I want to tell you about a book that I have been reading for some time. It is written by a gentleman named Mike McHargue, and is entitled “Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science.”
This book tells of the struggle of a man who lost his faith in God, and then found it again.
Now, Mike is not a Christian. His understanding of God is quite different then the one that we have as saved believers. My hope and prayer is that one day, this gentleman will know the blessing of that relationship with the Triune God.
In the meantime, I would like to suggest that we consider his book from the viewpoint that the Apostle Paul did of the Athenian philosophers. While some would say that the lessons this man has learned are not worthy of study (since he is not a Christian), I think of how the Apostle Paul quoted from several non-Christians:
Acts 17:26-And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; even as some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.”
Paul could quote those philosophers and point out that they were right on several things spiritually and theologically (although they did not have the full revelation of God through Christ). In the same way, I would like to share some powerful lessons from this man’s spiritual exodus.
The Futility Of Life Without God
Long ago, the wise man Solomon had discussed the futility of trying to find purpose and ultimate joy in life apart from God. When he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tried to find such meaning in the things of the world without considering what God’s Word taught about such important topics. His conclusion?
Ecclesiastes 1:2 (ERV)-Everything is so meaningless. The Teacher says that it is all a waste of time!
When Mike embraced atheism, he quickly realized the truthfulness of these words of Solomon.
“So that morning, I said these words: “God, I don’t know why I’m praying. You aren’t even real.” Two things happened immediately. First, the feeling I associated with the presence of God left me, like morning mist burned away by the heat of the sun. Second, I felt as if a trapdoor opened beneath me and I fell through it. A series of dark insights entered my mind with terrifying speed. I realized that all the people I had loved and who had died before me were gone. Forever. I’d never see them again, because the only thing waiting on the other side of death was infinite blackness and the annihilation of self. There was no heaven. There was no hell. Beyond this life, there was… nothing. Without God, life had no objective purpose. All those tough days I had pushed through, believing that I served a higher purpose—that purpose was nothing but a comforting self-delusion. My life was meaningless. So were the lives of my children and of every person who had ever lived or ever would. It didn’t matter what kind of husband or father I was, because all my hard work would be erased when the sun exploded in four or five billion years. I felt a profound grief, an inky-black darkness, as I realized there was neither mission nor redemption for humanity. The universe was indifferent to us. We were all just an accident of the self-organizing principles of physics—mere quirks of gravity, electromagnetism, and chemistry. This was it. This was the end of my search.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 69 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
Later, he writes:
“Ever since I’d confessed that God wasn’t real, I had struggled to find a reason to get out of bed every morning….We are desperate for meaning. And I’d lost mine completely…There is no eternal significance to anything we do. This insight makes it hard for me to get out of bed in the morning or to enjoy life. My beautiful daughters are just like me—wood not yet turned into ash.”” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 77-78 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
The Inevitable Question We Ask God: Why?
In his book, Mike talks about how he finally came to embrace atheism and reject Christianity.
It was because he had a “bone to pick” with God.
Nearly every atheist and unbeliever I have studied the Gospel with has expressed some anger or frustration about God which has led them into unbelief. They do not understand why God would allow some tragedy in their life, or why He was seemingly absent when faced with some hardship. After watching a film which enabled him to carefully analyze his own heart, Mike shared these heartbreaking insights:
“Where was God when Dad started to fall in love with another woman? Was he distracted? Where was “the One who can part the sea” when the two of them held hands for the first time? Where was the Almighty when Mom prayed for things to get better? “Great is Thy faithfulness?” Hardly. Great is thy neglect, great is thy cosmic indifference. Great is thy absence….For the first time, I realized that my deconstruction of faith hadn’t been the rational and clinical pursuit I believed it to be. When I opened Genesis, I wasn’t just looking for answers: I had a bone to pick. I’d wanted answers for Dad, sure, but I’d also expected answers for myself. I’d expected God to justify Himself to me, but God had failed to do that. Instead, He bowed His head and died.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 105-106 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
When I read these words, I was reminded of several men and women in the Bible who had expressed similar emotions through various experiences.
Exodus 5:22-So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me?
Ruth 1:20 (CEV)-Then she told them, “Don’t call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter.
Judges 6:13-Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
Job 16:9-He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; My adversary sharpens His gaze on me.
Job 30:21-But You have become cruel to me; With the strength of Your hand You oppose me.
On and on we could go, filing pages with passages of Scripture where God’s people cried out, “Why?”
It was in the midst of this uncertainty and unbelief that Mike met a group of people who treated him with unconditional love. This helped him in many ways:
“The people in that room simply accepted me, wholly and completely. But I realized they weren’t the first who had done so. Despite all her fears and anxiety about my doubts, Jenny had stuck with me. Instead of drawing away from me, she had leaned in closer. My mother had taken the time to make a case for God, but she’d done so in the context of love. Our relationship as mother and son was never used as a weapon, and I was never threatened with maternal exile. If you’re a Christian who wonders what to do with someone who’s in doubt, consider these words carefully: Love and grace speak loudly. The first and best response to someone whose faith is unraveling is a hug. Apologetics aren’t helpful. Neither are Scripture references. The first thing a hurting person needs is to know they’re not alone. My path back to God was paved with grace by those who received my doubt in love.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 118-119 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
Apologetics (the logical and rational defense of the Christian faith) are indeed extremely important. Peter tells us:
1 Peter 3:15-But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
The Book of Acts reminds us about the example of the Apostle Paul:
Acts 17:2-Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
Acts 17:17-Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
Mounce tells us about the word translated here as “reasoned:”
“dialegomai means “to reason, argue, prove, persuade.” Paul customarily reasons on Sabbath days, in the synagogues, to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9; 24:12, 25)….If we are to emulate Paul’s preaching and teaching, we must do much more than just talk. dialegomai involves preaching and teaching that harnesses reason and logic into a defensive and positive exposition of God’s Word to persuade and edify….(dialogizomai), GK 1368 (S 1260), 16x. dialogizomai means “to discuss, consider, argue” about something.” (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words, 22515-22529 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Therefore we can see that evangelism will indeed focus on the logical and rational defense of Christianity. Yet, Mike’s words here remind us that we must always have an attitude of lovingkindness and compassion towards those with whom we are blessed to interact. The wise man wrote:
Proverbs 19:22-What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar.
When we utilize logical arguments to try and reach minds, even in the form of public debate (as Jesus and Paul often did), it is for the ultimate goal of saving the lost. Sharing the Gospel is not about winning arguments: it is about winning souls.
A Mystical Experience
Our author now talks about a spiritual experience that he had.
“The problem was that I couldn’t take the bread without taking the metaphor. And that felt dishonest. I didn’t believe that the body of Christ was broken for me, because I didn’t believe that there was a body to break. I decided to walk away. But just when I was about to turn, I heard a voice say, “I was here when you were eight, and I’m here now.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 124 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
After this, Mike went for a walk along the beach:
“So I walked down the steps at the back of the hotel to the beach. It was between 2: 00 and 3: 00 a.m., dark and still. I looked at the ocean, but it was so black, I couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began—a powerful force that I could hear and feel but not see. As metaphors for God go, that was pretty good, so I faced the waves and started to pray. I said something like this: God, I don’t know who or what you are. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know what your relationship to the Bible is. I can’t unlearn all the things that made me believe you aren’t real. They’re still there, and they tell me you can’t exist. If you’re real, if you have consciousness, will, and power, tell me: How can I be here? Why did you bring me to California to learn about you from a famous preacher, while right now children are starving to death all over the world? Why answer my mom’s prayer, when another mother’s prayer that her child be spared from warlords goes unanswered? God, that doesn’t seem like love. That seems like evil. How can you just watch and do nothing? People are hurting and dying down here. Look, I can’t promise to accept the Bible now. I can’t say I’ll swear to keep its commandments. Some of them are archaic and brutal. Some of them are absurd anachronisms. But I do like talking to you again. I feel you near me again, and I missed that, God. I don’t want to be away from you anymore. So let’s make a deal. I will try to do the best I can to do good in this world. I will serve others, and I will work against suffering. But I have to keep asking these questions about your justice and mercy. And I can’t forget about science. Let’s just keep talking about this, You and I. I don’t ever want to be away from you again. I can’t do that anymore. All I know is, I met Jesus tonight. When I said the word Jesus, the waves rushed toward me. I was standing high up on the beach, 25 feet or more above the waves, but the water still rushed up and over my feet—all the way up to my shins. I thought about what Rob had said: that Christ’s last act of service before His crucifixion was to wash the feet of His followers. I said, “Is that you, God? Is this really happening?” And the whole world fell away, like the veil lifted fro the face of a bride on her wedding day. Time stopped. The waves seemed to stand still, as if an unseen hand had pressed pause on the universe’s remote. Have you ever tried to look through a sheet? You know how if you stretch the sheet tightly, you get a hazy image of whatever’s on the other side of it? As I stood on the beach in the wee hours of the morning, everything in my surroundings took on that stretched, translucent quality. I could see what I can only call the glory of God on the other side. I felt God with me, in me, and through me. I felt connected to the Source of Life and the Source of All. Through God, I felt connected to everyone else, all of humanity. And then, to all life on Earth. All my doubts and questions were swept away in an ocean of light. I had no more pain or sorrow. Suffering made sense as a part of a grand tapestry, one of the millions of colors in the palette of creation. These words point toward what happened to me, but there are no words for my experience that night. I left this world, and I went to another far more beautiful than this. And in that place I met my Maker face-to-face. Of course, there was no face, but we are treading in places now where language becomes impotent. I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was by far the most powerful moment of my life. It was like my first kiss, my wedding day, and the birth of my children rolled into one moment and multiplied by a zillion. Even as I type these words, I am moved to tears and a profound sense of awe, merely from the echo of that moment. After it was over, I understood why someone would feel compelled to write about a bush that burned but was not consumed. Or a blinding light on the road to Damascus. Or an angel telling a 14-year-old virgin girl she was pregnant with the Son of God. There weren’t words to describe the things they, and I, experienced.” ((Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 125-128 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
As Mike reflected on the beauty and majesty of creation, God “spoke” to Him through the breathtaking beauty of the ocean.
Throughout God’s Word, we are reminded that the Lord speaks to mankind through the Word of Nature and through the Word of Scripture. For example, Job writes:
Job 12:7-10-But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?
While the Bible is God’s complete and final revelation to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17), He continues to speak to us in truly remarkable ways through the creation itself (Matthew 5:44-45; Acts 14:17; Romans 1:18-20).
Over time, as Mike again began to study science, he began to realize that science points undeniably to the existence of God:
“Over three years after losing my faith, I had finally arrived at an answer to the question “How do you know God is real?” I know God is real because I see the work of God via telescopes, space probes, and particle accelerators. Instead of fighting science or trying to filter science through my understanding of God, I discovered that you can begin by accepting scientific evidence—and, therefore, scientific accounts of how our universe came to be—and still see the face of God.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 149 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
His words here reminded me of the fact that Christianity and true science are friends and not enemies. Another author recently commented on the contributions of Christianity to scientific reform and discovery through the ages:
“To be fair, the claim that Christianity led to modern science captures something true and important. Generations of historians and sociologists have discovered many ways in which Christians, Christian beliefs, and Christian institutions played crucial roles in fashioning the tenets, methods, and institutions of what in time became modern science.2 They found that some forms of Christianity provided the motivation to study nature systematically; sociologist Robert Merton, for example, argued seventy years ago that Puritan belief and practice spurred seventeenth-century century Englishmen to embrace science.3…Although they disagree about nuances, today almost all historians agree that Christianity (Catholicism as well as Protestantism) moved many early-modern intellectuals to study nature systematically.4 Historians have also found that notions borrowed from Christian belief found their ways into scientific discourse, with glorious results; the very notion that nature is lawful, some scholars argue, was borrowed from Christian theology.’ Christian convictions also affected how nature was studied.” (Ronald L. Numbers (Editor), Galileo Goes To Jail: And Other Myths About Science And Religion, 855-863 (Kindle Edition); Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London England; Harvard University Press)
Even though Mike was again a believer in God at this point, he was far from believing in the God revealed through Scripture. As he points out:
“Cosmology describes a force that created us and then transformed itself into a system of forces and energy that continue to sustain the universe. This sounds at least a little like what Paul told the people of Athens: “In him we live and move and have our being.” For the first time since my faith fell away, cosmology gave me an understanding of God that could pass my own skepticism. This was the God of Einstein, a God who can be found in the orderly, elegant mechanics of the cosmos. I was under no illusion that this God was close to anything resembling Christian orthodoxy—in fact, I knew this idea of God was decidedly heretical to many Christians. I didn’t care.“ (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 148-149 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
With this statement, our author seems to give credence to the age old beliefs of pantheism and or panentheism. These statements teach that God is somehow identical to the universe (or perhaps is inhabiting the universe as a soul inhabits a body). This belief system is similar to the ancient doctrine of emanations, which some believe formed the basis for the original rebellion of Satan against God. Ken Johnson has written:
“One might understand if Lucifer was angry with God, he might convince one third of the angels of heaven to leave heaven to be alone, away from God. But look at the verses given about Lucifer’s fall. He wanted to be worshiped as God and actually tried to take God’s throne. How could any rational being think for one second that he might have power enough to force the only creator God out of H is throne? No rational being would. Nor would Lucifer ; unless , he believed his own lie. What was Lucifer’s lie? Lucifer’s lie was this: God is not separate from His creation. When God puts His spirit into a newly created being, He looses part of Himself. In the Jewish Kabala this concept is called the Doctrine Of Emanations. In other words , if God created 100 billion people and put His spirit into each one of them, at that point the Bible would say God is still 100% God and Man is 0% God. Lucifer , on the other hand , would say at that point God might be, say, 47% God and all humans collectively would equate to 53% God. Lucifer might have actually believed that if there were enough angels they could overcome God and absorb the rest of what God once was. That, in effect, would kill off God. He probably believed this was the way it had been done for generations of gods /angels and universes. The Doctrine of Emanations would become the basis of all future pagan religions on earth, and the primary cause of the earth’s destruction by a world wide flood.”. (Ken Johnson, Th. D., Ancient Paganism: The Sorcery Of The Fallen Angels, 19-20 (Kindle Edition))
The book of Jasher (a non-biblical book which the Scriptures sometimes reference and encourage people to study) suggests that this teaching was prominent in the days before the Global Flood.
Jasher 6:18-19-“And they called to Noah, saying, Open for us that we may come to thee in the ark –and wherefore shall we die? And Noah, with a loud voice, answered them from the ark, saying, Have you not all rebelled against the Lord, and said that he does not exist?”
These people were not atheists (as we use the word today). Instead, they believed that God had emptied Himself into creation.
One author has described several weaknesses of both pantheism and panentheism:
“Pantheism is the view that everything that exists is God….Pantheism fails to account for features of reality that are expressed in the cosmological, design, and moral arguments. Because pantheism says God is impersonal, God cannot be intelligent since only persons have intelligence. And God cannot be engaged in the world since intentionality and engagement are also characteristics exclusive to persons. Too, if everything that exists is itself a part of God, then nothing can be transcendent. Lastly, in pantheism the universe is eternal and unchanging; it has no beginning or end. This would necessitate the existence of actual infinites, something that is clearly false, as was shown in the Kalam cosmological argument in Chapter 2….Religions that have a pantheist view of God include Hinduism, Taoism, some forms of Buddhism, the New Age movement, paganism, some forms of Unitarian Universalism, Christian Science, and Scientology….Despite the fact that it has some very brilliant adherents, pantheism is fraught with very difficult problems. One problem has to do with morality. If, when we die, we are all absorbed into the impersonal whole, then we all share the same fate. How we live makes absolutely no difference. There is no ground for morality….Pantheists also claim that we are a part of God, and that God is unchanging. But if we can come to realize that we are a part of God, then we have changed. Thus, God would change because we changed….And, as mentioned above, pantheism would require the existence of actual infinites—an impossibility. Thus, pantheism is a poor explanation for how to understand God. It fails to correspond with features of reality that can be known apart from religion….Panentheism sees God as both distinct from and dependent on the world at the same time. God comes from the world, and the world comes from God. It is a symbiotic relationship. Ron Brooks and Norman Geisler describe panentheism by saying that “God is to the world what the soul is to the body.” 5 God is ultimate reality (panentheism literally means “all in God”)….The attributes of the glass slipper reveal that the idea of a finite and dependent God is inaccurate. And the idea of an eternally existing universe again runs into the problem of the existence of actual infinites. Panentheism fails to fit the glass slipper by giving no grounding for morality. If morals are rooted in God and God is always changing, then moral values are also changing, or at least they can change. They become fluid and lose their force, their “oughtness.” Why change immoral behavior if morality itself may soon change and make the immoral moral? Panentheistic morality therefore has no authority to enforce morality, and thus is no morality at all. In the end, panentheism fails to account for the features of reality found in the cosmological, design, and moral arguments.” (Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide To Christian Apologetics,1419-1487 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Holman Reference)
As Mike continued his studies into astronomy, cosmology, and neuroscience, he became more amazed at the beauty and elegance of life. He began to learn what so many never realize, or perhaps realize too late: life is precious.
“Be it Moses’ burning bush or Carl Sagan’s cosmos, both propel me to a posture of worship: an understanding that I did nothing to get here, on this planet at this time and with these people, and yet I get to enjoy it all. Every sunrise, every breakfast at the table with my kids, every skinned knee, and every kiss from my wife. Every song, poem, and, yes, every loved one I lose is a gift. To share the joys and sorrows of my friends, to see little ones born and old ones die, all tie me to an incredible cycle of unspeakable beauty that I am a part of, and the only possible word I have for it all is this one: God….Science gives us fact. Faith gives us meaning. These two lenses, so often set up in opposition to each other, are most powerful when used together. Somehow, life becomes more clear—and dear—when I refuse to water down one stance for the sake of the other and, instead, dive deeply into both streams of experience and feeling, collecting the truth that flows from each. We don’t have to choose one or the other. Beauty and mystery surround us in every moment. They’re easy to miss and easy to crush in the grip of our desire to control them. But if we open ourselves up to receive both, we’ll be surprised by what we find. And God will meet us there.” (Mike McHargue, Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science, 245-247 (Kindle Edition); New York; Convergent Books)
The inspired Apostle Paul wrote:
Ephesians 5:16 (CEV)-These are evil times, so make every minute count.
Shouldn’t we all pray the same prayer which Moses did so long ago?
Psalm 90:12 (CEV)-Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.
Not A Christian
Mike is not a Christian. However, I hope that one day he will be! I recently messaged him on Facebook in an attempt to study with him, and am praying for such an opportunity. He rejects the authority of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 12:48), and continues to embrace many Darwinian ideas and philosophies.
Will you join me in praying for him, and for an opportunity to study?
In the meantime, there are many valuable lessons which we can learn from his experiences and writings.
Friends, the God of creation has revealed Himself to mankind through nature. Even the most hardened skeptic, when carefully applying himself to study the issues, can see this evidence all around. He created us for loving relationship (Ephesians 3:9-11), but our sin has caused a rupture or breach in that relationship (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only God could span that gulf, and through His Son Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), forgiveness and reconciliation are possible (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). Believers who repent of their sins and are baptized into Christ are promised forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). When a person thus becomes a Christian, he is called by God to lead a faithful life to Him (Revelation 2:10). When a Christian sins, he may be forgiven through repentance and prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2).
Why not obey the Lord today?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.