I came into this world over 60 years ago on a farm at little place called Four Mile Creek just outside Orange in NSW. The world around me was very different to how it is today. Life was more simple then and the vast majority of people in our great nation had some personal history with the Christian Church – most of them had attended Sunday School at some point and had a basic understanding of God and Jesus Christ and the good news – the gospel.
When we wake up this Friday it will be 2021. When I was chasing rabbits on a farm as a young boy, 2021 was the stuff of science fiction. It was so far into the future I had no concept of what life would be like then. But here I am today. It’s no longer science fiction. It’s the same great country, but the world around me is really very different. Back then, the majority of people around me had no issue with what we are doing here today in this service. Most of them had even been part of the Church at some point and many of them still were back then. But as we usher in 2021, we are surrounded by a different generation for whom the Church has played no role in their life whatsoever. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of people around us now who would be fascinated to observe that intelligent adults still do this sort of thing week by week.
In this enlightened, scientific age, it is a great mystery to many people that grown men and women, some of them respectable business and community leaders, would still gather in buildings like this on a Sunday; sit in quaint little rows and sings songs and pray prayers to an invisible God; hear teaching and words spoken to them and over them which are supposed to have a positive impact on their lives. It’s all a little strange when viewed with human eyes through a non-Christian or even anti-Christian worldview. It just looks a little weird, in fact. Is there really a God behind these songs, prayers, sermons and all the other stuff that goes on in the Church?
Only this morning I was reading one of the many online journals of our enlightened age as yet another scientist told me that this God about Whom I preach, this God to Whom I have given my life to serve, this God in Whom I place my total trust – is a lie. The whole concept is a fabrication, a huge hoax perpetrated by weak-willed, unthinking, unintelligent people who need something to believe in other than themselves to help them get through life. As I read this article I was reminded of a story of a classroom encounter a Christian had many years ago with an atheist Philosophy Professor. Let me share it with you. This is a true story, this actually happened.
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The atheist professor of philosophy, begins this class by saying, “Let me explain the problem science has with God.” He pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.
“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”
“So you believe in God?”
“Is God good?”
“Yes, God is good.
“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”
“Are you good or evil?”
“The Bible says I’m evil.
The professor grins knowingly. “Ahh! The Bible!”He pauses for a moment.
“Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help them? Would you try?”
“Yes sir, I would.”
“So you’re good…!”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“Why not say that? You would help a sick and maimed person if you could … in fact most of us would if we could … but God doesn’t.”
“He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?”
The elderly man is sympathetic. “No, you can’t, can you?”He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. “In philosophy, you have to go easy with the new ones. Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”
“Is Satan good?”
“Where does Satan come from?”
The student falters.
“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he?”The elderly professor runs his bony fingers through his thinning hair and turns to the smirking, student audience. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this semester, ladies and gentlemen.” He turns back to the Christian. “Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”
“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? Did God make everything?”
“Who created evil?”
“Is there sickness in this world? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All the terrible things – do they exist in this world?”
The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”
“Who created them?”
The professor suddenly shouts at his student.“WHO CREATED THEM? TELL ME, PLEASE!”
The professor closes in for the kill and climbs into the Christian’s face. In a still small voice: “God created all evil, didn’t He, son?”
The student tries to hold the steady, experienced gaze and fails. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace the front of the classroom like an aging panther. The class is mesmerized.
“Tell me,” he continues, “how is it that this God is good if He created all evil throughout all time?”
The professor swishes his arms around to encompass the wickedness of the world. “All the hatred, the brutality, all the pain, all the torture, all the death and ugliness and all the suffering created by this good God is all over the world, isn’t it, young man?”
“Don’t you see it all over the place? Huh?” Pause. “Don’t you?” The professor leans into the student’s face again and whispers, “Is God good?”
“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?”
The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor. I do.”
The old man shakes his head sadly. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you seen Jesus?”
“No, sir. I’ve never seen Him.”
“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”
“No, sir. I have not.”
“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus … in fact, do you have any sensory perception of your God whatsoever?”
“Answer me, please.”
“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”
“You’re AFRAID … you haven’t?
“Yet you still believe in him?”
“That takes FAITH!” The professor smiles sagely at the underling. “According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God does not exist.”
“What do you say to that, son? Where is your God now?”
The student doesn’t answer.
“Sit down, please.”
The Christian sits – defeated.
Another Christian raises his hand. “Professor, may I address the class?”
The Professor turns and smiles. “Ah, another Christian in the vanguard! Come, come, young man. Speak some proper wisdom to the gathering.”
The Christian looks around the room. “Some interesting points you are making, sir. Now I’ve got a question for you. Is there such a thing as heat?”
“Yes,” the Professor replies. “There’s heat.”
“Is there such a thing as cold?”
“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”
“No, sir, there isn’t.”
The Professor’s grin freezes. The room suddenly goes very cold. The second Christian continues.
“You can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega-heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat but we don’t have anything called ‘cold.’ We can hit 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold, otherwise we would be able to go colder than 458 degrees. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”
Silence. A pin drops somewhere in the classroom.
“Is there such a thing as darkness, Professor?”
“That’s a dumb question, son. What is night if it isn’t darkness? What are you getting at…?”
“So you say there is such a thing as darkness?”
“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something, it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, Darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker and give me a jar of it. Can you…give me a jar of darker darkness, Professor?”
Despite himself, the professor smiles at the young effrontery before him. “This will indeed be a good semester. Can you tell me, what your point is, young man?”
“Yes, Professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with and so your conclusion must be in error.”
The Professor goes toxic. “Flawed? How dare you…!”
“Sir, may I explain what I mean?”
The class is all ears.
“Explain … oh, explain…” The professor makes an admirable effort to regain control. He waves his hand to silence the class, for the student to continue.
“You are working on the premise of duality,” the Christian explains. “That for example there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science cannot even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism but has never seen, much less fully understood them. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, merely the absence of it.”
The young man holds up a newspaper he takes from the desk of a neighbour who has been reading it. “Here is one of the most disgusting tabloids this country hosts, professor. Is there such a thing as immorality?”
“Of course there is, now look…”
“Wrong again, sir. You see, immorality is merely the absence of morality. Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of justice. Is there such a thing as evil?” The Christian pauses.
“Isn’t evil the absence of good?”
The Professor’s face has turned an alarming colour. He is so angry he is temporarily speechless. The Christian continues. “If there is evil in the world, Professor, and we all agree there is, then God, if he exists, must be accomplishing a work through the agency of evil. What is that work, God is accomplishing? The Bible tells us it is to see if each one of us will, of our own free will, choose good over evil.”
The Professor jumps back in, “As a philosophical scientist, I don’t see this matter as having anything to do with any choice; as a realist, I absolutely do not recognize the concept of God or any other theological factor as being part of the world equation because God is not observable.”
The Christian replies, “I would have thought that the absence of God’s moral code in this world is probably one of the most observable phenomena going. Newspapers make billions of dollars reporting it every week! Tell me, Professor, Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”
“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”
“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”
“Professor. Since no-one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an ongoing endeavour, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a priest?”
“I’ll overlook your impudence in the light of our philosophical discussion. Now, have you quite finished?”the professor hisses.
“So you don’t accept God’s moral code to do what is righteous?”
“No. I believe in what is – that’s science!”
“Ahh! SCIENCE!” the student’s face splits into a grin.“Sir, you rightly state that science is the study of observed phenomena. Science too is a premise which is flawed…”
“SCIENCE IS FLAWED?” the Professor splutters. The class is in uproar.
The Christian remains standing until the commotion has subsided. “To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, may I give you an example of what I mean?”
The Professor wisely keeps silent. The Christian looks around the room. “Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?”
The class breaks out in laughter as the Christian points towards his elderly, crumbling tutor.
“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain … felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelled the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so.”
The Christian shakes his head sadly. “It appears no one here has had any sensory perception of the professor’s brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says this Professor has no brain.”
The class is in chaos. The Christian sits down.
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Friends, in this enlightened, scientific, politically-correct world in which we now live, the Church is a nuisance, a nonsense and an insult to many intelligent, thinking people. That’s because those supposedly intelligent, thinking people are operating only within the tangible kingdom of this world in which something is ‘real’ only if I can observe it and touch it and experience it directly with my body. However, there is another world, another reality, another kingdom which has always been there, always will be there, and is not diminished by our unbelief or altered by our scepticism. I am talking about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, that Kingdom which is not of this world and existed long before this world did and will continue long after this world has gone. It is that Kingdom which people desperately want to experience deep down, but they are constantly being told it doesn’t exist.
Let me ask you a question. How many television stations can you hear or see at present, right here and now? How many radio stations and short wave radio conversations can you hear? Can you hear the truckies on their CB radio? No, you cannot hear the hundreds of invisible transmissions which are bombarding this room right now. All you can hear is my voice because this microphone is the only frequency that you are tuned into at present. If I had brought a dozen televisions and a dozen radios and a few short wave radios in here today and plugged them all in and fixed up some good aerials on the roof and tuned them all in to a different frequency, then what would we see and hear? Within a few minutes you and I could personally connect with any and all of those transmissions which are bombarding us right now and continue to do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We just don’t know it because we are not tuned in.
If you can’t see God or hear God or experience God right now, it may well be because He just doesn’t exist. That is one explanation that a growing number of people in today’s world would want to offer us. But an equally valid explanation is simply that you are not plugged into the right source and you have not turned the dial of your heart to His frequency. You are trying to tune in to a spiritual reality with a non-spiritual, if not counter-spiritual receiver. Since I first tuned into God and His Kingdom many, many years ago, my life has not been the same. I could keep you here for a week telling you stories about Who He is and What He’s done. Yes, it’s true – I encounter God through faith. I don’t encounter Him in the flesh – but I am a lot more than flesh. I am also spirit and spiritual things are discerned in the spirit and when that happens, those things are just as real as that table! When I turn on a light switch, I believe the light will come on and it does. I cannot fully explain to you the miracle of electricity but I know from personal experience to trust that power. But nothing will happen if I don’t turn on the switch. So too with God. I have seen Him enter broken marriages and repair them. I have seen Him heal the sick in so many wonderful ways. I have seen Him transform entire communities and yet I cannot see Him in the flesh.
Brothers and sisters, as we enter 2021, we enter a very different world to the world into which most of us were born.
At a time when people need God more than at any point in human history, we have a record number of people who believe God is a man-made phenomenon and they see more evil than good done in the name of ‘God.’ More than at any point in history, people in 2021 will need to encounter real Christians who know and worship and follow a real God and are not intimidated by science or the hostile post-Christian society, in which we now find ourselves. If you are yet to taste the wonder and the glory and the reality of life in God’s kingdom then let someone know that today so they can pray with you and lead you there. Perhaps you encountered God once upon a time but feel that you may have re-tuned your life and are listening to other transmissions and distractions? Then I encourage you to simply turn the dial back today and let someone know so they can pray with you and support you as re-connect with God.
In 2021 we are going to need an army of people who can boldly, confidently and passionately declare: “My God is Real!” Without such an army, our once-great nation is going to continue being bullied into the dark ages by anyone who shouts loud enough to attract attention. The rise of humanistic secularism in our nation has been breathtaking in recent years and my Bible and all of history tells me that is only possible when the Church is asleep in the light and not fulfilling our calling in Christ. I want to suggest that the only New Years Resolution we need to make is that the Church of Jesus Christ would arise and hear the call of God again to bring the light and life and power of the gospel to a broken and needy world around us. Amen.