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Marc Roby: We are continuing our study of theology today by considering the basic message of the Bible.

Dr. Spencer, in our last session, you presented some arguments for why you think it is important for everyone to understand what the Bible teaches. How would you summarize the Bible’s message in a sentence or two?

Dr. Spencer: The best short summary I know of is the answer to Question 3 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which says that the Bible “principally teaches, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”

But, of course, the Bible is not just a series of doctrinal statements and bare commands. It is also a historical document that teaches us about how God has interacted with his creation from the very beginning and it is in the course of giving us this history, which includes all sorts of fascinating true characters and stories and poetry and so on, that the Bible teaches us what we are to believe and what duty God requires of us.

Marc Roby: Let’s start with what we are to believe. Can you summarize that?

Dr. Spencer: Certainly. The Bible begins, in the first verse of Genesis Chapter 1, by saying “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[1] That is perhaps the most important thing we need to know and the statement teaches us a lot. First of all, it teaches us that everything we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and so on, every inanimate object and every living thing, was created by God. We are just creatures, absolutely dependent on our creator for our existence.

Marc Roby: That certainly humbles man, doesn’t it?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. This creator/creature distinction is central to the message of the Bible and we must understand it to be able to please God. In Isaiah Chapter 42, verse 8, God tells us through the prophet, “I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” And we are also told in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” In other words, we must grasp this creator/creature distinction.

The first line of the first chapter of the first book of John Calvin’s famous work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,[2] reads, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

Marc Roby: And, I might add, that the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. But, what else does the first verse teach us?

Dr. Spencer: The first three words, “In the beginning”, teach us two things; first, that all of creation had a beginning – before God’s creative work, the universe simply did not exist. And, secondly, God himself did not have a beginning, he is eternal.

Marc Roby: Let me stop you there for just a moment because you will hear people ask, who created God? I tend to think this is a nonsensical question, but what do you say?

Dr. Spencer: I would say, first of all, that there must be something, or someone, that is eternal. As we noted in our first session, if there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, nothing would exist now, because nothing comes out of nothing. But our universe does not appear in any way, shape or form to be eternal. It had a beginning. It does not at all follow logically however, that God must have had a beginning. In fact, as I said, something, or someone, must be eternal. In other words, to say that we are created by an eternal God does answer the question of where we came from, because the only question that needs answering is how our universe came into existence. The universe clearly had a beginning and, if natural laws are allowed to run their course uninterrupted, will have an end, so it needs to be explained. But, on the other hand, the question, “where did God come from”, or perhaps, “who created God”, is, as you noted, a meaningless question because God is the only eternal reality that exists.

Marc Roby: Exactly. What else can we learn from Genesis?

Dr. Spencer: For one thing, we learn that God exists in more than one person.

Marc Roby: And, of course, that term “person” is problematic, isn’t it?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that word is often a problem for people. When we think of a person, we think of a distinct human being, who has his own mind and will and who is not in any organic sense part of, or synonymous with, any other human being. But God, we learn through the teaching of the entire Bible, exists eternally in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And these three persons are not three separate gods, they are three persons that comprise one God. The word ‘person’ is, as you point out, often a stumbling block here.

Marc Roby: I’ve certainly seen that to be the case. So, how do you deal with this perceived problem?

Dr. Spencer: I think it is critical to make the point that God is unique and we can’t expect any term that we borrow from other relationships to fit him perfectly. The important thing is that there is no contradiction in this doctrine. We are not, for example, saying that God is, at the same time and in exactly the same sense of the term, three persons and one person. We are, rather, saying that he is one God, who has eternally existed in three co-equal persons. We can’t really grasp this, but it is not a contradiction.

There is perfect love and fellowship within the godhead and that is why, when God made man in his own image, he made us in such a way that we need fellowship. We are all made, first and foremost, for fellowship with God himself, and secondly, for fellowship with each other.

Marc Roby: And, in terms of this fellowship, the relationship between a husband and a wife – which is under severe attack in our culture – is very special.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. In fact, God himself said that it is not good for man to be alone, and so he created us male and female. Men and women are obviously different, not just physically, but emotionally and intellectually as well. We are complements – spelled with an ‘e’ – to each other. Together, a husband and wife, along with their children, are the closest we can come to understanding and reflecting the unity of the three persons in the godhead. We are all of equal value, neither men nor women are inherently superior to the other, but there are functional distinctions, just like there are within the godhead itself.

Marc Roby: So, we have established that the Bible teaches us that God is eternal, that he exists in three persons, and that he created all things. What else does it teach us?

Dr. Spencer: It also teaches us why God created. We may not be given an answer that is as full-orbed as we might like, but we are clearly told what we need to know, which is that God created all things for his own glory. For example, one of the best-known verses to express this idea is 1 Corinthians 10:31 where we read, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” But there are many other verses we could cite as well. For example, in the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, God is comforting his people and tells them that he will gather them from the four corners of the earth and in verse 7 God says that he will gather, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Finally, in Philippians 2, after describing the amazing humility of Christ in dying for our sins, Paul tells us, in verses 9-11, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And it isn’t just living beings that exist for God’s glory, the 19th Psalm famously opens with the line, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Over and over in the Bible we are told that God will not give his glory to another.

Marc Roby: That’s a huge disappointment to most people!

Dr. Spencer: Yes, if we’re honest, we all have a tendency to think that the world revolves around us. But the reality is that we are finite, dependent, weak, sinful creatures who haven’t been around all that long and exist only because of God’s mercy.

Marc Roby: And yet, sad-to-say, most of what passes for religion today revolves around how to make our life better. In other words, it is anthropocentric; man-centered.

Dr. Spencer: You’ve hit the nail on the head. But the Bible is very different, it is theocentric, or God-centered, from beginning to end.

Marc Roby: I’m sure you’ve come across people who think it is somehow unseemly for God’s purpose in creating to be his own glory, how would you answer them?

Dr. Spencer: I think there are two things we need to understand about the fact that God created all things for his own glory. The first, is that creation does not in any way add to God’s glory. He doesn’t need us, or anything else in creation. He has had perfect fellowship within the godhead for all eternity and man has not been around very long, so the idea that he somehow needed us for fellowship or needed our worship is simply nonsensical.

The second thing we need to understand is that there is no better purpose for creation. If you think about God for even a moment, that he is the only eternal, infinite, independent, necessarily existent, absolutely holy, just, loving, merciful, and perfect being in existence, what purpose for creation could possibly be better than to make his own glory manifest? It will be to our eternal joy to be in his presence and to learn and experience more and more of him. So, so far from being unseemly, this is the best possible purpose for creation.

Marc Roby: And, of course, we are also told that God himself takes pleasure in his creation; for example, we read in Psalm 147 verse 11 that “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, I like that verse. It is sometimes a bit surprising when you look at how badly sin has messed up this world, but God definitely derives pleasure from his creation, and I think that is why we also enjoy creating. We are made in God’s image, so we enjoy creating, whether it is painting, or writing, or making music, or whatever.

Marc Roby: That always amazes me to think that we have been created in God’s own image. What else does the Bible tell us about ourselves?

Dr. Spencer: The Bible teaches us that man was made perfect by God, but that he had the ability to disobey if he chose to. And, as we know, Adam did disobey God. I think this is the greatest mystery of all; it is called the mystery of iniquity. Why on earth would Adam and Eve, or Satan before them, disobey and rebel against God? They enjoyed perfect fellowship with him and lacked nothing, and yet Satan wanted to be God and fell from his exalted position, and then he led Adam and Eve into sin as well by tempting them with the prospect of being gods. And so, they sinned against God, which is called the fall. The result was exactly what God told them it would be; they immediately died spiritually – meaning that they lost fellowship with God – and they started to die physically – and eventually did die of course – and all of their posterity, with the sole exception of Jesus Christ, inherited their sinful nature; in other words, we are fallen.

Marc Roby: And it is pretty easy to see the results in the morning newspaper, isn’t it?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. You don’t have to look too far. The reason we have keys to our houses and our cars, and passwords to our bank accounts and other things, the reason we have wars, prisons, death, sickness, all of it is caused by sin. The Bible teaches us that man is fallen and is at enmity with God and will be justly punished in hell unless something is done to redeem us. But, because we are sinful creatures, we cannot redeem ourselves.

Nothing I do is ever perfect. Even if I do something that is, in and of itself, a good thing, my motives and execution will not be perfect. So, there is absolutely nothing I can ever do to pay for my own sins. Everything I do is worthy of condemnation, not commendation. So, the idea that God will weigh my good and bad deeds on a balance at the end of my life and see whether or not the good outweighs the bad is based on a completely unbiblical understanding of the nature of man. I have no good deeds in the absolute sense, nor does anyone else.

Marc Roby: Isn’t it wonderful that God’s plan doesn’t end there?

Dr. Spencer: It absolutely is wonderful beyond measure. We must praise God that there is more to the story. God chose to redeem a people for himself. Therefore, he sent his perfect Son, the second person of the holy Trinity, to become incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, to live a perfect, sinless life, and then to offer himself on the cross as a sacrifice of atonement to pay for the sins of every person who will completely surrender all faith in himself and place his trust in Jesus Christ alone. That is the gospel.

Marc Roby: And the word gospel, of course, means ‘good news’… which it most definitely is. We’re just about out of time for today, do you have anything else you’d like to add?

Dr. Spencer: Yes. I’ve obviously just given a bare-bones partial outline of what the Bible teaches, but I think it is important to point out that there is much more there and it includes a great deal of very practical information about how to live in a way that pleases God, which is also the best way to have a life filled with joy.

Marc Roby: What the apostle Peter called joy inexpressible and full of glory.

Dr. Spencer: Amen.

Marc Roby: That ends our time for today. Let me summarize what we have covered so far; we have seen that the Bible teaches us that God is eternal, that he exists in three persons, that he created all things, that he created for his own glory, that man fell by sinning against God, and that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem sinful men through faith in him.

Dr. Spencer: I think that sums it up.

Marc Roby: Great, I look forward to seeing you next time.

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, pg. 4

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Marc Roby: We are beginning our study of theology today by considering why you should be interested in what the Word says.

Dr. Spencer, I’m guessing that at least some people are wondering about the title of this series, “What does the Word Say?” Why was that name chosen?

Dr. Spencer: That name was chosen because the purpose of these podcasts is to examine what God himself says we should believe and what he says about how we should live. But in order to know what God says, we need to turn to the Bible, which is the very Word of God. Therefore, the name is short for “What Does the Word of God Say?”, which is equivalent to asking, “What Does the Bible Say”. In other words, these podcasts are going to cover systematic theology, which is simply the study of what the entire Word of God says about any particular subject.

Marc Roby: For a lot of people today the Bible doesn’t seem particularly relevant. Why should they care about what the Bible says?

There are several answers that could be given to that question. Some people, of course, would say that the Bible is only of interest because it is great literature and there are many allusions to it in modern literature, art, and even in our language. For example, when we say that the writing is on the wall, or that there is a fly in the ointment, or we tell someone to go the extra mile, these expressions all come from the Bible.

Marc Roby: And so many universities have a course called “The Bible as literature”, or something similar.

Dr. Spencer: Right. But, there is also a far more important reason why everyone should be concerned about what the Bible says. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God. It tells us that in the beginning God created this universe, including all living beings, and it tells us that in our natural state we are estranged from him and, therefore, we need to be reconciled to him. It also tells us that there is an eternal heaven and an eternal hell, and it tells us that so long as we remain estranged from God we are headed for hell. But, praise God, it also tells us what we need to do to be saved; in other words, to be reconciled to God and admitted into heaven.

Marc Roby: I agree that this is of the utmost importance, but a lot of people are going to say that the Bible has been outdated by what we now know to be true from science. I mean… scientists now say that the universe started with the big bang, a little less than 14 billion years ago, and all living beings are the result of natural processes—evolution. So, many people would argue, we don’t really need God anymore, do we?

Dr. Spencer: I think we absolutely do need God to explain the universe. In fact, I think that modern science provides us with tremendous evidence for the existence of God. I’m not saying that you can prove the existence of God, or that true saving faith is founded on external evidence, but I am saying two things: First, true biblical saving faith is perfectly consistent with a proper understanding of modern science, and, secondly, atheism is not.

In fact, it is hard for me to understand how an intelligent, well educated person can be an atheist given all that we now know about this universe and about life. I just don’t think it is intellectually tenable to be an atheist any more, it takes far more faith than I have.

Marc Roby: Why do you say that?

Dr. Spencer: I say that for a number of reasons, but the four most important are: First, that without God you simply cannot explain the existence of this universe. If there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now. There is a Latin phrase that expresses this basic tenet of philosophy, ex nihilo, nihil fit, which simply means, out of nothing, nothing comes. And since we have very strong evidence that this universe is not eternal, but had a beginning, the obvious question is, where did it come from? And the answer is that there must be something, or someone, who is eternal and who created this universe.

Marc Roby: I always find it interesting that most people want something to be eternal, not someone. What’s your second reason?

Dr. Spencer: The second reason I have for saying that I don’t find atheism to be intellectually tenable is that it is essentially impossible for life to be created by purely random processes. We now know enough about the nature of living organisms to be able to calculate some of the relevant probabilities, and the numbers are staggering. Let me just give a very quick summary. Proteins are the building blocks of life, and proteins are made up of a sequence of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that comprise proteins, but an unimaginably small percentage of the possible combinations form functional proteins. For example, a relatively small protein might comprise a sequence about 150 amino acids long, and roughly only one sequence out of every 10164 sequences forms a functional protein.[1]

Marc Roby: 10 to the 164th power is meaningless to most of us non-scientist types…

Dr. Spencer: Trust me Marc, that number is very hard for engineers and scientists to grasp too, but let me try to explain it. First, 10 to the 164th power means a one followed by 164 zeros. As one example, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery on any given ticket are about one in 292 million, so getting a working 150-amino-acid-long protein by a random combination of these 20 amino acids is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 19 times in a row when buying just one ticket each time. (see Note 1 at the end of this file for the math)

Marc Roby: That certainly is unlikely, but given billions of years and all the possible planets in the universe doesn’t it in fact become quite likely?

Dr. Spencer: Not at all. First, generating a single functional protein is a long way from having a living organism. It is estimated that the simplest possible living cell would require at least 250 proteins. If we ignore for the moment that these would have to be 250 very specific proteins – which is a lot to ignore by the way – and just ask how likely it is to get any 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids, we have to multiply that number, 10164, by itself 250 times. The result is that we have one chance in 1041,000 of getting those 250 proteins! That number is a one followed by 41,000 zeros!

Marc Roby: OK – now that number is truly incomprehensible. Can you do anything to put it into perspective?

Dr. Spencer: I don’t know if it’s possible to put a number that large in perspective, but I’ll do the best I can. Scientists have estimated that there are about 1080 electrons, protons and neutrons in the visible universe.[2] This number is unimaginably larger than that. So, finding one particular electron out of all the subatomic particles in our universe would be massively more likely than this.

Marc Roby: That’s a little hard to wrap your mind around when you look out at the night sky and try to think of all the protons, neutrons and electrons present. And you’re saying it is vastly more likely to find one particular electron out of all of those than it is to get 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids.

Dr. Spencer: Right; and not only is it more likely, but the comparison is so far off I hesitate to give it because it is misleading, but it is hard to come up with examples that are not misleading. In fact, if we have 1080 universes each with 1080 particles, we would only have a total of 10160 particles, so it would still be unimaginably more likely to find one specific electron out of all the electrons, protons and neutrons in those 1080 universes than it would be to get 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids! Or, perhaps it will help some people to point out that one chance in 1041,000 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 4,842 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. (See Note 2 at the end of this file for the math)

Marc Roby: Now you’ve gone completely past the bounds of my imagination.

Dr. Spencer: And mine as well. To talk about these kinds of numbers at all gets very hard when you can’t see them written out, even for those who like math and work with large numbers a lot. So, for those who are interested, there is more information available if you go to our website, whatdoesthewordsay.org, and look at the transcript for this session. But for our purposes today I’ll just note that this number is so insanely large that if we increase the number of universes by a trillion, trillion, and increase the number of planets in each universe by a trillion, trillion, and make each universe a trillion, trillion times older, we don’t change the overall probability of generating the proteins needed for a single living cell by random combinations of amino acids by enough to even bother mentioning. (See Note 3 at the end of this file for the math)

So, people should not be swayed when someone says that there may be billions, or even trillions, of inhabitable planets out there, it simply doesn’t help.

Marc Roby: I must admit I didn’t know just how improbable it is to have life arise by chance… like impossible! And you even have a third reason why atheism is unreasonable?

Dr. Spencer: The third reason is similar to the second. We’ve been talking about just one cell, but it takes an enormous amount of information to build a living being, much of which is needed to describe how to make the proteins, but there are other things as well. That information is stored in the DNA. Now, I believe there is plenty of evidence to support the idea of micro evolution; that is, for example, that bacteria can evolve into anti-bacterial resistant strains, or horses can evolve into different kinds of horses.

But the idea of macro evolution, that all living organisms evolved from some prototypical life form by natural processes is, again, impossible for me to believe. There is a vast gulf between horses changing size or color or how hairy they are, which just involves changes to existing characteristics, and saying that the horse is directly related to the horsefly biting his neck. The horsefly has an entirely different body plan with different complex structures, like wings. There simply is no reasonable chance of both of them evolving from the same ancestor by undirected natural processes.

Marc Roby: We probably don’t even need a fourth reason to put the lie to atheism, but let’s hear it.

Dr. Spencer: The fourth reason is the impossibility of explaining the existence of volitional creatures like you and me.

Marc Roby: And, by “volitional” you just mean creatures that make real decisions, right?

Dr. Spencer: Right. If there is no God, and no such thing as a spirit, then this universe is simply matter and energy under the rule of physical laws.

Now I don’t have any problem believing that the behavior of a fly, for example, can be explained in a purely materialistic way. The behavior of creatures as simple as flies can be understood as purely instinctive. But when it comes to being able to make real choices, you have a serious problem to overcome if you assume the world is limited to mass, energy and the physical laws of our universe.

All physical laws are either purely deterministic or random. Deterministic laws are like Newton’s laws, which govern, for example, the movements of billiard balls when you strike them. Randomness comes in because of quantum-mechanical effects, for example, the decay of radioactive substances is a random process. But neither deterministic laws nor randomness, nor any combination of them, can account for a being that makes real free-will decisions.[3]

Marc Roby: I see what you mean when you say that atheism is intellectually untenable. But this leads me to ask you an important question… does atheism’s failure prove the existence of God? Is that the basis for our faith?

Dr. Spencer: Certainly, any argument against an atheistic worldview is also an argument in favor a theistic worldview, but these arguments are absolutely not the basis for our faith. I don’t believe that you can prove the existence of God in any formal sense of the word proof.

But, at the same time I want to emphasize what the Bible itself declares, which is that what we observe in nature is sufficient for us to know that God exists. In the book of Romans Chapter 1, verse 20, the apostle Paul wrote that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”[4] He says that men suppress this truth and exchange the truth for a lie because they are in rebellion against God and his rule. In our natural state, we do not want God. We want to live as though we are the ultimate authority and judge.

Marc Roby: I’ve noticed that. So, what do these arguments accomplish?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I would say that these kinds of arguments accomplish two things: First, they help to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing our faith to be completely rational and reasonable. Second, for unbelievers, they help to bring to the fore their suppression of the truth that they know.

But, I’ll say again that these arguments are not the basis for true saving faith. Anyone who “comes to faith” by virtue of such arguments alone has at best an intellectual assent, not true saving faith. In the book of James, Chapter 2, verse 19, he tells us that even the demons believe there is a God and shudder.

The only foundation for our faith is the truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for sinners, such as us, and that if we will repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved.

Marc Roby: That’s a perfect place to stop for today. I think you’ve provided some very sound reasons for why all people should be interested in finding out what the Word of God says.

 

Extra material for those who want to see some math:

Note 1: Dr. Spencer said that one chance in 10164 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 19 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. Here is how you can calculate this number:

The probability of winning the Powerball lottery on any one ticket is about 1 in 292 million[5], or, if we call that probability p we have

Similarly, one chance in 10164 yields a probability of

If you have N attempts at the lottery, your probability of winning every time is the product of the probabilities; that is,

Finally, we set these probabilities equal and solve:

Taking the base-10 logarithm of both sides yields

 

Note 2: Dr. Spencer said that one chance in 1041,000 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 4,842 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. Here is how you can calculate this number:

We again have the probability of winning the Powerball lottery on any one ticket is about 1 in 292 million, or, if we call that probability p we have

Similarly, one chance in 1041,000 yields a probability of

If you have N attempts at the lottery, your probability of winning every time is the product of the probabilities; that is,

Finally, we set these probabilities equal and solve:

Taking the base-10 logarithm of both sides yields

Note 3: Here is another way of thinking about this. If you take all of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the observable universe and let them interact as fast as it is physically possible for them to interact , and let them do that for 15 billion years  – roughly what we think the age of the universe to be – you have less than 10141 possible interactions (, where the number of seconds has been rounded up to 1018). This number has been called the probabilistic resources of the universe.[6]

Given that many combinations, which is obviously way more chances than we have for amino acids to combine, you can ask how likely it would be to get the 250 functional proteins. All you do is subtract 141 from 41,000, so your chance is now one in 1040,859 of creating 250 functional proteins. In other words, having that many chances doesn’t appreciably increase the odds at all. In fact, let’s get really ridiculous here, and give ourselves way more chances; remember that a trillion is a million millions, which is 1012, or a 1 followed by 12 zeros. Now, if you have a trillion universes and each one of them has a trillion times more particles than ours, and each one is a trillion times older than ours, the number of interactions only increases by 1012 times 1012 times 1012, which is 1036, so instead of subtracting 141 from 41,000 we now subtract 141 + 36 = 177 from 41,000, so the chance of getting the 250 proteins with this many tries is one in 1040,823, which is really not much different at all. In fact, you can increase the number of universes by trillions of trillions many times over and make them trillions of trillions of times larger and trillions of trillions of times older and the chances will not change by an appreciable amount. I know these numbers are insane, but the point is that even though we can’t say the probability is zero, it is so small that no rational person should believe it.

That is why many modern scientists believe that there are potentially an infinite number of universes. You need an infinite number of attempts to make this seem at all plausible!

 

[1] Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, Harper One, 2009, pp 204-213

[2] See, for example, “Is the Total Number of Particles in the Universe Stable Over Long Periods of Time?”, Frank Heile (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/is-the-total-number-of-pa_b_4987369.html)

[3] This argument is also made in the excellent and thought-provoking book Modern Physics and Ancient Fatih, by Stephen Barr, University of Notre Dame Press, 2003

[4] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[5] That number was taken from their official website (http://www.lotteryusa.com/powerball/) on February 14, 2017

[6] See Meyer, Signature in the Cell, again; pages 216-217 (although his number is smaller because he rounds the number of seconds in the age of the universe down, rather than up)

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Mr. Roby:  Today Dr. Spencer is here to share with us his background and his personal testimony.  Hello Dr. Spencer, it is good to have you here.

Dr. Spencer:  It’s good to be here.

Mr. Roby:  We’ve known each other a long time, and I’m looking forward to the series you’re going to be teaching us.  But first, I think it would be helpful for our listeners to learn more about you and your personal testimony. Let’s start at the beginning – what was your childhood like?

Dr. Spencer:  I would describe my childhood as being one where religion played no significant role whatsoever. I don’t remember ever going to church as a family, other than for a wedding, and there were never any meaningful discussions about God, the purpose of life, or anything like that. I would describe both of parents as generally honest and hardworking, and it was expected that you would work hard and be honest, but there was never any serious attention paid to eternal issues. No discussions about what happens when you die or anything like that. I don’t remember my parents making specific comments about religion, or about people who believed in God, but I definitely grew up with the idea that a Christian, or any other religious person, was about 50 cards shy of a full deck, or had been brainwashed as a child, or had been through some terrible experience and used religion as a crutch to help them out. I had all these stereotypes in my mind. I went to church once with a friend in college, but it was a charismatic church with people jumping up speaking in tongues and it scared me. Other than that, I don’t believe I ever attended a church service outside of a wedding or funeral until I met Patti.

Mr. Roby:  It’s pretty amazing what God has done for you. Not only are you at church every Sunday now, but you’re an elder and minister here at Grace Valley.

Dr. Spencer:  It is definitely amazing, and I suspect that people who knew me when I was young would be shocked to say the least. I myself am shocked. The first time I ever attended Grace Valley Christian Center, after my wife started attending, I was so angry after hearing Pastor Mathew preach that I had the proverbial smoke coming out of my ears. I was extremely offended and angry. I would have gotten up and walked out on the sermon if it were way not too socially awkward to do so. He spoke as though he were preaching absolute truth, not just his opinion, and that is what offended me so deeply.

Mr. Roby:  How did you go from being offended and angry then, to real saving faith?

Dr. Spencer:  Well, the fall of 1991 was a time of great change in my life.  I had just finished working 75-hours a week, pretty much 52-weeks a year for five years to build up my research program at UC, and my application for tenure was submitted, which I was fairly confident it would be approved. So, I was at a point where I was re-evaluating my priorities in life. Patti had been attending Grace Valley Christian Center for a while, and I really didn’t like that.  My motive for examining my faith had nothing to do with seeking after God, it was nothing quite so noble. I wanted to be able to tell my children why the things they were being taught at Grace Valley were wrong and to decide whether or not I would continue to allow them to attend; I didn’t want them being brainwashed.

Mr. Roby:  Brainwashed is a loaded term.  So, what did you do?

Dr. Spencer:  Well, I started to do a lot of reading and thinking, and there were a couple of people in the church that I spoke with. At that time, I would have described myself as an agnostic but, like all agnostics, I lived as a practical atheist. I ended up spending the next nine months or so reading and thinking about God, the Bible and the gospel. I would have told you at the time that I was searching for truth, but I was really trying to convince myself that my agnosticism was the truth. I now realize that calling myself an agnostic was an intellectual smokescreen to avoid discussing, or even thinking about, God.  Fortunately, God used this time to cause me to see the glaring problems with agnosticism and atheism. In fact, by the summer of 1992 I had come to a very uncomfortable place. I was convinced that God must exist, but I was absolutely not willing to accept that he was the God revealed in the Bible. I had all sorts of arguments for why that God was unacceptable to me.

Mr. Roby:  So, you knew there was a God, but you weren’t ready to submit yourself to God as he has revealed himself in the scriptures.

Dr. Spencer:  Yeah, I think that describes it well.  But then, I received a letter from the man who had married my wife and I and with whom we had become good friends. I had had a number of conversations about God with him over the years, but these had always just been of intellectual interest to me. But that August, in 1992, as I was in this very uncomfortable place, my wife and I had visited his family and he and I had another one of our long conversations. I then sent him a letter with some of my questions and his letter was in response to mine. Anyway, the day after it came, on September 10, 1992, I read the letter first thing in the morning and it troubled me deeply, although I didn’t really understand why. He didn’t answer any of my questions about God directly, but just said that he sensed they weren’t the real issue. He spoke about who Christ is and what he did and confronted me with the question “Who do you say that Jesus Christ is?”  I didn’t know what to do about those thoughts, and I had a busy day ahead of me, so I set them aside and went on with my day.

Mr. Roby:  And I understand you had a life-changing experience later on that day.

Dr. Spencer:  That’s definitely a true statement. That afternoon I was driving across the causeway into Sacramento to run an errand, it was a beautiful fall day and I was driving along listening to music, and all of a sudden I got very cold and felt pressure all over, almost like when I used to scuba dive, especially if you went down to a 100 feet or so. At the same time, I had all of the questions I had been dealing with about God boiling around in my mind and, although I didn’t see any visions, it was as though Christ were standing in the middle saying “Who do you say that I am?” I was crying and wondering what was going on; I honestly thought that maybe I was going crazy. I also thought that I might get in an accident, so I pulled myself together and went on with my errand. Then, on my way home an hour or two later, again on the causeway, the same thing happened again. Much to my own surprise I found myself saying out loud – I would say against my own will, “Jesus, I want you in my life.” And the minute I said that, the pressure and cold stopped, the thoughts boiling around in my mind stopped, and I stopped crying. Now I really had no idea what had happened. I honestly thought that maybe I had just lost my mind.

Mr. Roby:  That sounds kind of like a Paul on the road to Damascus kind of experience. Then what happened?

Dr. Spencer:  When I got home that evening, I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I wanted to talk to my wife about it and go over the letter with her.  But I had firmly resolved in my own mind I was not going to say anything about what had happened on the causeway, because we had discussed Christianity a number of times over the years and I would challenge her faith and play devil’s advocate with her, so I didn’t want to get her hopes up that I had become a Christian. I was quite confident that I would come to my senses in a day or two.  However, I did want to talk with her about the letter I had received.

But, we went up and had dinner with my mother in Woodland that night and when we got home it was hard to get all of the kids to bed. It was one of those nights when as soon as you thought you had them down, someone would pop up and want some water or something. By the time we got them all down she was falling asleep. So, when I said that I wanted to talk, she didn’t really want to, but I said we needed to, so she said “alright”, and I told that I had received this letter. She said, “yeah, I know, I saw the envelope.” And I said, “well, I want to read it to you.” So, she said “OK”, but was expecting me to launch into an attack on Christianity I’m sure. So, I started trying to read the letter to her and started crying so hard that I couldn’t read. And she said, “I can read it”, and I said, “no, no, I need to read it”, so I pulled myself together enough to read it. And then, when I finished it, in spite of having firmly deciding not to say anything at all to her about what had happened, I even went further and found myself saying “I think I became a Christian today.” It was like the words popped out of my mouth in opposition to my own will. And she was kind of sitting there, waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking that that was just the start of one of my attacks or something, and so she didn’t receive that right away the way you might expect. But, to make a long story short, we ended up spending the whole night talking and praying; it was as if we had never known each other before and were on a first date or something.

Mr. Roby:  The change you’re describing makes me think of Revelation 21:5, where God says, “Behold, I’m making all things new.” That’s what really happened, isn’t it?

Dr. Spencer:  It really is. And I think one of the things in this story that I always return to in my own mind because it clearly indicates the difference between somebody who has and has not been born again; is a few days before this experience, I had been reading a passage in the New Testament. I don’t remember which passage, I wish I did, but I remember thinking “This makes absolutely no sense, no thinking person could believe this.” And, the morning after this experience, which was September 11th, I sat down and read that passage over again and even though I don’t remember the passage, I distinctly remember the feeling; I thought, this makes perfectly good sense. I couldn’t even figure out why it didn’t make sense before.  It was just a complete mystery to me as to how it didn’t make sense before. It’s kind of like when you’re doing research and you work on a problem and work on it and you can’t quite figure it out, it just doesn’t make sense, and then something finally clicks, and now you can’t even reconstruct in your mind what it was that was so hard to understand before.

Mr. Roby:  That’s certainly one proof of a changed heart. Was there anything else you can recall that was a dramatic, immediate change after coming to faith?

Dr. Spencer:  Oh, absolutely. I was your classic Type-A personality faculty member and I would wake up, oh 2 or 3 times a week, at 3 or 4 in the morning with my mind boiling around with all the things I had to do that day, and then the mind spinning would turn into the stomach knotting and I would be forced to get up and go into my office at home and start working on those things. And, I still wake up early fairly often, but not once in the 25 years since that day have I awakened in that same state of anxious agitation.

Mr. Roby:  Well, speaking of Type-A faculty mentalities, a lot of your resistance to Christianity came from a settled atheistic viewpoint that stemmed, in part, from your scientific background. Tell us a little bit, please, about your education and professional background.

Dr. Spencer:  Alright, when I was a kid, my father had his own company, called Electro-Magnetic Filter Company, he was an electrical engineer, and I worked for that company from the time I was 13 or 14 on in the summers full time, along with some other jobs, like working at a gas station when I was in high school. When I finished high school, I actually didn’t want to be an engineer because I didn’t want to be like my father, who was a workaholic, so I started college as a history major. After a couple years of college however, I was working as an electronics technician to help pay for school, and it dawned on me that having a degree in history wasn’t nearly as good for a career as having a degree in electrical engineering, and that I liked electrical engineering even more, so I switched my major to electrical engineering. And then I worked as a technician and a non-degreed electrical engineer while I finished my bachelor’s degree at San Jose State, and then I went to work full time as an engineer in industry. But, after a few years of that I realized that I wanted to understand more, and the place I was working had a lot of PhD’s working there, and I also saw that they were doing things that were more interesting than the work I was doing, so I decided to go back to graduate school. And I was fortunate enough, actually through a miraculous intervention of God, to get into Stanford University and to go on to get my PhD there. I did some consulting during that time as well and, when I finished, I interviewed both in industry and academia, but my original reason for being a history major was that I wanted to teach, so it occurred to me that maybe I would like teaching. In fact, I had taught at a junior-college-level tech school for a while when I finished my bachelor’s degree, which was actually where I met my wife. And so, anyway, I accepted the job at UC Davis and started as a professor there in 1986.

Mr. Roby:  You’ve mentioned the job of professor at UC Davis, what, exactly, does that job entail?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I was a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which means that I taught courses, both undergraduate and graduate, and also did research and supervised graduate students. My particular specialty, in case anyone is actually interested, was analog circuit design, mostly for digital communication systems. At any rate, I took that job in 1986 and worked there for a number of years. For a five-year period I held an endowed professorship, and I also served as vice-chair of the department for three years. In any event, looking back, I can clearly see how God providentially guided me to this position at UC Davis and then, eventually, to Grace Valley Christian Center.

Mr. Roby:  Amen. Having been saved in 92, how did you become an elder then at Grace Valley?

Dr. Spencer: Well, that again is a long story of course, and I don’t remember the exact year or anything, but certainly my first five or six years there I was just a young Christian and had an insatiable appetite I would say to read the Word of God and study it and so forth. And then, somebody at the church recommended that we bring in a particular person as a speaker, in what ended up being the beginning of what we called our Faith and Reason series. This person was going to come in and speak about scientific evidence for the existence of God, which we thought would be a good outreach to the campus, and I was kind of the spearhead for bringing this person, and then the elders came to me, in fact Associate Pastor Rev. Buddingh’ came to me, and said that the elders had decided it would be a good thing if I would teach an adult Sunday School class to prepare people for this guy’s coming. And so, I ended up teaching an adult Sunday School class that was really kind of on science, to prepare people for the sorts of things he was going to talk about. And then I think it was about a year or two after that I was asked to teach something else, and Pastor thought that he saw some ability there, and so I ended up teaching adult Sunday School and then eventually became an elder, and then through a longer sequence of events again, ended up retiring early from the university in order to work at the church as a lay minister and an elder.

Mr. Roby:  It’s truly incredible to see how God has used the same scientific background that initially helped you to suppress the truth, to now help you declare that truth. Thank you for sharing your conversion story and background with us. And I’m certainly looking forward to our future sessions, where we’ll have an opportunity to hear from you on What the Word of God says.

Dr. Spencer: Thank you, I’m looking forward to it as well.

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