A Certain Belief
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 5 August 2000
Two centuries ago the famous French science fiction writer, Jules Verne, told the fantastic story of a journey to the moon. Like most of his other adventures, it was a gripping story for his readers in the 19th century. An enormous canon, larger in fact than any canon that has ever been built in either wartime or peace, was built to literally shoot a spaceship to the moon as one might fire a bullet in a rifle. Two centuries later we can read the story and have a good laugh knowing of the scientific impossibility of such a journey. Today, as we know, a journey to the moon is far more complex and that to shoot a man into space in a gun is ridiculous. There are probably no educated people who believe that Jules Verne's proposed mode of space travel is possible.
Every age has its fiction writers who have tried to look into the future and forsee the kind of world our descendants will live in. Thanks to film makers like Steven Spielberg we are being given all kinds if visions of what tomorrow's world might be like with Intergalactic Federations, aliens, sophisticated robots, and even androids - part man, part machine. The other day I bought a silly film about a policeman who was in a serious car accident and was rebuilt as an android that could do the most incredible things. In a hundred years's time we will look back at all of these films and, in most cases, laugh at them as much as we today laugh at Jules Verne.
I remember that when I was interviewed for a place at Oxford University to read Biochemistry I was asked what it was that interested me in the area of research and I discussed with the professors the possibility of slowing down the ageing process. It seemed to me at the time that it would be a wonderful thing if people could live long enough to see more of the incredible scientific developments taking place. I was an atheist at the time, with no belief in an afterlife, and so prolonging my own life seemed a most desirable thing. A few months ago geneticists announced that the human genome had now been completely mapped and what followed in the press most of you already know about. People are talking about making human beings immortal by controlling the genes that cause ageing. And no doubt you, like I, have speculated just what sort of a world we would be living in if there were people in it who could live forever.
As it turned out, I did eventually do research in Oxford into the ageing process though fate saw me looking at plant rather than animal life, and I spent a year studying one feature of a plant enzyme with the rather long-winded name, Phenylalanine Ammonia Lyase, or PAL for short. In that period of time I came to learn just how incredibly complex one single enzyme is, let alone a single plant or even a human being. There are literally hundreds of thousands of different chemical reactions taking place inside our body and all beautifully controlled in a way which we aren't remotely conscious of. People like to use analogies of an orchestra but this is hopelessly oversimplified. The picture is more like one million orchestras with one million conductors all playing the same piece of music. Can you imagine trying to coordinate such a performance? There is room for the occasional mistake and the longer you play there will be more and more mistakes until, after about 90 years of playing, the giant orchestra finally comes a part and all there is is complete chaos.
Well, our body is just like that. Trying to understand one cell, let alone tissues, organs, and organ systems, is a headache. A few days ago we were looking down a microscope at a single celled animal called Paramecium and I was explaining to the children how it was constructed. Such an organism is truly a marvel.
So, yes, as human beins we like to look forward into the future and imagine what tomorrow's world will be like. The only trouble is, we aren't very good at it. True, there are science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, who lives in Sri Lanka, who accurately predicted the advent of the space satellite, but by and large people have been very wrong. Indeed, they have been very, very wrong.
I have in my library a 5-volume encyclopedia of Popular Science (Harmsworth) written in about 1890 which predicted that within one hundred years - that's ten years ago - science would have eliminated all disease, poverty and war. It paints the incredible picture of man, through the power of his own reason, conquering all his worst vices and making a heaven on earth...without God. On the first page is a picture of a man with outstretched arms towards the sun, and the caption reads, "The Conqueror of the Earth - Will he master the sun?" Convinced that science will indeed lead to utopia, the writers, convinced of their own moral high ground, felt free to make a concerted attack on Christianity, claiming that it is the Church's fault for, to quote them, "brutalising human nature" (Vol.1, p.637). The writers called for a state system of education entirely free of Christianity.
One hundred years on the writers got their wish. Today, in Western Europe and North America, we very largely have an educational system free of Christian bias. In some countries no religion is taught, in others only comparative religion. Scientists are the priesthood of the modern secular state and their religious doctrines, such as evolution, are taught today as scientific fact. In the short space of two centuries we have moved from being a Christian society to what is effectively an atheistic and neo-pagan one.
We are now in the unique position of being able to compare the achievements of the secular, atheistic world with the achievements of the former Church world. We had 70 or so years of communism in which atheism was official and religion of all kinds was persecuted, and we have had periods of history where religion was in control and atheists persecuted. As I look through history at the moral track record of religion and atheism, I frankly see very little difference, for we have seen in the last century a religious decline that is the opposite of what the writers of Popular Science claimed: we have seen even more the "brutalising of human nature". You need only pick up your newspaper today to see not only the incredible technological progress science has made but the continuing decline in human morality. Wars rage at they always have done, only now they follow no codes of behaviour - wars, indeed, never seem to end. Science has absolutely not brought the enlightenment it promised.
There is an article in the encyclopedia I have mentioned called, "The People Called Eugenists" with the sub-title, "The New Science That Would Control the Future and Create a Nobler Race" It actually makes some excellent points about love and parenting which on the surface seem very Christian, but it claims to be able to achieve the desired results without God. What the popular scientists of 1890 did not realise is that you can't have science without religion. As you read their writings you immediately see that their view of life, whilst claiming to be atheism, was in fact deeply coloured by the Christian culture in which they lived, and it is plain to see that in moral focus they were Christians who thought they could change the world without God. One hundred years later, in a culture where Christianity has virtually been pushed entirely aside, you will find atheists with the same basic beliefs about evolution and mortality expressing very different moral ideas indeed. For example, today's atheist will not be saying in quite the same way what this 1890's scientist wrote: "The quality and quantity of parenthood are the dominant factors in the destiny of any people...the culture of the racial life is the vital industry of mankind, eveywhere and always; that every child who comes into the world should be planned, desired, and loved in anticipation." (Ibid., p.121). Most atheists of a century ago would have been horrified at the thought of abortion - today most think nothing of it. A century ago race was considered important - today "race" is a dirty word and in my own country the word "British" is increasingly politically incorrect.
I sometimes wonder just what kind of future modern secular atheists are planning for and the impression I get is that most people aren't looking forwards to a future at all. The Twentieth Century, which saw the first official communist atheist governments, with their fascist counterparts, was one of the bloodiest and most violent centuries in human history. And as we look at the science fiction movies such as we find in Star Wars it seems to me that the writers of popular myth no longer believe in a future of peace and order, but of cosmic warfare. People have begun to conclude that warfare is natural and that we should expect it in the future. And it would also seem, as we look at the trends of modern society, that people are expecting a future with even more permissiveness and sexual licentiousness. Instead of treating the symptoms of society's illness, instead people are placing their hope in miracle drugs to cure AIDS so that immorality can continue.
The writing is aleady on the wall. The communists tried to create the "communist man", a selfless individual who cared only about the welfare of society and forgot himself - a kind of Christian without God - but they failed. Fascism tried to accomplish the same thing, but along national and racial lines. Communism and Fascism had very clear visions and goals, which is what made them so potent, and it's still what makes them attractive today to some disillusioned people. And, sadly, it is to a kind of new communism and fascism that people will turn to again as they discover that our modern liberal, secular society has no real goals or purpose other than to simple let things be as they are. In the last 50 years we have seen homosexuality become socially acceptable to such an extent that to be in any way against it is to be politically incorrect. Homosexuals have now become militant and in the USA threaten people with violence if they oppose so-called homosexual "rights". What is to come next? It is perfectly obvious to anyone with any common sense and awareness of what is going on in our society that before long the ban against paedophilia -- that is, adult sex with children -- will be lifted. Already in countries like Spain and the Netherlands it is lawful for children from the age of 13 to have sex.
Now I don't propose to map the future in any greater detail other than to say that the world of tomorrow - the secular world of tomorrow, that is - will be permitting child sex and you will see euthanasia becoming more and more common. The 1890's author assumed, when he wrote, that "human worth" would be taken for granted. Today we have already shown what has happened in this area - millions of unborn children (all human) have been aborted as essentially worthless. Soon we will see sexual chastity as something completely worthless, and it will not be long before those who are no longer productive in society - the old and the sick - will be considered worthless too. Our world is heading for something far worse than ever occurred under Stalin or Hitler but because it is slowly drifting people aren't noticing that it's happening.
Scientists do not hold the answers to the moral and ethical questions that people have wrestled with since the beginning of time because they are human beings like everyone else.I was once in their ranks with my own utopian idealism. Though I am still a scientist, I have found my answers elsewhere. Furthermore - and this suprises many of my atheist friends - I do not believe religion holds the answers either, because the history of religion isn't, in many cases, much better than the history of the atheist experiments of the French, Soviet or Nazi revolutions. What a good many people don't seem to realise is that there is a world of difference between the "Church" and between true "faith".
The faith taught by Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) is not about Church institutions, and certainly not about Church institutions holding political power. It shocks many to learn that in heaven there are no Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, or any other "denominational" Christians. There is only one kind of person in heaven, and that is the person who possesses eternal life. Moreover, that person does not obtain eternal life by joining a Church (even though he will want to join one when he has got it) but, like a child with its parents, developing a personal relationship with God the Father. True Christianity is not about abstract ideas and theories but about a living experience. And yet it's more than than also, because it is possible to have "experiences" as an atheist or a religionist. Christian life is foremost about a complete inner change that is permanent and liberating, and greater than any of the earthly poltical revolutions that have taken place. Where, today, is the Bolshevik revolution of 1917? Or the Nazi revolution of 1933? Or the revolution of the Paris Commune of the 18th century? They are all dead and gone. Even today's Europe of the year 2000 will not be yesterday's Europe of 2050. In 50 years time, if any of you are still alive then, or if the Lord Yah'shua (Jesus) hasn't already returned, you won't recognise today anymore. If the present world system continues as it is now, the family might not even exist anymore. Indeed, there are many who believe - such as militant feminists, communists, occultists, and others - that the family is the enemy of progress. You may well find that in the cities, at least, family life will be extinct.
There is only one more politico-religious system on a global scale that the world hasn't tried out yet and which is almost upon us now, and that is global witchcraft. This new form of world government and religion has been in the making now since 1957 when the Treaty of Rome was signed. It will come as quickly and as violently as the communist and nazi revolutions of the previous century and will lead to a one world government and a one world religion. It's been tried before by such men as Antiochus Ephiphanes, whom we discussed last Hannukkah, but this time it will succeed - for seven brief, but terrible years. If you think communism and fascism were terrible, what's coming will make these seem like child's play.
But all of these are worldly political systems. What really matters is why we are here on this earth in the first place. Every utopian adventure has failed, and will fail, because it is not in God's plan to have a utopia until Christ Himself personally returns to establish and govern it. Some have come close to utopia and indeed today there are small communities around the world who, like small islands in a great sea, have aleady discovered it. It comes from a personal faith in Christ whose promise of eternal life is testable and livable right here and now. I would invite you, if you have not found it, to take a step of faith and try it right now. Amen.
This page was created on 5 February 2001
Last updated on 5 February 2001
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