Science And Sin

First Presbyterian Church, Scipioville, NY July 29, 2018

Why does the Bible put so much focus on sin? From Adam on down, we’re shown sinner after sinner. Almost everybody seems to do at least something wrong. Today it’s King David? Can’t we have at least one super-hero who doesn’t spoil his epic good works by doing something stupid and terrible? Let’s explore why these sin-filled anecdotes are included in the history of our faith.

Have you noticed how much time the Bible spends on the rough parts of King David’s life? Today’s particularly ugly chapter of his life doesn’t have much historical value. We don’t hear much moral teaching, in fact, the opposite. Reading it seems like we’re smashing Michelangelo’s iconic statue. King David, anointed by God, slayer of Goliath, composer of Psalms, unifier of the tribes of Israel. But our good King David stole another man’s wife, lied, conspired, covered up his crime, deceived, and arranged a murder among other sins. It turns out David was a very ordinary human being. You’d think the authors of the Bible would try and put a more positive spin on things, sanitize history a little bit. Modern leaders wouldn’t stand for being exposed like this. Today, we’d get history rewritten on the spot. “No sin here!, No siree!”

I think there’s an important purpose in exposing the dark side of our Bible heroes. The Bible’s focus on man’s universal propensity to sin teaches us something important. These sins we read about are really just humans “doing what comes naturally.” Doing what comes naturally is right for the birds and right for the bees, right for most animals, flowers and trees. But not for humans. This focus on mankind’s universal propensity to sin is a subtle way of teaching us that the time for “doing what comes naturally” is over. Yes, everybody sins, but scripture is saying its time for us to stop sinning, get our animal nature under control, and get on with God’s work for us.

Why is it important to call these natural animal instincts sin? What’s wrong with doing what comes naturally? Science can help us with the answers. The scientific method is a natural partner of religion, and science has already shown us a great deal about the mechanics of how God created much of the physical world. We don’t understand how God jump-started Creation other than that he did it in an inexplicable “big bang.” But, we are beginning to understand some of the surface details, such as the relationship of matter and energy, the relative nature of “time,” event horizons, the accelerating rate of expansion and inflation of the universe, and the reality that there are six or seven dimensions beyond the four dimensions we usually identify. But the deeper mysteries are beyond our grasp at this point in our development as a species.

Science has helped us understand the laws God put in place to govern how the material world works. We understand the physical impact of laws of motion and thermodynamics. We understand three of the four known fundamental forces, though we can only describe the effects of the force of gravity. How gravity works and how it relates to the other primal forces remains a mystery. We speculate about the existence of dark matter and dark energy. We try to get our minds around the observation that our entire Universe is expanding, inflating, rushing and pushing out in all directions and dimensions at an accelerating rate. Science is still young and developing, but I believe God smiles as we study and admire his work.

We can begin to get our minds around how humanity developed as a species. We understand the evolution of species, but we don’t completely understand transformation across species. The most insightful scientists are always mindful that we are at best observing the footprints of God, and that Science is a study of the “how” of what God set in place. Here’s the really important news. It’s not finished. We are still evolving. The Lord is not finished with us. We humans are still transforming from our animal roots to adopted children of God.

The Bible is not a science book. It’s a Users Manual. The Bible teaches in allegory, parable, example and hints and glimpses. It gives us clues about “Purpose,” the “Why” of life. The Bible is teasing and luring our human minds and consciousness up and on to the next level of evolution, the next stage of life on earth.

While we may think we are the pinnacle of creation, the crème de la crème of the animal kingdom, we are destined and designed to be more. If we can humble ourselves for a moment and see ourselves from a God’s-eye view, we might see we are on the way, but not near the goal yet. We are in the middle of a change, an evolutionary transformation. In this interim state our species is the most dangerous animal on earth. Lions and tigers are predators, doing their job in the food chain. We humans have inherited similar predatory instincts, but we are smarter than leopards, more dexterous than gorillas, more thoughtful than owls, and most dangerous of all, we have imaginations.

All animals have some degree of consciousness. But humans are animals whose evolved consciousness can create a vision of the future and see themselves in that vision. On the positive side, we can imagine the future and alternative futures, and we can decide to change that future. On the negative side, we can create fears of dangers that do not exist, and anxieties about dangers that are real but not immediately at hand. We can also, Like David, create pictures of pleasures that we do not yet have, and like David, we have the intelligence to scheme and plot how to get those imagined pleasures. And that makes us dangerous.

David, strolling —or prowling—around his rooftop, spied prey. David was not hungry, didn’t lack for female companionship, but David saw himself with Bathsheba. He lusted for her in his imagination. And, he had the intelligence and skill to satisfy the desire of his imagination. David did what comes naturally. Knowing he was violating the Commandments, he struck! He entered into an unnecessary web of danger, destruction and death.

Why was the lustful, covetous thought dangerous? Jesus explains in parable and in direct teaching. There are unseen moral laws that parallel the laws of physics. We know and have scientific equations for why every physical action has an equal and opposite reaction. Jesus taught that in like manner, thought, intention, energies of the mind and will, these also have direction and velocity and momentum. Our thoughts as well as our acts create equal and opposite reaction of their own. Lust, and lust will seize you and drag you in. Hate and you will be despised. Love and you will receive love. Jesus taught the measure by which you measure out will be measured back to you. As you sow, so shall you reap. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Why? Because what you think and wish and pray for others will in fact come back at you. Even in everyday conversation, we know that what goes around comes around. The Ten Commandments warn us of this. They’re a pretty good textbook on the actions and reactions caused by sin. Every Commandment is given for our own good. Every act and thought has consequence. Both to us and to others. Both in this physical world and in the kingdom to come.

In this story from David’s life, David dealt out lust, deceit, loss and death. David, and all Israel, received back violation, deceit, loss and death. When David repented, the Lord in his Mercy forgave David. Yet, the consequences cut deep. The scars remained. The child, the husband, the woman, David, David’s children, the whole People Israel, all suffered.

In our own lives, mid-stage in human evolution, we can see ourselves in mature perspective. We can reflect on the stupidity of many decisions we did take, and the loss of opportunities for good we did not take. The Bible helps us make sense of our life. The Bible is a Users Manual for living. The laws of the Universe are demonstrated and explained on those holy pages. This excerpt from the life of David is a good example of the subtlety of Bible teaching:

After the adultery, after David has Uriah killed. After the baby born to David and Bathsheba dies; After David and Bathsheba marry and have a second son, Solomon; Nathan the Prophet at God’s direction, uses this parable to help David see the evil he has done: ... ‘In a certain town there lived two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had large flocks and herds; the poor man had nothing of his own except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He reared it, and it grew up in his home together with his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and nestled in his arms; it was like a daughter to him. One day a traveller came to the rich man’s house, and he, too mean to take something from his own flock or herd to serve to his guest, took the poor man’s lamb and served that up.’ David was very angry, and burst out, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He shall pay for the lamb four times over, because he has done this and shown no pity.’ Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!

This is a vivid example of how Bible teaching works. David needed help to come to the realization of his sin. It’s hard to see ourselves from inside. Nathan helped David look at himself from a third person perspective, get outside of and above himself and take a meta-view of his actions, a God’s eye view. And David was able to pass judgment on himself. David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.

God gave us imaginations to see and do great works. We also have the imagination to envision great wrongs, and the cunning to scheme and plot destructive evils. We don’t have Nathan to help us, but God has also given us the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help us get outside of ourselves and re-look at our own lives. We have a choice. There is no standing still. We can give vent to our human nature to scheme for things we imagine we want, breathe fire to avenge wrongs done to us, hurl silent but powerful curses at our enemies. That’s clinging to our animal nature and slipping backwards down our evolutionary path. Or we can face upward on the evolutionary path, and consciously control our natural selves, suppress our animal instincts. Hurl blessings, not curses. Pray for healing, not fame. Rejoice in what we have, not ache for what we have not. We can evolve to our next stage. Be transformed from the natural to the supernatural; become Homo divinus, sons and daughters of God. This is our evolutionary call.

And, for you young people —you have a choice. God and your parents gave you intelligence and capability and free will. Like David, you can crash through life, doing what feels good. You will live with the consequences in your life and you will see your sins in the rearview mirror. Or you can move forward with your evolution. Accept the gift of holy scripture and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. Your Bible is the Users Manual for the Human Being. It is a companion to your Science texts. Remember as you study and do Science, physical science is not the only science. Help us all take the next steps on the evolutionary path.