I am slowly working my way through Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Turretin was a professor in Geneva in the mid-1600s. He died in 1687. His Institutes are divided up into twenty topics, which he then works through by asking and answering various questions. I am currently on his third topic, which is “The One and Triune God.”
The first question in this third topic is:
Can the existence of God be irrefutably demonstrated against the atheists? We affirm
Turretin then gives four demonstrations that God exists.
1. The voice of universal nature
2. The contemplation of man himself
3. The testimony of conscience
4. The consent of all mankind.
In the midst of arguing his first point about the “voice of universal nature” he has a wonderful section about how the order of universe proves God. All the bold and brackets are mine.
The wonderful beauty and order of the universe is another proof. For if order requires wisdom and intelligence, the most perfect supposes the most perfectly necessary and infinite wisdom which we call God. Now he is blind who does not see the most beautiful order everywhere and most wicked who does not acknowledge it. There is so suitable disposition of parts, so constant a concord of things so discordant, so harmonious an agreement and consent of creatures the most diverse, so swift and at the same time equable motion of the heavenly bodies and so immutable a stability and constancy of the order once established. So not only do the heavens declare the glory of God, but every blade of grass and every flower of the field, every pebble on the shore and every shell in the ocean proclaim not only his power and goodness, but also his manifold wisdom, so near each one that even by feeling, God can be found. Augustine says, “The prophetic voices excepted, the world itself by its own most regular mutability and mobility and the exquisitely beautiful appearance of all visible things, silently as it were proclaims both that it was made and could be made only by a God unspeakably and invisibly great, and unspeakably and invisibly beautiful.”
You may say perhaps that these things were so arranged by chance and by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. But I know not whether such an impious and absurd opinion is worthy of refutation, since these things denote not chance, but the highest art. For things which come by chance are uncertain and ill-arranged and have nothing constant and similar; but nothing can be conceived more regular and composed than this universal frame. To say, then, that this beautiful and highly decorated universe was produced by a fortuitous concourse of atoms is the same as to say that, “if innumerable forms of the one and twenty letters were thrown together, the annals of Ennius [An epic Roman poem] could be produced from them when shaken upon the earth and could afterwards be read” [Cicero].
In the same place he [Cicero] quotes from Aristotle: “If there were persons who had always lived under the earth in good and splendid habitation and yet had never come out upon its surface, but had heard that there was a deity and a power of the gods; then upon some occasion the jaws of the earth being opened they could come out and walk abroad in these places where we now live; when suddenly they would see the earth, and the sea and the heavens, and behold the sun, and know both its admirable magnitude and virtue, and contemplate the whole sky bespangled with stars, their rising and setting, their regulated and immutable eternal motion; when they saw these things they would assuredly think both that there were gods, and that these so magnificent works were theirs.
Finally, Turretin turns to the human body as proof of God’s existence.
Man himself has in his own breast a familiar teacher of this very truth. If he would withdraw his attention from all things and reflect upon himself, he would recognize no less wisdom in the little world [the human body] than in the great, and admire in his body a visible (and in his mind scintillating) divinity. For whence is the body constructed with such wonderful and stupendous skill? Whence so many different members created together by a mutual interweaving and so fitly disposed to their peculiar offices, unless from an immense spirit? When the mind, a particle of the divine breath, possessed of so many faculties, furnished with so many gifts, unless from a supreme intelligence? This image clearly bespeaks its prototype, and everyone who pays attention will not only hear and see God present in himself, but also in a manner touch and feel him.
The questions we often hear about chance, matter, the existence of God, etc. are not new ones. The context might be different, but the questions are the same. And the answers have not changed either. Heaven declares God’s glory (Psalm 19:1). Man is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). All men have God’s image stamped on them (James 3:9) All men have a conscience that reflects God’s law (Romans 1:18-21, 2:14-15). Man knows that God is and that this world was created by his power and wisdom. He always has.
This is a re-post from the fall of 2015.