Sunday Morning

28 Feb

my-bus…sees me take over the pulpit reigns in Ammanford Evangelical Church once more. The first Sunday of the month is our ‘seeker sensible’ service. For the first few months we’re doing a series based on questions people wanted to ask God (as filled in as they returned they details for the Church contact book. It’s my dubious pleasure to answer the question, “God, if you probably don’t exist, does that mean I can stop worrying and enjoy my life?”

If you want to read (approximately, this script is just one stage in my process of sermon writing) how I’ll be answering the question then read on!

 

“God, If You’re probably not there, does that mean I can stop worrying and enjoy my life?”

 So I don’t think I’m guessing if I say that you’ve all heard of the advertising campaign that was launched recently by the British Humanist Association. “There probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Some of you may have even seen one. I did in Swansea about a month ago.

 The reason the whole campaign got started was to counter the “Christian Advertising” all over London busses, trains, generally anywhere you could put adhesive.

 Christians’ by the way have reacted in different ways. Some organisation called ‘Christian Voice’ tried to have the adverts banned. (I think they are the ones who’d even protest the digital switch over). The Trinitarian Bible Society has retaliated with an antiquated “The Fool hath said in his heart there is no God” and what might seem odd, the Christian Think-tank Theos has actually donated money to the campaign.

 A few weeks in British transport was almost entirely shut down by ‘the worst snow in 18years.’ My own response to the atheist bus campaign (had I the money or the inclination) would have been this:

 “There is no bus, so stop waiting and go play in the snow.”

 What ever the intentions of the organizers the campaign it has stoked the smouldering fire of discussing God in public. Up and down the country and countless universities Students have been organizing talks and public debates; it’s had radio time, air time on TV. People seem to be talking about it and therefore talking about God.

 Upside Down

The question we have this morning really has three points doesn’t it, or three parts the question. Firstly, does God probably not exist? Secondly does his existence or non existence mean we should worry and thirdly if all the rest is said and done, do we enjoy ourselves?

Dawkins (who matched every other donation to the campaign) says that people are religious until they start thinking. SO let’s think this morning about the questions raised.

 To be quite honest, the thinking behind the Bus campaign is what I’d call upside down. At each of these questions. The thinking that science can produce a ‘probability’ associated with the existence of God. Upside down. The thinking that belief in God produces worry. Upside down.The thinking that with God removed from our worldview all that’s left to do is enjoy ourselves. All upside down. So how do we turn our thinking the ‘right way up?’

Can we find God?

“There’s probably no God…” is born out of the thinking that as a ‘being’ we can find God and having exhausted all the avenues of discovery (i.e. having used science to find him) we can almost (good science leaves wiggle room) rule out his existence. But is the notion of us, using science, finding God a good one to begin with? Or is it plain upside down?

 On the website of the bus campaign under a heading, “why probably” I found this:

 Ariane Sherine has said, ‘There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t).”

Why is that? Why is it impossible to prove or disprove anything? We’ll science concerns itself with natural phenomena being explained with natural causes. So it really fences itself in. It always allows the wiggle room to say that something is outside of science. When they say there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God they are really acting out of their dislike for anything to be outside of their observable, repeatable, predictable world.

 But think about it. What, philosophically speaking is one of the first phrases you’d use to describe God? If God existed surely he’d be super natural. Would science have anything to say on the matter? Obviously not. So should we be searching for God? If we are searching are we just thinking upside down?

 Let’s push it a little bit by looking at an illustration (stolen as far as I know from Tim Keller).

 Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Everyone’s familiar with picture of him holding a human skull in his hand and asking, “To be or not to be. That is the question.” But here’s my question. How can Hamlet know about Shakespeare? Can he search the world he occupies? Can he climb a tower? Can he ask the other characters? With the resources available to Hamlet Shakespeare could never become more than just an idea. Perhaps in the personalities of his fellow characters he may spot something of the character of Shakespeare. Perhaps by contemplating the world in which he lives he can infer something about it’s author. Perhaps, like Descartes he could confidently assert that, “I act therefore Shakespeare is!”  Ultimately though he is left to wonder.

 But what if Shakespeare wanted Hamlet to know him? What if Shakespeare wrote himself into the play? Hamlet could know him!

 So it is with God. With science and ethics we can study what God has ‘written’ and find clues to both his existence and his character (which is why a number of scientist are theistic…even the author here has a Masters in Physics!). After all Paul wrote in Romans 1 that creation speaks of otherwise invisible qualities of God. But ultimately we can know him because he has written himself into our play, into human history.

 We can find God = Upside down
God can reveal Himself to us = Right way up

Does this seem crazy to you? That instead of searching for God we believe in a God who reveals himself to us? Well we celebrate it for a few months every year, God became a man. He was born. Jesus.

 In John (the gospel) we open with this very fact. The Word (an abstract notion) which was God became flesh (tangible, knowable).

 Lets look at it together:

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

Then later

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

 The God of the Bible is a revealing God. Christianity requires us not to just look at the clues in science and ethics but to look to history. If God has not revealed himself we can all pack up and go home because John begins his book by saying just that. Did Christmas happen? If it didn’t forget it. Christianity is trash, rip the posters down and lets put the whole matter to bed. But John says it did happen. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, Peter. They all record that it did happen.

 Stop Worrying 

The second part of the campaign instructs us to stop worrying. Upside down. The idea that the existence of God leads to worry comes from a misunderstanding of Christianity. It comes from thinking that if God exists we must be religious.

 Being religious means trying to earn God’s approval. Hoping that what we do and think, who we are, is enough to please or satisfy a cosmic judge. The idea is that if God exists then we’ve got to be ‘good enough’ for him. It leads to worry because we’re never really certain if we’re good enough for God. We never really know if who we are is good enough. But this is where the thinking is upside down again.

 Imagine if you would a list of religions, their names and practices. Now imagine one of those huge rubber stamps being brought down on them and the inky stain left across all their names: DO’S AND DON’TS! Now imagine a piece of paper carrying only the word Christianity. The rubber stamp that would fall on it wouldn’t really read do at all, as if it is by our works that we are accepted by God. Instead when the stamp is lifted up the word that stares back is: DONE!

 Again John speaks about this very thing in his gospel. As he records the words of Jesus on the Cross he includes the all concurring phrase, “It is Finished!”

 As a rule religion teaches that what we do matters. Christianity teaches what Christ did is what really matters now. It teaches that we needn’t worry about our acceptance by God because it…is…finished! Through His perfectly life, sacrifice on the Cross and resurrection from the dead, that same God who revealed Himself to us by writing Himself into human history has also taken away any uncertainty for those who trust in believe and trust in Him.

 We have to please God = Upside down
Jesus did it all = Right way up

A little bit of what you fancy

 The slogan concludes with the pronouncement that now we have dismissed God, abandoned the associated worry, all that there’s left to do is enjoy ourselves.

 Is this right? What happens if we start to think about death? Do we enjoy ourselves? Remember there’s no hope in it. No light at the end of the tunnel. Forget death for a moment and think about life. If this is all there is, can we enjoy it? If this life is it, is it enjoyable? What with economic ruin, unjust wars, record numbers of slavery, is this ‘one and only life’ anything we can enjoy?

Most people would conclude no. In the face of suffering, injustice and continuing disappointment this life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The thinking is upside down.

 So is there any hope? Is there any joy to be had?

 Christianity shares a view of reality quite different. A reality where we can enjoy the good in life in the knowledge that all that is wrong will one day be put right. Perfect justice. (Christ’s return to make perfect judgement)

It also speaks about a future where there is nothing but joy. A time where there will be no suffering, no tears. (Revelation 21)

 One life then nothing = Upside down
Life can only get better = Right way up

 There is a God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

 Can we know God? Only if He reveals Himself to us. The good news is that He has! Jesus is God + flesh.

 Do we need to worry? Not if you trust Jesus when He says ‘It is Finished.’ Not if we realise it’s Him that’s put right all our wrongs.

 Can we enjoy ourselves? Certainly, because we know things can only get better. We know that pain and suffering and disappointment will be removed and all that we’ll be left with is perfection.

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2 Responses to “Sunday Morning”

  1. Larry 28/02/2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Nice preach. I would possibly add one paragraph on joy in Christ (if you have time) at the end…
    What is the chief purpose of man’s existence? ….

    Looking forward to hearing the Mp3

  2. Dominic 02/03/2009 at 9:27 am #

    Great! Really like it.

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