In the Beginning Was God
Where Atheists Go Wrong
(article by John Piper)
In the beginning, before there was anything else but God, there was life. This has two huge implications. First, ultimate reality is living. Ultimate reality is alive. Original reality, absolute reality is a living person. How can I help us begin to feel the wonder that we should at that raw fact, that ultimate, original, absolute, from-which-everything-else-comes reality is a living person?
If your child — which he or she will do eventually, if you have children — says to you at about age 4 or 5, “Where did God come from?” you will answer, perhaps, “God didn’t come from anywhere. He always was there. He never had a beginning. He was there before anything else was. He made everything else. There wasn’t anything before God to bring him about. Got that little 4-year-old?”
“God didn’t come from anywhere. He always was there. He never had a beginning.”
And then the 4-year-old will say, “But how did he get to be the way he was?” And you will say, “He just is the way he was. He didn’t get to be that way. He always has been what he is. Nobody made him the way he is. No force, no power made him what he is. He has just been there as he is forever and ever and ever and ever — as far back as forever. That’s what it means to be God.”
And one of the themes that he has been forever and ever and ever is life. He’s alive. He’s a living person. There has always been a living person without beginning. This reality takes your breath away. As far back as you can go in eternity, forever and ever and ever, there’s one changeless reality: life — divine, personal life. Ultimate reality, absolute reality, original reality is alive. “In him was life” (John 1:4).
Second, physical matter did not give rise to life; it’s the other way around. Life gave rise to physical matter. Once there was only life and no matter. All there was was life, and no physical matter whatsoever existed. And then personal life created matter, and there was both life and matter.
Here’s a great division between atheists and Christians, the atheistic worldview and the Christian worldview. For atheists, everything begins with inanimate matter and energy. That’s where it begins. Matter is just there, like God. It’s just there. And since there was nothing there before to make it what it was, it could have been anything. I’m not sure they think about that very much.
It could have been anything. There is no statistical probability one way or the other, because there was nothing there to create a statistical probability. It just could have been anything.
And they choose to believe in stuff and energy. That’s just an act of faith. There’s zero proof for that. They just have faith. They believe that matter was the first thing that was there. They don’t know this; they guess. They say impersonal matter, impersonal energy are original, they’re absolute, they’re ultimate.
“You have never met an ordinary human being. There aren’t any.”
And then for billions of years, with no Creator, no intelligence, no design, no purpose, no plan, there emerges from this mindless, lifeless, random matter and energy not only irreducible complexities of interdependent biological structures, but also this glorious thing called living personhood — you and me. That’s their account.
For Christians, it’s the other way around. First, there was life, and then there was matter and energy. First, there was living personhood, and then there was matter and energy. In the beginning was the Word, and in him was life. Before there was anything else, there was life.
Wherever you turn on this planet and see a living person, you see an image of absolute reality — absolute, eternal, ultimate, original reality — the Word: God. You have never met an ordinary human being. There aren’t any. They’re all extraordinary. I don’t care how degenerate they have become. When you look upon a human being, you’re seeing something staggeringly extraordinary in the image of life: an echo, a reflection of infinite, ultimate reality.