Wednesday, August 19, 2009

RFG sermon series ideas: Faith, Reason and the Clues of God

Tim Keller's The Reason for God sermon series ideas.

Faith, Reason and the Clues of God

Sermon Passage: Luke 24:33-42
Multi-media Ideas: Nacho Libre clip on religion/science would be good at beginning, Beautiful Mind marriage proposal clip would be good to wrap it up. Hand-out with "clues" would be good.
Key Thought: Even with conclusive evidence, faith is still required.
Historical Context: Love makes Himself evident in the upper room.
Sermon Points:
Doubt: Don't faith and science conflict?

1. Faith is reasonable, and reason cannot attain certainty. Only an omniscient being knows things for certain-all other knowledge, even scientific knowledge, is varying degrees of faith, depending on the strength of the evidence. Science cannot rule out faith assumptions which do not conflict with scientific evidence. Blind faith is not in the Bible, and if we divorce reason from faith, we get people who "drink the Kool Aid" and will believe in anything. One reason people don't take Christians seriously is because some Christians believe things which clash with science. There are many scientists who are Christians (Dr. Francis Collins, head of Human Genome Project) who believe God can create slowly, that the Bible's account of creation is poetic, and that this does not affect the fundamentals of our faith. Even so, naturalists try to say miracles like the resurrection are impossible, because what happens in nature is always "natural" or it could not happen in nature (resurrection is natural, while also supernatural). Scientists agree there was a beginning to nature (even cyclic model theorists), and if they conclude nature "just happened"-that conclusion is a matter of faith. But just because we have faith (based on good evidence) that something exists-does not mean we put faith "in" it (trust it)-trust (rather than blind faith, or faith without evidence) is the faith the Bible talks about-it is not 'enough' to just believe God exists, we need to trust Him with our lives. But first we need good evidence. You wouldn't put trust in your wife if you didn't have good reasons supporting her existence. Impossible to prove a belief (as strong rationalism requires) but beliefs can be evaluated to be more reasonable than others, though still rationally avoidable (the task of critical rationalism). The theory of God's existence and interaction explains the things we observe more than any alternative theory. Do you think your faith is not genuine unless it is blind?



2. Reasons. We already covered the mysterious beginning of nature (clue 1). See clues 2-5 and use whichever ones you feel comfortable explaining, or others not listed. At least mention that there are more "clues" out there that "add up"-maybe post them on website and refer to it, or put it in hand-out. Also consider this quote from Dawkins' "Out of Eden" -- "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other god. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music," [Richard Dawkins, "Out of Eden" (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 133.] This supports the idea that universal moral truth cannot be grounded in nature and that our natural moral sense that there is truly right and truly wrong (question from first sermon) is a pointer to God. Kierkegaard would say to trust our moral sense, that love is the point, that God is love-because to doubt this evidence is to be like the Jews in Jesus' time who, after seeing miracles, asked for more signs because they did not trust what they were pointing to-like doubting your lover and putting faith in the alternative. Even so, He does not leave us without evidence. Do you have faith that the point of life is God's love, or do you have faith that it isn't? We will continue to talk more about this in the coming weeks.

3. Faith. The faith the Bible talks about is belief in, not just belief that (assurance of promises we hope for, but do not yet see; confidence in the evidence behind the promise, rather than doubting the promise despite the evidence) (or loyalty and trust rather than disloyalty and distrust). But love is not love without demonstration (evidence)-and so He became human and sacrificed Himself for us. Refer back to passage -- some doubted what they saw with their eyes and touched with their hands…the miraculous isn't something just we modern folk struggle with… the apostles all ended up as great leaders in the church, though some had a lot more trouble believing than others. Keller: "We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. … His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming." Unless, of course, we think of the natural world the way the Gnostics did, and totally miss the beauty of creation. Important not to forget: the sign is not what is important - what the sign points to is important. If it points away from God, no matter how miraculous, it's a false sign-don't put your faith there. Deuteronomy 13:1-4, Matthew 6:21-23. We are not done talking about evidence in this series, we've merely gotten started. But it doesn't matter how much evidence we have of God's existence, doesn't matter how many miracles we see-the faith God wants from us is trust, love, not mere intellectual assent. (A Beautiful Mind marriage proposal clip would be cool.) Do you put faith "in" God, do you go beyond mere intellectual assent and trust Him with your life?

Used these sources:

http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=29

Doubt: What should I do with my doubts? John 20:1-18
Dealt with in intermission.

Ch. 6-science has disproved Christianity (faith and reason do not contradict) (GOOD DISCUSSION POTENTIAL)
ch. 8-the clues of God (IMPORTANT)

Questions

1. Do you agree that the faith spoken about in the Bible is not blind faith? Do you agree that Biblical faith is trust in the evidence, trust in God, the same sort of trust we display when we say "I do"? Do you give mere intellectual assent to the evidence of God, or do you also trust Him with your heart?

2. What do you think about the fact that it is impossible to prove anything for certain, that what we must do is weigh the reasonableness of competing beliefs? Have you identified and examined the faith assumptions masked by your doubts? Have you fully given the evidence, the clues for God's existence, a fair examination? Is your faith in your doubts greater than your faith in the evidence for God's existence?

3. "Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?" (Keller). If morality is objectively real, if social justice is never relative, what is its unchanging foundation? Have you ever felt "there must be more" when in the presence of natural beauty? Do you have faith that the point of life is God's love, or do you have faith that there is no point-or, if there is a point, and it isn't grounded in eternal God…how is it "the" point?

Quotes

"[ Swinburne says that ] the view that there is a God…leads us to expect the things we observe-that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains human beings with consciousnesses and with an indelible moral sense. The theory that there is no God…does not lead us to expect any of these things. Therefore, belief in God offers a better empirical fit, it explains and accounts for what we see better than the alternative account of things." - Tim Keller

"Come, let us argue it out," (God through Isaiah 1:18).

"We may, therefore, be secular materialists who believe truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions. But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story. … regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better. … Isn't it true that innate desires correspond to real objects that can satisfy them? … Doesn't the unfulfillable longing evoked by beauty qualify as an innate desire? We have a longing for joy, love, and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship, or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill," (134-135).

"In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other god. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music," [Richard Dawkins, "Out of Eden" (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 133.]

"We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. … His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming."

The Truth...A Leap? / Jim Applegate
http://redeemermodesto.com/sermons/2009/12/13/the-trutha-leap

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