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Paradox of the non-believer celebrating Christmas

Paradox of the non-believer celebrating Christmas

My friend Rwangabo rwa Rutaregama sent me a beautiful electronic card from Uganda with the following words: “May this festive period fill your lives and hearts with light, love and a new hope. Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year 2022.”


Greatly touched and pleased by this message, I promptly replied to Rwangabo (not his real name): “Oyebare munonga. Mukama asiimwe ahabw’embabazi ze. Ninkwendeza obusingye n’obugwagye, hamwe n’amagara marungi.” (Thank you very much. Praise be to God because of His grace. I wish you peace, contentment, and good health.)


Rwangabo replied: “Kyo, kwonka obwe Kwehangaana okimanyisize ngu tusiime mukama (w'Abayudaaya) ou tutarikumanya? Nyowe nkaza omukwikiririza omuri sayaansa. Kwonka naashemererwa kukuhuriza. Rya gye Krismaasi!” (Wow! Kwehangaana, you are serious about thanking the Lord (of the Jews) whom we do not know? My faith is in science. Nevertheless, I am pleased to hear from you. Enjoy Christmas!)


Naturally I was tickled by the paradox of Rwangabo not believing in the reality of Jesus Christ but celebrating His birth. How does this season “fill our lives and hearts with light, love, and a new hope” if the Lord whose birth Rwangabo celebrates is non-existent and/or irrelevant? 


Rwangabo is not alone in this contradiction. I have had frequent conversations with friends about the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth, His death and resurrection, and, of course, the evident clash between Divine creation and the Big Bang Theory and Darwinian evolution.


Space does not allow me to summarise the debates. Happily, the ease of online access to great digital libraries offers opportunities for critical study and analysis to inform personal conclusions and choices. 


In addition to the Bible, I recommend reading scholarly works by Christians, agnostics, self-avowed atheists, and experts in various scientific disciplines. The works of early non-Christian historians and writers - especially Josephus (born in 37 CE, wrote in 93 CE) and Tacitus (wrote in the first decade of the second century) are essential reading.  I am not one to tell you to believe without thinking or information.  


I am a Christian by choice and a firm believer in science. I am a person of faith and a stickler for evidence-based thought and practice. I do not read literature that just affirms my bias. 


My knowledge of science has deepened my belief in God. Professional opportunities to witness the development of fetuses, the births of thousands of babies, and the amazingly complex structure and function of the human body have deepened my faith in Jesus Christ who lived - who lives. 


Our magnificent bodies are not accidental happenings. This planet, our Sun and Moon, and the billions of stars that give us visual pleasure at night are an extremely tiny constituent of a vast universe that has order. It is the handiwork of a power that set it all in motion and controls its laws. That power is the living God, Creator of heaven and Earth, the controller of the rules and processes that we call science. 


To me there is no clash between divine creation and evolution. It is all the work of God. The discoveries of Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Albert Einstein, and Bill Gates were just that – discoveries of laws and processes that God created and controlled for billions of years before humanity recognised them. 


What we are yet to discover is way more than the limited knowledge that we mistakenly think is ours. The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched into space this Christmas Day, will give us another tiny glimpse into God’s immense creation. We shall gain new knowledge that we shall falsely claim to be our own.  


It is our extremely limited capacity to understand God’s power and His works that deceives us into doubting the truth of the birth of Jesus Christ, His ministry on Earth, His death and resurrection and His ascension into Heaven. 


Our very limited minds find it is easier to dismiss what we do not understand than to allow room for what appears impossible. There was a time when we thought it impossible for a baby born before 26 weeks of pregnancy to survive. With advances in science, we reduced the survival age to 24 weeks of pregnancy. We now accept that a foetus born as early as 21 weeks of pregnancy can survive intact. I may see a foetus born at 18 weeks survive intact in my lifetime. 


The exponential expansion of our knowledge of genetics has revealed a sophisticated, yet predictable pattern of genes and their constituents that supports our belief that living creatures are made according to predictable rules that have been designed with extraordinary and unfathomable intelligence. 


The designer and controller is the Living God in whom we believe, not as Jews or Gentiles, not as Africans or Europeans, but as humans for whom Christ was born and for whom He died so that we may live. Paul reminds us in Romans 10:12-13, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Now, I fully understand and respect the fact that many people doubt or dismiss the historical reality of Jesus Christ. I was once there. Others acknowledge that Jesus lived, but that he was a mortal man, not a Son of God. I understand that. Again, I was once there.  


I am not any better than Rwangabo, for I have walked his journey. I held strong doubts. I mistook my very limited knowledge of science to be evidence against the reality of God and the Scriptures.  However, a beautiful moment came when, with a very clear and informed mind, I, a sinner who did not merit mercy or other claim to righteousness, chose to believe in the risen Jesus Christ and to accept Him as my Lord and Saviour. It was the best decision I made, bar none.


My confidence in my belief enables me to respect Rwangabo’s choice and opinion. I do not spend time trying to defend God. He needs no defending. Instead, I assure Rwangabo of my prayer that the Lord may open his eyes to understand that science is God’s gift to humanity. God willing, Rwangabo and I will get an in-person opportunity to share our mutual experiences and beliefs. I will tell him about the liberation that I, a practicing sinner, enjoy because of God’s grace and nothing else.



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