THE QUESTIONS PROJECT: God, are you out there??

 

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For all the questions we could explore, none of them mean a thing until we come to an honest answer to this one.  Does God exist- true or untrue?

The ironic thing about this question is, it is often approached as a preference and not truth.  People would prefer there was no God, or, they’d prefer God was “not like this” or He was “like that.”  The thing is; perception can be mere preference, but truth cannot.  Truth is what is real, like it or not.

A foundational qualification for God to be God is that He is the designer and sustainer of creation.  That being said, here are some realities to consider:

  • The complexity and uniformity of the cosmos.

We have developed theories of what holds the universe together, and how and why it is expanding.  But what’s behind our theories?  The ageless predictability of basic physics.  Science claims that our solar system is 4.6 billion years old.  And since its formation, our planet has been following the same orbit around the sun.  As far as consistent laws, that’s a pretty solid track record.

The universe is said to be 13.7 billion solar years, and it too, has followed the same laws of physics.  Even as we look into theoretical physics, and alternate laws, we can only consider the alternate because the consistent has remained so consistent.  If we ever discover an alternate reality where 1+1 doesn’t equal 2, it’s only because we have known that in our physical experience, 1+1 has always equaled 2.

Speaking of the universe, with the growing convictions on dark matter and dark energy, we are beginning to understand how the universe as a whole, is connected.  The fact that our planet is at just the right, miniscule distance from the sun, isn’t just a consequence of our solar system.  It is an effect of the entire galaxy, which in turn is the consequence of all the galaxies neighboring our galaxy.  How humbling to think that a thousand, thousand stars are just where they need to be so we can be here!

  • The phenomenon of life.

And life itself consists of thousands of lines of genetic code that work by producing their own energy source as they produce bio-code and pump out the right sequencing over and over.  Not only that, they have a built-in time clock dictating when it is time for life to stop.  The chance of that happening randomly, is about the same as the computer code of your device just falling into place to produce the software you are now using.  As we so painfully know; get a few lines of code wrong and nothing works!    …The cosmos operates in systems.  Systems point to a design.  Design points to a designer.

  • God Himself, we ourselves!

But perhaps the greatest evidence of God, is ourselves.  From the dawn of humanity we haven’t been able to abandon the idea of God.  The atheist turned God-seeker, Marilyn Adamson puts her personal experience like this:

“I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God’s existence, my prayer began with, ‘Ok, you win…’ It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.”

It makes sense that if an entity so far beyond us remains a constant question, it’s not because we have reached up and formed the question; it’s that He has reached down and placed the question in us.  Of course, that’s no new revelation.  Some 5,000 years ago, a very wise king wrote, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Eccl. 3:11.

~Anyway, it is certainly food for thought to a very important question.

Questions Project: Would a loving God cast people into hell? (Part 1)

Hell_1Our question for this article is: Would a loving God cast people into hell? (Part 1)

This is a very large question.  To answer it thoroughly would involve a good deal of history, theology, and Scripture.  Even a decent short response entails more than a short article can hold, so we’ll divide it into two articles.

In PART 1 this week, let’s just qualify a few concepts that the question demands:

  1. Who/ what is the God of the Bible, and what is His deepest desire?
  2. Who/ what is humanity, and what’s our part?
  3. What is the most foundational element that makes hell, hell and heaven, heaven?

There are additional questions we could ask, but let’s limit ourselves to these.

Since God is at the center of the question, let’s start there.  How does the Bible describe God?  In a nutshell, here are a few truths the Bible claims about God: He is spirit, He is called the designer, creator and sustainer of all creation.  He is light and life.  He is perfect; He is perfect in understanding, love, and justice.  He cannot become imperfect in one virtue in order to satisfy another.  That raises an interesting dilemma, doesn’t it?  What happens if perfect love and perfect justice come into conflict?

Is that possible?  Let’s take a look at God’s deepest desire according to Scripture.  The entire Bible is a love story.  It is the story of creation’s fall from God’s design because of man, and God’s plan to restore both.  From the first page to the last, Scripture is God’s story of restoration.  In a restoration to perfect innocence, love and justice are in such opposition that only God can resolve them.

 

So what does the Bible say about humanity?  We were made in the image of God.  That is to say, we are self-aware, able to create, to love, commune, and to exert our will.  The Bible says humanity fell from God’s design.  The divine image wasn’t totally lost but distorted by the fall.  We are ALL distorted images of our intended selves.  That is the essence of sin.  Sin is to be distanced from God, and since God is life, there can be only one outcome to sin, all things remaining the same- the final outcome will be the absence of life. (“The wages of sin is death.” Ro. 6:23, Gen. 2:17; Prov. 10:16; Eze 18:4)

Man is a three-fold being; body, mind, and spirit (or soul).  Our destiny is set by all three.  We are mortal, yet we have an eternal destiny.  The soul is the seat of conscience and human will.  We know our willpower can’t control everything, but we have enough free-will to choose.  We don’t know everything, yet we know enough to be held accountable for our choices.

And finally, since God is spirit and we are spirit, there is a means by which we can connect with God… if we so choose.

If we can process these realities about God and about ourselves, we’ll be in a place we can appreciate the most basic realities of hell and heaven which we’ll cover next week.  But I will share this spoiler; the most basic essence of hell and heaven is not punishment and reward, it is something far more profound.

In part 2, the perfection of God meets the imperfection of us all.  That’s where we’ll resolve this question of a loving God and a horrific hell.  Hope to see you then as we complete this food for thought.

The Questions Project: Does God exist?

Questions_GodExistTHE QUESTIONS PROJECT: How can we know that God actually exists?

If we started with information that already assumes there is a God (i.e. religious texts) we’d quickly find ourselves in a circular argument.  Although, ultimately we end up there for details.  But we really need to start somewhere else.

Let’s start with what we can observe.  Science has opened up an amazing vista of the universe for us.  We have peered into the expanse of galaxies, and even gazed on the birth of stars.  Thanks to advanced physics and space telescopes, we’ve wrestled with dimensions and numbers of heavenly bodies that defy human comprehension.

We have also looked inward, we have found the human brain has more neurons than there are stars in the heavens.  The genetic strands by which the simplest cell is composed contain specific information more precise than the most complicated computer program.  What’s more, the microscopic “factories” that replicate this complex information are even self-powering!

How did we even discover these things?  Science relies on constant laws and systems.  Under given conditions, the same result will occur every time.  If you follow the laws of optics, we can build a space telescope.  By observing those laws we can You can focus on an object, by the constant laws of physics, you can determine the distance and size of that object.

A definition of “design” by Merriam-Webster is: the arrangement of elements or details in a product or work.  It’s an indisputable observation: the universe works.  According to science, for billions of years.  Astronomy understands it as a collection of functioning systems.

The idea of all the particles and parts of the universe organizing themselves into systems wouldn’t be a big deal if we hadn’t discovered another law of the universe called, “entropy.”  Quantum physicists like to talk about it as energy dissipated in a closed system.  But for us regular folks, it really plays out in the simple fact that everything tends to flow from order to disorder.  Just don’t clean your house for a month and see what happens. Entropy is a physical truth of the universe, and yet something drives the universe from disorder to order.

The greatest reality that flies in the face of entropy is life.  Nothing is a more ordered system of systems than life.  Even the simplest cell is a miniature factory.  Like your TV or car, all parts have to be working or it doesn’t work at all.  So for life to exits; not only must there be working systems, they must all come into existence at the same time.

Whether we are talking about constellations or human bodies, we are talking about functioning systems.  Functioning systems are by definition, the product of design.  That raises an assertion that just won’t go away.  If there is a design, there must be a designer.

Design also implies others things like intentionality and purpose.  We can be sure that whoever designed the first mouse trap definitely had a purpose in mind.

One final step in this path of reason.  Every creation is created by a designer greater than itself.  Whether it’s a mouse trap or the entire universe.  The creator is greater, or “transcends” the thing they created.  What do we call a creative entity that transcends all of reality?  We can use any label of our choosing, but the term, “God” certainly sounds appropriate.

Granted, this is only one line of reasoning that points to a Creator.  The truth is, it only takes us as far as this: such an entity actually exists.  But just the fact that there is a solid line of reasoning that leads to this conclusion should compel us to seriously search.  After all, if everything was designed on purpose and for a purpose, could there be a more fundamental mystery worth exploring?