Summary: Five key concepts about what Christians believe about the world for seekers investigating the Christian faith.
Is life nothing more than a roulette wheel? Are the life circumstances you and I face nothing more than random, chance events bouncing into our lives like a ball randomly spins on a roulette wheel? A roulette wheel is driven by chance. In fact, if it’s not, they say the wheel is rigged. Is life on planet earth rigged, with an overlying purpose and sense of meaning, or is it nothing more than a random, purposeless roulette wheel, where the ball arbitrarily stops wherever it happens to?
We’ve been in a series called WHAT DO CHRISTIANS THINK? In this series we’ve been trying to explore the basic beliefs that make up the Christian faith in a way that both irreligious people and Christians can understand. You see, each religion and philosophy in the world offers it’s own unique way of making sense out of life. You might picture every religion and philosophy as a jigsaw puzzle, with each puzzle piece representing a specific belief within that particular belief system. All the puzzle pieces in each philosophy and religion are designed to fit together to present us with a coherent way of making sense out of our lives. So the Christian belief system presents it’s own unique picture, while Islam presents a different picture, Hinduism and Marxism present their own pictures, atheism and the New Age movement present their own pictures and so forth. The question is: Which picture conforms to the way things really are, or--to put it another way--which picture is true? I can no more arbitrarily pick and choose beliefs from different belief systems than I can randomly take puzzle pieces from different jigsaw puzzles and expect them all to fit together and present a meaningful picture. The basic beliefs we’re talking about in this series are related to each other like puzzle pieces, and together they form a coherent belief system that Christians believe most accurately explains life.
So far we’ve looked at what Christians believe about God, and what Christians believe about the Bible. Today we’re going to talk about what Christians believe about the world...is it merely a product of random and purposeless forces like a roulette wheel, or is the world something more?
Now to talk about what Christians believe about the world opens up a deep conflict that’s gone on for almost 500 years. I’m referring to the conflict between religion and science. The roots of this conflict go back to the 1500s, when a Polish astronomer named Copernicus suggested that the sun rather than the earth was the center of our universe. Back then an earth-centered universe was a religious dogma, so Copernicus’ claim sounded like heresy to the church back then. A few years later an Italian astronomer and physicist named Galileo took this idea another step and argued that the planets actually revolve around the sun. The Church condemned Galileo for his view and kept him under house arrest until his death in 1642. The Roman Catholic church finally cleared Galileo, but this came over 300 years after he’d died.
Since then the conflict between religion and science has continued to rage. This battle reached a fever pitch in 1859when Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. The birth of Darwinian evolution seemed to drive the wedge between religion and science even deeper. Yet it’s impossible to develop a coherent world view without eventually seeking to resolve this tension. As C. S. Lewis once said, "Faith and science form part of a whole. They are intimately related." This morning we’re going to explore five key concepts that Christians believe to be true about our world.
1. God Created the Universe (Genesis 1:1)
The first verse of the Bible is the Christian’s starting point:
Genesis 1:1-- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (NIV).
This verse tells us that before anything else in the universe existed, God was there. The Hebrew word translated "created" here means to make something new, something that hasn’t existed prior to the act of creation (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1:127). So while we as humans can make things with pre-existing materials, this word focuses on creating something with no pre-existing raw materials. This applies to "the heavens and the earth" which tells us that God’s creative activity isn’t just related to our planet, but that it applies to the entire universe, to every solar system that exists; God is the sole originator of all reality other than himself (Cranfield, The Apostles Creed 17). This tells us that the universe is not eternal, as some physicists like Stephen Hawking have suggested, but that it had a specific beginning point.
Now it’s impossible to speak of Genesis 1:1 without commenting on the creation-evolution debate. I think that to say the conflict is between creation and evolution is far too simplistic. This is because no one who believes that God created the universe disputes that evolution occurs on some level. No one denies that variation occurs in living creatures, and that this variation seems to be a way to adapt to their environment. No creationist would dispute this fact. No...the debate is much more complicated than simply between creation and evolution. The real debate is over two different ways people view reality; it’s really a conflict over two different philosophies of life. Charles Colson says, "Darwinism begins with trivial changes in the color of moths and the size of finch beaks--which no one contexts. But then it leaps to the metaphysical assertion that life is the product of completely natural, purposeless causes" (Christianity Today 8/12/96, p. 64). Here we’re introduced to the roulette wheel universe, that blind, random natural forces that rule our world instead of God. So the fundamental conflict isn’t so much over science as much as it’s a conflict over what lies behind science. The National Association of Biology Teachers claims, "All life is the outcome of unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural processes that are random and undirected, without plan or purpose" (Christianity Today 8/12/96, p. 64). This claim is that behind science is the roulette wheel, nothing more. That’s a metaphysical statement of belief, not a statement of scientific fact, because it makes a claim that’s outside of what science can test and verify.