When Science Has No Answers, God Did It!

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In the early 1920s, by a freak shipping accident a brand new car—a Model T Ford—in perfect working condition and with a key in the ignition and a full tank of fuel, found itself washed up on the pristine sandy shores of an untouched Pacific island.

A band of curious locals who had never seen such a wonder, after touching, pressing and carefully manipulating every accessible moving part, happened to start the engine. Shock and fear eventually gave way to smiles and chatter.

More exploring uncovered how to put the car in gear and make it move—by which time the whole village had come out to watch and cheer the spectacle. Arms and heads and joyous screams made their way out of every open window as this strange gadget drew large circles on the beach.

Later that evening, the village elders gathered to make sense of this amazing piece of machinery. It was deduced that there was a spirit-being under the bonnet of the the car, affectionately named “Mr Ford”, that made it go.

The following day the fuel tank finally emptied and the car chugged to a standstill. No amount of persistence would make the car run again, and a fight broke out as to who was responsible for causing Mr Ford so much upset that he fled the scene.

“It was deduced that there was a spirit-being under the bonnet of the the car named “Mr Ford”, that made it go.”

 

This, atheists scoff, is how silly and superstitious Christians look when crediting God with something we don’t yet understand about the natural world. “God of the gaps” it’s called: no need to use your brain if you can simply shrug and say “God did it” every time there’s a gap in our scientific knowledge. Then science advances, unravelling another mystery, filling another gap—and making Christians look like fools. Again.

The atheists are right. “God of the gaps” is brainless and intellectually lazy, and as Christians we need to spurn such a simplistic view of science. But the story about the Ford and our islander friends shouldn’t be so quickly discarded. It’s got something more to tell us.

See “Mr Ford” was a laughable explanation for how the car ran, considering all we know about mechanics. But was there a Mr Ford? Yes, in fact, there was. He was no spirit-being: he was the designer of this work of engineering genius, by now internationally famous for what he had achieved.

“No need to use your brain if you can shrug and say “God did it” every time there’s a gap in our knowledge.”

 

Let’s say one of these locals, on the arrival of Europeans and with generous support, chased down his dream to become a mechanic. After his studies he would be no fool to conclude that internal combustion is a sufficient explanation for how their lucky Ford ran. But would it also make sense for him to conclude that there was no Mr Ford who designed the engine in the first place?

To us this is an obvious mistake! If Mr Ford never existed, neither would the car that arrived on his beach that fateful day. In the same way, it’s a mistake for people to have uncovered the mechanisms by which God chose to run the world (whether cell reproduction or planetary orbits or natural selection) and thereby conclude that he does not exist. This is the error of atheism.

There is a cultural myth out there that says sceptical scientists rescued the West from superstitious Christianity. Reality check: most branches of modern science were founded by Christians, creationists in fact: Newton, Faraday, Mendel, Pasteur, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal—just to name a few.

“These men were pioneers, answering questions the world hadn’t even started asking.”

 

What’s more, historians of science are now recognising that the faith of these men was no oddity of history. It was in fact only in Western Europe, where a worldview crediting a personal, rational Creator with the universe’s design, that modern science could birth and flourish.

And these scientists were no lazy “God of the gaps” types. They were pioneers, answering questions the world hadn’t even started asking. It wasn’t the gaps in his knowledge, but actually the knowledge he uncovered, that compelled Sir Isaac Newton to write, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

Mr Ford did it. Yes, God did it! But we don’t say this in the absence of evidence—when it seems science has no answers—but rather, as the scientific knowledge testifying to the majesty and brilliance of our Creator keeps rolling in.

*Ford illustration courtesy of John C. Lennox, from the book “God’s Undertaker”

Islam: How Would Jesus Respond?

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1 Corinthains 14:20Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

My Muslim friends in Australia are peaceful, likeable, and friendly—as are all the Muslims I’ve met overseas. The vast majority of terrorist activities in today’s world are carried out by Muslims claiming Islamic texts and Mohammad’s life as their authority and example.

Are you confused? Whatever your political stance, in two sentences (both of which I hold to be true) I probably both won your interest and made your blood boil—and not necessarily in that order. The meteoric rise of IS last year, and a recent shocking string of attacks in Australia, Pakistan, France and Nigeria have seen this topic become more heated and divisive than ever.

But this isn’t just a “topic” for debate. These are real people. Victims. Terrorists. Peaceful Muslims caught in the crossfire. A thousand social commentators drawing wildly differing conclusions. All confronted with evil on a scale not seen in a generation.

“The meteoric rise of IS last year, and a recent shocking string of attacks have seen this topic become more heated and divisive than ever.”

 

Fear and anger and sophisticated forms of denial are all understandable reactions. But when the dust settles, will we have a more considered response? Should we bury our heads? I don’t like it anymore than the next person, but at the dawn of 2015, this is our world.

As a Christian, I’m particularly fascinated at the response of Christians in my Facebook feed. We seem as divided on this as anyone else: stop immigration / let anyone in; Islam is a religion of peace / Muslims have a secret agenda to take over our country.

Why are we so torn? And why do we seem to think that those first two sentences I wrote can’t both be true? Am I Islamophobic for daring to write sentence number two? Do conservative political views have to blind people to the beauty of Muslim cultures and Muslim people? Does loving Muslims have to mean defending their religion for them?

“People who, a year ago, were living in lands inaccessible to the good news of Jesus have now settled in our suburbs.”

 

I think we’ve forgotten the example of Jesus, who believed he was acting consistently when he both saved a prostitute from public execution and then, with compassion in his eyes, told her to “go and sin no more”. Who promised he will return to this earth to avenge every evil, and yet whose unyielding love will hold his people secure in joy for eternity.

If we consider ourselves sophisticated, let’s ditch the simple-minded, manipulative dichotomies and be a little more nuanced like Jesus. But let’s be like Jesus in other ways too.

In the last month I have heard incredible stories of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus—in big numbers, in recent weeks—right here in Australia. Jesus appearing at the foot of a man’s bed in an Adelaide detention centre. Dozens of Muslims requesting Bibles and baptism in northern WA. Jesus is busy, and he is calling very ordinary people to join the effort.

“Jesus is the only name under heaven by which Muslims can be saved—not only from brainwashing by extremists, but life without God forever.”

 

People who, a year ago, were living in lands inaccessible to the good news of Jesus have now settled in our suburbs. Many of them don’t have a scrap of earthly hope. On hearing about a heavenly hope—a Saviour who has reconciled us to the Father—many of them are responding! Before I was born they used to call this sort of thing “revival”.

I lived in South-East Asia for two years in a region deeply scarred by terrorist atrocities. I’m half way through reading the Quran, and I’ve read the violent verses. I’m no scholar, and there’s probably a lot I don’t understand, but I can’t buy the idea that the terrorism we’re seeing “has nothing to do with Islam”. Sorry.

But will I let that embitter me, and close my heart to the countless people, made in his image, that God is bringing to our shores? On the other hand, will I deny that Jesus is the only name under heaven by which Muslims can be saved—not only from brainwashing by extremists, but life without God forever? No way. I’m going to go play soccer and befriend some Afghanis and see what God does. Let me know if you want to join.