The ideas expressed here may be controversial for some - they're intended to be.
The idea is to get you thinking about why you believe what you believe, and generate a bit of discussion.
Many blogs offer devotional inspiration, I want to offer theological inspiration.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Age of the Universe – God is a liar

A 17th Century Irish bishop called James Ussher made detailed calculations taking into account recorded history along with all the events of the Bible. When he finished, he discovered that the universe actually began on October 3rd, BC 4004... which we can now know was a Thursday.

Whilst such a precise date is a little hard to accept, millions of Christians and Jews continue to believe that creation began, at most, 10,000 years ago. According to Wikipedia, “As of 2008 a Gallup poll indicated that 36% of US adults agreed with the statement ‘human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.’, 14% believed that ‘Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.’ and 44% of US adults agreed with the statement ‘God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.’”

If they are right, then, according the Bible, God must be a liar.
Why? Take a look at Romans 1:20 which says, “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.”

In essence, this is says that God made creation as the ultimate visual aid – to help us understand what He is like. In other words, true science isn’t an evil atheist conspiracy. We are supposed to probe and investigate creation, that’s what it’s there for. With the proper frame of mind, exploring and considering the universe will help us discover God's invisible qualities.

So how does this make God a liar?
According to science, light has speed. It travels at 700 million miles an hour (and you thought Usain Bolt was fast!). So if I strike a match whilst standing on the surface of the sun, assuming you could see me, I’d be so far away that you wouldn’t notice for 8½ minutes... by which time it would be too late to tell me what an idiot I was. The key thing is, you’re looking back in time. If I were to do the same thing on our nearest star, it would be 4 years before the light of the match reached you.

Go out a little further and light from the nearest galaxy to ours takes 2 ½ million years to reach us. The furthest object astronomers have seen is a galaxy which is so far away that its light takes 12.3 billion to get here.

There are only two possible conclusions you can come to these facts:
1.    The universe really is billions of years old, as science says.
2.    God created the universe with all the light rays from distant stars already in place.

If the latter is true, then our God-given ability to explore and question would lead us to the wrong answer to the question of the age of the universe. God would have made creation in such a way as to mislead us, making him a deceiver – a liar, in other words.

Though the history of science shows it doesn’t always get things right, God simply cannot have made creation to deceive us in any way. If there were anything misleading about the universe, we would not be able to trust any scientific experiment or its conclusions. Nothing we see and experience in the universe would be certain, because any one part of could potentially be ‘faked’ by God.

The mistake some scientists (and atheists) make is thinking that science is the only way to understand the universe.
The mistake some Christians make is thinking that a literal understanding of the Bible is the only way to understand the universe.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Parable of the Vegetable Soup Coach

A popular idea amongst Christians is that the only way to be a church is to band together with like minded people who believe similar things and like the same kind of worship. It seems like the obvious thing to do, doesn’t it? But what about Jesus’ teaching that our unity and love will be a witness to him? I’d like to offer the following parable as food for thought (excuse the pun):

There was a woman who liked to go on coach tours.
It so happened that all the coach tours in her country had vegetable soup for lunch.  The very first coach company only ever had mixed vegetable soup, but there were some who didn’t like some of the vegetables so they left and formed new coaches of their own. There was the mushroom soup coach, the sweetcorn coach, the carrot coach, the potato coach and so on. This woman liked the leek coach. Year after year she went with the leek coach and was very happy.

Now some travellers came from the potato coach and joined the leek coach, and, in time, a little bit of potato was added to the leek soup. The woman was unhappy about this, but she put up with the change. Then other travellers from the sweetcorn coach appeared, and so sweetcorn came to be added to the soup.

For the woman, this was a step too far. Her coach was no longer a pure leek soup coach. She wanted less of the new vegetables, and more leek in her soup. Other travellers on the coach felt there wasn’t enough potato, whilst others felt that more sweetcorn was needed. Fierce arguments broke out among the travellers about what kind of soup they should have, and it seemed impossible that they could continue to share the same coach.

Then the coach company’s director came.
He said that from now on, the coach would be a mixed vegetable soup coach. Their soup would be made up of all the vegetables.

The woman thought this would be a disaster, “Vegetable soup is a compromise,” she thought, “It will be bland, boring, and have little flavour.” But this proved not to be the case. With so many different vegetables, the soup had a new and unexpected richness. What is more, because the recipe varied from one tour to the next, the soup was different every time. It was always a surprise to see the how the soup would taste, and this made the coach tour more exciting. So, although the woman occasionally missed her leek soup, she preferred the variety that mixed vegetable soup brought to the tour, and she was happy.

A church that is all one flavour will end up being a church full of Christians of only one flavour. Throwing all the vegetables into the same pot won't make a church (and its worship) bland. But we do have to make a choice. We have to choose to discern the richness and depth of flavour that variety brings, because I firmly believe that God is a mixed vegetable soup person.