Synchronicity is defined as an experience of two or more events that occur in a meaningful manner to the person considering the events, but where those two or more events are causally unrelated to one another.
In other words, there was no connection between the passing of British physicist Stephen Hawking and my listening to an address by RC Sproul as far as the world is concerned. However to me, the two events were connected by the question of knowing God, or not knowing him.
The passing of the British physicist Stephen Hawking this week was an intellectual loss to the world and a personal loss for his family. On the passing of anyone, I notice that there is no pattern or formula that determines how long a person should live. Sometimes the evil live long lives, and other times the good die young. There is a spread of life expectancy over multiple people-groups, religions, countries and moral actors. What seems random to me though is God’s prerogative. Prerogative is defined by Webster’s dictionary as exclusive or special right, power or privilege.
I’m not privy to his thinking and He doesn’t owe me an explanation, but He decided to take Billy Graham home when he did, and He struck Stephen Hawking this week so that he died. The world celebrated Hawking for what he knew, and to a lesser extent Billy Graham for Whom he knew.
It struck me that the key is not what you know (although there is value in what), but Who you know. Those old sayings didn’t just pop up randomly, they stand the test of time.
RC Sproul takes us to the first chapter of Romans, which can be summarised by the idea that God isn’t coy or hiding himself, and people know He exists, but they want to sin, and so pretend that He doesn’t exist.
“19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. “(Romans 1, NLT)
As RC Sproul says, the atheist’s problem with God is not intellectual but moral. Woody Allen’s flippant quote about the evidence for God (or lack of evidence as far as the atheist is concerned) offers a window into the thinking of the natural man:
“If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.”
We have all the signs we need just by looking out the window and observing the mechanics of the sky, the rhythm of the solar system, the incredible mysteries of the human body. The stubborn God-ignorer wants stuff, a genie to cater to whims.
Sproul reasons that pagans still have the ability to think, to reason with a syllogism and spot errors in logic but that with a starting point that denies God, no ultimate conclusion can ever be correct. Intellectual bias against God will always take the pagan thinker on a trajectory that cannot escape the gravitational pull of his or her sin and selfishness. Apart from being born-again, Sproul notes, the natural man does not seek God.
Does Scripture back him up?
“11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.” (Romans 3, NLT)
Does observation? I’m afraid yes, the Mark-I eyeball does a remarkable job of revealing this.
Why the emphasis on thinking? Because thinking is the starting point for faith and for action. Sproul argues, and I agree, that Christianity is reasoned and logical. Many don’t see it that way, however they will be the first to accept those who believe in fairies, UFOs and the Jedi religion. All those ideas are based in credulity, silliness because they are beliefs that are not under-girded by reason.
Faith without reason is wishful thinking and the first chapter of Romans unpacks the idea that faith in God is not wishful thinking but that there is serious evidence for it.
Earlier I referred to God having a prerogative, and we will never be able to understand God in the ways that He chooses events to unfold, however we have Scripture, and without access to that, we have nature. They are both well designed and God reveals Himself powerfully through them.
We – collectively – know God, but we simply don’t want to know because that has implications. For those of us who have been regenerated, who have been awoken by the Holy Spirit, we understand that knowledge is foundational to relationship.
To know Him is to love Him.
If I forget my wife’s birthday (lack of knowledge), the relationship may take a hit. However, as I mentioned to my wife before – apart from my study of God – she is the subject of lifelong study and my PhD in knowing her. Knowledge is foundational to relationship.
For the unbeliever who eschews knowledge of God, he lets them earn a lesson:
“28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.” (Romans 1, NLT).
It’s a strong judgement, to leave someone to their own devices. And yet, there is wonderful hope, because at one time, all us believers were there, one-time unbelievers running away from God.
One of those old-time preachers described God as ‘the hound of heaven’. I like that. He pursues us like the fox that doesn’t stand a chance of escape in a hunt the likes of which we’ve never seen.