In my last blog post, the first two reasons given for not believing in God were the problem of suffering and “bad” religion. There are two more reasons that shape the minds and hearts of many people about faith. I will talk about the third reason today.
Three: The theory of materialism, (or) secularism, (or) naturalism that flavors much of modern science.
Many books have been written on this subject. One of the reasons why many teenagers moving into young adulthood leave the Christian faith is because they are pursuing careers in science. The message they hear over and over in their education is that it is EITHER science OR Christianity. They are incompatible. They are in conflict. And science has proved Christianity and all religion as primitive ways of thinking about the world. We no longer can believe in that primitive, pre-scientific way of thinking.
The place where this is most obvious, is in discussions about the origins of the universe. Commonly, we know this as evolution vs. creationism.
Here are a few basic and brief conclusions I have come to over the years of my reading and study on this subject. I also need to make a disclaimer. I have read several good books on this, but it is not a major area of interest, so I have not read widely on the subject.
(1) While many scientists are atheists, there are also very smart scientists who do not see a conflict between science and Christianity. There are many top-shelf academics (researchers, authors, teachers in all fields of science) who are also devoted followers of Christ.
(2) I don’t have to be able to understand everything that a Ph.D. level academic has to say on the subject. I can’t! I am not smart enough in their field of expertise. I can’t debate a Ph.D. secular astrophysicist on the origins of the universe, but I don’t have to. There are other Ph.D. astrophysicists who are Christians who can debate at that level. It should be of great assurance that there are very, very smart Christians out there who have reached the highest levels of academic prestige in their fields and are outstanding scientists, but who do not buy into materialism, secularism, and naturalism.
(3) It is not an issue of Christianity vs. science, it is a matter of theistic science vs. materialistic science. In other words, it is not science itself, but the philosophical assumptions a particular scientist holds that are the issue. Scientific research on the origins of the universe does not disprove Christianity. Materialistic, secular assumptions that only matter exists simply presuppose there is nothing other than matter, and that has not been proved.
(4) For example, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a very smart atheist astrophysicist. He writes popular books, kind of like Astrophysics for Dummies. He does a very nice job explaining stuff like quarks, dark matter, dark energy, the cosmic radiowave background, the Planck era of the universe, etc., and on all those things, his Christian colleagues would be in much general agreement. But, all that Tyson is describing is what happened at and after the Big Bang explosion that produced all energy and matter. All he can describe is what happened at the instant of creation. He says, we don’t know how it came into existence. We just know that it did, and when it did, here is how it went from there. Oh yes, he adds, and by the way, it wasn’t because of God. Because God doesn’t exist.
(5) So Tyson, who is an evangelist for secular science, says we are describing what happened at the trillionth of a trillion second after it all began, but he cannot answer: So what about BEFORE THAT? It is his own unproven and unsupported by science “faith” that there was nothing and then there was something. He cannot explain that, nor prove that. The alternative would be that there was Someone and then there was something.
(6) This has led to many devout Christians believing in what is called Intelligent Design. The universe has such amazing design in it, it simply cannot be explained as a random accident. An intelligent design means there is an Intelligent Designer. The traditional language for that Intelligent Designer is GOD.
(7) This also leads these Christian scientists to see no conflict between the cosmic evolutionary processes. They were designed by God as the means to create the universe. As I read the astrophysics explanation of the origins of the universe, it is really staggering for me. It gives me an even greater appreciation of our Intelligent Designer.
(8) So, what about Genesis 1? A very widely held evangelical interpretation of Genesis 1 is that the biblical writer is poetically describing the Who and the Why of Creation. There is a Creator God and he created the universe because that is what a Creator does! And then, when you add the essential nature of LOVE to that Creator God, the Creator creates out of love. The writer used the most beautiful and powerful poetry to describe how God created the world, but it is not a scientific explanation of how. That understanding did not yet exist. But poetry served to focus on the Who and the Why: A Creator God who loves!
(9) By the way, I am referring to theistic evolution only in terms of the origins of the universe, and not in the creation of humanity! That is an entirely different matter. I believe in the creation of an Adam and Eve.
I am just scratching the surface of these big issues.
For me, I fully affirm the Creator God (Genesis 1).
I do so by faith (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6).
I also do so with reasonable evidence.
I also do this knowing the secular answer cannot prove their materialistic assumptions.
I also do this knowing that belief in a Loving Creator gives meaning and purpose, morality, and beauty to life.
If you want to read more, any book I recommend is going to require some intellectual engagement, but it is worth it, if you want your faith and understanding to grow stronger. The one book that is not yet published is the Four Views book. It will be published on November 1, 2017. A Google search using the titles of the books will let you see the full covers. Hearts and Minds Bookstore is a great local business to support. You can find these, and many more like them, on their shelves.
Keeping the faith together,
Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.