I was leaving the parking lot of Wesley Hospital last week.
A custom tag on a car in the lot simple read, “Science.”
I don’t know what that meant, but it is not hard to make an educated guess…which is, by the way, what science is…a kind of educated guessing.
I’ve seen signs and bumper stickers the past couple of years that say, “I believe in science.”
And I’ve heard the many discussions and read articles on the background of the thinking behind those signs.
So, the one word…”science” on a tag in a hospital parking lot likely means to its owner:
“Science” as opposed to ignorance.
“Science” as opposed to unreality.
“Science” as opposed to “faith” or “religion.”
“Science” as fact not fiction.
But notice, the signs say, “I believe (which is a statement of faith) in science.”
“Belief” has different contextual uses.
“I believe this is the right road to take.”
-Belief=not as certainty, but as probability
“I believe in you; you can do this.” (but he may very well miss the free throw)
-Belief= as moral support, not as certainty.
“I believe in science.”
-Belief=confidence or Trust. Again, not certainty.
-Confidence In who or what?
-In scientists?…there are lots of those and they widely disagree…hard to know what that means.
-Science as a method.?
Scientific method: Question/problem—research—hypothesis—experiment—analyze data—report conclusions.
I read this statement last week:
“The Scientific Method is the best-known way to discover how and why the world works, without our knowledge being tainted by religious, political, or philosophical values.”
That is a philosophical statement in itself.
Which scientist, doing science isn’t “tainted” by religious, political, or philosophical values? They all are.
In the book “What is real: The unfinished quest for the meaning of quantum physics.”
At the end of a long historical survey, highlighting the world’s greatest physicists as they searched to understand, at the very basic level…how the world works.
You discover that there were tons of human egos and politics and competing philosophies and strongly held belief systems all colliding and fighting for their own way of seeing the world.
All scientists are religious(strongly held belief system), political, philosophical animals…and self-serving, and biased and sinful…we are all tainted by all that.
It is Scientists who produce science…not some method.
In the book you are led down this long windy historical road and at the conclusion of the book…we find that we still don’t know the truth about the quantum world.
We know enough to “do stuff”…so we can make cell phones…we don’t know enough to understand the basic constitution of the cosmos.
We don’t how the world works…not really.
Again, we know enough to do a lot of stuff…but to say “I believe in science”…well, that’s good…but not nearly enough.
The author of this book ends with some humility…and says we “don’t know”…then makes his own declarations about what we do know for sure (he knows for sure).
These things that others would disagree with.
We can’t seem to help ourselves when it comes to making absolute statements.
This is probably due to our need for certainty in an uncertain (for us) world.
Very often “I believe in science” means…I believe in the science that I believe in.
So, I went to hospital where people are sick, and some are dying.
I saw the medical science at work…I was grateful for it.
I am consistently grateful to live in a world where things are not random but designed and ordered by God…so science is possible.
God could have made a world that is always shape shifting…and science would be impossible…things work one way today and another way tomorrow…today the plane flies, tomorrow it doesn’t.
And I’m grateful for image bearers…scientists, who are designed by God to be able to reason, and to imagine, and to understand the world God has made…to make it sometimes, a better place through their science.
I say, sometimes…because Science is like fire…fire can heat a home, or it can burn it to the ground.
In that hospital, there are people on sick beds and death beds.
Those people have many medical(scientific) questions, but there are larger questions still.
These questions are beyond the realm of the scientific method…that are not irrational, or non-scientific questions…they are just larger than the scope of human science.
They are above human science, not below it.
There are questions, with answers that cannot be discovered but can only be revealed by the maker of the cosmos…the one who made scientists and a world that can be partly understood through scientific method.
It is never science OR faith…all humans must in the end simply say, “I believe.”
Everyone, even the “science” tag guy…ultimately…believes.
I personally “believe” in a certain eye medication I have taken for years…It has “changed my life.”
That’s not exaggeration…I had constant, daily, debilitating eye pain after I came back from Iraq…by 3 in the afternoon it felt like someone had their finger in my eyes.
I had a scientist (also known as eye doctor) …who prescribed some science, also known as medication…and what do you know, no eye pain!
What does “I believe” mean?
It means, I use the medicine…I do something about my belief.
I believe in it for good reason…it works.
I also believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
What does “I believe” mean there?
Well, it means, I do something about my belief…I have made him/acknowledged him Lord of my life…I trust him, I seek to obey him.
I believe him for good reason…very good reason…historical, practical, personal, rational reasons.
We all live by faith…because we have to…we can only know certain things for certain if someone bigger than the cosmos we inhabit…tells us it is so.
John, in his gospel, gives us the single word he would put on his auto tag.
“Jesus”…by that he would mean, “I believe in Jesus.”
By belief…he would not mean…mere historical facts…a guy named Jesus lived and did stuff.
-It is historical fact, but his belief is more than just that.
Belief is not mere wishful thinking…I think this is the truth because it makes me feel better…sometimes the truth of the gospel doesn’t make us “feel” better…sometimes it makes us “feel” worse…so we can become better.
It is Belief as commitment, trust…belief as foundation for your life.
Belief as certainty…Remember in his letter, John wrote “I have written so you will know.”
Belief for John is not like “I believe in Science”…as in this is our best educated guess.
Belief for John is certainty…I know this…because God, has made it known.
Belief for John is commitment…since this is true, I will live my life this way…Jesus is Lord, I cannot do anything other than surrender to him.
Remember how he began his first letter..
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:1-4
Heard, seen, touched…testify to, experienced relational fellowship with.
These are experiential, historical, rational, spiritual, relational…realties.
This is not fairy tale stuff…this is the stuff of certainty.
This certainty does not discount the fact that our “belief” in Jesus is a work of God in us.
But it highlights the fact that this is not mere subjective experience(my truth vs yours)…our certainty is based on broad categories of factual realities.
God has done all this to make himself known to us.
Today we begin in the gospel of John…it was written so that non-believers would believe and be certain that they can be saved.
John’s letters were written so that believers, would have certainty of their salvation.
John is a long, gospel or evangelistic document.
You have to go nearly to the end for John to tell us directly why he wrote this book.
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
What John is saying is that he has carefully selected the things from the life of Christ that he has used to accomplish his purpose…which is that his readers would “believe” and by believing, have eternal life.
Jesus did much more than what John has written…in fact look at the last verse in his book.
“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.”(21:25)
John was very selective in what he wrote because he was not just giving us a history, or a biography…he is writing a gospel.
Gospel is good news…the news that God has revealed himself in space and time…Christ became man to save us and bring us eternal life.
John has selected what he will write…because he is not just trying to tell a story, or to amuse or to inform.
He wants his readers to “believe that Jesus is the Messiah (the promised savior) and that by believing they may experience eternal life.”
Our “science” tag friend…believes science can change your life…as do I.
It has given us the ability to drive cars, fly planes…this has changed human lives.
It has given us the ability to talk on cell phones and live in warm homes.
It has given us the ability to prolong life and increase physical thriving.
It has given me the ability to get through days…without terrible eye pain.
But that “science” tag person…doesn’t “believe” in science as I believe in Christ.
Belief as a relationship…Christ wants me to know him much as I would know other people…but in a very different way, to know him as Savior and Lord.
Belief as a stewardship…Christ wants me to be faithful to honor him…whether by life or by death.
When science someday fails me…when the doctor tells me.
“I’m sorry, there is nothing more we can do for you.”
My stewardship, my confidence has not ended…and my life is not over…and all is not in vain.
As a follower of Christ…I could say “I get the best of both worlds”…science and faith.
But that isn’t accurate…there is only one world…it is my Father’s world…it a world that he has designed and so we can discover things about how the world works…science
But it is a world that HE has designed and the most important things we need to know…only he can reveal…we cannot discover them.
Who am I? Image bearer
What is my problem? Sin separation from God.
What is the solution to my problem? Jesus Christ, the savior.
What is my purpose? Be found faithful.
What happens when I did? Eternal life
How do I know? God is there and he is not silent…he has revealed himself…most profoundly in Jesus Christ.
So, when science tells me someday, “Terry, we can go no farther, I’m sorry.”
“Well, Thanks for all you have done…but I’ve never put my ultimate confidence in you.”
Again, let’s go to John.
Today, we will look at what is called the “prologue” actually the first 3 verses of the prologue (1:1-18)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3
The other gospels, begin in a very different time and place…Mark starts with John the Baptist, Matthew and Luke start with stories of the birth of Jesus.
John begins with the pre-existent Word (Logos/Lah gos) of God.
This eternal word, he will tell us in verse 14 became flesh (incarnate) in Jesus.
John intends that we read his whole Gospel in light of verse 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The rest of his book are the words and actions of Jesus…to validate this dramatic truth claim.
These words and actions are the words and actions of God…if this is not true, this book is fictional at best and blasphemous at worst.
There were at John’s time, and there are still…many wrong ideas about who Jesus is.
If you are interested in these various ideas and the different historical church councils that were assembled to address these errors you can read all about them.
The most famous ones, in terms of Jesus’ nature, were at a place called Nicaea (325) in modern day Turkey and one much later at Chalcedon, which is now a district in modern day Istanbul.
But this is not class on church history, so we will not be diverted by all that.
Our purpose here, as always is…truth, but truth that leads to changed lives.
Not information for information’s sake.
In John 1:1, John calls Jesus “God” and “The Word”.
In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and was God.
This is two persons of the Trinity.
God is one being, three Persons…Father, Son, Spirit.
His readers would have been familiar with this word for Word…logos.
It was the creative Word of God in the Old Testament by which the heavens and the earth were made.
Genesis 1, “God said…let there be…light, water, humans.”
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.
So, there was an OT context, and in the common vernacular of the time, John’s readers would see the Logos as the unifying principle that held the universe together and made sense of everything.
It was one upping Stephen Hawking’s “The theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe.”
No, Stephen this is no theory…the Logos is the reality of who Christ is…he is everything…he is the originator and the key to the fate of the universe.
Okay, let’s jump into the deep end here.
We can swim around in these deep waters, but we will not ever get to the bottom of them…that’s okay…it is really not a problem at all…we don’t need to have exhaustive knowledge…just true knowledge.
I’m going to quote Wayne Grudem from his Systematic Theology.
Jesus did not temporarily become man, but his divine nature was permanently united to his human nature, and he lives forever not just as the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but also as Jesus, the man who was born of Mary, and as Christ, the Messiah and Savior of his people. Jesus will remain fully God and fully man, yet one person, forever.
(Grudem, Wayne A.; Grudem, Wayne A.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 543). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
How can that be?
I don’t even know what you are talking about.
Jesus is God incarnate…simpler words…but still mind boggling
But we should not be surprised that God incarnate is mind boggling, we should be suspicious…if someone presented the incarnation of Christ, as otherwise.
Throughout history there have been objections to the New Testament teaching on the full deity and humanity of Christ.
In 1977, a book called “The Myth of God incarnate” was edited by a man named John Hick…and was full of essays by supposed Christians.
They taught theology but were not believers…go figure.
The title gives away the thesis…the Myth of incarnation.
God incarnate in Jesus was a helpful story for former, more naive, less scientific generations.
As if the calendar has anything to say about what is ultimately true or not…talk about chronologically snobbery…we are not naive because it is 1977 instead of 24 AD?
Never mind, that some of the most brilliant minds in 1977 and in 2024…are believers in the incarnation.
The starting point for calling the incarnation a myth was the arrogant, and unscientific presupposition, that the universe is a closed system…and miracles…like the incarnation are impossible.
How do you arrive at this conclusion as a human stuck here in our small time and space?
Even if it were true, the universe is a closed system…how could we ever know it, we are part of it…unless God told us and then it would not be true…because there would be a God outside the universe.
Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person, is no contradiction…it is a paradox, or a mystery.
One that we will not get our minds around now, maybe never.
“Our proper response is not to reject the clear and central teaching of Scripture about the incarnation, but simply to recognize that it will remain a paradox, that this is all that God has chosen to reveal to us about it, and that it is true. If we are to submit ourselves to God and to his words in Scripture, then we must believe it.”
Now, if you are wondering…”How can you believe something you cannot fully understand?”
I would simply ask, “Do you use a cell phone?”
“Yes, but someone understands it.”
No, in fact, no one fully understands how these everyday things actually work.
The quantum world is a world of paradox
Paradox is two Greek words: para: parallel, dokea: to appear, or seem.
-Apparent but not real contradiction.
A contradiction would be: Jesus is God and not God at the same time.
A paradox is: Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time.
So, do not let your hearts be troubled when you mind is blown by the incarnation.
Paradox doesn’t stop you from enjoying a cell phone…it should not stop you from relationship with Christ either.
Those who find the doctrine of the incarnation “inconceivable” have sometimes asked whether Jesus, when he was a baby in the manger at Bethlehem, was also “upholding the universe.” To this question the answer must be yes…
Those who reject this as impossible simply have a different definition of what is “possible” than God has, as revealed in Scripture.
To say that we cannot understand this is appropriate humility. But to say that it is not possible seems more like intellectual arrogance.
“The incarnation is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible — far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.”
Again, do not let your hearts be troubled…just because your brain is.
It is truth…God has revealed it to us.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Now, in the remainder of his gospel…John is going to give us some of Jesus’ dramatic truth claims:
I am the light of the world
I am the resurrection and the life
I am the good shepherd.
I am the vine, the living water, the way, truth and life
Before Abraham was born…I am!
“I am the, not A”
And he gives us some of the historical actions of Jesus that back up these claims:
Jesus turned water to wine…not a cheap parlor trick…but an important first sign.
Jesus healed a sick young man who was about to die.
Jesus healed a man who had been disabled for 38 years
Jesus fed 5,000 miraculously
Jesus walked on water
Jesus healed a man born blind
Jesus rose from the dead.
*There were many more things that Jesus taught and did…John selected these to demonstrate that his opening statement is true…and that we would read, believe and have life in Christ.
These signs pointed to something greater than themselves…to the truth of the claims of Christ…to Christ…he is God became man to save men and women.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
This is rubbish or this is everything…there is no middle position to take.
A Few Applications:
- Don’t turn this into a mere intellectual exercise, BUT the truth, the facts about Christ are important.
“Our first allegiance is not to a set of eternal truths, as in Buddhism or Platonism, but to a person who lived in history to save us and who lives eternally as our heavenly High Priest. But the personhood of our Lord does not mean that we can be indifferent to doctrines about him or to the content of his teaching. It is important, first, that we identify the true, biblical Christ as opposed to false Christ’s.”
Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief . P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.
-We must know Christ as he has revealed himself but the reason for knowing the truth about Christ is to love and obey him and to be saved and changed by him.
*If you can spout theology about Christ…but are not growing in Christlikeness…you are way off track.
- Don’t be arrogant and think you know more than you do and please don’t become a heretic hunter, looking for error in others, and terrified of error in yourself.
-Be wise as serpents…be gentle as doves…Jesus commanded
Often self-appointed heretic hunters are neither wise nor gentle.
-If someone rejects the truth of Christ we are to be gentle with them…
“Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”
2 Tim. 2:25
-If someone believes what is not true…then instruct them.
-If you have believed something that is not true…don’t panic…when you learn what is true…simply say…”Got it, thank you Lord.”
*A friend’s little girl was walking around the house singing a little song about Jesus she had made up that was biblically inaccurate
-He didn’t panic…”my 3 year is a heretic!”
He instructed her…she started singing what is true about Jesus.
*If someone is really an arrogant and combative person…don’t argue with them…they don’t care what you have to say anyway.
Be calm, be confident, be humble…the gospel is the truth of God…live with assurance not anxiety.
- Don’t let your inability to get your mind all the around the incarnation deplete your certainty about it…or cause to live with anxiety.
You can be confident
God clearly exists…of this you can be certain
It is clear from the cosmos and from your own heart…God has put a GPS in there.
Your own heart is made by God for God…he has put eternity in our hearts…Ecc. 3:11
God has revealed himself in Christ…of this you can be certain…it is a historical fact…with current and future implications.
Jesus Christ is the central fact in human history…of this you can be certain.
You can have relationship with Christ that transforms your life…of this you can be certain.
Don’t be intimidated by those who say…”Explain the incarnation.”
-And then mock when you cannot in a way that fully satisfies them.
Never mind that they live every day in a world that they cannot explain.
Our finitude…our human limitations are not the problem…our arrogance often is.
Live with certainty…not because you are so smart…but God is so good, he has made himself known to us.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
*Have you committed your life to Christ?
*What is keeping you from making that commitment?
*Are you hesitant to be all in, though you have believed…maybe because you lack all the information you think you need?
-You need to get it figured out…not in terms of complete understanding of the incarnation…but that the gospel is true, the incarnation is a fact…then get on with a life of full obedience.
-Never mind that people fight and argue and disagree about all manner of stuff…most of the NT was written to address disagreements…it’s not new.
-The Bible is True, Jesus is Lord, we his people…faithfulness is our stewardship.
-Just get on with it.