Do we worship the same God?

There is and can only be one God.

I am not going to defend that statement but to take it as read and see where it leads in the context of different religions.  If you don’t want to accept the statement, this post is not for you so please don’t waste your time and energy reading further.

There is and can only be one God.

That one God is love.  Without God there can be no love.  And so each and every act of love is an act of God.  If a Christian loves, that is God within them.  If a Moslem loves then that is God within them.  If an atheist loves that is God within them.

That one God created and sustained the universe. He sends the rain on the good and the bad.  His laws of science knit us together in our mother’s womb, allow us to experience the world, and present us with the alternatives of love or hate, good or evil.

That one God has made each of us as an individual.  Each of us is a ‘me’.  He has given us freedom to choose to love or hate, to be good or evil.  As individuals we choose.  If we choose to love we choose God whether we know it or not, whether we are Christian, Moslem, Hindu, atheist, agnostic or Jedi.

If someone prays to the single God, creator and sustainer of the universe, to the God who is love, the God who is goodness and power, does it matter what religion they are in?

If someone chooses love and goodness, does it matter what religion they are in?

What is religion? According to the Oxford dictionary it is:

“The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”

and

“A particular system of faith and worship”

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion

A follower of one religion can challenge whether the “system of faith and worship” of another religion is accurate.  A Christian can reasonably challenge whether what Islam teaches about what is right and wrong is right – but can a Christian challenge which God a Moslem is praying to? Or vice versa?

Can a Christian say that a Moslem worships a different God?  Or can the Christian only say to the Moslem that “you don’t know God like I do”?

I don’t need to use Christians and Moslems for the example.  I could have used Evangelical and Liberal Christians, Protestants and Catholics.

I believe that the teaching of Christ is the best description of what God intends for each of us, and that Jesus life and death are the greatest demonstration of how God loves each and every one of us.  I can guide others to the same source of love and goodness that I have found, but am I to criticise and judge them if they do not understand the Bible in the same way that I do?  Isn’t my job to love, and aren’t I supposed to leave the judgement up to God?

Isn’t religions job to help me do my job?  Surely religion is not there to put obstacles in the way of me loving others?

What does God think of all the conflict that is caused by religious dogmatism about what he is like?  Does he simply want us to get on with loving Him, and loving our neighbour as ourselves?

Grace and love to you all.

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The End of Evolution

Living things are amazingly complex and refined organisms.  Contained within our skin are muscles, organs, a nervous system, a circulatory system, an immune system, a digestive system, a reproductive system, a repair system, a growth system, and perhaps the most complex of all, a brain.

We are amazed and baffled by the latest smartphones and tablets, yet they are incredibly primitive compared with the brain.  Research has shown that there are more switches in a single brain than in the entire internet!  (http://www.cnet.com/news/human-brain-has-more-switches-than-all-computers-on-earth/ )

Yet all the complexity of the human body grows from a single cell.

One cell divides into two, then four, then eight.  On and on, dividing, specialising, growing and dying in a precise order to gradually construct the fully grown human being.  And the developing body self-programs the control systems and brain in a robust and repeatable process.

How can such a robust process happen?  Where are the instructions to tell the cells what to do?  Is it in the DNA?

There are 3 billion base pairs in human DNA.  Is it really possible that all the information necessary to grow and operate fifty trillion different cells over the entire lifespan of a human is fully encoded in the DNA of the original single cell?  Even if we used one base pair to define the position of each cell we are 10,000 times too short of information carrying capacity in the DNA.

But it’s worse than that.  In the DNA base pair system of numbering the letters CAGT are equivalent to numbers in base 4.  In base 10, the number fifty trillion (50,000,000,000,000) uses eleven characters, but in base 4 we would need 23 characters.  Our 3,000,000,000 DNA base pairs can only now specify 150,000,000 positions – 300,000 times less than we need just to define the position of each cell.

In addition to the position and type of cell, we are asking the DNA to carry the information to define the construction sequence and to program all of our behaviour patterns, our “operating system.”

What are the chances of that? Yet it happens.  Humans grow from a single cell every day.  Billions of us.

This sort of mathematics is often applied to the beginning of life, and show that the odds of forming even the simplest protein by chance are like looking for a single molecule in the whole mass of the earth. Yet it happened.

And how likely is the evolutionary process?  In their book The Origins of Life the authors John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry identify a number of what they call “Major Transitions” without which we would not exist such as:

  • From replicating molecules to populations of molecules in compartments
  • From independent replicators to chromosomes
  • From RNA as gene and enzyme to DNA as gene and protein as enzyme
  • From bacterial cells (prokaryotes) to cells with nuclei and organelles (eukaryotes)
  • From asexual clones to sexual populations
  • From single-celled organisms to animals, plants and fungi

What are the chances of that?  Yet it happened.

Here is a summary of the history of the earth and life on earth:

13.8 billion years ago: universe created

13.5 billion years ago: first stars form

5 billion years ago: the Sun forms, perhaps as a second or third generation star.

4.5 billion years ago: The earth formed as a molten mass. For the next 700 million years it was probably bombarded by large objects, and the energy of the collisions probably kept the earth molten up until…

3.8 billion years ago: earth crust solidified. Manufacture of pre-biotic chemicals needed for the life to exist

3.5 billion years ago: fossil evidence of cellular cyanobacteria.  .

1.5 billion years ago: first eukaryotic cells (cells with a nucleus) evident

1 billion years ago: first metaphytes (multicellular algae and higher plants)

500 million years ago: first metazoans (invertebrate and vertebrate animals)

1/4 million years ago: first homo-sapiens

Let’s put the evolutionary timeline into perspective of number of generations:

Bacteria typically reproduce every hour, so in the 3.5 billion years since cyanobacteria first emerged there have been about 35 trillion generations, although there seems to have been little evolutionary change in the 2 billion years before the first cells with a nucleus appeared.

Animals first emerged around 500 million years ago, and with a typical generation of 2 years implying around 250 million generations to move from the first animals to one with all of the complexity that we see in a human.

Against this backdrop, the evolutionary process has been incredibly fast; remember the extremely complex product that it has developed.  Yet it happened.

There are those who claim that all this happened as a result of sheer luck.

There are others for whom the following text seems to better describe things:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

For me, the findings of science hint strongly at a God who is continuously engaged in sustaining and interacting with the universe and life that he brought into being.  I find this fully consistent with the God that is revealed through a reasoned understanding of the Bible and demonstrated through the life of Christ.  I accept that it is not indisputably demonstrated, but I find the evidence sufficiently convincing to give my life as a result.

These issues are explored more fully in The Big Picture

See also:

http://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/evolution/

http://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/if-evolution-is-true/

http://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/information-dna-and-evolution/

 

 

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After Christmas – what?

With the arrival of October we will begin to see the signs of Christmas in the shops (some may be there already).  The lead up to Christmas will be frenetic and stressful, and hopefully we will have a wonderful time celebrating Jesus’ birth.  But what then?  Winter will drag on, and it will be a few more months before the hope of spring and summer becomes real.  And then we are into preparations for Easter.

What can we do with this ‘dead’ time?

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Easter celebrates the fulfillment of of his mission on earth.  Between the two, Jesus explained who he was and why he was here.  We too can use the time between Christmas and Easter to explore more about God and Jesus .

But in the modern world we need to take a step or two back and demonstrate that God is real and rational before many will listen to what Jesus had to say.  Secular schooling and materialist thinking have implied that God is just a ‘concept’ to be tolerated, but do not stimulate an interest in finding out more. Yet a detailed study of science, reason and history suggests otherwise.  The challenge is how to get that message to others.

The God, Science and Purpose discussion series has been developed to give the opportunity to look at evidence and think rationally about, well: God, science and purpose.

The discussion series material provides a lot of information, suggested discussion questions, and guidelines on how to run the series.  More in depth background can be found in “The Big Picture”.

Each session takes relatively little preparation, although you can adapt the material to suit your own circumstances: make it longer or shorter, add your own clips from the internet, ask your own questions.  The main thing is to have an enjoyable time discussing important questions and stimulating an interest in finding out more.

Why is it time to start thinking about running the discussion series now?  Because Christmas preparations will soon kick in and if you haven’t planned to run the discussion series soon then you will be overtaken by events!  And also, what better time to promote the discussions than over the Christmas period?

And it’s free!

To find out more go to http://pdhemsley.com/bpcourse.html

What is a human being

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What does it all mean? (from Eric Hatfield (aka unkleE) )

I have a lot of time and respect for this man.  Here is his story:

http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/life/what-does-it-all-mean/

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God, Science and Purpose discussion series.

Churches work hard to spread the good news of Christianity, and there are many excellent introductory courses available.  However, someone needs to have a level of interest before enrolling on such a course. In my case, I’d already decided to ‘give God a chance’ before I went on the Alpha course.  What might spark that first interest to make time to explore Christianity?

Western culture has lifted science to an almost God-like status, and many are left with the impression that you have to choose between God and science.  Extreme Christians and atheists often reinforce that stereotype in the media, yet if God exists he must be the God of everything, including science.

With that background, and a strong desire to introduce more people to the abundant life that comes from following Jesus I have developed a series of discussion sessions on “God, Science and Purpose”.  The sessions are specifically not a course. We sign up for a course if we want to learn something, but there are no strings attached to a discussion.  This could be a precursor to a churches present outreach courses.

The structure of the sessions is to introduce the prepared material, and then to allow the participants to discuss it.

God science and purpose discussion series sessions

The idea of facilitating discussions on God and Science may be daunting, but doesn’t need to be so.  I have structured the sessions to follow the sections in my book “The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God, Science and Purpose” which provides plenty of backup to the prepared discussion material.  And being a discussion rather than a course, the facilitator is not claiming to be an expert but is simply offering the material to prompt the discussion.

I am looking for churches, groups or individuals to run the discussion sessions: running the sessions, inviting friends, giving feedback.  If you are interested then please get in touch and I will send a leaders guide and sample of the session material.  I will also shortly be adding more information on this and material to my website pdhemsley.com

God science and purpose discussion series

Posted in A call to action, Minimalist Christianity, Outreach tools, Science and Christianity, The Big Picture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

War, religion, God, and why I write

I remember a discussion soon after I became a Christian where I was asked “so what about all the other religions?”  My reply was that they were simply mistaken.  I think the remark was taken to be rather arrogant.

I read the news today. I see the conflict, anger and fear; fighting between Moslems of different sects.  I see forced imposition of religious dogma; conversion to another religion punishable by death.  We all know that this is not as it should be. And I am reminded of my reply.

Reason and evidence tells me there is a God, and my whole being tells me that love is our ultimate purpose.  And when I find that love underpins and is at the heart of Jesus teaching I begin to see how it all fits together; how we are meant to be.

If I were God and someone from another religion was praying to me, I would not ignore them because they think I have a different name, I would not condemn them because they don’t understand my intentions for them.  I would be saddened that they are misled, I would try to teach them, and I would restrain some of their actions, but I would still love them.

As a mere human trying to follow God’s purpose, I don’t hate the Muslims, or even the Westborough Baptists, but I believe they are misled and mistaken.  I hate what they do, and I want them to stop.  I want them to understand the truth, and find their real purpose.  I want that for everyone.

If we all really understood Christ’s teaching, if we really loved God with all our heart, and loved our neighbour as ourselves, if we really were ready to forgive others and restore broken relationships we know that the world would be a better place.

That is why I write.  That is why I follow Christ.  That is my purpose.

What is yours?

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“A good robot is hard to find”

I came across this article, and it reminded me how amazing the animal world is, and in particular human beings.  It only took  250 million generations since the first fossil evidence of animals to evolve a human, and each one is built from a single fertilised egg.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9249079/A_good_robot_is_hard_to_find_or_build?pageNumber=1

 

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