Friday, September 3, 2010

Stephen Hawking, My Youth Pastor, And My Hand . . .

My youth pastors left quite a mark on my life. They challenged my faith, provided a great example of what it means to follow Jesus, and they used teachable moments to shape my knowledge of the Almighty. I oftentimes say that if it wasn't for Phil, Mike, and Chuck, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today. Because of them, I know what kind of impact a youth worker can have on a kid.

One of the many profound moments I remember from my high school days occurred during a youth group meeting when Phil asked our group to ponder the wonder and greatness of the Creator. He asked us to hold up our right hand and to look at it. Then, he instructed us to move it. . . and move it again. . . and then move it again. We did this for about 5 minutes, but it didn't take that long to come to the realization that the so-familiar-that-we-take-it-for-granted five-fingered thing at the end of our right arm provides amazing evidence of the fact that we have been - as the Psalmist says in Psalm 139 - "fearfully and wonderfully made."

I was reminded of this on Monday as Lisa and I sat in an office at the Hershey Medical Center after viewing x-rays and discussing the healing taking place in my bones with a couple of orthopedic physicians. When they left the room we were in awe at how God has made our bodies to heal, and the evidence of that in my own body over the course of four short weeks. As we sat there together in amazement in the quiet of that room, we both remarked with wonder at how any physician couldn't be a believer and follower.

This morning, our paper reported on some new stuff from physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking. I've never read any of Hawking's stuff, but I've from time-to-time followed the news stories about Hawking's theories and writings. Today's headline read: "Hawking: God not needed for creation." It seems that Hawking is challenging Isaac Newton's theory that God had to be involved because without him, order couldn't have somehow just naturally come out chaos. I don't get it. For me, even the ability of Hawking's brain to think at levels I could never dream of achieving is ample evidence for a Divine Creator.

So. . . today. . . I challenge you to take 5 minutes (or more) to look. . . to really look. . . at that right hand on the end of your arm. If you're a parent or a youth worker, take a lesson from Phil, a guy who had a tremendous impact on my life, and challenge your kids to shut down long enough to ponder the evidence at the end of their right arm. And if that isn't enough, maybe I'll get you a copy of my x-rays!


Stephanie - aka "3(D)Thinker", said...

Struggling and confused, as usual.

Walt, we must be very careful in using your logic and rationale that there must be a God due to the many complexities of the human hand and the bodies healing properties. Hawking backers then have the absolute right to use your same exact logic to declare,

"There can't be a God - just look at all the literally millions of people withering away in hospitals because their bodies will not heal. The millions of people with body parts which are grotesquely deformed and do not function properly. Mental institutions filled to capacity with people whose minds are totally absent from reality. Tens of thousands who are permanently paralyzed from broken spinal vertebrae which will never heal, etc, etc. etc."

I think it best to steer clear of that logic as you are actually are giving more ammunition to non-believers than believers.

And to be honest, your example of the complexities of a hand as proof of God, I find incredibly weak and superficial. We must put forth better arguments than that.

Nate said...

Stephanie -- I'm confused about why you are confused as I don't see how Hawking backers can use the exact same logic to argue against the existence of God. If you looked at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would your first thought be "Wow, I wonder how all that paint got randomly distributed into such a beautiful picture?" Or would you think "Hey, the person that painted this did a heck of a job?"
And even if someone put graffiti on it, or whatever, how would that logically point back to the original design being an accident?
How do scientists attempt to determine if there is intelligent life "out there" -- they have radio telescopes and whatnot all listening for complex patterns, in the midst of static.
If you don't think your right hand is complex enough, think about your eye, your nervous system, your reproductive system, etc, etc, and the idea that it all works simultaneously. Not sure how that argument could be stronger... Your thoughts?

David Wallover said...

The key word in Stephanie's response is "complexities." There are physical complexities; there are metaphysical complexities. But the fact that there are such complexities all but compels the question, "Where did they come from?" It's not a discredited question. The question of origins plagues the history of philosophy, theology, and physical science, up to and including our own day. To look at one's hand IS an argument, from physical evidence, for the existence of a Creator. Is it "airtight?" I wouldn't go that far; but neither is it ammunition for unbelief. It is compelling to consider the complexities and ask, Where did they come from?

Stephanie - aka "3(D)Thinker", said...

Nate and David, thanks so much for your responses. Although I can see your points, the problem is that at this point in my life I'm seeing a strong basis for other points of view. Nevertheless, I found both of your comments consoling, as my confusion is scary and upsetting. For a better understanding of where I'm coming from please see my comment on Walt's post of May 24, 2010.

This confusion began somewhat abruptly with my dearest friend and college roommate, Cindi. She is the most considerate, sincere, and morally grounded friend I have ever had. I had considered her just a non-church going Christian as she once told me she was baptized a Methodist. Much later in the year when our bond was sister-tight, she trustfully confided in me that she was an atheist. Wow! That completely shattered my long held "taught" belief of atheists being totally amoral. That set off a chain reaction of questioning everything that I had been taught.

I'm actually using Walt's 3(D) concept of "mindful critique" in place of "mindless consumption", in regard to those things which I have been taught.

I don't know where this road will lead, but I know that I must travel it.

Trevor said...

Nate, I too admire your compassionate response. Let me clarify a MAJOR misconception that you and all of us Christians have about Hawkings and evolution backers. They do NOT believe that this all came about from "random distribution", as you state. But rather from a painstakingly long(eons) process, extremely precise, with minute incremental changes, in response to the environment. There was NOTHING random about it! In fact it was a process identical to Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel - incredibly time consuming, very exact and precise brush strokes,and accomplished in the smallest increments.

Also, if you are willing to diligently and open-mindedly study the concept of evolution(start with Darwin's-"Origin of The Species"), it will fully explain the development of the "...eye, nervous system, reproductive system, etc, etc, ..." .

Even the Vatican, after years of study, has finally accepted the concept of evolution.

David Wallover said...


You are evidently a thoughtful person, and I respect that. Thanks for your openness and honesty.

Tim Keller has written a wonderful book that may be of some help to you: The Reason for God. He writes in the context of his ministry in NYC, where he meets wondefully moral atheists every day. His observation is that many Christians come to the City expecting to be "good," only to discover that there are many "good" people. And then, like you, they are thrown into confusion about their own faith.

What is lost, by many Christians, is that our "goodness" is not what saves us, nor even what makes us "good." Only Christ is good, and only He has the right to claim "goodness" before His Father. What He does, magnificently and amazingly, is trade in His goodness for our badness--and therein lies our hope, our salvation--and only there. "He knew no sin became sin for us, that we [by faith in Christ alone] might become the righteousness of God."

Your friend is good. But will it earn her a place in heaven? Is her goodness better than Christ's? That's the questions we must all face. Keller does a wonderful job of exploring many other, similar questions--with respect and gentleness. I commend his work to you.

Praying that you will find your rest in Christ once again.


Nate said...

First, can I say I appreciate the civility of this conversation? It's refreshing, compared to others I've seen on other forums, and you all bring great points to the dialog. Trevor, I am admittedly biased against evolution, but would be fascinated to hear how they explain the process. What I don't get, (and I'm sure you have heard this line of reasoning before) is if the changes were incremental, how were they sustainable? In a simple example, how can an organism reproduce during all those years while its reproductive system is trying to incrementally develop? And what if you have a fully developed reproductive system, but starve to death because your digestive system is a few increments behind? Can you point me to any books by evolutionary theorists that can simply yet comprehensively address arguments, even just related to complexity?
Stephanie -- I read your previous post you referenced, and you are right on -- just because a person has always been taught something does not make it true. Conversely, just because you have been taught something does not make it automatically untrue, so we have to be careful. I think you are in a good spot, on "the road" that you mention -- keep asking questions :)

Trevor said...

Nate, yes I too appreciate the civility on this topic and this site in general. A large part of that can be attributed to the example Walt sets. His posts are always civil, caring, and a sincere attempt to help young people. There is never any hateful condemnation or righteous piousness.

I was asked to leave my last church due to my belief in evolution. I found many of my teenage "biblical literalist" beliefs impossible to rationalize and defend in my post-teen years as my education progressed. But, just because one is not a biblical literalist does not mean that they do not believe in the most important and basic teachings of the Bible.

My previous church accepted ALL of today's modern sciences; chemistry, physics, astronomy, medicine, etc.. All except one - carbon-dating. Carbon-dating is one of the most simple, basic, and universally accepted scientific concepts, yet rejected by biblical literalists. To the scientist, carbon-dating is as easy as a layman counting the rings of a tree to determine it's age. But it lays waste to the belief that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

Check out the website of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History at http// Then google introduction to evolution. Hope this helps. Thanks for listening.

Trevor said...

Walt, since my reply to Nate's sincere inquiry to me was not published, I would appreciate you at least commenting to Nate that I did reply to his inquiry but that you deemed my response to be inappropriate for publication. I would not want Nate to think that I totally ignored his request. I was not raised that way.

Also, I and many others, believe very strongly that God-loving Christians can believe in evolution without their belief being tainted. Check out the John Templeton Foundation - very science-oriented devout Christians, who are very open to accepting evolution.

Thanking you in advance, if indeed you are willing.

Walt Mueller said...

Sorry folks for not getting comments posted over the weekend. . . I was a little out of the loop.