As a kid I was embarrassed that God seemed to be at odds with the perspective of people I thought were intelligent. Silly questions like “If God is omnipotent, why is there suffering?” led to more detailed inquiries about evolution, science, and social concerns. As I matured into an engineer, I started to meet people who brilliantly worked at the cutting age of space, flight, and healthcare, while maintaining amazing respect for our creator. I have been blessed with the opportunity to apply science in practical ways in my life, so I am disappointed some “scientists” win arguments by simply making people feel stupid. Regardless of your background you do not have to accept information that people cannot defend in simple concise terms. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
While working for Lockheed Space Systems in Colorado, I reached a turning point in my life that finally gave me peace about the co-existence of science and religion. Ironically enough, God did not work through a rocket scientist to bring this revelation, instead it was a Methodist minster who cleared things up for me. He basically said the Bible is not as much about the “how’s” in life, but much more about the “why’s”. I took that to mean we did not need to focus on the bible for detailed explanations about the development of our universe, but should look at it for guidance on how we should approach the way we live. That being said, I am amazed in the number of times I read a passage of scripture that seems on the surface to be scientifically simplistic, but upon further review I see it was actually more accurate than I originally assumed. If you want to learn more about the depth of scientific information in the bible, I find the “Acts and Facts” publication to be very useful in this endeavor .
Another key to my development as a Christian was realizing the message of our faith is simple: accept Christ’s gift of salvation, and through that love you will be changed. You do not have to be a genius to be a Christian, which makes the gospel accessible to everyone. This also means Christian’s are not perfect, so do not let people disappoint you, but look to the bible for what the faith is really about (Acts 17:11
). To paraphrase another pastor, you may be an amazing person, but you make a terrible God. I mention this because there are many instances in our history where Christians (and atheists) have let us down. The important thing to remember is this is not a reflection of God, but is a result of free will and living in an imperfect world.
The following list of questions and responses are just a starting point to address perceived differences in religious and scientific perspectives, which I hope to expand on as time permits. In all likelihood some will disagree with my perspective on these ideas, but fortunately this is not an exercise in pride, but is a chance for us all to learn. If you take nothing else away from this post, please remember you do not have to be embarrassed by your faith, and you should not be fearful of science. NASA astronaut Col. Jeffrey Williams said it best, “If you have a presupposition that excludes the possibility of a god, that excludes the possibility of supernatural acts, and that [believes] everything has to be explained just with natural processes, then you’ve basically limited what you can let the objective observation of science tell you.” [1
Q1: Is there a God?
You may be surprised, but there is mathematical proof that God exists. In 2013 several computer scientists used a Mac computer to come to a numerical conclusion of Gödel’s ontological proof, which through modal logic affirms that if God is the greatest being we can imagine, he must exist. This is a gross oversimplification of the concept, but what is fascinating is my entire life I have been told there is no way to prove God exists, yet Gödel passed away only months before I was born, so this mathematical thought has been around my entire lifetime (and very possibly yours). If we think about the existence of God from a truly mathematical standpoint, Pascal’s Wager illustrates that we have everything to gain by believing in God, but nothing to lose (except our pride). Realistically though, even non-Christian’s recognize pride is a weakness, since it lets you live in ignorance, keeps you from learning, and can keep you from preparing for the future. [2
Q2: If God exists and is omnipotent, why is there suffering in the world? (Matthew 19:26)
One of the greatest gifts we have been given is arguably free will. Free will allows us to chose whether we have a relationship with God, enables love, and unfortunately allows us to do things that are less constructive. I have heard religious people blame natural disasters on God, as if he goes around judging people using his massive power, but this is counter the amount of patience and compassion we have been told God has. The God we learn about in the old testament is still able to intervene through any means possible, and I believe the very existence of our solar system illustrates his omnipotence, but I imagine he is blamed for a lot more than is reasonable. A pastor in our community once conveyed this by saying God works some of his best miracles through other people. He mentioned the planet has ample resources to support our population, but starvation is still a reality across the globe. Hunger is not an issue because of God’s inability, instead it is an unfortunate commentary on our lack of communication and unwillingness to make a difference. I am no better about this, but it does make me realize I need to allow God to work through me.
Q3: How can God have a personal relationship with me, if I am only one person out of billions? (Deuteronomy 31:8)
It amazes me how our perspectives change over time. Through experiences we expand our world view from a 1 dimensional childlike perspective to understanding more dimensions (maybe 10+ if you’re a physicist). Edwin Abott does a great job of explaining how we need to change our perspective to get a glimpse of how God can have a relationship with each of us. Imagine a two dimensional world defined by a sheet of paper where there is a stick figure guy. Now imagine a stick figure girl on a separate piece of paper, and imagine there being many sheets of paper between these two paper worlds. Now imagine God as a three dimensional person who can pass through these paper worlds. The worlds may just be separated by the thickness of a sheet of paper, but the two stick figures have no idea the other exists. They do however see God pass his hand through their worlds, but they only see a cross section of him. He can be closer to each of them than they will ever be to each other, and there could be thousands of stick figures living in their separate two dimensional worlds that he is able to be close to at all times. We know that God exists in a higher dimension than us, since he is outside the dimension of time, so rest assured that even though we cannot fully imagine what God looks like from our limited perspective, he can still be near and dear to each of us at all times. [3
Q4: Is there an eternity? (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
I recently heard a profound pair of analogies from Chuck Missler on eternity.
The first image helps us change our view on eternity from having lots of time to actually being outside of the dimension of time. Imagine the perspective of a person watching a parade, which we will assume is someone’s life. As each float (or event) passes by, the person can view chronologically the entire parade, or lifetime. Now imagine the perspective of someone outside of the parade, who is viewing it all from a helicopter. They see the entire lifetime as a whole, and do not have to wait to see what is next, or remember what has already passed by. This perspective helps to make sense of the progression of our lives, and how God could know every detail about our past, present, and future, without impacting our free will, since he is outside the dimension of time. (Jeremiah 1:5)
Before going into the second analogy, I want to bring up the concept of mass (how much matter – something you can touch – an object has), and how it is tied to time through Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. This sounds fancy, but the concept we want to take away from this theory is that time can be altered by gravity, which is a function of mass. A corollary to this is that if something does not have mass, it does not experience the passing of time. Where Dr. Missler takes this is that our thoughts do not contain mass (you cannot measure them in terms of matter), so conversely they are not subject to time. The first time I heard this, I was sincerely blown away and very skeptical at the same time. The reality is that you can measure time pass at different rates based on where a clock is in relation to the Earth’s radius (i.e. time passes faster at higher elevations than at sea level). Being able to observe this proves that time is subject to the Earth’s mass and gravitational pull. It also makes sense that our thoughts are not measured in terms of their mass, or in other words you cannot touch thoughts. Tying these two ideas together brings you to the interesting conclusion that your thoughts are eternal whether you want to accept it or not. The analogy used to solidify this is that of a computer disk. If you put a blank disk on a scale it weighs the same as a disk that is completely full of data. You could place millions of bytes of data on the disk, perhaps the operating system and files for a computer, and it would not change the measurement on the scale. Now if you think about it, our thoughts, experiences, and our eventual life are similar to software. These memories do not contain mass, and from a physics standpoint are timeless. Some day we hope to get an upgrade, similar to installing a computer back-up on a new machine. [4
Q5: How does evolution fit in with the bible’s discussion on creation? (John 1:1-2)
I will not act like I am an expert on evolution, but I will share the little bit I know. Evolution conjures up images of apes turning into modern day people, and anecdotally I have been hard pressed to find scientists who fully understand the theories of evolution, but many feel passionately that it is true. Science has unfortunately been overshadowed from time to time by average people taking their limited understanding of facts and glossing over the issues they do not understand. True science has to distinguish between observable / repeatable facts and ideas that are widely accepted and still being proven. For me, accepting evolution would not mean proving God does not exist, and the simple existence of an environment where chemical evolution could create and combine thousands of molecules to get to a point where there was an organism that could reproduce and allow natural selection requires tremendous faith in miracles.
To really answer this question, here’s a quick summary of what we know:
Chemical evolution is very crudely the formation of molecules and the organization of those molecules into a reproducing organism, or the origin of life. This component of evolution is something that infuriates scientists of all different backgrounds (from religious thinkers to atheists), since it is not observable. “The Origin of Life by Chemical Evolution?” does a great job of illustrating how even today this portion of evolution is being questioned [5
]. Chuck Missler also does a nice job of explaining that items such as hemoglobin and DNA would have a probability of forming by random chance of less than 1 in 10^50, which in mathematics is deemed numerically absurd [6
Microevolution (natural selection) on the other hand is observable, and holds up to scientific scrutiny. Unfortunately this information is often extrapolated to say we know without a shadow of a doubt that we came from nothingness by pure chance (macroevolution). The key to realizing microevolution should not be extrapolated to chemical evolution is the concept of Irreducible Complexity, which was created by Michael Behe. It basically says that if a complex organism is made up of elements that would have no purpose on their own, then those basic building blocks could not have come from chance. Additionally, the fossil records have yet to produce a link to support macroevolution (or in laymen terms the transition from ape to human) [7
So, from my limited perspective it comes down to this, we cannot embrace chemical and macroevolution as science, and those who do are taking a bigger leap of faith than embracing amazing design elements that are part of all living organisms on this earth.
Summing it all up…
One observation I have noticed in my life and the lives of many of my friends and colleagues is the important questions are not really about the origin of life, or mathematical proofs about different aspects of our solar system. Yes, questions like these will continue to perplex us, and if we search deep enough, we can find ways to convince ourselves that we hold the correct answers, but the real question is what am I doing to make the world a better place? If we win every argument, but lose relationships along the way, then it is really a zero sum game. Although I think there are amazing truths in the bible about how we got here, I am still drawn back to the real answer of why we are here. It is a slightly different answer for each of us, and even though our perspectives and the desire to fulfill our destinies changes as we grow older, it is important to know that even simple action to improve the lives of those around us is already a step in the right direction.
1. “Above All the Earth.” This Month’s Issue
. Acts and Facts, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icr.org/aaf