Thanks for the Info, now what?

Hello SNC friends!
Can you believe it? We finished our series on Tough Questions – Solid Answers. I had a great time discussion these things with you. This is a major area of passion for me although I would admit I am nowhere near as nuanced a philosopher and scientist as many of those who contribute to this discussion are. I’m a novice – but have deeply enjoyed this pursuit over the years. It was truly wonderful bringing this material to our Sunday mornings and really having this dialogue. My hope is that you can use it, return to it if you are wrestlying – or maybe ministering to a friend who has difficult questions. I’d like to take some time to share my answer to someone who asks me to explain why in the world I’ve decided to lose my mind and be a Christian! Here is my (hopefully short and clear) answer:

“Joe, thanks for asking me that question. I know it might seem crazy to you, but I have really thought about this and wrestled with it through the years. If you’ve got a few minutes, I’d love to share with you several reasons why I have decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ.

As I begin I’d like to say is that I am going to share multiple pieces of evidence that could point to the existence of a God and that Jesus is Him – but each piece may not be enough to prove God’s existence on its own – but when you line them up together it begins to look more and more compelling to me that Christianity is true. Now I just want to share these reasons with you and then we can discuss questions you may have for the reasons I gave.

Okay, first thing I’d like to point to is science. I know this is disputed but it seems to me that science has not disproven God’s existence, but rather it may actually point us to a creator. I see the vast scope of a universe that seems to have a design behind it – I see the brilliant design of a human being and find it hard to explain how we just got here on our own. To me, I look around me and am in awe of it all. To me – I’ve read and throughout a lot about this – it just seems to me the explanation of a God behind it all is just as compelling if not more than the explanation  of God’s non existence.

Secondly, I think Christianity gives us the best explanation as to why we can define what evil is – and the best explanation for why it exists and it gives us the best hope for us in the midst of this evil.

Third, I see the Bible as an historically and archaeologically accurate and philosophically strong book that changes lives. I know the Bible has been scoffed at but every attack I’ve seen brought against it seems to fail. This lends credence to the words within it.

Fourth, I find Christianity to be the most compelling religion (atheism included), philosophically; morally; archaeologically; and to be honest – I find it to be the most hope and life-giving of all religions out there.

Fifth, the evidence for the existence, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is very powerful and compelling to me. Jesus was either raised from the dead – or He wasn’t. If He wasn’t then He is just a man and Christianity is just another religious system – but if He was raised from the dead – then Christianity is something else entirely.

Sixth, I’ve seen how my relationship with Jesus has changed my life and the lives of millions throughout history who claim they have not only had a relationship with God but they have seen Him move in powerful ways. To me – all these testimonies together is very powerful.

So these are my six major reasons for belief in God and in Jesus Christ.”

How would you describe why you believe in Jesus? You don’t have to use big philosophical words or concepts – but can you explain why you believe what you do? In 1 Peter 3:15 we are encouraged to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you . . . My hope was to help you arrive at your reasons and be prepared at all times to share that if asked. So let me ask you – this week pull out a piece of paper and a pencil. And write down these questions:

  1. What do I find to be most convincing about the Christian faith?
  2. Why is it most convincing?
  3. How would I communicate this to others?

Have you ever thought about this? I have confessed that sometimes when I’m on long drives I pretend I’m in a discussion with a non-christian, and I try to answer questions that would be asked to me. I think about how I would answer questions: what I’d say and how I’d deliver it. As we move forward in our mission to make disciples, I can guarantee: you will be questioned. My hope is that you will be ready and it’s awesome because so many times, I find there will be points in the conversation where I’m not ready and yet God powerfully moves through me. These are very exciting tines because I’m reminded it’s not my intellect or persuasiveness that wins the day – but God’s Holy Spirit speaking to a heart and moving someone. May God bless you richly in your mission with Him!

Pastor Ryan



God, I Just Don’t Understand

“God, I really like some things about you but if I was honest, there are some things I see here that really don’t make sense.”

I have to be honest, this prayer has been mine on and off during my journey with God. I have especially struggled with some of the things I see God doing in the Old Testament. I’m not sure if any of these things have caused me to doubt God’s existence because I trust that He has a greater reason and that just because He doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. While this issue hasn’t caused me to struggle in my belief – it has caused me to struggle in my trust of God – in my faith. It has caused me to wrestle with the goodness of God and that has been quite disillusioning at times.

A few years ago when I was working at Biola, I set up a lunch appointment between one of my students who was an atheist and two Biola philosophy professors. I even got to tag along and watch as these two brilliant men gently sought to have an open and constructive dialogue with this young man. They sat down over lunch and this young man began to ask questions. He was very well read with some of the new atheist literature and you could tell he was very bright. I already knew this – I had met with him several times. Now in retrospect – from the perspective of an outside observer – it seemed to me that the professors handled the young man’s questions although it was reported to me later that the young man was bragging to his friends that he had stumped the philosophy profs. It didn’t look that way to me at all – however one could fairly accuse me of seeing what I wanted to see in this.

During the luncheon – the young man began to address evil and God’s goodness. They began to really and deeply wrestle with the philosophical questions. At one point though they really challenged the young man and asked him: “Joe (not his real name) – how does the fact that evil exists – or that God seems to do evil things in the Old testament – really disprove His existence? Or rather – does it just prove to us that you don’t like or understand the way He does things?  

This was a very powerful question for me; and it felt like a huge moment in the conversation. It seemed to me that Joe didn’t really have a compelling answer to this question. Since that luncheon that question has often stuck with me. I had a friend who heard an atheist speaker accuse God of being wasteful proclaiming that humanoids have existed on this planet for up to 150,000 years before we have records of them being fully realized humans. So what did God do with all the humanoids? The speaker accuses God of being incredibly wasteful in His plan – unless there was no God at all. But this is a big jump that one could make but it’s definitely not ironclad. If there were humanoids; (Which we still haven’t really found fossils for); then God would have a reason for how and why He dealt with them the way He did. How does this prove He doesn’t exist – but rather the speaker didn’t like the way it seems God does things? Unfortunately for my friend – this article opened the door for him to begin deeply questioning His belief in God and ultimately led him to abandon his trust in Jesus. When he shared this argument with me I was reminded of the two philosophy professors debating that brilliant young student in the Biola Burger Pit.

When we look at the questions leveled at God’s goodness; like we did last Sunday – this question is of vital importance. How does the fact that God doesn’t seem to make sense here – really disprove His existence – more than prove that you don’t like or understand the way He has done things?

In addition to this question has been recent scholarship – some of what I shared with you – that has been extremely helpful to fill in some of the blanks in this discussion and paint certain things in a different light. This is what has been so exciting for me – because as an inquisitive and skeptical man – I have found that the fact there are answers to these questions is something that frankly: feels good, like lifting a weight off my shoulders.  It also amazes me – deepens my worship and trust of God.

I’d like to direct you as I close this 2nd look to several resources. If you enjoyed last week’s sermon and want to go deeper – here are some links I’d like to invite you to check out. The scholar I’d like to direct you to is Paul Copan. This guy is a hero to me. Below are links to his website and a couple of his books.  There are other scholars out there but for now – I’d like to direct you to Paul because he has done a great deal addressing the questions that we brought up and discussed last Sunday.

http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/

http://www.amazon.com/God-Moral-Monster-Making-Testament/dp/0801072751/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392771995&sr=1-1&keywords=paul+copan

http://www.amazon.com/When-God-Goes-Starbucks-Apologetics/dp/080106743X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392772021&sr=1-3&keywords=paul+copan

Have a wonderful week everybody!

Pastor Ryan



Has Science Buried God? Part 2

Hello SNC,

For the last two weeks we’ve been looking very specifically at the question – “Has Science Buried God?”. It has been a very intellectually stimulating and challenging two sermons to preach but I’ve had a great time. From here we are going to move on to some other questions. I recognize that there are side questions that arise from this discussion that because of time constraints I may not have addressed. Please know that there are wonderful resources online for you to study and look in to. If this discussion has piqued your interest, let me invite you to run with it and do not let your study end here. If you are interested in more resources let me know, I’m sure we can find some together.

My main focus was to really ask a very specific question and look at the commonly held misconception that science and Christianity are incompatible. My hope is that you have seen me build a case for why I believe they are actually quite compatible and that I believe science may even point us to God’s existence. To me this is such a fascinating topic; one that fills me with awe. It slams home reality to me: “Oh dude; He’s actually there!!!!!” Thank you for joining me on this journey of wrestling with this question.

Now with that said – some of Christianity’s staunchest critics would argue that science is not a complete smoking gun proving God is there and that Christianity is true.  I would agree.  but it is one of the pieces of evidence that have led me to find the Christian faith to be highly compelling and rational. From here we will move on to other questions that may be more theological or philosophical in nature. But as we close this little discussion on science and God I’d like to leave you with a song by Phil Wickham called: “You’re beautiful.” Give it a couple listens this week. Click here for the lyrics. Let them be a prayer for you. May God bless you this week!!!

Pastor Ryan

I see Your face in every sunrise

The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes

The world awakens in the light of the day

I look up to the sky and say

You’re beautiful

 

I see Your power in the moonlit night

Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright

We are amazed in the light of the stars

It’s all proclaiming who You are

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree

You bled and then You died and then You rose again for me

Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne

Soon we will be coming home

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

When we arrive at eternity’s shore

Where death is just a memory and tears are no more

We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring

Your bride will come together and we’ll sing

You’re beautiful (x2)

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

I see Your face,

I see Your face

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGlTzH9xkXQ



Has Science Buried God? Part 1

Has Science buried God? Have we found enough evidence through the rigorous study of science – to sufficiently dismiss a need to look to a God for answers on why we are here – why the universe exists; what truly gives us meaning and purpose and so forth? There are some voices out there that would claim we have; that science has given us all we need to sufficiently and confidently leave our archaic faith in God behind. But has science really done this?

A few weeks back I had a very lengthy and pleasant conversation with a man who identifies himself as an atheist. He told me that he was not a religious person at all – but that he felt he was a man who placed his trust in science. The assumption he made in this statement was that the two are polar opposites. You either are a religious man – or a man of science – however, I find that this distinction between the two is not necessary. In other words – you don’t need to be one or the other as a matter of fact – I think there is no good reason why you cannot and should not be both.
This past weekend we discussed some scientific findings in the universe that seem to imply not only a cause behind the universe’s existence – but a designer. Now, to be fair – each of the “fine tuning” points I made in the sermon are debated although I still find these fine tuning arguments more compelling than the arguments against them and I’m not alone; many in the scientific community do. In fact a new theory has emerged called the “multiverse” and it is somewhat of an answer or response to how our universe could appear to be so specifically fine tuned. The theory states that maybe it’s because there are millions of universes out there – some universes exist without capability of supporting life and some universes do exist with this capability. So we just happen to live in one of those universes. It’s like saying: Yea we know the universe is fine tuned but it’s no big deal because there are millions of possible universes out there – this one just happens to work and so we live in this universe… The problem with this statement is that there seems to be no real hard evidence – no real evidence at all for the existence of a multiverse – nor an explanation for why there is such a multiverse and where it came from. In other words – it takes faith to believe in a multiverse – big time faith – I would propose even more blind faith than some have accused me of having for believing in a God who created everything and yet there are some scientists out there who believe in the multiverse. One scientist named Martin Rees concedes that he sees fine tuning in the universe – but he attributes it to the existence of a multiverse – here’s what he says: “If on does not believe in providential design, but still thinks the fine tuning needs some explanation, there is another explanation – a highly speculative one, so I should reiterate my health warning at this stage. It is the one I much prefer, however even in our present state of knowledge any such preference can be no more than a hunch…” What’s he saying? Basically he’s saying: “I know it’s no more than a hunch, this multiverse – but I prefer it anyway…” At the very least this is not scientific fact – it’s a highly speculative hunch that explains why we might see fine tuning without referring to a designer; but nevertheless; only a hunch it seems. Is it not fair at least to say someone needs to exercise some bit of “faith” to explain away a possible designer behind a universe with what appears to be… Design? And I must also add- there are new arguments arising that suggest that should we discover a multiverse – it wouldn’t necessarily disprove the existence of God even then.

Here’s my point:

We are asking the question – has science buried God. From what we have seen science has not seemed to bury God but on the contrary some could argue that science points us to God. This is very exciting when we consider this because we may find such a highly respected field of study like science – showing us divine fingerprints throughout the universe. For me – it fills my mind and heart with awe. And I am reminded of David’s words in Psalm 8: “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

Did you know that He is mindful of you?  He is not only mindful of you – He has considered you a friend – an heir to his throne – an adopted child – His beloved. You don’t believe me?  Go on google search and type in: “I am God’s friend” or “I am an heir to God’s throne” or “I am God’s beloved.” You’ll likely find a Scripture reference that talks about this. The God who made all of this – the God whose fingerprints we can see on this universe – who finely tuned it all – is not only aware of you – but loves you. My hope and prayer for you this week – is that you will be reminded of not only God’s amazing power – but His wonderful love.

I’d like to give you an assignment. It’s called a beauty project. For some time every day this week – take some time to enjoy nature. Maybe it means you get outside – or maybe you watch a movie; tv show – or look at beautiful pictures online. Take sometime to just marvel at the creation of God and let that bring you back to the reminder – you are loved by the same God who made all of this! You are loved by the same God who imagined colors – or wove the stars into space – the same God who conceived of Yosemite; the same God who can dip a finger in the ocean and stir a tidal wave; this same God – loves you. Be at peace this week for you are known and loved my friend.

Pastor Ryan