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Minister's Letter March 2017

It's good to stretch. It's good to stretch our muscles to loosen up all that stiffness. And it's good to stretch our minds and keep those grey cells active.

I've recently been having my mind stretched a bit more than usual by listening to some lectures. One batch has been this year's Chalmers Lectures, given by Professor Doug Gay of Glasgow University. He's been looking at the state of the Church of Scotland and making suggestions for reform. Why? Well, as he points out, church membership nationally has been declining in recent years and the Kirk's decline has been the steepest of all the denominations. The reasons for this are complex but certainly include increasing "secularisation". That, as Doug Gay defines it, means that people look for meaning to their lives without reference to religion of any kind. This process of secularisation has, I believe, been hastened by the common assumption that science answers all our big questions. And we all know that science has disproved the existence of God

But is that the case? Another fascinating talk was the recent Chaplaincy Lecture at Heriot-Watt University, given to a large audience of several hundreds by Professor John Lennox from Oxford University. His subject was "The God Question: is there more to the universe than matter and energy?". In the lecture he tackled head on the belief that life can be reduced to the interplay of molecules and atoms,  demonstrating persuasively how even atheism is a belief system!

One of his most effective illustrations was in relation to the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter is coming, after all). We have all been influenced, he suggested, by David Hume, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher - even if we've never heard of him. His statue, by the way, dominates the Royal Mile just outside the High Court. He wrote that miracles cannot happen because they would violate the laws of nature. Professor Lennox countered this by asking the audience to imagine that he was staying in an Edinburgh hotel. On his first night he put £100 in cash into a drawer and the same amount the second night. Then when he looked in the drawer the following day only £50 was there. The laws of Scotland have been broken, but the laws of arithmetic have not! £150 was stolen.

That story helps illustrate that miracles - and the greatest of them all, the Resurrection of Jesus - are not at all impossible. There are simply two different kinds of law - the laws of nature and the action of God in raising his Son from the dead

Science and faith, then, are not opposites. They are two ways of looking at reality and answer different sets of questions about life. So don't let anyone tell you that the Christian faith is some kind of illogical escape from reality. There is more to life than matter and energy. We are more than a random collection of molecules and atoms. There is a God whose word helps explain the meaning and purpose of our existence here on earth. Let's be more confident in our faith and help stem the onward march of secularisation

Keep stretching!

Mike Frew


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