The heavens are telling the glory of God

East Haven Beach 6th January Rev. John Smith has enjoyed a good morning; his morning run – or to be honest, his run-walk-run-walk- was blessed by crisp air and bright sunshine which allowed him to feel that he was jogging through paradise, while God was in his heaven and all was well with the world; a sentimental vision disrupted by hearing the voice of Boris Johnson on the car radIo, as he headed for the petrol station. Now he returns to his desk to take up the issue raised two blogs ago, of what on earth would count as evidence for the existence of God. He does not think that God’s existence can be proven with evidence, in the way that the existence of the Covid 19 virus can be proven, but he likes to think that there is evidence which might start a human being wondering about God’s existence and/or make human belief in God seem reasonable. He is aware that any kind of “natural theology” which purports to arrive at God from worldly evidence was attacked mid-20th century by the great Karl Barth, who denounced it as human arrogance leading to the worship of an idol. For Barth, access to the one God came only from God’s Word faithfully preached by the Church of Jesus, a Word which permitted no rational support but arrived as a bolt from the blue, an absolute revelation. So if John Smith were to claim that the beauty of creation this morning led him towards the Creator, Barth would say a) that it does so because he is already a believer through God’s Word, and b) that if a non-believer claimed the same experience, it would only lead him towards an idol formed by human speculation. John Smith has respect for Barth because he was directly attacking a sort of German Christianity which held that the Spirit led the nation towards the ideals of Adolf Hitler. Barth’s thinking strengthened the Confessing Church whose opposition to Nazism was very costly. So good for him. But sometimes John wonders if Barth is really just saying that you can’t be a Christian without the Church and its teachings. He accepts that truth as obvious. But it doesn’t do away with the need to make belief in God coherent in the face of modern science, and especially in face of its theory of universal evolution. John knows that this remains a theory of the history of the universe in which there are many gaps, some of which may never be filled. Quantum physics for example insists that because the observer affects the event she is observing, some facts are forever uncertain. Nevertheless it provides him with a convincing story of the development of the universe and of life from the Big Bang to Global Warming; and he is grateful to its multitudes of authors for the scope, detail and complexity of its plot. As a believer in God he wants to take the whole narrative and declare, yes, this is the way God creates the universe. He is careful to use the present tense, because of course, the story is not finished. This is a crucial difference from traditional Christian and Muslim theologies which view the act of creation as in the past. He realises there are problems but nevertheless he wants to claim the process of evolution as evidence for the existence of God. This is not a wizard wheeze designed to rout the scientific opposition but a genuine impulse of his soul, an expression of his love for the ecosystem which he inhabits. But it may be mistaken; from a Christian point of view how can the Father of Jesus Christ be identified with merciless process of evolution? How can the Biblical teaching that humanity is made in the likeness of God be reconciled with the evolutionary evidence that several hominids now extinct contributed to the development of homo sapiens from other apes? He does not agree at all with one quite prevalent Christian tactic which is to say that as science and religion have different methods, they are bound to give different answers, and that if both respect each others’ findings, they can remain friends. He thinks, This is fudge. If the facts about the universe derived from the sciences contradict the Christian – though perhaps not the Hindu – beliefs about the Creator of the universe, Christians have either to argue, submit, or adopt a fundamentalist answer, “We’re right because we’re right because we’re right.” John Smith has chosen to argue.

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