October 12, 2011
“Why doesn’t God place a glowing cross in the sky at night to serve as an irrefutable sign of Jesus Christ?” Christian apologist Mary Jo Sharp conveyed the question of scientist Carl Sagan, from his book, “Contact,” during an OBU chapel service Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Sharp is the first woman to become a certified apologetics instructor through the Southern Baptist’s North American Mission Board. She spoke on the topic, “The Pursuit of God: The Universal Presence of God.” The message follows OBU’s current chapel theme, “The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine,” based on the book by Christian author A.W. Tozer.
The book “Contact” is a science-fiction novel published in 1985 which deals with the theme of contact between humanity and extraterrestrial life forms and raised questions reflecting the intellect of Sagan -– who described himself as agnostic -– including, “Why is it so hard to find God among us?”
Tozer’s book, Sharp said, provides answers to the type of questions raised by Sagan. Her remarks offered three veins of thought on the topic: Scriptural evidence, philosophical considerations and evidence of God in nature.
Sharp referred to several passages of Scripture which describe the presence of God to man. Jeremiah 23:35 says, “‘Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.”
The passage in Job 34:14-15 indicates God’s presence maintains the existence of all things: “If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.”
In Acts 17:24-25 and Acts 17:27, Sharp said the Apostle Paul explains that the God who made the world and everything in it is “actually not far from each one of us.” Psalm 139:8-10 and Psalm 139:13-16 describe not only God’s spatial relationship with people, but also his intimate knowledge of people.
“God’s universal presence is not just, ‘Is he here?’” Sharp said. “It’s related to how he knows each one of us. It’s not just being present, but being present in knowing us –- there’s a relationship. To reduce God’s universal presence to just merely a distance between him and us is to miss the very real presence of God.”
Philosophically, Sharp raised the question why people do not see the miracles of God all the time. She said a person might contend the Bible conveys ongoing miracles, but such perspective applies an artificial compression to the timeframe in which the miracles happened. She also contended the miracles of the Bible were not performed in the “center of the world” at that time, such as in Rome, yet the miracles nonetheless were known throughout the world.
“The evidence that God gives is sufficient for those who desire to know him,” Sharp said. “And further, more evidence is not going to convince people whose minds are already made up.”
She explained God expresses himself through general revelation, through the created order, and through special revelation, namely coming as Jesus Christ.
“Jesus, being God, showed us more fully what God is like than any other form of revelation,” Sharp said. “Jesus dwelt with us, near us and was in our presence. … How do we know God is with us? He came to us in the form of Jesus.”
Regarding the revelation of God’s presence through nature, Sharp quoted John A. Bloom from “Why Isn’t the Evidence Clearer?” who said, “It is unfortunate that many people consider someone to be a brilliant scholar if he doubts the authority of the Ten Commandments because they are not written on the surface of the moon; but someone who doubts the authority of the periodic table because it is not written on the surface of the moon they would regard as an idiot.”
Sharp said scientists should not be asking “Why isn’t the evidence clearer?” but rather, they should be looking at the evidence already available to them.
In Sagan’s story, “Contact,” the scientist finally connects with the alien, who appears to the scientist as her own father on a well-known beach. When asked why the alien would take such a form, it responds it is easier for the scientist to relate to it in that way.
Sharp quoted John 1:14, which reads, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.” She said Sagan unwittingly answered his own question with the end to his story. Just as he expected would make sense, God himself came and dwelt among humans in a form humans can understand -– as Jesus Christ.
“You can know God and you don’t have to go billions of miles away because, as the Scripture said, God is with us,” Sharp said.
A former atheist from the Pacific Northwest, Sharp grew up in a loving home but thought religion was for the weak-minded. She became a believer in God after reading through a Bible given to her by a high school teacher. Two years later, she professed Jesus as her Savior at Alameda Baptist Church in Norman, Okla. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University in La Mirada, Calif.
She is administrator of the website Confident Christianity and the Facebook group, “Two Chix Apologetics,” where she engages people from around the world in dialogue concerning the truth of Christianity.