March 16, 2014
Text: John 3:1-17, Romans 4:18, 13-17
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye over Creation vs. evolution took place last month. Judging who won the debate is hard. It all depends on whom you like, that is, what you believe. Facing same evidence, creation scientists explain it in one way, and evolution scientists explain it in another way. But one thing that everyone agrees is that Ken Ham marked clear differences between observational science and historical science. He pointed out that “mainstream scientists” in historical science are influenced by naturalism. What is Naturalism? Naturalism believes in nature. Their assumption is that the nature was, is, and will always be there. They believe nothing exists beyond natural world, which means the nature exists by itself and eternally. Comparing what we believe, do you see the difference? We believe in God, who is the great I AM, I am that I am, who exists by Himself and eternally. So basically, naturalism replaces God with nature.
Ken Ham on the other hand, bluntly admitted that he had scientific assumptions too. That is, God exists before nature and that God alone was there when He created heavens and earth. BTW, our synod supports young earth theory. However, whatever theory about the earth you think is right, one thing is certain for Bible-believing Christians: God created everything out of nothing. It’s the wisdom, the Word of God that created heaves and earth by His power. In today’s epistle lesson Romans 4, St. Paul says, “the God in whom Abraham believed” is the God, “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” This is also the God in whom we believe.
The God in whom we believe is in certain sense very radical, so radical that what He did, does and is able to do totally blows our mind and goes beyond our way of thinking. That’s why when Jesus told Nicodemus to be born again in order to see and to enter the kingdom of God; he was genuinely perplexed, and was not able to understand. What? “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” This question reminded me of another similar and related question about the Holy Baptism in Small Catechism, “How can water do such great things?” Both questions take for granted the rational and natural assumptions and rule out the supernatural assumption. But, this is what The Small Catechism says, “Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water.” The power comes from the Word of God, “For God spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” It’s that powerful. Because the God in whom we believe is a God who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not even exist.” Making dead alive and creating everything out of nothing is what God did, what He does and what He will do in creation as well as in redemption with the new heavens and new earth.
Since people in their sinful nature cannot accept the radical nature of God, they prefer evolutional, progressive ideas, not just in everyday life, but even in things related to God. They claim the evidence goes their way. But this is simply not true. Evidence for creation is everywhere. It depends on how you explain it. If you want to learn more about explanations from creation scientists, you can go to AnswersInGenesis.org. Unbelief is not matter of evidence, it is matter of the will. In fact, evolution theory cannot explain many fundamental questions like for example, how stuff whether it be mass or energy including time comes into being. At the same time, creation scientists offer explanations for the same evidence from biblical perspective, but they don’t want to listen. The reason for that is they don’t want to admit, using their own words, the assumption of God. Just as Romans 1 says, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking. Their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
Here in John chapter 3, Nicodemus was such a man, representing a man living in darkness. He was a Jewish teacher and a ruler. You would think he worshiped true God, but his theology was so worldly and he was so naturalism in thinking that he was unable to imagine the supernatural power of God in regeneration. As we talked about on Wednesday night, many at the time of Jesus saw the miracles, the evidence of work of God in Chris Jesus, and yet they did not believe. The same is true for Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” So, you see, evidence is not a problem. The problem is by nature he was still a sinful man with unbelief. Like all other Jews, the god whom he believes in is still a worldly god who would save Israel from the Roman oppression. They don’t believe in God who has supernatural power from above to give birth of water and the Spirit, that is, of a new life in Christ Jesus. Like Nicodemus, our eyes can only see natural logic and worldly things. Living in the evidence and the grace of God’s providence, our spiritual eyes are blind without faith and hope to see God’s power and his kingdom. But Jesus has been very consistent with the OT in regards to the radical nature of God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. This is what their father Abraham believed when he and his wife received the promise of a child in their old age. And this is what God’s creation of this world entails. That’s why Jesus says, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”
As we mentioned before, God create things by His powerful Word. “For God spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” I would like to follow Jesus’ idea to give you an earthly example. I hope it serves as an illustration to understand heavenly things. I was a computer engineer before I went to seminary to study theology. I know how computer works. In hardware, it’s all bits and bytes. But those zeros and ones are given meaning to instructions and commands. Anyone heard about Z80 or Intel 8080? I used to work on those chips in 1980s to program in machine-language. Building upon machine-languages, we have high-level programming language, like C, C++, and Java, etc. They are languages of real words and sentences. Software engineers input their wisdom using words to create a program. They instruct the computer to think certain way, to speak certain way, to display and behave in certain way. When the computer plugs in with power, it can solve your mathematical problem, can speak to you, can control robots to move around, and all sorts of things. The world becomes alive. If human beings can use words and wisdom with power to create a world of computers, why is God almighty not able to create things with His Word and power? I don’t get it.
Finally, Jesus Christ is this creative Word, Who became flesh and lived among us. John chapter 1 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” The incarnate Word became man to die on the cross in order to forgive us sins and give us eternal life in new creation. By His resurrection from the dead in power, He was declared to be the Son of God. God of redemption is God of creation. The God who gives life to the dead is the God who calls into existence the things that do not exist. Even now, He still gives us life with His love and power in His Word in Holy Baptismal Water, and in His Body and Blood. Jesus Christ is the God whom we believe in.