Being a person of extreme apologetic bent, I’m always looking to validate Christian truth claims. Apologetics is critical in a Western culture drenched in secularism, where most people fit into one of the Triple A categories: Atheist, Agnostic, or Apathetic. For them this life is all that matters, even as short as it is, and they have no curiosity to see if there is any meaning beyond sheer material existence. As Christians we must be endlessly curious, asking the big questions all the time. So I have one to share with those who are more like me: In the history of the world where did the idea of a personal, Creator God come from? This is no trivial question.

I’m reading a book called Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman. We take theism for granted today, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to believe in a personal God who created and ordered the cosmos, and gives it meaning. Even those who don’t believe God exists use personal theistic categories to argue for his non-existence. This is solely because of Christianity’s 2000 year influence on the world, and the cosmology it inherited from its Jewish roots. The importance of this question, and its apologetic implications, hit me when I read this in Goodman’s book:

Some elements of the story told by Ovid resemble the Genesis account, but the differences matter more. Ovid is unclear about the identity of the creator who brought about the cosmos: “a god and a better nature” or “whoever he was of the gods.” Philosophers like Cicero accepted the argument put forward by the Stoics that the regularities of the heavens proved the operation of a creative mind; the denial by Epicureans of the standard belief that the universe is ordered, and their claim that it was created out of a meaningless set of atoms, was a deliberate rejection of the common view. But what the common view lacked, and what was found in abundance among Jews, was the strong belief that the divine force which had created the world had done so for a purpose, and that this divine force continued to care for and intervene in its creation.

The divine realm in the imagination of Romans was a society of competition, alliances, strife and friendships—in other words, a realm of relationships much like those of humans. When the gods intervened in the natural world, it was often a result, not of concern for people, animals, or other inhabitants of the earth, but of quarrels and scheming among themselves.

When confronted with facts like these we who ask questions ask, how could this be? How could this obscure people come up with a concept completely unique in the entire ancient world? We’re not just talking about Western peoples, Greeks and Romans, but those on every continent on earth. No Asian people, no African people, no North or South American people, had a concept like that of the Jewish God, Yahweh who created man in his own image, male and female he create them. The concept wasn’t natural for the people of Israel either; they were constantly going back to the idols of the peoples that surrounded them, turning away from their personal, Creator God. Not long out of slavery in Egypt and Moses’ brother Aaron is making a golden calf for the people to worship!

A further question presents itself: Is this God of the Jews a made-up deity? If he was made up, what inspired this one people on all the earth to make him up? It stretches credulity to believe they did, and far easier for me to believe that there is an actual personal Creator God who revealed himself to the Jews first, then through redemptive history to all the peoples of the world. His ultimate revelation of himself is in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, where God’s justice and love met perfectly on a Roman cross. To prove it, Jesus came back from the dead. The resurrection alone explains why today we believe in a personal, Creator God.

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