the basic reliability of our senses. Such things are only meaningful in a Christian worldview; the new book The Ultimate Proof of Creation shows why this must be the case, and why secular worldviews cannot account for such presuppositions (see chapter 3 for examples).

[Evolutionists] are being inconsistent: tacitly relying upon God’s Word while verbally rejecting that same Word.

So, are people able to have knowledge about the universe without these biblical presuppositions? No, they cannot. Knowledge of the universe absolutely requires using things like laws of logic, memory, induction, and sensory experience. I cannot really “know” that the sun is shining unless I also know that my eyes are basically reliable—that what I see is real and not illusion. But if the eyes are merely the accidental product of evolution, there is no fundamental reason to trust their sensations, nor the brain’s interpretation of those sensations.

Evolutionists, of course, do believe that their senses are reliable, that there are laws of logic, etc. But in doing so, they are relying upon biblical presuppositions. They are being inconsistent: tacitly relying upon God’s Word while verbally rejecting that same Word. Romans 1 tells us why this happens. It teaches that God has revealed Himself to all men; thus, they are able to use biblical presuppositions. Yet, they suppress that truth in unrighteousness. This is why there is absolutely no excuse for their rejection of God.

A “Mature Creation”

Yes, we do believe in “mature creation.” The universe was fully functioning by the end of Day 6, with Adam made as an adult. The stars were giving light upon the earth. We fully embrace this. Perhaps there was confusion on this issue because we recommend against using the term appearance of age. This is because “age” cannot be literally “seen,” and, so, the term appearance of age is a meaningless expression, like “the color of smell.”

Or perhaps the confusion is because we recommend (for biblical and logical reasons) against the “light-in-transit” model for distant starlight. Light-in-transit is not the same thing as mature creation; rather light-in-transit is one explanation (albeit a problematic one) for the mechanism by which God accomplished His mature creation. There are scriptural and logical reasons to think that some other mechanism (perhaps a supernatural one beyond our understanding) is the way that God made the light from the stars shine upon earth, thereby finishing his complete and fully functioning creation by the seventh day.

I do not believe, however, that God purposely includes misinformation in His creation. To intentionally create misinformation is (by definition) to lie. And the Bible tells us that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), nor does He ever tempt anyone to evil (James 1:13). The problem is that we fallible humans do not always properly interpret what we find in the natural world. This is particularly the case with those who have rejected the truth of Scripture; their faulty worldview causes them to misunderstand what they see in the world. But even Christians can make mistakes and misunderstand what we see in God’s creation. The fault lies always with us, though, and never with God (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Nature is not what we call “propositional truth.” Sometimes people will say “the evidence points to this” or “follow the evidence where it leads.” But if we’re really honest, evidence doesn’t literally “point” or “lead.” It always requires interpretation, and people will interpret it according to their worldview. A rock isn’t “true” or “false”; it simply is. What people think the rock means will depend on their worldview—what they already believe about the nature of truth, evidence, and the universe. If they have adamantly rejected God’s Word, no amount of evidence in the physical world will convince them otherwise.

There is nothing wrong with the evidence, though. It is humanity alone who is to blame—thus, we have no excuse (Romans 1:20). Although God does not lie, it is true that He can use someone else’s lie to accomplish His purpose, particularly with those who have rejected His truth (as you rightly pointed out). Those who have rejected God’s Word will not correctly understand God’s world—and God will allow them to continue to deceive themselves.

Reason Alone?

We certainly agree that Christians are not able through the use of logic and reason alone to convince unbelievers. The Bible makes it clear that the power of the Holy Spirit is required for anyone to come to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3). Nonetheless, we are to give a reasoned defense of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15).

There is no paradox when we consider that there is a difference between proof and persuasion. Proof is objective. Persuasion is subjective. An argument is proved if it has true premises that are connected through correct reasoning. But it still may not persuade everyone, even if the proof is absolutely objectively airtight. Jesus offered infallible proof of his resurrection (Acts 1:3), but not everyone was persuaded (Matthew 28:17). We are to give the proof of the Bible—a sound reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15), but only the Holy Spirit can bring persuasion (1 Corinthians 12:3). I hope this clarifies our position.

The Christian faith is provable; that is, we can know with absolute certainty that Christ is Lord. The apostle Peter makes this very clear (Acts 2:36). If it were not provable, if there was even the tiniest chance that the Christian worldview is wrong, then the unbeliever would have some excuse on the day of judgment. He could legitimately point out that the evidence was not completely conclusive. However, the Bible tells us that unbelievers will have no excuse whatsoever (Romans 1:20).

The Human Mind

We do not tell people that God’s ways are always understandable to the human mind; I certainly hope we haven’t given that impression in any of our literature. God is infinite, and, therefore, there will always be an infinite number of things about God that we do not understand (Isaiah 55:8–9).

I do believe, however, that the biblical worldview is logical and gives us the basic foundation for knowledge. Knowledge must begin with the source of all truth—the biblical God (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3). I also believe that when we start with the Bible as our authority, it makes sense of the scientific evidence we see. This is not to say that we will always understand every fact we encounter. But we do have a “big picture,” basic understanding of what the world is and how it came to be this way—thanks to the revelation of God’s Word.

Thank you again for your encouragement and your kind remarks. I hope that this reply at least briefly clarifies our position on these issues. You may wish to get a copy of The Ultimate Proof of Creation for further information on the apologetic method advocated at Answers in Genesis. Also, for a more extensive explanation of our position on mature creation (which again—we do hold to), see Old Earth Creationism on Trial. And for more information on why we believe light-in-transit is not the best mechanism to account for the mature creation, see the DVD Distant Starlight.

I hope this reply is helpful to you. God Bless.

Dr. Jason Lisle


Get the latest answers emailed to you.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390