Monthly Archives: July 2013

Only a Matter of Time?

In a radio interview I had this morning about On Our Origins, the host asked me how I reconcile the differences in the timeframes proposed for the creation and development of the universe.  I get this question often because many people don’t understand how a person like me, who believes that the creation account of Genesis is true without reservation, can also be a big fan of secular science.  Instead of fearing this question, I love answering it because it gives me a chance to explain one of the major misconceptions people have about time.

 

From the current human perspective, it seems that time keeps rolling along at a steady speed. Our lives are framed by time. Time helps us organize and order our affairs. We are born on a particular date at a certain point in time, live for a period of time, and die on our last days. But Einstein’s theory of relativity, the theory upon which most of our current understanding of the universe is built, has demonstrated that time is not the constant force that humans have long thought it is.

 

You may initially be resistant to the thought that time is not constant, but before clicking on to another blog, consider just one of the ways humanity is forced to deal with the very real effects of time dilation (the “stretching” of time anticipated by Einstein’s relativity as objects approach the speed of light). Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites are programmed to account for the difference in the passage of time between your GPS unit on the ground and GPS satellites in orbit. GPS systems need to be recalibrated constantly, because time itself has actually slowed down for satellites due to the speed of their fall in orbit.

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite, image ...

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite, image courtesy of NASA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time dilation is scientifically proven to be true. It is measurable, predictable and has been observed.  If the cesium clock in a GPS satellite isn’t recalibrated based upon its speed and altitude, it is impossible for your GPS device to pinpoint your exact location.

 

The difference in the passage of time between the surface of the earth and an orbiting satellite is far too small to be perceptible to an observer who watched an earthbound clock and the display of a GPS satellite’s clock side-by-side. But if neither clock was recalibrated, after a few years, you would begin to see the difference in the passage of time. After about seventy years without adjustment, the two clocks would be a whole second different. The real-life application of this concept is that if the clocks on GPS satellites weren’t recalibrated constantly, the real difference in time between satellites and ground-based devices would quickly accumulate to the point that your receiver would no longer be able to triangulate your position, and you would be lost!

 

Science has predicted and calculated the flexibility of time in light of relativity and the Scriptures also testify to the flexible nature of time. The psalmist described the relativity of time from God’s perspective: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4 ESV). The apostle Peter reiterated this sentiment in his second epistle: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Recognizing that the Scriptures testify that time isn’t constant and science has demonstrated the same, Christians should be better equipped to deal with some of the apparent contradictions between Scripture’s timeframe of creation and science’s current best estimates.

 

That being said, there are two wrong ways to attempt to reconcile the time differences between secular and scriptural explanations of our origins. One mistake is to throw away what the Scriptures describe without trying to understand it within its context or frame of reference. The opposite mistake is to dismiss, purely on the basis of religious grounds, any attempt to grow in an understanding of how things could have taken their current shape based upon our best scientific understanding of how the universe operates.

 

As I told the radio talk show host, “If time has slowed down for GPS satellites, who am I to say that it can’t be slowed down for God!?!”  For most, seven days seems like all too short a time for God to bring everything into existence.  But if God is God and time is flexible, time shouldn’t be a hurdle in acceptance of the Genesis account of creation.  We have good reason, scientifically and scripturally speaking, to dismiss time as reason not to believe.

 

Time was born when the eternal Creator formed everything out of nothing.  Time and eternity meet where God meets His people.  This is most especially evident in the creation account and in the incarnation of Christ.

 

In Jesus, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh and was born a mortal human being.  He traded His immortality for our mortality so that death would be swallowed up by life.  Creator and creation were reunited when salvation was won on a cross.  All this was done so that when time fades back into eternity, we will be with Him forever.

 

Is It Always Better To Give Than To Receive?

Mary and Martha.  These two sisters with very different personalities starred in some of the most

English: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha

English: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

important episodes in the gospels.  Their contrasting priorities were showcased in Luke 10:38-42 when Mary sat and listened to Jesus while Martha worked away in the kitchen for all the guests.  It was their brother Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.  They were also present at the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  If any two sisters were opposites, these are they!

This is how they were introduced to us in the Gospel of Luke:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)

In the reading above, it appeared as if Martha got chastised by Jesus for working while her sister sat and listened at Jesus’ feet.  As I read the story it brought to mind the old adage, “‘tis better to give than to receive.”

If this adage were always true, Mary should have been the one rebuffed by Jesus.  She wasn’t giving anything or doing anything for anybody except for herself.  Yet, she was commended for sitting around and doing nothing?!?  Apparently, it isn’t always better to give than receive.

According to Jesus, it is better to receive when it comes to our relationship with God.  The gifts He gives are the “good portion.”  Our gifts given to Him in faith are good and God-pleasing, but they pale in comparison to the gifts He gives us.  He is after all the One who created us and sustains us in our earthly life.  He gave up His life on the cross before anyone reading this blog was ever born or could do anything for Him.  By His suffering and dying, He opened heaven’s gates to us.  By pouring His love into our hearts by His Spirit, he has led us to love and trust in Him and love our neighbors as ourselves.  In short, it is better to receive when it comes to our relationship with God than it is to give.

But the old adage is true when it comes to our relationship with other people.  As we learned from the Good Samaritan last week, we are called to do for others what God has done for us.  We are called to lift up the afflicted, cleanse the wounds of the broken, heal the wounded and care for needy neighbors whom God puts in our path.  ‘Tis truly better to give than to receive when it comes to our earthly relationships with other human beings.

On this point, Martha is the example to follow.  Tis better to give than to receive may very well have been her motto.  She certainly led a life of service and deserves to be respected for doing so.

My prayer for us is that we embrace Mary’s appreciation for God’s gifts along with Martha’s work ethic when it comes to serving our neighbors.  It takes both for Christians to be the greatest possible blessing to others.  Mary is commended for having her priorities straight, while Martha is the gracious hostess whose hard work made it possible for all the others to be physically and spiritually fed by Christ.

Acknowledging that it is always better to receive from God and always better to give to the neighbor, Christians who “get it” make the earth a better place for us all.  Prepared for eternity, their time is well spent on earth.  What a wonderful opportunity for joyful living this affords us—God makes us both the blessed and a blessing!

The Revealed Knowledge of God

Here’s another excerpt from On Our Origins.  This section follows “Before We Begin” in my book.  https://onourorigins.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/before-we-begin/ In a world where it is often hard to tell the difference between Truth and lies, it’s good to be reminded where the Truth can be found.  It is found in Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life (John 14:6).

The church, since the time of Christ, has been built upon the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is heard clearly in an episode recorded by St. Matthew in the first gospel:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:13–18a, emphasis added)

Here, Jesus explicitly stated that the revealed knowledge of God is essential for knowing the truth about God and the true nature of existence.

This revealed knowledge comes from a different source than scientific knowledge. It is based upon a supernatural knowledge given by God’s Holy Spirit as revealed and preserved in the Scriptures. This revelation includes the overarching story of God’s relationship with His creation, especially humanity, and provides Christians with a framework within which human reason operates. It is not contrary to reason but rather equips human minds and souls with faith to interpret existence from God’s perspective instead of an exclusively anthropocentric (human centered) view of life.

St. John recorded an episode in which Jesus explained to His disciples that He was the key to understanding the God of the Scriptures. Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7). Here, Jesus asserted that because He is the way, truth, and life, the only path by which humanity can come to an accurate understanding of God (and consequently the true nature of reality) is to know Him.

According to the teaching of the apostles, the Bible began with God’s creative work, is centered on Christ and will conclude at the consummation of all things. Throughout the course of His work, God promised to care for His people and all that He created by sending humanity a Savior. He and His love for humanity would not remain abstract, but He would reveal them clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. For Christians, everything comes together in Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person, because in Jesus, God made Himself known in ways that humanity can comprehend.

The traditional Christian worldview, which is based upon the revelation of God in the Scriptures, is therefore Christ-centered. It is based upon a revelation of God in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is based on the belief that in the Bible, God reveals to humanity a reality deeper than what is apparent to the naked eye.

Suffice it to say that a Christ-centered worldview is not anti-science. Yes, the basis for a Christ-centered worldview is the revealed knowledge of God, who has manifested Himself in the Scriptures and in the person of His Son. God does not, however, give this revelation at the expense of reason or science. According to the Scriptures, revealed and natural knowledge are complementary parts of God’s revelation to humanity.

There are parts of God’s revelation that, since the time of the apostles, the church has labeled as “mystery,” which means “beyond human comprehension.”[i] Never in the Scriptures is the mystery of God invoked to deny the proper use of reason. The Scriptures instead simply acknowledge that certain things in life (including God) defy purely naturalistic human sensibilities.

We are and always will be limited in our understanding of what we can perceive through our five senses. The confines of the human mind also limit our depth of knowledge. A Christ-centered worldview equips Christians with the revealed knowledge of God—a scriptural big picture—within which they are free to explore and learn about the world.

 

[i] “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25–27). “He has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on Earth” (Ephesians 1:6–10). “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25–27). “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Has the Church mistakenly made the Good News sound like old news?

A tour through Redeemer’s library reveals why many young people today see the Church as outdated and irrelevant. Filled with materials about faith and science dating back to the 1950’s (before many Millennials’ parents were even born), it is a somber illustration of why the Church has trouble connecting with young people today.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus showed that genuine love includes meeting people where they are. If today’s youth are very aware of the tension between science and faith, the Church owes it to them and the Savior to reach out to them in familiar terms. Instead of retreating into the pews and expecting young people to go out of their way to come to us, Christians need to be out on the streets, so to speak, lifting up those who are struggling to make sense of life.
The only way wounded and wayward souls will feel the healing touch of Christ’s love and grow in a wholesome understanding of self is by being taught the timeless Truth. God created us and everything we see. He loves us enough to take-up our sinful brokenness by suffering with us and for us. He restores us by giving us forgiveness and faith to know the truth about ourselves and the Truth about Him.
Those who already know the Truth, transformed by the Truth reach out with the Truth—that’s easy because this is God’s work in us. The more difficult part of this task is doing so in LOVE. Possibly the most difficult is doing so in a way that makes sense to people who have an entirely different way of looking at the world than we do. We can reach out in a way that makes sense to others because God has shown us how by reaching us with His love. He has given us His Holy Spirit to reach others in spite of ourselves.
I have learned how God can use me in spite of myself first hand. It is both humbling and empowering to be used by God to reach others with His love. For my part, I’m trying to do a better job of reaching out because God has shown me how important it is for me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out online. Learning from missed opportunities, it’s the least I can do for the One who has done everything possible to bless me with life and salvation by teaching me the Truth.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him’” (John 14:5-7 ESV).

Who is the Good Samaritan?

Pastor Lepley and Pastor Ahlmeyer pictured near the road which was the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Pastor Lepley and good friend Pastor Ahlemeyer pictured near the road which was the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

There are few Bible stories as familiar as the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37, yet this may be one of the most misunderstood parables.  Most sermons preached on this text focus almost exclusively on the last half of the final verse, where Jesus told the good lawyer who wanted to justify himself, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37b).  These sermons are not entirely wrong-headed.  This call to action is after all, the concluding verse of the text.

But this rousing call to action may become misguided if we ignore the most important question of the text.  Before answering the question, “What are you going to do?” it is just as important (maybe even more important) to discover, “Who is the Good Samaritan?”

The lawyer came to Jesus wanting to justify himself, and if we come to this text trying to be our neighbor’s savior, we can commit the same sin of self-righteousness.

The Pharisees in John 8:48 called Jesus a Samaritan.  He was, after all, from Nazareth and born to an unwed mother.  He was of little means and little education.  To the Pharisees, He was unwanted, uncouth, unqualified and otherwise unacceptable-just  like the Samaritans of His day.  In other words, JESUS IS THE GOOD SAMARITAN.

Even though most of his Jewish contemporaries rejected Him, He came to rescue and heal those who most of society leaves for dead.  It wasn’t the traveler’s fault that he was mugged and left to die.  He was a victim who the Priest (pastor) and Levite (church worker) passed by.  So it fell to a man who was also rejected (Jesus) to lift him up and carry him to safety.

Jesus has done the same for you.  Yes, we are all sinners in God’s eyes and in a strict sense don’t “deserve” for Him to heal us.  Victims of a spiritual war we did not start, Christ has had compassion on us by forgiving us.  He has washed our wounds with His blood and poured out His Holy Spirit upon our wounds.  He feeds us and nourishes us in faith.  He has paid the price for our rescue with His own unjust suffering on the cross.  In other words, He has done everything for us that the Good Samaritan did for the unfortunate traveler.

Could the inn keeper be a personification of the Church who keeps us until Christ returns?  Haven’t thought much about that one yet, so I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself…  But while you try to figure that out, why not follow Jesus’ advice?  Rescued, cleaned, healed and strengthened by the Good Samaritan, “You go, and do likewise.”

Mystery of the Bell Tower

Our first video is up on YouTube.  It offers a window into part of my motivation for writing On Our Origins.  Feel free to watch it and then tell the world what you think of Redeemer’s bell tower.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FbAtPDAQjs

The statistics I quoted in the video are from a study funded by the Pew Research Center.  You can see the entire report here: http://www.pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx

According to this report, 64% of people ages 18-29 are absolutely certain that God exists.  59% even believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  And yet, only 33% worship on a weekly basis.

As you think about the video, consider how the Church may be failing to engage young people, including many who are already members of Christ’s body, but no longer participate in worship.

Consider also how many of today’s young adults, disillusioned with traditional institutions (such as Church, marriage, colleges and universities to name a few) and hyper-independent, may be missing out by failing to be actively engaged in the worship life of the Church.

Before We Begin

Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of On Our Origins, which is available now at onourorigins.org, Amazon and many other online book retailers:

“In the 1830s, an unknown British naturalist set sail on a journey that became a lifelong quest to discover the origins of the human race. He was far from the first person to ponder the beginnings of humanity and is certainly not the last to do so. What has made his journey remarkable is the effect his conclusions have had on how the human race has come to understand its origins.

            In the introduction of his book, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin stated his conviction that the human intellect finally could grasp how life came to its present state. Equipped with his impressions of the natural order and loads of evidence to defend his radical new theory, Darwin optimistically stated, “These facts seemed to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it.”[i]

Not only has something been “made out” of his theory, but his ideas have completely rewritten humanity’s understanding of life. His ideas proved so influential that they have now become the foundation of the life sciences.

            Darwin recognized the potential of his theories to revolutionize how we understand our origins and clairvoyantly predicted that his theory would become the basis of many fields of study: “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”[ii]

Darwin’s prediction has proven true. His evolutionary model now serves as the foundation of sciences as diverse as biology, geology, psychology, and sociology. His theories have had such far-reaching implications that they now form the framework within which most people today—even most people of faith—try to understand themselves and where they’ve come from. His ideology has become ingrained in our collective consciousness.

Reflecting on Darwin’s impact on both culture and the sciences, we would be mistaken to view Darwin as a genius who arrived at his conclusions in a vacuum. By the time of his rise to popularity in the nineteenth century, the world had already experienced many awakenings. The theory of evolution, birthed in the mind of Darwin, simply grew out of humanity’s already changing understanding of the universe, life, and self. A culture dominated by the Christian church, with God at the center of humanity’s understanding of existence, was found by many to no longer be acceptable.

By proposing a new explanation for humanity’s origin and life based strictly upon natural knowledge, Darwin substituted a purely naturalistic view of humanity and life’s origins. His view naturally grew out of his purely scientific mindset. Because God cannot be observed physically, all theories based upon a purely naturalistic scientific method will, by necessity, be godless or potentially anti-God.

Darwin’s contribution to the sciences tipped the scales in favor of a much more naturalistic analysis of human origins. Before the rise of secularism (greatly accelerated in the sciences by Darwin’s theory of natural selection and later by Einstein’s theory of relativity), the church had been the largely undisputed arbiter of truth in the Christian West.[iii] People had generally accepted the premise that God had revealed the true nature of existence and humanity’s origin in the Scriptures.[iv]

We now find ourselves living in a culture awash in the confluence of two strikingly different explanations of humanity’s origins. Much of the current conflict and confusion about human origins likely stems from the different foundations upon which the institutions of religion and science are built. The faithful have traditionally viewed the revealed knowledge of God in the Scriptures[v] and the church as authoritative in matters of faith and life. In contrast, a scientific community, now secularized, proposes natural knowledge as the exclusive source of truth.”

What blessings do you enjoy because you live in the 21st century Scientific/Information Age?

What curses come with life in the 21st century?


[i] Charles Darwin,  On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection; Or, the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life (Rockville, MD: Wildside Press, 2003), 1.

[ii] Darwin, 488.

[iii] Francis Oakley, The Medieval Experience (Toronto: Universtiy of Toronto Press, 1997), 113.

[iv] “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:14–16).

[v] “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).