Is God Relevant in a Scientific World?
by Robert E. Gentet
© September 2013
While the majority of the world's inhabitants profess a belief in God, a minority are either agnostics or atheists. What evidences are there for God's existence? And even more importantly, is this God relevant in our lives? Here in question and answer format are some answers to these vital questions.
Why is this subject important?
Especially in matters of origins and the history of the universe and the Earth in particular, the prevalent Theory of Evolution is almost universally taught as fact in the world's universities, museums, in all the secular media, etc. Along with it is the teaching of an extremely ancient age for the universe and the Earth. Evolution and deep time beliefs, while they did not originate simultaneously, are now joined together. Together this worldview sits upon a godless foundation.
In short, did you see the need of writing about God's existence because of the void in modern education?
Yes, that's it in a nutshell. The historical records of the past, preserved for us in the universe, and, in particular, the Earth's geological and fossil record, are being presented without any acknowledgement of God. This is a relatively modern approach to the study of nature. It's a long story. I don't have time to go into depth here, but with the advent of Charles Darwin's famous 1859 book Origin of Species, it quickly became standard to leave any serious mention of God out of origins discussions.
Isn't "science," in fact, now by definition godless?
Atheistic scientists believe that since we cannot directly observe God, his influences on history can be ignored or explained away. In the words of Arthur N. Strahler:
"Supernatural forces, if they exist, cannot be observed, measured, or recorded by the procedures of science—that's simply what the word 'supernatural' means. There can be no limit to the kinds and shapes of supernatural forces and forms the human mind is capable of conjuring up from 'nowhere.' Scientists therefore have no alternative but to ignore claims of the existence of supernatural forces and causes. This exclusion is a basic position that must be stoutly adhered to by scientists or their entire system of evaluating and processing information will collapse. To put it another way, if science must include a supernatural realm, it will be forced into a game where there are no rules. Without rules, no scientific observation, explanation, or prediction can enjoy a high probability of being a correct picture of the real world. With no rules, anyone can play the game and it becomes chaos, generating a highly unreliable product." (Science and Earth History. P. 4)
So, is there a real and basic problem in the way science has now been defined?
Yes! More realistically, it is scientism—a mass of data being interpreted by an outright rejection of God in its knowledge. When scientific data is applied to engineering and technology, there is usually no problem. However, in many questions regarding origins and geologic history, leaving out God's revelation of what He did at Creation and what He still does creates a credibility gap.
Doesn't the Bible have something to say about those who reject/suppress the knowledge of God?
You are probably thinking of St. Paul's statement in Romans 1:18-23:
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles."
What does St. Paul's statement tell us about natural revelation?
God has revealed Himself to mankind in many and various ways and at many and various times, as we shall see. A basic revelation of God's existence occurs in the creation itself. Its complexity, inter-relationships, and oftentimes simply sheer beauty is an overwhelming evidence of a Supreme Creator. The appreciation of "beauty" is outside the scientific method. Yet, beauty is just as real to us as the material things around us. The human mind/spirit is itself wonderful evidence of something beyond what we can see with our eyes or instruments—beyond the modern definition of science. That should alert us that something is missing in the way science has been defined!
The common idea is that science, while it doesn't claim to have all the answers, is better at explaining the origin of the universe/world than the first chapter of Genesis. Isn't that right?
Well, that's certainly the common assumption! CreationHistory.com is founded upon the belief that a proper understanding of Scripture gives the best foundation for understanding origins. Too many have come to view Scripture as only applicable for knowing the way to salvation through faith in Christ, but it is also the foundation for a valid history of the world.
I must mention something else very important here before we go on. Dr. Strahler (whose quote I gave regarding the definition of "science") was the son of a missionary family. He later came to reject fundamentalist Christianity as he studied geology, etc. This brings up the important subject of truth verses honest hypotheses. The Bible tells us that God's Word is truth. Jesus as the living Word of God is also the Truth. What we read in the Bible is truth, but that doesn't mean Christians have always correctly applied it! In fact, history has shown the Bible has been misapplied/misinterpreted many times.
Misconceptions about the early chapters of Genesis are included. For example, it was common for Christians in Darwin's time to equate the life "kinds" mentioned 10 times in Genesis One with the biological classification of species. This was a false assumption. This error lead Darwin and others to reject the biblical account when they realized that some species can and do change. It seemed to falsify the Bible. In fact, it only pointed out (to great detriment of the Church) a wrong assumption/interpretation. Much has been said about the universal Flood that also has turned off thinking people. A number of Related Articles: Did it rain before the flood? Dinosaur eggs, nests, and tracks The time element of Ps. 104:5-9 When dinosaurs roamed TX articles… on this website discuss common fallacies of Noah's Flood and early Genesis.
So Christians need to be very careful and not speak dogmatically when the Scriptures may be vague or silent, correct?
Amen, to that! But that doesn't mean we are left "in the dark" about important creation events.
So, getting back to evidences of God's existence, how do we start?
I like to start with the three fundamental evidences of God as mentioned in Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation. The three ways are: (1) through the creation itself, as we have previously noted in Romans 1 (see also Psalms 19, 104 and others); (2) through man's conscience, and (3) especially through the Bible itself where the Creator becomes a personal God to His creation.
Would you elaborate a bit on each of the three, starting with the creation?
Yes, gladly. It seems the study of Creation has been with me since early childhood. One of my favorite Scriptures for as long as I can remember is Hebrews 3:4: "Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God." We know when we see a manufactured item that someone made it. How can one logically and rationally see the enormous complexity of the world around us and the heavens above us and not see a Master Builder? Scientism has no rational explanations—only vague theories which can't be proved scientifically.
How do atheists get around something that is so obvious to the rest of us?
Well, it's not easy! To give you just one example, I was recently reading an article written by an MIT professor, Dr. Alan Lightman, entitled "Does God Exist?" He makes no bones about being "...an atheist myself. I completely endorse the Central Doctrine of science." He defines the Central Doctrine of science as follows: "All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe...Revisions are part of the process of science and do not undermine the Central Doctrine—that a complete and final set of laws does exist, and that those laws are inviolable."
So what does the "Central Doctrine of science" have to do with God's existence?
Here's how, in Dr. Lightman's own words: "Tucking these axioms under our belt, we can say that science and God are compatible as long as the latter is content to stand on the sidelines once the universe has begun. A God that intervenes after the cosmic pendulum has been set into motion, violating the physical laws, clearly upends the Central Doctrine of science. Of course, the physical laws could have been created by God before the beginning of time. But once created, according to the Central Doctrine, the laws are immutable and cannot be violated from one moment to the next."
In short, if God does exist, He didn't have anything to do with the universe after Creation?
Yes, that's exactly what he is saying! This coincides with the modern definition of "science" which automatically rules out God acting now in time and space. You can see that it leads to complete atheism. It's a universe where God is nowhere around, or at most, just sitting on the sidelines watching the universe roll by.
So, what do you say to someone like that?
The Bible reveals that God is both the Creator of all things and Sustainer. He's not on the sidelines. It's due to Him that all things continue to exist.
Nehemiah 9:6 says: "You alone are the LORD; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things on it, the seas and all that is in them, and you preserve them all."
The other aspect of the "Central Doctrine of science" that assumes a lot is the phrase that the "laws are inviolable." Obviously, this is meant to rule out miracles. For example, when the Bible says that Christ changed plain water into good tasting wine, that has to be wrong according to the Central Doctrine. We can't make water into wine, but God can. Those at the wedding who tasted that wine tasted something beyond the "Central Doctrine of science." Isaac Newton (a strong Christian) pictured the universe acting like a giant clock that God has wound up and left to function according to natural law. This was one of the major errors introduced several hundreds of years before Darwin that helped pave the way for atheism, although Newton didn't intend it. Scientists now acknowledge the Newtonian laws are only useful to a degree in understanding how the universe operates.
Are the "laws" of the universe not inviolable?
The Biblical worldview holds that God is both Creator and Sustainer. Only God is revealed in Scripture as unchangeable. It never says the universe and the laws within it are unchangeable. It's well-known that the useful amount of energy in the universe is decreasing and in time everything is headed to a dead stop. The energy originally needed to get the universe "going" was enormous! Where did it come from? Who gave it a "push"? Now, it's in a process of running down. The Bible pictures the earth as growing old as a garment. Change is taking place. It's not an eternal universe as the ancient Greeks taught.
God has set order into His creation so that man can study it and make use of it. The modern progress afforded by engineering and technology is not due to the theory of evolution. It's due to God's orderly arrangement so man by his God-given senses and abilities can make and accomplish things.
Should we assume that nothing in these "laws" ever changes? Physicists deal with what are called physical "constants." The constants are mathematically based. Anyone who has taken physics in school knows mathematical equations are a major part of the study of physics. It's now becoming clearer that the supposed "constants" aren't necessarily constant in value after all.
It's assumed, for example, that the speed of light has always been what it is now (except for the first few seconds of the supposed "Big Bang" origin of the universe). The speed of light is just one of assumed physical "constants." One researcher, Barry Setterfield, has written extensively on the subject.
One of the next great revelations of science will likely be to discover that the so-called "constants" aren't really constant at all. There is a strong case for the current "fine tuning" of the universe's laws. It's quite possible that the current "fine tuning" is just one set of the constants that acting together in union would also preserve life as we know it.
What would be the significance of the "constants" actually changing in union?
Advances in knowledge have often been made by people on the fringes of commonly accepted "science" of their day. Recently, some have pointed out how scientific instrumentation has strongly indicated that the speed of light has been dropping. This implies that the "constants" have all been changing as well (to keep every constant in the same ratio). A lot of understanding about the past drastically changes, if this is true.
For example, if the speed of light were once drastically higher, the rate of radioactive decay would have been greatly accelerated in the past. The ages given by radioactive minerals would thus be highly skewed, giving false immense ages instead of the correct, shortened, biblical chronology. If true, radioactive dates could actually prove useful in biblical, geological studies. While not showing absolute calendar dates, they would give a sequence of events in the geological record. The Bible provides a basic timeline backdrop since Creation Week for further matching.
Here is personal communication I had from Mr Setterfield on August 11, 2013:
"As far as the fine-tuning of the constants is concerned, the usual argument states that any major changes in the constants would make life impossible on earth, or something similar. As it turns out, however, the constants can change. Provided that they change synchronously and in such a way that energy is conserved in the process, then there are essentially no problems. Thus, for example it can be shown that Planck's constant, h, multiplied by the speed of light, c, must be invariant, so hc is fixed. Thus provided that changes in c are accompanied by inverse changes in h so that h is proportional to 1/c, there is no problem. In addition changes in the electronic charge, e, must be accompanied by changes in the electric permittivity of free space, E such that e2/E has a fixed value. Since the fine-structure constant, alpha, combines hc and e2/E, then it follows that alpha will be constant also (except in very strong gravitational fields where changes are, nonetheless, minimal). Furthermore, atomic masses, m, must vary in such a way that mc2 is a constant. That is to say, energy is conserved atomically so that m is proportional to 1/c2. All these are among the changes that occur when the strength of the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) varies. Theory and data indicate that the ZPE strength will increase with cosmic expansion. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful when using the fine-tuning argument to show the uniqueness of present conditions for life."
So, where does that leave the Christian and the biblical worldview?
Actually, in very good shape! When all is said and done, it's those who rely only upon observation and repeatable processes who end up scratching their heads over the fundamentals. What is light? What is gravity? What is life? Where did all the physical laws come from? How did everything we see originate?
Long ago the Roman philosopher Lucretius said that "nothing can be created from nothing." Yet that is what we are led to believe by the currently popular Big Bang idea. It says that the entire universe came into existence out of nothing. The Bible, on the other hand, says: "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Heb. 11:3).
Matter and energy are creations of God that define our time and space. God commanded the universe into existence, but not out of what is visible. Modern theories of cosmology say the universe is acting as though most of it (96%) is "dark energy and matter." This supposed "dark energy and matter" can't be measured by any known scientific tool. But dark energy and matter have to be there to explain the effects seen in the universe. This would imply that most of the universe is invisible to us. This is now accepted in science, but to say that you believe in an invisible God who created and still sustains all things, well, that's NOT acceptable in popular science!
But, don't both modern-day science and the Bible say all things had a beginning?
Yes, in that way they are in agreement. The ancient Greek idea of an eternal universe is no longer generally accepted. But, what is more rational to believe? Everything came into being ultimately out of nothing, or that an ever-living, all-wise, all-powerful Creator God brought the universe into existence out of what is not seen? It's an insult to God to discount His Creation by believing everything came out of nothing by itself; but, it's also a terrible insult to our own minds.
The Roman philosopher Cicero who lived just before Christ's birth asserted that "there is no tribe so civilized or so savage as not to know that it should believe in a god" (Cicero, The Laws, 1.24). St. Paul's condemnation in Romans One of those who suppress the knowledge of God applies today, but in a more subtle way. Science instead of making idols of stone in effect says the elements of stone once somehow spontaneously formed the first life. An ancient Israelite prophet records God's words that are still fitting: "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!' Can it give guidance?" (Hab. 2:19). Spontaneous generation of life doesn't happen. Life only comes from life and God is the Prime Life Giver.
Life only from life is a true scientific observation. To believe otherwise is trusting in wishful thinking.
Let's move on to the second fundamental evidence of God's existence, man's conscience.
Dr. Martin Luther nearly five hundred years ago commented about those who say there is no God: "There are, to be sure, some people, for instance, the Epicureans, Pliny, and the like who deny this [God's existence] with their lips. But they do it by force and want to quench this light in their hearts. They are like people who purposely stop their ears or pinch their eyes shut to close out sound and sight. However, they do not succeed in this; their conscience tells them otherwise. For Paul is not lying when he asserts that they know something about God, 'because God has shown it to them' (Rom. 1:19)." (Lectures on Jonah [German, 1526], AE 19:53-4.)
Scripture reveals, and our experience substantiates the reality, that a universal moral law is engrained within man's mind. We are born with it. Every nation knows it is wrong to murder, steal, etc. (Only how they choose to deal with it—or attempt to discount it -- differs.) How did universal moral law originate within man's conscience? Why do we even have a conscience, if we are nothing but evolved elements?
Why are we predisposed to see the evidences of design in the natural world pointing to a Master Designer? Some recent scientific studies show a natural "god consciousness" within us. Long ago, St. Augustine wrote: "You [God] have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rest in you." (Confessions)
This verifies St. Paul's statement to the Romans: "They [the Gentiles to whom God originally didn't give the law as He did to Israel at Mt. Sinai] show the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them [due to various applications of the natural law]." (2:15)
So far, we have looked at the creation itself and man's conscience as evidences for God's existence. What's the final one we will examine?
The last one is the best one. It's the way that the Creator and Maker of all things, including our conscience, has chosen to reveal Himself personally. The natural knowledge of God through the Creation/conscience doesn't get us personally into contact with God. It's the difference between merely marveling at a wonderfully constructed building and actually getting to personally meet its architect! In the Word, God personally comes to us.
What do you mean by "the Word"?
The Word has been revealed in two ways: (1) the written Word—Scripture, and (2) the Living Word—Jesus Christ. The Bible was written over a time span of around 1,500 years or so by many authors. But the important thing to know is that: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (II Tim. 3:16-17)
In the two main divisions of Scripture, commonly called the Old and the New Testaments, we have been given a history of Creation and various events from Creation Week through time to a future New Heavens and a New Earth. Genesis 1:1, the first verse of the entire Bible assumes God's existence: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
However, the over-all theme of the Bible is God's plan for mankind and how God Himself has rescued man from eternal separation from Himself due to man's rebellion against his Creator. This atonement (think: causing an at-one-ment between God and man) was accomplished by the Creator Himself coming down from Heaven and being born of the Virgin Mary, living a sinless life, taking the sins of all people on Himself at the cross, and then proving Himself as the Son of God by a resurrection from the dead. It's a love story unparalleled in human history. How Christ before we knew Him, and before we ever appreciated His sacrifice on the cross, determined to carry out the will of the Father on our behalf.
So, this brings the whole question of God's existence down to the physical, material level, right?
Yes! God has not only given us the natural revelation of His existence through all the marvels of His creation and our consciences, but He has personally visited us in The Person of Jesus.
St. John writes:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." (I John 1:1-4)
So you are saying that the ultimate evidence of God's existence is in the historical Person, Jesus Christ?
If you will remember, man's current "scientific" objection to knowing whether or not God exists is founded upon, as Dr. Strahler was earlier quoted: "Supernatural forces, if they exist, cannot be observed, measured, or recorded by the procedures of science...." In the Person of Christ, that "Supernatural force" came and lived among men. His ministry was complete with many supernatural signs (healing, calming the sea, etc.). But, the ultimate sign was His death and resurrection from the dead. No one can do that naturally.
That all sounds excellent, but what about today? Jesus isn't here for us to touch Him, etc.
The explosion of early Christianity's growth was due to the witnesses of those who saw the risen Christ. That growth has continued for the past nearly 2,000 years based upon the witness of the Scriptures and the lives of those in whom Christ now lives.
That's an amazing statement! You say that Christ lives in people today?
Yes, that's the amazing promise and truth of Scripture! Upon becoming a Christian through baptism, the acknowledgement of our sins, and faith in Christ as the One who has delivered us from our own sins, the promise is the indwelling of Christ through God's Spirit.
Paul again sums it up well:
"Knowing that a man is not justified [made right with God over past wrong doings] by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law [we can't save ourselves by doing good deeds], for by works of the law no flesh shall be justified.... For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Galatians 2:16, 19-21)
So within the very lives of Christians is the indwelling evidence of God's existence?
The Bible pictures us as being born spiritually dead, that is, cut off from God. God's will is to restore that relationship through the works, death, and resurrection of Christ. This transformation from spiritual separation from God to a restored relationship is called a rebirth.
It's all God's doings, through the workings of the Holy Spirit. While we still don't see God in His glorified form (it would be fatal to see God in His glorified form), we experience His power in us to change our lives and live as He would have us live.
"No one has seen God [in his glorified form] at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we [the apostles and others who had seen Christ before His return to Heaven] have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." (I John 4:12-16)
Are there also other evidences of God's existence?
Christ's birth was foretold by many Old Testament prophecies. Whole books have been written about the fulfillment of these prophecies to the exact letter in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and kingship of Christ. Fulfilled prophecy is another great evidence of God's existence.
"'Present your case,' says the LORD. 'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King. Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable." (Isaiah 41:21-24)
This is only one of many instances where God directly speaks to us in the Bible. The Bible is written by inspiration of God's Spirit who led the writers of the various books in the Bible to record an accurate message. It has proven out time and time again to tell of real places and real people otherwise long forgotten.
We believe in faith what God has inspired to be written in Scripture. But, it is not a "blind" faith such as the evolutionist must have to believe in a godless origin and continuance of all in the universe. There is no evidence that the non-living can give birth to the living, yet atheistic evolutionists must believe it has happened. The major types of life forms appear suddenly and fully formed in the fossil record. Only minor changes are noted, and the Bible allows for a variety of life developing from the original "kinds" created. There is no known mechanism for evolution to occur beyond very limited changes. Again, this agrees with the Genesis 1 record that says life was created to reproduce only within certain limited "kinds".
So, is it the evolutionist who says God doesn't exist or have any part in the Creation that has to have the most faith in his godless theory?
Exactly right! I for one don't have enough faith to believe that everything came into being by itself—the laws of nature, energy, matter, the almost unbelievable number and complexity of life forms on the Earth, the human body and mind, etc.
In closing, listen again to something God speaks to us in His written Word:
This world is in the process of passing away. A new heaven and a new earth is around the corner. The Lord of lords and King of kings says: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work." (Rev. 22:12) While salvation is a free gift from God, He also promises rewards for faithful service after being saved.
If you have not already, may you heed God's call. Begin a new walk with your Creator/Savior/Friend. He is anxious to call you His own.
"Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other...Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.'" (Isa. 45: 22-24)
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