David Dawson

David Dawson

Monday, 22 February 2016 00:00

You can't always get what you want.

I'm not a big fan of the Rolling Stones, but I think they speak the truth when they reconginze that you can't always get what you want.   Sometimes we find this surprising in our relationship with God. We read verses like John 14:14, " you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it", and we assume that life with God is about him fulfilling our dreams and wishes. So when we ask for things that seem obviously good and necessary is hard for us to have to wait. We must come to terms with the fact that asking for something in Jesus's name is not simply an invitation to use Jesus's name as a magic word. To ask for something in his name is to asks for something according to his will and for his glory. John 14:13 says "and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." Therefore to ask in Christ's name is to ask according to this motive which is to bring glory to the Father. And although we think we know what is best, my experience has been that I don't always get what I want. The story of Jesus and the paralytic which I preached on from Mark chapter 2 helps me to understand that Jesus has a different priority and sees needs with a fuller clarity. As the man came asking for a healing Jesus first addressed issues of forgiveness in his heart. I need to learn to trust that God sees my needs more clearly and will do what is best for his glory and my good even when it does not line up with what I want.
Monday, 15 February 2016 00:00

Born Again

Being born again is to have God do a work in the heart that we cannot do ourselves.  It involves coming to God seeking transformation rather than coming to him assuming that we have it all figured out.  As I was preparing my sermon on John chapter 3 I decided to search YouTube for thoughts and illustrations around the topic of being born again.  There I came across a song by Josh Garrels called "born again".  I was immediately captivated by this artist and the lyrics in this song which speak about transformation through encountering Jesus.

Stumble out to the light
Raise my fist up to fight
Then I catch your eye
So full of love
Lord, what have I done?

I cry at your feet, wounded for me
And all of the monsters and men
But here in your light
We can begin again

I’m my mother’s child
I’m my father’s son
It took me a while
But my time has come
To be born again

Although I'm not totally sure I understand everything about this visual presentation I encourage you to check out this video and other work by Josh Garrels.



Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

Here is a fascinating argument from Alvin Plantinga's book "Where the Conflict Really Lies:  Science, Religion and Naturalism".  He argues that if you hold to evolution and naturalism, then you have reason to doubt human ability to form true beliefs.  The idea is that evolution only serves adaptive behavior and not necessarily true belief.  It is possible that adaptive behavior could arise alongside false beliefs.  As long as the behavior is correct, the truth or falsehood of a belief is irrelevant to natural selection.  While we may commonly think that experiences create belief which motivate behavior, this is not absolutely clear in the animal world.  Does a frog hold beliefs about a nearby fly or does the stimulus just create a response in the tongue.  When it comes to human behavior it is also clear that false beliefs could be adaptive.  I might falsely believe that the police are watching me and therefore slow my driving and avoid an accident.  This is even more accurate when it comes to abstract or metaphysical beliefs.  My belief about the ultimate nature of the world or the existence or non existence of God do not seem to be relevant to survival and reproduction.  Therefore there is no evolutionary reason to think that human reasoning about abstract ideas is reliable.  In conclusion, if you assume naturalism, then you have reason to suspect that your metaphysical belief forming processes are not reliable, therefore you have reason to doubt your belief in naturalism which is itself a metaphysical belief.   

Indeed, Darwin himself expresses serious doubts along these lines: “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?*

*Letter to William Graham, Down, July 3rd, 1881. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin (London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1887), vol. 1, pp. 315–16.

Monday, 11 January 2016 00:00

Can Science Prove Design?

This week at Emmanuel we are taking on the topic of science and religion. You can check out my recent sermon on Genesis 1 where I conclude that the Bible is not contrary to science but only to naturalism. This coming Sunday evening, Jan 17th, we will be hosting a significant conversation on science and religion.

In this blog post I want to talk a little bit about whether science can prove or disprove intelligent design. As I survey the literature, arguments for and against design seem to hinge on the estimation of probability.  Theistic thinkers typically argue that the series of small modifications over time required by evolution is significantly improbable given the complexity of life. Atheistic thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, make the point that given enough time every step along the evolutionary path may be small enough to not be improbable.  It is concluded therefore that if every step is not improbable that the series as a whole is therefore not improbable. The difficulty with this thinking is that it is only applied to an imagined process. It is difficult to estimate the actual probability of a mutation or the probability that a given mutation is adaptive.  We can only imagine a possible patway of change and have no way to know the actual path.  How can we know that every step is not improbable?  Perhaps even the small steps are improbable.  How could we know?

It seems to me that both theists and atheists make their points by estimating probability. The scientific data cannot decide the case. The system is too complex.  Although I am convinced that the complexity of life cannot be explained by unguided Darwinism, I would stop short of calling this a proof. In the same way however, I would challenge the atheistic conclusions. At best, evolution offers the possibility that the universe exists apart from design.  Philosopher Alvin Plantinga writes"  At best it would show, given a couple of assumptions, that it is not astronomically improbable that the living world was produced by unguided evolution and hence without design."*  To say that something is not impossible is far from proof.

In the end science cannot provide the answer.  Design or the lack of design are both possible.  For me, I still find it difficult to accept that unguided natural processes can account for the forming of life form non life, the development of complexity and the arise of consciousness.  

* Plantinga, Alvin (2011-11-11). Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (p. 24). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, 07 January 2016 00:00

Life With God

boats Victoria life with God

We all need help navigating through life.  We need a sense of where we have come from and where we are going. Here at Emmanuel, we understand life in relationship with God.  Amidst the challenges and threats of life, we follow Jesus.  He is the one who helps us find our way to where we belong.

The simple phrase that helps us make sense of everything is "Life with God."  This is what we were made how we should live. We understand that life with God is navigated if four ways. 




Relationship:  To Live with God is to seek God's presence

Character:  To live with God is to reflect God's nature.

Community:  To live with God is to share in God's family

Mission:  To live with God is to serve God's kingdom



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Introduction to Life With God

Life With God Messages 

Monday, 21 December 2015 00:00

The Bible Project

I have recently come across a website called the Bible project. These guys are creating short animated videos which explain the theme of every book of the Bible as well as videos that trace out important themes throughout the scriptures.

These videos are well produced, theologically rich and easy to understand. I am thinking about using them as the basis of a discipleship program.

Thursday, 17 December 2015 00:00

O Root of Jesse

rootjesseI have been very attracted to this picture which was inspired by Isaiah chapter 11.  

Isaiah 11:1  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Isaiah 11:10  In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

This is the family tree of Jesse and David. Notice how there is a root / branch that is coming out of a stump growing up to a woman who I take to be Mary presenting the child Jesus. Although David's dynasty was cut off, Jesus his ancestor has taken his place and God has done something new. This root has become like a banner and all peoples and nations are rallying to him. This is a beautiful portrayal of Christ's who is root, branch and banner. I'm not sure who the artist is.  I found it online at http://concordiatheology.org/2014/12/o-radix-iesse-o-root-of-jesse/



Thursday, 03 December 2015 00:00

The Light of Life

During this Advent and Christmas season we celebrate Jesus Christ as the light of the world. With John 1:9 we affirm the true light that gives light to everyone was coming in to the world.  In this same chapter it is interesting to note that there is something else that functions as a light. In verse four we read, "in him was life and that life was the light of men." The eternal Word is the creator of life and this life functions as a light. The very fact that we exist and have life is a testimony to something greater. As much as our modern mythology wants to define life as the product of randomness, there remains a strong conviction that life is meaningful. I find it difficult to accept story that all I see in myself and nature is but the shaking together of chemicals over time. Life is a light though it's not enough. John 1:5 says "the light shines in the darkness darkness has not understood it." We still require a clearer picture of God, a brighter light. We still need Christmas and the arrival of God in human form to be that true light that gives light to everyone.
Monday, 23 November 2015 00:00

Advent and Christmas

Christmas and Advent


We are excited to celebrate Advent and the birth of Christ at our three special services.   On Sunday December 9th come refelect on the prophecies of Advent with music from Handel's Messiah.  On December 23, the Sunday before Christmas we will have a family pageant featuring our children, youth and Mandarin choir.   Christmas Eve will be a beautiful reflective experience which will include special music, caroling and reflections on the Christmas story.  We will celebrate Jesus, the light of the world as we pass the candlelight throughout the congregation.

Handel's Messiah Excerpts
Dec. 9      10:30 am  

Family Christmas Celebration
Dec. 23      10:30 pm 

Candlelight Christmas Eve
Dec 24     7:30 pm 


Monday, 23 November 2015 00:00

What do we communicate at communion?

In light of my recent sermon on Acts 15, it was suggested to me that  because Jesus turned no one away for any reason. we should do the same and not discourage participation in communion.  This has got me thinking about what we communicate at communion.  As I shared in the sermom, love is unconditional, but relationship is conditional.  God extends grace to all, but not all are in relationship with him.  Relationship is conditional on repentance and faith (which will naturally result in good works).  Grace cannot be understood to mean that all people are automatically justified before God, although it does mean that all can be justified if they repent and believe. Because communion (and baptism) are celebrations of relationship, they are only for those who have faith in Christ.  

When it comes to communion, the scriptures do teach that there are valid reasons for non participation.  The text that speaks about non participation in communion is  1 Corinthians 11:27–29

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

It is possible to eat and drink in an unworthy manner.  The phrase which describes this unworthy manner is  "without recognizing the body of the Lord" (verse 29)  This language is not clear but commentators understand it to mean not recognizing one's part in the church which is the body of Christ.  To partake in communion is to recognize one's participation in the family body of Christ. To partake in this meal and to not be truly part of this family of faith is to eat in an unworthy manner.  Communion is a celebration of faith and is therefore only appropriate for those who have trusted Christ.  This is similar to baptism.  We only baptize those who believe.  

So in communion we need to communicate both that Christ receives sinners and that grace calls us to repentance.  We must never communicate that one must clean up their life in order to participate. This table is open to all. Yet we must not imply that coming to Christ can be done without repentance faith or a desire to follow him.


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