35. God who is Creator

Getting to Know God Meditations:  35. God who is Creator

Gen 14:19   “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

Isa 40:28  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Holding Back: I realize in this series I have been holding back on this particular topic because to deal with it properly means we have to not only look within Scripture but also stray outside to the worlds of science and philosophy and I felt we should do other groundwork first that we have done in the former part of the series. But it is not only that, for I am aware that in the atheistic materialistic world of science, the ‘big names’ scorn the thought of God and Him having ‘created’ this world, and so anything we say here stands in opposition to these people – or does it?

The Biblical Testimony: Well, let’s start off with the testimony of the Bible. It is strange that the first person in the Bible to declare this truth is an unknown Priest-King called Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) which is then picked up by Abraham (v.22) and is clearly believed by a number of other people in both Old and New Testaments. Of course the first two chapters of Genesis lay down the first challenges to us, being two records of God’s activity, Genesis 1 laying down the order of things coming into being (which evolutionists would not disagree with) and Genesis 2 giving a different slant on how man – and woman – came into being. Now it is fairly clear that these two accounts are not meant to be scientific accounts because they don’t have that sort of detail, they are more generalizations with focus, if I may put it like that.

The Conflict of Creation: There are at least two conflicts we need to consider. The first is about ‘the beginning’.  On a point of awareness, please note that actually Gen 1:1 does NOT start right back at the beginning; it starts with a formless earth, which science suggests is a long way down the line from ‘the beginning’. Current scientific thinking (and it could be different in twenty years’ time) has come around to thinking that indeed there was a beginning before which nothing existed. It didn’t used to, it used to believe that everything had always existed. Let me explain. The idea of the ‘Big Bang’ as a starting point first came in 1931 from a Belgian priest and astronomer, Georges Lemaitre – the universe expanded to its present state from an infinitely small, hot and dense particle. In the 1960s, scientists discovered ‘cosmic microwave background radiation’ – the leftover energy signals of the Big Bang. In 2003 a mathematician and two physicists were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary, i.e. a beginning.

Now philosophically this is jumping out of one frying pan into another. If the concept of a world that had always existed wasn’t bad enough, the thought of the world not existing and coming from absolutely nothing is even more mind-bending, because the one thing our intellects tell us is that it is impossible for ’something’ to come from absolutely nothing. Take away ‘energy’ and take away even an infinitely small particle so you have ‘nothing’ and there is no rational explanation that ‘something’ could come into being to then cause a ‘big bang’!  Unless there is what philosophers call the Uncaused First Cause – God!  This (He), they say, must transcend space and time, since it created space and time. Therefore it must be immaterial and non-physical. Finally it must be unimaginably powerful, since it created all matter and energy. Now are we  beginning to see something of the wonder of the God we have been talking about throughout this series?  The Bible doesn’t tell us how God created the world beyond the fact that He did, and because He is so powerful, when He says a word, it happens! Oh my goodness, Genesis 1 is completely in line with modern scientific philosophy!

The Conflict of Humanity: In “A History of the World,” the writer/TV presenter, Andrew Marr, is remarkably honest: “There are almost no historical arguments as complex and heated as those about modern man’s origins. The reason is straightforward: scientific advances in the study of human DNA and in the dating of bone fragments and other material keep challenging, and sometimes overturning, earlier theories.”  Renowned theologian Alister McGrath writes, “It is certainly true that the natural sciences aim to offer the best possible explanation of the world, and that they have had considerable successes in doing so. But there are limits to this. The scientist regularly has to propose certain ideas that certainly fit in with experimental evidence, but that cannot be proved, and are thus taken on trust.

May I suggest that Adam and Eve are certainly two historical characters who appear in a long, long line of human beings but they are mentioned, and their activities are mentioned (the Fall) in the Biblical record. Why? Because the primary purpose of the Old Testament is to reveal a family line through which God would reveal Himself to the rest of the world, that eventually became Israel. The goal was to show God’s unique dealings with a group of people in history.  The genealogy lines go back to Adam and follows a specific strand of his family tree, flowing through Abraham, through David and so on, simply showing a specific people who had dealings with God for a specific purpose. Hebrew writers, we are told, were not like modern historians and only included what names became obvious to simply show the direction of a family tree. From such Biblical genealogies, it is not possible, therefore, to work out time periods.

Mesopotamia, the obvious site of ‘Eden’, from the geographical descriptions given, is still frequently referred to as ‘the cradle of civilization’. Coincidence? The question of whether Adam and Eve were the first two human beings as we know them today or whether they were some way down the human chain, will not be resolved this side of heaven. However, read the accounts more carefully and different interpretations can be given that allow time periods or different ways this all worked out, ways that are quite reasonable and yet different from our traditional approaches. Consider chapter 2, in verse 7 we have ‘a man’ indicating a beginning but in verse 8 we find “in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed,” but ‘the man’ could mean simply ‘the mankind’, or even one branch or one individual from wider mankind.

Purpose: We must not lose sight of the overall purpose of Genesis, as we suggested above, to first of all show God’s involvement in bringing the world into being and then taking a particular strand of humanity to the fore to become a specific group (family, then nation) who related to Him. Ancient Hebrew writing does not seek to dot all the I’s and cross all the t’s but to lay down a general picture of the plans and purpose of God that was there overseeing it all. Evolution? No problem if it is God-directed evolution instead of the full-of-holes-random evolution. Your only problem is whether your starting place (and it does tend to be this with most people) is God or ‘nothing’. Nothing makes no sense and refuses any sense of meaning and purpose in life except what we conjure it up to be,  while the existence of the God we have been describing makes sense of it all and, strangely, everything conversely points back to the existence of God.

Eve? One last ‘anomaly’ to satisfy the critics, that of Eve. Coming out of Adam’s side? Refocus: we said neither chapters 1 nor 2 of Genesis seek to be scientific accounts and therefore (and remember what we said in Study No.5 about what is called ‘the doctrine of divine accommodation’ which can be expressed as ‘God’s communications with humans are always limited to their current capacity to comprehend’) it is not going against the grain to suggest that in the same way that prophets used picture language and Jesus used parables, the description of male and female origins is a mystery that only makes sense when you say, ‘God made us different’; how is irrelevant. It is interesting to note in passing that one of the areas of evolution that people steer clear of, is that of how gender came to be. Think about the male and female physical makeup that is seen across the spectrum of us and animals and try to reason how it could possibly have come about in evolutionary stages and you realize you are on a nonsense search. No one has come up with a credible solution. So let’s not be too hard on parable / personification  or whatever other linguistic device God used to convey, “I made them different.”

And So? One final thought. I find it fascinating watching people argue in this area. There are those who argue because they don’t want God to be the answer to all the questions and there are those who argue because they do want Him to be so. We have to ask, what is it in us that makes us want to disprove His existence and involvement in all these things? The only answer is the Bible’s answer, Sin – that propensity towards self-centred godlessness. We argue to a place of meaninglessness because “I want to rule my life”, not because we really want the truth. As someone once said, ‘the truth is out there’, but actually it is in here in the Bible. Some of it needs interpreting and that’s where we’ve often got in a twist, but most of it is simple and straight forward and the message is the same: God is, He is here for us, He loves and which is why He made us. Yes He IS the Creator of all things. Hallelujah!

53. Drowning in Knowledge (1)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 53. Drowning in Knowledge (1)

Psa 90:2,4 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God….  A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

Quick Recap: We are still in the series about ‘ongoing redemption’ but are now looking at those things in our modern world that have a tendency to swamp or drown the unthinking believer. They are things I have observed the younger generation struggle with because they have been insufficiently taught both the Bible and about these things. The older generations struggle more at a sub-conscious level because these things have subtly become the atmosphere of modern life and they have a tendency to stifle belief and faith, but so slowly they are often hardly noticeable.

Today we move on to consider the subtle way big numbers in science, big people in science, or even big theories may appear to some to bring challenges to the truth in such ways that they stand above contradiction. So let’s be like Hans Anderson’s little unknowing boy in the story of ‘The Emperors New Clothes’ and ask some challenging question about things that are cast in concrete as far as modern science is concerned. Now I have to say from the outset that everything our leading scientists say may be absolutely right. It is unlikely because science has a history of changing theories and ‘facts’, so we should hold these things lightly. We won’t know the truth until we get to heaven.

Way Back! Let’s start with a history book on my shelves entitled “A History of the World”, an authoritative and comprehensive work. Page 1, line 2: “There is the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.” Page 1, second paragraph, “We could start more locally with the early history of Earth, beginning some 4.5 billion years ago.” I’m never sure about billions or trillions but Wikipedia says a billion is a thousand million. (Trillion = a million million).

Measurement: Now I am not a scientist, but my understanding is that we measure these periods not by a time machine but by observing an ‘expanding universe’ and extrapolating backwards in the assumption of a uniform continuation of movement to a point derived mathematically to have been the point of origin (The Big Bang). The other way of determining age is by carbon dating (used for objects less than 50,000 years old) and radiometric or radioactive dating, both of which assume a uniformity of decay.  Notice my emphasis on the word ‘uniformity’ which makes all we are saying here pure theory – you cannot prove it, you have to assume the uniformity and once you do, then, yes, it works. As I said before, they may be right, but it is a fool who is dogmatically certain.

‘Big Time’: I have a problem with “4.5 billion years” because it is utterly meaningless. It is merely a figure on paper (or screen) and although that figure is then broken down into smaller chunks of ‘events’, it is absolutely impossible for the human mind to grasp the concept of a million years, let alone 4500 million years. You and I struggle to envisage a hundred years. We do it by filling it with events. My wife and I have been married 45 years and we make sense of that time by going through all our past diaries and filled ten sheets with things we’ve done in that time.

Stephen Hawking was the expert on time with his book, “A Brief History of Time”, bought by many, understood by few. My only problem with people like Hawking or Einstein, is that with brains the size of a bus they are beyond contradiction by the rest of us mere mortals. If, as some predict, we will live longer and longer lives, if I were able to live another hundred years (more ‘time’) I would break a habit of a lifetime and lay a bet (who would take it?) that another genius will come along and question the current theories of all of these great men – but of course that is heresy in a scientific world that worships these men uncritically.

A Crutch for Evolution: I don’t have a problem with the theory of evolution; it may be the way God brought the present world into being, but I doubt it (note that would have to be ‘guided evolution’). I say that because there are so many holes in it that any intelligent critical person (not a negative person, but a person who questions, which is what is missing in life today) will say, “Yes…. but!” You know the biggest ‘elephant in the room’ of evolution that evolutionary scientists struggle with – biological sex! If you dare think about it, the very concept of male and female ‘complementary equipment’ as coming about through survival of the fittest, is pure nonsense.  I leave you to seriously ponder that one.

But the thing about evolution is that it only becomes vaguely credible if you have staggeringly big times to play with, for ‘accidents’ to happen, for mutations to die out or develop. It isn’t just a case of this is how it happened, it is a case of this is how it would HAVE to have happened. It is only when you think about millions and then billions of years that you have a big enough, long enough laboratory for the necessary changes to come about. If one day some super-mathematician appears and says, “The maths is all wrong; here is a viable alternative,” or scientists suddenly find that uranium breakdown occurs in spurts rather than uniformly, and both conclude that the age of the earth is say ten thousand years (now currently a scary, stupid or impossible thought) suddenly evolution would be in trouble, even more, impossible.

I am simply setting up what ARE possibilities to challenge the set mind, the mind set in concrete that is thus not ‘scientific’. When Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” he perhaps unwittingly laid down a challenge to mathematicians and scientists generally, because at the moment, people (clever scientists) are persecuted for saying of modern scientific dogma, “I’m not sure about that.”

More Big Figures: It is big figures that intimidate us. Try this from a book of science on my shelves; this is about the ‘Big Bang’.  Health Warning: “A yoctosecond (ys) is a septillionth of a second or 10–24 s”. Can you think that small? Here’s my science book quote, starting to explain the Big Bang: “At the moment of the Big Bang, the entire Universe was much smaller than an atomic nucleus. Within a tiny fraction of a second, it underwent an inconceivably rapid expansion called cosmic inflation”.  Additional notes suggest that the temperature was “100 trillion trillion deg.C”.   Hullo? Is your mind still switched on? Well, let’s see the additional note of how fast the first change took place: “a hundred-billionth of a yoctosecond.” Wow! We saw how small a yoctosecond was just now and now you’re saying a hundred billionth of one septillionth of a second!  That was only the first part of the explanation of the Big Bang; there are four more stages of incredibly short periods of time, but you can do you own research. But I do like the word ‘inconceivably’ in that quote above.

Why all this? Why have I bothered to fill this Bible-blog with scientific information? Very simply because I find that when books baldly state these sort of things, people generally, let alone believers, are intimidated by the ‘fact-ness’ of print, the certainty of modern science. When it comes to Christian believers, it is almost natural, when looking at the short period of history covered by the Bible and the Bible’s lack of scientific detail, to wonder about the reality of all that we have been thinking about to do with ongoing redemption in this series. I will say it again: the numbers are meaningless, the results of mathematicians’ and scientists’ speculations, sounding so credible – if only we could understand them. I am not saying don’t believe them, but I am saying hold them lightly, see them as theories that are not so set in concrete as many would like to suggest, and see them (IF they are true) as explanations of how God made the world.

The God-Perspective: Our starter verses attempt to poetically convey something of God’s greatness: Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God….  A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”  Not an explanation of how, but simply an attempt at conveying greatness.  The apostle Paul suggested that all of ‘Creation’ reveals the might and majesty of God (Rom 1:20).

The modern atheistic scientist (and many aren’t) seeks to explain the world in purely ‘mechanical’ terms so that there is no need for a God, because if there is a God that you and I speak about, that would lay a question against that person’s life – how should I live in the light of the knowledge of the existence of such a Being? – and many people don’t want their lives directed by someone greater than them. Outlook is often not formulated by facts (which so often need interpreting) but by personal prejudices and fears. How does Genesis fit into all this? We’ll look at that in the next study. Meanwhile, keep a clear head, do not be intimidated by great men, great brains, great theories, and great numbers. They may be right, and they may not, but put them all in perspective before the greatness (size and majesty) of Almighty God and we just find a marvelous world brought about by a marvelous Creator who deserves our worship, and in that, nothing has changed.

 

1. Creation

Meditations on “The Big Picture” 1. Creation

Gen 1:1    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Having recently taken a break to slowly meander through the first two psalms, it may appear going from the sublime to the ridiculous to now go to examine the ‘big picture’ of the Bible but as I was watching a preacher and congregation interacting recently it made me realise afresh something that I have seen before, that so often Christians have never been taught the ‘big picture’ of the whole Bible and do not see the logical flow of revelation from Genesis to Revelation. So here goes! Each ‘meditation’ is more of a potted study covering a big issue or big step in the Bible that is important if we are to understand the whole. So we will start at the beginning and work through to the end taking giant steps, and all the way through I will seek to show how the one study fits the whole.

The starting point obviously has to be Creation – the bringing into being of everything that is. It is the greatest challenge to the human mind, that there is an Almighty God and He and He alone is the cause of all that is, however big it is (millions of galaxies) or however small it is (I have lost track of the latest ‘small’ matter scientists discover!). The Bible declares this is the handiwork of God. I have written previously of the conundrum of the ‘Big Bang’ the insolvable mystery of creating something from absolutely nothing (see Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 4. A Big Bang) so we will not go there again in this study.

Here, I think, we should just focus on the Biblical testimony and you will either believe it or not. Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis appear to give a double view of the Creation by God. Genesis 1 shows seven ‘days’ of creation. Again whether these mean seven literal periods of twenty four hours that God took to bring it all into being, or He took seven days to reveal it to Moses or ‘days’ refers to long periods, I confess does not bother me. Whether it was guided or godless evolution does concern me because the Bible says God did it and if He guided evolution (which has much fewer problems than survival of the fittest evolution) that doesn’t bother me. God, being God, could have brought everything into being in a split second or He could have spent millions of years doing it; He is capable of either. The issue is whether He did it or it was pure accident. Without Him we are pure accidents and things such as morality, meaning, purpose, beauty etc. all evaporate.  That is the logic of an impersonal beginning.

Genesis 2 focuses on the man and woman God creates and the New Testament has a number of references to Adam and Eve as two people who lived in time-space history. At some point in the whole Creation exercise two people are brought into being who are described as being made in the likeness of God. I take this mean they have some of God’s characteristics that differentiate them from all other living creatures; they communicate with complex language, and have complex thought patterns, they plan, they scheme, they organise, they write, they compose, they invent, they discover, they worship – all of these things lift them higher than the animal kingdom. But Genesis 2 also reveals a relationship between them and God; this perhaps is the greatest thing that differentiates them from every other creature – they are beings who communicate with and interact with God. In Genesis 5 the word ‘created’ appears 3 more times and in Genesis 6 one more time. Moses uses it again in Deut 4:32.

Those other carriers of the inspired word of God, the prophets, also attested to this truth, for example, The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isa 40:26). Seven other times Isaiah declares this truth – God is the Creator of all things.  The Son of God himself declared the same truth: “those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equalled again.” (Mk 13:19)  The apostle Paul likewise declared it, speaking of “God, who created all things.” (Eph 3:9)  In John’s vision we find the same truth being heralded in heaven: “for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev 4:11)

Back in the Old Testament, Melchizedek … blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen 14:18,19) What an intriguing revelation brought to Abram who had encountered the Lord but presumably had not yet realised His greatness. This truth also appears among the Psalms. In Psa 136 the psalmist exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord, “who by his understanding made the heavens…..who spread out the earth upon the waters, ….who made the great lights….. the sun to govern the day….the moon and stars to govern the night.” (Psa 136:5-9)  What is interesting is that it flows on recounting other historical happenings, and therefore the inspired writer sees it at a clear and distinct historical event, not some made up fairy story.

But how about the bigger picture? Is this all there is to note? No, there is an intriguing passage in Rom 8:19-22 where the apostle Paul uses such words as, “The creation waits in eager expectation … the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Whatever the broader picture has to do with salvation, Paul is indicating that the world, as it is at the moment, is in an incomplete state; there is more to come. Thus as we get to the end of the Bible we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” (Rev 21:1) The truth is that this present world is not all there is or is to be.  There is an air of mystery about it because it is not completely clear, but there appears a new heaven AND a new earth that will be different from the present ones where the Lord will be in the midst and there will be no more sin or sorrow.

In the faith series we came across the following: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us (Heb 11:39,40) Whatever we experience in this present world, is only a glimmer of what is to come. Praise and thank the Lord by all means for the wonder of this world, it’s beauty and its variety, but be ready to be blown away with a new world to come in eternity that will be just so much more wonderful. Hallelujah! And then a final thought to evoke even more praise: have you ever realised that God uses time-space history for at least two environments (heaven and earth) where He can interact with the human beings He has created. Creation is about a communication environment.

4. A Big Bang

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 4 :  A Big Bang

Heb 11:3    By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

If you are a Christian, at some point in your life there came a big bang. Your life was disturbed. It may have been very simply when a Sunday School teacher was teaching and you suddenly realised you had a need and you had to ask Jesus into your heart to be your friend. It may have been in your teenage years where you suddenly found yourself convicted that you were not the good person you thought you were, and even though you had made a commitment as a child you needed to make something much deeper, much more meaningful now. Both those descriptions, that are fairly common for Christians, describe my wife. Or perhaps you were in your twenties and somehow or other you heard the Gospel and realised that the speaker was describing your very inadequate life, a life that fell short in so many ways, and realised you and God were poles apart and that needed to change, and you bowed and prayed and surrendered to God and took Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. That again is fairly common for Christians, and that was me.

I remember a man I knew at work, late middle aged, a good friend but an atheist, and an out and out atheist who made fun of my beliefs. To cut a long story short he found himself sitting at the back of a half hour lunchtime Bible Study I was leading in the basement of our workplace and it just happened to be on John chapter 3, all about being ‘born again’. I don’t think I was at all persuasive but half an hour later this hardened atheist walked out a born-again Christian. What happened? A big bang! Something exploded his hardened beliefs of years, and the truth got to him and something in him said, ‘yes, this IS true,” and on the basis of that he committed his life to the Lord. Just like that.

What I have been describing is what theologians call ‘saving faith’, that inner urge that will not be satisfied until it has ‘sealed the deal’. How does it work? I believe it works first with a hungry heart. Second it works when that hungry heart is confronted with the truth of God’s word. Third it works when the Holy Spirit says to that person, “Yes, this is true. You know it is true. You know you have to respond to it. You’ll never be happy until you do.”  Well it may not be those exact words but the sense will be there. It is what we call ‘conviction’. It is a sureness about something unseen, a strong hope about the future, and as we respond to it, it is what we call faith. There has to be the response to the word, to the truth, otherwise it isn’t faith, but when you came to Christ you had saving faith and it was helped by the Holy Spirit.

Now you may guess that I’ve also been setting you up to look again at our verse above, about believing that all things were made at God’s command. We believe this because the Bible says it – God spoke and everything came into being.  We live in an interesting part of history where science has talked itself into a corner and is now feeling embarrassed. When I say ‘science’ I really mean modern scientists. A hundred years ago it was different to today. A hundred years ago I believe the general consensus was that the universe had existed for ever. That made no sense to us because our minds really can’t grasp the concept of ‘for ever’ but that’s where they left it.

Since then scientists have said, no, there are signs that the world is expanding and if you work backwards there must have been a time when there was a big bang and everything came into being. In fact we can work that out back to the second after it happened. We’re fairly sure about that. OK, supposing that is so, what was before the big bang. Well says this atheistic scientist, we don’t believe in any mythical being so it happened out of nothing. Pardon? Nothing? You mean ‘nothing nothing’ as Christian apologist Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to say?  One moment there was absolutely nothing, no energy, no vacuum, not even a single molecule, and the next moment that was matter flying in all directions getting bigger and bigger and eventually turning into life-giving organisms to produce what we today call ‘life’? You ask me to believe that? Can you explain that? Well, no, but that’s where we’ve got to.

And they are embarrassed because they know that for centuries science has taught that for there to be ANY movement there has to first be a mover. For anything to happen, there first has to be an originating ‘something’ but if there was materially nothing (and a material world includes energy) then that ‘something’ had to be something other than the material world we know today. It does not prove God’s existence but it strongly challenges the atheistic scientific viewpoint which is in limbo at the present.

Do we need to squabble over how God did it? Seven days of revelation, seven periods of twenty four hours or seven eras?  Don’t divide yourself from your brothers and sisters over something that cannot be proven, but rejoice in the fact that GOD made everything. For myself, the theory of evolution has so many holes in it that I am happy to leave people who do believe in unguided evolution in the same way I would leave flat-earth people – hang around long enough folks and one day you’ll stand before the Creator of all things and then you will KNOW – but of course that is a statement of faith!

2. Not a Lonely Machine

Meditations in Meaning & Values   2:  Not a Lonely Machine

Eccles 1:5-7  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

In 1967 Arthur Koestler wrote a book called, “The Ghost in the Machine”, the title coined by Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle, and is really about the mind–body relationship. Both believed that the mind of a person is not an independent non-material entity, temporarily inhabiting and governing the body.  The title of that book could equally apply to the idea that deists have, that there is a God but he sits at a distance allowing the world to just continue on as a machine. Indeed the concept of the world as a machine is common to many modern thinkers.

In this they have good company in Solomon as he writes Ecclesiastes. In our verses above there is this sense of a world that just keeps on and keeps on, doing the same thing all the same with no change, a meaningless world. His reference to the water cycle is of course accurate: streams flow down to the sea, the sea evaporates, the water vapour forms clouds, the clouds cause rain and the rain falls on the ground and eventually runs into streams which run into the sea……

Yes, that is how God has made it to work but merely because that is so, it doesn’t mean that is how it always was, or always will be. This mechanistic deist or even atheistic world view forgets, ignores or maybe is ignorant of certain things.

First of all it all had a beginning. For modern scientists it is the ‘big bang’ but what they struggle with in their materialistic searching is what happened a second before the big bang.  They are in a scientific cleft stick because on one hand they maintain that for anything to happen, there needs to be an originating force but supposing there was a big bang, what was before it? One of the crucial things we struggle with is the concept of ‘nothing’. The atheistic scientist would like to tell us that before the big bang nothing existed because if ‘something’ existed it would just push their search back a further stage, but the problem is that if there was really absolutely nothing (and Christian philosopher Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to call it ‘nothing nothing’ to emphasise the point) we cannot conceive of something coming from absolutely nothing.  Absolutely nothing is a concept beyond our imagination and something coming from it is impossible – unless the something before it was God. Where did God come from, asks the sceptic? I don’t know; I said there are things beyond our conceiving. All we have is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)  God did it, on purpose.

The modern scientist, if he is an atheist, wants an impersonal mechanistic beginning but if such a thing was possible then it would be absolute chance that brings it about and everything that follows would be absolute chance, and absolute chance rules out meaning and purpose and that would be all well and good except we all live our lives as if there is meaning and purpose to them. That is the greatest mystery: why? The answer has to be because the personal God gave us that sense. There was a beginning, a beginning with personality behind it, that of God, a beginning with a purpose and a meaning, not an accident.

On an earlier day Solomon had compiled the book of Proverbs and there he had personified wisdom (that later revelation reveals was the Son of God) and there the Son says, Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Prov 8:30,31) What a beautiful picture of God, Father and Son, working together to bring into being this world in ways that defy our intellect, a world from nothing, but rejoicing together, “rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Nothing impersonal about that; they enjoyed bringing it into being and enjoyed what they made. Nothing about a ‘miserable old God’ in that!  Indeed when they had done it, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31) It may be a stretch of the imagination to see the Father turning to the Son and saying, “Good job son!” but it does have that feel about it. So this world had a beginning, a personal one and that is important.

But poor old Solomon has this fatalistic feeling that this ‘machine’ is going to go on for ever and ever. Actually no! This world has a limited duration, not because it will wear out or run down but simply because one day the Lord is going to say, “Enough!” and we find at the end, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Rev 21:1) We don’t often think about this, perhaps because the Jehovah’s Witnesses go on about it but the truth is that there is coming ‘the Day of the Lord’ a day of great accounting and then these things follow. Now whether these are things that will happen in chronological order or they describe the process we go through after we die, only time and eternity will tell, but the big point is that the present world will not remain.

Does this mean that like Plato and his followers we tend to despise the material, despise the present physical world?  No, definitely not!  This present world is God’s gift to us and we best enjoy it when we enjoy it in parallel with enjoying God. It is a wonderful world; yes it is a fallen world and sin and Satan spoil it, but as children of God we can enjoy to the full the wonder of this world that God has provided. So even if it is the water cycle, the next time you think about it, rejoice and give thanks and say, “Lord, thank you for the wonder of this, that you have given us water to enjoy in so many ways – to drink, to mix with so many other things, to swim in, to sail upon, thank you that it is here for our enjoyment. Hallelujah!  A lonely machine?  No way, a wonderful world given by God and…..  no, I’ll save that for the next one!

7. It’s all from God

Meditating on the Gems of the Bible:  7. It’s all from God

Gen 1:1   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

We live in an age where the voice of the authority of the church has diminished and the voice of atheistic scientists and atheistic media people prevail. We need to recognise that as we approach this incredibly simple verse right at the beginning of the Bible, a gem that must stand out in the darkness and scream volumes of truth at us. The verse above is neither scientific nor non-scientific. It simply states a basic truth. The people I have referred to above will do everything in their godless, self-centred attitudes to explain the world without God. In fact some of them have been blatant about that and said whatever else we might believe we cannot believe in a God. At least that is honest and out in the open but in itself it is a denial of the scientific approach that says we must be open to whatever we find in our researches.   But people say these sorts of things because they know that if they recognise a superior Being then surely that Being will have the right or authority (by being superior) to be able to say how we should live – and people don’t like being told how to live! So this meditation is not for silly people who deny their own scientific presuppositions, it is for people who might be open to consider all the possibilities.

Now from the outset let’s acknowledge that this verse doesn’t say how God created, simply that He did. I would love to believe that He started everything off down an evolutionary path except evolutionists insist that it is a mechanical process where survival of the fittest rules. If that is so then it is pure blind chance that we have ended up in the way we have; we could have gone off on a myriad of alternative paths, but the trouble is that that leaves us a creatures of pure chance and words like meaning, purpose and beauty have no meaning in such a context, yet everything within us screams out that they do. We deny we are meaningless results of random chance.

The whole evolutionary idea worries me. When you sit down and think dispassionately about the very workings of survival of the fittest it demands incredible leaps of faith. And no one has yet to give me and adequate explanation of how sexual reproduction developed where two very early ‘things’ in the evolutionary chain remained the same but took on exactly opposite features that, when developed, would come together to produce the next generation.

Another of the massive leaps of faith has to be in respect of carbon dating. Here we stand at a tiny piece of time and assume that decay is uniform over millions of years. Think about it in detail and it starts taking on an Alice in Wonderland feel, because we don’t have a clue what might have happened a million years ago that makes it all needing to be rethought. It is another of those assumptions that we have to make in the face of much unknown and because it is unknown we don’t even know that it is unknown!

And then the further we go back the nearer we get to the great impossibility. Here we have, in present thinking at least – and it may change, the belief in the Big Bang and I am neither denying not challenging it. Maths, they say, can take us back to a millisecond after it happened, but before that we are still left with a conundrum. Francis Schaeffer used to point out the folly of this. He said imagine nothing, not a vacuum but, as he put it, “nothing nothing”. It is very difficult for our finite minds to even grasp that concept of there being ‘nothing’ for usually we think of space and lots of it. But space isn’t nothing; at the very least it has light pouring through it.

Take away the myriads of stars, the myriads of constellations, take away everything we can comprehend and imagine nothing – really nothing, there is nothing there, absolutely nothing. This is important to grasp. One primary thing that science tells us is that for there to be movement of any kind there has to be some originating force, energy, call it what you will – but it is not ‘nothing’ ‘Nothing’ can produce nothing. It’s the very logic of our language, our thinking, our understanding. Nothing comes from absolutely nothing. Don’t talk about atoms and molecules or even smaller units because you are still talking about matter, you are still talking about ‘something’. Our minds can’t grasp the meaning of the absence of ‘something’ and yet we talk so easily about this big bang as if it will eventually explain what was before it but we cannot grasp the concept of absolutely nothing, and then absolutely nothing changing to become ‘something’.

And then we come to Genesis 1:1 and are confronted with the concept of God at which point some not-so-wise smart-alec asks, “So who made God?”  Look we just agreed that we cannot grasp the concept of absolutely ‘nothing’ so why be surprised that we cannot grasp God and His origins – or not-origins! The best I can manage when I struggle to ‘define’ God in terms to try to satisfy my materialistic scientific friends is that God is “energy with personality” and yes, I know that raises just as many questions but that is as far as I suspect any of us can go. God is Spirit, the Bible says, but I’m not sure what that means. I believe it but don’t ask to me to define it beyond what I have just said.

If science has to make so many assumptions and ends up scratching its head when it comes to the ‘nothing into something’ part, why is it so difficult to belief there is a God who is defined by His acts as revealed in the Bible and at the end of the day (to use a more inappropriate cliché) simply accept that ‘He’ is all powerful and the One behind all that we call creation? Answer: because the moment you do you will have to worship Him, and that faces us up with a challenge that is more about us than it is about Him!