A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

“How does this work?” “Why did that happen?” “Is this really true?”

I love questions. I enjoy learning from insightful responses (either spoken or read) and delight in providing a helpful answer to questions others have. Even questions for which I have no answer provide pleasure through pondering how I might find a good response. Questions can indicate a desire to learn, a willingness to challenge authority, and even a lack of confidence in a particular explanation or belief. Many believe that Christianity is threatened by questions. The example below illustrates this idea that questions dishonor God and that faith suppresses questions (just search for “faith vs. science quotes” for more examples).

religion-vs-science

One of my favorite passages addressing this mischaracterization of true faith is found in Matthew 11:2–6. John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

On one level, the question is ridiculous. Consider the background of John the Baptist. While he was in his mother’s womb, he recognized when Mary entered the room, pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:39–45). John’s primary mission in life was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah so that people would repent in preparation (Matthew 3). When Jesus came to John for baptism, John declared that it was Jesus who should baptize him (Matthew 3:14). When Jesus persisted and John baptized him, John saw the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:16–17). John the Baptist, of all people, should have known who Jesus was!

On a deeper level, the question reflects a genuine desire for truth. Sitting in prison, John awaited execution for preaching that Jesus was the Son of God. John sought to know if he had preached in vain or if Jesus was who he claimed to be. And John was willing to live (or die) as long as he followed the truth.

If, as many claim, that true faith means not asking questions, Jesus would have repudiated John’s query. But Jesus did not say, “Come on John, you just gotta have faith.” Nor did he belittle John for having some doubt about his identity. Jesus responded in a markedly different fashion as recorded in Matthew 11:4–6: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Jesus provided a string of evidence identifying himself as the Messiah. To paraphrase his response, “Look at the evidence and draw the best conclusion.” And John exercised genuine faith by acting according to the truth.

It does seem that asking questions serve two purposes. Sometimes we ask questions to obscure the truth and justify our doubt (like Zechariah in Luke 1:18–23). We can also ask questions to understand the truth better in order to follow more confidently (like Mary in Luke 1:26–38).

I regularly speak to students about what makes a good scientist. One of my main points is that scientists know how to ask good questions (those that clarify the truth) and then diligently seek answers to those questions. Those who want the truth need not fear an honest question. Jesus embraced honest questions, and so should we.

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Subjects: Faith, Good Questions, Jesus, Reason

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About The Author

Jeff Zweerink

Since my earliest memories, science and the Christian faith have featured prominently in my life - but I struggled when my scientific studies seemed to collide with my early biblical training. My first contact with RTB came when I heard Hugh Ross speak at Iowa State University. It was the first time I realized it was possible to do professional work incorporating both my love of science and my desire to serve God. I knew RTB's ministry was something I was called to be a part of. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. My passion at RTB is helping Christians see how powerful a tool science is to declare God's glory and helping scientists understand how the established scientific discoveries demonstrate the legitimacy and rationality of the Christian faith. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Jeff Zweerink thought he would follow in his father's footsteps as a chemistry professor until a high school teacher piqued his interest in physics. Jeff pursued a BS in physics and a PhD in astrophysics at Iowa State University (ISU), where he focused his study on gamma rays - messengers from distant black holes and neutron stars. Upon completing his education, Jeff taught at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Postdoctoral research took him to the West Coast, to the University of California, Riverside, and eventually to a research faculty position at UCLA. He has conducted research using STACEE and VERITAS gamma-ray telescopes, and currently works on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect dark matter. A Christian from childhood, Jeff desired to understand how the worlds of science and Scripture integrate. He struggled when his scientific studies seemed to collide with his early biblical training. While an undergrad at ISU, Jeff heard Hugh Ross speak and learned of Reasons to Believe (RTB) and its ministry of reconciliation - tearing down the presumed barriers between science and faith and introducing people to their personal Creator. Jeff knew this was something he was called to be a part of. Today, as a research scholar at RTB, Jeff speaks at churches, youth groups, universities, and professional groups around the country, encouraging people to consider the truth of Scripture and how it connects with the evidence of science. His involvement with RTB grows from an enthusiasm for helping others bridge the perceived science-faith gap. He seeks to assist others in avoiding the difficulties he experienced. Jeff is author of Who's Afraid of the Multiverse? and coauthor of more than 30 journal articles, as well as numerous conference proceedings. He still serves part-time on the physics and astronomy research faculty at UCLA. He directs RTB's online learning programs, Reasons Institute and Reasons Academy, and also contributes to the ministry's podcasts and daily blog, Today's New Reason to Believe. When he isn’t participating in science-faith apologetics Jeff enjoys fishing, camping, and working on home improvement projects. An enthusiastic sports fan, he coaches his children's teams and challenges his RTB colleagues in fantasy football. He roots for the Kansas City Chiefs and for NASCAR's Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, live in Southern California with their five children.

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