Sunday, April 2, 2017

Christ and the Cosmos

This past week I spent three days with 300 other people discussing Science and Faith, Evolutionary Creation, Theology, and how we understand our Creator God in the light of recent scientific discoveries. I was in Houston at the BioLogos 2017 Conference. This conference draws speakers and attenders from a variety of fields. We had keynote speakers from the fields of astronomy, molecular genetics, New Testament theology, Old Testament theology, sociology, particle physics, pastoral care, and engineering. There were participants from each of those disciplines plus, virology, microbiology, Christian education, chemistry, psychology, journalism, aero-space science, and many others. I met a young woman about the age of my daughters who was there because she wanted to have honest discussions about science and faith with her own two daughters. She found a great deal of support from the group and went home with information to help in her faith journey and that of her daughters. One of the foremost astronomers in America admitted that she had never found community because other scientists were suspicious of her faith and Christians were suspicious of her science. A pastor stood up and apologized on behalf of Christians and the crowd gave a warm round of applause.

There were many lighter moments as well. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health in the USA, and NT Wright, one of the world’s foremost theologians, sang two song parodies that reminded the audience of the transformation underway in science and Christianity. You can find their guitar playing, singing performance on You-tube (not great quality but it captures an historic moment).

There were many plenary and workshop presentations worthy of discussion at this year’s event, but allow me today, to focus on just one: NT Wright’s lecture entitled, “Christ in the Cosmos.” He affirmed the New Testament understanding that the creation was made through the Word. He referred to Colossians 1:11-15, part of which says that, “all things were created through him (Jesus) and for him (Jesus).” Wright reminded his audience that if we stay focused on Jesus, we will be better equipped to understand the nature of creation.

NT Wright pointed out that, in the Gospels, Jesus has much to say about the Kingdom of God, which is the new creation. So, if we better understand the new creation, we will better understand the nature of the first creation. Both creations, new and first, overcome chaos and bring order. The new creation is compared to a mustard seed that starts out small but progresses and grows and becomes a large plant. Now, as I go beyond what NT Wright said, but perhaps capture the sentiment toward which he alluded, no one expects the mustard seed to go from small to large in one leap, we know that it progresses from seed, to sprout, to two-leaf stage, to multi-leaf stage, to small bush, to become the plant into which it is designed to grow.

Wright also spoke of the New Kingdom of God being like a field of wheat which contains weeds or tares which grow along with the wheat. Any farmer knows that the weeds that grow along with the wheat are useless and are merely taking up resources in the field. Yet, as Jesus tells his audience, the farmer in the parable allows the weeds to grow with the wheat and removes them later. This is a picture of the new creation; but is it not also a picture of the first creation? As we consider evolutionary creation, the useless weeds that grow along with the good wheat may be compared to the dead-ends of evolution. Evolution of species from one to another dictates several paths. Some paths lead to a viable species, well-suited to its environment; and some paths lead to extinction and a loss of that genetic line. Could these extinctions, and lost genetic lines, correspond to the tares or weeds? Such speculation and thinking is helpful to our understanding of how God may have initiated the first creation. I say initiated, because the creation, as we know it, is still happening. At the BioLogos 2017 Conference, Deborah Haarsma showed an image of stars presently being born in the universe and reminded us that God is still in the business of creating. There is a continual process that has gone on since Jesus, the Word, started the Big Bang.

Contemporary science gives us evidence that the universe is still being created. The New Kingdom of God is a kingdom that is growing in our midst. Surely, it is not a large step to consider an evolutionary development of our world. We would do well to meditate upon these things and see if they bring about a better understanding of this amazing creation in which we live.

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