The Depth of Love

Recently, I saw a demonstration of the harsh environment of the ocean in a news report. Scientists were showing the effects of water pressure on various objects at depths of fifteen thousand feet. These various everyday objects were taken by a deep sea submarine to the great depths of the ocean. When they were returned to the surface, they did so, crushed to a fraction of their original size. All this owing to the great pressures found at such incredible depths.

This poignant picture caused me to consider the strength of love. Love faces great pressures each day, pressures from the effects of our lives, from the challenges we face, from our choices, and I suppose ultimately from our natural hearts. We naturally do not possess the shielding required to preserve ourselves under these conditions.

Thankfully we have a place we can draw upon to build up the strength, to love ourselves and others, in the face of the many great difficulties and challenges of this life.

I speak of course of the love of Christ.

According to the scriptures, God’s most amazing and eternal love, has been given to each of us who trust Him and have surrendered to Him, “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5)

And this love that He has given us can never be taken from us. “…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 8:39)

The scriptures tell us that love has many qualities, including the fact that love seeks to trust, to hope, and to persevere.

Life is hard. And sometimes those closest to us are the ones that say or do things that can really challenge us. For the Believer though, we must seek to view those times through the lens of God, utilizing the Love that he has placed in our hearts. With this love we must seek to exhibit His patience to those we love, as He does each day for us. After all, none of us are very far from His Grace. For that we can be thankful.

To love someone deeply, is to not be easily angered when they do unloving things, to not dishonor them, to not keep any record of wrongs, and to remember, that in the end, true love never fails.

Let me conclude by sharing an excerpt from the Apostle Paul, a note about love that he recorded in a letter to the members of an early church, in the city of Corinth in about AD 55. His observations about Love are timeless.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Four Reasons to Test This Assumption

Mythology:  The study of myths of a particular group or culture, ideas that are believed by many people but that are not true (Merriam-Webster)

Recently my son, a freshman in a public high school, shared that they were studying Greek mythology in his English class. The teacher was already aware of my son’s faith in Jesus Christ from prior conversations, a fact that he does not hide, nor does he push upon others, he simply lives out his faith by his actions and words.

He related that in due course, a student raised his hand during a discussion time, and asked the teacher about the origins of life. She responded by first looking to my son for a second, then addressing the class, that “according to Christian ‘mythology’ that everything was created by a Christian God.” And then she went on to talk about the views of the Greek gods.

It was interesting that her first go-to response was not “I don’t know” or “Here is how the Greeks perceived the origin of life, “given they were on the topic of Greek mythology, or “Here is what Buddha says” or how Islam views this topic, rather her comment was immediately and specifically directed towards reducing the Christian scriptural account of creation to the level of a myth with no further explanation.

Given that myths, by definition are not true, the message was clear, for those in the English class that believe in the Christian scriptures, it’s all a myth. My son immediately detected the inference that the intelligence of those that believe such things might also be in question.

But is it? Is such a simplistic view really reality? Or is the instructor really doing nothing more than introducing her personal views as fact to her class? Her statements to a class of high school freshman will not likely be challenged by any student, therefore, when left unchallenged from a critical thinking perspective; many students will leave the class thinking that what they heard must be fact.

Sadly, it seems to me, that Americans in general, and many young people in particular, seem to have lost the skills of critical thinking. Instead, we seem to be more likely to accept sound bites and internet posts as “facts,” without really slowing down to think about whether or not the statement we just heard or read is really supportable.

For years, science has used a technique that involves something known as hypothesis testing to validate tentative concepts or ideas.

A hypothesis is a proposal that is intended to explain a given observation or statement.  Because it is tentative in nature, and until it can be fully vetted, such an idea will remain a hypothesis. A more fully vetted idea, for which there are no clear observable objections, will often be moved to a new level, that of a theory.

If contrary data can be presented in the face of such a hypothesis or a theory, then the researcher must go back and revisit their hypothesis or theory, to modify it to reflect the new data. Otherwise they would need to retract their theory or idea altogether and go back to the drawing board.

Such testing requires that we take a moment and write up our hypothesis in a formal manner.

A hypothesis test takes the following form:

Null Hypothesis: (HO) What I am trying to disprove, there is no difference, status quo.

Alternative Hypothesis: (HA) What I am trying to prove, there is a difference.

Together, HA and HO cover all the possibilities.

Logically, it is easier to disprove something than it is to prove it.  Therefore, the claim to be tested appears as HO.  We can reject HO or fail to reject it.   We can never accept it.

One of these hypotheses represents reality, with respect to the validity of creation as described by Christian scriptures, and the other does not.

In our specific example, we might write up our hypothesis test as follows:

Null Hypothesis (HO): The Scriptural Account of Creation is a myth, it’s not true.

Or

Alternative Hypothesis (HA):  We have failed to prove that the Scriptural account of creation is not true, therefore there is a possibility that the account of creation is true, and must be considered in our reality.

After creating our hypothesis statements, we need to see if we can find objective evidence that would either reject or fail to reject the Null Hypothesis.

We’ll look at several scientific facts and then compare our facts to what the scriptures share about the origins of life.

Are science and the scriptures consistent in anyway, or are they completely disconnected?

Four points we know about the origin of life through modern science:

  1. We know that the universe is not ageless. Both Dr. Edwin Hubble and Dr. Albert Einstein, using independent means, demonstrated that the universe came into existence at some point in time.
  2. We know from our laws of Physics that it is impossible for matter and energy to be created from nothing, using only a naturalistic process. Yet the universe was not always in existence, therefore there had to be a time in which there was no matter or energy, and somehow it came into being from nothing to something.
  3. We know that the fossil record only shows life in their final forms: We do not have a single case of a complete transitional form in the fossil record.  Dr. Stephen Jay Gould , an ardent Neo-Darwinist, shared that “The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils.”  -Stephen Jay Gould Davis, Percival, and Kenyon, Dean H. Of Pandas and People. Dallas: Haughton, 1993, p. 106-107.
  4. The DNA Enigma: Dr. Stephen Meyers leads us back to one of the most profound questions yet. If we see design in living organisms, which we clearly do, we must ask ourselves where the information came from for the design. DNA is not information, DNA simply stores the information needed to build a complete organism. What was the source for the original information? Think of DNA as a hard drive on a computer, and the information as the instructions stored on the hard drive. For example, I might store the information on how to bake a cake so that someone could read the information and bake a cake. But the information itself came from someone’s mind.  Someone thought intelligently about how to make a cake, they didn’t just randomly list the ingredients with the expectation that a cake would materialize. (Meyer, Stephen C. 2009. Signature in the Cell. New York, NY: Harper One.)

This is but a small list of what we understand about the origin of life from a scientific perspective. The question that still remains to be addressed: Are these scientific facts consistent with the account of creation as depicted by Christian scriptures?

What the Christian Scriptures share about the origin of life:

  1. The universe had a beginning, it is not ageless. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
  2. Matter and energy were “created.” God created the universe and all that is in it. Energy and matter had to be brought into existence via a supernatural process, meaning beyond the naturalistic laws that we know are in place today.
  3. Living organisms were initially created in their final form:  Repeatedly throughout the creation account, the scriptures use the phrase “according to their various kinds.”  There is no concept that suggests that organisms were created in a lower state, and then somehow developed into modern organisms that we see today.
  4. What we see in creation was created with intelligence and is not a product of unguided chance events. “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…” (Romans 1:20)  As the Apostle Paul states, evidence for intelligence in the design of organisms in our world is totally self-evident, and is clearly seen through the lens of common sense. Virtually every person can detect the difference between something that is random vs something that is designed.

We conclude then, even from this cursory review of the scientific data and the Christian scriptures, that the scientific facts are consistent with statements from the scriptures about the origin of life. Therefore, we must reject the Null Hypothesis (HO) that the accounts of creation in the scriptures are not true, and allow for the possibility that the scriptures offer a valid metaphysical explanation for the origin of life.

The teacher’s simplistic and absolute statement, that the Christian scriptures are a myth, thereby removing even the possibility that they may be true, should never have been shared in class to the students as a fact. This was clearly a statement of her personal opinion and is unsupported by the data.

In this case, she used assumptive language, which is one of the most dangerous forms of knowledge in our world today. Why? Because assumptions are often just “caught and brought” without an open, conscience dialog to talk about the evidence and the facts.

 

 

Grace in Restoration

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

I walked into my friend’s large auto shop, and on the floor, near the drive-in sized roll-up door, were countless rusty and corroded parts. Barely discernible in the middle of all these parts, was the large rusty frame of an old farm tractor. My friend, who loves to restore such antiques, stood by it with an oily wrench in his hands and broad smile on his face.

That afternoon he told me all about this tractor. He proudly told me how he and a friend had spotted the old tractor in a field as they were driving along a highway. They contacted the owner of the property, an old farmer, and he was more than happy to get rid of it. He took a small sum for it, kind of shaking his head and wondering why on Earth anyone would ever want to buy such a broken down piece of machinery.

The longer my friend talked that afternoon the more enthusiastic he became. We visited for a while, and then I wished him luck on his tractor restoration project and headed home.

About two years later, as he and I were talking and catching up, I asked him about that old tractor. He beamed with pride and pulled up a series of pictures on his computer showing the entire restoration process. The result was amazing!

There it was in the final picture, fully restored, just like it rolled off of the factory floor back in 1948. I could hardly believe the complete transformation that I was looking at.

Every detail, every part, all the internal gears, wires, pistons, the countless thousands of parts we don’t see, but are critical, had been lovingly, and sometimes abrasively worked on, to restore them to a new condition. He shared that there were times when the project hit some rough patches, and the going got tough, but through it all, he kept at it.

The entire process was also very costly. There is nothing cheap about restoring an old tractor. Yet once the work was done and the bills were paid, one could hardly argue with the complete transformation that was shown in the pictures. And I know the transformation was complete, inside and out, because he showed me pictures of the tractor being driven in a parade. This was not simply a cosmetic restoration.

The term “restore” is mentioned over a hundred times in the Scriptures.  Most dictionaries define restoration as “a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.”

In the grand scheme of life, the Scriptures are all about restoration, humanity’s restoration to a right relationship with our Creator. We are restored via Jesus Christ, who in effect “paid our restoration bill.” His restoration is complete, from the inside out, there is nothing cosmetic about the work that Jesus does. Ultimately, even our physical bodies will one day be restored to the mint condition our Creator envisioned. (I could use a little of that right now…but I’ll have to be patient.)

In the meantime, I am reminded of how important it is that that I too have a mind of restoration.

The Psalmist shared: “Restore us again, God our Savior…” (Psalm 85:4) Thankfully we worship a God of new days, a God that seeks to restore us to himself with an infinite degree of patience. There are times I have to go back for multiple restorations. I have to be restored again, and again, and again. (Thankfully God never closes the garage door.)

Those closest to us are also undergoing restoration. There are times I need to remember how much grace God has given me every time I show up at the garage for another round of restoration. I need to give that same compassion and grace towards others while they are being restored. After all, restoration is a process, sometimes it takes years to get the rust off of all the parts. Some of the parts that need restoration lie deep within our lives; they’re the hardest to reach.

Yet Jesus promises us, that for those who trust Him, there will be full restoration. As believers, we need to be like Jesus. I know it’s hard, but we need to be patient, not only with others, but patient with ourselves.

By the way, you have permission to have setbacks during your restoration; they happen. God will ALWAYS be present with you as you are seeking restoration, no matter what it is in your life that needs to be restored. I can tell you from personal experience that the wait is worth it.

Not all restorations are equal. Some restorations involve our closest relationships, those with our spouse or children. Restorations can range from recognizing our need for eternal restoration with God through Jesus Christ, to the more mundane, such as restoring a relationship with a child or family member that perhaps we were short with, or perhaps we said some words that came spilling out in a moment of frustration.

In extreme cases, where major restoration is underway, we may feel completely overwhelmed, the circumstances of life may seem like this restoration is beyond anything that God could ever fix. During these deepest darkest moments, we may want to give up, but that would be human thinking at play.

The Psalmist wrote the following,  because he realized that no matter how hard the journey, that if God was involved, then restoration would happen!  ”Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (Psalm 71:20)

The Apostle Paul reminded us later that restoration comes only when we surrender. It is in our weakness that we are restored and not in our own strength. Jesus shared that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I encourage you to never give up on God no matter how hard or hopeless your restoration project may seem, God seeks to see us restored!

Copyright 2013

Simplified Cosmological View: Does God Exist?

This is a profound question.

In fact, it’s a very foundational question.

If one truly does not believe that there is a God, then the Christian worldview is a wholly inadequate explanation for our reality. What one believes in this regard will have lasting and eternal consequences in their lives.

The scriptures tell us that God is the source for the cosmos we see all around us. (Genesis 1) That it was God who created everything in the cosmos. Can we rule God out as the origin of this creative power?

How do we reasonably determine if it is possible that God exists?

One view is what I would describe as a “simplified cosmological view.”

In the end, what is the best explanation that describes the existence of the cosmos that surrounds us?

There are only two logical possibilities to this question:

1.The cosmos had a specific beginning point in time. A time when at one moment there existed nothing, and in the next moment there existed something.

OR

2.The cosmos has always existed, having been around for eternity.

In investigative science, one must draw conclusions about reality and truth based upon both the measurable and circumstantial evidence. If the preponderance of evidence suggests a reality, then that becomes the reality we must hold to until sufficient contradictory evidence is presented to the contrary.

From a purely naturalistic perspective, meaning a view without any consideration for a supernatural being such as God, neither of the above explanations seems to offer us a reasonable conclusion about our cosmos.

Nonetheless, these are the only two options that exist; therefore we will have to work with them.

To aid us in our evaluation, we’ll use a tool from science. Scientists often formulate their questions in the structure of a hypothesis.  A hypothesis is a statement that takes the form:

  1. Null Hypothesis: (H0) What I am trying to disprove, there is no difference, status quo.
  1. Alternative Hypothesis: (HA) What I am trying to prove, there is a difference.

Together, HA and H0 cover all the possibilities.

Logically, it is easier to disprove something than it is to prove it.  Therefore, the claim to be tested appears as H0.  We can reject H0 or fail to reject it.   We can never accept it.

One of these hypotheses represents reality with respect to God:

  1. Null Hypothesis (H0): God does not exist

Or

  1. Alternative Hypothesis (HA): We have failed to prove that God does not exist, therefore there is a possibility that He exists and must be considered in our reality.

There are many points upon which we might apply this test, but for the sake of brevity, we will only consider the existence of our cosmos to make our case of whether or not God might exist.

Going back to our two logical possibilities for the existence of the cosmos,

1. The cosmos had a specific beginning point in time. A time when at one moment there existed nothing, and in the next moment there existed something.

OR

2. The cosmos has always existed, having been around for eternity.

Let’s take a look at item 2 first.

Basic physics tells us that due to the first and second laws of thermodynamics our cosmos, had it been in existence forever, would be a cold dead place at this very moment. Given the infinite size of the cosmos, it is not possible for us to be here now if the cosmos never had a beginning that it has always existed.

The first law, in laymen’s terms, says that all the energy we have is all we get. Energy may transfer, or change form, but “new” energy cannot be created from nothing.

The second law, also in very simplistic terms, states that every time energy gets transferred or transformed, some of it becomes less useful. In time, all of it becomes useless. In time, all of this less useful energy gets radiated out into the cosmos and dissipated over an infinite degree of space.

Another way to wrap your mind around the second law of thermodynamics is to consider the following.

Suppose we walked into a sealed gymnasium in the depth of a winter snow storm in the middle of the night with no lights turned on. The gym would be super cold; in fact it would be freezing, and very dark.

In the middle of this cavernous gym there was a table and a single white candle. You extract a small flashlight and a lighter and approach the table. You light the wick and turn off your light.

The wax of the candle is a form of stored energy, and it can be released by lighting the wick which transforms the stored energy into light and heat energy. The flame on the candle is hot enough to burn your finger if you were close enough to it. You might even feel some of the heat energy even as much as a few inches from the flame. But if you walk across the entire gym, it’s not likely you will feel any heat energy from the candle.

If you had a super sensitive thermometer however, the device would in fact pick up a slight increase of temperature of the air in the gym. Other than looking like a distant star on a dark night, the energy from this candle is pretty useless energy as far as you’re concerned; it doesn’t do anything to actually keep you warm.

Eventually the candle converts all of the wax to heat energy, and runs out of fuel. The flame flickers and then goes out. You’re immediately plunged into total darkness. In time, the heat energy released from the candle will equally distribute itself in the room. But a lot of good that will do you!  If you stayed in the gym, eventually you would freeze to death!

Imagine that the candle represents all the energy of all the stars in our cosmos, and the gym represents our cosmos. Given enough time, our stars, like the candle, would convert all of their energy into a less useful form, which would distribute itself across the cosmos. Given our cosmos is infinitely large, and the known amount of matter is fixed,  and can never increase (Law 1) then if our cosmos had been in existence forever, you would not be reading this now, and it would be really cold and dark.

So option 2, our Universe has been in existence forever is not an option.

Logically then, that leaves us with option 1, that our Universe had a beginning. But what about the first law? The first law pretty much seals up option 1, because if the Universe had a beginning, then that would imply that matter and energy had to be created from nothing to make the beginning possible, something physicists know cannot happen. Is that the end of the story? Neither option working?

Nope.

Fortunately there were a couple of really smart scientists that have proved with science that the Universe had to have a beginning.

Dr. Albert Einstein created a mathematical model that demonstrated an expanding Universe. Not liking that idea, he put in a “cosmological constant” to fix that problem. (He later regretted ever having done that.)

One of Einstein’s contemporaries, Dr. Edwin Hubble, (Namesake of the Hubble Space Telescope) also made some astounding astronomical observations that showed an expanding Universe. Scientists since, have universally acknowledged that our Universe is in fact expanding and emanating from a particular point. Most of us know this commonly as the “Big Bang Theory.”

Why is it significant to our story that the universe is expanding from a central point?

Think of it this way. Suppose you traveled to a lake that was absolutely smooth, there were no ripples on the surface of the water anywhere.

Now suppose that you were hovering in a helicopter with a video camera pointed down to the lake, and dropped a big rock in the middle of it. You begin to film the concentric rings of ripples expanding outwards from the point of impact in the middle of the lake.

Once you got home and watched the video, you could see the expanding ripples of water  moving out in all directions from the point of impact. At some point, you realized that you could watch the video in reverse, and in so doing you observed that the rings gradually moved towards the point of impact, until you saw the moment the rock hit the lake.

The expanding rings had a beginning, the beginning was when the rock hit the lake surface.

Likewise, the cosmos also has a beginning. If we could track all the galaxies, stars, and planets on video from the beginning of time, and then play it backwards, we would see the single point where everything emanated from.

Scientists have since named this point, calling it a singularity.

Metaphysically, all of the above create a very interesting dilemma for naturalists. The only way that our cosmos could have come into being, without any supernatural events, would be to violate the natural laws of physics.

We have then, just from the cosmological aspect of our universe, a solid source of data that points us to a supernatural start of our cosmos.

Most commonly, we have ascribed such supernatural powers to only one being, God.