Jesus! Our Emmanuel – Closer than You Think

In these fast-paced times where we contend with life’s rough-and-tumble hitting us thick and fast, I cannot begin to estimate how many times I have attempted to encourage someone with the assurance of God’s nearness to their situation: God is with you. God is near. God is among us. As a Christian, it is an astonishing attribute of the God I profess, a comforting attribute that voices long before my own confessed: “God is our refuge and strength,” writes the psalmist, “an ever-present help in trouble.”(1) “The Lord is near,” the apostle tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious.”(2) That there is one who draws near is a vital part of the story of Christianity, one in which Christians understandably draw hope. But it is not automatically hopeful to everyone. I was reminded of this when my assurance of God’s presence in the life of a struggling friend was met with her honest rejoinder: “Is that supposed to encourage me?”

Nearness in and of itself is not assuring. I had forgotten this in my well-meaning, though knee-jerk truism. An essential ingredient in the assurance that comes from nearness is the person who is drawing near. The degree of comfort and assurance (or wisdom and conviction) we draw from those near us is wholly contingent on who it is that has drawn near. For some, that God is near resembles more a threat than a promise. My friend’s perception of God in that moment was closer to Julian Huxley’s than King David’s. For Huxley, God resembled “not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.” For David, God’s nearness was clearly thought his good.(3)

Who is it that Christians believe is near? And what does this even mean?

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In Christian theology, the attributes of God are qualities that attempt to describe the God who has come near enough to reveal who God is. These self-revealed attributes cannot be taken individually, removed from one another like garments in a great wardrobe, or chosen preferentially like items in a buffet. They are not traits that exist independently but simultaneously, at times in paradoxical mystery to us. God is both near us and “among us” as the prophet Isaiah writes; God is also far from us and beyond us—in knowledge, in grandeur, in immensity, in position. “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”

Christians further believe that the one who dwells both among us and in the highest heavens is also good and wise and holy. The God of whose nearness Christians speak is infinite in being, glory, blessedness and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. Like this God there is no other. The God who draws near us is wholly other.

 

Yet after the candid response from my friend, I realized how important it is to attempt to clarify what I mean—and whom I speak of—when I say that this God is near; and my attempts will remind me that this is never a simple, casual knowledge understood. My friend needed not only to hold the knowledge that God is near but the relational trust that the God who is near is also kind. She needed more than a rational reminder that God is holding her and her situation, but the embodied promise that God is good. She needed to hear the “who” behind the promise, beyond the attribute. And I needed the candid reminder that the attributes we can study, the biblical promises we cling to, the words I count on to comfort or restore, are pale in comparison and meaningful only because of the one they describe. The promise that God is among us is only promising because it is this God who is among us.

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Christians hold this notion most specifically in the kind mystery of the Incarnation, the divine drawing near to the human plight in human form. Who is this God who comes near, who rends the heavens to stand beside humanity, who stands at the door and knocks as one of us? Who is this vicariously human, mediating Son of God so near?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who attested to the nearness of God though confined to a jail cell, depicted the one beside whom he lived and before whom he prayed as a quiet companion, gentle and fierce, persuasive and patient on our behalf. He prayed:

“Lord Jesus, come yourself, and dwell with us, be human as we are, and overcome what overwhelms us. Come into the midst of my evil, come close to my unfaithfulness. Share my sin, which I hate and which I cannot leave. Be my brother, Thou Holy God. Be my brother in the kingdom of evil and suffering and death. Come with me in my death, come with me in my suffering, come with me as I struggle with evil. And make me holy and pure, despite my sin and death.”

What if it is this God who hears our prayers, the humanity of one who walked and suffered in Jerusalem, the Christ who came among us only to die and rise again? What if it is this God who is near?

 

(1) Psalm 46:1.
(2) Philippians 4:5-6.
(3) Psalm 73:28.

The way, The truth, The life

 

In a special documentary, a major television network investigated the beginnings of Christianity and the influence of the apostle Paul in spreading the message of Christ. The narrator noted his fascination with the historical figure, commenting that if not for the voice of Paul, it is “unlikely that the movement Jesus founded would have survived beyond the first century.” Yet of the resurrection of Christ he also noted, “Something must have happened, otherwise it’s hard to explain how Jesus’s story endured for so long.”

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Why has the story of Christ endured? Has it survived through the centuries because of effective speakers in antiquity? Has it endured, as Sigmund Freud argued, because it is a story that fulfills wishes, or as Friedrich Nietzsche attested, because it masks and medicates our despairing fate? Has the story of Christ endured because something really happened after Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross or was it only the clever marketing of ardent followers?

We live in an age where religion is examined with the goal of finding a religion, or a combination of religions, that best suits our lives and lifestyles. We are intrigued by characters in history like Jesus and Paul, Buddha and Gandhi. We look at their lives and rightly determine their influence in history—the radical life and message of Christ, the fervor with which Paul spread the story of Christianity, the passion of Buddha, the social awareness of Gandhi. But far too often, our fascination stops there, comfortably and confidently keeping the events of history at a distance or mingling them all together as one and the same.

C.S. Lewis wrote often of “the great cataract of nonsense” that blinds us to knowledge of earlier times and keeps us content with history in pieces. He was talking about the common tendency to treat the voices of history with a certain level of incredulity and inferiority—even if with a pleasant curiosity all the same. Elsewhere, he called it chronological snobbery, a tendency to concern oneself primarily with present sources while dissecting history as we please. Yet to do so, warned Lewis, is to walk unaware of the cataracts through which we see the world today. Far better is the mind that truly considers the past, allowing its lessons to interact with the army of voices that battle for our allegiance. For a person who has lived thoroughly in many eras is far less likely to be deceived by the errors of his or her own age.

We might be wary, then, among other things, of assuming the earliest followers of Christ thought resurrection a reasonable phenomenon or miracles a natural occurrence. They didn’t. Investigating the life of Paul, we might ask why a once fearful persecutor of Christ’s followers was suddenly willing to die for the story he carried around the world, testifying to this very event that split history. Investigating the enduring story of Christ, we might ask why the once timid and frightened disciples were abruptly transformed into bold witnesses. What happened that led countless Jews and many others to dramatically change directions in life and in lifestyle? That something incredible happened is not a difficult conclusion at which to arrive. It takes far greater faith to conclude otherwise.

A friend of mine is fond of saying that truth is something you can hang your hat on. Even as we struggle to see it today, her words communicate a reality Jesus’s disciples knew well. The resurrection was shocking in its real-ness; it was an event they found dependable and enduring. It was not for them like the latest scandal that grabs our curiosity and passes with the next big thing. It is solid and it is real. The disciples and the apostle Paul were transformed by seeing Jesus alive again—a phenomenon that would be just as unthinkable to ancient minds as it would be for us today. In fact, even the most hesitant among them, and the most unlikely of followers, found the resurrected Christ an irrefutable reality. Comfort was irrelevant, it went far beyond curiosity, and personal preference was not a consideration. They could not deny who stood in front of them. Jesus was alive. And they went to their deaths talking about it.

It seems to me that the story of Christ has endured for innumerable reasons: because in the fullness of time God indeed sent his Son; because knowingly Jesus walked to the Cross and into the hands of those who didn’t know what they were doing; because something really happened after his body was laid in the tomb; and because with great power and with God’s Spirit, the apostles continued to testify of the events they saw. What if the story of Christ remains today simply because it is true?

 

God in my Hurt and Pain

Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?, a popular website and one-time viral You Tube video, puts forward the basic premise that God doesn’t answer prayer since God has never healed an amputee. By extension, they make the assertion that since God doesn’t heal every person of every infirmity, God does not exist.

While there are obvious false assumptions made about God, prayer, and healing (how does one know that in the whole world God has not healed an amputee, for starters) many interesting questions are raised for those who believe in both God and prayer. Those who do pray for healing often fail to experience it in the way they expect—healing rarely parallels a conventional or traditional sense of that word. Loved ones die of cancer, friends are killed in car accidents, economic catastrophe befalls even the most frugal, and people in some of the developing world die from diseases long cured in the West. Beyond the realm of physical healing, many experience emotional and psychological trauma that leave open and festering wounds. Or, there are those perpetual personality ticks and quirks that seem beyond the reach of the supernatural. Given all of this contrary experience, what does it mean to receive healing, and should one hold out hope that healing can come in this world? Specifically, for those who pray, and for those who believe that God does heal, how might the persistence of wounds—psychological, emotional and physical—be understood?

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In a recent New York Times article, Marcia Mount Shoop writes of her horrific rape as a fifteen year old girl.(1) As the descendant of three generations of ministers she ran to the safest place she knew after suffering this horrific trauma—the church. Yet as she stood amid the congregants singing hymns and reciting creeds, she felt no relief. Even her favorite verse from Romans, ‘and we know that in all things God works for good with those who love him’ sounded hollow and brought little comfort. How could she ever be healed or experience ‘good’ after this horrific act of violence?

Once at home, alone with the secret of her rape, Marcia Shoop found something that enabled her to survive. “I felt Jesus so close,” she recalled in an interview. “It wasn’t the same Jesus I experienced at church. It was this tiny, audible whisper that said, ‘I know what happened. I understand.’ And it kept me alive, that frayed little thread.”(2)

The hope that Jesus was physically close to her in her pain led Ms. Shoop to become a minister herself more than a quarter century after her horrific rape. It also led her to more deeply connect her body with her soul and mind. This re-connection of the body with soul and with mind is where she experienced what she would call ‘healing.’ God was with her in the living, breathing, physical reality of Jesus who likewise continued to bear the wounds of his own crucifixion and torture after the gospel writers testify to him having been raised from the dead.

The Gospel of John records the risen Jesus as inviting Thomas to “reach your finger and see my hands; and reach your hand, and put it into my side.”(3) Jesus was not a disembodied spirit without flesh and blood as a result of his resurrection from the dead. He was a body, and a body that was wounded. Even the resurrection did not take away his bodily scars! Pondering this reality can bring great hope to those who follow Jesus, and to all who wonder about how they might find healing for their wounds. For healing did not equate a lack of wounding, or physical perfection—being untouched by the sorrow and suffering of a world gone horribly wrong—even for Jesus.

For Ms. Shoop, healing didn’t mean the total erasure of the pain and horror of her rape, as difficult as it was to bear that wound. It meant that she encountered the wounded God in the person of Jesus who continued to bear the scars and wounds of his crucifixion. As she recalled, “What happened to me wasn’t ‘for the good,’” referring again to her favorite passage in Romans. But God took the garbage, the stench, [of that horrible event] and gently, tenderly, indignantly wove it into this moment of redemption. What a gift.”(4)

Healing is not a gift that comes instantly, nor does it always look like what we expect. It is often a slow, painful journey through the void and desolation of suffering. It will not erase our wounds. Yet, the promise of resurrection, of new life that comes even with wounded hands and sides, offers another picture of healing where being an ‘amputee’ might be honored and redeemed.

 

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at RZIM in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Samuel G. Freedman, “A Rape Survivor Now Ministers Body and Soul,” The New York Times Online, June 29, 2012. Accessed June 29, 2012.
(2) Ibid., accessed June 29, 2012.
(3) John 20:27.
(4) Freedman, The New York Times Online, June 29, 2012. Accessed June 29, 2012.

Can Man live without God’s Love?

My trip to Cape coast last November was unusually refreshing. In many ways, this young lady who sat next to me typified your average millennial. Sporting headphones she later confessed was “my mechanism to avoid distraction and unnecessary conversations,” she wore a fitting pair of jeans, a colorful shirt and a pair of Nike sneakers, which was about as casual as it gets on a Friday afternoon.

“Hi” I said, making a five finger-wagging gesture to get her attention in my brief moment of courage.

“Hey! Chummy,” she responded, pulling back the earphone over the ear closer to me in a bid to hear what it was I saying.

“What’s up?” I asked with a bit more intent this time. “Nothing much” pretty much qualifies as an apt response to the question in these parts.

“Sam Harris’ The End of Faith?” I asked with an edge of challenge in my voice. “I am curious! Why are you reading this particular volume?” “Are you a skeptic?”

Anita bookmarked the page she was reading, looked at me intently. “The answer is yes!” she said with conviction.

“Really?” I asked, betraying my surprise (for what’s worth) in my voice. “Interesting!”

“You see!” she continued triumphantly. “I used to be a believer but I have lost all my belief and I no longer buy into whatever it is that is spewed from the pulpits and daises by those conmen who arrange themselves as ‘godly’ men and end up fleecing the gullible of their meagre resources to fund their extravagant lifestyles.”

Even so, I wanted to understand what it was I was dealing with further. “Excuse my curiosity,” I said, “but how did you come to this conclusion?”

That opened a can of worms and the next few sentences opened up the conversation and broadened the scope of the discussion.

“Losing faith was not a linear or sequential process for me.” She replied. “The contours of my journey to unbelief take on a slightly different shape each time I look back with the benefit of hindsight.”

“For instance” she continued, “tell me this, is it really possible to be an intelligent, critically thinking person and still believe that the god of the bible – an openly jealous, petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty bully – is capable of any love?”

“What is it with you Christians and your huge appetite for disturbing people’s peace with the ‘God loves you’ BS you keep peddling?” “Okay” she said, trying desperately to suppress the anger in her voice which was getting beyond normal levels. “Let us assume without admitting your god loves me.”

“What does it matter if he does?

“Do I need that love from him?

“Does it make any difference?

“Why can’t I find the love of fellow humans enough?”

The questions, as poignant as they were, kept unfolding as the journey wore on.

That set the tone for a great conversation that spanned the nearly two hours we rode in the bus.

Some three months later, the questions have assumed an even greater relevance in this season of love (Val’s day) and the treatment of the subject has never been more needful.

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Love in its truest sense of the word, is, when you treat a person with intrinsic worth not only when they serve your purpose. Of course, the English is quite narrow in its definition but the Greek, for example lends itself to four different ‘levels’ of definition: Storge (Parental love), Phileo (friendly Love), Eros (Romantic love) an Agape (Godly love).

On the face of it, it is true an atheist can be a good and loving person (most of my self-professed atheist friends are) but the trouble is, there is no rationally justifiable bases to mandate that for anyone who chooses a different route. Arriving at the conclusion to love is purely an autonomous choice. A person who is good and loving in the non-theistic worldview is just living above the resources that they can legitimately bring to the table. The reasoning to love is only self-driven.

There is no intrinsic worth in the naturalistic framework. For instance, the Australian Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer is on record to have said “when a baby is born with downs syndrome or whatever it is, that child is of no value more than a Pig.” So in essence, “wipe these creatures off the surface of the earth.” Can you see where is going? In the naturalistic Darwinian worldview, there will always be free-loaders in the system; the strong must devour the week to survive – natural selection becomes natural rejection. That is, I suppose, where the scourge of racism and morally superior cultures stem from.

The only way to be treated with intrinsic worth is when we come to the realization that we were made in the Imago Dei (Image of God) and that is the bequest of God. That is where all the four ‘branches’ converge. So if your choice to love legitimate, the reasoning should be legitimate as well or else, somebody will redefine the whole paradigm and ultimately what is love for one, could become hate for another. We are all made of essential worth.

The ultimate ethic is love and if there ever was a definition for a supererogatory act, it is in God fulfilling the human need for love and meaning. You love even when you’re not morally bound to do so because of the relationship we have with God, and that equality we could draw with our relationship with fellow human beings.

Hello God, are you still there?

Why isn’t God more obvious? This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts, by people of all levels of faith. When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent? When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen? Why wouldn’t God want more people to know God’s good news? When all the “evidence” seems to counter the biblical narrative, why doesn’t God just give the world a sign? If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today? All of these examples get at the same issue: the seeming “hiddenness” of God.

Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God. Russell replied that he would say: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While many who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s audacity, a similar struggle ensued between the psalmist and his hidden God. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being asleep in these plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?”(2)

In fact, belief in a God who can be easily found, a God who has acted in time and space, makes the hiddenness of God all the more poignant and perplexing. Theologians have offered many explanations for God’s hiddenness: because God seeks to grow our faith, because our sins and disobedience hide us from God and keep us from seeing God properly, or because God loves us and knows how much and how often we need to “find” God. If we are honest, we are just as likely to hide ourselves from God just as the first humans did in the Garden when God sought after them. Even so we cry out just like Job did and wonder why God stays hidden away in unanswered prayers and difficult circumstances: “Why do you hide your face, and consider me the enemy?”

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The hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. And Christians often take for granted the narrative of Scripture which gives witness to God’s revelation. We have the benefit of a book full of God’s speech. God speaks in the wonder and mystery of creation; God speaks through the history of the nation of Israel; God speaks through the very Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. His life reveals the exact nature of God, and places God’s glory on full display.

But still we may wonder if we must always and only look to the past to hear God’s voice, while we wonder why God isn’t more “talkative” today? Is there any other source for God’s presence and activity in the world today?

In fact, God is often found in one of the last places many might guess: the church. At its best, the church re-tells the story of God speaking across the ages and definitively in Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel. But the church can also create community where God may be encountered in the faces of others as a result of the empowering Holy Spirit. Such a community is to be the symbol of God’s presence among us and with us as “God-found,” not “God-hidden.” It is to be the arms of God around us when we are hurting, or the voice of God speaking when we feel we haven’t heard from God in years. Such a community can be God’s voice, God’s hands and feet going towards the broken places of the world to bring healing, help, and comfort. Through worship and liturgy, prayer and communion, service and sacrifice the church can reveal the God who spoke and is still speaking.

God is not often revealed in the roar of the hurricane or the loud-clap of thunder, but in a “still, small voice”—a voice that is barely audible except to the most patient and still. But when the Church, broken and human as it is, seeks through the power of the Spirit to be who it is, we see God and hear God, and find God beautifully obvious.

For those who long to see God, who long to find God in the darkest hour, we may not find God in the dramatic or the victorious, the miraculous or the stupendous. Instead, we may yet hope to find him in the pew, at the table of the Lord’s Supper, in a simple hymn, or in the gift of fellow seekers longing to find God too.

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(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet, Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000), 1.
(2) Psalm 10:1, Psalm 44:23-24.

Is FAITH just Wishful Thinking?

I’ve been trying to avoid using the word ‘faith’ recently. It just doesn’t get the message across. ‘Faith’ is a word that’s now misused and twisted. ‘Faith’ today is what you try to use when the reasons are stacking up against what you think you ought to believe. Greg Koukl sums up the popular view of faith, “It’s religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of ‘faith’ believe the impossible. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to fact. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of ‘faith’ ignore reality.” It shouldn’t therefore come as a great surprise to us, that people raise their eyebrows when ‘faith’ in Christ is mentioned. Is it strange that they seem to prefer what seems like reason over insanity?

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It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t overemphasize the individual elements of the whole picture of faith, like we so often do. But what does the Bible say about faith? Is it what Simon Peter demonstrates when he climbs out of the boat and walks over the water towards Jesus? Or is it what Thomas has after he has put his hand in Jesus’s side? Interestingly, biblical faith isn’t believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In fact, when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis], which means ‘to be persuaded.’ In those verses from Hebrews, we find the words, “hope,” “assurance,” “conviction” that is, confidence. Now, what gives us this confidence?

Christian faith is not belief in the absence of evidence. It is the proper response to the evidence. Koukl explains that, “Christian faith cares about the evidence…the facts matter. You can’t have assurance for something you don’t know you’re going to get. You can only hope for it. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance—if Jesus didn’t indeed rise from the dead in time/space history—then we are of most men to be pitied. This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere ‘faith’ resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection. Instead, it’s a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn’t happen, then we’re in trouble. The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence doesn’t correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.”

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So in conclusion, faith is not a kind of religious hoping that one does in spite of the facts. In fact, faith is a kind of knowing that results in doing, a knowing that is so passionately and intelligently faithful to Jesus Christ that it will not submit to fideism, scientism, nor any other secularist attempt to divert and cauterize the human soul by hijacking knowledge.

 

Has Science Disproved God?

The first time I met people who encouraged me to consider God, I was in college. I began by reading the gospels, and I found myself attracted to the Christian message. I found myself especially attracted to the person of Jesus and the beautiful life that he lived. But, to be honest, I assumed that belief in God was for people who didn’t think hard enough. I assumed that smart people somewhere had already disproved belief in God. More specifically, I assumed that there was some purely scientific way of understanding the world, and that miracles had no part in it.

I can remember picking up a book in a university bookshop around that time and reading the back cover, which summarized the book as an attempt to hold on to a form of Christianity while explaining away all the supposed miracles of Jesus in scientific terms. And I remember hoping it could be done, because I was longing for the person of Jesus, but I thought the traditional account of Christianity was just too extraordinary to believe.

 

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I had this assumption that the burden of proof for belief in God must be higher, because God is such an extraordinary option. Richard Dawkins puts it this way:

“If you want to believe in…unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh—the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not.”(1)

I bought into that way of thinking—that God is the crazy option, whereas a fully naturalistic and fully scientifically explainable universe is the sober, sensible, rational option. Without ever really reasoning it through, I accepted the cultural myth that we used to need God to miraculously explain thunder and lightning, rainbows and shooting stars. But now that we have scientific explanations for these things, we should stop believing in God.

That’s actually not a very good argument. A good engineer doesn’t need to keep stepping in to override systems and fix malfunctions. If God is a good engineer, isn’t the ability to explain his design in terms of consistently functioning processes exactly what we should expect?

Moreover, we no longer think we need the moon to explain lunacy. (Lunacy comes from the word lunar, because people used to think the position of the moon explained madness.) Does that mean we should no longer believe in the moon? Should we become not only a-theists but a-moonists?(2) Of course not. Even if the moon doesn’t explain madness, there are many other things, such as the tides of the oceans, that it does explain. Likewise, the reasons for believing in God extend far beyond just scientific reasons and include historical, philosophical, moral, aesthetic, experiential, and relational reasons.

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Without thinking it through, I jumped from science to scientism—from the fact that science can explain a lot to the assumption that it can explain everything. However, just because the advancement of science has taught us new things about how the universe works, that doesn’t tell us whether there is a who behind the how.

I can give you a full scientific explanation of how Microsoft Office works (well, I can’t, but a computer expert could; he could sit you down with the design instructions for Microsoft Office and give you a full scientific explanation of how it works). But that would not show that Bill Gates doesn’t exist; it wouldn’t show that there is no who behind the how. To the contrary, it would show that Bill Gates is really smart!

The how question (a question of mechanism) does not answer the who question (a question of agency), and it also doesn’t answer the why question (a question of purpose): Why was Microsoft Office created? We can only get an answer to that question if Bill Gates chooses to share it with us, if the creator of the system chooses to reveal it.

Some of the standard arguments against God based on science are actually not very good. But I think there are a lot of people out there like I was. People who might be open to Christian faith, but who have just assumed that science has made that impossible. They’ve bought into a cultural myth about the battle between science and religion without actually thinking it through.

In my own life, I’m so thankful to have met some friends, seventeen years ago, who were able to communicate to me in an accessible way their reasons for God, including their reasons for thinking that science and God are in no way incompatible. I found myself persuaded. In fact, today I would agree with Peter van Inwagen, one of the world’s foremost philosophers, when he says that “No discovery of science (so far, at any rate) has the least tendency to show that there is no God.”(3)

I would actually go further. Not only do I think science is in no way incompatible with belief in God, but I actually think that science points strongly to the existence of God, and there are four reasons why I believe this:

The universe has a beginning.
The universe is knowable.
The universe is regular.
The universe is finely tuned for life.

I believe all four of these facts about our universe are best explained by the existence of God.

  This is an excerpt from Vince Vitale’s his newly released Jesus Among Secular Gods which he coauthored with Dr. Ravi Zacharias.

*Vince Vitale is director of the Zacharias Institute at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Richard Dawkins, “A Challenge to Atheists,” Free Enquiry (Vol. 22, No. 3, 2002).

(2) Alvin Plantinga, interview by Gary Gutting, “Is Atheism Irrational?” The New York Times Opinionator, 9 Feb. 2014, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/is-atheism-irrational/?_r=0. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.
(3) Peter van Inwagen, “Weak Darwinism,” Darwin and Catholicism: The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter, edited by Louis Caruana (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2009), 119.