Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Question of Origin (sneak preview)

Here's something I'm working on for a new worship service we're launching in September. In microsoft word, its about two pages. Hopefully, it will generate some discussion:

We’re starting ROOTS worship with this “What’s our story?” series. Each week we’ll be looking at “big picture” questions and seeing how they fit into the Christian story and the story the world is telling. We’ll also be looking at how we each answer these questions with the way we live our lives whether we realize it or not. The Christian faith is not simply a list of rules, but rather a story that you are a part of. We’re told stories when we’re little to help shape our little tiny human ethics. When we go to the movies, we’re paying money to be told a good story. When it’s not compelling or poorly executed, we’re disappointed we spent all that money and sat in the dark for two hours. But the Christian story is much larger than any one fable or film: the Christian story is one that should shape our entire life as individuals, and as the church. Much of the Bible is made up of narrative; it is a big book of stories. God created designed us in such a way so that stories make sense.

Tonight we’re dealing with the question of origin: Where did we come from? There are all sorts of ways we could try to tackle this question. I could get up here and show a bunch of graphs or pictures of fossils and give you some fancy timeline; but I don’t think anyone would be very moved by a courtroom type presentation of evidence. It’s been done. Go out on the internet and look at all the websites devoted to crushing the evil atheists or silencing the na├»ve Christians. Every couple months it seems like Newsweek or Time is doing a coverstory featuring “Science vs. Religion”. Creationism, evolution, Darwinism, young earth, naturalists, how science is taught in school; the question of origin is a “hot button” issue but I think most people are just tired of it. So many really smart and passionate folks have spent so much time trying to answer this question of “where did we come from” I think if it were possible to “prove” an answer to the question of origin, someone would have done so by now. I think the problem is we’re going about it the wrong way. We need better questions.

Think about it, most of the debate revolves around how or when types of questions. As Christians, we look to scripture as our authority; but folks try and project the how and when questions onto a source that is mainly concerned with who questions. We try and site the Bible like a science textbook and it just doesn’t work like that. Scripture speaks to who created the Earth and why, not how or when. So we hit this brick wall when folks are arguing about 24 hour literal days or reconciling the fossil record with the creation accounts in Genesis. We’re arguing about the wrong questions. We need to not be so concerned with the method of creation, but the origin of the creator. The question of origin is not a new one.

Consider the words of Paul. Paul was a member of the religious elite in the first century. He was actively persecuting the church until his dramatic encounter with Jesus. Paul was writing to the church in Rome as he traveled around planting new churches and encouraging existing communities of faith through his letters. In Romans chapter 1 we read:

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

As I said before, we need better questions. We need to be asking questions about the nature of our creator, not worrying about when or how we got here. Paul ascribes creation to God, not chance. We live in an age where the march of human progress and better living through science are the ultimate authority. The world is like a giant erector set that we can tinker with until we discover all its secrets. The scientific method yields infallible results. So one of my questions for you is this: “Do you believe everything is empirical?” In other words, is everything, I mean everything able to be proven?

Try this. Those of you who are married, picture your spouse. If I asked you why you loved this person, how would you respond? You’d probably list several qualities about your husband or wife. What if I told you I think your decision to marry this person is ludicrous because you didn’t have a large enough sample size to determine that this indeed is the most lovable person? Or lets say I took the qualities you may have listed: smart, funny, good looking, caring, compassionate. Ok, what if I went and found someone who scored higher on every standardized test, told better jokes, stopped traffic with their celeb-like appearance, volunteered 4 days a week at an orphanage AND ran a shelter for abused gerbils. Would you then transfer your love to this person that I have scientifically demonstrated is smarter, funnier, better looking, more caring, and has a deeper compassion than your spouse? Now, you may have seen this coming a mile away, but if we wouldn’t think like this about important people in our lives why do we do it to God? Not everything is able to be proven in a lab, maybe the most important things to us can’t be demonstrated on a pie graph.

So let’s not get too caught up in the specifics of how or when God created the world, lets let other folks continue to argue about that. As Christians, we must not only believe this to be true, we must live it. Like the Jenga game where blocks are removed until the tower falls, the way you answer the question of origin has big implications for everything we do. If all of this just happened, why not just do whatever you happen to feel like doing. But if instead, we are created and therefore things like love, beauty, and truth are invisible qualities installed into his created beings then we have a whole lot to live up to. What we see in the world are the consequences of a story that tells us that we are simply here; and that we may do as we please. What the story of Christianity tells us is that everything in creation has value because it was fashioned by God. All of this is essentially is “on loan” for us to take care of, especially the other people we find ourselves in the middle of all this with. I feel that if we start asking better questions, we can indeed clearly see God’s invisible qualities and live like we mean it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree, most of the time Christians aren't the ones asking the questions. We are just trying justify our beliefs to non believers who are the ones asking the questions, and they don't want to hear our answers. I agree we as Christians need to be asking the questions.

Mitch