In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1). (ESV).
As Christians, we are given the privilege of trying to fulfill the Great Commission. We are invited to spread the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
Some of us may be satisfied with our progress in this regard; a great many of us are not. At times it seems the language of Christian faith is a very different language than the one spoken by our secular, post-modern friends. How do we communicate? How do we find the right words for the individual person? The obstacles to clear communication, let alone conversion, might occasionally seem insurmountable. Indeed, if we had to rely entirely on ourselves, the obstacles might very well be insurmountable. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26 ESV). We can, with the Spirit's blessing, speak confidently about our faith and trust in God's divine plan for the results.
We know that the Lord can and does work through people to achieve his goals. We might, therefore, make good use of literature written about faith in trying to communicate to our neighbors. An unusual but fascinating example of a tool that we might use is a book entitled A Case for the Existence of God (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield Publishers Inc.) 2009. Here, Dean L. Overman responds to the some of the books promoting atheism in recent years. It is a brilliant response, interweaving philosophical discussion with evidence from the realms of physics, astronomy and mathematics.
"Mathematics? What do numbers have to do with evidence for faith?
Quite a lot, actually:
It is rather astonishing that the universe is intelligible, for it could also have been a disordered chaos rather than a mathematically ordered cosmos. One should marvel that abstract mathematics can perfectly describe the counterintuitive, invisible world of subatomic quantum physics and the unexperienced, invisible macro domain of relativity. Mathematical intelligibility in a universe finely tuned for the existence of human life raises rational questions. (Page 23).
Throughout his book, Overman tries to show how logic and reason, rather than being separate from or in opposition to faith, are in fact driving forces behind faith. To ignore the possibility of God's existence is to ignore the possible source of logic and order in the universe. How indeed can logic and order come to exist at all in the absence of God, which would be a random universe?
A philosophical starting point for Overman is the question posed by the philosopher Leibniz: "why is there something rather than nothing?" This is based on the principle of sufficient reason: No fact can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence (p.24). This principle is readily accepted by people who pride themselves on being logical, rational thinkers-but have they addressed the largest question: what sufficient reason has caused the universe to exist? (That would be God).
One of the most fascinating topics introduced by Overman is the concept of information (pp. 73-87). What is information? Is it ink on paper? Is it light and electricity flashing through a computer? Is it the chemicals contained in a DNA molecule? Overman quotes Gregory Chaitin-a mathematician-as posing the question: "what if information is primary, and matter/energy is a secondary phenomenon? (p.74)." This is significant because it challenges a materialistic, deterministic worldview.
Overman then links this idea with quantum theory in physics. This is where many readers will abandon ship. There is excitement, nevertheless, evident in discussion such as this:
As von Baeyer notes, a reductionist first reduces solids, liquids and gases to molecules. Molecules are then reduced to atoms. Atoms are reduced to their components of subatomic particles, including quarks and leptons, which in turn may be reduced to strings. However, when one continues to push down to deepest reality and asks what lies beneath, the astonishing answer in the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics is that one is left only with an abstract description of information in the form of a calculation of probabilities in a wave function. (Page 85).
The implications of this appear to be enormous. To put it simplistically, it means that the physical world surrounding us is not really physical-at its most basic, it is information. The more we think about this, the more we realize it is entirely consistent with the idea that God spoke the universe into existence: "And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3).
Overman also discusses such things as relationship with God, and gives examples of well-known people (such as Augustine and Pascal) who have undergone dramatic conversion experiences.
To conclude, this book is thought-provoking for a Christian who takes some interest in science. It is an excellent tool for refuting claims by non-Christians that faith is somehow antithetical to science or rationality. It will not, however, be the last word on faith and science issues. A total integration of scientific and theological thought is probably not possible or desirable, for while the Lord allows us the joy of scientific discovery, the Bible is clearly not intended to be a science textbook. Overman's book would nevertheless be an excellent gift for a non-Christian proud (perhaps too proud) of their own rationality. All our efforts at defending the faith and spreading the gospel should of course be accompanied by prayer and love.
And God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:16-18).