Friday, December 28, 2018

Paul Begins His Evangelism With Science!

            In chapter 14 of Acts, Paul is speaking to the people in Lystra who had tried to make him and Barnabas into the gods Hermes and Zeus. Paul, of course, tells them that he and Barnabas are just men, but then he adds, “…you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”  Paul then goes on to say that nature can testify to this God. 
Here in Acts 14, however, we find the first recorded evangelistic message to an audience with no background in Judaism at all. So, it’s no surprise that Paul doesn’t start to talk about the way Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (unlike Acts 10:43)! Paul tells them that the natural world is God’s testimony of his goodness and his interest in them. That is, he appeals to natural revelation, not to special revelation.[1]
            The greatest evangelist in history actually begins with science when telling non-Christians (who have no background in the church) about Jesus.  Science can be a perfect starting point for evangelism today as well. Many people have at least a cursory knowledge of science, while the number of people that have no knowledge of the Bible or Christianity is increasing.  Our society also tends to take “scientific” knowledge as truth while it tends to be skeptical of “spiritual” knowledge. 
            When Paul is in Athens, as recorded in chapter 17 of Acts, early in his speech at the Areopagus Paul talks about, “The God who made the world and everything in it...”[2]  Paul’s beginning point here is again with nature; pointing to the created world to show that the Christian God, while having created everything, is actually too great to be worshiped as part of the created world. When we do science, we are looking at the creation, which then can point us to the creator. Paul explains in Romans 1 why he chooses to begin with science when talking to those with no background in Judaism or Christianity.
For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.[3]
            Looking at nature is enough to know that God exists and pointing to nature can be a beginning point to showing people that there is a God. Science is our current way of studying nature, so beginning your evangelism with science is a great way – and a Biblical way - to be able to tell people about Jesus!

[1]C. John Collins, Science & Faith, Friends or Foes?, Crossway Books, 2003, page 190
[2]Acts 17:24
[3]Romans 1:20

Monday, December 24, 2018

Why We Need Christmas: The Good Samaritan Parable

* Most of this comes from Pastor Dax Swanson’s December 23rd sermon at Grace Community Church in Bellingham, WA

Almost everyone has heard the parable of the Good Samaritan, retold in the eleventh chapter of Luke.[1] This parable is usually used to encourage us to be kind to people – even our enemies. I think that may be a small part of the reason Jesus told the story, but the real reason for the parable is to show us that we need Him!  The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us why we need Christmas.
            The scene opens with a teacher of the law (someone who knew the Hebrew scriptures well) asking Jesus what he needs to do to go to heaven.  In typical fashion, Jesus answers his question with a question, which the lawyer answers correctly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”[2]  The lawyer then asks for clarification about who exactly is his neighbor, which precipitates the telling of the parable by Jesus.
            The story is about how a man is robbed, beaten, and left laying alongside the road.  A priest and a Levite both walk by and do nothing, but a Samaritan comes along and takes care of the man.  It is obviously a good thing to show compassion and mercy to people who need our help, but I think there is a greater reason that Jesus told this parable!
            To really understand the main point of the story, you first need to know what the Jewish people thought of the Samaritan people. 
Imagine the hatred between Serbs and Muslims in modern Bosnia, the enmity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland or the feuding between street gangs in Los Angeles or New York, and you have some idea of the feeling and its causes between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. Both politics and religion were involved.[3]
The split between the Jews and the Samaritans goes back to before the separation of the northern and southern Jewish kingdoms.  1 Kings 16:24 records that King Omri of the Northern Kingdom bought the hill of Samaria from Shermer and built the city of Samaria.  1 Kings 16:25 records that Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord and caused Israel to sin and worship idols.
When Samaria was taken by the Assyrians in 722 BC, many Samaritans were taken captive.  Those left behind intermarried with non-Jews, which, along with the previous actions of King Omri, caused the Samaritans to be condemned by the Jews. When the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon and wanted to rebuild the temple, the Samaritans offered to help, but their offer to help was rejected.
With the rejection came political hostility and opposition. The Samaritans tried to undermine the Jews with their Persian rulers and slowed the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple. Nehemiah tells us (Nehemiah 13:28-29) that a grandson of the high priest, Eliashib, had married a daughter of Sanballat, the governor of the province of Samaria.
For defiling the priesthood by marrying a non-Jewish woman, Nehemiah drove Eliashib from Jerusalem–though Sanballat was a worshiper of Yahweh. According to the historian Josephus, Sanballat then had a temple built on Mount Garizim in which his son-in-law Eliashib could function. Apparently, this is when the full break between Jews and Samaritans took place.
According to John McKenzie in his Dictionary of the Bible, the Samaritans later allied themselves with the Seleucids in the Maccabean wars and in 108 B.C. the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple and ravaged the territory. Around the time of Jesus’ birth, a band of Samaritans profaned the Temple in Jerusalem by scattering the bones of dead people in the sanctuary. In our own era which has witnessed the vandalism of synagogues and the burning of black churches, we should be able to understand the anger and hate such acts would incite.[4]
            Given this history, you can imagine the impact of Jesus’ choice of a Samaritan as the one who had compassion.  The priest and the Levite (the two people who walked by first and ignored the beaten man) both knew the Law and knew the command to help people in need – but the command in the Law didn’t result in compassion or love. Jesus is not actually answering the question asked by lawyer (Who is my neighbor?); instead He changes the question to “What is the quality of love” and is answering that instead.
            The Samaritan exhibits limitless love by pouring his oil and wine on the wounds – using the expensive liquids liberally on an enemy!  He puts the beaten man on his own animal and takes him to an inn where he gives the innkeeper an unlimitedbudget to take care of the man. All of this would seem like an impossibility to the Jews listening to the story – which I think is the point. Imagine an L.A. gang member doing this for someone in a rival gang.
            Jesus is saying that to get to heaven, you must exhibit limitlesslove – which is impossible for us to do!  So, this story is teaching the gospel message that we cannot DO anything to get to heaven. The Old Testament Law doesn’t compel anyone to show limitless love, and we are incapable of doing it ourselves, so we need the grace given by God in the person of Jesus – which is why we need Christmas!
            The placement by Luke of the Martha and Mary story immediately after this parable strengthens this point.  In this story, Jesus is visiting the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha was distracted – implying that she was not able to listen to Jesus - by trying to DO things for everyone while Mary chose the “good portion” by sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His teaching.[5]I think this is reinforcing the point from the Good Samaritan that we can’t DO anything to get to heaven; instead we need Jesus.
            Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming into the world so that He could do something that we are incapable of doing; Jesus came to take on all of our sins and restore our relationship to God so that we too can “inherit eternal life” and spend eternity in His presence. Merry Christmas!

[1]Luke 11: 25-37
[2]Luke 11: 27
[3]The Rift Between Jews and Samaritans, Pat McCloskey, Franciscan Media,
[5]Luke 11: 38-42

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christianity & Science - A Synergistic Relationship

A person can be a God-fearing Christian on Sunday and a working scientist come Monday morning, without ever having to account for the partition that seems to have erected itself in his head while he slept.[1]

The above quote from Sam Harris represents the popular belief that Christianity and science are always at odds with each other. This “partition” between science and Christianity only exists in the mind of a few as historically the separation has been far from the norm. Not only are science and Christianity not in conflict, they actually are very much connected, and have been throughout history.
It is correct that in the Middle Ages, as most people believe, some of the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, & Galen (the “Classical tradition”) caused suspicion, hostility, and condemnation from the church. But more often, critical reflection about the nature of the world was tolerated and even encouraged by medieval religious leaders. Many of the church fathers had been educated in the classical tradition before converting to Christianity and had acquired habits of rational inquiry. They used these tools to help develop Christian doctrine and to help defend the faith against detractors.[2]For example, Aristotle’s philosophy could be used to rationally argue the existence of God.
The “unmoved mover” (whether it is only one or a multiplicity), whose existence Aristotle tries to demonstrate in the XIIth book of his Metaphysics (i. e. in the so called “Aristotelian theology”), has an infinite power, because – as Aristotle explicitly affirms – it has the capacity of moving the heaven for an infinite time (1073 a 8-9); it is transcendent respect to every other being, because it is the only unmovable being, while all the others beings are moved (1071 b 17-20); and it is intelligent, because it thinks (the act of thinking is its self being, it is its self essence) and it wills (as it is proved by the fact that, according to Aristotle, it is happy). It has also the capacity of acting, because -as I tried to demonstrate in many writings - it is not only a final cause, but also an efficient cause of the movement of the heavens3. Therefore, according to Aristotle, “he” - now we can use the personal pronoun, because we are speaking of a person - is a God, and this is a consequence of the fact that he is eternal and happy (these are the characters that ancient Greeks attributed to gods), even if the is not a creator God (1072 b 26-30).[3]

Consequently, many of the church fathers expressed at least limited approval of the classical tradition.  For example, the second and third century writers Athenagoras, Clement, and Origen all found Greek philosophy a useful tool in the defense of Christianity.  Athenagoras marshaled the authority of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics in favor of monotheism.  Clement attacked the earliest Greek philosophers for their atheism. But he [Clement] also acknowledged that certain philosophers and poets bore testimony to the truth, and that within the philosophical tradition there is a “slender spark, capable of being fanned into flame, a trace of wisdom and an impulse from God.” Tertullian himself viewed Christian religion as the fulfillment of Greek rationality, and he both advocated and engaged in philosophical activity.[4]
Medieval Scholastics deeply valued Aristotle and his writings and believed that his teachings on reason could be incorporated into church theology.  Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine), one of the most important Christian church fathers during the 4thand 5thcentury, wrote at length about the connection between the Genesis account in the Bible and the natural sciences contained in the classical tradition. Augustine had no problem using natural science to help interpret scripture.  Roger Bacon agreed with Augustine.  
His goal was to demonstrate that the pagan learning of the classical tradition was a vital resource, capable of offering essential services to theology and the church; and moreover that it posed no insuperable religious threat, that suitably disciplined and purged of error, it would serve as a faithful handmaiden of religion and the church.[5]
Thomas Aquina’s writings in the 13thcentury were the culmination of this thought; combining the theological principles of faith with Aristotle’s philosophical principles of reason. 
Thomas Aquinas as biblical exegete, metaphysician, and philosopher of nature offers us a rich array of insights for contemporary discourse on the relationship among sacred texts, the natural sciences, and philosophy. He can help us to avoid the whirlpool of a reductionist materialism as well as the stumbling block of biblical literalism. His principles continue to serve as an anchor of intelligibility in a sea of confusing claims.[6]
Augustine also wanted Christians to be knowledgeable about the natural world and use it as a handmaiden of theology and religion. He worried about Christians talking nonsense about science and how that would hurt the religion.
Augustine made it clear that although scriptural knowledge is vastly superior to knowledge gained through the senses, the latter is inestimably superior to ignorance. Moreover, he worried that Christians, naively interpreting scripture, might express absurd opinions on cosmological issues, this provoking ridicule among better informed pagans and bringing the Christian faith into disrepute.[7]
Taking a quick, but relevant digression, Augustine’s warning to Christians is still relevant today.  Bernard Ramm in the 1950’s observed this exact thing and gave a similar warning.
It is impossible to settle the complex problems of Bible-and-science, theological and empirical fact without a well-developed Christian theism and philosophy of science. For example, the idea of creation is rather complex. Evangelicals were not always aware of the great deal of thought put into this matter by Augustine and Aquinas. As a result, evangelicals posed the problems of modern science as resolving down to : (i) fiat, instantaneous creationism; or (ii) atheistic developmentalism. This is certainly a gross over-simplification, not a genuine probing, of the entire concept of creation.[8]
This way of thinking has resulted in science being taught with absolute disregard of biblical statements and Christian perspectives. Science mostly is done with no interest as to what the Bible says on the subject and is now developed and controlled by people who do not believe in the scientific credibility of the Bible. Both science and theology are hurt when we operate as if the divide between them exists.
Back to the Middle Ages, Augustine wanted the interpretation of scripture to stay consistent with the cosmology and physics of the classical tradition and used the natural sciences in his role as a theologian and bible interpreter. Christians should think of Scripture and Creation as two “books” that should be read together for understanding of the fullness of God’s self-revelation; science is a God-given tool for discerning the handiwork of God in Creation and is fully compatible with God’s Word revealed in Scripture. 
Article 2 of the Belgic Confession of 1561 states: We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which allcreatures,great and small,are as lettersto make us ponderthe invisible things of God:God’s eternal power and divinity,as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.All these things are enough to convict humansand to leave them without excuse.Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s gloryand for our salvation.
Science and Christianity have historically complemented each other. Christians see God as a Lawgiver, as a rational mind, and as the Creator. Because of this, the world must be rational, must follow prescribed laws, and must have a reason for its existence. Science is the way we study the world, the laws, and the reasons. Christian theology also teaches that man was created in the image of God, so we also have the ability to comprehend God’s laws and reasons. Therefore, science arose only once: In Christian Western Europe in the 17thcentury.
Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as His personal creation, thus having a rational stable structure, awaiting human comprehension. Christians developed science because they believed it could be done and they thought it should be done.[9]
Since they believed it could be done, the vast majority of initial thinkers in science were Christians who did their investigations becauseof the Christian ideas they had about the universe. Nicolaus Copernicus was a church deacon who did astronomy in his spare time. Robert Boyle, father of modern chemistry, set up Christian apologetics lectures. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, was a Christian monk. Isaac Newton, discoverer of the universal laws of gravitation, finishes his Principia with:
This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being...This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God.[10]
Johannes Kepler, discoverer of the laws of planetary motion, wrote:
The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.[11]
Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation, says of Kepler’s philosophy: 
That really goes back to the triumph, not of Copernicus, but really the triumph of Kepler. That's because, after all, the notion of epicycles and so forth goes back to days when scientists were swapping opinions. All this went along until we had a true believer and this was Kepler. Kepler, after all, was the Old Testament Christian. Right? He really believed in God the Lawgiver. And so he demanded that the same God who spoke in single words and created the universe is not going to have a universe with 35 epicycles in it. And he said there's got to be something simpler and more powerful. Now he was lucky or maybe there was something deeper, but Kepler's faith was rewarded with his laws of nature. And so from that day on, it's been an awful struggle, but over long centuries, we find that very simple laws of nature actually do apply. And so that expectation is still with scientists. And it comes essentially from Kepler, and Kepler got it out of his belief in the Bible, as far as I can tell. This passionate belief turned out to be right. And he gave us his laws of motion, the first real laws of nature we ever had. And so nature turned out to redeem the expectations he had based on his faith. And scientists have adopted Kepler's faith, without the cause.[12]
One common charge against Christianity is that it “hinders scientific progress.” Any commonly accepted idea could hinder science—not just ones that Christians hold. The best example was the dogmatic adherence to Aristotle that hindered scientific progress for over 2000 years. One of the first people to disagree with Aristotle was a Christian, Nicolaus Copernicus. And it was Galileo, also a Christian, who challenged the prevailing scientific view of the universe in the name of science. Most people at the time, including secular scientists, held the Aristotelian idea that the earth was at the center of the solar system and heavenly bodies moved in perfect circles. It was Kepler who showed planetary orbits to be ellipses. Christians were the ones actually pushing science forward in an age of scientific stagnation.
The main lesson to be drawn is that it was Galileo, a believer in the biblical worldview, who was advancing a better scientificunderstanding of the universe, not only, as we have seen, in opposition to some churchmen but against the resistance and the obscurantism of the secular philosophers of his time who, like the churchmen, were also convinced disciples of Aristotle.[13]
Another example of this was Louis Pasteur, a devout Christian credited with the discovery of germ theory. The prevailing view in Pasteur’s time was that microbes could spontaneously appear from chemicals and this was the cause of illness. Spontaneous generation disagrees with the Christian Doctrine of Creation, so Pasteur set out, with obvious success, to show that life appearing from non-life could not be correct. Based on his Christian beliefs, Pasteur was motivated to test a prevailing scientific theory to the benefit of mankind.
A current example of a theory holding back science is the belief that our DNA contains a vast amount of “junk” that has no function. Scientists held to this belief because it was one of the evidences for evolutionary theory and this “held back” science for 30 years. We are now discovering all kinds of function in “junk DNA” that we never bothered to look for earlier because of a dogmatic adherence to evolutionary theory. These previously thought “non-coding” regions are showing a possible ability to “turn off” cancer cells; some promise for a possible cancer cure that was ignored because of the scientific dogma of junk DNA. Christianity is no more guilty of “holding back science” than any other commonly held idea that society sees as correct.
Christianity and science are not at odds, nor should they be at war.  Some of the hostility comes from a perceived limit of each domain; the assumption that science deals only in facts and answers the “how” questions, while Christianity is limited to faith questions and only can answer the “why” questions. These are artificially imposed limits that neither area actually restricts itself to. I believe most of the hostility comes from a misunderstanding of how each area operates.
Because humans make mistakes, it is the interpretation of nature (science) and the interpretation of scripture (theology) that can be in conflict. In fact, both domains can work together, support each other, and learn from each other. When interpreted correctly, Christian scripture and nature should be in harmony. God created the universe and inspired the Bible, so both should agree. Science is constantly changing based on new evidence and our interpretationof scripture should be open for evaluation as well.
As it did with the early scientists, Christianity can provide inspiration for scientists; giving them a reason for their work. Discovering how the universe began or deciphering the ultimate nature of matter is a much richer activity when you can pair it with the knowledge of the One who created it all. Christianity may even provide some direction for investigation like it did with Kepler and Pasteur.
Conversely, Christians should not be afraid of “good” science; that is models and theories that honestly are based on evidence. For example, Christians should not simply dismiss evolutionary theory, nor should we assume we have to rethink our interpretation of the Bible to fit evolutionary theory. Instead, we should learn the current evidence for the theory and evaluate it based on this evidence; it is not persuasive to argue against a scientific theory by using passages of scripture. We shouldn’t be upset when a discipline that looks only at the natural world has a theory that leaves God out. What we can do is show how the same evidence used to support evolutionary theory can be used to support the doctrine of creation.
The physical world and God both constantly surprise us and as we probe deeper they both stretch our intellect in unimaginable ways. The more I study God and the more I study science, the more I see an intimate connection between the two.

What I see the current generation of apologists doing, is moving heavily into philosophy—I think that's a good thing. I mean, what I notice is that, philosophers are becoming more and more predominantly Christian as time goes on, but I'd like to encourage balance, that we'd also be encouraging young Christian scholars to go into theological apologetics and scientific apologetics, and the latter's where I see the greatest need. Too many churches are discouraging their young people from pursuing scientific disciplines. They kind of look at science as the enemy of the Christian faith… At Reasons to Believe we emphasize the opposite: science is the ally of the Christian faith, and we need to be sending an army of young people into the top scientific institutions, to get advanced degrees and to use those advanced degrees to develop new reasons to believe and to show people that we can integrate new science, philosophy and theology to find the truth that God wants us all to understand.[14]

[1]Sam Harris, The End of Faith, Norton, New York, 2004, page 15
[2]David C. Linderg, When Science and Christianity Meet, University of Chicago Press, 2003
[3]Enrico Berti, Science, Religion, and Aristotelian Theology
[4]David C. Linderg, When Science and Christianity Meet, University of Chicago Press, 2003, page 12
[5]ibid, page 24
[7]ibid, page 14
[8]Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, William B Eerdmans Publishing, 1954, page 19
[9]Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God, Princeton University Press, 2003, page 147

[10]Isaac Newton, Principia, 1687
[11]Johannes Kepler, Astronomia nova, 1609
[12]Michael Bumbulis, Christianity and the Birth of Science

[13]John Lennox, in Just Thinking, RZIM, Volume 27.1, page 17

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Creation and The Creator Are Both Difficult To Comprehend

Both science and theology use evidence to formulate models of what we think the world is like and what we think God is like. Often what the evidence shows us is that nature and God are beyond our comprehension! The evidence leads to mysteries that we cannot fully comprehend; many times reality must be described in a way that doesn’t make sense. In theology, the trinity and the dual nature of Christ are both paradoxes that cannot be totally understood by our human mind. In science, quantum mechanics and the nature of light have the same issues of mental obscurity. 
The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that one God is three persons.  This is not illogical nor is it contradictory; but it certainly is a paradox! God is three “whos” and one “what”; this is not a logical contradiction. It is stated well in the Athanasian Creed from the fourth century.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. 
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.[1]

Our minds cannot comprehend the Trinity, but this is what is described by the writers of the eyewitness accounts of what Jesus taught. This evidence leads us to the conclusion that one God is also three persons. The Trinity may be above reason, but it is not against reason.
Evidence from the Apostolic Writings also lead us to the conclusion that Jesus was God and a human at the same time.  Comprehending this doctrine is a bit easier than the trinity, but still a mystery!  How can something be two different things at once?  Here is a description from the Council of Chalcedon:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.[2]

These mysteries are not limited to Christianity!  Paradoxes also are forced by the evidence when studying the natural world. Take light and electrons for example.  Under one set of conditions they will do exactly the same thing as water waves and sound waves.  Change the situation and they will act as if they are little tiny baseballs.  Try to come up with a mental picture of that!  Light and electrons acting as if they are both particles and waves is a paradox, but is a major doctrine of science.
Paradoxes abound in the world of the very small. We must use quantum mechanics to describe really tiny things.  The evidence forces us to believe realities like an electron can be anywhere in the universe at any given moment and can even go back in time.  Richard Feynman, who definitely understood quantum mechanics better than almost anyone on the planet during his lifetime, remarked, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Quantum mechanics and light may both be above reason, but they are not against reason.
In order to understand and explain reality we need to compare our theories, models, and explanations with something familiar.  Since we don’t have much experience with God or with very tiny things, so we have a tough time imagining what they are like!  The data we have on God and much of the data we get about light and sub-atomic particles is unlike anything we have ever experienced before!  

The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, "But how can it be like that?" which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. [3]

The same difficulty occurs when attempting to understand God.
Objections to the Trinity break down in the fact that they insist on interpreting the Creator in terms of the creature.[4]

            One attempt to explain quantum mechanics is the Many World’s Interpretation.  On this explanation, every time a decision is made, the universe actually “splits” into both possibilities.  This creates an almost infinite number of “parallel” universes with every possible world represented.  This is similar to how we explain the theology of God’s Middle Knowledge.  In this view, God can know all possible worlds; He knows all future possibilities and knows how we would respond (choose) given any set of circumstances.  In our attempt to understand reality, we must resort to the use of descriptions and explanations that often sound impossible; this happens when trying to understand both the natural world and when trying to understand God.
It should be expected that God and nature are both a mystery. Since God created the universe, we should not be surprised that we see a reflection of the creator when we study nature.  Light is two things that are one. God is three things that are one. No one truly understands quantum mechanics. No one truly understands the nature of God. God’s creation and revelation are both hard to understand fully, but neither are illogical.

If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could 
make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.[5]

[1] Athanasian Creed
[2] Chalcedonian Creed
[3] Richard P. Feynman, The Messenger Lectures, 1964 
[4] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker, 1984
[5] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Simon & Schuster, 1952

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Another Example of Science Confirming Scripture

Edgar Andrews, BSc, PhD, DSc, FlnstP, FIMM, CEng, CPhys, Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London has provided another example of science eventually confirming what the Bible has taught for thousands of years.  This post is taken from Chapter 8 of Professor Andrews’ book Who Made God? Searching For A Theory of Everything.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.  You turn man to destruction, and say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.[1]

God is time’s cartographer – time for God is spread out like a map. Just as we might study a route map showing villages, townships, and cities, together with their environments and the roads that link them, so God surveys all history at a glance-encompassing everything that is to us past, present and future.[2]

For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.[3]

This implies the intriguing concept that all time still exists. In the three dimensions of space, I can travel from London to Manchester to Glasgow.  In terms of my experience, once I reach Manchester, London lies in the past and Glasgow in the future.  But this doesn’t mean that London has stopped existing or that Glasgow is still a green-field site. So with time. The fact that we are confined to ‘now’ and can visit neither yesterday or tomorrow, doesn’t mean that yesterday has ceased to exist or tomorrow doesn’t yet exist. It is, in fact, one of the inevitable conclusions of relativity theory that the wholeof space-time must have a real and continuing existence – regardless of our perception of time as being divided into past, present and future.  If you doubt my word, physicist Brian Greene sets out detailed arguments to prove this and concludes: “Just as we envision all of space as reallybeing out there, as reallyexisting, we should also envision all of time as reallybeing out there, as reallyexisting too.”[4]The biblical idea that God surveys all time is therefore predictive of what has only recently become apparent to science.[5]

[1]Psalm 90: 2-4
[2]Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Searching For A Theory of Everything, EP Books, 2009, page 112
[3]Isaiah 46: 9-10
[4]Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Alfred Knopf, New York, 2004, pages 132-139
[5]Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Searching For A Theory of Everything, EP Books, 2009, page 113

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The More We Do Science, The More We See God

The more we study nature, the more we find evidence for the accuracy of the Bible.
If there seems to be disagreement between science and what we find in scripture, we just have to wait until we do more science; the historical trendline shows that what the Bible teaches is what science eventually discovers. In an ironic “God of the Gaps” situation, science is filling in the so-called gaps, but instead of disproving God and making Christianity less reasonable, what we find increasingly points us toward an intelligent creator whose characteristics match that of the God of the Bible.
One of the most tested, and confirmed, scientific theories of our time is that all matter, energy, and time had a beginning. Creation out of nothing is one of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Jews and Christians have held this view for thousands of years, despite the fact that scientists taught otherwise. The Aristotelian view of the universe as eternal was the standard scientific model for 2000 years prior to the mid to late 20thcentury when we started to discover that the universe actually had a beginning!The Bible has always maintained that the universe had a beginning. Science took until about 50 years ago to confirm that it does.
Genesis 1 describes the creation of light as God separating the light from the darkness.[1]Haya, the Hebrew verb used in Genesis 1:3 is translated as “Let there be” and implies that the creation of light came about by allowing nature to run its supernaturally directed course. This verb is typically not used when referring to something coming into existence for the first time.[2] This agrees with current scientific theory because the light was able to separate from the darkness as the universe went through its natural course of expanding and cooling.
When the universe first came into existence, it was so hot that photons could not travel through the plasma without interacting with the other particles (electrons and baryons) in the plasma.  This resulted in an opaque universe until about 380,000 years after creation.  As the universe expanded and cooled, electrons were able to bind to nuclei, allowing photons to finally pass freely through the universe without being scattered; which could be described as “light separating from the darkness.” While the Bible has always taught this, we didn’t discover this first appearance of light until Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias detected the microwave background radiation in 1964.
Relativity theory provides another example of recent science confirming what the Bible has always taught.  

It is, in fact, one of the inevitable conclusions of relativity theory that the whole of space-time must have a real and continuing existence – regardless of our perception of time as being divided into past, present and future. If you doubt my word, physicist Brian Greene sets out detailed arguments to prove this and concludes: ‘Just as we envision all of space as really being out there, as really existing, we should also envision all of time as really being out there, as really exiting too.’ The biblical idea that God surveys all of time is therefore predictive of what has only recently become apparent to science.[3]

Biology is providing some of the best evidence for a Creator; ironically in an area that originally was touted as the best proof against the God of the Bible.  

At one time, many researchers viewed shared junk DNA sequences as the most compelling evidence for common descent and, hence, biological evolution. This made shared junk DNA sequences one of the most significant scientific challenges to the biblical creation model. Yet, over the last decade, numerous studies have demonstrated that practically every class of junk DNA displays function.[4] 
DNA design is elegant, ingenious, and optimally designed for its role in the cell as a molecular-scale information storage system.  Biochemists believe that DNA approaches the theoretical maximum in terms of its digital storage capacity.[5]There are several key structural features of DNA that are responsible for its optimal data storage properties. Emerging data indicates the components which make up the nucleotides appear to have been chosen carefully with every detail of DNA’s structure critically factored into this molecule information-storage role.  The components must give the DNA maximum stability while still allowing for protein binding to occur.[6]
One kilogram of DNA can store all the digital data that currently exists. This exquisite optimization of DNA’s structure indicates that it is not the outworking of a historically contingent evolutionary process; instead extreme optimization points to a creator. Computer scientists and molecular biologists have come to realize that the cells machinery, which manipulates DNA, literally functions like a computer system at its most basic level of operation. DNA is a code, as well as a language; the only source of which is a mind.  When DNA was discovered in the 1950’s, science confirmed what the Bible had always taught – that a mind created life.

…the fact that all physical life consists essentially of language – coded information that is in turn constructed, stored, communicated, interpreted and acted upon.  What else would we expect of a Creator who “speaks” all things into existence?[7]

Investigation into the origin of life itself is providing more evidence for a Creator. The excitement created by the Miller-Urey Experiment in the 1950’s and the thought that life could occur naturally in a “warm little pond” has gradually waned in the last 30 years as we find that natural mechanisms are inadequate to explain the first life. We have found no evidence for pre-biotic chemicals on early earth and definitely not in the concentrations needed to produce life. We have also discovered that Earth was not habitable until 3.9 to 3.8 billion years ago, but yet all kinds of bacteria, including the very advanced Cyanobacteria, were present on earth almost immediately after conditions became habitable.  Origin of life investigations are showing that life appeared suddenly, very early in history and in a biologically complex state; exactly what we would expect if life were created.
Staying in biology, evolutionary studies are finding that many of the mutations that occur are not random with respect to survival needs, rather they are under some kind of algorithmic control; there exists some kind of preprogrammed adaptive capacity built into organisms that allow them to respond to various kinds of environmental stressors. So instead of random mutations causing a change that can give an organism a survival advantage, science is discovering a “God-given” ability to adapt to changes. 
Since God created the universe and tells us several times in scripture to look at nature to learn about Him, we should expect that the more we study nature, the more we will find evidence for God and the accuracy of the Bible.[8]The trendline has been very clear over the last 50 years in every area of science:  The more we study nature, the more proof we have for the God of the Bible.

[1]Genesis 1:3-4 ESV
[2]The Bigger Picture on Creation, Krista Kay Bontrager, Reasons to Believe, 2008
[3]Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Searching For A Theory of Everything, EP Books, 2009, page 113
[5]The Inspirational Design of DNA, by Fazale R. Rana, PhD, published in Chapter 3 of Building Bridges, 2018 by Reasons to Believe.
[7]Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Searching For A Theory of Everything, EP Books, 2009, page 194