Scott and I often laugh about how my table talks and those of other elders match what his sermon is for that day. His sermons over the last couple of weeks have focused on various belief systems. This is the topic I began to develop for my talk today even before he began this series of sermons. Something greater than both of us is at work here!
Those who know me, know I am a teacher. Those who know me well, know I am a teacher of science and know that for most of my life I have worked to combine my understanding of all that is scientific with my acceptance of God and faith.
I want to preface this by stating that I love and appreciate all of you and in no way am I trying to change the set of beliefs that you have accumulated in your own journey through life. In fact, to me the essence of our time here on Earth is to learn about God in the ways that we individually understand and accept.
This is done the same way by each of us by using the Word of God, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and mostly growing faith by using the "tools" of understanding God has given each of us.
Tools can be described as things we use to solve problems around us and to gain a better understanding of our reality. A mechanic acquires tools that enable them to do a specific range of jobs. When something new arises, a new tool is created or an old tool is re-purposed.
This idea is the basis of my understanding of science and how I can at the same time accept God's Word and build my faith. Science to me, is the slow unveiling of God's tools. Natural selection, the Big Bang, genetics and some less desirable processes such as aging, disease, and even death are simply tools of God. His tools are used to create us and the universe and reality in which we exist.
Problems and disagreements in this world often arise when we believe we know God well enough to think we have all of the answers. Manyh tenants of Christian belief can be found in other religious beliefs as well, including some that are very different than ours. In fact, the God of the Christian is the same as the God of the Muslim and the Hebrew.
But we have to remind ourselves that we are not Gods, we are humans. We understand our reality through the use of the human brain and not the "mind" of our creator. So everything we know comes from the use of the tools we have on hand right now. Interpretation of our religious beliefs sometimes delays our acceptance of new tools because of our fear of deception by Satan.
For example, most Christians came to accept a universe in which the Earth is not the center. Eventually other scientific understanding has also changed long-standing religious beliefs in other ways. God has given us a wonderful guide for understanding Him and our universe in the holy bible. I believe it is a tool that was shaped by the hand of God through the writings and recollections of various men of ancient times.
However, and this is where I may differ from many of you, I don't always believe in the superficial, literal interpretations of the Word. In fact, Jesus often spoke in parables to provide us an opportunity to understand God using our limited human mind.
I believe we should spend our lifetime reading and re-reading scripture to gain its full meaning to us. If that is a literal interpretation to you, I accept that and love you no less. However continued discussion between all men of God and His Word is necessary not only to help believers clarify their own understanding, but also to help non-believers hear and accept God's Word.
Among other things we are taught by Jesus to love, to forgive, to surrender, and to pray. We try to live by God's commandments but as humans we all sin and live ungodly lives. Without the proper sacrifice we are unworthy of eternal heavenly lives.
In our lifetimes we do not ever completely understand all of God's tools and how to use them so human beings should be a little less judgmental and a little more tolerant in our approach to other beliefs. And love everyone, as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:13 "Three things will last forever; faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love."