Do you believe in God? Albert Einstein did not and Stephen Hawking does not. That ‘s kind of daunting isn’t it? …Two of the smartest people…EVER
Yet the answer to the question “Is there a God” is not one that you can leave to someone else, including the world’s great theoretical physicists, no matter how brilliant they are.
· Nor can you leave the answer to historians, philosophers, and sociologists.
· Now can you leave the answer to people like me - theologians and pastors.
When it’s all said and done…at the end of the day…it’s YOUR decision to make. Only YOU can decide if there is a God.
· only YOU can determine if indeed you are alone as a human being in this universe or whether there is someone beyond you.
I don’t need to tell you how important the question is. It is THE question. It informs ALL of life. There is nothing in life that the answer to the question doesn’t’ impact.
· because you are inescapably a creature of hope
o you look forward, you yearn for something more, something better…anything to give meaning, value and substance to your relatively short life.
· because you are inescapably a creatures of anxiety.
o you worry chronically, you have fears of despair, you fret over pain, and you agonize in your tragedies and losses both small and large…
o you wonder if there is some reason through all the pain
· because you are inescapably inquisitive
o you endlessly interrogate yourself about the universe and your place in it…you always wish for a destiny…a calling that would define your significance
We hope, we fear, we wonder…and the answer to the God question looms over all of it…of of us…
· our Relationships, our morality, our lifestyles, our happiness, our careers, our finances …there isn’t an area of life that isn’t impacted by the answer to that question
· and then there is the whole matter of death and what happens thereafter.
Yeah the answer to the question “Is there a God” is kind of a big deal.
And…perhaps no bigger a deal than right now in the early stages of the 21st century. Belief or lack of belief is on a lot of people’s minds:
Just this past week…Pew Research Center released findings from a 2nd massive nationwide survey (first in 2007). Conclusions:
· Religion is apparently weakening in America.
· the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, pray daily and attend church regularly is declining.
· The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped significantly, since 2007
· the drop is even greater and faster among our youngest generation.
Why, do you suppose that faith in God is declining? Why are people believing less these days?
· Intellectual reasons
o We are solidly post-modern…in which truth is relative.
o But let’s be honest…the real basic intellectual reason why people believe less in God – and why some people have always struggled with faith is simple: you can’t see God.
o Even the Bible agrees…Now faith is being certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
§ God is un-seeable and un-provable
Yes, there are huge intellectual obstacles to belief in God . But I believe that greater than intellectual problems with God most of those who do not believe have come to that place for emotional reasons.
· personal tragedy/pain/loss for some is a catalyst for disbelief. “I can’t believe in a God that would ________”
· Spiritual upbringing in your family
o over domineering - legalistic - jammed down your throat
· Bad experience with religion or church
o sat through years of unexplained, boring religious experiences
o or maybe even some kind of spiritual abusive
o or maybe there is a position that church has taken on an issue that you find reprehensible.
· The result – Bible, church, God, believers just not credible
So, all that said…here you are…
· some of you are fuming mad at religion
· some of you are emotionally right on the edge – hurt and anxious about this topic
· some of you have you the arms of your mind folded in a posture of prove it
· some of you don’t know what all the fuss is about
· some of you are fighting fundies – pity the fool who doesn’t believe in God
So in this motley crew of believers and disbelievers How does one go about determining the answer to the biggest question of the universe?
I’m thankful for Rick Mattson – Faith is Like Skydiving – offering memorable illustrations on this toughest of subjects.
Rick suggests that faith is like Skydiving – Jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet is a calculated risk.
· My daughter Lucy did just that a few years ago. (pic of her and her friends Lisa and Erin)
§ Why? I don’t even know why I did it!
§ Was nervous and watched a girl break her leg
§ but…she knew safety record (99.993% safe) and quality of the gear and tandem jumpers…
§ so she did it because though there was not 100% certainty…there was enough evidence to jump.
Likewise – is there enough evidence to jump into the dark of belief in God.
· Can your faith be supported by evidence?
· Can you have an informed faith and not a blind faith?
· Can your faith be a calculated risk?
Is there enough evidence to jump?
Is there enough evidence to believe in God?
You’ll have to be the judge…
Over the next few minutes I want to examine with you what I believe to be evidence from philosophy, science, psychology and personal experience.
· Note: None of these are mic drop proofs…they all have holes and all have detractors…but cumulatively, I believe, they make a strong case for the existence of God… let’s see if you agree.
Philosophy –metaphysical, abstract
Here are several way oversimplified theories…
Theory #1 – Theory of Causality - The world is here. It must have come from somewhere. Somebody or something must have caused it to come into being at one time or another.
· nothing cannot produce everything
· non-life cannot produce life
· unconsciousness cannot produce consciousness
For life, consciousness and everything to come into being there had to be a conscious life that originated it.
· If all the pieces of a watch were placed in a can and the can shaken gently for a million years the watch would not be "accidentally" put together and running.
Theory #2 – Theory of movement. The universe is in motion…(in transition from potentiality to actuality). Whatever is in motion must have been put in motion by an unmoved mover.
Theory #3 - Theoryof purpose. In this world things without intelligence are ordered towards a purpose. Unintelligent objects cannot be ordered unless they are done so by an intelligent being, which means that there must be an intelligent being to move objects to their ends.
Theory #4 – Theory of change . The material world we know is a world of change. The world began with only the potential to change, but it needed to be acted on by someone or something outside if that potential was to be made actual.
· The universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore there must be a being outside the universe - outside of matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.
A composite of these theories might be this: A world that has life and purpose, a universe that is in motion and is changing…points to a God.
“This is exactly the type of world one would expect to find if there is a God” Richard Swinburne
Science – of the physical world
Could it be that the physical world points to a creator?
The Bible in a number of places references the evidence of God in the physical world:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…Romans 1:20
I can only just touch on this evidence from the physical world or the world of science. And specifically from what’s called the theory of the “fine tuning” of creation.
Some scientists have argued that there are 55 parameters the world must lie between to permit advanced life in the universe.
· if the nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons in an atom had been stronger or weaker by even a small % - life would not be possible
· If you neutron mass or electromagnetic force were adjusted small amounts – life would be impossible
· If the axis tilt of the planet was greater, surface temps differences would be too extreme for life
· If the surface gravity of earth was stronger, then the atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane…if weaker we’d lose too much water
· If the water vapor level was greater we’d have a runaway greenhouse effect…lesser and rainfall would be too meager for life
· If the thickness of the earth’s crust was thicker too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust… thinner and tectonic activity too great
These are just 6 of 55 parameters that make earth habitable - the probability of all these parameters being actualized in a single planet in the universe one in one hundred billion trillion. (1 followed by 23 seros)
Here’s another way to look at it from the world of Poker. Royal flush: ace, king,queen,jack,ten of the same suit – 1 in 649,740
· what if reshuffled and get it again? and again and again…
· at some point you have to start being suspicious that someone is fixing the cards.
· random chance does not explain well the complexity and fine-tuning of the universe
“Someone prepared a house for humanity to inhabit”
The existence of conscience – the existence of right and wrong. Moral intuition.
· Everyone in the world knows, deep down, that he or she is absolutely obligated to be and do good – this is the human conscience working. This is moral intuition.
· And…Nearly everyone will admit not only the existence of conscience but also its authority.
· People will willfully disobey the state, parents, the church, and any other authority figure but no one wants to disobey their conscience. As a matter of fact people will become belligerent if asked to violate their conscience. Today the authority of conscience trumps all else.
· Where does this absolutely obligation to conscience come from? Could conscience be the voice of God in the soul.
Then there is the matter of goodness – Things which are called good, must be called good in relation to a standard of good—a maximum. There must be a maximum goodness that which causes all goodness. Could that be God?
And then desire. C.S. Lewis - Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. People feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")
So, I ask again…is there enough evidence to jump? Let’s look at one more area of evidence…(next week we’ll examine history)…
Subjectivity and Experience
This area of evidence may carry the least amount of weight but it cannot be dismissed out of hand. Sometimes the evidence of a thing is seen in its impact…or its effect.
Jesus himself referred to this when he suggested that God is like the wind…you don’t see it or know where it is going but you certainly feel its effect.
And so there are those in this world who will tell you that they know God exists because:
· they see him and feel him aesthetically … in beauty, art, music, nature
· Saint Saens – Organ Symphony
· what is it about art or nature that draw out tears?
· others would point to the wonder of relationships…love, the birth of a child, deep friendships, parenting, and marriage.
· others have experienced what they believe to be a miracle…a direct intervention of God in their lives
· still others would tell you that there was something missing in their life – a hole in their soul perhaps – that was unable to be filled any other way until they found God.
· and still others that say…their faith was simply given to them and it is incompatible with reason altogether. Actually has a name – Fideism.
These evidences are, yes, subjective, but they have been experienced by countless millions throughout human history…they cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Are they the effects of the wind of God? You’ll have to decide.
Is there enough evidence for you to jump?
But before I wrap this up let me offer the alternative…
This is what Faith in not-God looks like: nihilism
· I believe that nothing caused everything
· I believe humanity is on its own and can make life work without any outside agency.
· I believe in the human ability to create and maintain a world in which we all live.
· I believe we must depend on our human ability to use politics and reason to shape the human condition
· I believe that humans are basically good and getting better and will evolve fast enough to keep us all alive longer and healthier.
· I believe - Anything that we feel is missing…any unmet desire can be met somehow in our created world or in my mind. When I feel a longing or yearning it always can be met some way through psychological reasoning, another human being, or something material.
· I believe that when I die all that remains of me will be memory.
So…yeah…do you believe in God? do you believe in not-God?
It’s all a calculated risk isn’t it? But is there enough evidence either way to jump?
I’m going to give you just a few minutes to process…