Angels & Demons part 1
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 10, 2009
Three years ago, a
movie came out based on a book written three years before that. This
book by Dan Brown quickly became a best-seller and caused quite a stir
all around the world. It was even banned in some countries. That
book/movie was The DaVinci Code, and at the time of the movie’s
release, we took the time here at Sunrise to explore some of the themes
and assertions that Dan Brown made.
Right on the first page of
that novel, Dan Brown claimed that all of the historical and
archaeological content in the book was factual, including what he
claimed about church history and about the person of Jesus. And what we
discovered is that his claims had virtually no basis in reality and
were nothing more than the hype of a conspiracy theory. We didn’t
object to what Dan Brown wrote just because we didn’t like it or it
didn’t line up with our faith; we objected because what he said just
If you’ve read that book or seen that movie and it
raised questions for you, then you may want to go onto our website and
search through our sermon archives there for those messages.
that movie was three years ago based on the book three years before
that. And three years before that, Dan Brown had written another book
based on the same main character, Robert Langdon, called Angels
Demons, which comes to the big screen later this week.
wasn’t quite as controversial and it hasn’t gotten the same kind of
press, but I think it also presents some claims that are worth
exploring. So starting today and for the next couple weeks, we’re going
to be talking about the book/movie Angels & Demons.
haven’t seen the movie yet. I expect I’ll go to see it when it comes
out because I’m doing this series, but I haven’t seen it yet. So I
don’t know how faithful it will be to the book.
And I’m not
exactly recommending that you yourself go to see the movie or read the
book. You can if you want, but just because we’re talking about it here
doesn’t mean that I think it’s worth your time or money. Personally, I
don’t like the idea of participating in the financing of Dan Brown’s
attacks on Christianity, so last summer when I went through the book, I
just got it from the library. That way, I wasn’t sending him any
But since some of you are reading the book or are planning to see the
movie, I’ll try not to give too much of it away today.
from what I’ve seen and read from both of these books, it appears to me
that Dan Brown has some kind of an axe to grind with Christianity, and
especially the Catholic Church. To the point that he misrepresents
theology and historical facts, claiming that his own versions are true.
looking at the two books, Angels & Demons is similar to The
Code in a variety of ways. There are once again conspiracies, and
secret societies, and claims about ancient history, you’ll find a lot
of architecture and symbolism referenced throughout the novel, and the
Catholic Church is front and centre.
Going back to The DaVinci
Code, Dan Brown mainly attacks the formation of our New Testament and
the divinity of Jesus. He claimed that both were created by the Council
of Nicaea in 323 A.D. And what we discovered is that he was wrong on
both counts. The books in our New Testament were all written during the
first century and contained verifiable eyewitness testimonies, and were
circulating among the churches by the end of that first century. The
Gnostic Gospels, which Dan Brown says the church suppressed, weren’t
written until the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, they contain
mythological qualities, and have little or no historic reliability.
for the divinity of Jesus, Jesus himself claimed to be divine and his
first followers believed him to be divine. It certainly wasn’t
something attributed to Jesus three hundred years later. Especially
since we have ancient manuscripts dating close to the time of Jesus
which confirm this.
And The DaVinci Code also alleged that the
Christian Church has oppressed women and demonized sexuality. But we
saw that the Bible and the Church elevates women, even leading to
women’s suffrage and the fight for equal rights. Oh, there have been
times when Christians haven’t treated women very well. But those have
been the exceptions, and for the most part whenever Christianity has
been introduced into a culture, the quality of life for women has shot
Plus, we saw how Christianity celebrates sexuality, and
sees sex as a wonderful gift of God to be enjoyed fully in the marriage
In The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown predominately
attacked the Christian Church in the areas of our Scripture, the
divinity of Jesus, our treatment of women, and our view of sexuality.
(And those are some of the topics we addressed in that message series
three years ago.)
Today we’re going to talk about one of the main themes of Angels
& Demons: the conflict between science and faith.
VIDEO – Angels & Demons: Science vs. Religion Featurette
the underlying theme of this movie is the conflict between science and
religion. Even Ron Howard, the film’s director, talked about what he
called “the age old struggle between science and religion.” And we have
to be honest here; there have been instances of conflict. For example,
when Galileo supported Copernicus’ idea that the earth revolved around
the sun instead of the other way around, that was considered to be
heresy by the hierarchy Catholic Church. Galileo was put on trial by
the Inquisition, found guilty, and spent the rest of his life under
Or you have the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, which
was basically a Tennessee court case pitting Creation against
Evolution, which seemed to cause quite a rift between Science and the
Those are possibly the two most famous examples
of this apparent conflict. And the danger is to look at those two
examples and assume that they characterize the true relationship
between science and faith.
But I don’t think that would be
accurate. And buying into that misconception just leads to conflict and
prejudice and hostility between the two.
Now, I am not a
scientist. Although, I started out in university studying science with
a biology major. So I’ve long held a fascination with science. And I’ve
considered this relationship between science and my Christian faith. So
this morning I want to share with you some of the things I’ve
discovered along the way.
So let’s get at it…
Truth about Science & Faith:
Science and faith are both seeking the truth.
Hanks in that video clip talked about how Science and Religion are on
different tracks. But really, we’re on the same track. We’re both
seeking after truth.
In fact, we even start with the same
evidence… the world around us. And we explore it and we study it and we
see what we can learn from it. We’re looking to understand our world
and increase our knowledge and add meaning to life.
both seeking after truth, but we often do it in different ways. Science
seeks truth by asking “How”? “How does this work? How is that put
together? How do we create technologies that improve life?” Whereas
faith asks the question, “Why?” “Why are we here? Why is there so much
order in the universe? Why is there even anything here to observe at
So we’re both seeking truth, but we go at it by asking
different questions. In addition to that, we use different
methodologies. Science relies strongly on observation and using the
scientific method. “This is what we see, this is what we believe
happened, these are the results that we can reproduce through tests.”
Faith adds the extra component of Revelation. “This is what God is
saying to us. This is how God reveals Himself to us… through Creation,
through Scripture, through the person of Jesus, and through personal
experience.” And those kinds of things aren’t reproducible as the
scientific method would require, but they are God’s revelation of
Himself to us.
Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all
followers of Jesus, we believe God reveals Himself to us—yes, through
the Scriptures. But we also believe He reveals Himself to us through
Creation itself. “The Heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies
display His craftsmanship.” So there’s no inherent conflict between
science and the Christian faith. Both faith and science are seeking
after truth, and really each can benefit from the other. This is in
illuminates science; science illuminates faith.
Polkinghorne is a former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge
University, he’s been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and he was on the
team that discovered the Quark… (not the Ferengi on Star Trek: Deep
Space Nine but a very tiny particle of matter). He’s also a
Christ-follower, and this is what he says…
“Science and religion
are complementary, both seeking truth through motivated belief but at
different levels—science on the impersonal universe and religion on the
level of the transpersonal reality of God.”
The Christian Church has a long history of promoting scientific
it’s not just me saying this. Hoards of people, Christian and secular,
have written about this. It’s just that in our society we seem to be
unaware of this. But for centuries, Christians have pursued and
encouraged the work of science.
One of the commonly held
beliefs of today is that modern science was born during the
Enlightenment of the 18th century. But that’s a misconception. Did you
That [according to Rodney Stark] at the time Columbus made his
famous journey, every educated person, especially Christian clergy,
already knew the earth was round. That’s been documented. 800 years
before Columbus, the Christian historian Bede was teaching this, as did
Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century.
In the year 1230, John of
Sacrobosco who was a clergyman, released a book called Sphere, which
talked about the earth as being round, and it was required reading by
students in all Western European universities for the next four
Copernicus, who was himself a Christian and served as a
Catholic cleric, was taught by Christian scholars the fundamentals that
led to his orbital model of the galaxy.
Three hundred years before
Isaac Newton, a Christian cleric named Jean Buridan was already
teaching Newton’s First Law of Motion—obviously didn’t call it that,
but he was teaching it—that an object in motion will stay in motion
unless another force acts upon it. Buridan also proposed the idea that
the earth turned on its axis.
Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Boyle,
Michael Faraday… all Christian believers who viewed nature as a book
written by God that needed to be read.
Ernest Rutherford, the creator of atomic physics – another Christian.
today, you have Fritz Schaefer, theoretical chemist, University of
California at Berkeley, Nominated for several Nobel prizes – a
Francis Collins, who headed up the Human Genome project
that unraveled human DNA earlier this decade – a devout Christian
Alister McGrath, doctorate in philosophy of molecular physics, has
served as a professor at Oxford – is a Christian apologist.
have long promoted scientific progress and for centuries were at the
forefront of all scientific discoveries. And while I wouldn’t say we’re
at the forefront today, we’re still in the mix and making significant
contributions. And that’s a direct result of our belief that God
designed a world that could be studies and understood.
science and education, liberal democracy, [and] capitalism flourished
in Western civilization precisely because of the Judeo-Christian
- Charles Colson
Historian Gary Ferngren put it this way…
popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed
hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have
shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific
endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either
tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial
come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather
than the rule.”
– Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion
then there’s sociologist Rodney Stark, who is not himself a Christian
believer… he says he has trouble with faith and doesn’t know what to
believe… but he documents how…
“Christian theology was necessary
for the rise of science… Christianity depicts God as a rational,
responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as His
personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure,
awaiting human comprehension… In contrast with the dominant religious
and philosophical doctrines in the non-Christian world, Christians
developed science because they believed it could be done, and should be
- Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God
Christians believed our world was created by God and could be explored
in a rational, logical way. So much for faith and science being polar
Mark 12:30 (NLT)
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your
soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
not just your heart, soul, and strength. You’ve got to love God with
all your mind, too. That means you use your mind, you use your
reasoning abilities, you use your logic to learn what you can about God
and about what He’s revealed to us through His creation.
And that very concept has driven Christ-followers throughout the
centuries to pursue knowledge, including scientific knowledge.
Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD.
In most cases, there is no interaction between science and faith.
example, my faith really has nothing directly to say about the science
of developing a faster microprocessor. Oh, I’ll be happy to use it, but
my faith has nothing specific to say about that science. Nor does
science have anything to say about the morality of me loving my
enemies. It may have something to say about the health benefits of
forgiveness, but science has nothing to say about morality itself.
Most times, science and faith are concerned with different things and
are independent of each other.
When they do interact, science and the Christian faith are compatible.
I should mention, when I talk about the Christian faith, I’m not
necessarily talking about organized religion. Organized religion is run
by people, and sometimes people make mistakes. So I do want to draw
that distinction between organized religion that involves fallible
people, and the purity of the Christian faith untainted by our
Also, when I talk about Science, I’m not talking
about Scientism. Scientism is basically a worldview that believes that
only what can be proven through science is knowable. One of the main
characters in the book Angels & Demons holds to this view. He
the beginning of time, spirituality and religion have been called on to
fill in the gaps that science did not understand. The rising and
setting of the sun was once attributed to Helios and a flaming chariot.
Earthquakes and tidal waves were the wrath of Poseidon. Science has now
proven those gods to be false idols. Soon all Gods will be proven to be
~ Max Kohler
That character believed that
science could answer all questions. But it can’t. Let me show you a
video clip of a discussion between the atheist Peter Atkins who argues
that science is the source of all truth and William Lane Craig who
shows that science can’t prove everything. (We watched this clip a
while ago in our LIFE Group.)
VIDEO – WLC vs. Peter Atkins
so when I talk about the Christian faith, I’m not necessarily talking
about organized religion. And when I talk about science, I’m not
talking about scientism, like Peter Atkins was promoting. Those
extremes really are in conflict, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
with that clarification, why do I believe science and my faith are
compatible? Let my start with my faith. My faith is nurtured and
developed through what God teaches me in His Word, the Bible. I believe
this to be the inerrant, infallible Word of God, completely without
error in the original manuscripts, and it has been handed down through
the centuries without the corruption of any essential doctrine. And we
have the ancient manuscript evidence to show that.
science, what is science? It’s the study of our world (and beyond)…
it’s the study of what exists in our world and how the universe
functions and how it came into being and where we can go from here with
new technologies and new discoveries. Well, I believe the universe was
created by God, and He reveals Himself to us through it.
Roman 1:19-20 (NLT)
know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 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 if my faith is
based on the inerrancy of what God reveals to me through His Word, and
if science is the study of the universe, which is another inerrant
revelation of God to us, then faith and science have to be able to be
Do you see that? God reveals Himself to us through
His Word, God reveals Himself to us through nature. Therefore faith and
science have to be able to be reconciled. As Jasmine read earlier…
Colossians 1:15-16 (NLT)
is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything
was created and is supreme over all creation… Everything was created
through him and for him.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there
aren’t apparent contradictions. The one that gets the most press these
days is Evolution vs. Creation. And Intelligent Design is one attempt
to reconcile the two. But here’s the thing…
When there is an apparent contradiction, either…
The science is wrong.
it was in the Scopes Monkey Trial. That was actually a landmark victory
for the teaching of evolution in schools, but pretty much all of the
evidence presented from science then has since been universally refuted
and now they’ve moved on to other evidence. So either the science is
My interpretation of God’s revelation is wrong.
doesn’t make mistakes, but I do. And sometimes I misunderstand what
He’s saying. Sometimes we all do. Here’s a classic example. There’s a
verse in the Old Testament that says…
Psalm 104:5 (NLT)
You placed the world on its foundation so it would never be moved.
at one time, people interpreted that to mean that the earth was
stationary in space and everything else revolved around it. So when
science showed that it wasn’t that way, it seemed to undermine faith.
But the problem wasn’t that the Bible was wrong; the problem was that
our interpretation of it was wrong. That verse wasn’t talking about
cosmology; it was talking about God’s special provision for us on this
planet. It was a poetic way of talking about the faithfulness and the
omnipotence of God.
And let me tell you, this has happened time
and time again. There have been apparent contradictions, on one side or
the other, which given time, have worked themselves out. All that was
needed was some more time, some more investigation, some more tests,
some more discussion, some more evidence.
And by the way, there are disagreements that arise even within the
faith community and even within the scientific community.
Christians argue about specific passages of scripture, such as the book
of Revelation and how the End Times will play out.
have their own internal arguments, like they’re having right now about
Global warming. Is it real, are we the cause of the problem, and are we
on the brink of disaster, or does nature just go through cycles?
Depending on your interpretation of the evidence, you could reach
The point is, these apparent contradictions
are just that… apparent. They’re not real. And given enough time and
research and a better understanding, these contradictions disappear.
we ever get to a point that there will no longer be any apparent
contradictions? I doubt it. Not on this side of eternity. But that
doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to find the common ground and
reconcile seemingly opposing viewpoints.
All the way back in
the 4th century, a man named Augustine, one of the most influential
people in the history of the Christian Church, said this…
a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the
other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and
even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with
certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and
disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about
such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We
should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest
the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”
- Augustine, in the 4th century
so while this movie coming out later this week may push the idea that
science and faith are in a hopeless conflict with each other and always
have been, I think it’s pretty clear that’s really more of an urban
legend. Science and faith have worked together through the centuries.
When there are disagreements, they can be worked out. There’s really no
inherent contradiction between the two. Problems only arise when people
come in with their own biases and assumptions.