Buoyant Truth

It’s a lot better when you stop trying to hold it down.

This post was adapted from a message given by Seth Evans,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly

My dad was a mechanical engineer, and my mom, a science teacher.  Every week we made a thirty minute drive to church.  In other words, I was raised with the view that science and faith are friends, not enemies.  That is, God created, and science studies that creation.    

When I went off to college for my undergraduate degree, I studied mechanical engineering at Case Western Reserve University.  One of the leaders of the church I attended got his PhD in physics from Harvard, the other, a PhD in chemistry from Case Western.  It was for me, again, proof that science and faith are friends, not foes.  

Those who knew me, knew this was how I lived and viewed the world.  But then a number of months ago, all of a sudden I began to receive a series of vehement attacks from people who have known me for years.  Some accused me of being anti-science, and subscribing to crazy conspiracy theories because I am a Christian.  And this was coming from people who, allegedly, at least, shared my background.  It blew my mind.  What kind of hateful You Tube diet had they been feeding on?    

In the midst of all this, my daily reading brought me to Romans 1:18-25.  It became spiritual food to me, as well as bringing validation.  Later, it turned into supplication for those attacking me.  Finally, it turned into personal conviction, for I, too, had been guilty of some of the things of which Romans spoke.  

You see, our sinful hearts seek to suppress the truth of God as displayed in nature, either by throwing it aside, or by intellectualizing it away so it won’t have an impact on us.   We don’t want that truth to conform us to the God displayed in nature, and testified to in the Scriptures. 

Yet, the attributes of the invisible God clearly seen in nature, ought to flow out of us in a heart of thanksgiving that changes our desires, and changes our thinking, and changes our living.  

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The more I engaged in discussion with the hostile voices mentioned earlier, taking them to science, nature, and smart scientists of faith, the more what they were saying was dismantled.  This only made them angrier.  They couldn’t believe you could be a Christian and smart at the same time.  But as a phrase from the verses pointed out, they were suppressing the truth. 

It’s not that there isn’t enough evidence in this natural world pointing to God.  The problem isn’t intellectual at all.  It is volitional.  They were willfully quashing the truth, trying not to believe it.  From the looks of it, they would go to any length to hold it down.    

I grew up swimming.  We used to take a giant beach ball and jump off the high dive with it.  We’d try to hold the ball underwater, but eventually buoyancy would win.  In fact, the ball would shoot up to the surface with so much force that if you weren’t careful, it might clock you right on  the chin.  

This is how the truth of God works.  The more you hold it down, the more effort it takes to do so, and the madder you become, because it won’t stay down.  It is incredibly buoyant. God says, I have made myself plain to every single human being through means of the created world.  You can see my invisible attributes by looking at nature.   

Step outside during the night, especially if you get away from all the light pollution, and look up at the sky.  You can see an ever-expanding universe, with the stars and the moon.  If you get a telescope, you can see other planets, and comets.  You don’t need any help to see the sun with all its roaring power, and it’s a small star, compared to some others.   Yet, the universe shouts that whoever created it is bigger and more powerful than it is.    

Back in the 1600’s, Isaac Newton, in his book, Principia Mathematica, looked at the stars and wrote, 

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the council, and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.  This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as the Lord over all.  He is eternal, and infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient. He looked at the world, and He said the universe shouts forth the eternal power of God, and I must study it.”

During the days of Apollo 8, as the first astronauts orbited the Moon, they busted open Genesis chapter 1, and read for the world, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.”  As they were there in space, looking at the awesome power of it all, they couldn’t help but read that passage.  This same truth echoes forth from our hearts, when we don’t suppress it.  

When David looked up, he wrote Psalm 19, saying, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.   He also wrote in Psalms 8, “When I look at your Heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

When we allow the buoyancy of the truth of God shown in nature to rise up in us, we are humbled by it.  And not only His eternal power, but also His divine nature.  Consider the way the world demonstrates it.  You can see it in a sunset.  You can visualize it in a beautiful spring day, with all its flowers and smells.  Look at the ecosystem, the way the world is set up, with its intricate arrangement, and the pure wisdom that went into it—as the Lion King would say, “the circle of life”—and you’ll realize what a wise, creative God we have.  

Not only so, but you’ll begin to perceive a loving God.  Just think about food.  God could have engineered it with all the essential nutritional value, as bland, tasteless, nasty, and plain as unflavored tofu.  There was no need for Him to make bacon taste so good.  Nor was there any need for Him to create food in the full spectrum of colors, so we could enjoy it with eyes as well as mouth.  And He didn’t need to create this wonderful plant, whose seeds, when roasted, ground, added to boiling water, and then filtered, make a drink that has a bouquet of flavors and smells, warms your body, and quickens your mind.  No, God didn’t need to give us coffee as a picture of His resurrection life, and how alert and tasty He is, but He did it anyway, and displayed a little bit more of His love for us.  

However, when we look at the world around us, we also get reminders of the fallen, sinful state of things.  Some deny this, and say if we try hard enough, and get to know creatures well enough, we can live in perfect harmony with the wild state of the world.   Documentaries have been made about it.  One of them just won an Oscar—about the octopus.  They left out the fact that octopuses practice cannibalism.  Another one was about a guy who was convinced that if we were just nice enough to Grizzly bears, we could, in a sense, buddy up to them, have a kind of fellowship with these apex predators.  Unfortunately, a bear ended up eating him.  This is a reminder that the world we live in is still damaged by the fall.  

Yet, even in this place of frequent sorrows, disasters, and death, God has given us a picture of His saving work in Christ.  Jesus himself said, A grain of wheat must fall into the Earth and die (c.f. John 12), so that there would be new life, and the bearing of much fruit. 

Yes, a simple field can speak of the death and resurrection of Christ with an implicit promise that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.  As you survey that flowing, golden mass of wheat, the message is that you yourself can become a product of that resurrection, and that eventually, all things will eventually be made right again.  The moon shines to show that darkness cannot overcome our God, who is the light of the world.   

During the time I was processing these thoughts, and feeding on them, I also experienced a sense of righteous indignation.   We have been created in the image of God.  Even this fact reveals to us His divine nature—His righteousness.  It causes a resonance within us, an “oughtness,” because when evil is present, there is a certain indignation within us, a feeling that “this ought not to be.”  

The sum total of all this truth can change your life.  That is, if you don’t suppress it, but allow it to emerge.  This is what happened to Francis Collins.  For those who don’t know, Collins was appointed the head of the human genome project back in 1993.  He served in that position until 2008, and in 2009, President Obama appointed him to be the head director of the National Institute of Health.  He’s still there, holding that office. 

When Collins first entered the scientific world, he was a devout atheist, and decided he was going to prove there was no God.  But over the course of his studies, he admitted, “the gradual dawning realization of God’s plausible existence brought conflicting feelings—comfort at the breadth and depth of the existence of such a mind, yet profound dismay at the realizations of my own imperfections when viewed in His light.”  

Collins realized belief in God, and no longer suppressing it, carries implications.  He continues,

“I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism.  That now lay in ruins, as the argument from the moral law and many other issues forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis.  Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second haven, now loomed like the great cop out it often is.”

“Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief. C.S. Lewis was right.  I had to make a choice. A full year had passed since I decided to believe in some sort of God, and now I was being called to account.  On a beautiful fall day hiking in the Cascade Mountains during my first trip west of the Mississippi, the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance.  As I rounded the corner, and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over.  The next morning I knelt in the dewy grass, as the sun rose, and I surrendered to Jesus Christ.” 1

When we stop suppressing the truth of God in nature, and the clear truth in scripture, it comes to the surface, resulting in a free faith in Jesus Christ. 

As I digested these thoughts, eventually verse 24 stood out to me:

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  

My sense of validation shifted to one of supplication:  Lord, these people know you, but they’re fighting against that knowledge, because they want to live a certain way.  I know these people well enough to know what they’re into.  I know the destruction that’s going on in their hearts, and lives, and what they’re inflicting on the people around them.  Not just against me. Lord, save them from suppressing the truth, and entering destruction. May they repent, and allow the truth to come to the surface. Keep them from exchanging the truth for a lie, so they would know true freedom in you.  

But, as this prayer went on, it again shifted, this time, to conviction.  The Lord seemed to say to me, What about you, Seth?  You’re in verse 21, not only the people you just scrolled through.  “For although you knew God, you did not honor him as God, or give thanks to him.”  You know me. You know all these facts, and truths.  You also know how to wield them as weapons, to win arguments.   But where is your worship, your thanks and praise?  

I wanted to argue, saying I do give thanks…when I feel like it.  As a licensed counselor, though, I thought better of it.  When I work with people who are struggling with depression, I teach them scientifically backed tools, like intentionally giving thanks, not only in the head, but out of the mouth, to God, and to others. 

When you state the facts, with thanksgiving, the feelings follow.  God hard-wired the body this way.  Studies have shown that when we do this, it increases our immune system, decreases the pressure, increases empathy, and rewires our brains and our bodies. Something as simple as saying “Thank you,” can affect all this.  It’s the handiwork of an amazing Creator!  

The same thing works between spouses who have lost their appreciation for each other.  When they exercise gratitude, it gets them out of their narcissistic mindset, to rediscover missing love.    What works between humans horizontally, also helps vertically, toward God.  

Lately, I’ve been putting in a more deliberate effort of praise.   It made me think of this old hymn:  

Heaven above is softer blue, 
Earth around is sweeter green, 
something lives in every hue 
Christless eyes have never seen.  
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, 
Flowers with deeper beauty shine, 
Since I know, as now I know, 
I am his and he is mine.

This has become my experience, as I’ve shifted away from my status quo, which tends to be low-level whining, and complaining.  I’ve noticed more of the divine power and nature of God, and made it the content of my worship.  

Author Brett McCracken, writes in his book The Wisdom Pyramid,  

“God graciously initiates a conversation with us, revealing himself to us when he didn’t have to.  What a gift!  He not only gives us a literal book that we can read and preach, He gives us a book we can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste—a book that runs through our hands like warm sand, rushes over us like a cold mountain waterfall, trickles down our mouths like juice from a peach.  All of it bears His mark.  Nature is one big beautiful symphony that is always playing, if only we take out our earbuds long enough to listen.” 2

Step out into this world, and remove your earbuds.  Put down that cell phone.  Put away your screens, and look, listen, smell, feel, taste, and experience God’s creation.   Use your mind to explore how all these facets testify of Him, and His salvation in Christ.  

And don’t forget the worship. 

 

¹Collins, Francis., The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, New York: Simon & Shuster, p. 130, p. 225
² McCracken, Brett., The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, pp.  104-105

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