Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Do I Need Religion When We Have Technology?

As one of the guests at the forums of, Billy Graham speaks on technology and faith. "As a clergyman, you can imagine how out of place I feel.  I feel like a fish out of water:"  Billy was preaching in San Jose several months ago and a friend of his brought several CEO's and leaders from Silicaon Valley to have breakfast with him.  He was fascinated by their conversation. It was an eye-opening experience talking about where our world is going through technology and science.   

"Some of you may be wondering why they have a speaker fromt he field of religion."  Some years ago, Billy was on an elevator in Philadelphia at a conference.  On the elevator, this fellow told another that he had heard that Billy Graham was staying at the hotel.  The other man said, "Yeah, he's right there."  So the man turned around, looked Billy Graham up and down, and said, "Man what an anticlimax!".  After some laughs, Billy says, " I hope that you won't feel that these few moments with me is an anti-climax after all these talks you've heard".

Billy was on an airplane in the East some years ago and the man sitting across the aisle was the founder of the Belk stores and mayor of Charlotee, NC; John Belk.  And there was a drunk man on the plane near the two.  He was obnoxious, yelling and pinching the stewardess every time she walked by.  This was making everybody upset.  Finally, John Belk said, "Do you know who's sitting here?  Billy Graham!"  The drunk responded, "You don't say."  Turning to Billy, he said, "Put her there", while holding out his hand. "Your sermons have certainly helped me."  Billy thought to himself, "I suppose that's true with thousands of people". 

Speaking to a group of men who have been peering into the future, Billy says that he would like to live in that age and see what is going to be, but he knows he likely won't be around because he is 80 years old.  "...and I know that my time is brief... I have Phlebitis in both leges... I also have Parkinson's disease...and some other problems that I won't talk about".  Billy points out that this is not the first time we have had a technological revolution.  We've had others and there's one he addresses.  In one generation, the nation of Israel had a tremendous and dramatic change that made them a great power in the Near East.  A man named David came to the throne.  He took power and King David became one of the great leaders of his time.  He had the favor of God with him.  He was a brilliant poet, philosopher soldier and writer.

About two centuries earlier, the Hittites had discovered the secrets of smelting and of processing iron.  Slowly, that skill spread, but they wouldn't allow the Israelites to have the technology.  But King David changed all that and introduced the iron age to Israel.  The Bible says David laid up great stores of iron.  Now, instead of crude tools of sticks and stones, Israel had iron plows, cycles, hoes and military weapons.  In the couse of one generation, Israel was completely changed.  This was much like the microchip of our generation. But despite the advancements, David found that there were many problems that technology could not solve. He saw that there were three problems that still remained and those problems are still with us today.  His question, which is the same as ours is, "How do we solve these three problems?"

The first problem is human evil.  How do we solve it?  Over and over again, you hear about it what is said to be the greatest book in the Bible; Psalms.  David says, "He restoreth my soul."  Have you ever thought about what a contradiction we are?  On one hand, we can push the frontiers of technology. We go to the bottom of the sea and we see into the galaxies, but on the other hand, somthing is wrong.  Our soldiers are ready to go to war with Iraq.  Why do we have these wars and revolutions?  We can't get along with other people.  Racism, injustice and violence sweeps our world.  Even the most sophisticated of us cannot break this.  How do we change man so that he doesn't lie and cheat and so that our newpapers aren't filled with it?

The Bible says that it is within us because we are separated from our Creator.  We need to have our souls restored and only God can do this.  Jesus said, "Out of the heart comes evil thoughts...murders, sexual immorality".  The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was not a religious man, but he said, "It's in our hearts that evil lies and it's from our hearts that evil must be plucked out."  Albert Einstein, when Billy was speaking at Princeton, said he didn't have a Doctorate's degree becauese no one was qualified to give him one.  But he once said, "It's easier to denature plutonium than to denature the spirit of man".  Many of us have pondered that. 

You've seen people take beneficial technological advances and twist them into something corruptive.  Brilliant people construct viruses to take down whole computer systems.  The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technololgy horribly used.  The problem is not technology.  It's the persons using it.  David said that he knew the depths of his own soul and he couldn't free himself from committing murder and adultery.  But David repented and sought God's forgiveness saying God could restore him. 

The Bible says we are more that a body and a mind.  It says we have a soul; a soul that yearns for God. Your soul is that part of you that yearns for meaning in life.  Our yearning is really a yearning for God.  Billy has spoken at many universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Yale and Harvard.  At these universities, without fail, he has always gets questions like; Where did I come from?  Why am I here? and What was I brought here for?  Thomas Edison once said, "When you see everything that happens in world of science and in the working of the universe, you cannot deny that there's a captain on the bridge."

Once at a White House dinner, Billy sat beside Mrs. Gorbachov.  Billy had been to Russia several times under Communist rule and he knew the Russian ambassador.  So, beforehand, he went to the ambassador and asked what he should talk to Mrs. Gorbachov about.  "Talk to her about religion!" was his answer.  So, he and Mrs. Gorbachov did.  Afterwords, she said "You know, I'm an atheist, but I know there's something up there higher than we are."

The second problem Kind David knew we could not solve is human suffering. Writing the oldest book in the world was Job, who wrote, "man is troubled and the sparks fly upward."  In a few months, Billy will be 80.  He is currently going to the medical clinics to treat his aging body.  He actually hasn't spoken in several months before this talk because as he's gotten older, he has gotten rusty thinking.  At this talk, where he usually would ad lib, he now uses a podium and a script.  Even among the TED attendees, you see aging bodies.  In the most advanced society in the world, we have poverty, families that self destruct, friends who betray us and worries that bear down on us.  Why do we suffer?  It's an age old question.  Yet David said he would turn to God.  "The Lord is my shepherd."

The final problem we have is death.  Many commentators have said that death is the forbidden subject of our generation.  Most people  live as if they are never going to die.  Technology projects the myth of control over our mortality.  We see celebrities on screen like Marilyn Monroe. On the screen, she looks so wonderful that many kids think she is still alive!  But death is inevitable.

Last year, Billy  spoke to a joint session of Congress.  They were meeting in the Statue Room.  Roughly, 300 people attended.  Billy told them, "There is one thing we all have in common, Repulicans or Democrats;  we are all going to die... We have that in common with all of the great men pictured on these walls."  It's often difficult for young people to understand that.  The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes said, "There is every activity under Heaven.  There is a time to be born and a time to die." 

Billy has been at the bedside of famous people who were in the agonizing final moments of life.  He has talked to them when they were scared to death  Yet , only a few years earlier, death never crossed their minds.  He talked to woman who's dad was a famous doctor.  Her dad never thought about death or believed there was a God.  But on his deathbed, he asked for the chaplin and finally began thinking about the inevitable. Is there a God?  A few years ago, a student asked Billy the question, "What is the greatest surprise in your life?"  Billy answered, "The greatest surprise is the brevity of life.  It passes so fast!"

Wernher von Braun, in the aftermath of World War II, concluded that "science and religion are not antagonists.  On the contrary, they are sisters."  He even put it on a personal basis as Billy knew him very well.  Dr. von Brahn said "Speaking for myself, I can only say that the grandeur of the cosmos serves only to confirm a belief in the certainty of a creator....In our search to know God, I've come to believe that the life of Jesus Christ should be the focus of our efforts and inspirations.  The reality of this life and His resurrection is the hope of mankind!" 

Billy has spoken in 105 countries and he was invited one day to speak with Chancellor Adanauer, who was sort of the founder of modern Germany.  He asked if Billy believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He then told Billy he would write a book on the why Jesus rose and why it is important to believe that when he eventually was to leave office.  In one of his plays, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn depicts a man dying.  The man says to those around his bed, "The moments when it is terrible to feel regret is when one is dying."  So how should we live to avoid this?

Blaise Pascal, the architect of modern civilization, a brilliant scientist and mathematician and the man believed to be the found of the Probability Theory and creator of the first model of a computer (now with a computer language named after him.), was astounded at the phenomenon we are talking about.  People can achieve extraordinary heights in science, the arts and human enterprise, yet they are also filled with hypocracy, anger and self-hatred.  Pascal saw us as a remarkable mix of genius and self delusion. 

On November 23, 1654, Pascal had a profound religious experience.  He  wrote in his journal, "I submit my self absolutely to Jesus Christ, my redeemer.  A French historian wrote, two centuries later, "Seldom has so mighty an intellect submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ."  Pascal believed that the love of Jesus Christ could bring us back into harmony and He could forgive our sins.  It was Pascal who penned the well-known words "the heart has its reasons which reason knows not of."  Equally well-known were his words, "if you bet on God and open yourself to His love, you lose nothing even if you are wrong, but if instead you bet that there is no God, then you can  lose it all in this life and the life to come."  To Pascal, science paled in comparison to God and Pascal was ready to face God when he died at the age of 39.

King David died at the age of 70 and said, "Even though I walk theough the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me."  This was David's answer to the three dilemmas and it can be your answer too.  When Billy was 17 growing up on a farm with all the responsibilities of the farm.  Trying to keep up with studies and chores at the same time, he didn't make good grades until college.  One day, he came face-to-face with Christ, who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."  Jesus was a liar, He was insane or He was what He claimed to be and Billy had to make the decision of what he would believe.  Billy chose to believe by faith.  His heart was changed and now he is ready when he is called to go before the presence of God. 

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