mynewsermonMarch132005 - Science vs Christianity
Has Science Disproved Christianity?
Thank you Jason and thank you Sarah.
When a boy starts growing up, he goes through an intellectual cycle that goes, more or less, something like this:
At first the boy knows he knows nothing himself, but that his dad knows everything.
This phase could be called the “trust” phase.
Then the boy finds out he does know a thing or two, but not as much as his dad.
This stage is an extension of the “trust” stage and one in which the boy still relies on his dad to show him the way.
All too soon after this, however, he starts suspecting that he actually knows stuff that his dad does not know. This phase we might call the “suspicious” or “jealous” stage.
And from there, as is our nature, it does not take long before the boy realises he actually knows everything, and his dad is an ignorant dinosaur, out of touch with life and out of touch with reality.
That boy, now, has reached the “enlightened” stage.
And the father … well he had his turn, didn’t he?
As a side, on the other hand, there are those who are blessed and are a bit like Socrates.
“All that I know is that I don’t know.
And then he said:
“I am the wisest of all men for I know that I don’t’ know”
For the rest, obviously he had to learn to trust, and believe in something or someone who could not be explained by human experience.
And he believed in this so completely (in his case, truth)
that he died a death by poisoning for it.
But that’s not what today is about.
There is a sense in which the human race as a whole has taken a similar journey as the boy in my introduction.
There was a time when everything was explained by religion.
The weather, for instance, was what God or the gods gave.
But now we can explain so much without any reference to God.
Culture has moved from the “trust dad” mode to the
“we know it ourselves, better than the old approach”.
We can see this journey in history.
Allow me to jump almost 2400 years ahead, from the time of Socrates in Greece,
to Basel, Germany, where for a few moments we may become part of a small group of rather inquisitive onlookers on a strange site.
Let me try and paint a picture:
It is the middle of a bright sunny day.
A frail looking little man with a vigorous moustache, shoulders slumped, is walking slowly around and around the fountain on the village square.
In spite of the hour, he is carrying a kerosene lamp, as if lighting up the way.
One can tell that he is deep in thought.
He has a frown on his forehead and he is looking at his feet as he walks.
He is muttering to himself, and round and around he goes, slowly….
Suddenly he stops!
Softly, as if it has just struck him, he says:
“God is dead”
“God is dead,” he says, this time a little louder.
And now he becomes almost frenzied:
“God is dead; God is dead; GOD IS DEAD!
And then he stops, looks up at the crowd, and says:
“And it is you who killed him!”
The man with the lamp actually lived. He was Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, who lived at the height of Prussian army’s might.
Coincidentally, It was also the time of phenomenal scientific and technological advancement.
His thinking, I would suggest, is the product of this time of scientific knowledge advancement
Much has been written on whether he was a believing man, and the famous story of the incident on the village square has just confused the issue more.
Nietzsche himself declared that he was an atheist, and yet, the “God is dead” statement, makes it clear that he thought long and hard about God and of mankind’s interaction with God. But, maybe, just too long and to hard, leaving no room for the spirit of God to work. …?
And is it from this kind of thinking, this human way of thinking in the age of reason and science and technology, that our question arises? Is it this kind of “reasoning” that weakens our faith and makes us, eventually, unfaithful?
Has our culture moved from the need for having God to explain things in life, to one where we can explain it all now with our “science”?
The question, as you know, I have been asked to prepare on is:
Has science disproved Christianity?
The answer, I can tell you now, is no!
And now we can all go home …. and thank you for coming…
To work towards an answer to our question, let’s first then define the sources of information we will use to examine the question that has been raised.
Let’s go on another imaginary journey.
In our search for the answer to the question, let’s pretend that we are in the foyer of the biggest, best equipped library in the world.
In this library works the best librarian the world has ever known and this librarian has been busy, very busy:
We have sent word that she should gather all known books on science so that we may compare it to all the books she may find on Christianity.
So, to the best of her ability, this is what the librarian has done. She has gathered together all the books on science she could find and have placed them on row upon rows of tables in the one side of the very large room.
A sign indicates that all of the books in this section are the “Scientific Knowledge” books.
And there, in a dark corner, on the far side of the room, on a single small table, the librarian has placed a single book under a sign that says: Christianity’s Book …
and there we find …the Bible.
When we ask the librarian about this imbalance of material, she explains that while she was preparing for this showdown, for a moment she became worried that she couldn’t find, readily available, as many books on Christianity as she could on science,
So she started out by reading the one Christian book after the other, commentaries, bible studies, systematic theology, even ReJoySing II and the Book of Worship, all in a frenzied search for proof that she would be able to stack up against the hundreds of thousands of books on science that loomed in the other end of the room.
Until it dawned on her: all the books on Christianity was saying the same thing,
And everything all the books were saying, she discovered, was already contained in that one book, the Bible.
And what the Bible says, of course, is this:
We are God’s people, living by God’s grace, in God’s world.
And when she discovered this truth, the Librarian said, she knew it was good, and then she rested!
Wouldn’t it be great if those wayward scientists who had written all those other books, had done a bit of pre-reading too in this one book, too, and discovered this simple truth and indeed explanation, of our so-called scientific verifiable existence, too.
Some of them, of course, may have. The bible and science as such are not opposed. The bible gives us an explanation of how all of life began and continues- it’s by God’s creation and His ongoing providence.
Everything works in a rational constant way because God is faithful.
We can do science because God is constant and faithful. Christians and non Christians can both do science.
But one with his belief says God is the reason behind it all.
The other from his belief says there is no god; we don’t need a god-explanation anymore.
Much of what scientists of the unbelieving kind today say as justification of their unbelief has been summarised in another book.
Some of us was fortunate to hear Dr Louw Alberts, internationally recognized nuclear physicist, speak in our church some two years ago.
Dr Alberts is as well known for his work in nuclear research in South Africa as he is for his book: Geloof versus Wetenskap (or Science versus religion)
And in this book he goes to great length to discuss the very question we are trying to answer this evening.
In this book, Dr Alberts lists three possible models people may cling to as the foundation for their beliefs of where and when everything had its origin:
Notice that the models at once also contain the basis for belief or unbelief, depending on what you prefer to believe in or, to use the popular term, depending what your “World View is.
The first group says: everything is coincidental. Several universes or for that matter, our single universe, must developed spontaneously and we, purely coincidentally, are products of the only universe we know. This group in their radical form base their belief on scientific findings like the “Big Bang theory and vigorously stand in opposition to Christianity.
The second group says: let us focus ourselves on what we can see and touch and experience. We are limited to our experience of things and therefore there can be no answer to the question on where we originated from. This is the agnostics at work, They too, on the grounds of sensory experience or observation, by implication deny the substance of the very essence of Christianity, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, for He is today, in their way of thinking, not touchable or visible.
The third group, says, everything was created for a purpose by a supreme being (who we call God) and that God pre-existed before time and things. Christians and their faith in Christ, or in short, Christianity falls in this group.
These three approaches can, broadly speaking, be categorized as being either atheistic, agnostic or monotheistic, all three wonderful scientific-sounding words.
The prominent realization as one examines them more closely is this: all three are - and remain - work in progress.
In scientific thinking there is no final truth. As we discover new techniques, new technology, as we break through new barriers of intellectual capacity, so the “facts” of scientific “reality” changes.
In his book, Dr Alberts continues to examine the thinking or the theory in each of the first two groups, and he does so as a scientist.
And then he turns to the Bible, which he uses as the foundation for his arguments for Christianity.
And now, he finds, as we will find when we return to the Word of God, a central, unchanging truth.
And when we take into consideration how the Bible came into existence, remember that the Bible books were written over a thousand years or more, by people who were vastly divided geographically, and we see how in spite of this.
The whole Bible, the old and the New Testaments hang together, then, surely, we must realize that here is a book like no other.
But, hopefully, we all already know that.
So, while unbelieving scientists across the world are looking for scientific reasons and tables and experiments they may conduct that would prove that Christianity is “a pie in the sky when you die, lets dust of that lonely Bible.
The Bible uses the word “science” (or a word closest resembling what we in modern times understand under the word “science”) only twice, both in the King James version of the Bible only.
In Daniel 1:4, we read:
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And in 1 Timothy 6:20 we read:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science, falsely so called:
In both these instances, the word is used more as the equivalent of “knowledge” rather than “science” as we have come to understand the word in our time.
But it is the closest we can get and the gist of the quotations is clear:
Even then, even in the time of these examples thousands of years ago, in the time of Daniel and in the time of Paul writing his letters to Timothy, there were people who totally overestimated their knowledge.
They had become impressed at their ability to gain knowledge, forgetting that it was a gift that God gave them to start with.
We saw that in the fall of Adam and Eve. What was their sin? That they want to be self-reliant, that they believe they chould care for themselves and will be able to do so better than God can.
What is more, with this new found knowledge and the power it brought them, they were going to subject the earth and all that exists in it and above it and underneath it, not because of their calling or the command from God to do so,
to His glory,
but again, because they believed that by so doing, they could become God themselves.
We see examples of this in the story of the tower of Babel, and in the story of Jacob just before he wrestles with God, when he makes a plan to appease Esau by sending him gifts.
And to this kind of thinking, in the modern era, comes the “scientist” – the knowledgeable ones, those in service of mankind!
And again, there are those scientists who do their work to the glory of God, to serve His people, but they are not the ones who declared “God is dead. Science has proven that God does not exist.”
But how much did they really know. How much did they really understand? And how much do we know today. How much do we understand today?
Which brings us back to our readings…and that wonderful book again:
What or where can we read in the Bible that will not only balance the scale of our understanding of our existence, but indeed fill us with a purpose and a sense of security so that we may confidently face the scientific orientated world and fight the good fight for its and our everlasting salvation?
The answer is – everything and everywhere!
The Bible is, without a doubt, as one popular radio personality puts it, the Handbook for Daily Living, today as much as it will be just before the fullness of time and as much as it has been for a thousand years.
In it we may find the reason for our being, the explanation for our suffering, the promise for our future and the guarantee that we are safe in the arms of our Maker.
It’s all there!
And, although it is not a science manual, or a history journal, or an archeological index, we may find the basis for all the answers that the scientists have not been able to find in that one book, the Bible.
And the answer remains the same.
It’s all there!
Let’s look at an example:
We heard Sarah reading Genesis 2.
What is this account about?
Its about creation. Yes.
It is also about so much more, all combining to state the one truth: We are God’s people, living by God’s grace, on God’s earth
Look at the imagery:
The garden as it is described by the author of Genesis, is drawing a picture of a garden that would surround a King’s dwellings.
It was almost exclusively kings that had gardens like the one described in Genesis in the time that Genesis was written.
Who is the King that is implied?
Who does he make his representative?
What is our task?
To rule over the garden of God, creation, until He comes.
Do we mess it up? Of course, but that’s another story.
So, Genesis two is about the establishment of the Kingdom of God and His command to His people to care for it, to His glory, until He comes back again.
And that truth is echoed throughout the Bible
Where do we see it enforced and fulfilled in the new Testament?
In the New Adam, the second David, The ultimate King.
On The Cross, where he is crowned King over life and death and time and he is established as the ruler of the New Kingdom.
But if this is so clear to us, why is it not so clear to others? Why has our culture moved from the child trusting Father (God) to the smart aleck, all knowing teenager.
Why doesn’t it hear and accept God.
Why the drive for a science that does away with religion?
Well …the parable of the sower, for instance, tells us a few things.
This parable too is about the kingdom.
But don’t we know the message of the parable of the sower?
But there is another sermon that one can preach on what the message of this parable is.
Not that it makes the sermon we often hear untrue.
Of course it is about faith that may be found to be weak, or impulsive, or strong,
But, again, it is especially about the Kingdom of God and, specifically, about those who are to turn their back on it (the Israelites?)
and those who listen and listen but still do not hear that the Kingdom of God is about to dawn (the Pharisees who had the advantage of Jesus being in their midst in their times, but who wasted it away?)
and those who become subjects of the new King, (the small circle of Jews who came to faith in Jesus and who, coincidentally, we are also currently learning about in the series on Acts in the morning service.)
As a quick detour but as another example: The theme of those listening and not hearing, … and looking but not seeing, is a constant thread in the Bible.
Look at Matthew 11: 2-6.
2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a]are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
Now look at Isiah 6: 9-13
He said, "Go and tell this people:
" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes. [a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."
11 Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"
And he answered:
"Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."
Apart from the comparisons did you notice, too, the imagery of the uprooting?
And now lets read Mark 4: and take special note of verses11, 12
The Parable of the Sower
1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
9Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that, “ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]”
13Then Jesus said to them, “Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Apart from the references to not hearing and not seeing, Do you notice the imagery, in this case, of the “planting”, as opposed to the “uprooting” in Matthew 11.
In becomes obvious, doesn’t it.
In Isaiah 6 It is the foretelling of the rejection of Jesus in new Testament times and, by the way, the destruction of the temple.
It is all there!
Do we see? Do we hear? Can we stand up against those scientists who say: God is dead?
Science does not disprove religion. It simply deals in depth with what is seeable and hearable, observable.
Science has discovered how things work and thus in technology harnessed that knowledge.
But what science often does not do is recognize the big picture, recognize the God who made it all and keeps it all going.
That is not a question of science, but a matter of faith.
And so many simply cannot hear it or see it because their hearts have not been changed by the Spirit of God.
They do not what to hear it or see it because their sinful natures reject God. They feel they have grown up and don’t need God.
God is for the kids.
God is dead.
So, what do we say to our science-sure friends, those who are able to quote the relativity theory of Einstein or unravel the most complicated mathematical equations and calculations, but who can offer no explanation of such concepts as love, and forgiveness, and hope, and in spite of this short-coming, insist that Christianity is false.
Them, I suggest, we refer to that lonely Book in that very big library, and we point them to Psalm 8.
Perhaps even read it with them:
A psalm of David.
1 O LORD , our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise [b]
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [c]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD , our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
And when finally they break down and perhaps even weep, sobbing in relief of the knowledge and recognition that we are God’s people, living in God’s world, under God’s grace and mercy and love,
I hope we will all be able to say to them (with love of course)…but I told you so.
And, the Bible has told us so from the beginning!