Nicodemus: Jesus loves an earnest seeker

Monday Musings for March 30, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

I identify with Nicodemus — but perhaps I flatter myself... although my regular readers understand that I do not take the evangelical party line where it’s not warranted. Nicodemus was just like me in that he was willing to let the data speak rather than let his culture speak. Now, he hedged his bets a bit by visiting Jesus at night, but make no mistake: that was a courageous act!

I see another parallel in that story... one that focusses on the word we. Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God” — and please don’t miss this: the whole religious establishment — and not just Nicodemus — understood that God sent Jesus... so they knew he was not teaching heresy. But Jesus made sure they “knew” something else while they were at it. He didn’t like how they were running the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 23:13).

So, how did the Jews get to the point where they out-and-out rejected the Messiah? They stopped testing for truth — despite people like Anna and Simeon who saw Israel’s consolation in Jesus (Luke 2:21-38), despite the foreign wise men who knew that Jesus was the king of the Jews (Matthew 2) and despite his many signs. The religious establishment “saw” the data. The thing is, they ignored it — and they threw away their future in the process (Matthew 22:1-14).

I don’t want us Christians to do the same thing, but creation science — which is understood by the secular world to be speaking for us all — is doing just that. You see, there is no lack of data on the age of the earth. Even the flintiest fundamentalist understands that the earth at least appears to be billions of years old. To them, I say, why continue to embrace the young-earth paradigm despite the universe’s ever-freshening data — and with all the non-literalistic hermeneutical options available to Christian thinkers in this century?

Now, I don’t want to sound alarmist... saying that Christianity is throwing away its future. But if Christians don’t respond reasonably to the scientific data — that is, if we continue to allow it to appear that we are swimming upstream against an ever-increasing torrent of facts — then we’ll be working the Great Commission as do the Amish... as beloved curiosities... but as people who have no real effect on the world that we’ve been sent to win (Matthew 28:18-20).

But there’s a more basic problem at work here: if the earth is not truly billions of years old, then God gave it the appearance of being that old — but there’s more: he also optimized physics so we can measure its age in the billions-of-years — and by many independent methods! So, if the earth is merely thousands of years old, God is deceiving us... and I have a problem with that.

How is it that I can take such a bold stand on such a divisive issue? I pass all data through three presuppositions that most Christians will find acceptable. First, all truth is God’s truth. Second, no falsehood can be God’s falsehood. Third, truth from God’s general revelation (nature) will never contradict truth from his special revelation (the Bible).

Nicodemus must have used a similar algorithm. We see that he embraced the data, employed logic — and he found the Messiah! But it was bravery that set Nicodemus apart — and I encourage you to be like Nicodemus. Assess the data. Then walk in light rather than in cultural shadows.

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