Saturday, 29 May 2010

The seven ages of man

There are so many things I want to rant about I don't know where to start. So, as Julie Andrews says, lets start at the very beginning - a very good place to start.

When I first got on the train to glory - the redemption express - I must have been about six or seven. All I knew was the tickets were free and if you weren't on board you might as well kiss good-bye to life there and then. The message was pretty unsophisticated: 'Turn or Burn'.

Mark Twain once said that giving up smoking was easy - he had done it hundreds of times. By the time I was 30 I too had given up smoking, well, scores of times - and been 'born again' (or tried to be) almost as often. But that's another story, and although my 'church' identity has wobbled from 'what's a church?' to non-denominational Mission Hall to anti-church to Presbyterian to ... well, lets call it 'post-denominational'.

Much as I've chewed the cud on transubstantiation, predestination and all that jazz, two things have always bothered me: If there is no God, these things are only cultural, tribal, or whatever. They don't matter. If there is a God, these things are probably still only cultural, tribal, or whatever and they still don't matter as much as the big, big picture. The entire edifice of all churches and religion stands or falls on the truth or otherwise of the first four words of the Bible: "In the beginning, God ..."

Creation or evolution? Is one faith and the other science? Who or what caused the big bang on the first 'day' of creation? Well, having struggled though Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, I'm absolutely convinced that linear 'time' - be it 'days' in the literal or in the 'ages' sense - is a very human concept. A 24-hour day as we know it with earth and sun in their present relationships and velocities could not have 'evolved' until after the 3rd 'day' of creation! If, as the Bible says, God is eternal - without beginning and without end - the same yesterday, today and tomorrow - or as Jesus put it "Before Abraham was, I am", then the past the present and the future are all simultaneously 'present' with him. Now I think I understand that it is beyond me!

Evolution is fact as far as explaining the modification and adaptions of life forms within species. It is contentious theory when it comes to 'explaining' the common origin of different species, and it is improbable theory when it comes to 'explaining' the origin of life. To call the processes forming the universe itself 'evolution' is science fiction.

At the other end of the spectrum the beginning of my own life was contained in a microscopic event that already contained all the DNA information to predestine my variables of gender, sexuality, colour, size and inevitable baldness, as well as all the standard body parts! As far as I know I grew into an adult rather than evolved from a few cells. The programme was already there.


  1. Happy ranting! I like that C S Lewis quotation because it answers a lot of what you are saying. man's mind has its abilities and its limitations; I quite enjoyed Hawkins so long as I remembered that it would teach me nothing about God (except giving me a further glimpse of the creation). Only the word of God will express God.
    But the entire edifice stands on the Rock - Christ. He accepted the truth of the Old Testament and that is the reason to accept it too. I certainly agree about what matters - and the Sun will shed light on everything else.

  2. David
    Nice to have a steady perspective from someone whose feet are on rock-solid ground!

    Since writing the rant, I have found that C S Lewis was talking about the 'timeless' character of God in exactly the same way ('Time and Beyond Time' in 'Mere Christianity') in the 1940s:
    "It was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and now some Scientists are doing the same.
    Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. ... He has all eternity to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot whose plane is about to crash in flames."

    The only difference 70 years later is that it is now not just 'some' scientists, but all!

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  4. Philip,
    I think you'd enjoy this -

    John Lennox was born and raised in Armagh, and has spent much of his academic life as a mathematician in Oxford. I heard his speaking about 15 years ago about Intelligent Design, really good stuff. He also debated Richard Dawkins in Alabama last year, the video of which can be found online.

  5. Mark,
    I have just checked out John Lennox's website and liked the clips there. His sharp intellectual approach is not unlike CS Lewis's, but he seems to come across as a more 'homely' type?

    Will now try to find the Hawkins/Lennox debate online