Saturday Sermon: Over and Above Naturalism, Part 2
Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.
In part 1 of his sermon “Over and Above Naturalism”, Joseph Barkley explained that science does not reveal the greater purpose to life. He also looked at Naturalism, a philosophy that depends on atheistic assumptions and scientific knowledge, stripping the material world of higher significance. In part 2, Barkley suggests that material creation is not the end of our understanding (as Naturalists think), but a beginning that unveils the majestic and power of a Creator who loves us. Exploring the grand dimensions of the Milky Way galaxy as well as our unique solar system, he points to the greatness of God and smallness of humanity. However, the most profound truth is God’s incomprehensible love for each person that leads us into a divine relationship with him.
Barkley first suggests that all scientific discoveries, rather than confirming the absence of a God and divine purpose, affirm the presence of an intelligent God with a plan for his creation. Each new fact about nature is just another “clue,” he says, to God’s splendor. This is clearly taught in Psalm 19: 1-2 (NIV): “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Though some argue that Bible does not accurately describe the natural world, Barkley affirms the infallibility of Scripture in revealing truth about God and the purpose of his creation.
Barkley demonstrates his point by recounting stunning details about the Milky Way, just one of billions of beautiful galaxies. Within it, stars are birthed and others die, planets are pulled toward stars with great gravitational force, and other celestial bodies are also always in motion. He focuses on the mind-blowing detail of the galaxy’s length, which is so vast that it requires the measurement to be in light years. It is 100,000 light years wide, and each light year represents 5.88 trillion miles. What is more, the Milky Way is only a middle-sized galaxy! God rightly declares through the prophet Isaiah, “‘So—who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?’ says The Holy One. Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this?” (Isaiah 40:25, The Message translation). As Barkley puts it, “that is the question the creation is presenting to us today—who could have possibly made all this?”
Not only does creation reveal God’s grandeur, but it also speaks of how “unimaginably small” we are in comparison. In fact, when the Voyager space probe produced sixty separate pictures to capture our solar system from 4 billion miles away, planet Earth appeared as “a little mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” (Figure 1) according to Carl Sagan. If our entire planet—holding the entirety of human life—appears as a speck of dust, then how much more inconsequential does humankind itself appear? This comparison helps to “right-size” humanity in relationship to God. We are infinitely small and God is endlessly vast, and yet he deeply loves us in the midst of our weakness.
Finally, creation stirs the human heart with longing to know the “who” behind the “what” in this world. For thousands of years, God revealed himself to Israel through the Law and the prophets, but when God decided to present the clearest, most perfect picture of himelf, he sent his beloved Son, Jesus Christ (Figure 2). Colossians 1: 15-17 confirms this truth of Jesus Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” With this, Barkley addresses the question of greater significance. A scientific mindset might lead us to search for worth in our function, but Barkley says this is a mistake. In reality, he says, we were created not just for a function, but for a person. That person is Jesus Christ, the perfect image of the Triune God. Ultimately, Barkley affirms that one could fathom all scientific knowledge and still not discover his or her own purpose, which flows only from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.