In the age of religion, science was viewed as heresy, if ever its discoveries or theories conflicted with scripture. In the age of science, religion is irrelevant. Or so it seems.
In a recent Huffington Post article, “Stephen Hawking: Big Bang Didn’t Need God,” Hawking asks, “Why are we here?”
To me, this question is a deeply spiritual question. Religious? I suppose it could be construed that way. Had Hawking asked how or when or in what manner we are here, then his question would not pack the spiritual punch that it does. WHY implies purpose. For what purpose do we exist? This question moves beyond the realm of repeatable experiments, sensory observations, data analysis, and the like.
The article doesn’t indicate that Hawking spent much time on attempting to answer WHY. He does, however, ask, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?”
Great question, Hawking. Too bad so many people look to religion to find an answer. One of the main points of contention I see between science and religion, is that religion, particularly Christianity, allows the Bible to be more influential in the understanding of Who God is and what God does than the actual Word of God. Let me explain, borrowing the words of Ian Barbour (in context below):
Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (Ian G. Barbour)
The Bible – A witness or record of redemptive events in which God is revealed
The Word of God – God’s love and forgiveness, mediated to us in Jesus Christ, confirmed in us by the Holy Spirit
Do you see the difference? God’s heart is not leather-bound ink and paper. When people try to limit the majesty and wonder of creation to the book, they lose sight of the wonder and majesty of creation. Likewise, when people try to limit their understanding of WHY creation exists to science, they lose not only the answer to the question, but the question itself.
Regarding origins, Hawking ditches earlier theories that have since proven to be impossible and proposes that “time began at the moment of singularity, and this has likely occurred only once” and “multiple universes are created out of nothing.” This sounds remarkably like the Bible.
In his blog, JOHN MACARTHUR: EVERYTHING EVOLUTION CAN’T EXPLAIN IN GENESIS 1:1, MacArthur writes,
Herbert Spencer, a non-Christian scientist, hailed as one worthy of many prizes in science, died in 1903. His greatest achievement, Herbert Spencer, was that he discovered the categories of the knowable. That is to say he determined that everything that exists fits into one of five categories. This was hailed as a massive, massive cataloging of realities. Spencer said, “Everything fits into one of these categories, time, force, action, space, matter,” and was hailed by the scientific community.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning,” that’s time, “God,” that’s force, “created,” that’s action, “the heavens,” that’s space, “the earth,” that’s matter. Everything that Herbert Spencer discovered in 1903, or before that, was in the first verse of Scripture.
Unfortunately, MacArthur mixes really cool observations like this, that have the potential to reveal how interdependent scientific and spiritual concepts really are, with other ridiculous nonsense like the following:
If we want to understand creation, if we want to understand origins, if we want to understand how the universe came into existence and everything that is in it, we have to look at theology, not science. And the source of theology is the Word of God in which God speaks. The Bible is not theory, the Bible is fact. The Bible is reality. The Bible is truth no matter what subject it addresses, but particularly with regard to origins since no one was here when God created, we have only His eyewitness account.
Theology literally means “study of God.” Although scripture surely is included as “a” source of the “study of God,” it definitely is not “the” source. Yes, God is revealed in scripture. But so is genocide and slavery and a lot of other bizarre, unholy, disgusting, UNGODLY God-stuff. The source of the “study of God” is the Word of God, that is, God’s love and forgiveness, mediated to us in Jesus Christ, confirmed in us by the Holy Spirit.
Do you see how MacArthur interchanges “the Word of God” and “the Bible”? I’ve done the same thing myself. But I’m making a conscious effort these days to differentiate between the two, because Christianity as a religion has exalted a book and their interpretation of it over Jesus Christ, Himself.
We must be able to understand the difference between:
A. The inspired truth in the book – the spirit of the law
B. The book itself – the word of the law
One way to make progress in this understanding is to stop labeling the two concepts with interchangeable names. The spirit of the law is demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ. The letter of the law is demonstrated to us by the words on the page. The former trumps the latter, as is evidenced in the parable Jesus told about the Good Samaritan, which Jesus tells when an expert in the law tries to lead Jesus into a verbal trap – to openly contradict the law of Moses and justify the hostility of the all the other law-worshipping religious experts. In this parable, the law-breaker, the guy who does not subscribe to a strict, wooden, literal interpretation of the words on the page, is the hero. But is he really a law-breaker? I guess how you answer this depends on whether you interpret the Bible as MacArthur does or as Jesus does.
I’ll close with this, from the Hawking article:
In another observation of modern religion, Hawking noted that in the 1980s, around the time he released a paper discussing the moment the universe was born, Pope John Paul II admonished the scientific establishment against studying the moment of creation, as it was holy.
“I was glad not to be thrown into an inquisition,” Hawking joked.
It’s time for believers to recognize the great service science has done and, God willing, will continue to do – revealing the absurdities and incongruities inherent in the letter-of-the-law worldview.
I disagree with Hawking regularly. I disagree with MacArthur regularly. The Word of God helps us to “test everything” these men say and “hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). To ensure that when I write “Word of God,” readers know what I mean, I’ll reiterate:
God’s love and forgiveness, mediated to us in Jesus Christ, confirmed in us by the Holy Spirit helps us to “test everything” these men say and “hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Related: Those Who See May Become Blind, Ten Observations from Athiests (Part One), Ten More Observations from Atheists (Part Two), Five Final Observations from Atheists (Part Three)