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Archive for April, 2012

Over the many years I’ve been writing, one post that never fails to draw people to this blog is this one: https://transcendingpeace.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/science-and-religion/

It’s a General Paper essay I wrote about 3 years ago about Science and Religion, and is still drawing viewers as much as it did then.

One thing to note is that I wrote that really from a secular point of view. Well I had to pass the exam so that’s that. But there has always been one thing on my heart- how science today connects with the faith that I have in God. As many of you would know, I love science and am planning to read Physics in university this coming August. I really enjoy rationale thinking and engaging the cognitive functions of my brain. A lot of people then, find it improbable for me to have such a strong faith in a religion that talks about miracles, cities that never seemed to exist, promotes creationism and so on.

The last few months, I have increasingly been seeing articles and comments from atheistic and secularistic (if there may be such a word) friends that have not been very sensitive to the religious community in general. I do not approve of them; not because they insult my faith, but I feel that what they are doing is not the right way of operating in a harmonious society. As much as we put down racism and defamation, the same should go for approaching different views on faith. Perhaps doing it on the Internet made them bolder, but I see no difference, Internet or physical community, we are a people trying to live together.

It was really because I saw these things that made me want to write about my views on this issue, and how my personal experiences with God have shaped them. I have been putting this post off for quite a while actually, with a few drafts lying around here and there, but I’m getting to it now. As much as I love explaining how I reconcile specific issues of faith and science, I will deal little with the technical, and more with the spiritual. I believe that all Christians will sometime in their lives, be challenged by what science presents to them, and here is how I deal with it, whatever the science.

It started off when I was about 13 years old, when my friend and I got really interested about anything and everything to do with science. As we were both in the same Bible study class on Sunday, we would ask our teacher about things like evolution, and whether dinosaurs existed. Oh those times.. I would very much like to tell you the answers that he gave us:

1) Evolution did not occur because the Bible says God created all things.

2) Dinosaurs could have existed because the Bible did say that God created all creatures, and mentioned a little about large creatures on the Earth. Since there are archaeological records of dinosaurs today, they should have existed.

Well nothing really special about them really. It’s just some answers that any other Christian could have given to me. But at that time, that was the truth to me! And I started exploring other aspects of science the same way. Now my teacher didn’t give me mind-blowing answers, but he did teach me some things about the way I approach these topics. Let’s take a look.

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1) Evolution was immediately rejected because it is contrary to what the Bible says. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you would know that I hate to make a point without any Biblical reference. In this world that troubles Christians greatly, this is the first rule I would give you, and no doubt the most important.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105

How tightly we must cling on to the Word of God today! Society tell us many things, right or wrong, they present it as true. As followers of Christ, we must only follow one truth- the Word that God has left us with. Even beyond science- we have voluntary death, homosexuality, etc. Now it is very easy to stand at a pulpit (or write on a blog) and say that these things are wrong, but they are not easy issues to deal with when it’s about a family member or a closest friend. But in all things, may the Word of God be a light for us in the darkness.

So, should we leave this issue just like that? Perhaps you could, but I could not. After examining the Word, examine your own convictions. Do you have an inward witness that confirms the Word of God? Do you feel a need to search deeper? If you do, go ahead! I believe that God has given mankind knowledge and understanding, like how He gave it to Daniel and his friends, so as to search out the things we want to understand about Him.

I went ahead to read books by Lee Strobel, Ron Rhodes, even Stephen Hawking and another book against creationism. As you read, do it prayerfully such that God can bring understanding and conviction to your heart. If I must emphasize again and again, I am truly convinced that the highest purpose of reason is the knowledge of God, that we may grow deeper in knowing Him and loving Him.

And after all the things that you have read, the Word of God always stands true, whether there are more arguments in whichever side. Many atheists may refer to this process of classic rationalization- meaning we (Christians) hold fast to one view (the Bible), and try to fit all other views to make the Bible work. I personally do not have a problem with that.

I have a good friend who is never late for appointments. Now one day I may find that he is 30 minutes late, and I am unable to contact him. Immediately I will start worrying if he got into an accident or if something happened back at home. Because of the knowledge and experience I have of his punctuality, I reconcile my reasoning to believe that it was not his fault for his lateness. In the same way, I have knowledge and personal experience of God, and can testify that He is true and living. Therefore, I have no issue aligning all evidences to fit what He has said and proven about Himself.

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Now let us move on to the second point I am trying to make:

2) The existence of dinosaurs may be considered because:
– Firstly, the Bible does not rule out it’s possibility like it did to evolution
– Secondly, there is clear and existing scientific evidence for it

Many of the comments I read today about Christianity condemn it because “Christians reject empirical evidence and depend only on faith”.

As much as I am annoyed every time I read something like this, I graciously beg to differ. I have mentioned previously that God has given us knowledge and understanding so that we can discover more about the Him and His creation. Therefore, I accept clear scientific evidence, and will readily reconcile it with my faith. You see, God and Science to me are not two different things in two different realms. God created science, and set limits on how much we can find out about it (one example is the limitation of the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle). They are to me, the same thing. I have knowledge of God, and knowledge of Science. I have experiences of God, and experiences with Science. My interaction with the physical things in this universe are a result of what God has ordained. The laws that I study today, the lights that I turn on, the natural scenery I’ve seen in Korea; as much as they are explained by science, they are also result of God’s interaction in the physical world. Thus, knowing more about science reveals more of God to me.

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.
Romans 1:20

Where does faith play a part then?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

The essence of faith is such that it must be about believing in the things that cannot be interacted with in the physical universe. Once we have clear knowledge of something, faith cannot exist anymore. If God suddenly appeared in front of me now and made it snow in Singapore, I no longer need faith in God; because now I have clear knowledge that He exists and is powerful. However, faith and knowledge are not contradicting to me. In fact, they both play complimentary roles in the Christian faith. To understand this, I often like to explain it in such a way:

Imagine a linear process, representing the nature of belief in a God.

No belief |——>—–>—–|—->—–>—–| Complete Belief

                Knowledge           Faith

Knowledge through empirical evidence and personal experiences allows me to establish a foundation of the belief in a God. When I look at the beauty of nature, the perfection of physical laws of the universe, and perhaps even verify the credibility and coherence of the Bible- these things establish a knowledge to help me form a belief that God exists. But these are not enough for me to decide to believe in a God, as I still cannot see Him physically or verify Him experimentally. Thus, based on all the empirical and personal evidences, I decide to have a complete belief in God through faith. Thus, my faith is not a empty faith in itself, but a faith based on observable and personal experiences. As we are all different, some may require more knowledge of take a step of faith, while some may decide to believe in God very easily without having to dig too deep intellectually.

So if we go back to that question, science and archaeology may verify the existence of dinosaurs, it may disprove evolution, or discover that the Earth was created by an explosive singularity, and so on.. Then, I would reconcile it with my Christian faith through what God has told me in the Bible, and whatever personal experiences I’ve had of Him. If I must emphasize again, I can do this so easily because I believe that science and all observable physical phenomena come from God. Therefore I see no sense to let them conflict in my conviction, but they should instead, be reconciled.

Now there are definitely some things that still cannot be reconciled today due to our limited knowledge. In such a case, we should not attempt to twist science or faith to make ourselves happy. I would just leave it be. The essence of faith is believing in the things unseen, even the knowledge that evades us. But because we know and believe our God to be real, we can have faith that God has the answer, and He may or may not choose to reveal it to us in His ultimate sovereignty.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

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Now I really cannot claim to know lots about apologetics and philosophy, or even about the issues in science that have an impact on our faith. I seek to reconcile for the conviction in my faith, and that I may also share it with others. I hope that the little I’ve shared today can help all those logical people and lovers of science like me, who want to reconcile their knowledge with their faith. Let us do this prayerfully, seeking God’s words to us, for there is nothing more important than that in our intellectual seeking.

I used to be really interested in all those apologetic arguments between Christians and Atheists, and really read a lot into it. I read books from both Christian and Atheist authors, and chased knowledge hungrily. But while doing all this, I left God out of the picture, and all that knowledge came to nothing much. So I’m definitely a lot more careful today.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Corinthians 8:1

So in all our seeking, let us not forget the things eternal that we were called to do, and to do all things for eternity,

“because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives 
and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”
Isaiah 61:1-2

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Is God’s forgiveness conditional?

The reaction of many Christians will definitely be a firm “no”. How could I make such a claim? The Bible so clearly says that eternal life is a gift from God (Rom 6:23), and that if anyone confesses with his mouth and believes in his heart that Jesus is Lord, he will be saved (Rom 10:9). Of course, you could say that it is conditional on us in accepting His forgiveness by placing our trust in Jesus, who dies for our sins. That is correct I suppose, but the passage that really challenged me to think about this was from said by Jesus Himself.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15

Now the question we really want to ask is: If we do not forgive others, will we be forgiven by God? What if as a Christian who has received God’s grace through faith, I find it unable to forgive someone else? Will I still be justified, or condemned for my unforgiveness?

Now if we take a look at the context of this message, Jesus was speaking to a crowd on the mountainside, and these were people who presumably were going to be saved. How could we know this? Well, Jesus directly addresses them a couple of times, implying that they are already children of God.

“Blessed are you when people insult you… because of me”.
Jesus foretold that some of them were going to be persecuted for His sake.

“You are the salt of the Earth.. You are the light of the world”.
Again, Jesus refers to the people as representatives of God, or of the Kingdom of God.

Also, when Jesus taught them to pray, He addressed God as the Father, implying a relational role of God to His people. So we are quite sure that Jesus was talking to a people who were going to be saved. How is it then, that He could tell them that God’s forgiveness was dependent on their forgiveness of others? There is even a hint of this in verse 12:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12

Is God’s forgiveness of our debts dependent on how much we have forgiven those indebted to us?

As I reflected on this issue, the first thing that God revealed to me was that unforgiveness is not just any other normal sin. It works differently. If let’s say, I curse and swear at somebody in my anger, I would later on be convicted by the Spirit that I have sinned. Then, I would confess my sins and seek God’s forgiveness, which has already been extended to me by grace. However, if my heart is in unforgiveness to another person, I would not be able to go through the same process. Because my heart is bitter and unloving, I am still in the process of sinning, and will not be able to confess my unforgiveness, simply because I have not forgiven that person yet!

Now does this mean that God’s forgiveness is withheld from us because of our sin? Definitely not! I believe that God’s grace surpasses our sin, and even the sins we are committing and the sins we have yet to commit. Now it seems that the previous paragraph was written for nothing, but I want to emphasize that the basis of Christianity is grace, forgiveness, and acceptance. Therefore as a people who are greatly forgiven by God, we are transformed into His likeness, wanting to also extend our forgiveness to others. The Bible makes this very clear in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Therefore as Christians, we forgive others, or at least make an effort to decide to forgive others, because of the love that God first showed us in forgiveness. And God will give us grace to forgive even the people who are hardest to forgive.

And now we may ask, “What was Jesus talking about then?”

I have come to believe that Jesus was talking about the forgiveness of God as a decision to extend and withhold grace and blessings to us. What this means is that forgiveness is not justification. Justification comes from the fulfillment of the law, through the blood of Christ. Forgiveness in this passage however, talks about the relationship between God the Father, and us. As we have agreed earlier, Jesus was speaking to a group of people about to be saved, and He was most likely not talking about justification in the way the book of Romans put it. In fact, Jesus was talking about it in the context of prayer! After teaching the people about how to approach God the Father in prayer, as part of a relationship that we have received by grace, He warns us that not forgiving others will harm this relationship. It will affect out prayers.

When we choose not to forgive others, even after receiving God’s forgiveness, our relationship with God is strained. Have you ever tried going to church after a conflict or argument? It’s terrible, the bitterness in my heart blocks off the love that God is trying to fill me with. I believe that is good reason for what Jesus said earlier about conflict.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

While we are justified, unforgiveness strains our ability to receive the presence of God. God may make a  decision to withhold His blessing and favour from us in a form of unforgiveness, so that He can guide His children back into loving others. It is in a sense, like the concept of excommunication. This withholding is not a result of condemnation from the law, but an act of love to draw us back to Him; back into a relationship where we can call Him “Our Father in Heaven”.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

How beautiful is this relationship, that we may have a Father who have justified us by His grace, and poured out every spiritual blessing upon us! It is in Him that we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. It is no wonder that Christ calls us to remember his death and resurrection as often as we can. For when I look upon the cross, the grace and mercy extended to me through nothing I have done, how could I hold one thing against my brother or sister? As God first loved us, let us love one anther.

(Upon reflection, I must say that God may or may not withhold His presence from us when we are in sin. I believe that God knows the times and seasons for every individual, and He will do what He wants. But I know that whatever He does is good and loving towards us. The concept to grasp here is that sin strains the relationship between God and us.)

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