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Creed: (1) Is There a God?

March 5, 2017

         

 

Genesis 1:1-3 (NRSV)

         1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

         Psalms 19:1-4 (NRSV)

         1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens, he has set a tent for the sun,

 

            

 

             Creed: I believe

         Creed, which is Credo in Latin, is the first word of the Apostle’s Creed. It means “I believe.” The word I believe can have multiple layers of meaning and can be applied to everything from the silly to the profound.

         If someone says, “I believe Chicago Cubs might make it to the World Series again this year”, and I says, “I believe White Sox might make it to the World Series this year.” In this sense, belief expresses our hopes, which may be at least partially rooted in our assessment of the skills of our favorite baseball team.

         And we often use the word believe to express our preferences or opinions or predictions about things that are not of ultimate importance. If I would say, “I believe a particular car brand is a better value than another,” that doesn’t mean that I would die for my convictions about a car brand, and these might be easily changed if the right new product from another carmaker comes along.

         What I want to tell you is that believing in God is different from these beliefs that we have had for our wish list or preferences. I mean we have to know clearly who we believe, what we believe and how we prove what and who we believe as BELIEVERS in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is not about what we prefer to do or what we want to have for Christmas, Valentines’ Day or birthday, but about truth that created us and sustains us and stimulates us to step forward. 

 

           Challenge and response

         When we confess, “I believe in God,” however, we have encountered many challenges by the people who doubt or deny the existence of God and also by the people who believe in God.

         In the last thirty years, an increasing number of people reject the idea that there is a God. Steven Weinberg, a theoretical physicist and atheist, once noted that “the world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion. Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.”[1] They believe that scientific evidences have proved that there is no God, but only coincidence and genetic selection in nature can inform us where we come from and how we arrive here. This is one of typical scientific challenge that we have had today as believers.

         How about other believers who cry “God is great” as they detonate suicide bombs. When religious people study their scriptures, and find commands that lead them to deny equality to women or to demonize other races and a group of different opinions about Christianity and its tradition. It is easy to conclude that the problem is belief in God. It is easy for the atheist to equate belief in God with injustice and ignorance.

         Both, scientific atheism and religious fundamentalism are challenging us to answer the question, “What do we believe?” and “Is there really a God?” But I really appreciate these challenges, as they are helping me study hard and practice faithfully my faith in God in my ordinary life; and every single moment when I encounter them, I strongly experience the presence of my God.

        Below is a short video clip that has beautiful testimonies of the people who articulate their experience of God. 

         

             Unknown energy in the universe

         People still believe in God because of scientific discovery in the universe and in nature; because of a new born baby’s smile; because of the faith of a former communist; because of her grandmother’s faith; and because of a meaning or purpose of life that they want to have for tomorrow. In this world and our time in which many have turned back from the faith in God, still we can meet the people who find the strong reason why they should believe in God.

         Rev. Adam Hamilton says in his book, Creed, “physicists speak of fundamental forces (strong, weak, gravity, and electromagnetic) that are responsible for governing, shaping and sustaining the universe. They speak of particles that permeate the universe, and of things such as dark energy and dark matter, most of which cannot be seen and are not yet fully understood but which play a critical role in forming and sustaining the universe we inhabit.”[2]

         When I hear physicists talking about these things they cannot see, but making possible all that exists, I cannot help thinking of Paul described God as the one who made the world and everything in it.

         Paul says in Acts 17:28, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (NRSV)

         If you watched the latest episode of Star Wars, you may remember a princess Leia saying, “May the force be with you,” when her soldiers go out to fight. She blesses them by saying “May the force be with you.”

 

         Astrophysicists, filmmakers, actors, atheists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and all who don’t know where this power or force comes from nor what the energy that forms, sustains and governs this universe really is, feel the force, want to know about the force and hope the force to guide their daily life.

         Some of them who identify themselves as atheists don’t want to use the word God to explain this invisible and mysterious power which has governed the universe, and try to separate the meaning of life and meaning of the universe from this force, but we know this force is a God who created the universe and governs it with grace and love.

         “When we look at the universe as it is, we, Christians, see a reflection not just of the random functioning of various forces without purpose, but a reflection of the creativity, joy, beauty, and majesty of the One who has created.”[3] And we, believers, also see the force as a being, an entity with all the attributes of personhood: intelligence, emotion, reason, logic, and will. God knows, feels, loves, things, wills, acts, and creates. And we call this force as our Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

          Its powerful forces, its logic, its patterns and its beauty are evidence of the Creator and they reflect his glory. I love the way the Psalmist captures this in Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (NRSV)

         Rev. Hamilton say, “I believe in God because, though Darwin go many things right in his classic work On the Origin of Species, humans demonstrate an interesting capacity to violate the laws of natural selection in how we live as a species. When we care for the weak, when we are faithful to a spouse, when we show compassion to the struggling, when we choose to love our enemies, we are acting counter to the laws of natural selection but consistent with an inner law written on our hearts that strongly and faithfully guide us to the right and good path. I believe that this inner law, which reflects humanity at its best, points to the One in whose image we were created.”[4]

          Nonetheless, we still have to ask ourselves, “Are we really believe in God?” “Can we really prove that there is a God whom we believe in?” and “How those beliefs should affect the way we live our life in God and in God’s love?”, as we sometimes meet those who say that they believe but their lives are not affected by this belief; and we call them “practical atheists.” They live their daily lives as though there is no God while giving mental assent to the idea of God.

         But belief in the sense that the Creed intends is not merely mental assent to a particular idea. It is “an idea or set of beliefs that guides the actions of a person or group.”[5] For those who shaped the Apostles’ Creed, belief in God is meant to fundamentally change our perspective on the world, on our place in it, and on our own lives.

 

              Coptic Christians: Practical faith

         Once, I read an article from Christian Century. It was about how the Coptic Christians in Egypt appoint their new church leader, a bishop. They didn’t elect a leader. They drew lots to assign a new leader as early church fathers did when they needed a new leader of the church. 

 

   It might be regarded as a foolish idea, or someone might say that they are quite naïve. But if we could understand their political situation in Egypt, no one could say like that easily and immediately. As many of you know, in Feb. 2011, their dictator, who ruled Egypt with an iron hand for 32 years, was swept away from its power, and then Muslim brotherhood took the political power of Egypt. Indeed, Egypt is a Muslim country.

    Many Coptic Church people asserted that they needed powerful political figure as their new leader who would lead them to the influential place in Egyptian society. Situation told them they needed a powerful political and religious leader from every aspect. They are just less than 10 % of the total-population of Egypt.

         But church leaders got together, prayed together and drew lots by faith in Christ to accept a new leader. They didn’t see their hard situation or trusted someone’s ability, rather they saw their great Savior who have been their only one leader for their two thousand years in North Eastern Africa. 

         They fully focused on their God, not their situation. I think such pure faith Coptic Christians have had for two thousand years have helped them to survive in North Eastern Africa as a Christian community.

         I believe that nothing but this practical faith can prove that there is absolutely a God in this God-denying world. We must prove that there is a God whom we believe in through our actual life. God calls us to the life sharing ministry for those who are in need and to forgiveness for those who did wrong again us, and the Scripture, history, experience, and faith teach us that the pure faith in God is the most powerful way to prove God’s presence in the world.

         This week, prayerfully consider the depth of your faith in God. Consider how those beliefs should affect the way you live your life in God, and how we can help the world to experience God’s presence, and then let’s share what we have discovered through our practical faith in God.

         I bless all of you who believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and pray God’s grace and love will lead your whole life to the right and good path.  

         Thanks be to God. Amen.

        

        

 

         Reference;

         Adam Hamilton, Creed: What Christians Believe and Why, Abingdon 2016, p 18

 

 

 

[1] Adam Hamilton, Creed: What Christians Believe and Why, Abingdon 2016, p 18

 

[2] Hamilton, p 20

 

[3] Hamilton, p 22

 

[4] Hamilton, p 29

 

[5] Hamilton, p 30

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