AWAKENING PROLOGUE: The Dream

The sound of breath – consistent, nasally breath. A rising of the chest. A light pater of rain on the window. Stillness.

A hand. The hand of a man clenching another’s. A firm, unshaken grasp, as of two brothers knowingly hugging for the last time. The fingers squeezed tight. The fingers turned red. No sound. No smell. No other sight. Just a dry tongue and a stuffy nose.

The shattering of glass. No sight.

A gunshot. The smell of smoke. The piercing of skin. The spatter of blood. The taste of death.

The shuffle of a foot slowly approaching, dragging with each step. Such painful, slow movement. No smell. No taste.

The sound of a woman’s voice screaming to run. Such dreadful urgency.

 

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As Simple as Eating a Doughnut – As Supernatural as Your Mother

For my part, I wish the word thing was more descriptive. Some days are just plain strange. And by strange I don’t mean anything particularly unusual about the weather, events, or food. I mean that in my head things feel awkward. And when my head does weird things, usually my body starts to feel sleepy and motivation seems to run wherever I am not. This day was one of those days, except for the fact that I am going to fight this feeling of discontentment, strangeness, or whatever it is inside of me. However, I shall not do it alone.

I guess I am not doing a particularly good job of describing what it is exactly that I feel. I am not mad at God, or angry with any of my neighbors. I am not even really feeling super sad or discontent. I am resisting being grumpy, but I have to do that just about every day. It is a feeling of lack or need of one crucial thing, upon which it seems so many other things are founded. It is lack of strength. This feeling of lack, and likely it is more than just a feeling, makes everything else a little rainy on the inside and the outside. It seems that if one doesn’t think one has the strength to do anything, then how will he accomplish anything? Thus, for sure, it weakens motivation. It seems that if joy takes any strength at all, then all we have strength for is just to work against a grumpy attitude. It seems that if the next move takes any of this remaining strength, then it would be better to rest a while from any small draining activities. It seems that if it takes any work to look at the world through God’s eyes and not our own, then it would be better to let the world be a dull, dreary circle of repetition without purpose or end.

Surely and truly this is a lack of strength. And this is a weakness that God delights to give strength to. This is the weakness that God plants in us to make us trust in Him. It is a weakness that points us to how small we are, and brings us to desire Christ’s strength. In Psalm 28: 1-9, David writes, “The LORD is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.” Our weakness is where the gospel is found. Our weakness is what Christ came to die for. Our weakness is what Christ rose to destroy. Our weakness is what Christ ascended to reign over with his strength and through the Holy Spirit. Yet he did not do this so that we could be strong again by ourselves, but so that we could share in the everlasting strength of Jesus Christ, our LORD and savior.

So I exhort you to accept that you are weak. Don’t fight the feeling of lack. But one thing throw aside – that is the weight of sin which mocks you every step of the way. Throw yourself upon Christ. He came so that you could take his strength. This may seem absurd to some. How could we take someone else’s strength? And if you will answer me this, then I will answer that question. How can you take the energy of that piece of bacon you just ate, or of the cup of coffee you’re sipping on, or of the doughnut that you publicly ate three weeks ago? It is miraculous and supernatural we can say – like the daily, repetitive activities of life. We must not think that because something is repetitive, that therefore it is natural and not miraculous. If we truly believe in God, then why don’t we do as he says?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

(Matthew 11:28)

What Shall We Spend Now?

Fierce passion for the future seems to stunt the growth of the present time. Will we spend our lives constantly asking, “What’s next?” Will we ever be content to enjoy the present as if it were the current culmination of our entire lives? Does an old man wish only to see the grave?

We can’t slow or speed time, but we can choose to be grateful. We can prepare for the time to come and choose to enjoy each sunrise and sunset. We can choose to enjoy the transition from the womb to the world, from crawling to walking, from childhood to adulthood, from singleness to marriage, from little things and small tasks to big things and weighty responsibilities.

What is the joy in fulfillment if it only took a single step to run the race? What is the joy of marriage without knowing from where you have come? What is the joy of winning a battle against an enemy that you don’t know why you fought? What is resurrection without the cross? Yet we look ahead because, as the scriptures say, greater things are coming. But the cross was painful! Are we then to enjoy those painful moments? By no means! Yet we can live those moments with glory and strength, seeing their hidden beauty and concealed purpose. But we cannot live those moments gloriously if all we do as they occur is wish that they were over.

Look forward with joyous expectation. Live knowing that you have been called, placed, and by God’s grace are fulfilling your purpose. Live with all of your might now and tomorrow, not just when a desired time comes. But live with your might then, too. Fulfillment truly comes when you live every moment to the fullest. If you want to live a life of fulfillment, then, as the word seems to suggest, fill every moment full with what God has given you. Fill other people’s lives with your love and presence. Fill your own life by seeking Christ, by looking to the cross and the resurrection that awaits, and by looking to the grave and the eternal life that God has promised.

Enjoy life with the bride of your youth, as the scriptures command. Work mightily for God and others. You have been called. Be faithful. Don’t save your joy for later. Spend your love now. As the scriptures exhort, throw off the weight of sin that clings so close, and run the race with endurance, looking forward to the promised prize.

Finally, don’t ever forget from where you have come. Take time to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. You have come from nothing to eternal life, from dust to glory, from birth to death and new life, from being children to instructing children, from being married to giving in marriage, from hating to loving, from burying others to yourself being buried, from mourning for the loss of others to meeting Jesus Christ face to face, from the start of your old life to the beginning of your new life with and in Christ. Christ has done this for you. Christ has done this for us. Surely God is good! Praise the LORD!

A Brief Word on Characters, Culture, and Resolution

I have been thinking about this topic for some time, and Ant-Man, which I recently watched, provoked some more simmering in my mind. The problem: movie directors making heroes that have little moral regard and influence. It is like they are trying to get me to say, “Look, this is a good person,” despite his many flaws that are never mentioned. (Not that I should be expecting much from Hollywood) This may seem harsh, so let me clarify. I realize that there was only one perfect man that walked on this earth, and his name is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the ultimate character that, whether we realize it or not, we all desire to be like. He is love. He works through mistakes to make beautiful things. And while many of us struggle to act like him, we always fall short, because we are sinners. So I do not expect perfection in the hero of the story. However, I do expect resolution. And when I see faults in a hero that are never even bothered to be mentioned, the hero is spoiled. If I were to compare that character to myself, it would be like me living unrepentant of numerous sins and acting as if I were living like a perfectly righteous person. As the Bolt movie quote goes, “I am irked.”

Yet it seems that this type of character, which is becoming very frequent in movies, is a good representation of our culture’s moral groundwork today. Our culture’s moral groundwork is broken. Christianity use to be the backbone of this nation. I am sorry to say this, but that backbone has been ignored and mistreated, and that is visible through these types of characters. However, I am NOT a pessimist. I have hope for America and pray for her that God would lead her people to their knees in humble repentance and reliance on Himself.

What I look for in a hero is resolution. There are a few people I have met that I very much admire. One of them is my Father. He is a content man. There is something to be said about a man who strives after contentment and godliness. In that there is great gain, as the scriptures declare (1 Timothy 6:6). There are also some younger people that inspire me to act righteously. I have thought about what it is about these people that makes me gravitate toward them. I think it is that they have joy and motivation about life, and are also content with their portion. They are subduing the earth and enjoying themselves while doing so. That is a beautiful thing. No, they are not perfect. But there is resolution in their lives. Because these people strive to act like Christ, I strive to imitate them just as Paul told the saints in Corinth to imitate him and sent Timothy to them (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

The way the problem of these unresolved, morally-wanting characters is being resolved: the church is dutifully striving to create Christian culture, and she has and will continue to succeed through faith by the grace and mercy of God. All of us, as part of the body of Christ, share in this duty. We must not be content with loose-thread, good characters. The next questions then, are how do we make Christian culture, and what is Christian culture? There are a lot of other people that would do a much better job answering this question, but, in short, Christian culture is one of life, death, and resurrection. Christian culture is one that is not afraid of failure, because we know that there is someone who is greater than all of the failures of this world. How do we create this culture? We continue in faithfulness to God. We keep worshiping God and fulfilling the great commission. Faithfulness is reformation. We continue in prayer. We trust in God and subdue and take dominion of this earth. We learn to create as God creates. We learn to write stories with fierce and frightening conflict that point to a God who brings resolution to all things.

In “Art at its most basic level,” John R. Erickson writes (the article is cited below) that his small-town church played an important role in his becoming a small-town author. After talking about the infiniteness of the universe, Erickson writes that he is left speechless after reading Psalm 8:3-4, which says, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him …?” It is the life of Christ and the beauty and magnitude of creation that leaves Erickson in awe of God, and inspires him to write. May all of us be inspired in the same way that Erickson is. May we all be inspired to create and love as God does.

As Christians, it is our duty to fulfill the great commission, and as we are faithful in doing so we will make an impact on the world culture. J.I. Packer (1993) writes, “As Christians thus fulfill their vocation, Christianity becomes a transforming cultural force (p. 236).” Ultimately, as we do this, we will bring glory to God and become more fruitful and resolved characters in the process. So may we be faithful.

References

Erickson, J. R. (2016, January 9). Art at its most basic level [Electronic version]. WORLD News Group. Link: http://www.worldmag.com/2016/01/art_at_its_most_basic_level

Packer, I. J. (1993). CONCISE THEOLOGY: A GUIDE TO HISTORIC CHRISTIAN BELIEFS. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

The Flaming Gate

It was a sunny, fall day – about twenty degrees Celsius, gentle wind, partly cloudy. I watched Thomas, with key in hand, paining over which door to open. The weather helps me remember the scene. I remember he took a deep breath of the fresh spring air and slowly exhaled. From what I could tell, it seemed he knew a little bit of something about what lay behind each closed door, and he seemed confident. Yet there was a hint of atmosphere around him to the contrary.

I took a sip from a cherry-colored coffee mug. I love coffee. Sometimes I wonder if my intense watching is of the form of David’s from his rooftop. But then again, I am content and not seeking a place where I am free to condescend.

Thomas rubbed his fingers through his hair. It’s strange; I don’t remember the color of his hair. Usually, I am more intent on observing and not just seeing, but that day I guess I was a little more content with just seeing. I do, however, remember the color of his eyes. They were dark brown and very peaceful to look into.

A familiar passerby stopped to have a chat with Thomas.

“Good morning, Thomas! What brings you to the doors today?”

“Happy morning, Greg! I was given this key the other day,” Thomas replied, raising a gold, cross-shaped key in the air.

“Well, why don’t you go ahead and see which door it opens?”

“That’s the thing. I tried both doors and the key opens both. So, I don’t know which door to take.”

Greg was slightly taken aback. “That’s unusual,” he said. “No use staring at it though. You see that man over there at the coffee shop? The one with the cherry-colored coffee mug?”

“I see him,” Thomas answered. “Who is he?”

“He’s an ordinary man – just like his father was – but he’s gone through a dilemma like yours before. He was given a key that seemed to open every door he tried. A dangerous key, I think, but a fellow with wise advice and a caring heart.”

Thomas looked at the man with a steady eye.

“Don’t just stare, son. Go ahead and introduce yourself.”

“Yes, I think I will. Thanks, Greg. Have a good rest of your day!”

“You’re welcome! You, too! And remember, sometimes in situations like this, no door is the wrong one.”

Thomas, who had begun walking towards the man with the cherry-colored coffee mug, gave a solemn, respectful nod to Greg and continued on his way.

“Hello, sir! My name is Thomas.”

“Hello, Thomas. My name is Caleb. I see you know Greg Williams? He’s a good friend of mine.”

“I do! We have been acquainted for some while ever since the power outage last year. He fixed part of the line on our house. How do you know him?”

“We grew up together in the same church. His family moved away because his father was offered another job, but he ended up moving back here after graduating college, and so our friendship continued even stronger,” Caleb said, smiling. Good, old memories always made him smile.

Thomas smiled back and then grew more solemn, remembering why he had come to meet this man initially.

“Is there something you would like to ask me?”

“Well, yes. And I’m sorry to interrupt you.”

“No worries at all. Seriously, I am glad to answer any questions.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that. I was given a key the other day that opens both doors, and I’m not sure which one to choose. Greg told me that you would be able to offer me some advice.”

“You have been blessed, Thomas. Some have to wait many years before they receive an ordinary key. Yet you are also being challenged. I think, however, that it is right to think of challenge as a blessing.” Caleb paused, looking into Thomas’s young eyes. “I presume you know a little something about what lies beyond each door?”

“I do know a few things from some others I have talked to,” Thomas replied.

“Good. I am glad. The advice I have, then, is to pray for growth in the path you choose you to take. Then go to the doors and choose one. It is no fault to not choose a door, but it is a mistake to leave both of them shut.”

Thomas made a short grunt while nodding his head. “That is helpful advice. Thank you, Caleb. If there is anything you ever need, please let me know.”

“You are welcome. And thank you. I will. The LORD be with you!”

“And also with you,” Thomas replied, being much more confident now than he was before.

I watched Thomas as he walked back to the doors, and as he bowed in his head in prayer. It was that same advice I gave him that another gave me many years ago. It seemed to give him the same peace of mind that it did me, and I was and am very glad for that.

Thomas looked at each door for a few seconds, and then chose one. It’s funny; I can’t remember for sure whether he went in to the left one or the right one first. Yes, he went into both. But I haven’t gotten that far yet.

Thomas slid the key into the door, turned it and gently pushed the door open. I squinted my eyes to get a better look. It looked dark and cold on the other side, and I could see a vicious wind galloping through the trees. I was slightly taken aback when I saw snow on the ground. But it wasn’t that peaceful, first snow – the kind that everyone loves because it is so bright, quiet and peaceful. Rather, the snow was icy, and the weather was noisy and dark, very dark. Thomas stopped in the middle of the door, his body halfway into the cold world and halfway into the street he would have called home.

I remember when I went through my first door. It was a frightful experience going through the door, but my mind and muscles, and even the weather on the other side seemed to calm once I had actually made it through.

For Thomas, and even for me, it seemed as though the weather represented the battle of the mind more than anything else. I was shocked to see Thomas take a step back out of the door and then take off running north. But then I realized that he was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. “He’ll be back,” I thought. And I was right. Within a few minutes or so he came sprinting down the street in full winter garb. All the time the storm on the other side of the door raged dreadfully.

He waved at me before entering through the door again. I waved back and offered up a prayer for him. This time he did not hesitate, but ran straight through the door, and it shut as soon he was through.

“There he goes,” I thought. “Off on an adventure.”

The street was quiet and it was about midday. My coffee cup was empty, so I rose from the table to bring it back to the counter. I then proceeded to walk south on the street toward my home, where my wife was catching up with her younger sister on the phone. It is a beautiful thing to hear woman talk. Yet I don’t understand, and maybe never will, why it takes woman so long to catch up. When I see my brother our conversation is like,

“Hey how’s life been?”

“It’s been going well. God is good,” and after about ten or twenty minutes we both go and do something together if we are together, or we say goodbye until next time. Maybe it’s that they are better at talking than men are. But, I digress.

Remember I said I was shocked to see Thomas run down the street away from the door? Well, it would have looked like I was mildly surprised compared to what I imagine myself looking like after I heard that door blast back open, and saw Thomas come stumbling back into the warm, spring day covered with ice and snow. He looked completely out of place. It was like a fish had somehow made it onto warm sand and was trying to swim on it while the ocean in front of him had completely frozen over. Well, maybe not quite like that. But it was definitely out of the ordinary. I made haste to run to him and shouted,

“Thomas! What are you doing?! What’s wrong?!”

But he did not answer. He was trying to pull the door closed. The storm was howling more than it was before. As I grabbed the door handle with him to help him I looked into his eyes. The peace that had been present before had fled, and they were wet with tears. We managed to pull the door shut, and as soon as we had done so, Thomas pulled out his key and rushed toward the other. He slid the key, turned the lock, and pushed the door open as he had done before.

It was strange to be so close to him as he opened the door. I felt as he very much looked – out of place. What was I doing there? I looked into the world that lay before this opened doorway. It looked green and warm and peaceful, like that of the spring day we were experiencing, but then suddenly dark clouds appeared and a threatening wind like that of the other door developed. Thomas rushed into the open world, and from what I could tell, he was running towards a large tree for shelter from the icy snowstorm that had begun. I lost sight of him in the storm and saw the door beginning to close, and the key was still in the door. He had forgotten to take it with him. I thrust my body into the crack of the doorway still open and felt the door slam against my chest. My heart beat faster, and I could feel my naked right arm, which was exposed to the cold, being covered with ice. What was I doing there?

“Thomas!” I shouted again. “Thomas! You forgot the key!”

I wondered if it was me that was making the storm rage so fiercely now. Did he really need the key? I remembered that I needed my key for many other doors than the first one I entered through and recalled the same for others that I had talked to. “Thomas!” I screamed. “Thomas! Come back! You forgot your key!” But it seemed that there was no hope for his return. The storm thundered on.

My whole body began to feel cold and the adrenaline I had felt just a few minutes before was wearing off. But then I saw a light in the midst of the darkness of that world. It shined down from the heavens, and I could see Thomas underneath it. It seemed that he was on his knees in prayer, bitterly crying out to God. My spirit groaned in unison, and as swiftly as the storm had come it vanished and left in its wake a calm sunny day. My body began to thaw, and I could see Thomas quickly running towards me.

“Caleb!” He shouted. “Give me the key!”

It had frozen in my left hand, but the ice had melted now, and still using my body to keep the door open, I stretched out my hand towards him, gesturing him to take the key. He swiftly took it, yanked open the door, picked me up, and carried me back onto the street. He set me down in-between the two doors and then proceeded to lock both of them. After doing so, he came and sat down next to me on that dusty street.

“You saved my life, Caleb. Thank you,” Thomas spoke calmly. Tears were still dripping from his eyes. He buried his face in his hands. “I wasn’t ready yet,” he said. “I thought I was, but I must actively wait a little longer. When I entered the first door, I made it a few hundred feet to a massive, iron gate. There was a large lock on it, and I slid my key into it. It fit perfectly, but I was not strong enough to turn the lock. My fingers began to freeze, and so I panicked and ran back. The only reason I was able to find the door is because it was lit with a pure, white light. I thought I had chosen the wrong door so I moved to enter the other door. But that door led to the same place. As soon as I opened it, I saw that strong, iron gate. This time it was surrounded by fire and my heart melted within me. There is nowhere else to go except through this door, I thought. And so I ran to find shelter at the only place of refuge I saw, a mighty tree in full blossom with flowers and fruit, and with birds nesting in its branches. I knelt down and cried out to God for mercy. I didn’t hear any voice, but I felt His presence all around. The gate continued to burn and the storm raged on, but I could see the large lock on the gate melting in the flames. It was as if God was telling me that I needed to wait a little longer and he would open the gate when the time was ripe. And then I saw you holding out the key to me, and knew that it was back to the open gate of this world that I must run.

Caleb looked over at Thomas and saw again the peace in his eyes that he had seen before.

“God is good,” Caleb declared. “So. Very. Good.”

And then we parted ways. And I walked home. It could take longer than twenty minutes to catch up with my brother.

A Glorious Beauty

Written on 31 May 2014

Fall had arrived and Samuel, who loved the season of fall, was taking a walk at evening. A soft wind blew on his tan, rugged face and brawny body. Samuel stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, and for a moment he closed his eyes and slowly sucked in air through his nostrils. Walking along the quiet streets of the city he lived in, he could smell rich gardens, all well kept by the people who lived in the colorful houses beside the gardens.

Samuel didn’t have many problems in life. He was a part of a loving church, was very well off financially, and looked hansom wearing a short coat of brown curls atop his head. He thought to himself, “The LORD has been very good to me, filling my mouth with good things, yet it seems like something is missing in my life.”

Indeed, something was missing in his life; some very wonderful person was missing. He pondered hard, all the while keeping a steady walking pace. The street was quiet and the sun was near to setting. Crisp leaves wandered in the wind and their feet on the pavement sounded like the approach of shuffling feet. For a second he heard something, or at least thought he did, and jolted around quickly. But he saw nothing, so he continued walking. A moment later some thoughts came to his mind, and he spoke out loud with a tone of obviousness,

“A godly WOMAN! That is what I have failed to recognize is missing, but I know it is true! And I must learn to talk to women. If I see a woman on the street, then I must know how to carry on an ordinary conversation with her.” He reinforced all these thoughts, for, of course, he already knew that all these things were true.

As soon as he finished saying these thoughts out loud, a woman with long, golden hair stepped out from a hedge of bushes behind him. She revealed herself only because she thought that he had seen her, and she had heard only fragments of the words he spoke out loud. She had heard, “A WOMAN! I know it is true, I see a woman on the street.”

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to startle you; I was merely taking a quick stroll towards home,” she spoke, her red lips moving softly.

The startled Samuel only caught a few of her words because he was so focused on the lovely sound of her voice. At length, when he said nothing, the young woman questioned,

“Sir, are you all right?”

Samuel quickly came to his senses, “Oh . . . um . . . I too was merely taking a walk, also of course as well.”

She laughed, sensing his nervousness, and her laugh was delightfully contagious.

“Well, I’ll be on my way,” she spoke, her gentle gaze sharpened on his eyes.

“Oh my, how foolishly I have acted! Please excuse my impolite manners. May I walk you home or do anything for you?”

“No thanks, sir,” she answered, and as she smiled her cute cheeks rose closer to her dark brown eyes set in a circle of bright snow.

“Well, I have nothing but to wish you a lovely evening then, dear lady,” Samuel stated, feeling a little more comfortable.

“Thank you, kind sir! I wish the same to you,” the young woman spoke in her cheery voice.

The two began diverging from the spot (Samuel retracing his steps towards his home), but after each had traveled a few feet, Samuel turned and called to the young lady,

“Kind lady!”

She turned around to face him.

“May I ask you a question?”

“You may,” she answered, thinking he would ask her name.

“What were you doing behind the hedge of bushes?” Samuel questioned, with a thoughtful look on his ruddy face.

The beautiful lady blushed and smiled, and with an honest answer replied,

“I was hiding from you sir, but I’m very glad you saw me and that the two of us could meet.”

“But I don’t even know your name . . .” Samuel said.

“And neither I yours . . .”

“My name is Samuel.”

“And my name is Sarah.”

“Well then, Sarah, I hope we meet again, and may the LORD be with you.”

“I’m not ready to say the same, sir. But I do wish you well, and may the LORD also be with you! Bye now!” She smiled, entertained his stare for a few seconds, and then was off towards home.

Samuel stood there awed by her beauty, inspired by her lovely character, and gladdened by the sound of her angelic voice. He stood pondering on the sidewalk of that quiet street for a long while after Sarah walked away.

If you were to ask Samuel about the event many years later, he would have been able to tell you what occurred with such vividness you’d have thought it just took place. He never saw Sarah again, and though at times he longed to, he remained a content and thankful man.

Samuel realized again that day that a glorious beauty was missing from his life, and this time he began searching to find a beauty that would bring more fullness to his life. A few years later he fell in love with a beautiful woman, and together they had and raised many children, and lived happily for the rest of their lives.

Though I couldn’t tell you Sarah’s thoughts about that evening, I do remember seeing her sparkling face shortly thereafter and hearing several remarks about how happy she was. I have no doubt that she loved very well and was loved very much.

 

 

The Misconception of Science Versus Religion: A Defense of the Harmony of Science and Christianity

We don’t have to search for long to find that a heated argument exists between atheists and theists on the topic of science and religion, and specifically, the relationship between the two, as is evident in the following quotes. On the one hand Christopher Hitchens (2007) insists that “Religion poisons everything” (p. 13), and Richard Dawkins (2006) invites us to “Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion” (p. 1), and argues that God is a “pernicious delusion” (p. 31), while Peter Atkins states that “Science and religion cannot be reconciled” (Cornwell, 1995, p. 132). On the other hand John Lennox (2009) declares that “the real battle is not so much between science and faith in God, but rather between a materialistic, or more broadly, a naturalistic worldview and a supernaturalistic, or theistic, worldview” (p. 36), and Sir Ghillean Prance states that “‘For many years I have believed that God is the great designer behind all nature . . . All my studies in science since then have confirmed my faith. I regard the Bible as my principal source of authority’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 19-20). Ultimately, these diverging frameworks can never and will never reach the same convergence point. However, this is not because “science and religion cannot be reconciled” (Cornwell, 1995, p. 132), but rather because these worldviews have contrary absolutes in regards to the limits of science, for Christianity and science are reconciled systematically and historically.

Before we go any further, the question must be asked: what is science? The American Heritage Dictionary defines science as “The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.” (Morris, 1976, p. 1162). This is simple enough, but things get significantly more complicated when we start looking at differing views of what science can and cannot do. Just as there is an argument about science and religion, so there is an argument about the limits of science. Atheists say that there is no limit to what science can do. For example, Atkins says that “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence” (Cornwell, 1995, p. 125), and Bertrand Russell says that “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know” (Russell, 1970, p. 243). Their absolute is that science is the answer to all things. On the contrary, Christians would argue that the limit of science is questions of what, why, and how, agreeing, as Lennox (2009, p. 42) does with Medawar, (1984) that

The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike, elementary questions having to do with first and last things – question such as: “How did everything begin?”; “What are we all here for?”; “What is the point of living?”. (p. 66)

The Christian absolute in regards to the limit of science is that science cannot answer all things.

My point, however, is not to get into a detailed discussion about this argument, for, as I said, these worldviews cannot be reconciled. My point is rather to set the groundwork for asking an important question: Does the fact that Christians believe that science is limited by its inability to answer these childlike, philosophical questions mean that Christians are impeding scientific progress and as Philip Kitcher (1984, p. 4) would argue, abusing science? When we look at history around the time of the Scientific Revolution, as we will do, it is notable that the very rise of modern science, if not the direct result of Christianity, was heavily influenced by the Christian framework. Historical evidence about Christian scientists past and present is a clear witness against the belief held by many non-Christian scholars that science and Christianity are diametrically opposed, and historical events like the Huxley and Wilberforce debate, and incidents that occurred between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church, commonly used to support this notion, are “Myths of conflict” (Lennox, 2009, p. 23). All of these things, in addition to the logic of Christianity, prove that this view is not true, but merely a misconception.

My main reasons for arguing against this misconception are in hopes of defending Christianity as it relates to science, and also that both Christians and non-Christians alike will at least acknowledge the positive influence that Christianity has had on science in the past and has on science now. I am not advocating that any other religion reconciles science, except the ecumenical Christian faith. In fact, I agree with many of Hitchens’ (2007) statements about religion, and if he were to reshape his statement that “religion poisons everything” (p. 13) and say instead that false religions poison, I and many others would say “Amen.” Yet, by his statement, he treats Christianity the same as any other religion like Islam or Hinduism. But the Christian religion is completely separate from these religions, and regards them as false. Christians do not believe as Muslim’s in a law that takes “justice” into its own hands, nor as Hindus that “the everyday world of material objects is maya, illusion” (Pearcey & Thaxton, 1994, p. 22). Likewise, even if Atkins rephrased his statement and said that science and false religions cannot be reconciled, Christians would heartily agree. But his assertion stands, and ignores the Christian faith, which, by its nature, is in harmony with science, removing all superstition and holding not only that a triune God created the world, but that he created us in his image as rational beings for a purpose, and works providentially, powerfully “preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.” (Confession of Faith, 1979, p. 54). This belief in a God who created all things and holds them all to together, and also that we are all made in the image of God, and called, as the Scripture says in the book of Genesis, to take dominion over the world and imitate God’s creations, is the impetus that drives and motivates Christians to explore the world and vigorously pursue scientific study, assuming that the universe is orderly, and that there is a purpose for everything. The logic of the Christian religion, because of the way it portrays God, human beings, and the world, is reconciled to science.

In relation to the above paragraph and what needs to be addressed now is an argument made by Dawkins against Christianity that doesn’t hold any water. Dawkins argues that while “‘scientific belief is based upon publicly checkable evidence, religious faith not only lacks evidence; its independence from evidence is its joy, shouted from the rooftops’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 16). But where is the evidence for this claim? The Scriptures do not support Dawkin’s conclusion, and therefore Christians do not support his conclusion. Lennox (2009) argues that,

It is no part of the Biblical view that things should be believed where there is no evidence. Just as in science, faith, reason, and evidence belong together. Dawkin’s definition of faith as ‘blind faith’ turns out, therefore, to be the exact opposite of the Biblical one. (p. 16-17)

In addition, Christians, as the above quote supports and as Richard Swinburne (1996) supports, do not postulate a “‘God of the gaps’, a god merely to explain things that science has not yet explained” (p. 68), but we postulate “a God to explain why science explains” (p. 68). The fact that Christians come to science with philosophical presuppositions about God and the world does not give anyone the right to make false and unwarranted conclusions about what the majority of Christians believe. Neither, according to a traditional definition of science, like the one mentioned above, is it unscientific to believe things that cannot be defined or proved right or wrong within the realm of science. Even atheists come to science with presuppositions. For example, George Klein (1990) writes: “I am not an agnostic. I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith . . . The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.” (p. 203), and Richard Lewontin says: “‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 35), and in addition writes that “‘materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door’” (p. 36). All of these presuppositions, not fully backed by science, support the argument that science is not the answer to everything, and unless there is clear evidence, whether scientific, historical, etc., that disproves an accepted paradigm or belief, we should not go around calling other people’s beliefs unscientific. In all seriousness, to do so would be unscientific. Now let’s take a look a history.

In order to gain a dignified perspective, we must start at the beginning of what we now know as modern science. As Schaeffer (1976) notes in his book, the rise of modern science can be dated back to the lives of Copernicus and Vesalius (p. 130). Schaeffer (1976) declares that, although exceptions existed, the mentality of “medieval science was based on authority rather than observation” (p. 131), as is the foundational mindset of modern science, which was “laid at Oxford when scholars attacked Thomas Aquinas’s teaching by proving that his chief authority, Aristotle, made certain mistakes about natural phenomena.” (p. 131). Here it is crucial to note that Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste, who were both Christians, were a part of this group of Oxford scholars, and, to quote Schaeffer (1976) again, Grosseteste was the “most important man . . . who laid the philosophical foundations for a departure from Aristotelian science.” (p. 131). As these freshly laid philosophical foundations solidified overtime, experimentation and observation grew deeper roots, so allowing true science to develop and flourish.

The emphasis here is on the Christians who challenged Aristotelian principles. Clearly they played some role in encouraging and provoking the rise of modern science. And numerous scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, defend this position. Take, for example, Alfred North Whitehead and J Robert Oppenheimer who “stressed that modern science was born out of the Christian world view” (Schaeffer, 1976, p. 132), and to Schaeffer’s (1976) knowledge, were not Christians (p. 132). Lennox (2009) asserts that “at the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible.” (p. 20). And Melvin Calvin (1969) says that he found this conviction “enunciated first in the Western world by the Ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God . . . .” (p. 258), and he declares that “this monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science” (p. 258). As is evident by the work of these scholars, the research here is abundant. Clearly, the view that science and religion are at war is not true with respect to Christianity, but on the contrary, the relationship between science and Christianity seems to be characterized by fruitful peace.

This conviction that Christianity has provoked and encouraged the rise of modern science is not backed only by the views of the respectable scholars mentioned above, but also by the lives of numerous reputable scientists past and present who have sought and succeeded in developing and furthering scientific study and progress. For instance, James Clerk Maxwell wrote, quoting scripture, ‘Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them’ (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 51), Francis Bacon, as Schaeffer (1976) makes clear, confessed the Christian doctrine of the fall of man into sin (p. 134), and believed that science was a way of repairing life and taking dominion over the earth (p. 134, 140-142). In addition, Johannes Kepler wrote that he gave thanks to the “‘Creator and God’” (as cited in Pearcey & Thaxton, 1994, p. 23) who called him to his work, and Copernicus believed that “the universe was ‘wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator’” (Pearcey & Thaxton, 1994, p. 25). Many other scientists like Isaac Newton held to this Christian worldview, and Schaeffer (1976) writes that,

Indeed, the majority of those who founded modern science, from Copernicus to Maxwell, were functioning on a Christian base. Many of them were personally Christians, but even those who were not, were living within the thought forms brought forth by Christianity . . . . . (p. 138)

Likewise, present day scientists like Lennox (2009) in his book God’s Undertaker, John Polkinghorne (1989) in his book Science and Providence: God’s Interaction with the World, and J. L.Wile (2001) in his book Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity, all defend the Christian worldview. Others who hold this view are Fellows of the Royal Society of London like Sir Ghillean Prance, who was mentioned earlier, and John Houghton, who wrote “Our science is God’s science. He holds the responsibility for the whole scientific story . . . .” (Houghton, 1995, p. 59). Thus, Christians are not alone in viewing that their worldview encouraged the rise of modern science, and heartens scientists today to pursue scientific development; history supports them.

And now we come to two historical accounts that are commonly used to strengthen the idea that science and religion are at war (Lennox, 2009, p. 23). The first account took place between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo, who was, as Lennox (2009) notes (p. 24), a Christian, challenged the authority of the “Roman Catholic Church, which had, in common with almost everyone else at the time, embraced Aristotelianism . . . .” (p. 25). Without getting into much detail, a short answer to certain questions about this account is that the problem was not Christianity versus science, but rather Christianity and true science against a church that was not living according to Biblical principles.

Likewise, the second account, the Huxley Wilberforce debate, was not a battle between science and religion, but rather a debate about the Darwin’s The Origin of Species that, as Samuel Wilberforce declared he and others objected to “‘solely on scientific grounds’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 27). And, contrary to what people like Kitcher (1984) may think, Bishop Wilberforce was not vanquished by “Thomas Henry Huxley, ‘Darwin’s bulldog’” (p. 1). Historian Frank James declares “‘Had Wilberforce not been so unpopular in Oxford, he would have carried the day and not Huxley’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 27), to which Lennox (2009) responded, “Shades of Galileo” (p. 27)! Neither, as Lennox (2009) states, was Wilberforce an “ignoramus. A month after the historic meeting in question, he published a 50-page review of Darwin’s work (in the Quarterly Review), which Darwin regarded as ‘uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties’” (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 26-27), (p. 26-27). This goes to show that popular impression does not always signify truth.

On a side note, it is remarkable that before the word scientist was created in 1834, early scientists were likely to be called “churchman. Especially in the English countryside, the parson-naturalist was a common figure.” (Pearcey & Thaxton, 1994, p. 19). Please understand here that I am not arguing that good science can only be done by Christians, for, as Lennox (2009) states, it would be “false to deny that good science can be done by scientists committed to materialistic or naturalistic assumptions” (p. 36). Science is science, and as long as people are being scientific, their science worked out, as Lennox (2009) says of atheists, and which I believe can be applied to other religious groups, “will lead to the same results as science done on theistic presuppositions” (p. 36-37).

While I cannot get into all the details of history, hopefully what I have shown is enough to substantiate the claim that Christianity is reconciled to science historically. To this effect, I would like to include one final quote by historian Colin Russell, who concludes that,

The common belief that . . . the actual relations between religion and science over the last few centuries have been marked by deep and enduring hostility . . . is not only historically inaccurate, but actually a caricature so grotesque that what needs to be explained is how it could possibly have achieved any degree of respectability. (as cited in Lennox, 2009, p. 28)

In conclusion, Dawkins, Hitchens, Atkins, and anyone for that matter, have little reason to not believe that Christianity, instead of being a belief hostile to science, has been a stimulus for scientific growth. Scholars have argued such, and Christian scientists past and present support this stance. Christianity, at its foundation, destroys superstition and, as we have seen, motivates hard work in the field of science. So if somebody tells you that science and religion are at war with each other, please tell them the following. Science is indeed at war with many religions, but Christianity is reconciled to science systematically and historically. There is so much more that could be said, and if I had the time and space, I would argue that Christianity is the only religion that is reconciled to science, but let my first claim suffice.

References

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Polkinghorne, J. (1989). Science and providence: God’s interaction with the world. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Russell, B. (1970). Religion and science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Schaeffer, A. F. (1976). How should we then live?: The rise and decline of Western thought and culture. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Swinburne, R. (1996). Is there a God?. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Wile, L. J. (2001). Reasonable faith: The scientific case for Christianity. Anderson, IN: Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc.