Look Up At the Stars

March 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

Starry gaze

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.”
(Stephen Hawking)

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
(Isaiah 40:26)

Sadly, the world lost Stephen Hawking, a brilliant author, cosmologist, and theoretical physicist, who died in his sleep early this morning. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Hawking lived with ALS and lived far beyond the expectations for anyone with the debilitating neurodegenerative disease with no known cure. He was diagnosed at age 21 and died at 76. Only 10% of ALS patients live longer than 10 years. Some consider this miraculous.

While Hawking ultimately rejected the existence of God, he was plagued by the same God-given curiosity we all have to wonder and explore, to look up instead of down for answers about the universe. In the end though, despite our heavenward gaze, many will miss the divine ordering of nature and God’s direction of humanity’s place within it. The apostle Paul in Acts 17 explained to the curious Athenians their own upward gaze: “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.”

Don’t miss Him!

(Related post: A Time to Dance: Finding Hope in a Season of Grief)

Digging for the secrets of the universe in South Dakota

August 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

Storm_Over_The_Badlands_in_South_Dakota,_USA

From USA TODAY Tech: “The universe as we know it shouldn’t exist. Unlocking the reasons why may depend on once again striking gold in a mine buried a mile underground in rural South Dakota. … Scientists believe equal parts of matter and antimatter should have been created during the formation of the universe. But that didn’t happen, and no one knows why. Instead, the visible universe is dominated by matter. Neutrinos may be the reason why… Over the next 10 years, workers will remove more than 870,000 tons of rock and install a four-story high, 70,000-ton neutrino detector… The project will cost more than $1 billion, but scientists hope the payoff from about 12 million neutrinos per second passing through the detector will be far larger, tantamount to striking gold on a universal scale.”(1)

The fact that there seems to be more matter than antimatter in the universe has baffled secular scientists, but only because of Materialistic or Naturalistic presuppositions, assuming that matter and nature is all there is, and that you are an accident.

From Physics.org: “One would expect the Big Bang to produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter, and, since the two annihilate one another on contact, this should have led to a universe with no particles, filled only with radiation. This problem can be solved if there exists some process that favours matter over antimatter, leading to the excess that we see today.”(2) 

Is there “some sort of process that favours matter over antimatter”? Christians believe there is a Creator who favours a certain kind of matter—us, and the universe He created to point us toward Him.

A physics community driven by the assumptions of Materialism will continue to dig for answers, this time going underground in a 10-year $1 billion search. We may discover great things in the process, but for the answer to why this universe exists, we can dig into God’s revealed Word and find it now for free:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) …God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see… He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)

An undirected, undesigned “Big Bang” should not have resulted in this universe. But this universe is exactly what we should expect if God created it.

“Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD,
and you will gain knowledge of God.”
(Proverbs 2:3-5)

1) Lackey, Katharine. “Secrets of the Universe May Lie in an Old Gold Mine in South Dakota.” USA Today. Gannett Company, 09 August 2017. Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/08/09/secrets-universe-may-lie-old-gold-mine-south-dakota/534457001/)
2) Physics in Society. “Why Is There More Matter than Antimatter?” Physics.org. IOP Publishers, Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=121)

You’re Much More Than Far-Flung Star Farts

July 27, 2017 § 1 Comment

An EarthSky report(1) tells us “Northwestern researchers found that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy may come from distant galaxies. As a result, each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. That is, atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and so on in our bodies may be created not just by stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, but by stars in far-flung galaxies.”

Messier_100_and_Supernova_SN_2006X

Put another way, we are the result of ejected gas (Ew!) from exploding stars in a galaxy far, far away. Carl Sagan famously said “we are made of star-stuff” in 1973, but the idea that we are made of the same basic elements as the rest of the cosmos has been talked about by astronomers since the 1920s.(2)

And that’s accurate, according to the Bible.

Genesis 2:7a tells us that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground…”, and indeed the 11 basic elements (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.) found in the human body are also found in the top layers of the earth. They are not just earth elements, but they can also be found in the stars.

Where God’s Word differs from Naturalistic Cosmology is not the what but the how. “God formed man” out the same stuff which He created to fill the universe. Why not? That we are beings formed by an all-knowing and personal Creator, who loves us and also wrote us into His grand story, means we have purpose and value. Beings accidentally formed by “far-flung” star farts can have no real purpose or value. Unless you’re on purpose, you can’t have purpose. A purposeful creation isn’t true because it’s a happy thought; it’s a happy thought because it’s true.

I think regardless of theistic or atheistic belief, we all know better. Most people, even after contemplating that we are merely chemical accidents still live as if human beings have intrinsic value and dignity and rights and purpose. After all, people high on Naturalism or Materialism aren’t particularly depressed or suicidal due to the logical conclusion that life has no real meaning. Carl Sagan even romanticized the brute fact that we are just materials from space: “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”(2)

Why do we hang onto this idea of lasting purpose?

There was more to God’s creation of man than forming his body from the elemental “dust”. The second half of the above verse (Genesis 2:7b) says, “…and (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Those common particles of physical substance landing on earth didn’t make us alive. There is no conclusive evidence that life can arise from non-life, especially from natural and undirected processes. Far-flung atoms sticking together cannot make a living thing, much less a rational, moral, self-aware living thing. Only God can do that, as He did when He breathed life into Adam.

At the same time, “man became a living soul.” We are alive and we are more than biology; We are body, soul, and spirit—image-bearers (Genesis 1:27) of a triune God gifted with clues of an eternal dimension (Ecclesiaste 3:11) and knowledge of a Creator, which we sometimes suppress (Romans 1:18), along with His moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). I think it’s the soul that yearns to know that we are more than just far-flung “stuff”, and that there is more to our existence than a temporal and purposeless life.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 4.49.19 PM

1. Byrd, Deborah. “We Are Galaxy Stuff” EarthSky. July 27, 2017 http://earthsky.org/space/origins-extragalactic-star-galaxy-stuff-galactic-winds
2. “We Are Made of Star-Stuff.” Quote Investigator. Garson O’Toole. June 22, 2013 http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/22/starstuff

The Image of God in Human Creativity

June 17, 2017 § 1 Comment

IMG_2117One thing a career in art and design has affirmed for me is that animals and accidents do not conceptualize and create, but human beings do. Created in the likeness of our Creator, we are, among many things, little creators.

Though God created everything else ex nihilo (from nothing), He formed man from something else He had made: the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). In John 1 we read Jesus the Creator was the Word, who was God and with God in the beginning. In John 9:6 Jesus, appropriately, used the dust of the ground to remake a blind man’s eyes. In Revelation 21:5, it’s revealed that this same Creator will “make everything new.”

From Lego bricks to medical tech to countless art media, creative work that honors God will point to goodness, beauty and truth. It will help, heal and renew. Humans, separate from the animals and everything else in creation, reflect our Creator when we ourselves pick up other materials and make something new.

Curses Foiled

November 3, 2016 § 2 Comments

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Many Chicago Cubs fans would say a curse was lifted late last night when their team won the World Series for the first time since 1908. The “Curse of the Billy Goat”(1) dates back to the 1945 World Series, when the Cubs were in game four leading the Detroit Tigers two games to one. William Sianis, owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern, tried to bring his pet goat to the game (he had two tickets). Wrigley Field told William his stinky goat was not welcome, and William pronounces the curse: “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs went on to lose that game and the series, never to see another post-season victory. Until last night, at 11:47pm Iowa time, with game 7 against the Cleveland Indians going into extra innings, when a Cubs victory broke the curse(2).

This was a welcome ending to our November 2nd, 2016, a day that began with news of the ambush-style murder of two Des Moines-area police officers(3) shortly after 1:00am. We’ve been lamenting the news of cops getting killed all over the nation, and yesterday it hit home. It was a day of mourning, of bringing flowers and other notes of appreciation to local police stations, of hugs and tears at two flower-covered street corners, of blue stripes and lights appearing on cars and houses across the city, of churches(4) like ours canceling normal Wednesday services and opening their doors for a hurting community to come and pray.

Thankfully, the alleged shooter was caught and neighbors came together to support one another, but the evil behind the killing of Des Moines Police Sgt. Tony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin is a reflection of another curse. Genesis 3 tells us about the curse over creation brought on by sin at the dawn of creation. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

I don’t want a comparison of the curse of sin to the “Curse of the Billy Goat” to make light of those fallen officers. A World Series win can’t bring them back. But maybe the Cubs’ day-ending and curse-ending victory could serve to remind us of the hope we have in Christ and God’s promises to us. Sin is the most serious business there is, and the evil and suffering brought by Adam’s sin in the beginning is part of a curse which will one day meet an end. The suffering of Christ for the sin that cursed creation will in the end heal it and renew it. “And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:5).

The truth of God’s Word bookends history; the tragedy that began the day of mankind will be made right by day’s end. In the midst of a broken and groaning world, we are “more than victorious” (Romans 8:37) with our trust placed in Jesus Christ, the one who has already proclaimed victory over sin and death. That’s a promise worth celebrating now.

1) billygoattavern.com/legend/curse
2) nbcnews.com/…/chicago-cubs-bury-curse-first-world-series-title-108-years-n677091
3) cnn.com/…16/11/02/us/iowa-police-shooting
4) whotv.com/…/community-showing-support-for-police-in-variety-of-ways

First Chapters: Confronting Creation is Confronting Christ

January 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Amazing-Nature-773

The apostle Paul famously declared in the first chapter of Romans that the existence of our Creator can be deduced from observing creation.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them…since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Rom. 1:19-20

But creation brings us further than the general revelation of God to the Gospel of Jesus. Three other first chapters reveal that in nature we not only confront God the Father, but God the Son, through whom all things were created. From John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3

“[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created…” Col. 1:15-16

“…He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” Heb. 1:2

From what God made in the first chapter of Genesis and what He has revealed about His Son, we are “without excuse” to deny not just our Creator, but our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, who was with us from the start.

Defending Your Faith: A Basic Course in Christian Apologetics

August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment

IDefending had the privilege of co-teaching an apologetics class at church, and below is about three and a half hours of audio from the course. It’s meant to be an introduction to Christian apologetics, defining the practice of defending Christianity, the role of faith, arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, Creation and Flood debates, and the problem of evil. Teaching is not my strongest suit, but I think the material and the flow of the lessons turned out pretty well (and the friend I taught with, Mark Kline, is a rather gifted teacher). Use this if it fulfills a need, and feel free to download the corresponding PDF handouts and PowerPoint slides to look at while you listen. We may do something similar to this again in January, so any feedback would be appreciated.

SESSION 1
• The what, why, who and how of apologetics
• The role of faith and reason
• The argument from reason for God’s existence
• The argument from morality for God’s existence
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 1
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)

SESSION 2
• What are the different forms of the Word of God?
• How do we know the Bible is God’s word?
• How did we get our Bible?
• Are there any errors in it?
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 2
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)

SESSION 3
• Are there ay errors in the Bible?
• God’s publishing process
– Manuscript evidence
– Archaeological evidence
– Prophetic evidence
– Statistical evidence
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 3
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)

SESSION 4
• How old is the Earth? How big was the Flood? How much does it matter?
• Too much evil and suffering in the world?
• Unanswered questions lead to atheism
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 4
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)

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