Archive for September, 2010

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Is God Simply a “Higher Power”?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

There you are, having dinner with uncle Bob, as the conversation suddenly turns toward things of a spiritual nature.  When asked if he believes in God, uncle Bob confidently replies, “If you’re asking me if I believe in organized religion or that kind of God, the answer is no.  However, I do believe in a higher power.”  This type of response has become quite common these days whenever someone is quizzed about God’s existence.

I suppose that there are several reasons why the Biblical view of a personal God has been replaced in the minds of so many by the idea that God is nothing more than an impersonal force or power that is pervasive throughout the universe.  Hollywood and the media have certainly played a significant role in promoting such a view.  The Star Wars trilogies, some of the biggest blockbusters in movie history, introduced moviegoers to the notion that there is a “force” which exists all around us, which we can gain access to and experience for ourselves.  Although this idea was not original, having been borrowed from some of the Eastern religions, it was, nevertheless, popularized by the movie.  A lot of credit for the popularization of this view must also be given to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey who has used her tremendous appeal and her long-running and much loved TV show as a “pulpit” to reach the masses with her New Age message that god is a force or energy that we can tap into.

It’s not hard to understand why this New Age version of God has been embraced so quickly by so many people.  For one thing, it satisfies our thirst for something of a spiritual nature.  I’m convinced that most people have a natural hunger or thirst for something that is higher and greater than what we are currently experiencing in this present world.  We yearn for some ultimate purpose or meaning to our lives that will take us beyond this fleeting, temporary, earthly existence.  From a Biblical perspective, this longing, this hunger for something transcendent not only bears witness to the fact that the relationship between God and man has been broken, that same hunger encourages us to search out this God who has attempted to restore that broken relationship.

For some people, the Biblical view of God poses a real problem.  A personal God who created us is seen by many as a threat to their personal autonomy and their freedoms.  After all, if I’m hoping to define for myself what is right or wrong, how can I “write my own rules” about life if God is a personal being who “has the final say” in this universe?  Furthermore, a personal God who is holy and righteous means that we will be held accountable at the end of our lives for the manner in which we lived while here on earth.  As you can see, someone who considers this view of God as a threat to them would take great comfort in, and have an ulterior motive for selectively choosing to believe in a vague, impersonal force that makes no demands on their life and which does not hold them accountable at the end of their life.  Taking this approach gives the appearance of allowing them to have the best of both worlds- it satisfies their hunger for something of a spiritual nature, yet frees them from any accountability.  For those reasons and more, many people have opted for a belief in a lesser, “higher power” version of God.  But, as I’ve pointed out on previous occasions, simply believing something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

The real question, then, is whether there is good reason for us to think that God is nothing more than some sort of force or power.  I don’t think that such an idea is supportable.  I think that such a view of God comes up way short as an explanation and here’s why.  Gravity is a force, yet no one would be willing to say that gravity has the ability to choose anything.  Electricity is a power, but electricity lacks the ability to make decisions about anything.  Yet, in contrast to this, everything around us reveals the work of a Creator who is much more than a force- he must be a personal being who has the ability to decide and to choose.  He obviously had the ability to choose and decide how, why, and what to create.  In addition to this, he must be a personal being in order to create personal beings such as us.  Personal beings cannot come about as the result of random, impersonal forces at work.

This conclusion has certain implications.  It means that many of the world’s religions cannot be true.  The New Age religion, and every other religion which believes that god is an impersonal power, immediately disqualify themselves on the basis that they do not fit with the observable evidence around us.  Furthermore, it means that whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, we will be held accountable to this Creator who is sovereign over his creation.

So, while uncle Bob may wish that God will turn out to be an impersonal power that cannot hold him accountable, reality dictates that wishes don’t always come true.

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

DNA: The Information Molecule

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Imagine a setting in the old west.  An old rancher named Gus needs some help on his ranch, so he’s got to try and find a way to contact his longtime friend Benjamin who is now living in a remote area far away.  Gus travels to town where he arrives at the telegraph office.  He verbally dictates the following message to the clerk:  “Ben, I need you to come help me on the ranch.  -Gus.”  The clerk writes the message down on a piece of paper, and then begins tapping it out on the telegraph.  The message travels over the wire until it reaches a clerk in another town who receives the message.  The second clerk writes down the incoming message on a sheet of paper and hands the letter to a courier on horseback who rides up into the mountains where he finally delivers the message to Ben.

It’s a pretty simple story, yet something very significant was taking place.  Even though nothing of a physical nature made the journey from beginning to end, there was obviously something that traveled all the way from Gus to Ben.  What was it?  It was the message- the information. The information was able to travel all the way from Gus to Ben even though the material means by which it traveled was constantly changing.  This fact alone reveals two very important principles about the nature of information:

1)  Information is not the same thing as matter. Information is something that exists separately and independently from matter.  Even though information requires a physical medium to store it or to carry it, information, in and of itself, is a non-physical, immaterial entity.

2)  Information always comes from a mind. It is never the product of a purely material process.  Whether the information comes in the form of computer software, text, some type of code, or hieroglyphic symbols, it always comes from an intelligent sender.

These two concepts are extremely important to grasp, because our understanding of the nature of information raises some very profound questions regarding DNA.  DNA is an incredibly complex information molecule that is tightly coiled up inside the center of the cells of your body.  It is the molecule that carries the “assembly instructions” necessary for life.

How much information does DNA carry?  Dr. Werner Gitt, professor of information science gives us some insight into this question in his thought-provoking presentation, “In the Beginning was Information.”  Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule has the highest density (storage capacity) of information of any system known to man.  As an illustration, he shows a small 32mm x 33mm slide on which the entire Bible is printed.  That is amazing enough.  But Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule is 7.7 million MILLION times more density of information than his 32mm slide. He goes on to point out that if you took just one pinhead of genetic material and converted all of its information into text, it would fill so many books that if you were to stack them up, the stack of books would be 500 times the distance from the earth to the moon!

As you can see, the storage capability of DNA is nothing short of mind-boggling.  But as it turns out, the most crucial thing of all about DNA isn’t the molecule itself, it’s the information that it carries.  Without that information, DNA is a dead molecule.  Again, it’s important to keep in mind that the information carried by DNA does not reside in the molecule itself.  That information exists independently and separately from the physical medium of DNA.  In many ways, it’s similar to the ink on your newspaper.  Ink does not posses any information in and of itself.  Ink that is simply spilled onto a sheet of paper cannot arrange itself into information.  In order to get an intelligible message, information must be imposed upon the ink by an intelligent source outside of it, who already has that information in his or her mind.

This brings us down to the most important question of all:  How do we account for the ORIGIN of the information that is carried by DNA?  Since information is a non-physical, immaterial entity that only comes from an intelligent source, this question proves to be an insurmountable problem for the atheist, materialist, or evolutionist who accepts, by faith, that all of reality can be reduced to a physical/material explanation.  However, this question is not a problem for those who hold the view that the universe and everything in it is the product of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent Creator.

Posted in Science | 4 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.