Hello everyone and welcome to the penultimate video of the year.
Anthony Flew was a pioneer of modern atheism. His famous paper, Theology and Falsification, was first presented at a meeting of the Oxford Socratic Club chaired by C. S. Lewis and went on to become the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last five decades. Flew earned his fame by arguing that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God surfaces. At the turn of the millennium he changed his mind, recognising that the evidence he searched for actually exists. I was very pleased to hear it. In coming to that conclusion that God exists, he was only catching up with thousands of years of Biblical wisdom.
Psalm 19: 1 says the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. In his conversation with the atheist philosophers of Athens, Paul reflecting on the created order, said, “God did this so that people would seek and perhaps reach for him and find hm, though he is not far from each one of us for in him we live and move and have our being. In his letter to the Romans he added, “that since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what he has made…”
But this only gets us so far. If we accept there is a creator, how could he be known if he was behind and therefore bigger than everything. We live in a galaxy of several billion stars. It takes light travelling at 186,000 miles per second 2.5 million years to get to the nearest galaxy and there are billions of galaxies in the universe. It would be like the pot seeking to understand the potter, or the painting the painter, or the sculpture the sculptor. This knowledge is too vast to do much with at a personal and practical level. It’s as likely to leave us fearful as it is fulfilled. Reason would be woefully insufficient. Such a God would need to make himself much smaller for us to have any hope of grasping him.
And as John chapter 1 tells us, that is precisely what He did 2000 years ago. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. …No-one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. This appears an extraordinarily risky mode of self-disclosure. Its risks us not recognising him, nor receiving him, or of allowing this event to simply pass us by.
There are many reasons why this might be. I was an atheist myself once. All of us look at the world through particular spectacles which allow us to filter out unwelcome information, stuff that doesn’t fit our world view. I can think of at least four that are very common.
Some people approach the world through the lenses of scientific myths. Science is all you need to explain the world. But a kiss may be the touching of lips with the mutual exchange of bugs and saliva but somehow that explanation doesn’t quite get to the heart of romance.
Periodically a new historical myth emerges, whether it be the Da Vinci code or some other wild conspiracy, but the evidence for the historical truthfulness of the gospel accounts is remarkable strong.
For some the sheer business of life or the availability of near constant, addictive distraction, dulls the search for deeper questions that reflection on life provokes.
Perhaps for others the sneaking suspicion that pondering these things may threaten the choices we make. In a climate where spirituality is more about self-fulfilment and well-being, Jesus may be seen as admirable, but possibly too demanding.
But the Christmas message invites us to ponder this. The God of inconceivable awe has chosen to reveal himself in a package we can get our minds around. This God is personal, not an impersonal first cause.
He invites us to enter into a relationship with him, a relationship analogous to a parent and child. A relationship that connects us to the one who made us so life can work as it was meant to. A relationship where we can find our true identity, love, security, significance, hope, forgiveness and an eternal future.
I pray that we’d all encounter that afresh this Christmas, that hurting hearts would discover Christ is with us, that guilty hearts would find forgiveness through repentance and faith, and empty hearts would discover true life in the midst of a culture that promises much but delivers little.
A very happy Christmas to everyone.