We are comfortably into Lent now and tonight I have the second of our Lenten Bible Studies. Tonight I am talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is the second of my broadcast talks for Lent.
Creation Talk Two: Where do we find an explanation?
Belief in creation implies a time when there was no creation: only God existing outside of time and in eternity. So why, if this was the case, did he decide, if he did so decide, to bring the whole creation into being? Those who answer the ‘why’ questions, as opposed to the ‘how’, questions have many difficult challenges.
Scientists look at ‘how’ it all works and try to come up with explanations for the natural world. The ‘why’ people have a far greater challenge: we have to think the mind of the One who thought it up all up in the beginning, and give an explanation of his ways. Those dealing with the how have the decidedly easier job! They deal with what they can see, touch, and handle. We deal with that which we do not know, and cannot see, touch, or handle.
We believe, however, that God has given us an account of what he has done and has revealed to us something at least of his ways. Both the account of God’s actions and the revelation of his ways lie in the book we call the Bible. Now, obviously, the Bible does not read like a scientific text book. What it is is an attempt to answer the most fundamental questions of human life in a way that is relevant to every age of human existence. Give a copy of the Origin of the Species to previous ages and civilisations and it would have made no sense. Had the ancient Greeks have read it, for example, they would have laughed. It would not have fitted their world-view.
The Origin of the Species was a book of its time. The Bible is a book for all time. Let’s try a simple test! Can you think of a passage from the Origin of the Species? Now can you think of a passage from the Christian Scriptures, otherwise known as the Bible: The Lord’s my Shepherd, Our Father in heaven, Hail Mary, full of grace, the famous passage about love. You will say that this familiarity is because the Bible has been around much longer. Exactly! The Bible provides, in its own way, an explanation of the Origin of the Species that speaks to every generation and every age in a way that Darwin’s, or anyone else’s for that matter, could not. It does not mean that Darwin’s account is not true just that it was phrased and expressed in the scientific language of Victorian England. Who reads the Origin of the Species now? I doubt if most undergraduate science students have opened it, let alone read it. However, Sunday by Sunday, here in Hong Kong, people hear the Bible’s explanation of the ‘Origins of the Species’ and, to a greater or lesser extent, understand it.
It’s all about audiences. The Bible has addressed generation after generation. The Origins of the Species addressed just a limited audience in a particular place, at a particular time. What is more many of those who championed it were actively seeking an alternative to the existing theory of creation. There is nothing wrong with the science, there is everything wrong with the mindset of those who championed it then, and many of whom who champion it now, as an excuse for rejecting God.
We are all prejudiced, biased, and lacking in objectivity. We are all inclined to believe what we want, to choose the ideas that suit us, and the philosophy that furthers our goals. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, this is exactly how the Bible explains the human story. We were created for greatness, but instead choose mediocrity.
The Bible is often criticised for being of its time, that is, that it is culturally limited, belonging to another era. After all, it appeared many, many years, before the Origin of the Species. But the Bible will still be around long after the Origin of the Species is confined to the dust of the library shelf. In my Church alone, there are at least 200 copies of the Bible that have to be replaced regularly because of overuse.
This is not an attack on science, but on a certain view of science. A view that fails to see that scientific theories are a product of their environment, are limited by their culture, and are often appropriated by the powerful. In case you think this is left-wing rhetoric, remember the BIG BANG - of Hiroshima!
The Bible necessarily does not address the ‘how’, it addresses the ‘why’. If, ‘e=mc (squared), is one of the most famous of the ‘how’ formulas, then the formula: ‘God created the heavens and the earth …’ is one, if the not the, most famous of, the ‘why. It has been around much longer and remains the most satisfying explanation of the origin of the species yet to be given.