Faith

“Science cannot answer why we would be important to God,” says Philip Yancey

by Fiona Teh // July 30, 2019, 11:58 pm

Hubble space telescope

Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus hung around to answer our questions?

What is God up to? 

What is the point of this planet and where is it headed?

These questions were explored during a talk by Philip Yancey, author of Disappointment with God and Where Is God When It Hurts, who was in Singapore for Eagles Leadership Conference 2019.

“The Christian story is that God cares about minute us,” the best-selling author and former journalist said during his talk on finding purpose in God’s design.

“Science cannot answer why we would be important to God, but the Bible has answers for that.”

“The Bible is like a three-act play,” Yancey said. And it’s one that might not make much sense to you until you get to the third and final act.

THE BIBLE IN 3 ACTS: AN OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLICAL PLOT

Act 1: The Hubble Space Telescope God

“What is God like?” Well it depends on who you ask.

If you asked someone who lived during the days of Moses, his answer might be that God is scary, powerful or dangerous.

In the Old Testament – the first part of the Bible from the book of Genesis up till the book of Malachi – God often intervened with plagues and diseases that resulted in deaths on a large scale.

Why should I bother reading the Old Testament?

From our perspective, He was a “Hubble Space Telescope God”, one so far away.

How would such a big God relate to individual humans?

Act 2: God in human flesh

In the gospels of the New Testament, we saw how God came to earth as Jesus Christ to get close to us.

Jesus was born in Jerusalem, He looked like any other Jewish man and had a common name, but He was the “expressed image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). God was now wrapped in flesh we can recognise.

“You could talk to him, shake his hand and even crucify him,” Yancey said.

But there was a penalty to pay for sin that separates us from God. Through His Son, God provided the sacrifice. Through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He paid the price for our sin on the Cross.

Passion Week: Tell me, why did Jesus have to die?

Because of what Jesus did, we can now boldly approach his throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

“But there’s a problem,” Yancey suggested. “Jesus never visited Singapore, Malaysia, America, or China…”

Jesus lived in a pretty small part of the world and he reached a few hundred, maybe a few thousand people. “When you get that small, you can’t be everywhere at once, and Jesus wasn’t.”

Act Two wasn’t drawing to a close just yet.

It turns out the best way to communicate God’s love is human-to-human.

With his parting words, Jesus issued his disciples a mission to take His story far and wide.

It turns out that Jesus’ plan, right from the beginning, was to turn the mission over to his disciples so that they could take the Good News to the ends of the earth.

“Jesus never got there, so he’s sending his disciples. Go to Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth – get going!” Yancey said, bringing Act Two to a close.

“It turns out the best way to communicate God’s love is human-to-human,” Yancey said.

Act 3: God is working through His disciples

“Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus hung around to answer our questions…?” Yancey quipped. 

Jesus indicated clearly that this was God’s plan all along.” It was actually for the disciples’ good that Jesus was taken back to heaven (John 16:7).

Eventually, the message did make it to the other places in the world. 

God was revealed: He wasn’t just the “Hubble Space Telescope God”, the tribal God of a group of chosen people known as the Israelites.

He came close, and he revealed his plan: His redemption was for everyone who would call on His name.

“God chose the most unlikely missionary…” Yancey said, referring to Apostle Paul, a Jew who once violently opposed Christians for their faith.

God gave Saul (before he was renamed Paul) a new pair of eyes so that he could see the world the way God saw it.

If Paul could take the message to the Gentiles (non-Jews), so could the disciples. 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

What Jesus achieved in Act Two was reconciliation to God for all. You would not be rejected because of your pedigree, gender or socioeconomic status. 

Reconciliation with God changes things.

“It look a long time for the disciples to get it; they wanted all the believers to become good Jews and follow their practices and restrictions,” Yancey said.

The disciples in those days were still figuring out life in Act Three. Because of Jesus, Act 3 is radically different from life in Act One.

Reconciliation with God changes things.

There is a designer who loves you

Some believe that “we live in a blind universe of random, pitiless indifference; humans are a cosmic accident never to be repeated,” said Yancey.

But if we were just random accidents, why should humans then care about the weak or the poor? Why should we care about human dignity?

He explained: “It’s hard to believe in human dignity unless you believe that they were created in the image of God.”

Where is God when it hurts? When there are disasters? How do we bring comfort?

Yancey’s answer? The Church.

What would Jesus do if he had a house in Geylang?

“The only way the world will know what God is like is if we acted like the body of Christ; Jesus didn’t theologise, he brought comfort,” he said.

Let people know how God cares – He weeps for the parents who lost their children just as they weep.

“We’re here to bring hope and comfort to a broken world.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

God chooses to make Himself visible through His people. The people whom Jesus entrusted to carry on what he did.

Philip Yancey: How can we race to show grace in a hostile world?

We’re still in Act Three. Don’t lose the plot. The Church is not Plan B.

The best way to communicate the incomparable love of God – the God who created two trillion galaxies – is human-to-human, said Yancey.

Through you and I.

THINK + TALK

  1. Who do you say God is?
  2. Do you feel that God is near or far from you?
  3. If we’re indeed in Act 3, how would that change the way you live?
About the author

Fiona Teh

Fiona is low-key hilarious, a dog person, and she loves a good chat with strangers – particularly at Yakun. She also believes that everyone should know that they are absolutely worthy of love.