The great essayist Frederick Buechner wrote in one of his books that “God does not sign his sunsets.” Buechner, an ordained Presbyterian minister born
in 1926, has struggled most of his life with doubt and depression. Buechner’s life was forever altered by the suicide
of his father when Fred was just ten years old. It is no
surprise that themes of loss and darkness pervade his sermons and novels – but amazingly there is an even greater
recognition of the signs of God’s presence. Given a God
who does not sign His sunsets, many people legitimately
ask where to find signs of His existence and care.
Of the classical signs for God, my personal favourite
is the teleological argument, the proof from design. Atheists often brag this age-old proof has been disproven by
Darwin and modern evolutionary theory, but they’re not
even close to being right. Yes, William Paley’s famous argument from the watch to the watchmaker has had to be refined, but the evidence for the fine tuning and extravagant
complexity of our bodies, our planet and the universe has
To get a sense of the power of design, let me ask you to
find out for yourself the answer to three questions: How
fast do hair cells in your inner ear vibrate? How many
capillaries are there in the human body and how long
are they if stretched out? How many nerve fibers in the
human optic nerve?
We can hear, breathe, and see because God has done
breathtaking feats of engineering design in the hair cell,
capillary and optic nerve. The fine tuning of the human
body confirms the Psalmist’s declaration that we are “fear-
fully and wonderfully made.”
The same holds true if we look wider to the fine tuning
needed for human life to be sustained. On these matters
some great guides include John Lennox, the Oxford math-
ematician, Stephen Meyer (see his Signature in the Cell: DNA
and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, HarperOne, 2009),
Alister McGrath (A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in
Science and Theology, Westminster John Knox Press, 2009),
and Francis Collins (The Language of God: A Scientist Pre-
sents Evidence for Belief, Simon & Schuster, 2006).
Christians are divided on the topic of evolution, and I
will leave that important debate to another column. But
Looking for Signs
What can we find in creation, history,
scripture and human experience?
for now we can say the argument from design is shared
by all Christians, whether young-Earth creationists (Ken
Ham and Kurt Wise), old-Earth advocates (Hugh Ross),
intelligent design theorists (Meyer, Phillip E. Johnson and
Michael Behe) or theistic evolutionists (McGrath, Collins
and Denis Lamoureux).
The common ground here is the necessity of God as
source, whether on the origin of life, the evolutionary processes at either a micro or macro level, or life’s meaning.
Atheistic evolution has no ultimate explanatory power,
a fact that led the famous cosmologist Allan Sandage to
Beyond the creation order God also shows up in our
experiences. Granted, some of life’s darkest moments can
suggest the reality of Satan and demonic powers. However, that is not the whole story since God appears in
the delightful dramas of our lived experiences. His Spirit
brings us into peace, meaning, happiness and joy – the
last of these being the theme of C. S. Lewis’s famous autobiography.
Stories of dramatic conversions point to God. One
person recently told me of a dream that instantly led her
to Christ. Another mentioned an experience of speaking
in tongues that was absolutely liberating. God answers
prayer, brings healing to broken bodies and spirits, offers
grace to sinners and even gives strength to endure life’s
One example of God’s grace is in the life of Dawn
Smith Jordan. If you saw a picture of her, you would assume this former Miss South Carolina has it all made.
However, Jordan’s path to beauty queen came after the
kidnapping and murder of her sister Shari in 1985. God
was with Shari in her last moments and with her sister
and family as they endured her loss.
Buechner’s most celebrated fictional character is Leo
Bebb, a bumbling evangelist of sorts. Bebb is not known
for his academic skills, so when asked about the onto-
logical, cosmological or teleological arguments for God,
he is reluctant to comment. Bebb does say, “Well, Jesus
believed in God. That’s good enough for me.”
Buechner knew full well that God’s best sign is given
in Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, the heavens and the earth de-
clare God’s glory, and our experiences are signs of God’s
presence, but the ultimate sign from God was given in
the manger, by the Sea of Galilee, on a cross and at an
empty tomb. FT
JaMeS a. beverLey is professor of Christian thought
and ethics at Tyndale seminary in Toronto. Find more of
these columns at www.theEFC.ca/religion Watch.
Religion Watch n BY JAMES A. BEVERLEY