Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stephen Hawking and the Faith Imperative: or Christians and the brightest physicist may have more in common than you thought

I was in college when I read Stephen Hawkings book, "A Brief History of Time."
I thought Hawkings was brilliant and his book very accessible
I still do.

I was watching a documentary yesterday (made in 2008) that was updating Hawkings' work twenty-five or so years later. It was talking about the "M Theory" and "The String Theory" and other theories that are trying to get at a "theory of everything."

In other words: one theory to explain all that happens in the universe.

It was about ten years ago that I was introduced to Quantum Physics and The String Theory by a wonderful friend of mine who was on a journey to find God and that maybe God was more than our finite human constructs.

Now, I don't pretend to get everything about Quantum Physics or The String Theory. But, I do have a small general knowledge of those subjects.
Enough to be intrigued and curious.

So, I watched the show.

What you have to know is that physicists believe that prior to the Big Bang, the universe was a tight, little, dense, symmetrical dot of matter; and that in the nano-seconds following the explosion the forces that shape and work in the universe came into being.

Including gravity.

Gravity gives physicists all kinds of headaches
Because it seems weaker than all of the other forces.

How do you explain that?

Physicists, like Hawking, have spent their whole careers trying.

Let's digress for a moment.

We have been taught that science is about verifiable fact and religion is about faith in Someone who cannot be verified or observed scientifically and so the twain shall not, indeed cannot, meet.

In fact, I have been put off more than once by arrogant people who claim that my faith is silly, naive, ignorant and irresponsible blather because it cannot be scientifically proven or verified.

So, imagine my surprise when I hear Stephen Hawking say that they "hope to one day find the symmetry in the universe that they believe is there but have never observed."




The host of the documentary went on to say that physicists have a lot of great theories
which exist
on paper.

Physicists have spent a lifetime
constructing a truth that exists only on paper
to try to explain something they believe is there
but they have never observed.

Does that not sound an awful lot like religion?

I have faith in a God I have never seen with my eyes but have experienced in many ways.

Stephen Hawking has faith in mathematics.

I am not knocking his faith.
And, I kind of like having something in common with Stephen Hawking.

in something
we have never observed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tour Guides for Jesus

I am trying to take the advice of my niece who is a prolific blogger - and blog pundit - about setting aside time every month to write my blog. Now I just have to find the time to schedule the time to write my blog.

I'm hopeless.

As you may already know, I am a big fan of Rob Bell, pastor at Mars Hill Church near Grand Rapids. He wrote a book called Velvet Elvis in which he articulated faithful Christian-following in words I could not find in nearly two decades of ministry.

One portion that captured my imagination was his description of being a missionary. He writes, "Missions is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there."

In the past, most Christians have thought of missions and being a missionary is to take God where God is not. I agree with Rob Bell when he writes, "Some people actually believe that God is absent from a place until they get there."

But, that would be a really flawed understanding of missions.

The essential flaw in that thinking is to think that we need to take God anywhere, and that there is a place in this universe - let alone on this earth - where God is not present.

Missions is more about starting where people are an pointing out where God is present and working in their lives. Missionaries are, then, kind of tour guides for Jesus.

Again I quote from Rob Bell: "Tour guides are people who see depth and texture an connection where others don't. That is why the best teachers are masters of the obvious. They see the same things we do, but they are aware of so much more. And when they point it out, it changes the way we see everything."

The best tour guides tell us how a color or brush stroke can tell us more about the artist, or how the style of architecture can tell us more about the architect.

I like the "Tour Guide" image for missions and missionaries. It makes more sense to me and is better theology.

I am leading my congregation to think of themselves as missioners
As tour guides for Jesus
Who go to the people they know are living without a relationship with God
Without hope
And pointing out to their friends where God is present and working in their lives.

But, missioners do more then just point out God.
They live as a Christ-follower would live in that culture.
Missioners aren't interested in changing the culture, or even necessarily changing the person
I am pretty sure that's God's job, not ours.

Missioners don't need to take on the false beliefs of the culture, or the practices of the culture that run counter to a Christ-centered life.

Instead, the missioner lives as a living example of how a Christ-followers looks in that culture.

So, a missioner in the culture of sports
Would live as a faithful Christ-follower in the sports culture.
A missioner to the medical community
Would live as a faithful Christ-follower in the medical culture.
The same is true of missioners in the office
Or missioners in the youth culture,
Or missioners in the local community.

We are not talking about changing culture
Or confronting culture
Or even transforming culture.
We are talking about being a living example
To people
Who have adopted a set of beliefs,
And assumptions about Who God is and is not
And connecting some of the dots
And, maybe, change the way they see
Their present
Their past and
Their future.