How bad is it Today?
One of the things I hear often in churches is how morally bankrupt the society is today and how the non-believers are out to get us. Christians share plenty of stories about how secular people have turned their back on God.
As a believer in God I hear this and think, ‘Are we (believers and non believers) really as morally bankrupt as when Jesus walked on God’s green earth? We don’t throw Christians to the lions anymore.’ Move forward a thousand years and we don't burn witches at the stake.
Further to this, I ponder if I was living in the time of Jesus, would I have had the opportunity to learn to read or write? If I fell ill from smallpox, or any similar disease that plagued those times, would there be a hospital to administer medication and staff to care for me? If my brother was murdered, would there be anyone appointed to investigate his death with the resources of the state? The answer to all these questions being a resounding ‘No', unless I was a member of the elite class in society.
So the next time there are suggestions that our society is morally bankrupt and that the secular people are out to get us, remember they have most likely taught your children to read and write. They have provided care in our hospitals and investigated crimes done to us. They are not out to get us – they just don’t believe what we believe. In James 1:17 we learn we should be giving praise because "Every good gift* and every perfect gift** is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.".
Furthermore, when we say the secular people are out to get us, we are doing something far worse in the eyes of God. We are driving a wedge between them learning about Him. In Romans 10:12-15 Paul explains "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, or, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!". I wonder to myself, why would the non-believer listen to the call of the one they have not believed when the messagenger proclaims that they are out to get them. In this case, it is us - the christian, that is forgetting the story of love taught by our teacher, Jesus of Nazareth.
Yes, it is true, our society has many challenges to overcome. Homelessness and rampant financial greed spring to mind. However, both also occurred in Jesus' time. So please don’t be a Christian that says, ‘I love everyone’, but then spew forth the filthy hatred of the devil in the next sentence.
Be enlightened. Love your secular majority, speak them up, tell them how thankful you are for their duty. You might be surprised that the seed you plant in them one day will bear God’s fruit. If you are already doing this, good on you. A parting thought from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
* a good gift might be administered medicine from a secuar doctor. **a perfect gift might be having your life saved by a secular doctor allowing you to spread the good news of Jesus a little longer!.
Even when you do not believe in God there is something to be gained from humbling oneself to a higher authority. I have found that regardless of my belief when I humble and admit when I am wrong or that I do not know all the secrets of life (nodoby really knows why we are here!) it is far easier to move forward and be content with that which I already have. Thus, a humble person never thinks that they have found everything, done everything and know everything. Knowing everything makes you either wrong or a bigot*.
All to often we see our fellow citizens chasing the dream. Most people know someone in their life who works, works, works only to retire and realise that the ones that really mattered have gone. The family they worked so hard for are rarely seen at best or pernamently disconnected at worst. Being humble about yourself and your needs can be an alternate way of living when compared to the hectic material race that many people find themselves locked into.
Additionally, as a larger population of humans we only have one home. One Earth. Why are we in such a hurry to pillage and horde resources. Whats the rush! Any sensible pragmatist would suggest we wait until a second habiltable home is discovered!
Getting back to it, humility can be described as a quality of being content in the current situation of life and still continue to give love and respect to all irrespective of getting it back. It's a state of calmness of the mind.
Now, lets not confuse humility with a lack of drive to chieve your goals. Rather it is a repositioning of the goals from selfish self serving desires to building a better community for all. When a person achieves a lot in life, Ego sometimes steps in. However, a humble person understands that giving is the way to live life. There are many things apart from wealth which can be given and a humble person always aims to give some part of his time, knowledge or anything acquired to the needy from time to time to feel grounded.
Putting it another way, I have found that when I am at my most humble I am more in tune with my actual needs and the needs of those around me. In Phsycology, this experience is often attributed to mindfullness. And mindfullness is a technique used by successful people and corporations.
When looking at ancient scriptures I sometimes like to replace the word "god or lord" with "the univrse" or "the energy". Yes, I can the Christians tsk and shake their heads at my sinful nature! The point here is you - the non believer, can also share in the knowledeg. Thus, lets take a look at what has been written many millenium ago.
- Humble yourself before the universe, and it will lift you up (adapted from James 4:10)
- For all those who exhalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exhalted (Luke 14:11)
- When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverb 11:2)
- Let someone else priase you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2)
*someone who cannot change their view in light of new evidence.
A gift from God? Or something else?
The Big Question - Does God exist?
The timeless question, does God exist is often muddled up with some sort of scientific discovery. However, this is not a question of science. Science only concerns itself with questions (hypotheses) that can be answered true or false. Nothing in between. If no experiment can be devised to determine the existence of God, then the question sits firmly in the realm of Philosophy or Faith.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
What is Science?
Science is an evidence based method of acquiring knowledge, characterized by the sciencific method. This systematic process was formalised in the 17th century by the Christian philospher Francis Bacon. The method involves careful observation (I notice solid objects always seem to fall to the ground), the development of a question that can only be answered yes or no (Do solid objects 'always' fall downwards?), analysis of the results (True; apparently solid objects always fall downward), and conclusions drawn from the result (Could there be some force that causes solid objects to fall ). Lastly, the entire experiment or question must be reviewed and repeated by other people. The same results must be achieved otherwise it is not considered reliable. Granted, this is a simplified view but it is also a good summary of the process.
“Knowledge is a rich storehouse for the glory of the creator and the relief of man's estate” - Francis Bacon (b. 1561, d. 1627) Where he wrote it: 'The advancment of learning' 1605
Theories and Opinions
No single question can develop into a theory. A theory is the combination of many different questions whereby their conclusions all point to the same result. Only then, can a theory of "something" develop. This is important, because my evangelical brothers regularly tell me, "it's just a theory", as if to tell me that I can disregard this piece of knowledge for some other untested interpretation. This is not to say that my brothers are wrong. Indeed, they may be correct, and are actually talking about faith.
Nevertheless, when this comes to testable knowledge I'd suggest they are stuck at the beginning of the scientific method whereby they have observed something then jumped straight to the conclusion without testing. That is much like this site, it is not the tested truth - it is an opinion. Ordinarily, you would think this is nothing of concern. However, scientists often find that the expected answer is entirely different to the actual answer. Thus, opinions are not a great substitute for theories.
God's world, is, for the most part is predicable. We know that a molecule of water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. When these two unique types of atoms combine they form a liquid. When they separate they form two different gases. At a particular temperature the liquid becomes a solid. In this realm of the universe it is predictable and never changes. It is as god intended it to be. It also seems obvious to us now - that two different gases would form a liquid. But, to the people that first asked this question it was not the initially expected outcome.
Therefore, we can conclude that a thousand years ago basic chemistry was not predicable. We did not know the recipe for water. It was magical. So why then, are we, the evangelical and pentacostal churches still in an age of wholly supernatural interpretation. No doubt, god himself is supernatural, but he only enacts supernatural forces on us when he chooses. For the most part, he allows us to roam free in the realm he created for us. Thus, I argue, he allows us - his creations - to operate without direct interference from the super natural dimension.
Supernatural comes from the Latin word supernaturalis, meaning beyond nature. The adjective form of supernatural describes a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.
In the bible, Matthew 4:1 tells us how Jesus chose to avoid the supernatural bending of space and time when tempted by the devil in the desert.
Matthew 4:1 CEV
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. After Jesus had gone without eating for 40 days and nights, he was very hungry. Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.”
It is clear that Jesus performed miracles. However, I am not Jesus, and as yet have not performed any miracles. It is better for me to be honest and admit this. Unlike myself, Jesus could enact the supernatural forces of space and time. This is as God intended it to be. Pretending otherwise, is at best a misunderstanding, at worst fraudulent, but most commonly what happens when pride gets in the way.
The biblical sin of pride refers to a high or exalted attitude—the opposite of the virtue of humility, which is the appropriate posture people ought to have with God.
I have to ask, why would Jesus choose to go hungry when he can materialise food from stone? The scriptures go on to tell us that we cannot survive on food alone, we also need gods word. Further to this, I propose that to perform miracles for himself would be selfish. Jesus only ever performed miracles to help others. This includes the resurrection. He did not resurrect for his own selfish purpose. He did this for us. To clear a path back to god and away from our sinful nature.
Can the believer trust Science?
Getting back to our story of science, I find it odd when many of my fellow believers are often defensive or entirely dismissive of scientific information. We take the easy road. We choose to enact the supernatural clause instead of taking the time to understand something. Or worse, when we cannot understand something, because chemistry, mathematics and physics are not easy to learn, we choose to dismiss the shared knowledge that god has gifted to someone else - someone who does know. We do this more freely when we know the person is a non-believer. Is it possible that a non-believer could understand something of god’s world that we cannot? Would it be easier if a believer explained that mathematics is the language of god?
“Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe” - Galileo Galilei (b. 1564, d. 1642) Where he said it: unkown
It is understandable that I would be dissmisve of science. After all, there has been a trend of reporting new discoveries as ways to disprove god. However, I argue differently. When you peel back the layers of each new discovery I can see the fingerprints of god. His handiwork - and his miracles contained therein.
The burning of the elements
In 2 Peter 3:10 we learn that the end of the earth will occur with the melting of the elements. Physists' will tell you, as the sun ages it will expand and the elements of the periodic table will indeed melt.
2 Peter 3:10 KJV
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Putting it nother way, misunderstandings occurs when new knowledge appears to contradict an older interpretation. This older interpretation often dates back to a time that truly was supernatural for the people living within. Take for instance plant growth. In the 1600's the accepted theory of plant growth was that it grew "by gods will, and gods will alone". We now know the catalyst to plant growth is not god's will, rather photons of light which convert carbon dioxcide and water into sugar and oxygen. One can suggest to me that god created the light. This is correct, but we now know how that light makes the plant grow. In the year 1600 we did not know, it was supernatural.
“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God.” - Louis Pasteur (b. 1564, d. 1642) Where he wrote it: The Literary Digest, October 18, 1902.
An alternative to Evolution
Another old world favorite of mine is spontaneous generation, the hypothetical process by which living organisms develop from nonliving matter. In the 1600's, physician and chemist Jean Baptiste van Helmont, proposed that “If a soiled shirt is placed in the opening of a vessel containing grains of wheat,” he wrote, “the reaction of the leaven in the shirt with fumes from the wheat will, after approximately 21 days, transform the wheat into mice.”
This, apparent spontaneous generation, may have something to do with mice both enjoying wheat and being capable of climbing into jars. Helmont had another recipe for scorpions. Just get yourself a brick, carve an indentation in it, and fill it with basil. Cover that brick with another, and place in the sun. In only a few days, “fumes from the basil, acting as a leavening agent, will have transformed the vegetable matter into veritable scorpions.”. It is easy to laugh at this now but it is a window into the curious minds of our ancestors. They just couldn’t for the life of them figure out how maggots could just up and appear in a corpse, or how oysters just seemed to materialize in the sea. They were not trying to use science as a way to disprove god. Rather, they were using it as a way to understand the creator who built us in his likeness. In short we were beginning to awaken, finding new ways to become closer to god. Albeit without much accuracy at the time.
Moving forward in Faith with Science
I find it disappointing that we argue and bicker with a section of secular society. We stick our head in the sand instead of looking back at scripture with fresh eyes. When armed with a new gift from god. A gift that sheds light on his word, the default position is to put our walls up and deny. At the same time we wholly embrace the day to day use of new scientific discoveries. Our phones have far more sophisicated science than the science that suggests we might have an impending climate problem. Furthermore, we praise god for the knowledge he gives trained doctors when they perform triple bypass surgury on a member of our congregation.
However, when it doesnt suit us, we instictively say "no, that is not true". Sometimes I wonder why is it so hard to look at the word of god and say maybe, just maybe I can update my 16th century interetation. The only genuine exception to this idea is the Amish people. They, for the most part, shun technolical advancment and as such can freely embrace their interpretations with true conviction.
Some Additional 16th Century Interpretions:
Flat Earth - was generally accepted until Capernicus propsed otherwise and Magellan circumnavigated around the globe.
Tribute - paying the church to gain entry into heaven was commonplace until Luther, in 1519, nailed his 95 theses to the church door, thus lighting the flame of the Reformation.
Worse still, this pattern of scientific dinial, some of us hold, is odd because I believe it turns the non-believer away from god instead of inviting them in. Additionally, many of the principles we deny were originally postulated by men of faith. In doing so we are denying the hard work of our ancestors. How so? Because each scientific development is a slow process of trial and error that eventually brings us closer to god, even when it initally appears otherwise.
Having said all that it is important to note, human knowledge, is flawed. The Bible refers to it tends to make one proud. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Therefore, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, without seeking God, is foolishness.
“Little science takes you away from God but more of it take you to Him.” - Louis Pasteur (b. 1564, d. 1642) Where he said it: unkown
I will leave you with this parting thought. Is it possible that scientific advancement is a gift from god? He wants us to understand more, to be more like him, to be close to him. I suggest it is the way we use these discoveries that defines us. Will we use them in a godly manner? Or will we use them with the devil on our shoulder? When we use it greedily to benefit a few (script). Alternatively, when we use it in the manner of Jesus - with love for your neighbour and your enemy then everyone benefits.