Lately I have been struggling with 'ultimate questions' as I wrote on my Twitter account. Questions like "do I really believe God created the world?", "Can I really believe that there is a God who controls this huge universe we live in?" and "can I really believe God will one day create a new heaven and new earth?".
I don't know about you, but I think it was a lot easier to believe in God before the scientific revolution. All the things we could not understand or explain, we simply ascribed to God.
Then the scientific revolution happened and lots of things were explained in terms of natural causes and processes. God, it seemed at times, was pushed out of the picture more and more.
For the past 200 years many Christians have basically practiced a faith that Ditrich Bonhoeffer called 'God of the gaps'. In this type of faith we believe what science can explain - and we ascribe to God the gaps that science cannot explain. The problem is that those gaps get smaller and there is less and less place for God.
This is, in fact, a form of reductionism that many christians practice. We reduce everything to its natural causes and effects, squeezing out any role God might play. I readily confess I fall prey to this a lot!
Now most postmodern Christians have adopted a 'both/and' faith instead of the 'either/or' of the God of the Gaps. We believe what science tells us — and we believe that God - somehow - is behind all that we see and know.
That's probably what Andries Knevel, anchorman of the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting Company (The EO) meant when he got himself in hot water a few weeks ago by declaring he no longer believed in a 6-day creation, but in a 15-billion year evolution.
I believe in evolution too: but it's not an easy faith. If you believe we descended from the apes, what do you do with Adam and Eve? With the account of the Fall? Sure, you can say it is all metaphor, or symbolism, or true myth (to quote CS Lewis), but does that really get you anywhere?
If you believe creation and fall didn't really happen, aren't there a whole lot of theological concepts that are weakened. Like 'the place of death in our world'? Like 'how is Jesus sacrifice the perfect answer to the problem that was created when Adam and Eve bit the apple?' And if you believe that God did not create this world in six days, but rather in 15 billion years, can you still believe that God will one day place us (his children) on a new heaven and new earth that he 'suddenly' creates?
Tough questions, I think you'll agree. Not questions a simply mind like mine can easily grapple with.
But I have been thinking about the natural world. Last week I was at the beach and just found myself looking at the water of the sea. You know that water is one of the simplest and most basic molecules we know. Yet the size of the individual atoms within the actual molecule is so small - there is mostly space between the Hydrogen and the Oxygen atoms. And there is more space within the atoms too. So: while you are looking at miles and miles of water, flowing backwards and forwards, under the influence of the gravitational pull of the moon (only 300.00 km away) you are looking at lots of 'space' - with a particle every now and then. And then I haven't even started talking about how the matter within that atom is actually made up of 27 layers of energy. Mind-boggling.
Today I came across another video (thanks to my friend Nick Webb) that talks about a project that seeks to create a model of the human brain using computers. Says Henry Markram of the 'Blue Brain Project': it's going to take a computer 20.000x more powerful than anything that exists right now - and a database 500 the size of the Internet. That's what you've got inside your skull (link to video).
You know: we live in an amazing world. I don't know how science and faith should relate, but I don't think there is a place for reductionism. If anything, science should just continue to increase our sense of wonder. The natural world is a miracle in itself. I understand it does not 'prove the existence of God' in a scientific sense — but the claim that 'faith in God just too fantastic to be true' is also faulty. The universe is just such a fantastic place to begin with: either option, science or faith, leave you in wonder and amazement.
For me, that makes faith just that little bit easier. I don't have to choose between a difficult and unbelievable faith and a simple and logical scientific explanation. That's actually a false dichotomy. I have to choose between a faith full of wonders and miracles — and a scientific explanation that also fills me with wonder, awe, amazement and incredulity.