I WANT TO BELIEVE, BUT…
I believe in science instead of God
Everything you need to preach this sermon yourself…
Sermon Outline I Used
- Imagine that you have thirty large volumes on your bookshelf. Each tome is 450 pages long, and every page stands for one million years. Let this set of books represent the scientific story of our 13.7-billion-year-old… (see notes)
What Scientists Say Against Christians
- On the one hand, scientific discovery has made the universe appear larger and more complex than ever before—for many even larger than God.
- Most scientists say the life of faith clouds the mind so as to keep it in darkness about what is really going on in the world.
- the space for faith has receded in direct proportion to the advance of scientific understanding.
What Christians Say in their defense
- Science studies events in terms of what has been rather than what will be. Of course, it tries to make the future predictable, for unless science can make predictions, it does not qualify as science. But it can predict what will happen in the future only on the basis of what has already happened.
- But Christian faith, as distinct from science, is essentially expectation of new creation, stumbling block to Christian faith is its belief that a new world is coming and indeed is already taking hold right now, transforming and renewing the whole of creation.
What God Says
- Psalm 8:3-5 – When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
- Scientists seek to solve problems, not find meaning. But man insists on finding meaning.
- Scientists also ask: Why am I bothering to do science at all? What is the meaning of my work? Is it really worthwhile spending my days looking for truth? What is the point of it all? — “Who or what am I, really?” “Does the God of the Bible really exist?”
How Christianity Completes Science
- Desire for truth – Being a lover of truth means, quite simply, being faithful to your desire to know.
2. Co-dependent – “there is nothing in Christian faith that should make one afraid of science’s widening and deepening of knowledge…The more extended and elaborate our sense of creation becomes, the more we should be able to enlarge our appreciation of the world’s Creator and the scope of divine purpose and providence. Science may be offering us, therefore, not less but more reason than ever for worship and gratitude.”
3. Mystery – Mystery is not a label for our present ignorance. Mystery resembles a horizon that keeps moving forward ahead of us into the unreachable distance as we work on and eventually solve the more manageable problems near at hand. The mystery for that concerns the Christian most is the return of Christ and the re-creation of the world. This is what gives this world meaning and science purpose.
4. Infinity – Science has exposed the three infinites—the immense (big), the infinitesimal (small), and the complex. But Christian faith had already opened up a fourth, the infinite horizon of the future.
- In brief, Christianity’s real invitation is to let ourselves be grasped and shaken by the power of the future that is now and always dawning.
Social Media posts I used to remind people of sermon points the week following the sermon
(You can also use the pictures and quotes I post on our social media)
- “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” —Isaiah 55:8
- If we live by the adage “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we’ll remain blind to most of what is coming to us from both heaven and earth.
- Christianity’s greatest invitation is to let ourselves be grasped and shaken by the power of the future that is now and always dawning.
- Most scientists work to eliminate mystery. Ironically, the deeper they dig, the deeper the mystery becomes.
- Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own. – Jeremiah 33:2,3
- Genuine truth — both biblical and scientific — is not a perishable commodity. It neither spoils nor evaporates with time. It endures.
Small Group Questions
Read Psalm 8:3-5 – When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
What does the writer realize about what God thinks of people?
What about the world makes you feel small and insignificant?
What’s a memory you have about seeing something amazing about the sky at night?
Talk about a time you saw someone make another person feel very insignificant.
Of the things the pastor encouraged us to do:
1. Learn as much as possible about science and nature
2. Expand your understanding about God by learning from science and nature
3. Continually explore the mystery of God’s love and importance for people and ultimate plan for the universe
Which is the easiest and which is the hardest?
What obstacles might you face in doing this?
Read Jeremiah 33:2-3
This is GOD’s message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as GOD: “Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”
What specifically do you think is Jeremiah telling us God will do?
What is Jeremiah asking us to do?
How does this passage relate to Psalm 8:3-5?
What does the death and resurrection of Jesus tell us about science?
If someone were to ask you why you believe in God instead of science, what would you say?
Is there someone you know that believes science is our only hope and answer for life’s problems? How can you best point them to Jesus?
What is the hardest part for you about reconciling your faith in Jesus and your belief in science?
Random Resources for the Sermon
- Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree by Michael Guillen
- Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues by J. B. Stump
- Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature (Theology in a Global Perspective) by John F. Haught
- How I changed my mind about Evolution, Evangelicals Reflect on FAITH and SCIENCE EDITED BY Kathryn Applegate & J. B. Stump
The relationship between science and Christianity, to put it in a nutshell, has been one of love and hate. Like a divorced couple who want to restore their marriage, Christianity and science—Christianity at any rate—may want to remember the time of romance when harmony reigned supreme and collaboration promised to be a wonderful common adventure. But many obstacles and misunderstandings caused their breakup.
how are we going to understand “ourselves, God, creation, Trinity, Christ, redemption, incarnation, faith, hope and love,” in the light of the three “infinites” of the universe, that is, infinitely big, infinitely small, and infinitely complex?
“there is nothing in Christian faith that should make one afraid of science’s widening and deepening of knowledge…The more extended and elaborate our sense of creation becomes, the more we should be able to enlarge our appreciation of the world’s Creator and the scope of divine purpose and providence. Science may be offering us, therefore, not less but more reason than ever for worship and gratitude.”
One of the most surprising scientific discoveries of the past century and a half is that the universe is an unfolding story.
Is it possible that the universe has outgrown the biblical God who is said to be its Creator? Many thoughtful people today have concluded that this is exactly what has happened.
The Jesuit geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin asks: “Is the Christ of the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe?”
Before beginning a response to these questions, let us first try to get a visual impression of the universe’s vast dimensions as science sees them today. Imagine that you have thirty large volumes on your bookshelf. Each tome is 450 pages long, and every page stands for one million years. Let this set of books represent the scientific story of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe. The narrative begins with the Big Bang on page 1 of volume 1, but the first twenty-one books show no obvious signs of life at all. The earth story begins only in volume 21, 4.5 billion years ago, but life doesn’t appear until volume 22, about 3.8 billion years ago. Even then, living organisms do not become particularly interesting, at least in human terms, until almost the end of volume 29. There the famous Cambrian explosion occurs, and the
of life suddenly burst out into an unprecedented array of complexity and diversity. Dinosaurs come in around the middle of volume 30 but are wiped out on page 385. Only during the last sixty-five pages of volume 30 does mammalian life begin to flourish. Our hominid ancestors show up several pages from the end of volume 30, but modern humans do not appear until the bottom of the final page. The entire history of human intelligence, ethics, religious aspiration, and scientific discovery takes up only the last few lines on the last page of the last volume.
how are we Christians to understand ourselves amid the three infinites that science has opened up to our awestruck sensibilities?
Now that we find ourselves webbed into an unimaginable cosmic tapestry and an unfathomable temporal depth and spatial extension, what will it mean for our understanding of ourselves, God, creation, Trinity, Christ, redemption, incarnation, faith, hope, and love?
Third, one can embrace the three infinites, or, better, be embraced by them, in such a way as to read them as invitations to an unprecedented magnification of the sense of God, creation, Christ, and redemption.
Science may be offering us, therefore, not less but more reason than ever for worship and gratitude.
Science, as I noted in the preface, has exposed the three infinites—the immense, the infinitesimal, and the complex. But Christian faith had already opened up a fourth, the infinite horizon of the future.
On the one hand, scientific discovery has made the universe appear larger and more complex than ever before—for many even larger than God.
Moreover, science studies events in terms of what has been rather than what will be. Of course, it tries to make the future predictable, for unless science can make predictions, it does not qualify as science. But it can predict what will happen in the future only on the basis of what has already happened.
Scientific method then is unable by itself to prepare the mind and heart for what is truly new.
But Christian faith, as distinct from science, is essentially expectation of new creation, so its prescribed posture of hope may sometimes seem remote from the alleged “realism” of science.
Christian hope implies that the world is not ultimately tied to endless repetition; yet in science everything must conform to timeless, hidebound routine. How then can we hold science and faith together without contradiction? This, it seems to me is a central question for theology today, and it will not go away simply by our ignoring it.
stumbling block to Christian faith is its belief that a new world is coming and indeed is already taking hold right now, transforming and renewing the whole of creation.
From the beginning the universe has extended itself toward the actualizing of new and unprecedented possibilities. It is still doing so, especially through one of its most recent evolutionary inventions, human consciousness. Through our own forays of hope, the universe now continues to seek out its future, a future whose ultimate depth we may call God.
Often the biggest obstacle to a scientifically educated person’s acceptance of Christian faith is that it speaks of signs and wonders that seem to violate the inviolable laws of nature on which science depends for its own credibility.
To Einstein the existence of a supernatural agent who can intervene in the law-bound world and suspend its predictable operations is incompatible with science. Science has to assume, he insisted, that nature admits of no exceptions whatsoever. After all, what would be the point of scientists’ articulating the unchanging laws of physics if nature could take off in unpredictable directions any time it—or God—was so inclined?
In brief, Christianity’s real invitation is to let ourselves be grasped and shaken by the power of the future that is now and always dawning.
The real challenge of Christian faith in an age of science is to realize the ontological primacy of life over the deadness that materialists take to be the normal, natural, and most intelligible state of being.
Maybe “mystery” is equivalent to what has not yet been fully clarified by scientific method. So as human knowledge grows, perhaps the realm of mystery will shrink and eventually disappear altogether?
one must first decide whether mystery is real or perhaps instead a pretentious label for an unutterable blankness that surrounds us and our world.
Without the backdrop of infinite mystery everything in Christian faith would have seemed shallow. No room would have existed for receiving the world of creation as a boundless gift and promise yet to be fulfilled.
However, especially since the beginning of the scientific revolution the world has come to seem less mysterious than before, at least to many educated people. It is uncertain just how far human consciousness even in the West has been secularized, but scientific naturalists have declared that the space for faith has receded in direct proportion to the advance of scientific understanding. Faith is impossible without mystery, but mystery seems, at least
An orientation toward mystery is a structural trait of human existence, not an optional appendage peculiar to prescientific laggards.
To many of our contemporaries the intuition of mystery has faded, mostly because science has made known so much that was previously unknown.
Science excels in showing that what initially seems remarkable is really quite unremarkable. It assumes that once we have understood any phenomenon by specifying its physical causes and the unchanging natural laws it obeys, it is no longer a mystery. So theology must ask where it is that mystery might persistently impinge on our lives even in a scientifically understood world.
However, is Pagels talking about mystery or about problems? With Gabriel Marcel I believe we need to make a clear distinction here. A “problem” is a temporary gap in our attempts to understand and know. Accordingly, a problem is rightly expected to shrivel and eventually fade away as scientists work on it. “Mystery,” on the other hand, is much more than a label for our present ignorance.
Mystery resembles a horizon that keeps moving forward ahead of us into the unreachable distance as we work on and eventually solve the more manageable problems near at hand
For him, religion is the grateful cultivation of an awareness that the world is encompassed by an irremovable mystery.
And the best evidence for the existence of mystery is that the universe is intelligible at all. Science itself can never grasp or understand why this is so, but can only take it as a given. It is especially on the question of why the universe makes sense at all that, for Einstein, scientific thought hits an unsurpassable barrier. Mystery remains—even after science.
These happen, for example, when we experience personal failure, fall seriously ill, or are beset with grief at the death of someone we love. Such upheavals expose us to an abyss from which we instinctively recoil, but which can also lead us to a dimension of depth where hope conquers fear and sadness.
A sense of mystery is not an explicit part of the awareness of scientists while they are actively working on specific problems. Nevertheless, while driving home from work one day, the thoughtful scientist might suddenly ask: Why am I bothering to do science at all? What is the meaning of my work? Is it really worthwhile spending my days looking for truth? What is the point of it all?
Religion and theology are best understood as responses to limit questions, not as solutions to particular problems that science can solve by itself.
I noted earlier that some scientists see their work as an attempt to eliminate mystery. Ironically, however, the deeper science digs, the more impressive is the extent of the mystery it uncovers.
FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION IN THE DIALOGUE of science with religion is whether faith is realistic, and revelation true. Scientific naturalism, impressed as it is by inductive reasoning, rejects the claims of Christianity as unreliable since
If there is truth in the claims of Christian revelation, then the life of faith should have the effect of opening one’s mind to the totality of being, including the natural world.
However, scientific naturalists strongly deny that faith can support the quest for scientific truth, and they nearly always point to the ways in which Christians have closed their minds in modern times to new scientific discoveries, especially those of Galileo and Darwin.
The life of faith clouds the mind so as to keep it in darkness about what is really going on in the world. Faith dulls, if it does not destroy, intellectual curiosity about the true nature of the physical universe and life. Above all, it causes people to reject the harsher implications of evolution and cosmology.
The belief that science is the only reliable road to truth certainly lies outside the possible scope of scientific verification, so it is hardly appropriate to demand that religious beliefs be scientifically testable (or falsifiable) either.
Christian believers can have their minds opened up in such a way as to lend enthusiastic support to the pursuit of truth in general and the journey of scientific discovery in particular. In principle, at least, there should be no hesitation whatsoever on the part of the Christian to undertake a life in science. As I shall argue, revelation’s proper effect on consciousness is to make it more, not less, open to scientific pursuits.
Truth, as both traditional philosophy and modern science have understood it, is the correspondence of the mind with what is.
Notice now, for example, that your desire to know is leading you to perform three distinct cognitional acts: experiencing, understanding, and judging. As you are reading this book you are experiencing, or attending to, what I am writing; second, you are trying to understand what I am saying; and, third, you are probably reflecting on and criticizing at least some of what I have been telling you. That is, you are being invited to make a judgment as to whether what I am saying is true or false.
Truth, therefore, can be understood as the objective or goal of your desire to know. Being a lover of truth means, quite simply, being faithful to your desire to know. This, in turn, requires that you submit habitually to all the imperatives of your mind.
I shall be asking the reader, therefore, to reflect on whether faith in the God of Christian revelation functions to liberate the desire to know, or instead suppresses its native longing for what is.
What I propose, then, is that if you have been deeply moved by the symbolic disclosure of ultimate reality in Christ, you might ask now whether the trust inspired by this revelatory experience frustrates or supports your own desire to know.
At this point, of course, the naturalist will complain that it is irrational to make a leap of faith in the first place. But you may fittingly reply that naturalism itself is no less of a leap, since it wagers that “nature is all there is” without ever having proven this to be the case, scientifically speaking.
They should ask themselves whether their own leap of faith or their trust in the naturalistic worldview is completely consistent with the full liberation of their own desire to know.
a life of faith can be one that supports the desire to know and the demands of reason, and hence it cannot be logically refuted by the gratuitous claims of scientific naturalism.
Science is an authentic and fruitful unfolding of the pure desire to know.
Moreover, science appropriately employs a reductive method in order to focus its inquiry on a manageable set of data. But at times the methodological reduction characteristic of scientific method can be taken hostage by the will to mastery.
Once it has been taken prisoner by scientism, science has the goal no longer of expanding knowledge but instead of putting arbitrary limits on what can be taken as true or real.
The outcome of this assault is a new, quasi-religious dogmatism known as materialism (or physicalism), the belief that the physical world, as made intelligible by scientific method, is really all there is. Such
Can a posture of religious trust perhaps be more successful than philosophical reasoning in the treatment of self-deception?
“Life on earth has been around for more than three billion years — that’s what biologists believe from studying the fossil record. But never mind that. What’s important is that something truly remarkable happened about 50,000 years ago — give or take. Like yesterday in the great scheme of things.”
“Jared Diamond, the celebrated evolutionary biologist, calls it the Great Leap Forward. It’s the moment when human beings exploded onto the scene.”
“Everything!” The biologist sets down the skull and looks directly at the student. “Before we — poof! — appeared on the planet, no creature had behaved exactly the way we do — created music and art, spoke intelligently, buried their dead with great ceremony, believed in an afterlife. . . . Hold on, let me show you.”
Psalm 8:3 – we can feel David’s astonishment as he acknowledges humanity’s God-given uniqueness: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
First, we are unique in our creativity.
Second, we are unique in our capacity for selflessness.
Third, we are unique in being curious about the far-flung universe and our uncanny ability to understand it — even to the point of sensing the existence of something or someone behind it all.
SQ, or spiritual quotient
The search for truth, and the love of it, begins at home — with each of us gazing into a mirror and asking, “Who or what am I, really?” With each of us gazing into our neighbor’s eyes and asking, “Who or what are you, really?” With each of us gazing heavenward and asking, “Does the God of the Bible really exist?”
Why is Zimbardo’s use of such an extreme word justified here? Because treating people as “less than human” is not just insulting, not just a violation of their civil rights, not just a heinous thing to do — it is far deeper than that. It blasphemes the very one in whose image we are made. It desecrates our fundamental holiness.
Ultimately, that is the purpose of this entire book. To urge you, when faced with complex issues, to consider thoughtfully both the findings of science and the teachings of Scripture. And to help you comprehend the remarkable agreement that exists between the two.
Many people think that believing in the Bible is stupid or that believing in science is heretical. Many believe it is necessary to choose sides — as though we were the children of a contentious divorce or fans of rival teams. But they are greatly mistaken.
In 98, when I was teaching at Harvard, pro football hall of famer John Madden faced a predicament: his sons played for rival university football teams. Mike was a wide receiver for Harvard; Joe was an offensive tackle for Brown. On Saturday, November , of that year, when the two varsity teams squared off in Harvard Stadium, the media wanted to know which team, which son, John would be rooting for. His answer? Both. And true to his word, he reportedly sat on one side of the stadium during the first half and the other side during the second.
In the face of any apparent clash on the playing field of ideas between science and the Bible, I recommend we tear a page from John Madden’s playbook. I suggest that we begin by treating both sides with the respect they deserve, that they have earned by virtue of their longevity and respective successes over many centuries. As we have seen in this book, science and Scripture each contributes something invaluable to the strenuous game called life — to the debates we will always have concerning reality’s most mystifying aspects.
Far too often I hear people disparaging the Bible because it is old and therefore allegedly outdated. Likewise, I hear people putting down science because its conclusions don’t always stand the test of time — it seems to these critics that science changes its mind as often as Imelda Marcos changed shoes.
But genuine truth — biblical and scientific — is not a perishable commodity. It neither spoils nor evaporates with time. It endures. The truths I selected for this book are neither too old nor too new to be believed. They are, I submit to you, ageless, trustworthy insights into how the world works and where we fit in.
In closing, I want to point out another parallel between the primary message of this book and the Madden example. In football, at any given time, one team plays offense; the other, defense. Offensive and defensive players approach the game from opposite sides, using different, time-tested, game-winning strategies and tactics. In some ways, science and the Bible are like that. They seek, encounter, and reveal truths about the universe from very different, seemingly opposing angles, using their own distinct, time-tested methodologies. In this book I call them the scientific and religious methods.
At certain times in our history — during the early Middle Ages, for one — the Bible played offense and science played defense. At others — like today — it is science that is on the offensive and the Bible on the defensive. If you look past the shifting roles, however, at the big picture, I believe you will discover what I did, that science and Scripture have both participated significantly in advancing the ball of human understanding. Each in its own way and time has helped us to score objective truths, chief among them, the ten amazing truths in this book.
That, dear reader, is the final, most important message I leave with you.
To reiterate: modern, mainstream science excludes supernatural explanations not because it has decided that God doesn’t exist or proven that physical-material reality is all there is (something that truthfully it can never do); it does so simply because the aim of modern science is to find strictly rational explanations for the natural world. Not only is that a reasonable thing to want to do, but I submit that it is fundamentally compatible with religion generally and the Bible specifically. In
do — that science’s success at explaining the natural world rationally is guaranteed because the natural world is the creation of a rational God.
All told, astronomers have concluded that dark energy comprises some 8 percent of the total universe and dark matter, about 7 percent. That means only 5 percent of the entire universe is visible to us! That astonishing revelation bears emphasizing. Everything we call scientific knowledge is based on but a pittance of what there is to know about our world. Ninety-five percent of it is hidden from us.
In light of this latest bombshell, do we stand a chance of ever really understanding gravity? Astronomers are hard at work believing they can. But they must labor with the unsettling awareness that our science is 95 percent in the dark about the universe it seeks and claims to understand; about what is real or not, what is possible or not — even about a prosaic force that exists literally right under our noses.
Believing in an afterlife is consistent with believing there is a huge part of reality that is hidden from us. Not believing in an afterlife is in line with believing that what we perceive, what we experience in the here and now, is all there is. But as we have just seen, science itself has discovered that there is a great deal about the “here and now” we can’t see and certainly don’t understand. Most of it — black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and who knows what else — is no less incredible than the claim of an afterlife.
In short, according to Christianity, our resurrected bodies will be made of a substance that is truly exotic — as different as, say, dark matter or dark energy is from visible matter or prosaic energy, or anything else we currently understand.
Unbelievable? To some, clearly, yes — especially to the 3 percent who believe we will simply cease to exist when we die. But it shouldn’t be that unbelievable, really — not to a species accustomed to grappling intelligently with the great mysteries of the universe.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” —Isaiah 55:8
After doing innumerable computations, Hoyle discovered that the odds of our being accidents of nature are comparable to the likelihood of a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling scrap metal into a fully functioning Boeing 747. “So small as to be negligible,” he said, following his calculations, “even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole universe.”
In summary, science and the Bible agree that there is way more to life than meets the eye. Insist on living by the old adage “seeing is believing,” they warn, and we remain blind to most of what exists out there, both in heaven and on earth.