Maker of Heaven and Earth, Part 5
In the final part of this series, Dave Swaim of Highrock Church concludes with several Scriptures, scientific facts, and personal stories that evoke awe and wonder about our intricate universe. Swaim wraps up his sermon with three points that he feels sum up the Biblical truth of creation: there is an all-powerful God, he has a perfect plan, and he has given us his love through Jesus Christ. Therefore, as Christians, we stand confident in the gospel.
"Maker of Heaven and Earth" (transcript, part 5)
When well understood, science and faith should not conflict. They should complement each other because science can allow us to see even more of the majesty, complexity, and beauty that God created. On Monday, I showed my kids an amazing video that scales out from the surface of the earth in these powers of ten, going beyond our atmosphere and our solar system and our galaxy to the edge of the visible universe, and it was amazing! As we talked about it I said, “this is what our almighty Father created! I mean just think what that means about how big he must be if he can do all of this.” The times where it seems black is just because there is so much space, and it goes and goes and goes and goes…and I want you to hear Romans 1, “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.”
See! That is why historically, scientific discovery thrived wherever Christianity went because scientists were assured that the universe was intelligible and worth investigating and reflected God himself. That is why most of the world’s great scientists in history have been Christians. Psalm 19 celebrates, “the heavens proclaim the glory of God; the skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard, yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. Science is a spiritual calling, so let us love God and embrace science as a way to know him even better.
Some people worship God with science just like some other people worship God with a guitar. That is why so many scientists are also believers. Among university professors, surveys find the highest percentage of Christians in the hard sciences: biology, chemistry, and physics—perhaps because they are the ones who best know the limitations of science and spend the most time exploring the vast wonders of creation. Francis Collins, America’s senior scientist as the director of the National Institutes of Health and the head of the human genome project, is also a strong Evangelical Christian even though he used to be an atheist. His outstanding book The Language of God describes how science helped lead him to Christ. He wonders if DNA might not be the logos or the language through which God spoke life into existence.
Some of you know that I gathered for dinner maybe five times last year with about forty or so professors (mostly from Harvard and MIT and mostly in the sciences), but from all kinds of faith backgrounds or non-faith backgrounds, and we met to discuss these intersections between science and faith. During one of those dinners, Howard Smith, the senior astrophysicist at Harvard and at the Smithsonian, explored the inexplicable coincidences required for a planet to sustain life, for example, the precise balance between the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force—the same thing with gravity and electromagnetism. Stephen Hawking, who was not at dinner with us, noted the rate of expansion of the universe…if it had been smaller or greater by just one part in one billion, the whole universe would have collapsed immediately. Dr. Smith suggested that all this indicates the hand of a purposeful creator, and as we discussed it around our dinner table that night, the other scientists admitted that the mathematical odds against random chance seemed almost impossible.
In fact, Robert Jastrow, who was among the original scientists at NASA and was a professor of geophysics at Columbia and then at Dartmouth, was an agnostic, but he wrote about some of his scientific colleagues, who initially had an unaccountable biased against the now widely accepted Big Bang Theory. Their reluctance was not based on scientific misgivings. What bothered them, he found, was that the Big Bang bore an uncomfortably close resemblance to Genesis’ claim that the heaven and the earth erupted from a bold stroke of creation. He discovered that scientists can fall prey to the very same kind of fundamentalism that they despise in religions. He wrote, “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, commence suddenly and sharply in a definite moment in time and in a flash of light and energy. Science has proved that the universe exploded into being in a certain moment…it asks, “What cause produced this event? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe?”…and science cannot answer those questions. For the scientist, who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, this story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled a 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.
Why am I preaching this today? There are three things I am much more concerned about than any particular position on evolutionary science. First, there is a God who knows everything. Whether you are a seminary professor or a science professor, you are not him. We all need more humility because all of us are still learning about this. Let us learn all we can, but let us be appropriately suspicious of our own certainty before we go around trying to beat up anyone else. Second, in all the bluster of the science versus Scripture debates, I don’t want you to miss what Genesis 1 is all about: you have a Creator. Just like the creed reminds us, ‘I believe in God the Creator…” not, “I believe in this version of creation or that scientific theory…” and that Creator is our Almighty Father.
That is the real news of Genesis and the good news of the entire Bible. Someone knew what he wanted to make and whether it was 6000 years ago or 13 billion years ago, God had a purpose he wanted to accomplish so he created heaven and earth and everything in it. There is a reason you are here. If you ultimately think that you are just a random collection of chemicals, just lucky mud, then you have no purpose or meaning—but I want you to see that we have a God who knows us and planned for us, who has a plan for us, plans to give us a hope and a future, and a Creator who is watching us at every moment…who created us to do good things, and he will hold us accountable for that. This is where Genesis is as true today as it has ever been. We are not the Creator, we are just dirt, but we have been fashioned by God so that we can have true joy and peace in a relationship with God or we can have shame, and disappointment, and frustration and anger and murder and meaninglessness and death as we try to become gods ourselves.
When we try to become like God or pretend that we know everything, we lose the true life that only God can give. So, I am not nervous about the conflict between the truth of Scripture and the truth of science. Scientists are just discovering the complexity, the intricacy, the beauty of our Father’s creation and it is amazing. I am nervous that you will miss what Genesis is about which is the fact that you have a Creator who formed you and knows you and has known you from before the earth was born. So, do not get distracted (like I did in the parable of the lost son) by asking wrong questions: was it six days or seven days? That is not the point…was it six days or six eons? That is not the point; that was never the point. The point is that God created you. Therefore, there is a reason for your life and you don’t have to worry that you are on your own and that everything is random because you are not on your own. God has a grand purpose, and you are a part of it.
The final thing I want you to get from this sermon is to be unashamed of the gospel. So many of you love Jesus, I know that…so many of your lives have been transformed by Jesus. I know that! I have seen that transformation and it is incredible, and yet, some of you go into laboratories, classrooms, or companies where you work or into neighborhood cocktail parties with the smart people around here, and you are embarrassed to talk about the living God who created us...and about what he has done in your life. You are embarrassed to reach out and offer true hope. You are embarrassed to offer salvation for fear that people might laugh at you because believing in God means rejecting science, and so I want you to see that you are not rejecting science. You and the smartest scientist on earth are engaged in the same conversation, [and] asking the very same questions! So, do not be embarrassed when what we believe is the gospel. It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
Now, I have spoken for too long already, and had to skip so much, but you can learn a lot more on the High Rock sermon discussion board online where many great resources have been posted by a bunch of people in our congregation. You can add some resources of your own. I am going to post the link to the full version of the video that we showed you, but I hope I have persuaded you that we can’t be shamed into silence about something so precious and life-changing. We have no reason to keep quiet about all the reasons for the hope that we have and the God that we met. We can tell them about our Creator and their Creator who is more than just the maker of mountains and microbes; he is our Almighty Father who revealed himself most clearly in Jesus so that we wouldn’t be afraid of him anymore. Jesus, who came, Jesus, who loved, Jesus, who confounded those who thought they had figured everything out already, Jesus, who was crucified, and Jesus, who was raised again from the dead even though it was impossible, Jesus, who is coming back to get us. This is our creator, and we cannot be ashamed to talk about him. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.