4 God, hiding in plain sight
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“Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.”
Man finds himself precariously suspended between two equally impenetrable mysteries. As he peers outward through his telescope into the vast external realm of space, he only “sees” 5 percent of what is there. What lies before him are countless far–flung galaxies and planets suspended in a cosmological “soup” of non–material, invisible dark energy and dark matter that make up the other 95 percent. As he reverses his telescope, turning it into a microscope, and peers inward into the tiniest speck of dust on his table, he is again confronted with unfathomable mysteries as he plunges endlessly downward into the atomic, subatomic, and quantum realms where matter morphs into minute strings of pure energy. In this sphere, “The very meaning of place, time, and motion grow fuzzy, while the substantiality of matter dissolves into an abstract cloud of mathematical symbolism” Whether his gaze is directed outward or inward, everything extends to infinity in all directions.
It is astounding that, despite the advances of science, we’ve barely begun to understand the basics of our existence and origins. Back in 1650, the great mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal observed:
For, in fact, what is man in nature? A nothing in comparison with the infinite, an All in comparison with the nothing, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from the two extremes, and his being is no less distant from the nothing from which he was drawn than from the infinite in which he is swallowed up.
And, in more modern times, even the greatest scientific minds admit to only “seeing through a glass darkly” when it comes to where we came from and why we exist. Max Planck wrote, “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”
Are science and religion natural enemies?
Complicating our search for truth is the intellectually costly and largely contrived rivalry between science and religion. Science claims to be all about the facts, as it summarily dismisses all things religious as the stuff of myth and superstition. This, of course, ignores the clear historical record, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life project:
Despite instances of hostility toward religion and high levels of disbelief in the scientific community, however, science and religion have often operated in tandem rather than at cross–purposes.
Indeed, throughout much of ancient and modern human history, religious institutions have actively supported scientific endeavors. For centuries, throughout Europe and the Middle East, almost all universities and other institutions of learning were religiously affiliated, and many scientists, including astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and biologist Gregor Mendel (known as the father of genetics), were men of the cloth. Others, including Galileo, physicist Sir Isaac Newton and astronomer Johannes Kepler, were deeply devout and often viewed their work as a way to illuminate God’s creation.
Even in the 20th century, some of the greatest scientists, such as Georges Lemaitre (the Catholic priest who first proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory) and physicist Max Planck (the founder of the quantum theory of physics), have been people of faith. More recently, geneticist Francis Collins, the founder of the Human Genome Project as well as President Barack Obama’s choice to head the National Institutes of Health, has spoken publicly about how he believes his evangelical Christian faith and his work in science are compatible.
In addition, many scientists, including many who are not personally religious, tend to view science and religion as distinct rather than in conflict, with each attempting to answer different kinds of questions using different methods. Albert Einstein, for instance, once said that “science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind.” And the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously referred to this separate but complementary relationship as “non–overlapping magisteria.”
In the book Science Held Hostage, author Howard Van Till pointed out:
The goal of natural science is simple: to study the physical universe, no more and no less. Non–physical systems are, by definition, excluded. As such, the modern notion of natural science is necessarily wedded to empiricism. When scientists attempt to draw metaphysical conclusions from physical data, they’ve stepped out of line. Natural science can explain the “what,” but not the “why.” It answers questions about physical properties, physical behavior, and the formative history of the observable universe. That’s all.
The non–physical realm, on the other hand, is the object of a different sort of inquiry. Science cannot tell us of the ultimate origin of the universe. Since science uses empirical data—that known by the five senses—something must exist first for science to examine. Questions regarding an immaterial “something” that might have produced the material realm can’t, even in principle, be answered by science.
Neither can science answer questions about the governance of the universe, though it’s quite capable of drawing conclusions about its behavior. Even the so–called laws of nature are not truly laws. They don’t compel behavior; they merely describe it. That which is behind this behavior is not natural, but supra–natural, outside the proper domain of science.
“Questions of origin and governance—important questions both—must be directed toward whatever serves as the source of answers to one’s religious questions,” Van Till says. Science and religion are not enemies, but partners complementing each other. Religion tells us how to go to heaven; science tells us how the heavens go.
The Great Mystery of Our Origins
This brings us to the mind–numbing question about how the universe came about in the first place. A prominent national periodical summarized the leading theory in layman’s terms:
Big bang proponents suggest that some 10 billion to 20 billion years ago, a massive blast allowed all the universe’s known matter and energy—even space and time themselves—to spring from some ancient and unknown type of energy.
One fascinating aspect of the fledgling universe’s birth process is the central role that light played. Before matter as we know it existed, light filled everything. It is interesting that the Genesis account (now some 3,500 years old) records that light appeared on Day One and was the first step in bringing order to the otherwise–benighted earth:
God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Dinesh D’Souza wrote:
The universe was filled with light,” Steven Weinberg writes. In fact, “It was light that then formed the dominant constituent of the universe.” The temperature was about a hundred trillion degrees centigrade. Then, in a process vividly described by Weinberg in The First Three Minutes, the first protons and neutrons began to form into atoms. Once matter was formed, gravitational forces began to draw it into galaxies and then into stars. Eventually, heavier elements like oxygen and iron were formed and, over billions of years, gave birth to our solar system and our planet.
That single seminal event 13.8 billion years ago has so far produced a mind–boggling 1024 stars and 170 billion galaxies that stretch out 46 billion light–years in all directions. Time, space, and the laws of physics were “born” at the same instant as the “Big Bang.” Emerging out of this expanding milieu, our earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago and, against all odds, seems to be the only human life–supporting planet. This is because the earth appears to have been designed to support human life, employing an array of exquisitely balanced physical variables that would seem to exist nowhere else in the universe. As one commentator put it:
In order for life to exist—in order for the universe to have observers to take notice of it—the gravitational force has to precisely what it is. The Big Bang had to occur when it did. If the basic values and relationships of nature were even slightly different, our universe would not exist, and neither would we.
Author Eric Metaxas wrote:
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart…The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing…astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist…the odds against the universe existing are so heart–stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. 
Max Planck wrote:
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear–headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
Are we alone in the universe?
Some say that God has been holding out on us regarding UFOs, extraterrestrials, and alien life forms. Scientists have held as an article of faith that there must be life on other planets. The statistical probabilities would seem to argue for aliens existing somewhere in our galaxy. Yet no verification has been forthcoming.
A September 2015 article in International Business Times, entitled “Do Aliens Exist? Renowned NASA Scientist Says ‘No One’s Out There,’” stated:
A world–renowned NASA scientist whose research led to the discovery of new planets said there’s no sign of aliens and we’re likely alone in our galaxy. William Borucki, the principal investigator of NASA’s Kelpler [sic] mission, said his work discovering habitable planets outside our solar system has made the lack of evidence of extraterrestrial life particularly strange, South China Morning Post reported.
“Up till now it was just an intellectual question. It isn’t anymore. There could be 10 billion civilizations or none. The evidence certainly is none,” Borucki said in an interview with the Hong Kong newspaper Thursday. “The evidence says, no one’s out there.”
“I’ve spent a large portion of my career searching for other worlds,” Borucki said Wednesday in a press release from the Union of Concerned Scientists. “What we’ve found has underscored how important it is to protect this one. While we can detect other worlds, we cannot go to them. Our future is here on Earth and we must do much more to ensure that our planet’s climate remains hospitable.”
The uniqueness of earth
Our beautiful fragile earth teems with life, yet is suspended alone in an otherwise lifeless galaxy. This planet, by no means the largest or most prominent physically, is blessed with “just the right everything” to support human, animal, and plant life.
Could this be an accident? A mere statistical anomaly? Writing for SPACE.com, Clara Moskowitz observed:
Earth is one special planet. It has liquid water, plate tectonics, and an atmosphere that shelters it from the worst of the sun’s rays. But many scientists agree our planet’s most special feature might just be us. “It’s the only planet we know of that has life,” said Alan Boss, a planet formation theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington, D.C. Though other bodies in our solar system, such as Saturn’s moon Titan, seem like they could have once been hospitable to some form of life, and scientists still have hope of eventually digging up microbes beneath the surface of Mars, Earth is still the only world known to support life. “So far, we haven’t found it anywhere else,” said Alex Wolszczan of Pennsylvania State University…
An Atheist’s Worst Nightmare
Most college students take at least one course in philosophy which includes a study of the well–known Kalam cosmological argument, which states: Everything that has come into existence has a cause; the universe came into existence; therefore, the universe has a cause.
That deceptively simple argument has proven to be among the stickiest wickets for atheists, materialists, and humanists to defeat. With the almost universal acceptance of the Big Bang theory and its attendant beginning point some 13.8 billion years ago came the “inconvenient problem” of the Kalam cosmological argument.
William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University, wrote:
1. Every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a transcendent, personal being.
3. The universe is a contingent thing.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is a transcendent, personal being.
—which is what everybody means by “God.”
Before the beginning
Our “enlightened” culture has largely devolved the notion of a personal god into a “force” or “power” that is distant and unknowable. Further, we are supposed to have come about by the entirely impersonal process of unsupervised biochemical evolution propelled by relentless random mutation and natural selection. In other words, we are the result of primeval chaos which has somehow “evolved” upward into a more orderly state. Although we may dress up such ideas with modern scientific jargon, the thinking behind them has ancient roots.
In his book Earth’s Earliest Ages, G. H. Pember wrote:
The popular error in regards to the creation sprang from the Pagan doctrine of Chaos. This deeply rooted popular fallacy…can boast of long antiquity and which seems originally to have sprung from a compromise between revelation and the legends of Pagan cosmology. The ancient poet Hesiod tell us that the first thing is existence was Chaos…the crude and shapeless mass of material out of which the heavens and earth were supposed to have been formed.
Thus, according to the cosmologies of Greece and Rome, the universe sprang from Chaos. Uranus, or Heaven, was supposed to have been the first supreme god. But he was driven from power by his son Cronos or Saturn, who afterwards received the same treatment at the hands of his son Zeus or Jupiter. Chaos was the first thing in existence, and the transient series of gods came subsequently into being.
The trouble is that there is the problem of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which suggests, among other things, that things do not go from a state of disorder to a state of order, but the other way around:
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; the total quantity of energy in the universe stays the same. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about the quality of energy. It states that as energy is transferred or transformed, more and more of it is wasted. The Second Law also states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state…if you have a system that is isolated, any natural process in that system progresses in the direction of increasing disorder, or entropy, of the system.
Frank Turek and Norman Geisler made an excellent point in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. The Second Law of Thermodynamics poses an insurmountable problem for atheistic explanations of the origin of life from non–living matter:
Nature disorders, it doesn’t organize things. More time will make things worse for the Darwinist, not better. How so? Let’s suppose you throw red, white, and blue confetti out of an airplane 1,000 feet above your house. What’s the chance it’s going to form the American flag on your front lawn? Very low. Why? Because natural laws will mix up or randomize the confetti. You say, “Allow more time.” Okay, let’s take the plane up to 10,000 feet to give natural laws more time to work on the confetti. Does this improve the probability that the flag will form on your lawn? No, more time actually makes the flag less likely because natural laws have longer to do what they do—disorder and randomize.
How did life arise from nonliving chemicals, without intelligent intervention, when nonliving chemicals are susceptible to the Second Law? Darwinists have no answer, only faith.
Manifestations of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics are all around us. It is the reason dead things decay, cars rust, people age, sand castles crumble, etc., etc.
The uncaused cause
And then there is the so–far–unbroken Law of Causality, which formalizes what every kindergartener knows intuitively in their innocent hearts from day one—that everything that exists has a cause. Those who take refuge behind Charles Darwin [founder of evolutionary biology] to defend their belief in nontheistic evolution will find little comfort from the man himself:
Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.
And, contrary to the popular myth that all science marches in lockstep toward a unified theory of non–theistic evolution, an inconvenient truth emerges. World Magazine reported:
At DissentfromDarwin.org over 900 Ph.D. scientists have signed a statement agreeing that, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
And from Robert Jastrow, who was an American astronomer, physicist, and cosmologist:
When a scientist writes about God, his colleagues assume he is either over the hill or going bonkers. In my case it should be understood from the start that I am an agnostic in religious matters. My views on this question are close to those of Darwin, who wrote, “My theology is a simple muddle. I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I see no evidence of beneficent design in the details.”
Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.
There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain. Why? I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event; every effect must have its cause, there is no First Cause. …This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.
Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks: What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe? And science cannot answer these questions, because, according to the astronomers, in the first moments of its existence the Universe was compressed to an extraordinary degree, and consumed by the heat of a fire beyond human imagination. The shock of that instant must have destroyed every particle of evidence that could have yielded a clue to the cause of the great explosion.
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
Aw, come on. Really?
Of course, the idea of an invisible intelligence creating everything, including us, is hard to swallow for many people. But the alternatives can be even more bizarre. Consider this “theory” as reported by Popular Science magazine in July 2015, entitled, “Could Life on Earth [Have] Originated from Afar?”
Lithopanspermia. The word is a mouthful but represents one of the most intriguing theories about the origin of life on Earth. Quite literally, it means life began from an extraterrestrial source and brought here by hitching a ride on a rock, more specifically, a meteorite. The idea of the entirety of biological life coming from afar makes for fantastic sci–fi fodder but the story proving it as possible fact has been even more entertaining.
The initial idea of panspermia began in Ancient Greece but wasn’t fully accepted until the early 1900s when German physicist Svante Arrhenius outlined just how this could happen. In the vastness of space, dormant seeds and spores resistant to the harsh conditions hitch a ride onto particles and travel the universe. Some eventually are drawn in by the gravity of a planet and end up on the surface. If the conditions are right, they can rise from their slumber and start growing, thriving, and evolving. The idea is hard to believe and for over a Century, there was little evidence to prove the postulate.
You can say that again. So, we’re supposed to believe that all life started from spores that originated in outer space and resulted in…well…all this—including you and me? By the way, where did these mysterious spores come from? No matter what the theory, like an endlessly repeating Groundhog Day, we end up regressing back to the need for an originating uncaused cause.
Will the Real God Please Identify Himself?
There are a lot of contenders in the great cosmic arena for the honor of being god. Every culture in history has had a belief in the divine and has created a mythology to explain the world around them. A drought or illness might befall a village because of some angry god or goddess. If the gods were happy and suitably appeased, a voyage across the sea might go well or an extraordinary crop might result. In addition to making sense of daily life, the mythology and legends imparted cultural values and stories to succeeding generations. The major groupings include the gods of Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Native American, Sumerian, Asian, and Celtic mythology.
Godchecker.com stated, “Our legendary mythology encyclopedia now includes nearly four thousand weird and wonderful Gods, Supreme Beings, Demons, Spirits and Fabulous Beasts from all over the world.” There is no end to the list of candidates, because there is no end to man’s insatiable appetite for inventing them. Sometimes we don’t recognize our creations as gods, but if they dominate our lives and function as a perpetual escape from reality, what else should we call them? Our modern day, twin–headed god of “comfort and entertainment” is one such example.
Major candidate gods of the world
Of the thousands of religions, upwards of 80 percent of the world’s population adhere to five of them. Each either denies god altogether, or alternatively, presents its own god as the real creator of the universe. In Connecting with the Divine, Marilyn Adamson wrote:
In looking at these major belief systems and their views of God, we find tremendous diversity:
· Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses. (1.03 billion adherents in 2010) Most Hindus worship one being of ultimate oneness (Brahman) through infinite representations of gods and goddesses.
· Buddhists say there is no deity. (490 million adherents in 2010) Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine.
· New Age followers believe they are God. (number of adherent’s unknown) New Age promotes the development of the person’s own power or divinity. When referring to God, a follower of New Age is not talking about a transcendent, personal God who created the universe, but is referring to a higher consciousness within themselves.
· Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God. (1.6 billion adherents in 2010) Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Allah is viewed as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and all evil…Muhammad is considered the last prophet and his words and lifestyle are that person’s authority. At death—based on one’s faithfulness to these duties—a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell.
· Christians believe in a God who is loving and approachable. (2.17 billion adherents in 2010) Christians believe in a loving God who has revealed himself and can be known in a personal way, in this life.
So many candidates, so many choices, how to decide?
Suppose we tried to paint a picture of the kind of god who could conceivably create our universe as we know it. In his book, The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel did just that. He wrote:
As William Lane Craig explained, the evidence of cosmology demonstrates that the cause of the universe must be an uncaused beginningless, timeless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power. In the area of physics, Collins established that the creator is intelligent and has continued to be involved with his creation after the Big Bang. The evidence of astronomy, showing the creator was incredibly precise in creating a living habitat for the creatures he designed, logically implies that he has care and concern for them. …Not only do biochemistry and the existence of biological information affirm the Creator’s activity after the Big Bang, but they also show he’s incredibly creative. Evidence for consciousness, as Moreland said, helps establish that the creator is rational, gives us a basis for understanding his omnipresence, and even suggests that life after death is credible.
Strobel concluded that the foregoing factors do not describe the god of deism, pantheism, polytheism, nor a “force” or “thing,” as with the so–called Brahman. Instead, the evidence from creation strongly supports the biblical picture of a personal, loving, all–powerful God who is vitally invested in getting to know us and who has enthusiastically invited us to get to know him. As the Apostle Paul noted, “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made [creation], so that they are without excuse.”
The “God in a Box” syndrome
noun | re·li·gion | \ri–ˈli–jən\
· The belief in a god or in a group of gods
· An organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
· An interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
Webster’s definition of religion leaves loads of room for interpretation as to who we imagine god to be. This accounts for the hundreds of religions now extant in the world. The trouble is that if god exists, and he is powerful enough to create “all this,” is he likely to conform to any of our vain imaginings considering the limitations of our miniscule, three–pound human brains? Even if you hooked them all together, as in the Internet? How could a common housefly begin to imagine the complex intellectual and spiritual dimensions of the human beings he routinely torments with his incessant buzzing?
Since we can barely describe even a small part of our universe, how much more difficult would it be to describe its creator? It is precisely because of the yawning gap between our limited intellectual powers and any credible god–candidate that men have taken to inventing, codifying, and simulating his image and likeness. This infantile practice has led to blasphemous images and ghastly idols supported by elaborately detailed myths designed to subjugate and mollify its adherents.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly laments the besetting compulsion of his own chosen people to worship the idols and to follow the religious practices of the barbaric nations surrounding Israel. They simply refused to accept God as he was and seemed to be obsessed with finding a god of someone else’s imagination. This eventually led to their banishment from the Promised Land and dispersion to enemy nations by God in judgment.
So, what is it about this that bothers God so much? To illustrate, suppose a man married a wonderful girl and set about to carefully and thoroughly study her every thought, word, and action. After he took exhaustive notes, he sat down at his computer and proceeded to “codify” his wife, using elaborate computer programs and graphic imagery. He even took the trouble to program out his wife’s undesirable characteristics and to add in a few features that she lacked. After he was done, he sat down with his flesh–and–blood wife and summarily dismissed her, sending her off never to be seen again. From that day forward, every time he wanted to interact with “his wife,” he simply went to his computer and “booted her up,” so to speak. He was delighted—no messy, unpredictable behaviors, nothing asked of him, he got what he wanted when he wanted it without having to reciprocate in kind. She was perfect!
This is the heart of idolatry, making an object out of a living person, codifying them into your image and likeness, controlling every aspect of their being, cutting them down to a “pocket–sized” edition. This is what God’s people were doing with God, and when Jesus Christ came on the scene, the “fur flew.” Not with sinners, drunks, prostitutes, and outcasts. No, they loved him, flocked to him, hung on his every word. It was the religious people who hounded him, challenged him, hated him, and eventually saw to his demise. Jesus pulled no punches with these posturing peacocks. Listen in:
Religious Fashion Shows
Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit–and–polish veneer.
“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’
“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life–Leader for you and them—Christ.
“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double–condemned.
“You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm–eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.
“Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.”
These religious imposters had “codified” God, or so they thought, boiling the living God down into laws, rules, regulations, and duties. They knew the letter of the law inside and out, but hadn’t the slightest idea about the spirit of the Law.
Restoring the Creator–creature relationship
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Talk about missing the point. In his classic book Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer commented:
It is a truism to say that order in nature depends upon right relationships; to achieve harmony each thing must be in its proper position relative to each other thing. In human life it is not otherwise.
I have hinted before in these chapters that the cause of all our human miseries is a radical moral dislocation, an upset in our relation to God and to each other. For whatever else the “Fall” may have been, it was most certainly a sharp change in man’s relation to his Creator. He adopted toward God an altered attitude, and by so doing destroyed the proper Creator–creature relation in which, unknown to him, his true happiness lay. Essentially salvation is the restoration of a right relation between man and his Creator, a bringing back to normal of the Creator–creature relation.
A satisfactory spiritual life will begin with a complete change in relation between God and the sinner; not a judicial change merely, but a conscious and experienced change affecting the sinner’s whole nature. The atonement in Jesus’ blood makes such a change judicially possible and the working of the Holy Spirit makes it emotionally satisfying. The story of the prodigal son perfectly illustrates this latter phase. He had brought a world of trouble upon himself by forsaking the position which he had properly held as son of his father. At bottom his restoration was nothing more than a reestablishing of the father–son relation which had existed from his birth and had been altered temporarily by his act of sinful rebellion. This story overlooks the legal aspects of redemption, but it makes beautifully clear the experiential aspects of salvation.
In determining relationships, we must begin somewhere. There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured, where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances. Such a center is God. When God would make His Name known to mankind He could find no better word than “I AM.” When He speaks in the first person He says, “I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”; when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.” Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point. “I am that I am,” says God, “I change not.”
As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun, so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God. We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.
Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use. We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is. Some of the most rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead. In those holy moments the very thought of change in Him will be too painful to endure.
Psalm 90 seeks to restore our perspective of mankind relative to the God of the universe. It is astounding how frequently we return to the belief that we somehow have bargaining power with God, that we can hold him off until we decide we’re ready and then try to hold out for the “best deal.” How little we know.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
So why is finding God so hard? Or is it?
Why doesn’t God just open the sky and make his presence known once and for all?
Scripture tells us that God’s primary motivation toward mankind is love. But true love must be free to choose between legitimate alternatives—there can be no coercion between lovers. If God suddenly and without warning broke directly into the worldwide consciousness, it would constitute the single most terrifying event in human history. Forget about UFOs or extraterrestrial creatures—this would be the One who spoke the cosmos into being and who has the power to dissolve it all at will. Could he get us to believe in him and obey him? He surely could, but at the cost of defeating his own purpose: that of drawing people willingly into a love relationship with himself. As it turns out, God had a better idea anyway. To explain, a wonderful story, called “The Man and the Birds,” from radio commentator Paul Harvey:
Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmastime. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So, he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow–lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized, that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. “If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells—Adeste Fidelis—listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.
Scripture tells us that God has invaded human history and has spoken, appearing in a disarmingly humble form:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
Though only a handful of people listened to this gentle innocent from another dimension, those who did truly “hear” were rewarded with an experience of God so vivid that they would risk their lives to tell others about what they had seen and heard. In the process, they were to turn the then–known world upside down under the influence of God’s winsome salvation message.
I believe so that I may understand
Herein lies a conundrum: If you’re like me, your inner skeptic keeps demanding more and more proof before committing to anything, especially in spiritual matters. Steve Jernigan addressed this as follows:
St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, said, “I believe in order to understand” and centuries later, St. Anselm of Canterbury, echoed his statement in similar fashion: “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.” 
A final thought: We believe we comprehend our world through science and are convinced that our destiny is to create our own “worlds” in the process. How little we “see,” how arrogant our self–sufficient visions. At best, we are “seeing through a glass darkly,” with eyes we received from Another, superintended by a brain we barely understand, in front of “a glass” that generates more questions than answers every time we peer into it.
“I believe in God like the sun, and by him I see everything else.”
—C. S. Lewis
NOTES: Chapter 4. God, hiding in plain sight
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 Matthew 23:1–34 MSG
 Psalm 57:5 NASB
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