Stephen Hawking's Last Words

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, prompting the expected outpouring of laudatory expressions and tributes. Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary the famed astronomer Galileo's death, and now he has died on the anniversary of fellow theoretical physicist Einstein's birth, causing many observers to look to the cosmos for some kind of scientific significance.

What we do know is this. In the 30 years since the publication of his landmark book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking has stood above all others when it comes to explaining the universe and its origins. So it is fascinating to realize that his "last words" on the subject were pretty profound, and they came just a few weeks ago on StarTalk, the popular science program on NatGeo hosted by astronomer and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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Science and Faith: Are They Compatible?

The whole point of Darwinism is to explain the world in a way that excludes any role for a Creator. What is being sold in the name of science
is a completely naturalistic understanding of reality. (Phillip Johnson)

Scientists, philosophers, and theologians are pretty much agreed about this: it is the function of science to determine the facts of the universe; it is the function of religion to determine its meaning. But opinions about the origins of the universe diverge, and arguments become heated, over whether the Bible can be used as a source of scientific information. Secular scientists try to exclude biblical perspectives by limiting the inquiry to what can be tested in a laboratory. It is their position that any belief or theory with any hint of “supernatural” causes must be disregarded. Since God doesn’t appear in a telescope or under a microscope, these scientists reject from consideration any theory of a God-caused universe.

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God and the Big Bang

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:3

We’re going to take you on a little journey, all the way back to the beginning of the universe. Before this beginning, nothing material existed because the universe didn’t exist. When people today—scientists, philosophers, poets, theologians, or ordinary folks— think about how it all began, they are at a disadvantage because they weren’t there. Nobody was. Which is why the all the theories about how the universe got going are just that—theories.

Scientists try to figure out how the universe began by the process of discovery and measurement. Philosophers and poets use logic and art to describe what might have happened. Theologians attempt to explain the beginning by going to Genesis, the Book of Beginnings. In the first verse in this first book of the Bible, in a statement that is both simple and elegant, this explanation for the origin of the universe is offered:

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Hear the Voice

David Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. To illustrate how The Voice transports the reader into the Bible's narrative, Dr. Capes shows how the Bible's first verse reads in this new dynamic rendering of Scripture compared to a more traditional Bible version.

Here is Genesis 1:1 in the King James Version:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That is a brilliant, simple, accurate translation of the Hebrew.  As we thought about our intended audience, however, it dawned on us how different the word “heavens” and “earth” are for us today compared to the ancients. 

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You were Made for Chistmas - Thanks Mr. Mumford for the Reminder

You were MADE to meet your maker

If you know me then you know that my wife is way cooler than me. No question. One such area of cooler-ness is that she seems to find new and interesting music all the time. This is especially depressing for me because I have been a musician, in one form or another, for the better part of 20 years. Depressing I say - but on with the point.

One such discovered band (update - now super popular and super Grammy nominated) is Mumford and Sons and they have a song Awake my Soul that I love with the following lines:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

Normally the phrase “meeting your maker” is used around the idea of death and the fact that we all get the chance to meet our maker - like it or not – when we close our eyes that last time. You meet your maker when life runs out – or rather into Him.
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Surprised by Joy? Not anymore.

We'd been hiking for a little while.  Up 1000 meters, and then down 1000.  Up another 1000, and then down again.  Then up one more time, and down half way to our final night at a hut.  The huts are the Alpine alternative to backpacking.  Instead of carrying everything with you, all you need is fresh underwear, a little soap and toothpaste, and a sheet.  The hut provides you with a bed, pillow, blanket, your beverage of choice, and a meal, all for around 50 Euro for the two of us.  Of course, the place comes with views that are unmatched by any Hilton, Sheraton, or Comfort Inn anywhere in the world.

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Interview with Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan is a faith and culture writer who has published over 100 articles in respected outlets such as USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post's “On Faith," BeliefNet, The Huffington Post, and Relevant magazine. He is author of Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet (2010). As a respected Christian voice, Jonathan has been interviewed by ABC World News, NPR, PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Jonathan, you are very gifted writer. Briefly tell ConversantLife, why you wrote this book?

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Signs of Intelligence

The concept of Intelligent of Design (I.D.) teaches that there is a design in the universe. The design may be observed in several areas such as the intricate astronomical evidence of the universe’s origin or the detailed information discovered in DNA. Most proponents of I.D. believe that it is more probable that the universe was designed purposely by some form of Intelligence than by pure chance or luck. Although proponents of I.D. do not necessarily believe that the universe was designed by God, it is true that many of them will acknowledge that only a Being who is very powerful (like God) could design the universe. Even the famous atheist Richard Dawkins, who claims to be antagonistic towards the concept of an Intelligent Designer, in his interview with Ben Stein hinted at the possibility that aliens could have designed the world.[i]
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The Heart of Environmentalism - It's Not About Us

 

A comment to my post on Elmo caused me to consider the “heart” of environmentalism.  I am by no means an expert on the topic, but for me, as a follower of Christ, my heart for the environment begins with an understanding of where creation fits in God’s greater plan of redemption.   

 

A while back I was given the chance to publish an article online at Flourish responding to Wendell Berry’s great work “The Gift of Good Land.”  Looking back, I think it really sets forth my thinking in this area:

 

“The Gift of Good Land,” was published 30 years ago, and we reprinted it in the Fall 2009 issue of Flourish Magazine to celebrate Mr. Berry’s work, but also to provoke some questions: How has the natural world, and efforts to steward it, changed in these 30 years? How has Christianity changed? What is still relevant about Mr. Berry’s words today? What have been our successes and failures as creation’s stewards in these three decades? Where do we go from here?

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Floods, Tsunami's and Earthquakes Oh My!

It’s been a tough week for those in the south pacific and south Asia. Let’s review:

*The Philippians: MANILA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The Philippines ordered the evacuation of people living in low-lying coastal areas on Friday as a "super typhoon" threatened devastation a week after flash floods killed nearly 300 people in and around Manila. The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent days, including Typhoon Ketsana which killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

*American Samoa: SIUMU, Samoa, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Rescuers fished bloated corpses from the South Pacific off Samoa and pulled bodies from the mud and twisted rubble of devastated islands as the death toll from a series of tsunamis neared 200 on Thursday.

*Indonesia: A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Indonesian city of Padang on Sept. 30, trapping thousands under debris. A second quake, initially put at magnitude 6.8 but later revised down to 6.6, hit another part of Sumatra Island on Oct. 1, causing fresh panic. As of tonight the death toll is over 1,100. It is still climbing as search and rescue teams begin to break through the rubble looking for the hundreds of unaccounted for individuals.

If I were in the South Pacific at this very moment I might be thinking the world was coming to an end. Disaster after disaster has struck this region of our Earth just this week. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and monsoons. And, there have been people. These people had families and jobs.  These people had stories.  

Check out the island of Indonesia for just a moment. I started to count the number of casualties and the number of displaced and was quickly too overwhelmed to continue.

Disasters like what the south pacific and south Asian countries have experienced this week raise many questions among both followers of Christ and those who practice other faiths. The most prominent question that arises is to do with the problem of evil.

I was in graduate school north of Boston when the tsunami of 2004 hit Sumatra. I was taking a class called World Mission of the Church. My professor, Dr. Timothy Tennent (Dr. T, not to be mistaken with Mr. T) gave a sermon to a local church regarding the devastation. He shared his sermon notes with our class to help us make sense of that horrific event. It felt fitting to read it again in light of this weeks happenings. The following are pieces taken from his sermon.

Christians ask questions like:
Q. Were the people who died this week more sinful that people other parts of the world?
A. Of course not.
Q. Could God have stopped it?
A. Of course, He is sovereign over the whole universe.  If even a sparrow does not fall… Matthew 10:29
Q. Why didn’t God prevent it?
A. “Why is there any death and suffering at all?” And it has to be faced squarely by Christians, since we claim to have the answers to the true meaning of life, the universe and everything. God does not put a hedge around the world  - book of Job… Satan says, no wonder Job loves you, look how you have blessed and protected him… and God says, no, even if he loses everything… land his children, his health…he will still love me, because Job realizes, despite his wealth, that his hope is in God….

The disasters this week have all taken place in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Tsunami occurred in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism….(Indonesia is the largest Islamic country on the earth, Sri Lanka is the heart of Theravada Buddhism, Thailand is a Buddhist country, India is 85% Hindu……

Explore how other religions in the area would respond to the problem of evil….
Hindus say…  All is karma, impersonal law of cause and effect, due to bad karma in previous lifetimes…
Buddhists say…  life itself is an illusion
Muslims say…  it is the active direct will of Allah…   Allah is sovereign and you cannot question why?  He could have done it for pure sport if he choose to….

No one has said, “why did Krishna allow this?”  “Why did Allah allow this?”

The Christian answer to this is unique. A mystery really. First, this life is fleeting. We are fragile beings. We live in a world with a shelf life. Matt. 24:7, Ps. 102:25,26. Second, it puts life in perspective. Each day is a gift from God. Third, it reveals the hearts of men and women. Odd testimony to God’s sovereignty… no one has pointed a finger at me and said, why did you let this happen?  They point to God because they know he is an all powerful, sovereign God…. Fourth, it points us to the mystery of the crucified savior. God in Jesus Christ has entered into the world of suffering through the incarnation….. the problem of evil can only be met at the foot of the cross.

God does not give us an “answer” to the problem of evil.  He takes the mystery of the problem of evil and it is swallowed up by an even greater mystery… the suffering of his Son on the cross of Calvary, the only truly innocent sufferer.
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