Back in 2008 Professor Keith Ward in his Why There Almost Certainly Is a God critiqued the views of Richard Dawkins and others on the question of the existence of God.
A respected philosopher and theologian, Dr Ward raised questions about the dubious nature of materialism. ‘Most of us (philosophers) do not want to deny that material things exist,’ he wrote, ‘but we are no longer sure of what matter is. Is it quarks, or superstrings, or dark energy, or the result of quantum fluctuations in a vacuum?’ (p.14) ‘What is the point of being a materialist when we are not sure exactly what matter is?’ he asked. ‘It no longer seems to be a set of simple elementary particles… What this means is that materialism no longer has the advantage of giving us a simple explanation of reality’ (p.15).
He also raised questions about consciousness, namely, ‘how conscious states – thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions – can arise from complex physical brain-states …’ (p.16). He asked, ‘Do we know that no consciousness could exist without being tied to … a physical process? … There might be a consciousness that came into existence in some other way’ (apart from a physical process) (p.17).
Following a careful analysis of a scientific and materialistic explanation for our existence, he observed, ‘But perhaps materialism is the greater delusion. Consciousness is the most evident sort of existence there is, and it is not necessarily bound to matter …’ (p.96).
It is significant that the opening lines of the Gospel of John read: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people (John 1:1-4).
Spiritual life. With these introductory words, what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people, John is telling us that, amongst other significant things, men and women have something in common: life. The word he uses speaks of spiritual life, not simply physical or material life.
This helps us understand why there is a restlessness within us about the meaning of life. We are not content simply to exist, nor even to be fully satisfied in the long-term with the pleasures this world offers. Because the life gives light to us all, deep down we sense there is something more. As Ecclesiastes says, ‘God has put eternity into our hearts’ (3:11).
However, and what a however it is, in our natural state we rejected the One who is the source of life and gives meaning to our existence. When God’s Word took on human flesh (1:14), we were brought face to face with what we were meant to be – image-bearers of the living God. Against the glory of God’s eternal Son we are confronted with our failed relationship with God. Preferring darkness, we rejected him. Indeed, on the first Good Friday when they crucified the Lord of life, it seemed that the darkness had won.
Life and hope. That said, strange as it might seem, there is something within God that would not allow this ending. Through the Word, his one and only eternal Son, God personally stepped into the gloom of our world to give us life and hope. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God (1:12f).
John the Apostle is telling us that God’s deep passion is to establish a family in the midst of the gloom of this world. It is a family whose lives were revolutionized when they understood that God’s glory is revealed in the life and work of Jesus Christ. And herein is our hope. When we become members of God’s family we have the sure hope of life forever with the risen Christ.
Let me ask, what is on your heart this Easter season? Do you grieve for our suffering world? John is telling us that the Word incarnate suffered for us. Do you think we live in an evil world? The Word made flesh was tempted like us. Do you fear that we live in a dying world? The Word made flesh died for us. We beheld his glory, says John. ‘We apostles saw it. We have the evidence of it.’ God is not only there, he has come amongst us to give us life and hope.
Reflect. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4, 9-14).
Prayer: Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth so that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s service that we may renounce those things that are contrary to our profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.