Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012 - Ancient Stories and Timeless Truths: Getting It Right About God

Genesis 22:1-19

Tanya often recommends books to me. It’s part of her effort to improve me, I think. Several years ago she convinced me to read Walking the Bible: A Journey By Land Through the Five Books of Moses. The author, Bruce Feiler, began his journey through the geography of the Bible’s first five books as perhaps a bit of a skeptic, or at least someone for whom faith had become irrelevant. I want you to hear something he writes in his introduction –

The idea of writing about the Bible had sneaked up on me. Like many of my contemporaries, after leaving home at the end of high school, I lost touch with the religious community I had known as a child. I slowly disengaged from the sticky attachment that comes from a regular cycle of readings, prayers, and services. I separated myself from the texts as well. And ultimately I woke up one morning and realized I had no connection to the Bible. It was a book to me now, one that sat on the shelf above my TV, gathering dust on its gilded pages. The Bible was part of the past – an old way of learning, a crutch. I wanted to be part of the future. Over more than a decade of living and working abroad I found that ideas and places became more real to me when I experienced them firsthand…

But even as I traveled, I found that certain feelings from my past kept resurfacing. I sensed there was a conversation going on in the world around me that I wasn’t participating in. References would pop up in books or movies that I vaguely understood yet couldn’t fully comprehend. I would read entire newspaper articles about wars I couldn’t explain. At weddings and funerals the words I heard and recited were just that – words. They had no meaning to me. No context. They were not part of me in any way. And yet I wanted them to be. Suddenly, almost overnight as I recall, I wanted these words to have meaning again. I wanted to understand them.

(Walking the Bible: A Journey By Land Through the Five Books of Moses, Bruce Feiler, page 10).

That passage really struck a chord with me, because I think it describes the relationship so many people have with the Bible. For this author, the Bible had become irrelevant, just a dusty reminder of his childhood.

There are a lot of people just like him. To so many the Bible is becoming irrelevant, a book that is mysterious and hard to understand, something that keeps the family genealogy and occupies a place on a piece of furniture but is not something that familiar to us.

We are people with a three-dimensional faith. We must exist in a personal relationship with God, but we must also exist in a personal relationship with a church and with the Scriptures. Increasingly, we are losing the second and third relationships. Many people have a personal relationship with God but an estranged relationship with the church and the Scriptures. Even some churches have an estranged relationship with the Scriptures, as they concentrate on every conceivable way of attracting people with activities and programs that appeal to people, but the Scriptures can be totally peripheral to most of those activities and programs.

So in the coming weeks we will take our own walk through the oldest portions of the Bible – the Old Testament, as we study some of the great stories that rest at the heart of our faith. This series is called Ancient Stories and Timeless Truths, and in the series we’ll look at well known and lesser-known passages of the Old Testament.

The first story we will study comes from the life of Abraham. One of the most important characters in the Bible, the stories of Abraham occupy up a good size chunk of the book of Genesis. Abraham is what we could call an archetype, that is, a template or example of how people should respond to God in faith. Abraham bursts on to the pages of Scripture after receiving God’s call seemingly out of the blue. There is nothing at the beginning of his story telling us why Abraham was chosen, but he becomes the great symbol of faith in the Old Testament and literally walks by faith as he follows God while not really knowing where God is leading him.

Much of the early portion of the Abraham story centers on the promise that he will be the father of a great nation and yet he and his wife Sarah are childless. Abraham and Sarah eventually take matters into their own hands and Abraham has a child by Hagar, the servant of Sarah, which turns out rather disastrously (and provides the foundation for the conflict over land that exists even today in Israel, as Abraham is claimed by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims).

Finally, Abraham and Sarah are blessed with a son, Isaac, and at one point God does the unthinkable and asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering (verse 2). As we have just completed a series on skepticism it is worth noting that this story is one of those that cause skeptics to scoff at what we believe. And we find it very strange as well, don’t we? We view it as an example of Abraham’s great faith as demonstrated in his willingness to sacrifice his son, but don’t you wonder why it couldn’t be in some other way?

One of the things I want us to do in this series, and it’s especially important with a story such as this, is to get into the hearts and minds of the people in these stories so we can really understand them. We read these stories from our point of view and it may be different from the experience of those who actually lived these stories.

If we try to get into the heart and mind of Abraham we would ask first why was he willing to do such a thing as sacrifice his son? Our first question is usually how could God ask such a thing? What kind of God would ask someone to sacrifice their own child? We need to know that the sacrifice of a child would not be unknown in Abraham’s day. In fact, Abraham was probably surrounded by cultures that practiced child sacrifice. So for Abraham, the idea of being asked to sacrifice a child to God would not be an unexpected request.

But let’s think about the journey taken by father and son. Imagine them as they walked along, Abraham thinking about his son Isaac, the son he and Sarah had so long desired. In the words of God your son, your only son, whom you love (verse 2), which makes the scene so much more dramatic. This was not only his son whom he so loved, but also the beginning of all the descendants God had promised to him. Not only was he losing his son, but now it appeared that God would renege on his promise.

It took three days for Abraham, Isaac, and the two others traveling with them to come within site of the place God had designated. Abraham tells the two young men to wait and he and Isaac go forward, with Isaac carrying the wood that would fuel the fire on which he would be offered. In his hands, Abraham carried the fire that would be set to the wood and the knife that would be taken to Isaac.

Abraham had a lot to think about as they walked along. Perhaps Abraham was thinking about sending Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness to die (Genesis 21:1-20). Now, as he walked along with Isaac to the place of sacrifice, Abraham had to wonder if his actions were now coming back to him in judgment.

As for Isaac, as they walk along he can’t help but notice there’s one thing missing. He says to his father behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? (verse 7). Isaac isn’t really catching on here. Do you think that question pierced to the very core of Abraham’s being?

Can you believe that some people think the Bible is boring?

And after arriving at the site and preparing Isaac one thing becomes obvious – Abraham never argues with God on behalf of his son. Did you ever wonder why Abraham wouldn’t plead with God on behalf of his son? There is one place you don’t want to find yourselves these days – between and a parent and the well-being of their child.

Not Abraham. He argued with God on behalf of others, but not on behalf of his own son. If you go back to chapter 18 you’ll read about this fascinating scene where Abraham argues on behalf of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33). Abraham asks if God would spare Sodom if fifty righteous people are found there. God says he would spare the city if fifty could be found. Abraham continues to press his case and argues all the way down to just ten righteous people. In this passage Abraham works almost like a skillful attorney arguing a case before a judge, but when it comes to Isaac, there is no argument made on behalf of him. What kind of father wouldn’t argue for the life of his child?

And, as far as we can tell from the text, Isaac must have been compliant. My brothers and I used to wrestle with our father on occasion, but even as I grew to be taller I was never stronger. I used to joke that I could take him down, although I never managed that feat. I can tell you, though, if I were in Isaac’s place, and my father was going to bind me and place me on an altar to be sacrificed, I think I could take him down!

The first verse of chapter 22 says that God tested Abraham in this episode, but it doesn’t say that Abraham was aware this was a test. I think Abraham was doing what he thought a god would command someone to do. But what was God doing? It was a test, but could it be that it was also more than a test? I believe it was also a demonstration – a demonstration of God’s character.

We might argue that it could have been done in a far simpler manner, but I believe God brought Abraham and Isaac to this place not just as a test of faith but also to prove something about himself to Abraham. This was God saying, Abraham, I brought you and Isaac here that you might know I am not like other gods that men have worshipped. I am not a god that would require you to sacrifice your own child. In fact, although Abraham would not know it at this point, God would eventually sacrifice himself.

Abraham, you may or may not know, was a monotheist at a time in history when all others were polytheists. Abraham brought a new concept of God – there is one God, and he is a God who reveals himself to mankind and loves mankind, and requires a sacrifice of heart rather than of child.

And here is why we are starting this series with this story – because this story is about getting it right about God, about understanding him correctly. This story really sets the stage for the rest of Scripture as God reveals his true nature to mankind. This is where we start – we need to get it right about God.

Abraham had gotten a lot of things wrong. Abraham allowed his wife Sarah to be taken into harems on two different occasions and he made himself wealthy in doing so. He had a son with Sarah’s servant because of disbelief that God would honor his promise of a child for Abraham and Sarah, and then he sent the child – Ishmael – and his mother – Hagar – out into the wilderness to die. This episode with Isaac was God’s way, I believe, of saying to Abraham – Abraham, you’ve gotten some things really wrong, and you’re going to get this right.

We need to get it right too. I’m not saying we can figure out everything about God, but we can get the basics. God is not just somewhere up in the sky to give us what we want if we will just say the right words in the right formula. He’s not a celestial vending machine – put in a few prayers and take out what you want. Those who seek to define God such a way – as one who will give you more money, a bigger house, and all the material success you could ever want are distorting God. But there are other misconceptions of God lurking out there as well. God is not a God who wants us for an hour on Sunday morning and will stay out of our way the rest of the week, but a God who wants every part of us – heart, soul, and mind. God is not just a God who wants us to follow a set of rules but a God who wants us to joyfully embrace the purpose for which we were created, which is to love him and love others. God is not a celestial bully who is so angry with us that he is waiting, with judgment in hand, saying just give me a reason.

Will we walk with Abraham? When we struggle to put one foot in front of the other in faith, will we walk with Him? Will we put aside the things that need to be put aside?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 19, 2012 - Answering the Skeptics: Keeping the Faith

Today we conclude our series Answering the Skeptics. To be honest, these haven’t been easy messages to write, and today’s was especially difficult for some reason. I threw out three versions of this message and I’m still not sure I have it right, but I ran out of time, so here it is.

Our Scripture reading is a combination of three passages about faith.

Today we come to Keeping the Faith, and what I want to do is wrap up with some final thoughts about belief and unbelief.

I begin with mentioning a rather amazing moment that took place Tuesday during an interview on BBC radio. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, appeared on the program to discuss a poll on Christianity in Britain that was commissioned by his organization, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

The poll, in Dawkins’ view, suggested that Christianity has become mostly irrelevant in Britain and used, as evidence, the fact that nearly two out of three people who consider themselves Christians cannot name the first book of the New Testament as the Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Reverend Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral, was also on the program, and he turned the tables on Dawkins by asking him to name the full title of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species. Amazingly, Dawkins couldn’t do it. He sputtered and could not give the full title of Darwin’s history-altering book, the book that Dawkins cites as the book that above all other things proves why people should abandon faith.


Now, to be fair, it would be hard to remember On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. But it does point to one of the difficulties in the cultural struggle between belief and unbelief. Faith is not defined by whether or not someone can recite the names of all the books in the Bible or even recall the name of the first gospel. One of the fundamental mistakes of Richard Dawkins, and those in his camp, is this – they believe that faith is little more than agreeing to a series of beliefs or having some level of knowledge about theology. That is not at all what defines faith. Faith is not a belief system. Faith is not agreeing to every statement in a creed. Faith is a relationship. Belief systems are not alive. Creeds are not alive. They give a framework, but there is no life in those things.

There is life in relationships. Faith is, above all, I believe, a relationship with God. It is a relationship that informs who we are, how we live, how we treat others, how we think about others, how we think about ourselves – it is a relationship that informs and transforms every facet of our lives. That is why we, as Disciples, don’t put an emphasis on creeds or even particular beliefs. What we have is one thing that defines us – a confession of faith – I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And that confession of faith defines a relationship that we have with God.

Richard Dawkins and others always try and bring the discussion of belief and unbelief back to questions such as – do you believe in a talking snake? Do you believe a large fish swallowed Jonah? And the mistake they make is thinking that to be a Christian one must agree to a list of particular beliefs or have a certain level of knowledge, which is simply not true.

So some people can’t name Matthew as the first gospel. Is it enough to know all four gospels? What about all the epistles? What about being able to name all the books of the New Testament? The Old Testament? Frontwards and backwards? What about being able to recite the Apostle’s Creed? The Ten Commandments? The Beatitudes? What would be enough to qualify a person as being a Christian?

Once you start down that road, how much is enough? It’s never enough.

The earliest followers of Jesus wouldn’t have known those things, for the most part. Most of them were probably illiterate, so they couldn’t read the Bible if they had one, and they wouldn’t have had a copy of the Scriptures.

In fact, the first name given to the followers of Jesus was not Christian, did you know that? Does anyone know what the earliest followers of Jesus were called? The Way (Acts 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). Five times in the book of Acts we find mentioned The Way. Maybe because of the words of Jesus in John 14:6, I am the way and the truth and the life, but it may also be because faith is a way of life, not just something we believe. There is a difference between belief and faith. Belief is a list of things we agree are true; faith is how we live. Faith affects every part of who we are and every facet of how we live.

So faith is a relationship.

And it is a relationship that connects us to something beyond ourselves. Does anyone recognize the name of Jefferson Bethke? I’m sure some of you are familiar with him. How many of you have watched the video Why I hate religion but love Jesus? Jefferson Bethke is the young man who is in the video. On Youtube alone, his video has now been viewed around 20 million times. I think he makes a couple of good points, but he makes some bad points as well, and one of them is the

Much of the resistance to faith that we find these days is not directed at God; it’s directed at the church. God and church are not necessarily the same thing. Sometimes, when I hear people talk about their struggle with God, it’s really not God they are talking about – it’s the church.

Churches have no shortage of faults. You want to criticize churches? That’s like catching fish in a barrel – there is simply no contest. Yes, churches have problems, because people have problems.

But I believe faith calls us to something beyond ourselves. I believe faith asks us to connect ourselves to the lives of others. Yes, other people can be difficult, other people have faults, and other people can frustrate us. But we can do so much more as a body than as individuals.

And finally, faith is a way of seeing life and the world and other people – it’s a way of seeing everything.

Imagine losing your sight at age three, living blind for decades, and then being given the gift of sight. Imagine what a radical change this would bring to life – you’ve never seen your wife or your children and you have no memory of your own face. Mike May is the subject of the book Crashing Through, which chronicles his journey from years of blindness to the gift of sight. What’s fascinating about his story is to read of the difficulties he encounters after he regains his sight. It wouldn’t occur to me that one would have difficulties because your sight was restored.

Here is how his story is described – Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision. Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May’s vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children’s faces. He began to contemplate an astonishing new world: Would music still sound the same? Would he recognize himself in the mirror? Would his marriage survive? Would he still be Mike May?

The procedure was filled with risks, some of them deadly, others beyond May’s wildest dreams. And even if the surgery worked, history was against him. Fewer than twenty cases were known to all of history which a person gained vision after a lifetime of blindness. Each of those people suffered from desperate consequences we can scarcely imagine. There were countless reasons for May to refuse vision. He could think of only a single reason to go forward. Whatever his decision, he knew it would change his life (from the web site –

Almost immediately Mike May had the ability to catch a fly ball over his shoulder, but interestingly, he couldn’t tell the difference between a staircase and painted lines that look like a staircase. He was a very skilled downhill skier when blind, but kept falling when he had his sight. One of the comments about his experience was this – there is a great difference between vision and the ability to see.

That’s quite an interesting line, isn’t it – there is a great difference between vision and the ability to see. We often hear people say that seeing is believing, but when it comes to faith it’s believing is seeing. Faith allows us to see everything in a different, and new, way. The eyes of faith allow us to see the world through new eyes; faith allows us to see others in new ways; and faith allows us to see ourselves in new ways. Faith is a way of seeing, and a way of living.

May we pray.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 12, 2012 - Answering the Skeptics: Can Faith and Science Coexist? (Shorter Version)

Psalm 8:1-9

Note - this message was originally written as two messages but I combined them into one. This is the shorter version as presented on Sunday morning. Due to time constraints a good deal of material was not presented on Sunday morning. The longer version is posted immediately following this version, and is labeled as the longer version. The longer version contains materials related to the various views of the origin of the universe and the anthropic principle, which is the belief that the universe was "fine-tuned" for life.

Does anyone understand this picture? I don’t. It’s an illustration about the way that dominant and recessive genes work. The only thing I know to do with that illustration is to set it on fire and dance around it in celebration that I don’t have to learn what it means.

I am not in any way, shape, or form a scientist. I took biology my first semester in college and passed by one point. I remember struggling to understand dominant and recessive genes and inherited traits. The only thing I understand about inheritance is that I will never come into any kind of inheritance.

Although I am not a scientist, I believe in science. I am often encouraged by the advances of science and the way science has improved our lives. Often encouraged, but not always, and I’ll explain that later in this message.

We are continuing our series of messages Answering the Skeptics, and this morning we come to the intersection of faith and science, as we consider the question Can Faith and Science Coexist?

Richard Dawkins, who I have referred to on several occasions in these messages, says that it is impossible to be a scientist and a Christian.

Stephen Hawking, in his book The Grand Design, writes that it is not necessary to believe in God in order to explain the universe and its origins – Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going. (

Lawrence Krauss, author of the book A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, says the question why is there something rather than nothing is really a scientific question, not a religious or philosophical question ( Lawrence Krauss is wrong. Of course the question of why there is something rather than nothing is a religious question.

There is a very lively debate between science and religion, and is most often seen in the controversy over teaching intelligent design, creationism, and evolution in public schools. We also see it in end of life issues and in questions about human cloning. What is really behind the conflict, I believe, are several deeper questions – is science is making religious faith irrelevant? Can religious faith stand up to the progress of science? Are faith and science necessarily in conflict? Is it possible to believe in God and believe in science? What, if anything, can science tell us about God?

The struggle between faith and science is not new. Faith and science began to part company in the early 1500’s when Copernicus made his famous proposition that the sun – and not the earth – was the center of the solar system. Two other scientists built upon the work of Copernicus. Giordano Bruno hypothesized that our solar system was but one of many others in a universe that was boundless. Today he would probably win a Nobel Prize. His reward, however, for such a view was to be burned at the stake in 1600. The work of Galileo, who in the early 1600’s affirmed the findings of Copernicus, drove a further wedge between science and faith. In 1633 Galileo was tried and under threat of death recanted his theories and spent the rest of his life under arrest.

The discoveries of scientists such as Copernicus and Galileo led to the Scientific Revolution, which led in turn to the Enlightenment, which placed reason and science at the center of life. It was during the Enlightenment that people began to openly speak of atheism, although not in any large numbers and it received a generally unwelcome reaction. The Enlightenment and its emphasis on science and reason laid the foundation for modernism, which further separated faith and science and also saw the entrance of atheism in public life in a far more open manner. In the 1800’s Charles Darwin came along with his theory of evolution and natural selection, triggering a controversy that hit one peak in the famous Scopes trial of 1925, but continues to be a source of conflict.

What I find most disappointing is how the conflict between faith and science has been deepened because the church has failed to understand and accept certain scientific truths. No one would now deny that Copernicus and Galileo were correct, but for many years the church opposed and fought their discoveries because they were seen as a threat to the teaching and beliefs of the Christian faith. The relationship of faith and science has been tenuous ever since, and some of it has resulted in bad theology.

As believers, we occupy a rather strange land when it comes to science and faith. Many have some misgivings about science as it relates to our faith, while at the same time living with and appreciating the benefits of science. Every time we visit a doctor we benefit from scientific discoveries. Would anyone want to roll back medical science a few hundred years? We live in comfort because of science. When it’s cold or hot outside, we are able to keep it comfortable inside. You can thank science that you can hear me much easier because of the technology in our sound system. Or, if you’re trying to sleep, maybe you aren’t thankful for that advancement. When church is over you will get in your vehicle and drive to your home which is full of science – computers, satellite dishes, appliances, iPods, video games, and much more.

What is really at the heart of the conflict between faith and science is the question of worldview. Where did all this – the universe – come from, and how did we get here? That question has intrigued humans for all time. Science deals with the how, while faith deals with the why, and those are two very different questions. It is a question of worldview.

What is a worldview? Our worldview is the lens through which we see all of life. It is how we interpret everything that we see and hear; it is what shapes our opinions and our values and every facet of our life. My worldview is that God is the creator of this universe and all that it contains, and that worldview informs everything I believe. If we were created by God that means we were created with a specific purpose, and if we were created with a specific purpose then we ought to be living that purpose. If my worldview were that this universe and all it contains were nothing but the result of the collision of matter and the subsequent rise of life without any sort of divine intervention, that would affect everything about my life. If I believed there was no creator, I would then believe there was no particular purpose to life and I would be free to construct all of my own ethics in life and would be free to live in any way of my own choosing.

Worldview is of incredible importance to our lives. This is the heart of the conflict between faith and science – was creation by design or by accident? Are we here by divine intent, or as a result of random accident?

I want to talk about four basic principles that I believe are important in the discussion of the relationship between faith and science –

1. Why must faith carry the burden of proof?

A number of authors writing from the perspective of unbelief use the same phrase – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (see, for example, Harris, page 41), meaning that the claim of God’s existence is extraordinary and thus requires extraordinary proof. My question is this – why is it not more extraordinary to claim that God does not exist, thus requiring extraordinary evidence against his existence.

The question of belief versus unbelief often comes back to a person’s starting point, and we talked a little about this when we discussed the topic of faith and reason. Instead of forming a hypothesis that says God probably doesn’t exist and we’ll do all of our experimenting in a way that demands evidence for his existence, why not form a hypothesis that says God probably does exist and we’ll do all of our experimenting in a way that demands evidence against his existence.

A hypothesis is great because it gives one a starting point for experiments. The problem is that a hypothesis already contains built-in assumptions that lead us in a particular direction from the beginning. Victor Stegner, for instance, in his book God: The Failed Hypothesis, presents his hypothesis in this way (page 22) –

1. Probably, if God were to exist, then there would be good objective evidence for his existence.

2. But there is no good objective evidence for his existence.

3. Therefore, probably God does not exist.

This has a built-in prejudice from the beginning that one should be able to prove that God exists, but it’s really a useless formula and here’s why – just because there is some kind of a correlation between the first two points doesn’t mean the third point true is true. And, it’s possible to question the assumption of any of the points made in Stegner’s argument.

The reality is, science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. That doesn’t mean I have any doubts about God or that I believe that science does not in some way point us to God; it simply means that science cannot definitively answer this question – that is why we talk about a leap of faith. At some point every person has to weigh the evidences and claims and decide for himself.

2. We make some Esau trades when it comes to science.

You will remember the story of Isaac and Esau, where Esau traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 27). An Esau trade is a really bad choice where we are willing to trade something with long-term implications for short-term gain.

Isn’t it interesting that science is generally associated with the word progress, but we don’t always ask about the type of progress and the consequences of that progress? In the past I used to worry about someone stealing my wallet; thanks to science, I now must worry about someone stealing my entire identity. If one is a thief, that’s great progress. Some people think that social media sites, such as facebook, are great examples of progress. But when that picture of you dancing on a table with a lampshade on your head shows up in a job interview a few years from now, is that progress?

Science, at times, asks us to make some Esau trades. While medical advancements have done wonderful things, they have also complicated end of life issues. How many of us have sat at the bedside of loved ones and made heart-wrenching decisions about whether or not to pursue certain medical procedures?

Further, if people reject belief because of the evil that has been done in the name of faith, and if people reject institutional faith – the church – because of the hypocrisy it sometimes perpetuates, should we not also reject science because of what it has unleashed on this world? Why not be consistent?

If one desires to point out that faith has unleashed evil in our world, one must also be willing to look at what science has wrought upon us. Sam Harris hammers on the idea that we live in an age when mankind possesses the ability to bring about our own destruction, and because this is so we cannot afford religious belief of any kind because it is the most likely suspect that will trigger our self-destruction. While it is tragically true that mankind possesses the weaponry and technology to bring about our annihilation, it is science, not religion, which must answer for this. I would remind Sam Harris that even if religious terrorism in its most extreme form pushes that button, it is science that gave us that button. Some extreme form of religion may give someone a motivation to push the button of destruction, but it is science that has given us the weapons that will be used in our destruction.

Whatever problems religion has brought to this world – and I would acknowledge there have been problems – I would also argue that those problems are far fewer than claimed by unbelievers. I would also ask the question – what has been brought to us in the name of science, and can science save us from itself? Can we expect science to save us from the destruction of our environment, for example, when it is science that has provided us with the products and the technology that has so damaged our environment?

3. Will science ever recognize the spiritual?

One of the core principles of science is that of reductionism, which is the reducing down of everything to its most simple and basic components. This is done to better understand how things work so a scientist can then build new technology based on the discoveries that reductionism makes possible. If you apply this principle to computers and the digital world, at the most basic level everything is simply a combination of ones and zeros – everything. All that you see on your computer screen and all of the applications your computer performs are just combinations of ones and zeroes. But collectively, it is much more, isn’t it? We could say that when properly combined those combinations of ones and zeroes allows the computer to come alive.

Science has a difficult, if not impossible time, understanding this dynamic. On one hand, for instance, one could say that the writings of Shakespeare are simply a collection of words. Reduced down to the essence of language, that’s what you have. But is Shakespeare just a collection of words? Is the 23rd Psalm or I Corinthians 13 just a collection of words that are then gathered into sentences and then strung together? Is Amazing Grace just a series of musical notes? On one level, yes – if you examine them on a scientific level that reduces them down to the most basic of levels. But all of these are so much more – they are, in a word, spiritual.

The other day I had the opportunity to hold the newborn daughter of some friends. When parents gaze upon their newborn child do they say that’s a nice combination of DNA and cells? Absolutely not. What do they say? We’re holding a miracle. It is faith that brings everything alive to us. Science can help things to function or explain to us why they function, but science cannot see a miracle, and that is the difference between having vision and possessing the ability to see.

4. We don’t have to have the answer to every question.

I’m thankful science continues to look for answers to the great questions of our universe. But I also know that it is not a failure when we understand we don’t have to have answers to everything. There may not be an answer to everything, but in a spiritual sense there is an Answer.

I said in the first message of this series that we must learn to live with some paradoxes in life. That doesn’t mean we stop looking for answers and it doesn’t mean we look for a cop out when it comes to the tough questions of life. It simply means that there are always going to be questions we can’t answer, and that’s okay. No matter how far science advances, there are going to be questions. New discoveries, as exciting as they may be, will also reveal more questions.

Just because faith doesn’t answer every question doesn’t mean that faith is somehow inadequate. Faith allows us to understand that we can live with a measure of mystery, and though we don’t have every answer, we have The Answer in the person of Jesus.