On March 5, the Ohio House of Representatives began hearings on two controversial bills which are attempting to allow students to be taught alternative views of biological origins. House Bill 481 would call for “origins science” classes to be “taught objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption.” The new standards must be adopted by December 31, 2002. Surprisingly, according to the Columbus Dispatch, a majority of the state board’s Standards Committee supports presenting the “intelligent design” concept, and wants to add it to the curriculum alongside evolution, and fully half of the full 19-member board supports the idea. If passed, it would make Ohio the only state to require the teaching of alternatives to evolution. It would not do away with teaching the evolutionary theory, but simply present other theories objectively as well so that the students could decide for themselves. The bills have gained a lot of press, and the ensuing firestorm has produced a great deal of heat without generating much light.
I’m not sure whether I would be in favor of the adoption of the bills or not, but it would be interesting if an accurate and thoughtful presentation of the theory of intelligent design were given an honest hearing along with the theory of evolution. I have heard at least two different sources on the radio recently that referred to evolution is a “proven fact.” Evolution is not a proven fact any more than the theory of intelligent design is a proven fact. Our belief that the world was created by a good and loving God is a matter of faith not fact, but it is based on what we believe to be a thoughtful and reasonable consideration of the evidence in the world around us. As Paul wrote: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Some sincere Christians believe that God created the world, but he did it using the evolutionary process (Theistic evolution), but today I want to address non-theistic evolution as it is usually thought of. The evolutionary theory, based on the non-existence of God, proposes that all that exists in the universe happened by chance — the stars and planets, and everything in the cosmos and on the earth, are the result of an unexplainable accident. There is no purpose or design to the world. There is no reason for our existence. It is a philosophy called Nihilism which believes that nothing matters. It states that there was no higher Being which called the world into existence, and therefore there are no values in life, and all attempts to discover values or meaning are pointless. This is the message of evolutionary theory properly understood. It is pretty depressing actually. If you believe that we are alone in the universe, and that we are the result of accident and chance with absolutely no meaning to life, it is a very bleak worldview.
The message, from those of us who believe that the world was created in love by a good, all-knowing and all-powerful God, is that there are answers to the basic questions of life. The first question we believe we hold the answer to is: What is the origin of life? As Christians, we believe that the origin of life is God. He is the one who wanted the world to exist, because he desired a relationship with intelligent beings who could exercise their free will. We know from the world around us that life does not come from inanimate objects, life comes from something else which is living. Life does not come from nothing, it comes from something, and that something is always something which is alive. A living God created the world and all life that exists came from him.
The Bible says, “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). But where does God come from? God does not come from anywhere; he has always existed because he lives outside of time and space. He is without beginning or end. He always has been and always will be. Unlike us, he is not defined or limited by time or spatial existence.
Carl Sagan, opens his book Cosmos by saying: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” We are not children of God, but “children of the Cosmos,” according to Sagan. Most people think that Carl Sagan was an atheist or agnostic, but in reality he was very religious. He believed that if we are to worship something, “does it not make sense to revere the Sun and the stars?” Later in life he even proposed that god-like aliens would come to rescue planet earth. In his popular, made-for-television series, he eloquently stated that life began somewhere in a primordial slime pond. But let’s think about that for a moment. Even the slime on a pond is living. In fact, in any pond in the world if you take one drop of water from that pond and put it under a microscope, you will discover that every drop of water in that pond is teaming with life. This primordial pond, to which Sagan referred, would have been before one cell of life existed on earth — only non-living things would have been here. There would have been no grass, no trees or any other kind of vegetation — a landscape similar to the moon. There would not have been a single amoeba, bacteria or any other life form present. But somehow, in this pond, chemicals reacted to form the first cell of life. This cell would have to have been able to find food near (and remember there is nothing living to eat). This cell would have to take in food, process it and eliminate it, and somehow reproduce. And remember that a single living cell is exponentially more complex than our most sophisticated computer. If it were not, we could create life, but in spite of all our enormously complex technology, we have not been able to create one single living cell.
Christians believe the Bible says it all when it states, “In the beginning God. . .” In the New Testament we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). The origin of life is God. Our lives are not the result of chance or accident, our lives originated in the heart of a personal God.
But the Christian faith answers another important question. The second question is: What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of our existence? If there is not a personal God who created us in love, then we are left to believe that life has no meaning. If there is no meaning to life, neither is there morality. As Dostoevsky said, “Without God all things are permissible.” If there is no morality, how is it that there is a universal sense of rightness and wrongness about things like theft, murder and adultery? Immanuel Kant, the great philosopher, said, “Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe. . . . the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” The question is: “Where did all of this come from and why? The why of existence is more important than the how. The fact of our existence speaks to the reality that there is a purpose for our existence. Discovering that purpose, and living out that purpose, is our most important mission in life.
I copied these facts from a science web site that tells us about just how intricately balanced life on earth is: “The Earth is in an exact position so that the average temperature is balanced between the freezing point of water (32 degrees F) and the normal body temperature of humans (98.6 degrees F). If the average temperature ever varied very far above or below these two extremes for very long, we could not survive. Scientists estimate that if the Earth were just 5% closer to the Sun, the increase in the temperature would be enough to melt the ice caps at the North and South poles. The water trapped in these caps of ice would raise the oceans level by as much as 300 feet. That would be enough to put every coastal city in the world under water. The moon rotates only once every 29 ½ days instead of daily. Because of it’s slow rotation one side of the moon gets very hot while the other gets very cold. If the Earth didn’t rotate every 24 hours, but rotated every 36 hours, the temperature at noon would be well over 100 degrees fahrenheit and the temperature at midnight would drop below freezing even in summer. We would also have daily tornadoes, and storms due to the temperature changes stirred up by the wind.” The earth exists in an extremely delicate balance. Something, or someone, is maintaining that balance. If it is a Someone then there is a purpose for our existence.
Brennan Manning also describes the intricate balance of life: “Sir James Jeans, the famous British astronomer, once said, ‘The universe appears to have been designed by a Pure Mathematician. . . .’ The slant of the earth, for example tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, produces our seasons. Scientists tell us that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice.”
All of this means that God seems to want the earth to exist and holds it in delicate balance. If God wants the earth to exist, he must have a purpose for it. If there is a purpose for the world and those who live in it, then life has meaning. That meaning, as expressed in the Westminster Confession is this: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” What better meaning could life have?
I believe that the great barrier for many people who reject the idea of a God-created-world is that they do not want there to be any meaning to the world beyond themselves. If there is no meaning, then they get to devise their own meaning. If there is no morality built into the universe, then they get to decide what it right and wrong for themselves. If there is no God they can be their own God. Charles Colson has written: “The core of the controversy is not science; it is at titanic struggle between opposing worldviews — between naturalism and theism. Is the universe governed by blind material forces or by a loving personal being?” Some do not want to believe in a loving, personal Being who created the universe, because they do not want to be accountable to anyone besides themselves.
The third question which begs to be answered is: What is the value of life? If we are here simply by chance, then our lives have no ultimate value — we are must so much protoplasm. But if God has created the world, life not only has meaning, it has value. The Bible tells us our value when it says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). People who believe that the world came about by some cosmic accident, and life randomly evolved over time have no trouble taking the life of an unborn child or the life of a disabled, chronically ill or elderly person. Life to them is just a mass of tissue. Euthanasia and abortion therefore remain viable options in a valueless world. But if human life is the result of a creative act of God, it puts a whole new light on the value of human life, not to mention the world itself.
The world is a good and marvelous place, because it has the blessing of God on it. God loves the world and the people in it. After each creative act, God pronounced that what he had made was good. This is something we ought to be celebrating. We ought to leave this place today cheering and waving banners in the wind because we have a God who made us and loves us. He has placed meaning in our existence and value on our lives. We were so valuable to him that he came to live among us. He loved us so much he died in order that we could live. And his creative work is not done. He is busy creating us a place in his eternal kingdom. Nothing could be more wonderful than this. It is the source of joy. Julian of Norwich, a gifted English mystic said, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
We are so blessed, because our God not only created the world, he is in control of the world. He has not only created sound, he created music. He has not only created people, he created love. He has not only created sight, he created color and beauty. He has not only created the sense of smell, he has created apple blossoms. He has not only created touch, he created spring grass and rose petals. He has not only created taste, he created oranges and peaches. He has not only created me, he created you, and we can experience friendship and love. God has not only created us, he created us to know him.
“Is the universe a friendly place?” asked Einstein. Indeed it is, and it is also a joyful place for those who know their Creator. It is amazing how differently people see the world. Some never see him, while others see him everywhere they look. Isaac Newton said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” For others, a world full of wonder does not seem to be enough evidence.
For Dr. Paul Brand, a leading surgeon, it means standing in worshipful awe as he studies the human body. He was explaining one of the many wonders of human physiology to someone when he said, “And do you know about the ductus arteriosus? A bypass vessel, it routes blood directly to a developing fetus’s extremities, instead of to the lungs. At the moment of birth, suddenly all blood must pass through the lungs to receive oxygen because now the baby is breathing air. In a flash, a flap descends like a curtain, deflecting the blood flow, and a muscle constricts the ductus arteriosus. After performing that one act, the muscle gradually dissolves and gets absorbed by the rest of the body. Without this spit-second adjustment, the baby could never survive outside the womb.” What a miracle life is!
Little wonder that David cries out in the Psalms:
O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength. . . .
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!”
(Psalm 8:1-5, NASBU).
That’s the kind of value God has placed on your life!
Rodney J. Buchanan
May 5, 2002
Mulberry St. UMC
Mt. Vernon, OH
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (May 5, 2002)
1. What are the alternatives to believing that God created the universe?
2. Read Romans 1:20. What is this scripture saying to us?
3. What would it feel like to believe that there was no God and no meaning or purpose to life? Do you know anyone who believes this? How do they feel about life?
4. Read 1 Corinthians 8:6 and John 1:3. What was Christ’s role in creation?
5. According to the Christian faith, what is the meaning of life?
6. Why is understanding the meaning of life important?
7. Why do some people prefer to believe that there is no meaning to life? What benefit is there for them in believing this way?
8. If there is no God there is no value to human life. How does this work out in our current culture?
9. If there is no God there is reason to be moral and all morals are brought into question since there is no divine authority. How does this play out in contemporary culture?
10. Why does the Christian view of the origin of the world bring joy to life?