What Is Natural Theology?

The word "theology" comes from two Greek words, "theos" meaning "god," and "logos" meaning "word." Taken together we have the concept of "words about God" or "knowledge about God."

Some organized religions claim to have special knowledge about God that has been revealed only to a specific individual or exclusive group in some supernatural way. On the other hand, "natural theology" refers to what we can know about God from natural sources that are available to everyone.

Actually, natural theology does not begin with a study of God but begins with a study of yourself. You are aware of your own individual existence; so you wonder "Where did my life come from?" It is obvious that you did not make any decision or take any action that brought your life into existence. This clearly implies that your life came from a source beyond yourself. We may give this source a name, "God."

This leads us to the question, "Is the source of life, or God, some unintelligent force that accidentally brought human life into existence?" The answer to this question is "no." You can find this answer by thinking about what you are and where you are.

First, look at yourself. Your physical body is a complex "machine" consisting of many complicated and interrelated parts and organs that function together in an amazing way. The human body is designed to be as it is. Even more amazing is the presence of your "personal consciousness" (or "individual self") within your physical body. You are perceiving the world around you from within your particular body. Of approximately six billion human bodies on the earth today, you are in only one of them. Why did your particular "personal consciousness" come into existence at this time in the history of the world? Why are "you" in the body you have, instead of being in another human body? Certainly, you had no part in deciding these matters.

As you think about "what you are," you will begin to realize that the "source of life" is capable of "designing" a complex and intelligent being -- you! It is not logical that an intelligent being (you) could have been designed by an unintelligent and accidental force. We cannot comprehend all that "God" is, but we can certainly believe that God is more that what we are.

Now, think about where you are. At this moment, you are literally standing on the side of a large round rock --called the "Earth" -- that is molten on the inside and having a thin crust on the outside. If you were standing on the equator around the middle of the Earth, you would be spinning at 1,000 miles per hour (but slower on other parts of the earth). Also, you are now zooming through space at 67,000 miles per hour in an orbit around the Sun. What keeps you from being hurled off of the Earth and into space as you fly along? Something called gravity. What keeps the Earth in its orbit around the Sun so we are not too close to the Sun (where we would burn up) and not too far from the Sun (where we would freeze)? My conclusion is that this is all designed to be this way. I call the designer "God."

When Jesus said that the first and greatest "commandment" is for us to love God, I believe that Jesus was talking about "appreciating" God as our Creator. As we think about our own personal existence and the universe around us, it is not difficult to recognize and "appreciate" the reality and power of God. This is the first basic principle in natural theology.

Jesus said that the second "commandment " of God is that we should love our "neighbor" (whom Jesus defined as everyone). Is it possible for us to discover this "law" of God in ourselves and the world around us? The answer is "yes." Is there anyone who does not know that it is better to love others than to hate others? I have never met anyone who does not know this. Regardless of nationality, race, gender, age, religion, or anything else, human beings know that love is better than hate.

Knowledge of this "law" of love for others can come from our experience and observation. When I was a university graduate student in a school of social work, we studied human pschopathology and psycho-social development. It is well known that infants who are deprived of love and personal care can be damaged psychologically and even die. It is also well known that anger and hate can cause high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers and mental problems. We can easily observe that love has a positive effect on us and the experience of hatred has a negative effect. Human experience affirms the validity of the law of "love for others." This is simply the way that God designed us. This is the second basic principle in natural theology.

From natural theology, we can conclude that God has the power to give life, and we have the responsibility to live life as we are designed to live it. Jesus illustrated these natural truths in his parables of the "talents (money)" and the "good Samaritan." (See essays on "How Can You Love God?" and "Love Your Neighbor.")

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