Episode 3-2 — Pastor Equipping Series: Sample Sermon on the Faith-Science Challenge (Emphasis on the Virgin Birth of Jesus)

November 05, 2021 00:29:24
Episode 3-2 — Pastor Equipping Series: Sample Sermon on the Faith-Science Challenge (Emphasis on the Virgin Birth of Jesus)
Thinking Christian
Episode 3-2 — Pastor Equipping Series: Sample Sermon on the Faith-Science Challenge (Emphasis on the Virgin Birth of Jesus)

Nov 05 2021 | 00:29:24

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Show Notes

Faith vs. Science: It feels like David approaching Goliath, with no sling and no stones. Or at least, that’s the way a lot of people want us to feel it. As pastor, you know there’s pressure on Christians to deny the faith in favor “almighty science.”

With this podcast we offer you a sample sermon you can use (see below) to begin preaching the truth, that faith has nothing to hide and nothing to fear from science.

With Christmas approaching — and possibly some final sermon prep still waiting to be done — we present this with with a special emphasis on Advent and the Virgin Birth. Skeptics say it’s got to be a fable, because “Science shows that’s impossible.” Christians typically know a good first answer, which is, “With God all things are possible.” I’m not sure that always comes across as strong with skeptics as it could. Their charge against us there has a whole lot worse problems than they realize. They’re probably the ones believing fables. Provable to be fables, I mean; provable in ways even they would have trouble denying.

This comes to you in cooperation with The Stream, where you’ll find a wealth of accompanying information, in the form of a one-page summary “explainer” article covering this material and more, with links in it to all the supporting documentation you could want in order to make sure you’re representing the truth in this message if you use it. Also here at Thinking Christian, find a written version of this sample sermon.

We invite you to use this, not just as information but as a sample sermon. We do ask that in your bulletin and online postings you give credit to Tom Gilson and to The Stream, with whom this work is being done in cooperation, with links both to The Stream and to this podcast page.

This isn’t all we have to offer on the topic. Check out the Thinking Christian blog for a written form of this sample sermon, and visit The Stream on or after the evening of October 1 for a one-page pastors’ explainer article on critical race theory, with loads of links to additional information you can use. (I’ll update these program notes with a link there as soon as it’s ready.)

If you’re not a pastor, please consider yourself a member of the congregation listening and learning. You’re most welcome here! And then do please send this podcast to your pastor. There’ll be more like it to come!

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:08 Welcome to the thinking Christian podcast, your weekly guide to solid Christian thinking on culture science, faith, and Christian confidence hosted by Tom Gilson. Speaker 2 00:00:22 Hello, I'm Tom Gilson. I'm a senior editor with the stream and in cooperation with the stream and the streams pastors corner initiative in service of pastors. This is the second in a series of explainer articles put into sermon form for the service of pastors on tough issues and the kinds of things that we specialize in at the stream. And that we would like to make available as helps for pastors on tough issues. The topic here today is the question. Does science disprove faith does the success of science mean that faith must be false? That's our question. You have full freedom to use this material any way you like. We only ask that you give appropriate credit in your bulletin and in any online material in the online postings of it, credit it to Tom [email protected]. [email protected], this is a Christmas themed sample sermon. It's about the Virgin birth. Speaker 2 00:01:25 The timing seems right here. We are at the beginning of November, this gives you time to think about it as a sermon for the advent season coming up. That's the end of the introduction here. I'll launch into it. Now I spent a summer in China wants studying the Mandarin language, uh, Han you as they call it. Some of my American classmates there were complaining about what a strange language it is, which isn't totally false. I mean, you take a sentence like <inaudible> to gen man ma and it sounds really strange to American ears. I don't know if I got the tones on that, right? That was a question. Does this bus go to the train station? But it, it, you know, to us, it sounds pretty strange. Uh, but then we got talking. We Americans, they're talking about the strangeness of the Chinese language. We got talking about our own language. Speaker 2 00:02:18 We've got strange things to phrases like guest host, jumbo shrimp, awfully good. They're called oxymorons where words that just don't seem like they should go together, get put together. Well, the thing is these, these things do make sense. After all, there really is such a thing as a guest host on a broadcast there's small shrimp and there's jumbo shrimp. We can say awfully good because everyone knows that in that case awfully just means extra. So let me try another couple of word pairs for you. And I want to see if you think those word pairs make sense. And the first one is faith in science, the faith and science go together. And since it's the season, the second word pair I want to try on you is Virgin birth is Virgin birth and oxymoron. These two word pairs have something in common besides being related to Christianity. Speaker 2 00:03:15 You see there's a rumor out there. I'm sure you've heard this rumor. There's a rumor out there that God and science don't mix faith and science can't exist in the same world. And therefore miracles can't be real. The whole thing is a fable here. Here's how it goes. If science works and if science is real, then the world we live in is a natural world. Therefore, if the world is a natural world, then there's no, God, there's no miracles. The Christian story is false. The Christmas story is false. And faith is just fiction, right at the top of that list of fictions, of course, is our idea that Jesus was born of a Virgin. Science knows that Virgin don't have kids. It can happen. And you know, science is good. Science works and we know it works. Then the Virgin birth of Jesus must be just a myth. Speaker 2 00:04:11 That's sort of a fairy tale. That's the charge. And that leaves us in a mess. If it's true, because look, we all know that science works, that part's not in doubt. The evidence is everywhere in your pocket, in your medicine cabinet in the car that brought you here or the device you're listening through. Science works. Can faith work alongside it? Then that's the question. That's the question we're going to talk about today. And I'm going to cover it from several angles. The first angle is I'm going to open up this criticism and look inside it. This charge that, that faith and science can't mixed. We're going to see what's inside because we need to know what it's about so that when it's time to answer it, we know what it is we're answering. We're going to find very interestingly that when people say faith and science don't work well, that's the second part. Speaker 2 00:05:04 The first part is we're going to look inside the criticism. And in the second part, we're going to answer it by seeing that when people talk about faith in science, they don't really know what they mean by faith. And they don't even really seem to know what they mean by science. They've even got that part wrong. So that's the answer to the charge, but I want to go a little bit beyond that because for people who still think that there's some kind of big opposition between faith and science and that faith is the fable. I want to tell you just a story from history that I expect. You'll find surprising. It's actually going to turn that completely upside down. It'll be encouraging. It'll be surprising. It might actually be fun for you to understand and to learn what's in this story that I'm going to tell you. Speaker 2 00:05:52 So that's what we're going to do. We're going to keep it Christmas themed. We're going to keep God in charge. We're going to keep God in mind because God is king going to talk about what's inside the charge and the accusation. We're going to look at why it's not true. And we're going to turn it upside down with a story. That'll explain some surprises for you. Let's go with it. Now first, let's take a look at that charge. If science works and then faith is fiction. Now here's the idea that they have in mind. Science has revealed natural laws that govern the way the world works. No, no, wait, not just the world, but the whole universe science has revealed these laws and the laws govern the way the world works. There don't seem to be any exceptions to these laws going. It's hard to see how they're even could be. Speaker 2 00:06:43 They say, because the universe is made up of matter and energy and forces, and they're all related mathematically. You've got your laws like force equals mass times acceleration. That's one of Newton's laws. And it's, you know, it's got a times and it's got an equals it's mathematical and, and science has the, the world of nature tied up. Natha manically. So yeah, we called these connections laws of nature. And they're not laws like stop signs that you can roll through. If you think you're not going to get caught. No, no one decides whether to obey these laws. They don't tell us what to do. These laws. Describe what everything always does. These aren't laws that spank us. If we disobeyed, these are laws that tell us what everything always does. And science has these laws all wrapped up in math. And like I said, and this isn't squishy math. Speaker 2 00:07:41 It doesn't have an ounce of wiggle room in it for us equals mass times acceleration. And if you put the right units in there, you're going to get the same outcome, a trillion times out of a trillion. It's always going to follow the laws. That's how the world works on the level that we can see. Now, for those of you who know a little bit more, I got deal with this other one. Some of you, your eyes make Louise over. Just we'll be back after a couple sentences. I promise it's about quantum mechanics, quantum mechanics. There's a slight monkey wrench in there, but it's not one that matters. Quantum mechanics says that when you get down to the atomic level or the subatomic level, things can happen randomly. So the laws are kind of out the window. They're like when a particular uranium Adam is going to decay, there's no law that says what's going to cause that it just really does seem random, but it doesn't matter because if it's random, it doesn't help faith in me. Speaker 2 00:08:43 Jesus, wasn't randomly born of a Virgin. So those of you who let your eyes glaze over, you can come back. Now, the point is that science says that it's all natural law and that little bit of randomness that I just mentioned doesn't matter. So we're stuck, right? We live in a world of unbreakable, natural law. And faith says a face says, wait a minute. It's breakable science and faith are in disagreement here. Aren't they we're deciding that. But that's the way it looks. And if you'll look around you, look, I mean, which side has the, has the power going for it? Which one has the evidence going for it? Do we know that science works? My goodness? Yes. Do we know it for certain? Yes. We know that science really works. How is faith ever going to stand up against a foe, an enemy, a hostile force like science. Speaker 2 00:09:37 If they really are, enemies are hostile to each other. How are we in a pickle here? Are we in trouble? That's the charge. That's the problem we face. But there's a problem with the problem. And the problem with the problem is that the people who making this charge get a whole lot of things wrong, they get a lot wrong. But now that we've taken, I mean that they get a lot wrong. They get some amazing things wrong. They get some things amazingly wrong. They are so proud of their science, but they don't understand the words they're using. I don't mean to be rude about this. I just have to tell you the truth. They don't use the word faith properly and they don't really even seem to understand science, especially the limits of science. So as solid as this argument looks, it only works. If you get those two words wrong and we're going to try now to get those words, right? Speaker 2 00:10:46 So now let's answer their charge. The first problem with it is they don't know the faith that they're talking about. They say faith as opposed to science, but they've got a misconception of the faith that they're saying is supposed to science. So here's my favorite example of that. It comes from a brilliantly famous mathematician biologist named JBS Haldane, JBS Haldane. He lived decades ago and he said this in 1934, actually, but it's got kind of a timeless sort of feel to it. And it got revived recently by another atheist scientist named Lawrence Krauss who quoted them and said that, you know, holiday and had a good point. Well, let's see if he does. This is what Haldane said held in, said my practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment, I assume that no, God angel or devil is going to interfere with its course. Speaker 2 00:11:43 So in the lab, he has to treat his science atheistic glee that no God angel or devil is gonna get in the way and change the course of his experience. And he goes further than that. By the way, he says, this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. And I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. So he carries his atheism everywhere. He goes, so no God angel or devil is going to interfere. Therefore, atheism, how solid do you suppose that is? I mean, you could say in a way, partly there's something very solid about that argument. He doesn't believe in a God who would interfere Willy nilly kind of randomly and so on with his experiments. Well guess what, neither do we, yes. We believe in a God who does miracles, but miracles are rare. Speaker 2 00:12:49 That's the whole point of miracles. What good would a miracle be? If everyone saw them happen every day, God uses miracles to get a message through to us. Jesus healed people to show his unique kink, Shep, his unique power and his unique love in order to get that message across, what did it have to be? It had to be unique. It had to be rare. Well, his Virgin birth was unique, obviously, too. It had to be because God only entered the world in human form. Once now, the fact that it happened once that doesn't change what science tells us about where babies come from, does it. It's not like it overturns the whole science of human reproduction because things like Jesus, Virgin birth are rare. And just think this is where, how they really, really goes wrong. He should have known it. He really should have known it. Speaker 2 00:13:46 Just think of a role like he imagines where gods and angels or demons interfere in the laboratory. It wouldn't just be in the lab. It'd be everywhere. We're talking chaos. Now we're talking about a totally unlivable world. You know, one night you're making your eight year old eat Brussels sprouts because they're good for him. The next night they're poisonous and he dies. This is, this is the kind of thing that would happen in the world that Haldane thinks a God would be making. If there was a God in a world like that, you could never learn what was good for you or brussel sprouts. Good for you. Depends on tonight. You couldn't learn what the word good even means because you'd never know what was good. Even if you survived your own Brussels sprouts. And what about the way you killed your child that second night? Speaker 2 00:14:37 Did you do something wrong? Could you be held responsible for it? Goodness. No. You couldn't have any moral responsibility for anything. Is this the kind of a world that holiday and thanks Christians. Believe in my goodness. No. When I think of this world that the holiday and imagines a God would be causing if there was a God, I think this is, this is he's disproved a ridiculous fake God that no one believes in. Yeah, well he's disprove something, but it's not anything that matters. Our God created us in his image so that we could grow and learn in this world so we could build things so we could grow things so we could do right and wrong so that we could be morally responsible for the right and wrong things that we do. This is the God we believe in a God who made the world to be very, very, very predictable so that we could live in it and be responsible for what we do here. Speaker 2 00:15:37 Holiday his comment about God's angels or devils makes a very strong case against a God. No one believes in it has nothing whatsoever to do with the God of Christianity. Our God doesn't quote unquote interfere or do anything at all randomly or chaotically. When he does miracles, he does a meaningfully and for meaningful miracles for meaningful miracles, there is nothing like the Virgin birth. It's right at the top of the list. I'm aiming. That's up there with a couple others. It's one of the big three, in my opinion, there's creation. There's Jesus Virgin birth. And there's his resurrection. This one child's Virgin birth does nothing to hinder the science of reproduction. But look at what it's done for us. Look at how meaningful it is. This is what God does with miracles, God with us, it changes everything. It changes our view of God. It changes our access to God. Speaker 2 00:16:32 What could never have come into relationship with God without the human life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God. In the flesh, walking with us, teasing us, showing us his example of the one perfect life ever lived by a man and saving us through his death on the cross. And then his resurrection. I could give so many more examples of why that charge is wrong, but hopefully I have at least shown you one example to show that when people use that charge against us, they do it without understanding the meaning of the word faith. They think that faith means that we're believing in something that's just arbitrary. Just something we made up. No, uh, it's meaningful and miracles are rare, but that's only the first problem. That's, that's a problem. They have getting the word faith, right? It's bad enough. They don't understand that. But you know, they really don't understand the science side either. Speaker 2 00:17:39 And this is, this is strange because you'd think that as much as they love science, they take care to understand it. I mean really understand it. No such luck in this. They've got science wrong too. They've got it wrong in a lot of ways. And I've only got time to talk about one of them and this is it. They think that because science explains a lot of things. It explains everything. Well, they forget what science is. It's the study of nature. It's a study of things that happened by natural cause and effect. That's what science does. And it does it very well. Does that mean it does everything. Of course not newsflash. God is not part of nature. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created nature and he rules over in nature. As he rules over all realities visit, whether it's physical or spiritual, he is Supreme over all and nothing in his creation can resist him. Speaker 2 00:18:38 There's actually a sense in which nature seems to know this Psalm 96, 11 through 13 speaks of the world, exalting at the Lord's reign. It says, let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice. Let the sea roar and all that fills it. Let the field exalt and everything in it then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord for he comes to judge the earth in righteousness and faithfulness. This is the world exalting nature. And at Jesus' triumphal entry, he told the Pharisees, if the crowd were silent, the very stones would cry out. That's in Luke 19 verse 40. And we know that this is all speaking and figures of speech, but it speaks a principle. That's clear in scripture from the first page to the last that God rules over nature. Some foolish people will still object. They'll say, no. Speaker 2 00:19:31 The laws of nature are from miracles. Oh, this sounds so scientific miracles mean new energy entering into the world from nowhere. And we know that's impossible. Energy can be created and it can't be destroyed. I said that came from foolish people. And I mean, it was person is saying that there's no God. And that he knows that there's no God, because he knows everything about both God and nature. He knows for certain, that nature is everything that the laws of nature, that the laws of nature are higher than any God who might've created them. That's foolish. Speaker 2 00:20:15 Yeah. We know that science runs on the basis of being able to predict the laws of nature and having them be constant. And we know there's a law that says that energy is never created, but that's a law from inside nature. The law, the science doesn't know a thing about what's not inside nature. It doesn't know a thing about God. And science has no way of saying that the laws that they use are the highest laws of all laws. So this fullest person who says nature's laws are necessarily higher than God's laws is speaking from ignorant pride, they're wrong and they're wrong because of their pride and the wrong, because they don't recognize the kingship of God over the nature that he himself created. God is king over nature. The birth of Christ meant the king was entering his domain in a new way. And, and his domain had neither of the power nor the desire nor the law of conservation of energy or anything to stop him. Speaker 2 00:21:20 God is king. So let's review. We're coming up on Christmas. We celebrate the Virgin birth of Jesus now, and there are atheists and skeptics among us who say it's impossible because faith is opposed to science at a science is real. Faith can be, and a faith is real science. Couldn't be. And what we've seen is how this charge, you know, just a couple of examples of how this charge misunderstands both faith and science. It gets faith wrong in all kinds of ways that it, the one example we have is a scientist disproving a God that like SOA, no one believes in that God. Anyway. And we talked about how people misunderstand science when they make the charge, because they think that science is God over God king, over the king of creation. They forget that Christianity means the opposite. There is a king who rules over all nature. Speaker 2 00:22:18 Well, I have one final point to make, to go with this. I mean, we've got some idea here. We've got some sense that there's, there's a problem with this charge. And there's a problem with these people saying the Virgin birth must be a fable because you know, it has to because, because science, there there's, there's a fable here, but it's not the one that they think I'm serious. I can only give you a taste of it. Maybe it'll wet your appetite. Maybe you'll go back and learn more of the story. There's a, there's a fable here, but it's not the one that they think it is here. It is. You know the story, right? I learned it in school. Did you learn in school? The story is that back in the early years of science, science was the mighty force of knowledge, pushing through the ignorance of Christianity, pushing through the resistance of the church that persecuted the scientists and stood against them. Speaker 2 00:23:16 And finally science was victorious because science was deservedly. The winner. That's a lie. You have been fed a lie. If you believe that that is now, honestly, that's a lie. It's not just like an accidental fable that came up. It's an intentional lie. It's a powerful lie. It's a lie that almost everyone who believes, but you know who doesn't believe it. I'll tell you who doesn't believe that lie. Historians, historians who actually study this stuff will tell you it's a lie. You have been fed the life. We'd been all fed a lie. Okay? And if you believe it, no fault to you, the lie is powerful, but of course the lie had to come from somewhere. It didn't just grow up out of nowhere. It came from the couple of identifiable forces. So sources I'll talk about one of them. Actually, there were two that were closely associated with each other, at least in the history of ideas. Speaker 2 00:24:21 It goes back to the mid to late 18 hundreds. There was a man named Andrew Dixon, white, who was the first president of Cornell university. And white said that he wanted Cornell to be a secular college. And you know that didn't go over very well with his neighbors here. The people that lived around the campus here in Ethica, in New York and the Christians got upset with him over it. And I guess the fight he did up, well, long story short, white shot back with his best of all, best possible weapons, a book. It was a book that he titled the history of the warfare of science with theology in Christendom history warfare between science and theology. That's how we sold it. He sold a lie. I'm serious. You can check this out almost anywhere. You can even look it up on Wikipedia because even Wikipedia gets it mostly right. Speaker 2 00:25:20 White. Wasn't the only one. There was another author with another book like his and this other author. His name was John William Draper, but it was White's reputation as a university president that helped him sell the lie. Oh, and it was also the many, many footnotes. He put in it, many of which he made up so many footnotes, such a university president, you know, it looked good. It looked intellectual, but it was a lie. But people bought the lie. They bought it all over Europe. They bought it all over America. The fact is the fact is all the early scientists were Christians. Many of them were clergy and the church supported them. The church supported them. If you get past the lie and you look at the history, the church didn't support everything. 100%. Nothing's 100% in human history, but the church generally supported science. You may have learned otherwise you may have learned otherwise. Speaker 2 00:26:20 But again, point by point story by story scientists, by supposedly persecuted scientists, even Galileo. What you learned was a lie, a fable who's telling fables. Now there's so much more than I could say, but I do need to come to a close. And here's what I want you to take away from, from this it's confidence. It's reality. It's truth. Some people say that science disproves faith, but they don't understand what our faith is about. And they don't really understand what their own science is about. They certainly don't understand that the God who made nature is still king over nature. That's a lot of misunderstanding there already. Isn't it? And yet they're so proud of themselves for it. So, you know, the next time someone tells you the Virgin birth is just a fable. Maybe bring up another understanding, ask them whether they think that there was, you know, in history that the church resisted science. Speaker 2 00:27:29 Go ahead and look it up on Wikipedia together. Like I said, this time, Wikipedia is just fine. Then, then go ahead and ask them. Who's believing fables here, but do it gently do it gently. They may not understand the whole truth. How the king of all creation broke into his creation as a human being that first glorious Christmas morning, 2000 years ago, his breaking in really is quite a contrast to the skeptics pride, but don't let it become an occasion for you to puff your pride. The king who entered his creation. Didn't let so-called science get in his way. And he didn't let pride get in his way. Either. Philippians two says, though, he was in the form of God. He did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, the skeptics will have their skepticism. Let them, you need to not cower before them. You need not even cower before. They're supposedly all mighty science, God created science or rather he created nature. And he created us with the ability to study and learn from nature. That's what we call science. He created it. Science is under his domain. He is the almighty know the truth and be encouraged and stay strong in your faith. Speaker 1 00:29:07 The thinking Christian podcast is copyright by Thomas Gilson for more information, visit the thinking Christian [email protected].

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