Is Christianity Anti-Science?

“…many have come to believe something very odd about Christianity: that it is anti-science, anti-reason, anti-progressive phenomenon fueled by blind faith. That is not Christian faith at all!” (Former atheist, Josh McDowell. Indeed, former atheist, Lee Strobel, a Yale grad, rightly describes Christianity as an “intelligent faith.”)

In addition,  I would encourage the reader to consider McDowell’s quote (above) in light of the arguments for God’s existence from the myriad of Ph.D.’s, scientists, and brilliant men and women, both living now and throughout history. (Significantly, some of the scientists and/or philosophers who argue for the possibility of a creator are not Christians, but are not afraid to admit that there appears to be a designer that exists outside time and space. See, for example: astronomer, Fred Hoyle, and philosopher, Antony Flew)

Biblically, Nicodemus, the disciples, Jesus’ siblings (in particular, James), Saul of Tarsus, the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, and the Roman commanding soldier, Cornelius (just to name a few) were not gullible idiots. They were intelligent people who made intelligent decisions to place their faith in Christ. Luke, a physician, wrote in Acts 17, the Bereans “studied the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was teaching was true.” (emphasis mine)

Personally, like those mentioned above – and most anyone else who has considered the claims of Christ, I have no interest in fairy tales and fables where my faith is concerned. Nor should anyone else.

So, why doesn’t everyone in academic circles look with, at least, a degree of favor and open-mindedness at the biblical gospel?

McDowell continues, “I am reminded of Richard Lewontin, a renowned geneticist and evolutionary biologist who admitted that some things they propose about evolution is absurd, but he said we must accept these absurdities, because ‘we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

And there it is.

Indisputable proof for or against God’s existence is not a scientific issue. For God can be neither proved nor disproved in a laboratory. Rather, it’s philosophical and theological.  Dr. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, is well respected throughout academia by people representing all philosophical, theological and scientific positions.  Having been asked about some of Stephen Hawking’s atheistic opinions, Lennox replied, “Hawking is a brilliant, famous scientist.  He [attended} Cambridge just ahead of me.  I have no quibble with his science, [the problem is] what he deduces from it.”  In other words, mere science, as biophysicist and former atheist,  Alister McGrath, asserts is basically agnostic i.e. science neither proves nor disproves anything in regard to the existence of God.  What science does is provide evidence, markers, clues, if you will.  It’s up to the individual to develop their own conclusions, as former atheist, Antony Flew, famously cited, by “following the argument wherever it leads.”   Does believing in God require faith?  Absolutely.  But, so does atheism.

While studying apologetics at Houston Baptist University, I wrote the following based on one of our assigned readings:  “As one begins to study scholarly writing, it is not difficult to discover that philosophy serves (or, at least it should) as a sort of system of “checks and balances” for the sciences. It seems that, more and more, scientists, themselves, are becoming philosophers – perhaps they always have been. However, there is a danger to the lay person/non-scientist who is in the habit of not thinking things through. That danger is to “swallow whole” what the scientist presents as truth, when it is merely a philosophical opinion based on said scientist’s empirical findings.”

Allowing a “divine foot in the door” carries with it implications that affect our everyday lives. And, as is their right, many simply choose to reject or avoid those implications – even though those implications are liberatingMcDowell shares that, in response to statements like the one cited above by Lewontin, “David Berlinski, who is a secular philosopher, defended the theists on this one, saying ‘If one is obliged to accept absurdities for fear of a Divine Foot, imagine what prodigies of effort would be required were the rest of the Divine Torso found wedged at the door… demanding to be let in?”

Planetary physicist, Robert Jastrow, once quipped, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Christianity is not anti-science. Rather, Christianity is evidenced by science. The deeper we search, both, outward and inward, we discover evidence for something beyond us – what Kierkegaard called the “Wholly Other.” McDowell cites as examples “the birth and order of the cosmos, DNA, RNA, transcription and proteins, and 3.1 Billion bits of information in every cell of our body.”

Additionally, Dr. Lennox (mentioned above) once asked a colleague of his – a physicist who is an atheist, “Where does human consciousness come from?” “We don’t know,” replied the physicist honestly.  Further, NYU philosophy professor, Thomas Nagel, an atheist, writes in his book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception is Almost Certainly False, “Just as consciousness cannot be explained as a mere extension or complication of physical evolution, so reason cannot be explained as a mere complication of consciousness…If physics alone or even a non-materialist monism can’t account for the later stages of our evolutionary history, we shouldn’t assume that it can account for the earlier stages… No viable account, even a purely speculative one, seems to be available of how a system as staggeringly functionally complex and information-rich as a self-reproducing cell, controlled by DNA, RNA, or some predecessor, could have arisen by chemical evolution alone from a dead environment.”

Science was given to us by God to serve as a method to discover him. Simply put, scientific findings are God’s “bread crumbs/clues along this path we travel called life.” And, in every clue, he is whispering, “I. Love. You.”

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world…” (Psalm 19:1-4)

The full article by Josh McDowell can be viewed here.

For an additional well-documented, intelligent arguments for God’s existence click here, and here.  The first was published on Yahoo! News, and originally written for Newsweek by University of Maryland professor, Robert Nelson.  The second is written by career police homicide detective (and former atheist), J. Warner Wallace.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Grief is a Part of Life – for Now

“Weeping may last for the night, but Joy comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5)

In Sep., 2015, shortly after completing  nine days in the Psychiatric Ward of our local hospital (I ended up there due to a cluster of triggers associated with my 19 year old son’s suicide), I sat in my counselor’s office and listened intently as he shared with me how to learn to “live” again. Completely broken, and possessing zero self-esteem, he lovingly said to me, “Part of running the race (of life) is encouraging your fellow runners.”

In other words, you will rediscover joy in helping others rediscover theirs.

Allow me that privilege now.

One of the most influential Christian minds of the 20th century was CS Lewis. The following two paragraphs are taken from his book, “A Grief Observed,” written after the loss of his wife:

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid…”

“At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be [around] me. I dread the moments when the house is empty…”

After burying ten children, Job uttered, “My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow.”

David, in Psalm 6, cried, “My eyes waste away because of my grief;…”

Bottom line: Grief is a part of life (for now).

But there is a passage in Isaiah that we, as believers, have heard so many times we may begin to miss its significance. About Jesus, Isaiah prophesied, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief...” (emphasis mine)

It’s this passage from Isaiah that changes everything.

Where is God when we are grieving? He is in our grief, whispering to us, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the believers at Thessalonica, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers (your loved ones) who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”

Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, our loved ones who have passed on before us are more alive than we are. Alive! Joyful. Free of sickness and disease. In the very presence of Jesus Christ. The Lamb who is our Shepherd. The Alpha and Omega. The Almighty.

On the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished.” On the throne in Revelation, he proclaims, “It is done.” We live in the “in between.” But, because of the blood Christ shed at Calvary, we have hope not only for the future, but for the present as well. Blessed be his name!

And, until that day we meet him either through death, or when the cosmos peels back for his return, he is whispering to us, “I’ve got this. Trust me.”

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace,” Jesus told his closest friends the night before he would die for us. “In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.”

(John 16:33; Amplified)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Suicide and the Bible – Part 2

After recently reading my  original blog, Suicide and the Bible,  a reader kindly asked a common question:

I was reading your “Suicide and the Bible”..and I just have a question. I’m genuinely curious to know what you think about this. So you’re saying nowhere in the Bible does it say suicide will send you to hell. You did call it murder (of yourself) however, which is sin. We are supposed to ask for forgiveness for all of our sins, so what if someone commits this “murder.” And dies instantly and didn’t get the chance to ask for forgiveness?

Their question actually concerns an entirely different doctrine of the Christian faith than the topic at hand. 

Before I jump in to this question, isn’t it curious that some people almost sound as if they are working as hard as they can to keep a certain demographic of people (those who die by suicide) out of heaven?  Even though the idea is contrary to scripture.  What if we decided gossip or lust or taking God’s name in vain were the sins that, if unconfessed, would prevent us from going to heaven?  Heaven would be a sparsely-populated place.

I addressed this at length in Part 1 of this blog, but allow me, once again, to address this question head-on by, hopefully, offering clarity from the testimony of scripture:

Fortunately, the Gospel makes it crystal clear that, at the moment we profess our faith in Christ, we are redeemed, purchased by Christ’s blood, and seen, in God’s eyes, as 100% righteous and holy (2 Cor 5:17, 21).  This means that, regardless of what manner we leave this life, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ i.e. a person who took their own life arrives in heaven just as someone who died of natural causes.  In short, as I stated in Part 1 of this blog,

…one’s eternal destiny, according to the Bible, doesn’t have a single thing to do with how we get there.  Rather, it has everything to do with the condition of our soul when we arrive.

Consider the dying thief.

Luke not once records the thief, after professing his faith in Christ, reciting a list of a lifetime sins.  As far as Jesus was concerned, the thief’s repentant heart was enough.  Jesus authenticated the thief being wiped clean of all sin (including un-confessed) by telling him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

1 John 1:9

John, the eye-witness and disciple of Jesus, wrote,

If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

There are those who would interpret this passage woodenly and legalistically, apart from the greater context of the New Testament, as John referring to a requirement for confessing every individual sin we’ve ever committed before we’re admitted into heaven.  Clearly, the account above of the thief on the cross, as well as the rest of the New Testament does not support that interpretation.

I agree with theologian, John MacArthur (and a host of others), who, commenting on this passage, writes,

“Rather than focusing on confession of every single sin as necessary [for our right standing in God’s sight], John has especially in mind here a [single] settled recognition and acknowledgement that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness.”

In short, according to the testimony of scripture itself, we are, at the moment we profess our faith in Christ, forgiven of all sin that would keep us from heaven and spending eternity in the presence of Christ.

Then why are we taught to confess our sin even after we’ve professed our faith in Christ?

MacArthur again:

“Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation.  The word ‘confess’ means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin.”

So, when we rebel against God (not merely what we consider heinous crimes like murder, theft, assault, etc., but also sexually impure thoughts, profane language, unforgiveness, anger behind the wheel of our car, gossip, lying (which includes “white lies”), lust, laziness, etc., it is spiritually healthy to come before God to confess/agree that such sin grieves him and hurts us, allowing his love and conviction to renew our minds and, hopefully, help us to focus on God’s Word, removing whatever sin is preventing us from experiencing spiritual growth.

 

The Real Question Behind the Question

Can a child of God lose their salvation?

Clearly, the Scriptures state we cannot.

What a wretched existence that would be – always wondering if you’ve checked off all the boxes required to be right in God’s sight i.e. have I prayed enough?  Have I read my Bible enough?  Did I memorize enough scripture?  Do I sincerely love everyone I’ve ever met?  Have I forgiven everyone whose ever hurt me?  Do I genuinely love my enemies?  Have I cared enough for widows and orphans? Have I singled out every little negative or impure thought I’ve ever thought?  The list goes on and on.  You spend your entire life never knowing if you’re good enough.  This is called legalism, which is backbreaking spiritual bondage.  It’s what the entire New Testament, especially the gospels, Romans and Galatians address.

Here’s what’s true:  none of us are “good enough.”

This is the very reason for the gospel and why “gospel” means “good news.”

Paul put it this way:

Not a single person is righteous (meaning we are doomed to hell)… But, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Faith in Christ’s death and resurrection makes us “good enough.”  In other words, it’s Christ goodness – not ours – that makes peace between us and a holy Judge so that, when we stand before that Judge, the verdict he hands down is “not guilty.”  Paul, from prison, wrote:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Further, Paul describes our salvation as a gift:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  

A gift is something we receive, not earn (by checking off boxes of human morality.) And since we did nothing in our power to earn it (Christ, alone, earned it for us on the cross) there is nothing we can do to un-earn it, or lose it.

You will find no list of sins in the Bible that causes us to lose what was purchased for us by Christ’s blood on the cross.

This includes the sin of un-confessed daily sin.

 

The Unpardonable Sin

Jesus, in a debate with the religious leaders, warned,

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

First of all – and I don’t know how much clearer Jesus can make it – murder is not the unpardonable sin.

Second, the only sin that can/will send a person to hell is one’s willful, deliberate, conscious rejection of God and his offer of redemption and salvation through his son, Christ Jesus.  That person is, in essence, saying,

“There is no God.  I don’t need saving.  God, if he even exists, is a liar.  The gospel is a joke, a fairy tale.”

This – and only this – , according to the Bible, dooms one to eternal punishment.

 

You Must be Born Again

To help drive home the doctrine of a Christian’s eternal security, Jesus uses the phrase, “born again”, to give us insight into this miracle called eternal life. It is significant that Jesus chooses to use this particular phrase.

Consider this:  regardless of how badly we may treat our parents, we can never not be their child. In other words, we can never be “un-born” as their children.  Likewise, we can never be “un-born again” as a child of God.  Our position in Christ is based on God, not us. And our heavenly Father’s grip on us is eternal; it can’t be undone. (An un-confessed sin at our death holds no power over our eternal security in Christ.)

 

A Weak View of the Cross of Christ

To assert that failing to confess a sin all of a sudden removes one’s imputed righteousness through Christ completely nullifies what Christ did on the cross.  Simply put, this idea is heresy.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross either saves us for eternity, or it doesn’t.  We can’t have it both ways.

Jesus spoke often of our security in Christ.  In John 10 where, speaking of “his sheep” (those who have, at some point in their life, professed their faith in him), he says,

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

Our eternity in heaven with God is as secure as God’s Word is sure.

 

The Logical Problem with Having to Confess Every Single Sin

Lastly, I am 100% confident that, when I breathe my last – whether it is by natural causes, or prematurely and unexpectedly – I will not have confessed every single sin I have ever committed in my screwed-up life.

And I’m fairly certain this applies to every other Christian on planet earth as well.

Consider yelling hatefully at your spouse or parent or child as you walk out the door one morning and shortly thereafter die in an auto accident – without confessing your hateful comments from a few minute earlier.  Would this send you to hell?  Of course, not.  The Cross is infinitely stronger than that.  (And aren’t you glad that it is?)

Thank God Almighty that, like Paul, we can confidently say,

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…”

 

The Disease of Mental Illness

Moving from the theological to the practical, a brief word:

There is another side of this issue that is not often enough addressed.  That’s the issue of a medically diagnosed Mental Illness (a genuine misfiring of the brain’s chemical make-up; a form of insanity.)  Information and data about the disease of Mental Illness is readily available from many reputable web sites such as the Mayo Clinic, the American Psychiatric Association, and  the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When someone dies of cancer, we never question that as sinful i.e. it wasn’t their fault they contracted cancer.  Yet, there is a stigma attached to a person dying with a medically diagnosed Mental Illness. A person posted the following comment to one of my posts:

“From a mental health perspective, depression is an illness. There should be no stigma attached to death from any illness. “

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

This would mean they ultimately died of a disease.  This can be debatable.  But it’s definitely worth mentioning and deserves serious discussion.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

FYI – I included the following at the beginning of my original blog, Suicide and the Bible.  I include it here again.

NOTE:  If you have been, or are, suicidal, please do not misconstrue my intent here by interpreting this blog as it being ok to take your life since the Bible clearly says, if you’ve professed your faith in Christ, you will go to heaven. Suicide is never the answer to one’s problems.  I know from personal experience the devastation suicide has on a family and friends.  If you are depressed and/or suicidal, get help immediately. Talk to someone – anyone.  Help and hope are available in abundance. (Click here for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.) The sole purpose of this blog is to give peace to those of us who have been forced to live through this horrific tragedy.

The Frightening Thought of Being Used by God

Have you ever believed in something so strongly, so passionately, you wanted the entire world to know about it?

I told my wife, Michelle, “You know – when you have a cause you strongly believe in, you want to get the word out to the masses. But, when it does begin to get out to the masses it is somewhat terrifying.”

I recently wrote a blog about suicide and the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Apparently, it struck a chord with the public because, in a week’s time, it was viewed just under 200,000 times in over 150 countries.   In addition, two local TV stations ran stories on it.  You can view those stories here, and here.

As the blog I wrote spread I have been forced to continually fight off fear and insecurity.  I’ve lost count of how many people from all over the U.S. – and close to home – have contacted me to talk about their own painful journeys.  The more people who contacted me, the more I thought to myself, “Am I really equipped to help these people??  I don’t even have my own screwed-up life figured out – how in the world am I supposed to help them?”  The responsibility of “owning the mission” God assigns to a person is sobering – even discouraging, because we tend to feel so inadequate – just like a man in the Bible named Moses.

I’ve thought a lot about Moses – a deeply flawed “failure” who, after a royal and privileged upbringing, had been consigned to herding goats. For 40 years. In relative isolation.

Then, one day God shows up and gives Moses an assignment that Moses clearly believes is beyond his skill set.  As God informs Moses he is to return to Egypt and face Pharaoh, Moses is, like I have been recently, somewhat terrified. Five times Moses tells God, in essence, “You’ve got the wrong guy!”   (You can read the story in the biblical book of Exodus, chapters 3-4.)

As I consider my own insecurities and inadequacies, I return to Moses and his own “burning bush experience.” And I remember what God, in essence, told him: “This is not your mission – it’s mine. And, because it’s mine, I will see it through. I will give you courage. I will speak through you. I will protect you. I’ve got you. Will it, at times, be scary? Of course. But, never forget: the battle is the Lord’s. And I’ve never lost a battle. Now go.”

Last thing: when I think about Moses, my mind is always drawn to a quote by author/pastor, Chuck Swindoll, who wrote,

“For his first 40 years, Moses thought he was somebody. For his next 40 years, Moses thought he was nobody. And for his final 40 years, Moses discovered what God can do with a nobody.”

Use me, Lord.  Please.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick