A Matter of Faith, Part II

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that there is, for me, a disconnect between what the Church taught and what I learned in school about the origin of the creation.

From the Bible, and from church teaching and Jewish tradition, I learned that God created the Universe; that He did it in six twenty-four-hour days.  He created it in the order described in Genesis, first chapter.  The world is 5,774 years old as of this year, per Jewish tradition.  And last but not least, the fossil record is nonsense.

From school and college, and (I must confess) certain sites on the Internet, I learned that God did not create the Universe because He does not exist; although that was never really pushed, we got the idea that all the scientists believe it.  The Universe started from a singularity that contained everything, both matter and energy, that suddenly expanded in every direction through space, and at that instant matter, energy, and time began to exist (the “Big Bang Theory”); but there was no hint of where the singularity came from, since the cosmologists do not believe in an oscillating universe, that is, one that expands and then collapses back into a singularity and begins all over again.

After the “Big Bang,” stars came into being and died, forming new stars and resulting in the making of new chemical elements.  Eventually the Sun formed, and the Earth and other planets as well.  As time progressed, life formed on Earth, and the entire Earth system developed to the present state.

The age of the Universe is estimated at 13.8 billion years.  The solar system came into being about 4.5 billion years ago.  Life began about 3.6 billion years ago as extremely simple single cells.  The age of the Universe has been estimated by cosmologists using what is called the Lambda-CDM Concordance Model, and independently by others using the WMAP.  Information about both of those methods is available on the Internet.  The age of the solar system was estimated by radiological dating of meteorites and dating of the oldest rocks and substances found on the Earth.  I have not found the source for the dating of the first living things on Earth, but extensive dating has been performed on fossils.

The fossil record details, as completely as it can, the order of appearance of life and the changes in the Earth’s form and structure.  Several methods, including radiation dating and carbon dating, have been used to determine the age of various fossils.

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Thus, the difference in knowledge between the Church’s teaching and Science’s teaching, about how the Earth, and we, came to be.  It has been said that the Church teaches Who and Science teaches How.  Conservative Christians will not accept that.  Neither will strict materialists.  So what do we do about this disconnect?  Compromise?  There is “Intelligent Design”, which is acceptance of the science-how, religion-who paradigm.  More on that below.

Today, that is, Sunday, April 12, 2015, the Gospel was the story of Doubting Thomas.  Jesus, after He rose from the grave, appeared to His disciples, who were all huddled in the upper room where they had eaten their Seder dinner; all, that is, except Thomas.  They told Thomas the Lord had been there, but Thomas said that unless he could touch Jesus’ crucifixion wounds, he would not believe.  A week later they were all together again in the same place.  Jesus again came among them.  This time Thomas was present.  Jesus told Thomas to put his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in the wounded side.  Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said, “You have believed because you have seen.  Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”

And yet, it is very hard to believe events that happened so long ago and far away.  Especially when other kinds of things are happening right now.  But those new events all have to do with science.  We are discovering more new things about the world even as far down as subatomic particles and as big as the entire universe.  We know a great many things about the universe–and I say know because when we apply that knowledge we get consistent results.  It would be quite a different thing if, say, when we combine acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium bicarbonate, sometimes we get sodium acetate and carbon dioxide, and sometimes we get pink lemonade.

So what it all comes down to is a matter of faith.  Our materialist acquaintances think we’re delusional because we believe in our God, the Creator and Redeemer, and not in the materialists’ god, Science.  In fact, I recently ran across an article entitled, “Help Christian friends understand delusional thinking,” which contained seven “quotes” from Jesus distorted to meet the mindset of the writer.  Some of my young-adult cousins want nothing to do with the Christian faith.  They consider Christianity misguided and mistaken, or just irrelevant.  In addition to that, to many people we appear toxic and uncaring because of all the things we’re against.  Those people lump us all together and paint us with the same brush.  What they don’t see, in those of us who aren’t against everything, is that we serve a risen Christ, a living Jesus (not an “un-dead” Jesus), Who by His death and resurrection has completed the story of God’s love for His creation by redeeming us from our lives of sin.  For me, this is very real.  But at the same time, because I have an intellectual bent, I have to coordinate my Christian faith with the knowledge I have of science from my education.  They never told me I had to leave my brain at the church door.

It all starts with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  In God all authority over the creation is vested.  It is He Who decided the kind of universe that would happen.  It is He Who made it all, from the tiny quark to the magnificent galactic cluster neighborhood.  It is He Who ordained all of the natural law that governs how atoms and molecules behave.  It is He Who made the electromagnetic spectrum and made it possible to express energy.  It is He Who directed the development of life on this planet, from the tiniest viroid to the biggest of dinosaurs.  It is He Who chose humanity to be His special friends, and walk and talk with Him–and we chose to go our own way.  So it  became necessary to reclaim us; hence the story told in the pages of the Bible.  This is how I have bridged the disconnect between Sunday School and my public education.  As I said, it’s a matter of faith.

This would be all I have to say on the matter, if it weren’t for one other thing.  We aren’t doing a very good job of communicating this matter of faith to our younger relatives, who have been drawn away by materialism.  We don’t do show and tell very well.  And materialism is in itself very attractive, as I know from personal experience.  We can tell them the Good Old Story of Jesus and His Love–but they’ve heard it all before and aren’t interested.  We can live our lives for Christ, but they just don’t get it.  I’m afraid that if the Lord doesn’t turn things around, through us and our lives or however He chooses, that we may be the last generation of Christians in the United States.

May it not be so.