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Intelligent Design

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Theme           What is Jesus’ ultimate sign?

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship

Leader: All the earth proclaims God’s glory.

People: All the universe and beyond proclaim the vastness of God’s creation.

Leader: All creation praises you, O God.

People: Our voices and hearts here this day, proclaim your greatness.

*Hymn of Praise            # 37              “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

*Invocation    (the Lord’s Prayer) Lord God, we seek some guarantee, some sign of your Holy Presence. As we begin our worship, draw us to you and let us glimpse you at work, not only here in this house, but in the world, as you bring hope and life to all your children.

*Gloria Patri

Scripture Reading          Exodus 20:1–17

The Ten Commandments are given by God as a necessary way to help the Israelites survive and thrive in the wilderness. The key to their survival was not allowing themselves to be tempted to worship other gods.

Anthem                                      With My Voice I Cry Out

Our  Offering to God               (same as last week)

*Doxology

*Prayer of Dedication     As we gather our gifts on this day, instill in us a spirit of dedication and thanksgiving. Help us to commit our very lives to you, O God. Give us the grace to see you, to hear you, and to love you. Give us the strength to walk in the narrow path of your love and to ignore those that would lead us down a different pathway. Help us recognize your face in the faces of those who are poor, lonely, estranged, or suffering. Allow us to see your son in the faces of those around us each day. Empower us, O God, so we might commit our lives to being your faithful servants, not only now, but always, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*Hymn of Prayer           insert      Heal Me, Hand of Jesus

Pastoral Prayer 

Patient God, you have given us eyes to see and ears to hear, and yet when we are confronted by your goodness and surrounded by your love, we fail to see you or hear your voice. More often than not we attend to the voices of the world that create confusion for our spirits and souls, rather than tune in on the power of your word and the gift of your love. O God, we confess our struggle to hear and see. We admit that we have failed. We recognize our desire to be influenced by the voices of this world and the signs of this age. We realize how easy it is to trust those who would gratify us immediately, and yet leave us to wither and die. As we worship you today, we humbly confess our shortsightedness and our sin – all the ways in which we have gone away from you. Forgive us, O God, and restore within us a desire to see you and to listen to your voice.

       Almighty and everlasting God, we live in an age of signs and wonders. Help us to see that these signs and wonders reflect not only the accomplishment of humankind, but also reflect the many ways in which you have blessed this earth. Help us see in these wonders not our glory, but your glory. Help us to appreciate and be thankful for what you have done for us. Help us worship you, our Creator, for we gain our strength only from you. Help us to be mindful of the most powerful sign you have given to us, the death and resurrection of your son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For it is in Christ and through Christ that we have been given eternal life with you. Amen.

Litany

Leader: We are challenged to become more and more like Jesus Christ,

People: in our living, in our loving, in our thinking, in our giving, in our sharing, in our caring, in our homes, at work or at school, in the store, or on the freeway.

Leader: We are to be more and more like Jesus Christ,

People: with our parents, with our neighbors, with aunts and uncles, with a best friend and a stranger, too, with our children, and our teachers, with our boss and our assistants, with all!

All: May we be more like Christ as we move through these days of Lent, these days of discipleship, these days of Christ like service.

*Hymn of Praise            # 561     “Day by Day”

Scripture Reading          Psalm 19

Message         Intelligent Design

The knowledge of God comes to us through different channels. Scientific discovery is one form, natural revelation is another, written revelation yet another. One God, One Truth.

Recently, a scientist, who is also a leader in his congregation, prepared a devotional for his local church board based upon a reading from Genesis 1. His comments were prompted by an essay in The Washington Post by Henry Brinton, a Presbyterian pastor, on the debate within his congregation between proponents of Intelligent Design and Evolution.

The scientist began by describing himself as a scientist and a Christian. He went on to explain the difference between a scientific theory and a hypothesis: The first is proven by a rigorous testing of hypotheses; the second is not provable by a set of repeated tests and thus remains a hypothesis. Theory is not the same as hypothesis.
Then he stated his own conviction regarding creation. And I quote “God did it. The Genesis stories of creation, while different in detail, agree that God did it. This theme runs throughout the Bible. That God did it does not suggest how God created us, and I find it somewhere between amusing/annoying/irritating/

maddening that people might have the nerve to insist that God did it in a way that is pleasing to them. I feel that God has given us the intelligence to explore the world around us and to do our best to understand it.” End of quote
This approach, combining the pursuit of truth through scientific discovery while humbly acknowledging that there are some things known only to God, allows for an embrace of science and faith. It allows for one to pursue the data that science reveals, including data about the origins of life, while praising God as the magnificent author of all that is.
This, in fact, was the approach of many of the great scientists of history, including Galileo, Kepler and Einstein. The pursuit of truth is what animated them. If one believes that God is the author of all truth, then the pursuit of scientific truth is not to be feared but rather pursued with joy and delight in the discoveries that will render the manifold splendor of God’s truth. Truth is truth, therefore, scientific truth need not be held in opposition to revealed, or religious, truth; They are different aspects of the truth that leads us to a knowledge of God.
Generations of believers have embraced the prayer of Psalm 19 in just this way.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge (Psalm 19:1-2).
The psalmist gazes at the beauty of creation and utters praise to God, the sovereign author of it all. This praise-offering comes from a truth born of faith. This is not science asserting, it is faith affirming. Science talks the talk; faith walks the walk. Science can do no more; faith can do no less.
Science will never be able to tell us — based on empirical evidence — that there’s a God or there isn’t a God. Only faith can make such a declaration.
The knowledge of God comes to us through different channels. Scientific discovery is one form, natural revelation is another, written revelation yet another. One God, One Truth.
The psalmist goes on to praise God for the glory of the human person who has a unique place in all creation.
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).
Darwin’s theory of evolution has had Christians grinding their teeth for almost 150 years. It seems to fly in the face of the Genesis account of the origin of life and the natural world. This is particularly troubling if Genesis is read as a scientific journal rather than a theological document that explores how humans are in relationship with God their Creator.
The latest version of this argument against the theory of evolution comes from proponents of Intelligent Design. This is not a new proof, or argument, but an old one (see Aquinas) repackaged and significantly more sophisticated than earlier versions of creationism. ID argues that Darwin’s theory of evolution is adequate to describe the wonderfully complex diversity of creation. Such complexity (the human eye being the most common example given), demands an unseen Designer an assertion that evolutionary biologists, and other scientists, are unwilling to make. The evidence might suggest an unseen Designer, especially if you are a person of faith and have certain spiritual pre-sets that make it easier for you to make that leap, but the evidence does not demand an unseen Designer, scientists say, because that would assume that the evidence has been subject to rigorous scientific methodology. There is no scientific test for the existence of God or the origins of human life that “demands” the answer ID people want.
Still, Intelligent Design is a strong and powerful proof, or argument, even though it is a proof that doesn’t prove. It is so strong, that most of us, when we stand before a towering mountain, or approach a foaming ocean, or watch the sun rise or set, wonder how anyone in their right minds can refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Creator.
But we can only do so much with ID. Many scientists, including the one who led the devotions for his church board, see the Intelligent Design movement, however sophisticated it might be packaged, as a distinct undermining of scientific research that has been tested numerous times and a severing of the once peaceful alliance of science and faith, each grounded in the pursuit of truth. Such a severance would be most unfortunate, and certainly not one anticipated by the historic faith of Christians and Jews.
again: The knowledge of God comes to us through different channels. Scientific discovery is one form, natural revelation is another, written revelation yet another. One God; One Truth.
Lyanda Lynn Haupt, writing in the journal Image, says that even Darwin, While unwilling to embrace any traditional Christian belief, with regard to theological assertions about God’s presence in creation, Darwin happily described himself as agnostic - always centered on the limits of human knowledge, rather than an outright rejection of engagement with theological questions. Darwin wrote, “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”
According to Haupt, it was Thomas Henry Huxley, a friend and defender of Darwin, who in 1869 best described this middle position. “He was an a-gnostic, a non-knower, one who could not claim to know ultimate matters with rational certainty or through the empirical processes of modern science. Huxley disdained the arrogance of popular theologians who claimed to explain the ways of God in the world, but he was likewise critical of atheists who doffed the significance of theological questioning altogether.”
It is unlikely that the psalmist, surveying the heavens and praising God for the wonders thereof while giving thanks for the place of humanity within creation, was thinking about the details of how such wonders occurred. He was simply offering praise and gratitude for his maker and living his life in harmony with the view that God is, indeed, the glorious author of all creation.
The How questions are for science. The Why questions are for faith. Did the psalmist ever consider the question of how? Who knows? How many of the millions of believers who joyfully give praise to God at the birth of their child consider the issues of chance, randomness and natural selection? For many, these matters are part of the fabric of life explained by science and affirmed by faith and pose no threat to their theology or to their spiritual practice.
Perhaps, this is where people of faith should let things rest. Matters of science, including the theories of the origins of life, are to be pursued by way of the standard forms of scientific research. Matters of science when in dispute, including theories about the origins of life, cannot be solved by theology, nor can matters of theological dispute be solved by the scientific method. To insist on empirical evidence for the existence of God or the origins of life would be to eviscerate the need for faith at all.
Theology has to do with the pursuit of God and doxological practice that flow from our understanding and experience of God. This is the path of the psalmist and it has been the path of Christians and Jews for generations. Holy Scripture offers a window into the exploration of God and a view into what it means for human beings to live in profound relationship with the Giver of all good gifts. Christians explore the New Testament assertion that God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the One in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).
 again: The knowledge of God comes to us through different channels. Scientific discovery is one form, natural revelation is another, written revelation yet another. One God; One Truth.
“The knowledge of God,” as the editors of Christian Century recently stated, “cannot be gleaned simply by looking at nature.” The knowledge of nature comes by looking at nature, and even then there are mysteries that remain beyond our understanding.
Christians, believing that all creation comes together in Christ, in whom the fullness of God dwells, are free to explore all the wonders of the natural world using the tools of science for learning and more complete understanding. We can join the psalmist who rejoices in the wonders of creation. Such wonders are not diminished by the work of science, they are illuminated.
The question is whether people who believe in God can live with the truth of scientific data while offering praise and gratitude to God. To live otherwise is to set truth discerned from science against truth discerned from revelation, Scripture and tradition.
That is unnecessary for people of faith. There is only one God, one Truth, and it comes to us through various channels.
Let us join the psalmist in singing, “Alleluia.”  (DOROTHY - # 186 Methodist Hymnal)
Sources:  Brinton, Henry. “Darwin goes to church.” The Washington Post. Sunday September 18, 2005.
“Cosmic Design.” The Christian Century. September 6, 2005. Vol. 122:18.
Haupt, Lyanda Lynn. “Darwin, God, and the nightingale’s poem. Image. Summer 2005. No. 46.

*Hymn of Response              insert (# 474 Methodist)“Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

*Sending forth              May the flame of the Spirit rise among us, the strong love of Christ be spread in all the earth, and God the Creator give us a new imagination for change.

*Postlude

Thought for the Day             Signs are all around us. In the midst of our confusion, we seek a sign that guarantees that God is with us and will neither leave us nor forsake us.

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