Science and Faith

A great debate broke out at our breakfast table this morning. My four year old son, now sporting a brand new light sabre, went to great lengths to prove to my other two boys that “the force” from Star Wars was not real. He even went as far as opening the front door, raising his hand towards it in an attempt to close it using “the force.”

“See, it doesn’t work!” was his conclusion. My middle son ended the debate with some wise words: “Aidan, we are just pretending that it is real.”

There is an ongoing debate that has recently made the headlines again: evolution. Here is a continuing debate which I wish would abate! If you pay attention to the debate, and only the debate, you may begin to think that all scientists lack faith, and that all Christians lack respect for science. But there are many of us Christians for whom there simply is no debate. Science and faith do not conflict for us, but rather harmonise and even support each other, with the views of science fitting quite well with the Biblical teaching on the beginning of the universe.

Personally, I find it a more fruitful exercise discussing the existence of “the force” with my boys than arguing about evolution! And in addition to Christians that have a deep respect for science, I suspect that there are scientists who nurture a deep faith in Christ.

Before I became the pastor of Fourth Avenue Baptist the question was raised as to my beliefs regarding science and faith and the beginning of the world. Interestingly, no one thought to question my views on how science and faith interact with regards to the end of the world. Why do we never think of that?

My seven year old son has a favourite book about space. It has quickly become a favourite book of mine also as the books I tend to read never come with pictures! This book has an interesting section on stars, including our sun, which points out in a matter of fact manner that our sun will go out some day. According to a purely scientific worldview, the possibility of life on earth will come to an end. This means, of course, that according to science there ultimately is no hope for the future of humanity.

One writer, about two thousand years ago wrote: “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22 New Living Translation).

These are the words of the apostle Paul, who presumably was not smarter than a fifth grader in matters of science, but who did speak about the end of the world – but with hope! Here again we find science and faith relating well together, and saying much the same thing – “there was a beginning, there will be an end.”

But where science simply states a fact, faith gives hope. We were created with and for a purpose. “The end” is as much an end for life and humanity as childbirth is the end of a pregnancy. There is something better ahead.

Some, however, may think of faith and the God of faith to be as real as “the force” of Star Wars. Perhaps, like my son, you should open the door, and give it a try. You might be surprised!

(written for the Glebe Report, May 2009)

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

A Baptist pastor speaks of a woman who approached him with an unusual request.  She asked the pastor if she could have her baby crucified.  Though she was obviously asking that the child be ‘christened,’ the pastor didn’t correct the mix-up in words but rather pointed out that “we don’t do that as Baptists.” 

There is often much discussion as to what Baptists do and do not do.  For example some people assume that Baptists don’t dance.  While it is true that I don’t dance, that has more to do with awkwardness and a belly that keeps moving long after I’ve stopped than with Baptist thought.  There tends to be such an “impression” of what Baptists are, that we at Fourth Avenue Baptist had discussions in our church some time ago about dropping the word “Baptist” from our name.  The term Baptist has stuck though and now that we are in the process of putting up new signs we are sticking with it. 

Speaking of signs, the current debate about certain signs proclaiming that “God probably doesn’t exist” brings to light a little known fact about Baptists.  While some might think that Baptists will be at the forefront of demanding the banning of such signs, as Baptists we have a strong history of standing for freedom.   

The Baptist movement was founded in a time and place which demanded that a Christian believe and behave a certain way.  Our founding members stood up for the right to practice faith freely without interference, especially from the government.  King James was the king at that time and it wouldn’t surprise me if the translation of the Bible that he authorised has, in an ironic turn of events, found more support from Baptists than anyone else.  He was certainly no supporter of Baptists!  Baptists were not a people of conformity, or the “religious right” as is often thought now, but were rather known as non-conformists.  I tend to think that some of us still are. 

So as the pastor of Fourth Avenue Baptist, I’d like to say; “Let the buses carry the signs!”  The signs, even without the go-ahead at the time I write this, have already generated discussion.  And discussion is an area in which I believe we as Canadians need a wee bit more freedom.  We do well to discuss things like hockey, weather, politics, weather and hockey, but when it comes to faith we clam up and declare, “that’s personal.”  Yes it is personal, but why do we stifle ourselves from talking about it?  Let’s enjoy some freedom please! 

So let there be signs!  As for whether or not God does exist, all I will say at this point is “watch for the signs!”  Not the controversial signs on a bus, or the new signs in front of our church, but the signs in your life.

(written for the Glebe Report, March 2009)

Sunday’s Coming – Black History Sunday

As a new pastor in the Glebe this coming month of February will afford me the opportunity to experience something I have not experienced before in my previous churches.  At Fourth Avenue Baptist Church we are set to celebrate “Black History Sunday” on February 22nd

Having lived in fairly ‘monochrome’ places like Kincardine, Peterborough, and Pembroke, I am grateful for the kind of diversity that my children will experience growing up in Ottawa.  I am also grateful for the call to a church that regularly promotes something called “Black History Sunday” and for the diversity we find here at Fourth Avenue Baptist, in colour, music, and even belief. 

Our Black History celebration this year follows soon after a historic first for America –  the inauguration of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States.  In watching the coverage of the event I must admit feeling quite surprised.  I was not surprised that a man of colour would be chosen president.  No. What surprised me was the amount of surprise evident among Americans that a Black man was now the  president. 

I like the American penny.  Not so much because it is normally worth more than the Canadian penny, but rather because it contains those famous words “In God We Trust.”  True, it often seems that “in currency we trust” are the words that motivate so many Americans. Nevertheless, the saying is there.  Why then has America’s history shown a lack of trust?  “In God we trust” – the God who created people of all colours.  “In God we trust” – the God who is building a Kingdom for people of all colours.  “In God we trust” – the God who invites people of all colours to participate in that Kingdom.  A people who trust in God should not be surprised when a Black man leads.  

As someone who has grown up and lived most of my life mostly among Whites, I’m shocked by the shock that Barack Obama would be president.  More than that, I’m appalled when I realise the reason for that shock.  People of my own race have behaved badly, worse, people of my own faith have believed and behaved badly.  A people who trust in God should not be surprised when a Black person aspires to the highest office in his or her country.  Forgive us, Lord.  I am glad to be part of a people who trust in God and look forward to the celebration of Black History Sunday.  

You are most welcome to join us for our celebration on February 22 at 11.00 am.

(written for the Glebe Report February 2009)