A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
Essay: How science points to the existence of God
In the four articles in this series on how science reveals God, I’ve presented evidence from the three major branches of science - physics, chemistry and biology - and also from human nature, which points to the existence of a creating and designing Mind as the answer to the origins of the universe and life. From physics, there is the finite beginning of the universe and its amazing fine-tuning. From chemistry, there is the unique or optimal suitability of chemical elements for biological function. From biology, there is the inadequacy of Darwinism to explain the origin of species, the spectacularly unlikely beginning of life and origin of DNA, and also the enormously improbable fact that DNA is a code which stores specified information. And from human nature, there is the origin of consciousness, of the power of reasoning and logic, the existence of freewill, of absolute moral obligations and duties, and of religion. The strength of the evidence for a governing Designer isn’t that one or two or a few things appear to be tailored for life, but that the whole creation is. It’s not just the heavens which declare the glory of God; his fingerprints appear everywhere.
As we’ve seen during the course of these articles, some scientists have accepted that the evidence of science can indeed be understood as indicating the existence of a creating Mind, yet for philosophical or ideological reasons they’ve rejected that hypothesis in favour of a naturalistic alternative. In his ‘directed panspermia’ hypothesis, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, suggested life on earth might be the result of intelligent aliens ‘seeding’ other worlds with life via space technology. Even Richard Dawkins, in a conversation with the journalist Melanie Phillips, expressed his willingness to consider the possibility of life on earth having been created by intelligent aliens. Phillips commented caustically, “How can it be that our pre-eminent apostle of reason appears to find little green men more plausible as an explanation for the origin of life than God?”
The existence of a divine creator cannot be proved beyond doubt by science, nor disproved. This is accepted by almost everyone. For the atheist, God is not a complete impossibility just a hugely improbable one, as implied by the so-called atheist bus campaign last year, with its slogan “There is probably no God ...” However, science’s inability to provide proof beyond doubt doesn’t mean that the God hypothesis is totally beyond scientific methodology, since a divinely created world might in principle have indications of involvement that wouldn’t be present with a purely naturalistic universe. Indeed, that’s the whole assumption behind these articles. I’ve pointed out some of the evidence which science has uncovered, which indicates design at every level and how fortuitous everything is for the development of intelligent life. This has clear theological implications, as many, even atheistic, scientists admit. The evidence of design shows that the existence of a creator is not only a rational and reasonable possibility, but a highly probable one. In particular, not only does it answer the problems of the origin of the universe and life, it also provides a sound and coherent answer to the problem of explaining human nature.
I could have gone further than I have. I haven’t, for example, touched on the so-called ‘Goldilocks Principle’. This is the theory that everything about our planet is ‘just right’ to facilitate the emergence of intelligent life. The solar system’s position within the galaxy; the type of sun in our solar system; a giant planet, Jupiter, protecting us from the worst of asteroid collisions; the size of our planet; its distance from the sun; a large moon stabilising the planet’s rotation; the earth’s iron core providing a magnetosphere protecting our atmosphere from the solar wind; and an atmosphere transparent to just those wavelengths of light that alone can be tapped photochemically for their energy. These and many others besides seem designed for a purpose - the emergence of life and intelligence. Everything that’s necessary happens to be ‘just right’. Indeed, astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher of science Jay Richards consider that not only have the universe and the earth been tailored for our existence, but are also designed to enable the discovery and understanding of the cosmos. It’s as though the universe (or Someone!) wants to be discovered. The sub-title of their book, The Privileged Planet, reveals their thesis: How our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery.
Although science is often seen as the enemy of faith, in truth it’s not – or at least, it ought not to be. Faith and science properly are both human endeavours for uncovering the truth about our existence. All truth is God’s truth, so Christians should have no fear of it. However, just as religion and faith can be misunderstood, distorted or used for improper ends, so can science. Religion isn’t alone in producing ideological fundamentalists. Science, too, has produced its ideological fundamentalists; it too needs proper interpretation. It’s remarkable, then, that science, which has for so long been used as a weapon against religious belief, is now once again revealing evidence that implies a divine designer.
That this is so needs to be made clear to the general public. This is the apologetic task that faces the Church – you and me. There’s much work that needs to be done to reverse the public perception that Christianity is untrue and irrelevant. We have an enemy, but it’s not the people who oppose Christianity. Our Lord tells us to love our human opponents. But there’s another enemy whom we are not to love, and it’s he we wage war against. It’s he who has veiled the eyes of those who don’t believe. In reaching the lost there’s a huge task, both apologetic and spiritual, that’s required to remove the mental objections which prevent people from giving Christianity a hearing. I hope what I’ve written will inspire at least some of you to engage in the task.
In these articles, I’ve tried to take you with me on a journey into engagement in the battle for souls. Yet in fact we’ve only gone part way on the journey. The evidence I’ve presented takes us only as far as Theism. Science does not, and cannot, tell us very much about the character of the creator nor what, if anything, the creator requires of those he’s created. For that second part of the journey, to faith in Christ, we need other evidence, evidence which many of you are already familiar with, but which will be unfamiliar to most of those who’ve yet to come to faith. For them we need evidence to convince of the truth of Jesus of Nazareth and of the gospel. May I suggest two authors to help you in this task? Firstly, Lee Strobel, whose books in the The Case For... series are an excellent place to start. And secondly, my favourite apologist, William Lane Craig, whose book, The Son Rises, is a tour de force in rational argumentation for the historical reliability of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Read, enjoy, and let them draw you to worship and prepare you for battle.
In finishing, let me repeat something I mentioned in my introductory article on apologetics. That is, the Christian’s faith is not to be founded on the revelations of science. A well-grounded Christian faith is prepared to look at the scientific evidence, certainly. Christianity isn’t opposed to the proper application of reason. But the sincere enquirer must also seek spiritual evidence, through personal experience of the truth and the assurance that comes from the Holy Spirit, that Christ and his saving actions on mankind’s behalf are real and true. A proper Christian faith goes beyond the evidence, and takes the step of submitting the heart to Christ in repentance and trust. And there begins the best journey of all. To Christ be the glory, with the Father and the Spirit.