by Rev. Robert Griffith
In 1966, Time Magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Here are the opening words of that article 55 years ago:
“Is God dead? … is a question that tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no. Is God dead? These three words represent a summons to reflect on the meaning of existence.”
Following on from the feedback I received from my last sermon ‘My God is Real,’ I thought I would continue along the same lines and bring a sermon which is most probably aimed more at those who won’t be in Church or accessing this kind of teaching online. So I want to challenge you to pray about who you might send this to in the coming days. There are many people who have believed the lie that God is dead or at the very least, God is irrelevant today. This sermon is for them – but I believe it will also boost the faith of any genuine believer. So stay with me! A growing number of people in our world have accepted the cultural narrative that God is obsolete - that as science progresses there is less need for a ‘God’ to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumours of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for the existence of God comes from a surprising place: science. The same year Time Magazine featured that now-famous headline, the world-renown astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were only two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given there are roughly an octillion planets in the universe (that’s 1 followed by 27 zeros), there should have been about one septillion planets capable of supporting life ( that’s 1 followed by 24 zeros).
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a large and expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects, was launched in the 1960s with the expectation that they would find life elsewhere in the universe sooner rather than later. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as the years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. The US Congress ceased funding SETI in 1993, but the search continued with private funding. By 2014, researchers had discovered precisely zero - absolutely nothing! What happened? Well, as our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan had supposed. His two parameters grew to ten and then twenty and then fifty. So the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting. Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel, a retired scientist who authored a number of books on extraterrestrial life, wrote this in a 2006 magazine article:
“In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest ... We should quietly admit that the early estimates are no longer tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets which could support life continued to fall. Guess how low the figure has gone? Would you believe twenty? Ten? How about just one? Well even one is wrong! That’s right, according to the scientific and astronomical experts now the number of planets in our universe which can actually support life is ZERO. In other words, over the past sixty years or so, the odds have turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability and the experts now tell us that even earth does not meet all the criteria and therefore it is a miracle we are even here! Now don’t you just love science? I love it especially when they get it so wrong. I have lost count of the number of times we have been given ‘scientific proof’ about something, only to have that ‘proof’ disproven by science itself some years later. Even today we are being told ‘the science is settled and conclusive’ on a number of issues and I guarantee that the parameters upon which that ‘settled and conclusive’ science is based will be found wanting sooner than we expect. So the ‘settled science’ in 1966 told us that there were two essential parameters needed for a planet to support life. Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life - every single one of which must be perfectly met - or the whole thing falls apart.
For example, if a massive planet like Jupiter was not sitting at the exact distance it is from earth, then its gravity would not draw away thousands of asteroids every year which would have hit the Earth had Jupiter not been right there. The odds against life in the universe are now simply astonishing. Yet here we are, not only existing, but rationally talking about existing. What can account for this scientifically improbable occurrence? Can every one of those 200 parameters have been perfectly met by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that all this, and us, just cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence beyond our own created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being and remain here this long? But wait … there’s more.
The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces - gravity, electromagnetism and the ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ nuclear forces - were determined less than one millionth of a second after ‘the big bang’. Alter any one of those four values and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction - by even one part in one hundred quadrillion (1:100,000,000,000,000,000) - then no stars would have ever formed. Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against our universe existing at all are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all ‘just happened’ defies all common sense. If this happened by chance – it would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. That is how scientifically unlikely it is for the whole universe to even exist. So let’s see if science still suggests God is dead.
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who first coined the term ‘big bang,’ said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” by these developments. He later wrote this:
“A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said,
“The appearance of intelligent design is overwhelming.”
Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said,
“The more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator ... gains in credibility as the only explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close second, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles. A miracle which inescapably points with the combined brightness of every star to something - or Someone - beyond itself. Now, what I have just shared with you could easily have been found in a Christian journal of some kind as people who already believe in God attempt to further their cause by arranging this information in such a convincing way. But you might be amazed to discover that what I have just shared with you has come from an article in the Wall Street Journal published just a few years ago! Now when I was growing up, science was the enemy of Christianity. The concept of a Divine Being beyond our world creating us and our environment and the universe was absurd to a rational scientific mind which only dealt with observable, tangible facts. Well, it appears that the observable, tangible facts are pointing us all right back to Genesis 1 and its clear declaration that in the beginning God created it all … including us. Let me share some more views directly from some of the leading scientific minds humanity has produced – scientific minds which are trained to ignore matters of faith and belief and not trust in anything other than that which they can verify scientifically.
Albert Einstein said,
“The more I study science, the more I believe in God … I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
Abdus Salam was the winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics. He said this:
“This sense of wonder leads most scientists to a Superior Being – a Superior Intelligence, the Lord of all Creation and Natural Law.”
17th century Physicist and chemist Robert Boyle, who is considered to be the founder of modern chemistry, said this:
“God is the author of the universe and the free establisher of the laws of motion.”
Astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Robert Jastrow wrote this:
“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call ‘supernatural’ forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
Then there was Sir Isaac Newton, who is widely regarded to have been the greatest scientist the world has ever produced, had a lot to say about this. Here are some snippets:
“God created everything by number, weight and measure.”
“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”
Arthur Compton, the winner of the 1927 Nobel Prize in Physics, said:
“For myself, faith begins with a realization that a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man. It is not difficult for me to have this faith, for it is incontrovertible that where there is a plan there is intelligence - an orderly, unfolding universe testifies to the truth of the most majestic statement ever uttered - ’In the beginning God.’”
Werner Heisenberg, who was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of quantum mechanics (which is absolutely crucial to modern science), said this:
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
Louis Pasteur, the founder of microbiology and immunology made the same point when he said:
“A little science takes you away from God but more of it takes you to Him … the more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings us nearer to God.”
And this one from Professor of Mathematical Physics, Frank Tipler:
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”
Arthur L. Schawlow, Professor of Physics at Stanford University and winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics put it well:
“The context of the Christian faith is a great background for doing science. In the words of Psalm 19, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork’. Thus scientific research is a worshipful act, in that it reveals more of the wonders of God’s creation.”
Richard Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry said this:
"Recently I have gone back to Church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though more than 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. Although I suspect I will never fully understand it, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help God get that job done.”
And the final word from Charles Darwin, the founder of evolutionary biology:
“The question of whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the Universe has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.”
Now I don’t believe you needed any convincing today that God created the world and is actively involved in His creation. For as Christians we have believed that by faith for some time. But we live in a world where scientific evidence is far more appealing than faith and so I thought you might be interested to know that the arch-enemy of the Christian faith for many generations - science - is finally starting to get with the program and ‘prove’ what we have known by faith for years. The exciting reality we face today, as I have shared with you now, is that more and more of our leading scientific minds have joined Einstein, Newton, Darwin and other great minds in accepting that this miraculous universe, of which we are a vital and focal part, cannot have ‘just happened’ or evolved by itself. All the evidence points to intelligent design – all the evidence leads us to conclude there is a Creator.
At that point, the next question is screaming at us. Why? For what purpose were we and this incredible universe created? And you and I and all Christian believers, have the answer to that question. We just need to be ready, more than ever before to give that answer as more and more people are confronted with the evidence which demands a verdict. As I said at the beginning, I believe this sermon is more for the people who are not reading or hearing this today than those who are. Which is why I want to encourage you again to pray about all those people in your family or circle of friends and associates whom you know have not been convinced by a Christian’s faith story, but may be confronted by the scientific community’s bold affirmation of the existence of God. Download this message from our website and send it to them and pray that God will use this to unsettle them in the most positive possible way. It may still take time for them to come to the point of acceptance, but I truly believe that for some people today, this kind of information will be a vital link in the chain which leads them to embrace this scientifically affirmed ‘Intelligent Designer’, Whom we know and love and serve as our Lord and our God.
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