“The heavens declare the glory of God.” Every day, to each human being, the universe tells us something: There is a creator, and he is unimaginably powerful.
For centuries, people have called this “the Book of Nature,” or, to use a theological term, “general revelation.”
But it is obvious that something has gone wrong with this “Book of Nature,” this story of God’s glory. At the very least, something has gone wrong with our ability to read it right. The words seem to be smudged. Important pages are missing. In fact, the more closely we look, we will notice that there is another story written between the lines—a tragic tale of selfishness, rebellion, despair, and, finally, death.
This is not the story of the original Author. Rather, it was edited by our own sin and rebellion, as we are told in Genesis 3:17-19:
Cursed is the ground because of you [Adam]; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The Apostle Paul expresses it this way in Romans 8:20: “The creation was subjected to futility,” and is in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21).
This “futility” and “bondage” is part of the reason that on one night we might look up at the stars and say, “What a Creator!” And on another day, we look at the decay all around us, and say, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
It is because of human sin that humans fail to read the book of nature as we should. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1:19-21, when he writes,
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
There is enough in the Book of Nature to show us that there is a God and that he is unimaginably powerful and glorious. But the Book of Nature is powerless to teach us why we are in such a predicament, why we feel so wretched and still long for light and salvation. It is powerless to teach us how to have a right relationship with God.
And that’s why we need another book, the Book of Scripture.