As religious leaders (rightly) hit back at Professor Stephen Hawking for insinuating that there is no intelligent design behind the universe, I found this quote by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to be one of the simplest, most coherent arguments for the nature and reason behind the primordial history that I have read:
“Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation … The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the Universe came into being.”
What the bible IS interested in, primarily, is that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, brought the world in to being out of nothing. The ‘god’ that Hawking was debunking was not that God, as the article points out, but rather “a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge.”
As we go to worship tomorrow, let’s be reminded that our faith is not a “god-of-the-gaps” faith that simply plugs our tattered plans. We worship an all powerful, sovereign God who has redeemed us with purpose, because he created us with purpose.
- Religious Leaders Slam ‘Godless’ Hawking (newser.com)
- Stephen Hawking: religious leaders dismiss ‘God not needed’ comments (telegraph.co.uk)
- Hawking’s ‘God did not create Universe’ claim rejected (cnn.com)
The following is from an essay penned by the late Bishop J.C. Ryle entitled “The Fight”:
There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity 1800 years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is “a fight.” (Holiness (Abridged): Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Moody Classics) pp. 110-111)
“…pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.”
via G. Jeffrey MacDonald Op-Ed Contributor – Congregations Gone Wild – NYTimes.com.
Did you know this? It is a reason many pastors burn out. There have been several great blogs already written about this (Chris Hildebrand from the Brooklyn Church Project and the fine folk over at iMonk), but I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own.
One of my seminary professors put it this way: “When you make your religion your vocation, you will inevitably lose one or the other.”
Think about it for a moment. The minute anything I do in the church becomes more about job security than it does about spirit led, Word informed, flock shepherding confidence, I have given a little more ground to giving up my faith at the expense of keeping a job and a paycheck. And with a wife and son on the way, believe me, this is a fierce temptation.
Yet, pastor MacDonald hammers the point home even more… we often hear this from parishioners who cry out for a “happy feeling” and sense of celebration. The message they bring back to the clergy and the elders is loud and clear, and sounds strikingly similar to what an advisory committee told Pastor MacDonald: “keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.”
I think that it is important for congregations to realize what their pastors have been called to do. It is to lead them to what is best for them, not what is easy or comfortable for them.
Even when the bleating of the sheep is so loud that it nearly deafens him.
Because, as Pastor MacDonald has pointed out, “At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.”
How would you say this needs to work out practically in our churches, small groups, bible studies, and informal times of meeting and gathering?