For most of history, people didn’t think of God as a “problem” so much as a solution. But times have changed. Today, belief — let alone trust — in God seems to be hard to reconcile with science, evil and suffering, hypocrisy in the church, questions about the reliability of the Bible…and more. Whether you’re wrestling with these questions yourself — and who doesn’t sometimes? — or know someone who is, you won’t want to miss a single weekend of this series.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world?”
We all struggle at times to reconcile a good God with the evil we see in the world around us. Join us as we kick off our new series and examine the problem of God and evil.
Hey, welcome to Mission Hills on all of our campuses. I’m so glad you are here. I realize this is a weekend where it would be really easy not to come to church, but I’m so glad you are here. I know we are between Christmas Eve and New Year’s weirdness and the chaos of that, so it would be really easy to stay home, but I’m glad you are here because we are launching a new series. I’m really excited about this series. It’s something God laid on my heart a couple of — well, early last year, actually. I’m really excited to see what He does with it. It’s a little bit of a different series for us. I want to explain why it is that we are doing it. I think everybody listening probably falls into one of two categories, okay, and the question for you is, which one am I?
The first category is people that have faith and questions. People who have faith, they believe in God. They have faith in Jesus, but they also have questions. There is this myth out there that somehow people of faith don’t have questions, but having faith doesn’t get rid of the questions. What it does sometimes is scares us into not asking them anymore. You get to this place where — I have told everybody I have faith, so I can’t admit that I have any questions, so we don’t want to admit it. The problem is, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we are never going to get the answers we need. The answers actually can drive us deeper into a much more profound and life-giving faith if we are willing to ask the questions and get the answers.
That’s one category of people, people who have faith and questions. That’s the biggest one. I certainly fit into that category. There is another category of people that have no faith because they have questions. I think there are a lot of people listening that say, well, I don’t have faith. I don’t necessarily believe in God. I’m not really a committed atheist. I haven’t settled into unbelief, but I haven’t been able to settle on belief yet because I have some significant questions, and I haven’t gotten satisfying answers to those. That might be you as well.
What I want everyone to understand is that we are all on a similar page here. Faith is not really a black or white, yes or no, either or kind of thing. Faith really is kind of a spectrum, and you can think of the spectrum from zero — I have no faith, and I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to examine any evidence. I’m happy where I am, all the way up to maybe ten where people go; I have all of the faith and none of the questions. Got complete confidence. I have all of the answers I need. The question I want to ask you today is where are you? Where am I on a scale of 0 to 10? Take a quick minute to think about it. Zero again is no faith, no questions. I don’t need to look at the evidence. I have everything answered to my satisfaction, no God, no nothing. Ten would be all faith no questions. Like, I got God figured out. He makes perfect sense to me. Everything He does, yep. Got it.
Where are you? Then let me ask you this — any tens? I’m not seeing a lot of tens. Okay. You know what? Here’s what I want you to do then. I want you to look at the person to your right and say, it’s okay. I have questions too. Now look at the person on your left and say, I have questions too. I don’t want anyone to be left out because what we are realizing is, we are all kind of on the same page. You see, faith is a spectrum. If you think about that scale, five is the tipping point from unbelief to belief, but there is still process in either side of those things, and questions that can actually be what helps us to make progress in faith, and so we are all kind of in the same place. You are among friends no matter where you find yourself on the scale today.
That’s really what this series is all about. Today what we are going to do is tackle the problem of God and evil. We are going to ask the question, if God is so good, why is there evil, right? Let’s make sure we frame the question properly. Here’s the way it works. Christians teach a number of things that become difficult when it comes to evil. One of the things that Christians teach is God is good and great. Christians teach that God is good and great, right? So we teach that God is good meaning God is kind. He’s benevolent. He’s gracious. That God wants good things for His creation. We also believe that He’s great, meaning that He’s powerful. In fact, He’s all-powerful. God can do absolutely anything that He wants to do. Nothing that God wants to do is going to be blocked by something that’s out of His ability to control.
This is where the problem comes in. We go, if God is good, He should want to eliminate evil. If God is great, He should be able to eliminate evil, but evil exists. That’s the problem we are dealing with today. Christians say God is good and great but evil exists. And that’s the question we are going to tackle today. It’s a really important question. It’s probably a question you have wrestled with, if you are a believer or not, it’s probably a question you have wrestled with.
It’s a question a lot of people have wrestled with. A study a couple of years ago found, they asked thousands of people around the United States, hey, if you could ask God one question and you knew you would get an answer back, what question would you ask Him? The number one answer was, I would ask God why there’s so much evil, why He allows evil, so obviously, it’s a widespread question. Interestingly enough, they asked the same question of a bunch of Christians, and they found that question was the number one question that we are most afraid our nonbelieving friends are going to ask.
So obviously, this is an important question to have an answer to, and I believe there is an answer to it. I would to ask you to go ahead and grab a Bible from the seat around you, or one you might have brought, or pull one up on your phone. We don’t really care how you get there, but I would love for you to follow along. I’m going to be in Mark 10 today, starting up in verse 17. While you are turning there, let me just say something. I really appreciate the way Christianity deals with the problem of evil, because not all religions deal with it in the same straightforward way that Christianity does. Christianity goes right for the throat. It says there is evil. It’s a real problem, and they deal with it from that perspective. There are religions that try to take kind of a sneaky, round about way of dealing with evil.
One of the things that some religions say is, what evil? What are you talking about? There’s no evil. Doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. It’s a myth. It’s a misperception. It’s a misunderstanding. It doesn’t exist. There are eastern religions that do that. There are even western religions that do that. Christian Science does that, which by the way is neither Christian nor science, but it does say that there is no evil, okay? So there are religions that say, no, evil is not a problem for belief in God because evil doesn’t exist. Christianity doesn’t do that. Christianity says, no, no, no. Evil is very real, and it needs a solution. What I have come to understand over this last — I don’t know, 25 years or so wrestling with this in my own life as well as with other people, what I have come to understand is this, Christianity offers the only complete explanation for three things, for the existence of evil, for our reaction to it, and for the solution for it.
I have really come to believe, that’s what I’m trying to show you today, that Christianity offers the only explanation for the existence of evil, our reaction to it, like why do we respond to the things we perceive as evil, as well as the solution for it. Mark 10:17 shares a conversation with a young guy and Jesus. It’s a conversation that got way too deep, way too fast. I feel bad for this guy. He had no idea what he was in for. Verse 17 says, As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and he fell on his knees before him. Good teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? So we got a guy, he’s probably a fan of Jesus, not necessarily a follower, but he’s intrigued by him. He’s interested in him. He’s got a big question, so he runs up and falls down and he says, good teacher. And understand, when he called him “good teacher,” he’s not saying hey, you’re good at teaching. What he’s saying is you’re good. I see goodness in you.
He’s kind of buttering him up a little bit. He’s going, hey, hey, got a big question, but first let me acknowledge something about you. I see that you’re good. But it’s interesting, that word is what Jesus jumped on. He says, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Verse 18 Jesus said, why do you call me good? And I feel a little bad for the guy, okay? Because that’s not even the question he was there to ask, right? He wasn’t there to talk about what is good. Why I call Jesus good? He’s there to talk about eternal life, but Jesus hears literally the first word out of his mouth, let’s talk about that. I was watching “fails” the other day, all time favorite fail — a guy hopping from puddle to puddle, making them splash. He gets to the third puddle, and he disappears. It wasn’t a puddle. It was a pit. He had no idea he was getting himself into that. That’s kind of what’s happened to this guy.
He’s come to ask a spiritual question. He’s like, good teacher — Jesus is like, let’s talk about “good.” What do you mean by that? Why do you call me good? What Jesus is doing, he’s asking him a really deep question that the guy didn’t realize he was raising, which is what is your basis for saying it? What do you mean by that? When you say that I am good, what does that mean? How do you know that I’m good, and how do you know that something else is not good? What Jesus is doing, he’s challenging his sort of casual usage of a term like that. He’s going, man, don’t use words like that without some thought behind what you mean by them, which is interesting because we do it all the time, right? We use words like that all the time and we don’t think much about what they mean, but think about it. Good and evil, those are relative terms, and I don’t mean that they — just what you happen to think. I don’t mean everybody gets to decide.
I mean that they are relative to some kind of an objective standard. I mean think about it, I’m in front of this backdrop right now. If I go around behind it, I’ll be behind the backdrop. But the words “in front of and behind” they only mean anything because of where the backdrop is. Does that make sense? Good and evil are similar kinds of words. Good and evil require some kind of a standard so you can tell what side of it you’re on, and that’s really what Jesus is asking. He’s saying, what’s the standard here? You’re calling me good, okay. What’s the standard here? What do you mean by that word? And that’s really important for dealing with the problem of God and evil because the first step — listen to me, the first step in answering the question of evil is defining evil, okay? The first step in answering the question of evil is defining evil.
I have had dozens and dozens of these conversations where people will say, hey, it’s great that you are a person of faith. I just don’t have faith because — I don’t know how you can have a good and great God and still have all of the evil in the world. The way we need to respond to that question — or the way you need to deal with that question if it’s your own question is to actually step back a little bit and go, what do you mean by evil? Let’s define that word. I think we need to respectfully go, I agree. That is a difficult question. This is a hard subject, and I would love to talk about that with you, but before we do, we need to make sure that we are using our words in the same way. That’s always important. You are saying your problem with God is evil, would you just tell me — and again, very respectfully. We are not looking for a gotcha moment here. Very respectfully, would you tell me what you mean by evil?
What’s your standard? How do you know if something is evil or not? What I have discovered over the years is that most people are taken back by the question, honestly. They go, I don’t know that I really ever thought about it. You go, well, I don’t know that I have spent all that much time thinking about it, but let’s think about it together. What you are normally going to find is that people begin to try to answer the question. They try to define evil. There’s four different answers that they give, okay? These are a little oversimplified, but I think almost every answer I have ever heard fits into one category or the other. First category is this. People go, evil is the opposite of good, right? Which makes a lot of sense. Doesn’t it. Evil is the opposite of good, and we need to say, I totally agree. I think that’s absolutely right. The problem is, now we are back to the same question Jesus is asking, right?
Why do you call me good? What is your standard? How do you know that I am good? What is your basis for that decision? If we just say evil is the opposite of good, but we don’t define good, we are kind of circling the question. So that doesn’t really work. The second category of answer that people will give is that evil is whatever’s unpleasant. That’s not necessarily the word that they are going to use. They are going to use words that are a little bit deeper, more emotional. They go, there are some things like you just look at it. It’s awful. It feels — like I can’t believe that people are trafficking women around the world. That’s clearly evil because it — clearly, it makes me sick inside, okay?
Or bully, or child neglect. There are all kinds of things. It’s – it feels; it’s clearly unpleasant. Whether that’s the word or not, that’s really what it ultimately comes down to. I think that’s better than the circular thing of saying good is the opposite of evil and vice versa, but the unpleasant thing kind of falls apart too, for a couple of different reasons. First, different people have different standards of unpleasant, don’t they? Like my brother-in-law — he runs Ironman triathlons — and he likes them. Like he clearly has a different standard for what is pleasant than I do, okay?
Then there’s the issue that a lot of things that are unpleasant actually turn out to be good, right? Let’s talk about kale for just a second. Like I know that kale is really good for you. I get it. You can stop with the kale propaganda. It tastes like the devil’s vomit. I’m sorry. I know it’s good for you, but it’s super unpleasant, right? And there’s so many things that are unpleasant but turn out to be good. Medicine. My dad’s taking chemotherapy pills every single day, and it’s not pleasant, but it’s prolonging his life, and it’s actually giving him some more energy back as hit white cell count gets to where it should be. It’s unpleasant, but it’s good, right?
I’m sorry, I’m going to mess a bunch of New Year’s resolutions up here. How many of you have New Year’s resolutions to exercise more? I have bad news for you. At first, it’s not going to be pleasant. People that have been doing it a long time, they are like, no, I love exercise. It makes me feel great. Yeah, you have been doing it a long time. When you first start it, it’s not pleasant — but it is good. It is good for you. Stick with those resolutions. I’m rooting for you. You see what I’m saying? Just because something is unpleasant doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s evil, or that it’s not good, so that doesn’t really work.
Another option people go, the third option is that evil is whatever society agrees it is. It’s the social consensus. Like I don’t know how else we do it, so whatever a group of people says is good or bad, that’s what’s good or bad, so evil is just whatever society agrees is evil for whatever reason. That might be one of the only options people have without God, but it’s really an unsatisfying answer if you think about it. Because what does that mean? If it’s a group of people deciding what’s good or evil, then what happens if another group has a different definition? Is that all we have is a difference of opinion? Is that all we can do about it? Was the holocaust just a difference of opinion between the Jews and the Nazis? Anyone ready to go, yeah, yeah. Just personal preference. Was American slavery a difference of opinion between blacks and whites? Or was it evil? You see what I’m saying? If it’s just social preference, which group gets to decide?
Is it a simple majority, and does it matter if another group — you see what I’m saying? It doesn’t work, and we find ourselves going, no, no, no. Some of those things, I don’t care what anybody thinks, or what anybody decides to do, that’s just wrong. That’s just evil. Why do we feel like that? Then the fourth category of possible answers to what people mean by evil is. Evil is whatever is counterproductive. That’s not really the word that they use, but practically, that’s what it boils down to. Evil is whatever keeps society from moving forward, or evil is whatever keeps our genetics from surviving. There is a lot of evolution tied up in this particular approach.
Evolution says, well your human existence is a result of random chance, but survival of the fittest kicks in, and it does whatever’s necessary to preserve the genes being passed on from generation to generation, so the evolutionary teaching is that well, evolution — blind chance and survival of the fittest has led us to the point where we feel good about things that continue our genetic line, that keep our DNA in play, and we feel bad about things that don’t. For instance, we feel like it’s good — protecting children is good, because it keeps our genes going, and we feel like killing small children is bad because it doesn’t keep our genes in play. Make sense? From an evolutionary perspective, I think that’s a pretty solid attempt to explain why we feel like things or good or evil.
The problem is, again, it doesn’t work its way out when you carry it to its conclusion, because we also feel that it’s good to do thing that is don’t help our kids and help other people’s kids, even if those other people ultimately have kids that end up competing with ours. Why would evolution teach us to do that? I mean, how many of you sponsor children through Compassion International? That’s awesome. Compassion International is closing in on their 2 millionth child sponsored. How cool is that?
Yeah, that’s worth applauding. That’s fantastic. We love Compassion here at Mission Hills. Compassion’s goal is to eliminate child poverty. Not to impact it. It’s to eliminate it. A whole bunch of us have said, that’s a good thing to do. So check out what we do — we take money away from our kids, and we send it to the kids of other tribes and nations and other places that we’ll never see, and here’s the thing — I mean, think about this. It’s going to be brutal for a second, but let’s just follow it through to its conclusion. We are helping them escape poverty, which means they are going to grow up and industrialize and modernize their nations which means they are going to start driving SUVs and things like that, which means they need more of the resources we need, and you understand that those resources are going to run out, right? Natural gas and coal and oil — they are all running out, so we are helping people to get to the point that they are going to consume more of the resources that our kids are going to need someday, and — what are we, idiots? Like why are we helping when it’s going to hurt us down the line — going to hurt our genetic off bring further down the line.
And on a logical basis you are like, yeah, yeah, yeah, but — helping kids in poverty in other nations, it’s just good. It’s the right thing to do. Not helping kids out of poverty when we have the ability to do that, that’s just wrong. We feel that deeply, don’t we? Why? Why? And here’s what happens. I have been wrestling with this question for years with all different kinds of people. What I have come to understand is that our belief in the existence of evil — our belief in the existence of evil is very difficult to explain without the existence of God, do you hear me? Those four options, and almost every answer I have ever heard that doesn’t involve God, fits into one of those four categories, but when you follow them through to their conclusion, they are all very unsatisfying because they just boil down to, I guess I just don’t like it.
And that’s not enough, is it? To look at genocide or human trafficking and go, yeah, that’s just not my preference. That’s not enough, is it? That stuff is wrong. That stuff is evil. Even more — you know, everyday at home evil like bullying, or child neglect. To look at something like that and go, yeah, that’s just not my cup of tea. That’s not good enough, is it? Those things are evil. We have this deep seeded belief that things are just evil, and all of the major answers for explaining it just don’t work. See our belief in the existence of evil — and we do believe that deeply, profoundly, our belief in the existence of evil is very difficult to explain without God, because without that standard, why do we feel like people are either in front of it or behind it? Why do we feel like people are in alignment with it or out of alignment with it?
Why do we feel like that if there is no standard? Our belief in the existence of evil really very difficult to explain without the existence of God, which, interestingly enough exactly what Jesus says in answer to his own question. This poor guy jumped into way deeper a conversation than he thought. He said, good teacher — and Jesus said, let’s talk about that. Why do you call me good, he answered? He said this, No one is good except God alone. Understand, he’s not saying God is better at being good than we are. He’s not saying God is gooder. This is not a comparison. What he’s saying is God is the standard by which you decide whether or not something is good or bad.
He’s saying, you see goodness in me because I’m like God, and you may be using the word casually, but understand, every time you use the word good or evil, you are saying something about the nature of God Himself. This is the Christian answer to what evil is.
Christianity says evil is whatever is not like God. Christianity says evil is whatever is not like God. It’s not lined up with His nature, His character. And Christianity teaches a couple of things. Christianity teaches that God exists, right? That’s not news to anybody, right? That’s basic. Christianity teaches that God exists. Christianity also teaches, as we see here, that God is the standard by which we decide something is good or evil. If it’s in alignment with his nature and character, it’s good. If it’s out of alignment with his nature and character, it’s evil.
So God exists. God is the standard for good, but Christianity also teaches — this is so important, Christianity teaches that you and I were made in the image of God, and that means a lot. We find all the way back in the very first page of the Bible when God announces the creation of human beings, He says let’s create mankind, human beings in our image. We can talk a lot about what that means, but one thing that it means for our purposes today, it means human beings were made with an instinctive awareness of what God is like. We have an instinctive, hard-wired awareness of what God is like, and it’s that instinctive, hard-wired awareness that causes us to look at some things and go, that’s just wrong. That’s evil, and we look at other things and go, that’s just good, because there’s something in us that lives in the constant awareness of who God is and what He’s like.
So here’s an interesting thing that happens. I want you to follow me on this. If you don’t believe in God, if you believe that God doesn’t exist, you really can’t use words like good or evil. You kinda understand why I’m saying that? Because good and evil are terms that require an objective standard. If you don’t believe in God, you can’t say, that is pure evil. That’s an atrocity. That is awful. That is just bad by every– you can’t just say that if you don’t believe in God. Which means, only people who believe in the existence of God can actually talk about the existence of evil without hypocrisy. Only people who believe in the existence of God can actually talk about things that are evil without being hypocritical.
A hypocrite is somebody who says, I believe this, but they act in a way that’s different from that, right? Please understand, I’m not mocking anybody at this point. If we have to talk about hypocrisy, we have to talk about hypocrisy in the church, and there is an awful lot of hypocrisy going on in the church. A lot of people who say, I believe this, but I live in a very different way. I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not casting stones or any of that kind of stuff. We are going to talk about the problem of God and hypocrisy in a later part of this series, but what I’m saying, if you don’t believe in God, but you insist on using words like good and evil, there is some hypocrisy — there is some inconsistency going on there.
I remember a few years ago I read a book by one of the most famous atheists of our era, Christopher Hitchens. He died a couple of years ago, but he wrote a book called “God Is Not Great,” and in the book, there was a section that really caught my attention. He spent quite a bit of time about what he called religious atrocities, evil done in the name of religion. And I remember thinking, you can’t talk about evil done in the name of religion, because you have said there is no standard. There is no objective thing to say one thing is evil. It’s really kind of just about what a society agrees, or personal preference is or what you think moves us along, but you keep using words like atrocity and evil.
I never had a conversation with Dr. Hitchens, but I thought, if I did, one of the things I would say is, hey, you know what? I agree with you. Some awful stuff has been done in the name of religion. The Crusades were an atrocity. The Spanish Inquisition was an atrocity. The Salem Witchcraft Trials, they were an atrocity. Those were evil things. I completely agree with you. It’s just that I’m the only one who gets to say it. You — you can’t actually say that because you are borrowing capital. You are borrowing my worldview to make a point that you feel, but you can’t actually say that it’s evil. There’s hypocrisy there.
And I need to pause for just a second here. I want to say this, if you are not a follower of Jesus, feel free to tune out for a couple of minutes. I just want to talk to the followers of Jesus right now wherever you might be listening, because I know that if you followed that, if you follow what I shared, and you have this idea that when an atheist talks about something being evil, like religious evil especially, you are like, they are being hypocrites, and part of you is going, yes. Like yeah — I cannot wait to meet an atheist. I cannot wait to use that. I cannot wait to get them to that point where they say something’s evil, and I’m going to be able to slap ’em with this. I can’t wait. Got a weapon.
If that’s how you are feeling, can I beg you to stop — heading down that road? Please, stop, and listen to me really closely. What I’m doing today and throughout this series, I’m giving you something that you can use in conversation, but please understand, these arguments are not weapons. They are medicine. Do you hear me? Do you understand the difference? Atheists are not our enemies. Our job is not to inflict wounds of retaliation. Our job is to bring healing and hope. These arguments are not weapons. They are intended to be medicine. Listen, the Bible says those people that are far from God because they don’t believe in him, and they struggle with issues of faith, Ephesians 4:18 says this, They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Now understand, some of the hardening of the heart comes from sin, as it does for all of us. Sin calluses us. It makes it harder for us to be sensitive to truth and to light and goodness and those kinds of things, so some of their hardened hearts come from their own sin, but some of the hardening of their hearts comes from lies they have been fed and taught day in and day out in our public schools and in this world. People who don’t believe in God are not our enemies, and we are not out to inflict wounds. We are out to bring medicine, and that’s the goal of this. These are not weapons. It’s medicine. Do you hear what I’m saying? Could I get an Amen?
That’s not enough. This is really, really important. These are not weapons. They are medicine. Can I get an Amen?
Okay, let’s remember that, okay? Okay, everybody else can tune back in now. What we are saying is this, people often go, I have trouble believing in God because I see evil. What we are trying to help them understand, no, no, no your belief in evil actually points to the existence of God. Does that make sense? See our belief in evil is actually evidence for the existence of God because without God, we can’t really explain why we have this deep seeded, universal, cross language, cross culture, cross history belief that evil is a real thing, and it’s not a matter of personal preference. But that requires an objective standard, a transcendent standard, and that transcendent standard; I think the best answer is God.
So our belief in evil is actually evidence for the existence of God. But that doesn’t solve all of the questions, right? That doesn’t solve all of the problems. Because the question that we want to ask at that point, okay, I understand the existence of evil doesn’t disprove God, it actually requires God to explain why we even believe that, but why? Why would a good, great God allow evil? Why would he do that? Kind of along those lines, we want to ask the question like, where did it come from, right? If God is good and great and he created all things, does that mean he created evil? That’s a big question, right? Where did evil come from? Did God create it? And the answer to that question is — no — but — God didn’t create evil. I mean, really, you can’t create evil directly. It’s like dark. Dark isn’t a thing. It’s an absence of light. Cold isn’t a thing. It’s the absence of heat or molecular motion.
Well, evil isn’t so much a thing, like you can’t carry around evil. It’s the absence of good. It’s the absence of God likeness. Right? And God didn’t create the opposite of Him. What He did was He created creatures, human beings and angels that He allowed to make a choice. They could either choose to live in alignment with Him, or they could live out of alignment with Him. Instead of following the beat of the drum of His heart, they could set their own rhythm and it’s off center. It’s out of control, and it leads to chaos, but He allowed us to make that decision. Then we go, wait a minute. Didn’t He know that was going to happen? I mean, if He knows all things, didn’t He know that Adam and Eve were going to choose that? Then why on Earth did He make them with that ability if He knew what it was going to lead to?
That’s really the big question. If God is good and great, why did He choose to create us with the ability to choose evil, right? Anybody ever wonder that? Anybody know somebody who’s asked you that? If God is good and great, why did He create us with the ability to choose evil? There is an answer to that question. I’m not going to give it to you today. I’m totally kidding. I’m going to give you an answer to that question. I believe it’s right. I believe it’s 100% true, and I think it’s easy to understand. But before I give it to you, I want you to understand that there is a difference between something that works in the head and something that works in the heart.
We need to deal with both of those. I’m going to give you the head answer, but then we need to unpack how we deal with it at the heart level because something that works in the head doesn’t necessarily give us courage and comfort and whatever else we need the midst of things that are difficult. When we are facing evil, when we are facing pain and suffering, going, I know this thing philosophically doesn’t necessarily help. So we are going to deal with the head, but we also need to commandeer with the heart, but let’s start with the head. If God is good and great, why did He create us with the ability to choose evil because our ability to choose leads to great good.
Our ability to choose leads to great good. I mean, if you think about it, it’s pretty logical progression. If God is good and great, then whatever He does leads to what? Great good. Say it with me. If God is good and great, whatever He does leads to — great good. I have talked about this with philosophers. I have talked about this with scientists. I have talked about this with all kinds of people, and we have all kind of agreed that on the head level, yeah, I think that’s true. That’s the answer. Anything God does — if God is good and great, anything He does leads to great good. He wouldn’t do it if it didn’t lead to great good. That’s the head answer.
But then the heart jumps in and goes, okay, but how? Like help me understand how because life’s hard. Evil is real, and pain and suffering that are caused by our choice of evil, I deal with these everyday in my body, in my family, in my work, all around us I see the consequences of God. Help me understand how on Earth does you letting us choose evil lead to great good? Help me understand that. You know, when my kids were little, they were fascinated by the burners on the stove. They glow bright red, you know? And of course, they really wanted to touch them and we are like, we are not going to let you do that. Then one day, I was — I had just kind of kept my daughter from doing that.
I was sitting in the living room. I was thinking about it. I don’t know if any of you parents do that. I was like, what would happen if they touch it? If my back was turned and they touched it? Oh my gosh, the searing pain? That would be awful. The burned flesh, and — and I’m getting really upset. Like tears are starting to form in my eyes. It hasn’t even happened. I’m just imagined this. Does anyone else do that? Maybe I’m just broken. I don’t know. I was like sitting there really upset about this thing that had never even happened, and all of a sudden into that — and I don’t know if it was God speaking, I really don’t know what I was thinking, but I suddenly thought of two questions I thought were really interesting.
The first question is this, let’s imagine that ever happened. Do you think that they would ever touch the burner again? Most people are shaking their head. I’m thinking, no. They wouldn’t do that again. As long as they remembered what happened last time, they would never touch the burner again. But then I thought the second question, which I actually think is the more interesting one. The second question is this, would they be able to touch it again? I mean, would they still have the ability? Would they still have the free will to choose to touch it? I thought, well, yeah. It’s not like touching the stove got rid of their ability to choose. It just got rid of their interest in touching it, right? Not their ability. It got rid of their interest. I had at that moment a sudden thought that I wonder if, I wonder if that’s what God was doing.
You see the Bible is very clear that God made us for a purpose. Part of that purpose is that God made us to have a relationship with Him– to actually have a relationship with Him — with you. God wants to have a relationship with you. Not with you as a group, but with you as an individual. God made you with the goal of having a relationship with you, but the thing is, relationship requires choice, right? It doesn’t mean anything to say yes to somebody if you couldn’t say no. Guys, I mean, if your wife or if your fiancée– your girlfriend became your fiancée became your wife, if she said yes when you asked her to marry you because there was like a sniper rifle pointed right here, and she could see the glow, and she was like, I’m definitely going to say yes. You wouldn’t have rejoiced at that, right? Saying yes doesn’t mean anything if you can’t say no.
Like I have a Roomba at my house. Like one of those little round robots that goes and cleans up stuff. I love my Roomba, but I’m not in love with my Roomba, okay? I don’t have a relationship with my Roomba, and here’s the thing. Roomba has never said no to me. Every time I tell it to do something, it’s like, yes. It goes and does it. It’s awesome, but it doesn’t mean anything because it can’t say no, right? Saying yes doesn’t mean anything if you can’t say no. Relationship requires that choice, and so God wants to have a relationship with us, which means, He had to give us the ability to say no. Then the Bible says an interesting thing. The Bible says that one day God’s going to fix it. God’s going to make all things new again. He’s going to fix everything that we broke because of our sin; every bit of it, and then the Bible says that we are going to live with God in relationship with God in a loving relationship with God — forever.
That those of us that say yes to God now will live with God forever, and we are going to say yes to Him over and over and over again because we want to, and the Bible says there will be no more sin. The Bible says that nobody who says yes to God now will ever say no to Him for the rest of forever. You go, how is that possible? How is it possible to go forever and never sin, never say no to God? Does He take away our free will in heaven? I don’t think so. If He takes away our free will, then it doesn’t mean anything that we say yes, plus it makes this world a cruel joke, doesn’t it? If God could get what He wanted without giving us the ability to say no, then why do it now?
No, I think in heaven we have the ability to say no, but I don’t think we have the desire. We have no interest in saying no to God. Why? Because we touched the stove. Because we remember what life was like when we said, I’ll do this on my own. I’ll set the course. I’ll set the beat. I’ll do it on my own. And again, I realize in the midst of hardship, that doesn’t necessarily help as much as it should. It works in the head. I think it’s absolutely true. But we may struggle sometimes to grab a hold of it with our hearts, but let me help you do it. Maybe this is the way to do it. You realize that great struggle often leads to greater good, right? Great struggle often leads to greater good.
We see it around us all the time. How many of you learned to ride a bike? How many of you learned to ride a bike without ever tumbling off, without ever scraping a knee or any kind of — no? You had terrible parents. They didn’t love you, clearly. Why would they put you in a situation where you could scuff — you know, your toes or skin your knees, or bang your elbows or your head off of an embankment? Why would they do that if they loved you? Well, because apparently riding a bike — I mean, Lance Armstrong. You understand Lance Armstrong fell off his bike a couple of times. Great struggle often leads to greater good.
Or butterflies, right? You are like, that was a big shift, right? What just happened? You know, caterpillars, they go in and they build that hard cocoon around them, and then while they are in there, they metamorphosis into this beautiful butterfly with these wings, and then they try to escape, but the cocoon is hard, and it’s hard for them to get out, and what we have discovered is, if you go in and cut the cocoon open to help them out so they don’t have to struggle out, they come out, and they look really good, but they can’t fly. Because the process of struggling to break out of that cocoon is actually what allows them to get their wings strong enough to take to the air.
You see, great struggle often leads to greater good. We see it around us all the time. I just saw a study that apparently 1/3 of all Nobel Prize winners have dyslexia. Wait, what? Apparently the process of overcoming that learning disability, the process of learning to read and to write, and it being so much harder, it creates a mind, and a persistence and a perseverance that leads to people that literally change the world for everybody else. Great struggle often leads to greater good. We see it around us, so why shouldn’t it also be true that God has allowed Him to say no to Him because it will lead to a group of people that will say yes to Him now and forever because we remember what saying no was like, and that is a great, great, great good.
But you know, honestly, if — if it were just that, I would still struggle to say God is good. If God just said, I’m going to let him go through this, if it was just that, I think I would still struggle to say God is good, but — and this is so, so important. God didn’t leave us to solve the problem of evil ourselves. It is so central to the Christian story, the Christian faith. God didn’t just go, I’m going to let them do what they are going to do, and they’ll learn. He didn’t leave us to do that. In fact, the essence of the Christian Gospel is that God looked at our struggle and our pain and our suffering because of our choice, and He came to us as one of us. In the person of Jesus Christ, God came to us, and His Son lived a perfect life, and he took all of the consequences of our choices on his own shoulders, and he paid the price for them.
He touched the stove for us. He drew the pain out of our little fingers. He took it upon himself. He died, and three days later, he rose from the dead to show that it was paid. It was done. He offers new life and forgiveness to everyone who will simply trust in him. For me, that is the ultimate proof that God is good. Not the philosophy of it. I think the philosophy is good. I think the arguments are helpful, but at the end of the day, it’s what God did for me in the midst of my choices to walk away from Him that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is good and He is great.
Okay, so what do we do with this? I’ll give you two possible questions. Question number one is this. If you are a follower of Jesus, especially, I would love for you to answer this question. Is God calling me to reach out to someone who is struggling? Because if you know this good and great God, then you are in a relationship with Him, and part of that goal in that relationship is to be on mission with Him, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and to step into people’s worlds when they are struggling, and to be the hands and feet, to help them, and to point them forward and help them move from where they are to where God is beckoning them. Maybe you are listening to this today and you are going, I know somebody, or maybe you start to pray, God, would you show me somebody?
Somebody who is struggling, I can be you to them; I can step into their world and help shoulder their burden, and help them move forward. The second question, this one is more for those that would say, I’m not really a follower of Jesus yet, and that’s okay. I’m really glad that you are listening to this. But if you are not really a follower of Jesus, then my question to you would be this — am I willing to take one more step toward trusting God. Maybe you are not ready for faith, but maybe you are willing to take one more step towards it. A couple of things you might think about doing. One of them, you might decide, I’m going to come back next week. We are going to tackle another one of these big questions next week. It might be exactly the one that you need. Or you want to come back another week. Maybe that’s your next step. Maybe you heard about our Discovering God class. A tremendous opportunity to gather together with people who have questions.
A lot of people don’t have faith because they have questions. A great environment to wrestle with those questions together and move toward answers that are actually helpful, that will help you move forward. We have classes starting in January. You can sign up for them online. You can find out more information about them at the Welcome Center. Maybe that’s your next step, to join a Discovering God class. Maybe it’s to go home and pull up Amazon and order the book Jay was talking about, “The Case For Christ.” Maybe that’s your next step, but are you willing to take one more step toward trusting God? Let’s pray.
God, on behalf of all of the followers of Jesus that are listening, we want to say thank You. Thank You that You did not leave us in the darkness that we chose for ourselves. That in spite of our sin and our wrongdoing, and let’s be honest, our evil, You continued to love us. You came to us. You died for us, and You rise from the dead, Lord You have risen from the dead, and You offer new life. For those of us that have received that, Lord, we just give You thanks. Lord, would You open our eyes to the ways that we can be Your representatives in the world in the midst of places where people are struggling? Would You give us courage to step into those situations, and to be like You to those people who are struggling there. For those who are here, and they don’t have faith in You, thank You that they are here. Thank You that they have been listening.
My prayer is, Lord, would You allow the conversation we have had today to stick with them? Would You allow them to continue to reflect on it, to think about it? Would You use that to help them arrive at truth, to understand the truth about who You are, and how much You love them, and how much You want to be involved in their lives both now and forever. In Jesus name. Amen.
2 Timothy 3:14-16
“Can we really trust the whole Bible?”
“Do we even know if Jesus really existed?”
In today’s message we’re looking at the validity of the Bible. God’s Word says that Scripture is inspired and inerrant.. but can we prove that the Bible is true?
Good morning. Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad you are with us. Before we get to our message today, let me just do a couple of quick things. First, I want to remind you — or maybe this is the first time you are hearing this, but I want to let you know the purpose of this series we are in right now, “The Problem of God”, the thing I want you to hear, hopefully again, is that the arguments that we are talking about in this series, the arguments we are giving aren’t weapons, they are medicine, okay?
What we are doing, we are looking at problems people have with God, questions people have with God, and the goal of this is to give you arguments and answers to the questions people have to help them get unstuck, but what I don’t want anybody to do is walk away from this going, I’ve got it now, and I know who I’m going to use this one against. These are not to be used against anybody. Our goal isn’t to stick it to anyone. Our goal is to help people get unstuck, because the reality is that people can get stuck in their journey of faith, and that’s true whether you are a person who would say, I have faith, or a person who says, I’m still figuring out whether or not I’m going to have faith, no matter where we are in that process, we can get stuck if we don’t get answers to the questions we have, and so the goal of the series is to give you answers to help you get unstuck. They are not weapons. They are medicine. So, so, so important.
The second thing I want to let you know about is a resource that I want to encourage you to get a hold of, and that is a book called “The Problem of God.” I actually ran across this book a couple of years ago. Mark Clark, a pastor out in Vancouver did this great book where he deals with some of the problems people have with God. I liked his approach so much that when we decided to do this series, I wanted to honor him by including his title in our series title. In fact, we got permission to use the graphic from the cover of his book in our series graphic. I want to do that as a way of honoring him and point you toward that book. Just so you know, I’m not actually teaching the book, and the content I’m giving is quite a bit different than his, but it’s a great, great supplement to the series and deals with some questions we are not going to get to, so I really strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of that book and have it on hand.
Last thing I want to tell you before we get to our message is that next weekend is a really special weekend. We have a guest speaker with us. His name is Dr. Steven Meyer. Steven Meyer works with the Discovery Institute, which is probably the leading organization exploring what we call intelligent design, which is scientific evidence for the existence of God. In fact, what Steven is going to be sharing, what is going on in biological sciences right now is so astounding that he’s going to argue that faith in God is not only reasonable when we look at the evidence, it is actually required by the evidence in science. He will be speaking on the topic of the problem with God and science. It’s going to be a great, great weekend to invite some of your unbelieving friends and family to, especially if they have questions about whether or not believing in God makes sense given what science teaches us.
So Steven Meyer is a scientist. He’s respected by scientists. He’s going to say, yeah, yeah, it makes sense honestly, as I said, believing in God is not just reasonable when we look at the evidence in science, it’s required by the evidence that science gives us, so really looking forward to having him here next weekend. Make sure you take advantage of that.
Alright. So our content today — the topic for today is “The Problem of God and the Bible”. Now I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t grow up having any problem with the Bible. I grew up in a Christian home. It was a Bible believing church that we always attended, and so I really didn’t have any problem with the Bible. I was taught a couple of things growing up. Number one, I was taught that the Bible is inspired. How many of you have ever heard that? The Bible is inspired by God. It just means that it came from God. That God was ultimately behind the production of the Bible so that it was what He wanted. I heard that growing up. I also heard the Bible is inerrant, meaning it doesn’t have any errors in it. It doesn’t have any mistakes in it. There are no inaccuracies in it. How many of you have heard that? Yeah, honestly, that’s what I heard growing up. I never had a problem with that in part because I realized pretty early on, if I did what the Bible said, if I lived according to what the Bible taught, my life was always better. When I wasn’t living according to what the Bible said, my life was always harder, so I didn’t really struggle with the idea that the Bible was inspired and inerrant.
Then, I got to college. Yeah. I went to a very secular college. It was Kent State University, Northeastern Ohio — very liberal. I had Christians in my life that said, hey, hey — you are moving into hostile territory here, okay? You are going to get there, and the professors are going to try to destroy your faith. Oh, okay. That’s scary, but okay. I remember I walked into my very first class, first week freshman year. It was an English class and the TA handed out a list of the books we were going to read, and I was looking through it, and I realize one of the books is the Gospel of John. We are studying the Gospel of John, how bad could this be? And then my professor walked in. He was this kind of round guy with this huge white beard, and this shock of white hair. I was like, I have scored Santa Claus for my college English teacher.
I thought, I’m going to be taught the Gospel of John by Santa Claus. How bad can this be? The answer is really bad, actually, because what it turns out, the reason we are studying the Gospel of John so that he could say how full of inaccuracies and contradictions and historical errors and problems it was so at the end of the course what he basically said, at the end of our study of the Gospel of John, what he basically said is, if you think that you can put your faith in the story that this book tells, you are an idiot. I had never heard anything like that. I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that it kind of rocked my world. I found myself asking the question, is what I learned about the Bible growing up – that it’s accurate, that it’s reliable, that it’s trustworthy – is that right? Or is it what my professor is teaching me, that it is inaccurate and unreliable and untrustworthy, is that right?
It was really the first question that I began to ask about the Bible or really anything about faith at that point, and honestly, I’m so glad that I began to ask that question, not only in my own heart, but to ask other people that question because I began to learn something there that I say it constantly these days, which is, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we won’t get the answers that we need. Honestly, I believe that asking those questions is one of the things that God used to set me on the path that I’m still on today, and a lot of what God has done in my life and through my life really goes back to a path that I began by asking those questions, but I’m going to be honest with you, when I asked the questions, I didn’t get great answers.
When I started asking Christians I knew, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it’s reliable and trustworthy, how do we know that? Here’s the first answer I got. Well, you just have to believe. I was like, well, I want to believe, but I’m looking maybe for some help in that. They said, well you just need to believe harder. I was like, I don’t know what that means. Okay, like, I’ll try. No, I’m still struggling. And so I continued to ask questions. I had another Christian who heard my question and said, I’ll give you everything you need, and so he picked up a Bible. He said let me just read you something. This is going to give you everything you need. If you want to follow along with me, I’ll read from the Book of II Timothy 3:14.
I was asking my question about whether or not the Bible could be trusted, and he said this, this is what you need to know. He says, But as for you — and he kind of looked at me like — for you — continue in what you have learned. Didn’t you learn that the Bible is trustworthy? Didn’t you hear that growing up? I said, well, yeah. Well, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of. And I said, well, that’s what my question is. Like I would like to move from what I learned to what I’m convinced of. Can you help me? He said, yeah, yeah, yeah. Here’s what you need. You can move there because you have known these things because you know those from whom you have learned it. He said, didn’t your pastor teach you this? I said, well, yeah. Didn’t your parents teach you this? Well, yeah. He said, well, there you go.
He said, and from how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. I remember thinking, well, that’s really my question, can I really trust the Bible to lead me to salvation? Is the story it tells me true? Because, if it’s not true, if it’s not trustworthy, I don’t know that it’s going to lead me to salvation. That’s what my question is. He said, well here’s what you need to know. Verse 16, All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. He said all scripture is inspired by God. It’s breathed out by God, therefore, it’s trustworthy. It’s true. I remember thinking, but how do you know that? Because that’s really my question, because there’s no point in — like, you know, believing that if that’s not reliable, if that’s not true, and that’s what my question was.
I was pretty frustrated by the answers that I got, so I drove myself to the library. I sat down in the library, and I thought to myself, well, okay, how can I move myself from what I learned to what I’m convinced of? What would it take for me to do that? I thought, what I need to do, I think, is I need to prove that the Bible is inspired. I thought, I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think that I can prove that the Bible is inspired. In order to prove that the Bible came from God, I would have to be on the mountain when God handed Moses the Ten Commandments on those tablets. I would have to be there, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. I would have to be there and hear the voice of God dictating words that He wanted the prophets to write down, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. In some cases, I would have to be in the minds of the authors like Luke or Paul, and somehow be able to perceive that the Holy Spirit was guiding their thoughts to write what He wanted written.
I would somehow have to do that, and I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that ability, so I can’t actually prove that the Bible is inspired. That doesn’t mean it’s not, but I can’t come to that level or verification of proof. So the next thing I thought, I’ll prove that the Bible is inerrant. I’ll have to prove that the Bible has no mistakes no errors in it. I realized, I don’t think I can do that either, because — well, basically because of this, some of what the Bible says is verifiable, and some is not. Some of what the Bible says is verifiable and some is not. Meaning, some of what the Bible says, you can find other evidence to confirm what it says, but some of what the Bible says you can’t verify. That’s not just true of the Bible. That’s true of any group of claims, any collection of claims has some of what is verifiable and some that’s not.
If I told you that last Wednesday I left the church at 4:00 p.m., and I traveled south on I-25, and I got off at the Castle Rock Outlet Mall exit, and somebody cut me off, but I was good, and in my head I thought, “that was bold.” There’s a group of claims there. Some of it you can verify, honestly, you can talk to some of the staff. They’ll go, yeah, yeah, yeah, Craig left at 4:00. And I hope you know this, but your cellphone? It gets tracked. Like the cell towers, they pay attention, and you can get a hold of those records and find out, yeah, yeah, he did actually travel south on I-25. Maybe there’s some dash cams or traffic cams that confirm that there was a guy who cut me off, but you’re never going to verify that I thought in my head,” bold “as opposed to another four-letter word, right?
That’s an unverifiable claim, so any group of claims, some of it can be verified and some of it can’t. When it comes to the Bible, some of what it says is verifiable, and some is not. Maybe we’ll find Noah’s Ark, right? Maybe we’ll find it, and we’ll prove that he really did build a huge boat, but we can’t verify it. We can’t prove that two of every kind of animal got on it. What would that even look like? It’s not like they are going to find Noah’s Ark and be like, yeah, yeah, we found it, and there are a whole bunch of skeletons inside it, right? That would be super creepy, right? The animals aren’t still there. We can’t prove that he put two of every kind of animal on it. It’s not verifiable. Understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not true, or it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means we can’t verify it.
I sat there, and I realized, I can’t prove that the Bible is inerrant. Understand, this is really important, the Bible makes thousands of claims that are verifiable. Thousands. There are names and dates and facts and figures and times and places — thousands of verifiable claims. The truth is that the track record the Bible has when it comes to verifiable claims is spotless. In fact, I’m going to make a big statement, but I believe it’s true. A lot of other people have come to the same conclusion, and that is, there is not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s debates about things. Sometimes there’s debates about, what is the Bible really saying? What is the interpretation of this? Sometimes there’s debates about how the historical evidence is supposed to be understood, and how it lines up.
There’s places of debate, but there is not a single, verifiable claim of the Bible that has been proven false. The track record is unbelievable, but that is not the same thing as saying the Bible is inerrant and having proved that. I just realized, I can’t quite prove that, so I sat there in the library at Kent State University, and I thought, well, what if — what if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What is the most important thing? I thought, well, that’s easy. The most important thing is the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. See the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is the heart and soul of Christianity, right? That’s really the middle of the whole thing, isn’t it?
If you are standing at the edge of a pond and it’s frozen over, and you’re really kind of feeling, I would like to walk out in the middle of that pond. I would like to feel what it’s like out there in the middle, but I’m not quite sure if the ice is thick enough. I don’t know if it’s reliable. I don’t know if it’s trustworthy, how would you go about figuring out if you could stand in the middle? The easiest thing would be, well, you can take core samples and find out how thick the ice is, right? Yeah, I mean if the ice is thick enough, you know it’s going to hold me up, but where would you want to take the sample? You can take samples from around the shore, but all you would show you is it’s reliable, there, there, there, there. If you want to stand in the middle, what you really want to know is if it’s trustworthy in the middle, right? Because the middle is what matters most, right? That’s actually kind of fun to say.
Say it with me, the middle’s what matters most, so I sat there and I thought, I wonder if I could prove what the Bible says about the middle, the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that’s the heart and the soul, so I wonder if I can prove what the Bible says about that? Because here’s the thing, and I discovered this not only there at Kent State University, but I have seen it time and time again since then, is that we can get caught up on the periphery. We can get caught up on the outside borders, and never really get around to talking about the middle, and I always want to drive people to that middle. People say, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can trust in the story of Jesus because I just don’t believe what the Bible says about Noah’s Ark. I don’t know that I can believe that this guy built a big boat and two of every animal went on it, and my response to that is, okay. I don’t care.
Can we talk about the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. Somebody says, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can put my faith in that because I really struggle with this idea that the Bible says Moses parted the Red Sea, and they walked through it. And I go, okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Somebody says, no, no, no. I’m not sure if I can follow Jesus. I don’t know if I can become a Christian because I read the Old Testament, and it seems like the God of the Old Testament is really different from the God of the New Testament. I just don’t get that. Okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at what the Bible says, and what the evidence that it says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
See that’s the middle, and the middle’s what matters most. Now, please understand — I don’t want to walk out of here going, Craig doesn’t believe in Noah’s Ark or those kinds of things. Let me be really clear here. I believe in the inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that as Paul says in II Timothy, all Scripture. is God breathed. It all comes from God. I believe in the inspiration of Scripture. I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that it’s philosophical, theological, psychological, historical. All of the things that it asserts, that it claims, I believe they are all accurate. I believe they are all true. I believe that. I just don’t care if you do. Not at first. Not at first. The middle is what matters most, and that’s where I always want to drive this conversation, because here’s the thing, and please — if I am wrong about this, I would love for somebody to come up to me afterwards and go, you missed a verse in the Bible, and tell me what the verse is, because here’s the thing — I don’t know of a single verse anywhere in the Bible that says, in order to be saved, you must believe that Noah put two of every kind of animal on the ark.
I can’t find that verse. I believe it happened, but I don’t know a verse that says you have to believe that to be saved. I don’t know of a single verse that says in order to have a relationship with God that goes on for all of eternity, you must believe that David killed a giant with a slingshot. I don’t know of a verse that says you have to believe that — not to be saved. Here is what I do know the Bible says, Romans 10:9. If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord — that he is who he says he is, and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s the middle. So the question I began to ask as I sat there in the library at Kent State University was, can I prove what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
Because my English professor told me, we don’t even know if Jesus was a real person. Like we don’t even know if he actually existed. He could easily have just been a myth because the only thing we know about Jesus comes from the Bible itself. I thought, let’s find out if that’s true. You know what I found out? Santa Claus wasn’t even close. Not even close. In fact, what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus can be confirmed without the Bible. Let me show you what I mean. I’m going to share quotes from ancient historians. What I want you to understand, these ancient historians are not Christians, for the most part. They are not pro Christianity. They are not looking to advance the cause of Christ. In fact, in most cases, these historians were part of a group that was anti-Christian. They had every reason to want to stomp the whole thing out.
But what they say about Jesus just confirms the facts about Jesus that we find in scripture. Let’s start with a Jewish historian. His name is Josephus. Josephus in his book “Antiquities,” wrote this. Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus. I just got to say, that is my favorite description of Jesus of all time, right? He’s a troublemaker. I love that, because he is, kind of, isn’t he? Anyone else find out that Jesus messed up your life? In a really good way, but he messes with our priorities and our plans and all of these kinds of things. I love it. He is a source of further trouble. He was a wise man who performed surprising works. Now, what do you think he might be talking about? We call them miracles.
Now, I want you to notice Josephus doesn’t say, “he claimed to.” But he did. Pretty widespread agreement. No, he actually did these things. He was a teacher of men who gladly welcomed strange things. He led away many Jews and also many of the Gentiles. His followers weren’t restricted to the Jewish community. Gentiles began to follow this Jewish Messiah. He was the so-called Christ. Now, when Pilate acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross — he was executed on the cross under Pilate, which is exactly what we find in scripture. Now remember, Josephus is not looking to advance the cause of Christ at all. Not at all.
Yet, he confirms an awful lot of what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Here’s another quote from Josephus. He writes, so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, that’s the Jewish ruling counsel, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James. The Bible tells us that Jesus had a brother, or technically half-brother, named James. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. Josephus says, yeah, yeah, we know about James, and he was brought before the leading council, ruling council.
I’m going to give you another quick one. There are several we could look at, but let me give you one more Jewish source that says this. On the eve of Passover they hung Jeshua, the Nazarene. And the crier went forth before him saying, he hath practiced magic. What word might we want to reinsert there? Miracles. Done miracles. Not claims to, but he’s done them, and he’s deceived and led Israel astray. Meaning, large groups of people, this was not a small band of followers. Huge numbers of people were following him. Let’s talk about Roman historians. Let’s start with Tacitus. Tacitus writing toward the close of the first century writing that Christus — Roman version of Christ, he suffered the extreme penalty, which would be — crucifixion. He suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius Caesar — which is exactly when the Bible says. Tiberius is mentioned in the Bible. At the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, the Roman version of Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition — I love that word. What mischievous superstition do you think he’s talking about?
It’s the Resurrection. It’s what the Romans called the Resurrection story. I love it because they use the word mischievous. You know why they used that word? Because it was causing them trouble. The story of the Resurrection was causing them trouble because what was happening was, you had a bunch of people saying, I have a Savior whom the Romans killed and he rose from the dead. I have a Risen Savior. Who gives a rip about Rome? Who cares about the Roman Empire? Who cares about loyalty to a human empire when I have a Savior who rose from the dead, and so what was beginning to happen, the story of the Resurrection was getting in the way of the Roman agenda. It was causing a loss of loyalty and those kinds of things. It was messing up things, so they called a mischievous superstition. So a mischievous superstition broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.
The story of the Resurrection spread all the way to Rome. I think that’s significant because one of the things I was told, was that even if Jesus was a real human being, even if he was a real historical figure, the story of the Resurrection, that wasn’t part of Jesus’ original whole deal. That was something that Christians added on later, like hundreds of years later people like added on to the story of the Resurrection and kind of wrote it backwards, but no, no, no. What this historian is proving is that the story of the Resurrection was at the center of the story of Jesus from the very, very beginning.
The Resurrection of Jesus was always inextricable from the story of Jesus. Suetonius, another historian Roman historian writes this, punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. Here’s what I love about that. He’s defining Christians as people who believe in the new and mischievous superstition, the Resurrection. It’s not one of the things they believe. It’s the core of the whole thing. He said that’s how we define them. They are a class of people defined by their belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.
This is Julius Africanus. He’s writing a little bit later, and he says some really interesting things. On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus — Thallus is another Roman historian, so now we have two Roman historians talking about this. This darkness Thallus in the third book of his history calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. What we have right now is to Roman historians talking about a period of time when a great darkness spread during the middle of the day, and an earthquake happened.
Now, the Bible describes that’s exactly what happened during the Crucifixion of Jesus. That everything got dark, and there was an earthquake. Julius is talking about it. He’s also talking to Thallus. Thallus has tried to explain it. Well, I think it was an eclipse of the sun, and Julius goes, no, it wasn’t. What are you smoking, dude? No. That’s not a good reason. It’s not a good explanation. They were able to predict solar eclipses back then with huge precision, and there wasn’t one predicted for that day, so he goes, I don’t think that explanation works.
Phlegon is another Roman historian. Phlegon records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at the time of the full moon — which is Passover time, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth. Manifestly, that one of which we speak, which is exactly when the Bible says that, that happened, when Jesus was hanging on the cross. Interesting, right? Let me give you one more. This one is really fun. Can you throw that picture up here?
This is what we call the Jesus Bowl, super creative name, right? Let me see if I can try to explain this. This is a fairly new discovery. A few years ago this was pulled up off of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. The bowl that we are looking at here is a soothsayer bowl. It was used by fortunetellers and magicians to try to tell the future, that kind of a thing. It’s been dated to possibly early as 200 B.C., but it has some writing on it. The writing is not original to it. It was actually scratched into the bowl after the bowl had been fired in a kiln, and that’s actually really helpful because while we can sort of date the bowl to around 200 B.C., when they scratched it, it allowed things like pollen and mold and other kind of spores to get in there and we can date when the writing happened, and the writing dates to somewhere around 50 A.D. So what we have here is a 250-year-old bowl that somebody decided to add some words to.
Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s a little hard for me to imagine scratching something into something 250 years old. Anybody own anything that’s more than a hundred years old? Couple? Can you imagine having something that’s 250 years old and going, I think I’ll just scratch some new stuff here — pretty it up a little bit, right? Not only was it an old, venerated object, but it’s what they considered a magical object. If it lasted that long, they would have thought this has a lot of power. This is a very powerful, magical object. Why on Earth would you deface it with writing? The answer is, the only reason you would ever do that is because you thought you were making it more powerful. You thought you were increasing the potential of this object. So what exactly did they scratch into it 250 years later? The answer is, they wrote “through Christ the magician.”
Now, this is added about 50 A.D. What you need to understand is, the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — the stories of Jesus, hadn’t really been written at that point. Mark might have been in progress, but it certainly hadn’t spread to Egypt, so even without the Gospel, they had heard about Jesus, and what had they heard about him? They heard about his miracles, and probably his Resurrection. So convinced because the people they heard it from were so convinced, maybe eyewitnesses, that they believed they were improving the power of this magical bowl by adding the name of Jesus to it. Interesting. Very interesting.
So what does this show us? Well, okay, it shows us that even if you want to set the Bible aside, the existence of Jesus — confirmed. The existence of his brother James, confirmed. His fame as a teacher, confirmed. His reputation for performing miracles, confirmed. His Crucifixion on Passover, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar under the authority of Pontius Pilate, confirmed. Earthquake and darkness surrounding his Crucifixion, confirmed. Immediate, widespread belief in his Resurrection, confirmed. You don’t need the Bible for any of that. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. Let me say that again. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. These things happened.
You go, okay, well, so have we proven that the Resurrection of Jesus happened? What do you think? Have we proven that Jesus has risen from the dead? Weird head motions going on. Some of you are yeah. Some of you are going, no. Honestly, if you are going, no, you are actually right. We haven’t proven that Jesus rose from the dead, okay? We have not proven it. What we have proven is that the evidence points there, but we haven’t proven that he rose from the dead. I don’t know how you would do that, but we have proven that the evidence has gone there, and we haven’t even considered all of the evidence. Here’s what we know. We know that belief in his Resurrection appeared immediately, wasn’t something that came on later. It appeared immediately, spread wildly and did so within the lifetime of eyewitnesses.
There were all kinds of people around that said, no, that’s not what happened. It was this, as well as people that said, no, I saw what happened. It was this. The belief in the Resurrection wasn’t added on later. It spread wildly from the beginning, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. We know that those who claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead were changed by their belief. We also know that. Peter. Peter went from cowardice to courage. He was a man who ran when they came to arrest Jesus. He claimed he didn’t even know who he was when he was asked. He cursed a girl out who said, I think you were with him. He said no, no, no. He cursed. Trying to get attention off of that. That’s cowardice. He became one of the most boldly out spoken followers of Jesus. He ended up being executed for his belief in who Jesus was.
How do you make that move from cowardice to courage? He claims it’s because he met the risen Jesus. Or Paul, right? Paul, he began his career as a Christian bounty hunter. His job was to hunt down Christians and bring them to trial and execution, and he became probably the greatest Christian evangelist the world has ever seen. God used him to write most of the New Testament in the Bible. How do you go from hunting down Christians to not only being one of them, but maybe being the foremost of them. He says it’s because he met the resurrected Jesus. We know that the people who believed in the Resurrection, it fundamentally changed them. We also know that those who claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, they were willing to die for that belief. They were willing to die for it.
Peter was executed. Steven was described in the Book of Acts as the very first one that was executed for his belief in the Resurrection. In fact most of the 12 apostles were executed, and most were given an opportunity, history records, to just recant. Take it back. Say it didn’t happen. Say the Resurrection is a lie. They said, I can’t do that. It happened. If you have to kill me, then go ahead and kill me, but it happened. They were willing to die for that belief. What this means, let’s be very clear, what this means is that the Bible is proven reliable when it comes to the most important part of the Christian faith. The life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus. You may not believe. That’s okay. You may not believe the Resurrection happened. That’s okay. But I want to ask you — I want to challenge you, if you say, I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I want to challenge you to be intellectually honest about it.
Which means that you have to recognize that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against all of the evidence. You are swimming against the current of all of the evidence. There is literally no evidence that I had did not happen, and there is a ton of evidence that it did. If you choose not to believe, that’s okay. I’m not casting judgment. I’m not implying any kind of irritation or frustration with you, but I would challenge you to wrestle with the idea that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against the evidence, not with it. The Bible is proven reliable when it come to the most important part of the Christian faith, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. So what do we do with this?
Let me give you a couple of questions. The first question, this is really for followers of Jesus, people who say, I have faith in Jesus. What you have shared today reinforces that, and that’s great. I love that, but here is the question I need to ask of you. Who do I know that I need to share this content with? Who do I need to share this content with? Because at Mission Hills, our whole goal is to become like Jesus and join him on what? On mission. Become like Jesus and join him on mission, and the reality is that when you are mission with Jesus, you are going to find yourself building relationships with people who are stuck. Stuck in the progress of their faith or stuck somehow before they have come to faith, and maybe this question is where they are stuck. If you are on mission with Jesus, you might need to share that information to help them get unstuck from that.
Who do I need to share this with? There are a couple of ways you can do it. One of the ways, we have heard a lot of content. You can get the notes on the website. You can get all of these citations. You can find them on the internet too. This is not secret information. It’s out there if you know where to look. The other thing you can do, and this may be an easy way to do it, you can share a link to this message, this podcast with somebody, and just share it with somebody and say, I listened to this kind of interesting message. I thought of you. I wonder if you would listen to the message, and then we could grab coffee. I would like to know what you thought about it?
It’s a really, really easy way to share this content, but who is God calling you to be on mission with, with this content? The second question, this one, really, it’s probably aimed a little more at those who are listening who say I don’t know that I have faith in Jesus. Maybe, I’m intrigued. I’m kind of moving in that direction, but I’m stuck, I think. My question for you would be this, am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Maybe you are going, well, I just — I’m struggling with the whole parting of the Red Sea and Noah’s Ark — okay, that’s fine, but that’s not the middle. Are you willing to take the next step toward the middle, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Are you willing to take the next step toward trusting in Jesus?
The other stuff, we’ll take care of that later. We can take care of that as time goes by, but the middle is what matters most. So if you would say, I’m not a follower of Jesus, are you willing to take a step toward the middle, toward trusting in Jesus? Because honestly, maybe you are here today going, that was the place I’m stuck. That was the obstacle, the hurdle I was having a hard time getting over, and maybe, honestly, for you, the next step is all the way out to the middle. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe for you, the next step would be to say, I’m going to come back next week. Maybe that’s the next step. Come back next week, hear from Steven Meyer about the evidence for God from science. Maybe that’s your next step. Maybe your next step is the Discovering God series we do.
Great opportunity. We are going to be launching three different versions of them, midweek, Saturday and Sunday, coming up here toward the end of January. It’s a great environment where you can ask your questions with other people who are asking questions, and you are never going to be slapped down. We love the questions. If we don’t ask the questions we have, we are never going to get the answers that we need. So maybe that’s your next step, sign up for that and join that experience.
But maybe — maybe that next step is to go, I think it’s time for me to head to the middle. I’m going to give you an opportunity to do that, but before we do that, I’m just going to ask everybody, would you just join me in prayer? Father, as a follower of Jesus, as somebody who has put his faith in the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, I want to speak on behalf of all of those others here that would say the same thing about themselves, we just want to say thank You. Thank You for the Bible. Thank You for the reliability of the Bible. Thank You that what it tells us is trustworthy and true. Lord, help us as followers of Jesus to live out that faith. The Bible tells us all kinds of things, not just about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, all kinds of things.
And Lord, maybe some of those things we don’t pay as much attention to. We say we believe them, but we don’t put them into practice in our lives. Lord, forgive us for that, convict us of that, and help us to trust what the Bible teaches us in all of its areas. We thank You for the reliability of the Bible.
If you are a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying for people around you, people listening online that may not know Jesus? Because I do believe that in all of our campuses, including Church Online, right now there are some people going, huh. That question whether or not I could really trust what the Bible says about Jesus, that was my sticking point. Maybe right now you are realizing, I’m not really stuck there anymore. That’s pretty convincing. That actually happened. Maybe right now if that’s you, you are beginning to think, maybe if the Bible says what happened is true, maybe it’s right about why it happened. Because the Bible is very clear. The Bible says what happened is because God loves you.
The Bible says for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. That our wrongdoing separates us from God, but that Jesus came and lived a perfect life. He went to the cross willingly to pay for our sin, to pay off the consequences of our wrongdoing. He rose from the dead to prove that he had succeeded at that, and to prove that he had new life and forgiveness to offer. Maybe right now you are listening, and you are thinking, well, I think I believe that what the Bible says happened, did. Maybe you are realizing for the first moment that the Bible can be trusted about why it says it happened, that he died for you, and that he’s offering you forgiveness and new life.
If that’s you, and you are ready to take a step out into the middle, to declare your faith in Jesus, to put your trust in him, to receive forgiveness and new life, if that’s you, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. I see those hands. That’s fantastic. If you are watching online, just click the button below me. And right where you are, just say this to God, the first thing you do is just confess. God, I believe that Jesus is Lord that he is who he says he is, that I believe who the Bible says he is. I believe. I believe he died on the cross for me. I believe he rose from the dead. I believe he’s offering me forgiveness and new life right now, and I accept it. Jesus, I put my trust in you. Come into my life. I’m yours, for now, forever. Amen. We had several people decide to walk out into the middle and put their trust in Jesus. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? Awesome.
THE PROBLEM OF GOD AND SCIENCE
DR. STEPHEN C. MEYER
Romans 1:20 + Psalm 19
“Creation or evolution?”
“Can we reconcile what the Bible says with modern-day scientific theories?”
Today we’re joined by special guest Dr. Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute for a discussion on the problem God and science, and the evidence for intelligent design.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you are stuck somewhere in that process, and so these answers are for you. That’s great. It’s awesome. We are so glad that you are here with those questions because if we don’t ask the questions we have, we’ll never get the answers we need. But maybe it’s not your questions. Maybe it’s that somebody you love, somebody that you care about, somebody that God’s put in your life is stuck on one of these questions. The goal is to give you what you need to be on mission with Jesus for them and help them get unstuck. Now, when I decided to do this series, I knew one of the things I wanted to make sure to cover is the problem with God and science because I know that’s a sticking point for an awful lot of people, so as I began to think, what on earth am I going to do when I start talking about God and science, and then I realized, I’m not going to do anything. I’m not going to say anything because I know somebody who is an actual honest to goodness scientist who spends his life actually work on these issues and looking at what science has to say on not only the reliability of the idea that there is a God, the reasonableness of it, but actually that the science requires really, a belief in God.
He’s on the cutting edge of that. I said, I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to invite Dr. Stephen Meyer, a friend of mine, to speak on this issue. Stephen Meyer works with the Discovery Institute, one of the leading organizations pioneering the scientific work in what we call the intelligent design field. That again says, the evidence from science says believing in God is not just do it if you want it, but that’s really what’s required by the evidence itself. I’m not going to say anything more except welcome Dr. Steven Meyer. Would you do that with me?
Dr. Meyer: Thank you. It’s really great to be with you guys. I’m thrilled that you are addressing these deep questions. I was a college professor for 12 years and spent a lot of time with college students who had many of the questions you are addressing in this series, and I found in my time working with them, the issues of faith and science were often very much at the forefront. We have done polling data. The Pew Organization has done some polling data on students in the pre, post and college years and have found, yes, indeed, the idea that there is no scientific evidence for God is one of the main reasons that students who came out of a religious background have rejected their faith during those crucial years, or maybe students that never had a faith have been unwilling to consider the possibility of God.
It’s not really that hard to understand how people could get that perception that science and faith are in conflict. There are many powerful voices in our culture that are saying just that. Many of you would have heard of Richard Dawkins, the famous Oxford atheist who has written books on neo-Darwinism, one called “The Blind Watch Maker” and very famous and best selling monster called “The God Delusion.” Dawkins has become in a way the leading spokesman for what’s called the New Atheism or scientific atheism, the idea that science properly understood undermines belief in God, and of course, young people who go off to college pick up on this perspective, maybe not as overtly stated as Dawkins, but it’s in the water in the universities, maybe more than in the water, kind of the dominant perspective in a lot of places. Dawkin’s famous statement says things like this that have been very influential.
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. Very famous statement of Dawkins. Basically, he’s saying, and this is the message the distillation of the message of the New Atheists, that if we look at the natural world, we look at it scientifically, that our scientific understanding is incompatible with belief in God, that science, properly understood, undermines belief in God, and there have been many, many of these books by the New Atheists. This is, in addition to “The God Delusion” another called “Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett of Tufts University. I bet you can guess what the spell is? Religious belief, belief in God. What breaks it? Science.
This is the message. For Dawkins, this message flows directly out of his commitment to Darwinian philosophy or Darwinian science. He says up until the 19th century, it was perfectly reasonable to believe in God because the evidence of design that we had all around us in the natural world, but since Darwin, we know — he argues, that evidence of design is merely an illusion. It’s an illusion because there is an unguided, undirected process called natural selection acting on random variations and mutations that mimics the powers of a designing intelligence and therefore explains away that appearance of design. Design becomes merely an appearance, an illusion.
And so, there is no public of evidence of design, therefore no designer, therefore you can believe in God if you want to, but you don’t have any evidence, and therefore your belief is tantamount he says to a delusion. It’s delusional. Now, this perspective is obviously very different than the perspective of the Biblical writers. St. Paul in Romans 1 says, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature – divine nature, sometimes translated “wisdom” in the older translations of the scriptures, have been clearly seen, being understood, and I put in italics, “from what has been made.” In other words, if you look at the natural world around us, we cannot only discern or detect the reality of God, but also some of His attributes, His wisdom, and His power.
I was listening to the music during the worship service, also thinking about the beauty of nature, and the beauty of music, and realizing that, that beauty, I think, reveals the goodness of God, but this is the Biblical perspective. You might always remember Psalm 19. It says, The heavens declare the glory of God. So there is something about nature that is revelatory, reveals the nature of God, so say the Biblical writers, very much in contradiction to the perspective of the New Atheists, and I suppose that’s not very surprising to think that the New Atheists and Bible writers would disagree about what nature tells us about God, but what might be surprising to you and to others is that the New Atheists perspective is very much at odds with the perspective of the early founder of modern science, the people that got science going, in a period that historians of science call the Scientific Revolution. That’s dated sometime it is between 1500 and 1700. Now historians are pushing it back earlier because they think that there were important intellectual developments in late medieval Catholic theology that contributed to the Scientific Revolution as well as developments in the Protestant revolution, or the Protestant Reformation.
That period is really, really interesting because we have never had in the whole history of the world, the organized interrogation of nature that came about with the modern Scientific Revolution, and it happened in a Christian milieu. And the early founders of modern science were themselves deeply devout, mostly men of faith, at that time men and now many more women in the field of science as well. These folks were devout. You had people like Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer; Robert Boyle, the fantastic founder of chemistry, and on my screen here I have a title page from one of the early works of biology by John Ray, late 1,600s called “The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.” That title is a paraphrase of the way the Romans 1 was expressed in the older translations of the Bible. You can see the Biblical worldview was the inspiration for doing scientists.
In fact, the early scientists had a watchword. They believed that nature was orderly, and that was one of the reasons that they thought for example that they could discover the laws of nature. They thought laws of nature were the define governance over nature. Now scientists look for laws. When science first started people thought that laws were an expression of God’s constant sustaining power of the orderly concourse of nature. They also had this really interesting watchword. It was “intelligibility.” They believed that nature was intelligible and could be understood by our rational minds because our minds were made in the image of the Rational Creator, in the image of God.
Because he was a God of rationality, he put order and purpose and design and rationality into nature which we could understand and discover if we investigated nature because he had given us the same gift of rationality, so there was a principle of correspondence between His rationality and ours, and between the rationality put in the world and our ability to perceive it, and that’s what made science possible. The scientists thought because God had made the world in a rationally ordered way, we could investigate it and discover that hidden rationality underneath it. So this idea reached an almost majestic — conclusion, in the works of Sir Isaac Newton. He wrote a famous book in the late 1600s — 1687, called “the Principia.” It was where he first laid out the theory of universal gravitation.
A few years ago, I had a chance to testify before something called the United States Commission on Civil Rights. The commissioners were investigating something called “viewpoint discrimination” in the teaching of biological origins. When I was summoned for the hearing, I thought, I wouldn’t have thought you needed a hearing to decide that question. All you need to do is open any biology textbook, and you find that there is only one view of biological origins taught, the contemporary Darwinian view, though there are many leading biologists today critiquing, for example, the creative power of the mutation selection mechanism that Dawkins thinks is this blind watchmaker that can create design without being designed, and there is also an alternative theory of biological origins that my colleagues and I at the Discovery Institute have been advancing known as the theory of intelligent design.
That there is real design in nature, not just the illusion or the appearance of design, and so I was called to testify as a representative of that perspective. I gave my testimony, and when I was done, I in the testimony mentioned Newton and some of the early founders of modern science. One of the commissioners in fact asked me, isn’t that view that you hold similar to that view of Newton, Kepler and Boyle? When I heard my hero’s names, I kind of got excited. Absolutely. That’s the same perspective, and I was interrupted by my opposite number at the hearing. She was defending the Darwin-only approach to science education. She said, that’s not true. What Dr. Meyer is saying is true about Newton. He was a very religious man, but he took great pains to keep his religious ideas about intelligent design separate from his science.
When I heard her say that, I thought, I have the opportunity to make a point here. I quickly interjected and said, actually, that’s not true. In the General Scholium to the Principia — that just means introduction, but it sounded really impressive. It happened that I had in my briefcase and essay that I just finished, and on the first page I had this block quote from Newton, and I had it nearly memorized verbatim. I don’t do that very often. I said in the General Scholium to the Principia, Newton said — and then I pretty much delivered this. Let me read it to you. It’s an amazing quote. It is from the introduction to his great work on universal gravitation. What he’s basically arguing is that the solar system must have been exquisitely finely tuned. It was a setup job, is what he’s arguing because the forces of gravitational interaction between all the different the planets and comets and meteorites. They are all beautifully balanced so the solar system maintains these beautiful, stable orbits. It’s quite a trick mathematically. It’s still hard to model in the computer, how this could happen.
So Newton was very sensitive to this, and this is what he said about it, he said though these bodies may indeed continue in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regulation position of the orbits themselves from those laws. Thus, this most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. Capital “B.” When I got done quoting, paraphrasing this as best as I could, I noticed that these grim-looking commissioners — a few of them were smiling and nodding. This could be more interesting than we thought. This young upstart might have something to say. Whether or not you agree with intelligent design, it’s indisputable as a matter of historical record that Newton and Boyle and these other scientists brought their ideas about intelligent design right into the warp and weft of their scientific work. It was integral to their perspective.
That leads to a big and obvious question. This is a big difference in perspective, Sir Isaac Newton v. Richard Dawkins. How did we get from Dawkins to Newton? That’s a big shift, right? That’s a worldview shift. There is a big story about this. In the book I’m writing, I’m telling more about this story historically. There are high points or low points depending on your perspective. Newton died in 1727. In 1799, a scientist named Pierre Laplace. He was a French physicist attempted to explain the origin of the solar system in precisely the way Newton said you could not do, by invoking the law of gravity alone in a cluster of nebular gases, and this was called the nebular hypothesis, written in a book called “The Celestial Mechanics.” In 1802 he was summoned to receive commendation from Napoleon in the palace of Versailles, because there was this little tension between the British and the French at this time, and he had shown up the great Isaac Newton, and Napoleon wanted to give him commendation, but he did ask him, he said when I read Newton, he mentioned God in many places in his scientific work, but you don’t mention him at all. Why not?
Laplace is said to have puffed himself up and answered, sire, I have no need of that hypothesis. That was my French accent. I’m really quite sorry about it. Anyway, historians differ about whether this conversation actually happened, whether it’s apocryphal or not, as they say, but it certainly captures the spirit of the age and the coming age because in the 19th century, many scientific theories of origins in particular dispensed with the notion of design, and attempted to explain the big things in the history of the solar system and the planet and life by reference by undirected, unguided, mindless processes without any design, any role for a guiding hand, we could say.
In geology, there were theories explaining the origin of the great features on Earth, the great mountain ranges, the canyons, the river deltas by reference to slow, gradual, undirected and purely natural processes. In biology, even more strikingly, because often it was the biological systems that triggered the awareness for design for scientists, Darwin came along and posited that natural selection and random variation could explain the origin of the appearance of design, as we have said. One college biology textbook puts it this way, by coupling the undirected, purposeless processes of variation and natural selection. Darwin made the theological or spiritual explanations of the life superfluous, unnecessary. Darwin had no need of the design hypothesis. Later, after “The Origins of Species” was published, Darwin published a second book on the “The Descent of Man”, extending his idea of natural selection and random variation as the explanation for the origin of human beings, not just all of the other forms of life on Earth.
Then later, scientists called chemical evolutionary theorists extended his idea in the other direction, to account, they thought, for the origin of the very first cell, the first life on Earth, a primordial soup. You may have heard of that idea in biology classes. So by the end of the 19th century, you had this kind of seamless naturalistic, or materialistic story that you could tell from the origin of the solar system all the way to the canyons and mountains, the first life, other forms of life on the planet, and even the origin of human life, could all be explained by one grand naturalistic, materialistic, story of the unfolding of these undirected processes. So, by the end of the 19th century, we not only had a series of these origin theories– sorry for the rhyme, but we had something like a comprehensive worldview developing.
How many are familiar with the term “worldview?” That’s pretty good. How would you define it? It’s a pretty big auditorium. Maybe you don’t want to shout out, I don’t know. When I was teaching philosophy, I always defined it as a personal philosophy or a lens through which we interpret reality, or instead of answers to basic questions. When I was in college as a student, not as a professor, I was a physic’s major. One of the reasons I ended up majoring in physics was that my dad is a mechanical engineer. Before I went off to college, he said, son, when you go to college, I know you don’t want to be an engineer. I was not mechanically adept. If I helped him fix the car, I was the one dropping the wrench in the inaccessible place and he would go like this. He said, I know you don’t want to be an engineer, but before you decide on what you want to major in, make sure you take two years college math, because if you don’t have the math, you will be really limited in what you can major in.
I said, sure, Dad. Just as long as I don’t have to be an engineer, I’ll do what you say, so I took two years of college math, and when I got done, about the only thing I could major in, in our small college was either math or physics, and I think that’s kind of what my dad wanted because physics was as close to engineering as you could get at a small liberal arts college, so I ended up following in his footsteps after all. One semester — the problem was, I also had — I loved these deep philosophical questions, the worldview questions. I would sign up every semester for one philosophy class. And in my junior year, when I was taking a really heavy load of important physics classes, I had a class on atheistic existentialism. This was the philosophy of Sartre and Nietzsche and it was all about anguish, forlornness and despair. I was doing really well in the despair part. I got an “A” in the class, and my grade slip came home at Christmastime. We have this Germanic work ethic thing in our family, and my dad — he intercepted it. I’m in college, and he’s still intercepting the report card.
At dinner one night he said, I wonder if we can have a little chat. And I thought. So, he pulls this out. I haven’t seen it yet. He says — as he starts reading the grades. One of them is atheistic exi — and he butchers the name on purpose to make it sound like it’s not really a real subject, and what in the blank, he says, is atheistic blah, blah, blah, and then he reads the grade, after a dramatic pause — “A.” Like that’s a bad thing, you know? And then he says, theoretical mechanics, which was my most important physic’s class that term, and he reads the grade, and it’s — “B.” Then he — his glasses slide down his nose, and he gives this look, which in our family means, it’s now time for offspring to give account of offspring’s behavior, and I got really defensive. I said, Dad, Dad, Dad, I know these philosophy classes don’t mean anything, but they are important too because in philosophy classes, that’s where you learn about worldviews. And the thing is, everyone has a worldview. I mean, even you have a worldview, Dad. Worldviews are kind of like a personal philosophy, and if you don’t understand people’s personal philosophies, you don’t understand where they are coming from. You don’t understand why they choose to use the words that they do, and why they vote the way they do, and what they think about.
He cuts me off and he says, son, you don’t need a worldview. You need a job. And I tried to argue that, that was kind of a materialistic worldview, and no, no. That didn’t really — so I was working on the resume before the end of — it was Christmas break, but — anyway, eventually, after grad school got a job teaching worldview, so it all worked out, but the worldview that dominates — it really is important to understand worldview.
The worldview that dominates our elite culture today is the worldview that came out of that late 19th century science. That’s the connection. Sorry for the long story, and the worldview is called materialism. The thing about worldview is they do answer these really basic questions like in the most fundamental question that every worldview or philosophy or personal philosophy answer is, what is the thing or the entity or the process from which everything else came? That’s foundational, right? Where did everything come from? How did Jews and Christians answer that question? People of the Bible? From a personal God, right? In the beginning God said, or in the New Testament, in the beginning was the Word. God is a personal being with a mind and intentions and conscious awareness and a plan, and He executed it by bringing the universe into existence. God’s mind came first, and His action produced matter. Mind first, matter second.
After the 19th century, very different worldview comes to dominate. It’s the idea that not in the beginning — there wasn’t a beginning, because matter and energy were from the beginning, they were from eternity past, and they arranged themselves. So this is the materialist credo that is opposite of the Johannine Prologue in the Gospel. This is how you might say it, it’s from eternity past for the particles. The particles and the energy arranged themselves and they became a complex living cell, the first complex living stuff, and that cell then evolved by undirected Darwinian processes to become more complex forms of life, and one of those evolving forms eventually developed conscious awareness and thought of, or conceived of the idea of God.
So there is God in the materialistic worldview, but only God as a concept or an idea in the mind of human beings. So do you see how these worldviews are diametrically opposite? The one starts with matter and ends with consciousness and the idea of God, but only God as an idea, a fiction. The other starts with God who creates the material universe, shapes it, and brings us and our conscious awareness in His image, into being. They are exactly opposite. Do you understand why some sociologists today say there is a culture clash, a culture war in America? It’s not really a war. It’s an idea contest, okay? The bad news for people of the Judeo-Christian theistic persuasion is that the materialistic worldview dominates the elite culture today. I’m talking about the universities, the public research universities, the science institutes, the law schools, the courts, the media, and oh my could I had tell you stories, and even the seminaries are deeply affected by this materialistic or naturalistic point of view.
Now the good news is, if you are of Judeo Christian persuasion — I’m assuming everyone is here today, let’s just call it the news, then. The science that gave rise to this materialistic view at the end of the 19th century has been and is being supplanted by amazing discoveries that have very different implications, implications that are decidedly nonmaterialistic pointing in a frankly theistic direction so much so that I call this shift in intellectual perspective as a result of these scientific discoveries the return of the God hypothesis. In the time we have left today I want to tell you about three major scientific discoveries, or classes of discovery — this is just a visual of the materialistic worldview. The disk is the material universe. The idea is that you have the laws of nature but nothing beyond the universe, no transcendent reality, no mind, no creator, no intelligence, no purpose of intelligence of any kind.
Now the shift that I’m talking about begins in the field of astronomy in the 19 — roughly 1920s. There was a famous astronomer — you may have heard of him, Edwin Hubble? He has a telescope named after him. Unfortunately for Hubble’s legacy, the telescope is often broken, and people are having to go up there and fix it, but anyway, he was one of the great scientists of the 20th century. He came into astronomy at a propitious time because the astronomers were starting to use these big dome telescopes. This is a picture of the 200-inch Palomar — the telescope at the Palomar Observatory. Hubble used this later in his career. Earlier in his career he was using a slightly smaller, 100-inch one at Mt. Wilson. What Hubble began to discover, and other astronomers at the time, he began to discover that by resolving those little, tiny indistinct points of light in the night sky, he was able to show that these were very distinct — had very distinct structure to them.
And part of it was the resolving power of the new telescope, and part of it was the use of photographic plates to collect light with a long exposure, and as the light collected, these structures would come into focus, and the astronomers were really kind of amazed at what was out there. This is only the 1920s, not even a hundred years ago, and there was a big debate up until that time, in fact in 1921 a big debate between two astronomers, one named Harlow Shapley and another named Heber Curtis, and these two guys were debating whether or not our Milky Way Galaxy was the only galaxy or not, or whether there were other galaxies beyond this galaxy.
As these indistinct points of light were showing up on photographic plates giving the smudges had more and more structure, more and more astronomers were thinking, maybe we are looking at other galaxies beyond. Shapley and others continued to maintain that no, no, this is one galaxy until 1924 Edwin Hubble using new techniques for measuring distances to distant galaxies was able to determine one of the ones near us, the Andromeda Galaxy was 900,000 light years away from us, and yet the whole measured extent of the Milky Way at that time was 300,000 light years, so it was three times further away from us than the size of the Milky Way, therefore it couldn’t be contained in the Milky Way, therefore the smudges were indicating — the nebular smudges were indicating other galaxies, island universes as Curtis called them.
That was pretty mind blowing. The discovery about the size and immensity of the universe have just since Hubble, continued to pace. This is now what’s known as the Hubble deep field. That little tiny quadrant on the screen corresponds to like a dime at arm’s length amount of spatial displacement in the night sky. Now, watch what happens when we amplify or magnify that. It’s galaxies galore. Current estimates for the number of galaxies in the visible universe is 200 billion or as high as 2 trillion — galaxies. Our Milky Way Galaxy has 300 billion stars in it. It’s billions of trillions of stars. It’s the size and scope of the universe is immense beyond our wildest imagination circa 1920. And so this is one of the big discoveries.
But an even more significant discovery had to do with the light coming from those galaxies. What Hubble and another astronomer named Vesto Slipher — I love this guy. They discovered that the light coming from these distant galaxies was redder than it should be. It’s the phenomenon is called “red shift.” You know when you shine light through a prism and the light separates into colors red to violet, red to blue? The red light corresponds to long wave lengths. It’s slower, okay? Long wave lengths, so if you have an object that’s receding from you, it’s moving away, the wavelength of either the light or the sound will stretch out. You probably know of the Doppler shift thing, phenomenon.
If you have a train that moves away, what happens to the pitch of the train whistle? MMMmmmm, right? That’s the wavelength stretching out. Same thing happens optically with light. If you compare the light coming from the different gases in these nebular clusters to the same gases in a laboratory, the light looked redder, which suggested that those galaxies are moving away from us. As they looked at every one of the points of light in the night sky, they found that almost all of them were moving away. This suggested that the universe was expanding, and I have a visual aid. If we are going in the forward direction of time, and each of the galaxies is moving away from us, the only way to explain that is to posit a spherical expansion of the universe like this, like a balloon being blown up.
See, I drew some nice galaxies on there for you. Now, this is where it gets really interesting. That’s in the forward direction of time. As the universe gets bigger and bigger and bigger, the galaxies get further and further away. But what happens if we back extrapolate, as the scientists say, if we think about what the universe was like a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, or a million, or a billion, or however far you want to go back, eventually you get to the point where all of the galactic material is going to congeal at the same point marking the beginning of the expansion, and arguably, the beginning of the universe itself. So here we have in this observational astronomy the first hint that the universe is not eternal and self-existent and self-organizing and self-creating as the materialist view would say, but instead that it had a definite beginning.
Now, there was another scientist, a famous scientist that tumbled into the same conclusion, almost in spite of himself. This was a fellow over here with famously bad hair. He is not showing up so well. He was from Princeton. He had come from Germany to escape the Nazis. I’m talking about Albert Einstein. In 1915, he was developing a theory, a new theory of gravity called “general relativity.” Math is really gnarly, but the basic idea is pretty simple, and that is that matter actually bends or curves space. Have you heard of the black hole? A black hole is a place where there is so much matter densely compacted that it’s curving space so tightly around it that nothing can get out, not even light, okay? So Einstein developed this theory, but he realized that if matter is bending space on to itself, or around it, then the universe should be just one big black hole, but that meant since we are not a black hole, there must be something in opposition to gravity that is pushing outward, a force of expansion.
That implied a dynamical change in universe. He thought, that means the universe could very well have a beginning. That troubled him. At that point in his career — later, he shifted, but at that point in his career he was very much a scientific materialist, and so he posited this force of expansion and the force of gravity were of equal but opposite magnitudes. He called this — he gave — the name for this was a cosmological consonant, and he gave it a very precise value to depict the universe as in static balance, so it would not have a beginning. A few years later, some other physicists working with his math are saying, you know, Einstein, almost all of the solutions to your equation allow different outcomes, and one of them — a guy named Georges Lemaître — Belgian spelling, met with Einstein — actually, they had a taxi cab ride. Lemaître said, you know, the physics — without your fudge factor, it really suggests a dynamic universe.
And besides that, have you heard of this stuff that Edwin Hubble is doing out in California? And he told him all about the red-shift evidence. And Einstein gradually began to realize that he was allowing his philosophical predilection to shape his perspective. He eventually went out to California to see for himself. He was invited by Hubble, and he took a peek through the telescope, came out and met the media afterwards, and announced in his heavy German accent, I now see the necessity of a beginning, and he later said that the value he chose for his cosmological constant to get around the implication of a beginning was the greatest mistake of his scientific career.
He realized he was allowing his philosophical assumptions to govern his scientific thinking. He wasn’t the only one, however. There was a famous British astronomer named Sir Arthur Eddington, who reacted vehemently against the idea that the universe had a beginning. This is what he said, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order is repugnant to me. I should like to find a genuine loophole. I simply do not believe the present order of things started off with a bang. The expanding universe is preposterous. It leaves me cold.” He said. Very British. In psychology, this is a theory known as” denial.” You see the evidence he cites? He’s not citing evidence for a nonfinite universe. He says philosophically, he doesn’t like it.
A later physicist, a Princeton guy named Robert Dicke said that — explained what the problem was for so many physicists. He said an infinitely old universe would relieve us of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any finite time in the past.” If the material universe comes into existence, we can’t invoke a prior material cause, but that’s what science tries to do, so that puts us up against a limit, and it maybe suggests a transcendent immaterial cause, and that sounds a lot like God, and that’s even scarier, so we really like this infinite universe concept, but unfortunately, the evidence is pointing in the other direction.
Now in 1968, this perspective was extended by Steven Hawking, you know the famous British scientist who died recently? He was a Cambridge guy in the wheelchair with ALS. In 1968 he proved something called the singularity theorem. This was an extension of Einstein’s concept of matter curving space. Hawking realized that if the universe is expanding in the forward direction of time and matter is getting more dispersed, in the reverse direction of time matter would get more and more concentrated. If matter is getting more and more concentrated, what is happening with space? It’s getting more and more tightly curved, and eventually he realized as you went back far enough into the past, the curvature of space would become infinitely, tightly curved. An infinitely, tightly curved space corresponds to — zero spatial volume. How much stuff can you put in no space?
None. Nothing, right? You can see why this new cosmology has profoundly anti-materialistic implications. The physicists general relatively implies matter, space, time and energy all come into existence at a singularity in the past, before which you can’t talk about matter, space, time or energy, so the cause you need to explain the origin of the universe must transcend those four domains. It must be immaterial. It must not be governed or constrained by time. It must be beyond space. It starts sounding awfully theological, doesn’t it? In fact the connection to say a Biblical perspective is not hard to see at all because what are the first words of the Bible? Not from eternity past, but rather, in the beginning. In the New Testament you have the same perspective. In the Epistles — probably of Paul, Titus and Timothy both talk about the plan of God existing before the beginning of time.
Time, the Bible asserts, is a created entity. Very interesting. That’s a convergence with modern physics. It also resuscitates an ancient argument called the cosmological argument where it says whatever begins to exist must have a cause, separate from the cause from the thing that begins, and the philosopher says we call that cause God. We now know the universe has such a beginning, and the kind of cause that would be necessary must transcend again, matter, space, time and energy. Now — so that’s one amazing class of discoveries that I think has challenged this materialistic worldview, and I think has frankly, theistic implications. Another class of discovery is in the area of physics itself. Since the 1950s and ’60s, physicists have been discovering that many parameters, fundamental parameters of physics are what they call “finely tuned” to allow for the possibility of life and even intelligent life.
They sometimes call this anthropic fine-tuning, it’s as if the universe was finely tuned to produce us. The fine-tuning things include things like the expansion rate of the universe. If were expanding a little tiny bit faster, then the universe would go into what’s called a heat death, and life would not be possible. If it were expanding a little tiny bit slower, it would collapse and form a big crunch, and the force of gravity, the force of electro magnetism, the other fundamental forces of physics, the ratios between the forces, the configuration of mass and energy at the beginning of the universe, all look like a setup job, exquisitely finely tuned to really tiny ratios, expressed with big exponential numbers, so physicists have been talking about the Goldilocks universe. We have just the right set of parameters to make life possible.
One of those physicists, Sir Fred Hoyle who discovered one of the really crucial fine-tuning parameters having to do with what’s called the resonance levels of carbon said this, he said, “a common sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics and chemistry to make life possible.” I always like the way the monkeys make it into the origins discussion even if it’s about physics and the universe. That’s another category of discovery the fine-tuning of the laws, constants and initial conditions of physics.
The third area I worked in most of this point which is the evidence of design in biology. I have a colleague Michael Behe. He has written a very famous book called “Darwin’s Black Box.” In that book, he and many other biologists, cell biologists, biochemists have been making famous these discoveries of little tiny nano machines, nano technology in even the simplest cells, even simple, one-cell organisms. This is an animation shot of what is called a bacterial flagellar motor. It has a rotor, stater, O-rings and bushings — it’s a little tiny rotary engine nestled into the cell membrane or cell wall of a one-celled bacterium. I like to say it’s high-tech and low life.
We have been discovering, biochemists have been discovering, all kinds of these little tiny machines, sliding clamps, little turbines, little walking robotic motor proteins, an unbelievable world of nano technology in what we used to think of as a simple cell. What is even more mind blowing is the discovery that to build these little machines — they are all made of proteins, and proteins in turn are made of smaller sub units called amino acids. And the proteins have a 20 letter amino acid alphabet, and to build a protein that folds up into the right structure so it can be the right kind of mechanical part in one of those molecular machines, the amino acids have to be arranged in just the right way so the forces are balanced so they all fold up right.
That raises the question, what tells the cell how to arrange the amino acids in the right way to build the proteins to build the protein machine, and the answer to that question, many of us probably know, if you remember from biology class going back to Watson and Crick in 1953, there was this famous molecule called DNA. They elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule twisting double helix, but along the spine of the molecule, there are these four chemical sub units called bases. In 1957 Crick proposed that the base on the inside of the DNA molecule are functioning like alphabetic characters in a written language, or digital characters, like the zeros and ones in a section of software.
That is to say it’s not the shape of the chemical subunits or their chemical properties, per se, that gives them their function. It’s their precise arrangement in accord with an independent symbol convention that we now have elucidated called the genetic code. In other words, DNA is an information bearing molecule. It has instructions in it for building proteins and protein machines. A very close analogy to this technology is something that we have developed in our manufacturing industry. The Boeing plant in Seattle — I’m from Seattle — they use this, and many other manufacturing industries use this, it’s called CAD cam. Computer assisted design and engineering. An engineer sits at a console, writes some code for designing some mechanical system.
The information he’s written goes down a wire. It’s translated into a machine code that an assembly apparatus can read and utilize. If you are at Boeing, maybe that information is being used to put rivets on the airplane wing in just the right place. Digital information directing the construction of a mechanical system. That’s what’s going on inside every cell of every living organism at incredibly rapid rates as we speak. Fascinating discovery. The information has come to biology. It raises a big question, doesn’t it? We know where the information is stored. It’s in the double helix. We also know what the information does.
I have a cool video of the animation process on my website. You can look at it if you like. There’s a question still. We know what it does and where it’s stored, but since the 1960s scientists have been wondering, where does it come from? It’s code. It’s code, after all. Our local hero in Redmond, Washington, Bill Gates, says that DNA is like a software program only much more complex than any we have ever created. Where does software come from? Programmers, right?
In fact, whenever we see information and trace it back to its source, whether it’s in a hieroglyphic inscription, or paragraphing a book, or embedded in a radio signal — whenever we see information and trace it back to its source, we always find that it’s come from a mind, and not a material process. There may be a material medium of transmission, but the ultimate source of the information is always intellectual. It’s always mind affecting matter. It doesn’t come from an undirected material process. In fact, there is an early pioneer in the field of information theory who applied information theory to molecular biology, and he was quoted as saying that the creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.
Now that habitually associated phrase is really important because it’s saying, that’s our uniform and repeated experience., and philosophers of science say uniform and repeated experience is the basis of all scientific reasoning. In other words, there is a scientific basis for concluding that the information present in living organisms, the foundation of life is the product of intelligent design. What we know from experience is that minds always generate information, and we have information for the foundation of life, and so I have developed this idea in two books, “Signature in the Cell,” and “Darwin’s Doubt,” in a lot more detail, looking into other possible competing explanations, but coming down firmly on the side of what I have just argued, that information is the product of mind, and the information of life is revealing a designing intelligence.
What I’m working on now is extending that argument and addressing the question of “who is the designer? And what can science tell us about it? Many historians of science are starting to catch on that these New Atheists are really out of step with what is really going on in science. One scientist recently said that the idea that God created the universe is a more respectable idea today than any time in the last 100 years. I would go further than that and say that it provides the best explanation for an ensemble of evidences, not just the evidence of biology. If all we had was biology, evidence of design and biology, you might say that the designing intelligence was some imminent intelligence within the cosmos.
Richard Dawkins once even speculated that maybe there was a space alien or something that seeded life to this planet. No being within the cosmos can explain the evidence of design from the very beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics. No being within the cosmos can explain how the cosmos itself came into existence. When you bring all of the evidence together, the evidence from cosmology and physics as well as the evidence of design and biology, I think you can identify the designer, and I think the designer has exactly the kind of profile that the designer must have the attributes that Jews and Christians have always attributed to God. Transcendent, powerful, intelligent, active from the beginning, and active within the creation since the beginning, not a deistic creator who only acts at the beginning.
You see how I’m reasoning here? I’m thinking what kind of worldview hypothesis could explain this whole ensemble? I think only classical, Judeo-Christian theism can do that. It posits a God who is both transcendent and active in the creation, and so coming back to where we started, I think St. Paul was on to something. From the things that are made, we do see the power and the wisdom of the Creator, and therefore understand that the reality of such a personal God, and I think, alas, our New Atheist colleagues who have made such a big splash in the culture have missed the boat. They are talking about science of 120 years ago, perhaps, but not the science of today that has reestablished the credibility of the God hypothesis. Thank you very much.
Craig: Well, obviously Stephen is scratching the surface on this evidence. If you would like to dig into it a little bit more, he does have a couple of books. We do have some available in the lobby, “Signature in the Cell,” as well as “Darwin’s Doubt.” These are running out pretty quickly, so if you are unable to get a copyright now, there is a card on the info table that can tell you how to get a hold of those as well as some other resources. Also, we have a local chapter of the Discovery Institute that is here in the lobby. They have a great DVD about the information enigma, talking about where does information come from? There are presentations on that. If you would like to get a copy of that, just visit the Discovery Institute’s Chapter over there. They would love to put this into your hand as well. Can we thank Dr. Meyer one more time?
God bless. We’ll see you next week.