The heavens declare the glory of God
Sunday, 28 January 2024 2:31 pm
From time to time I find myself in a conversation with fellow Christian believers about science, whether a specific branch of science or science in general. It may, for example, come out of a comment of mine alluding to science as a basis for believing or saying something.
The conversation might begin with someone questioning my trust or confidence in science. Typically this will include an inference (at least) that the Bible is a higher authority than science or even that science is anti-God and/or anti-Bible. Not a few conversations sooner or later lead to a kind of ex cathedra pronouncement that science - or some specific branch of science - has become “a religion” or perhaps more pointedly “your (meaning ‘my’) religion”. Possibly implying that Christ has been dethroned in my heart?
I don’t propose here to respond directly or specifically to those assertions. I may do that another time. What I will try to do is reflect on a bigger picture question like why I trust science, as a Christian.
I must begin with a very important disclaimer. As well as trusting ‘science’ I also trust scientists. The most basic reason for that is that I’m unqualified to do anything but trust them and their work. Spectacularly unqualified, in fact. My academic passions have always been in the humanities. That’s ‘me’. I did my human best to sleep through high school science, which of course was a compulsory subject in the junior years. I did enough not to fail, but not a lot more. And I was a mouse breeder at home too. That meant I preferred talking to rodents over dissecting them. And I then took delight in omitting all and any science disciplines from my subject selection in HSC. Take that, varmints! My pen was far mightier than any sword or scalpel. Given the choice I’d have run my steel blade through maths as well. But I did the next best thing, choosing the minimum possible, “veggie maths”. Those algorithms were not going to sap my brain cells.
So I’m not so much as a scientist’s bootlace. What can I do but trust their hard and long fought expertise? It’s the least I can do if I hope some of them will trust mine. But how do I trust science as one who accepts the authority of Scripture? Well first, it’s in fact Scripture that invites me to do so. I could reference many biblical texts, but just one will do for now.
Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the Bible, as well as in classical Christian theology, the created physical universe is Revelation no less than all the words God has spoken into the world. Look up to the vastness of what God has wrought (to use the old tongue), and it will tell you how glorious is this God! So then if we would know the character of the God who sent his divine Son, the physical world is one of the ‘texts’ we must read.
Well because this creating God has created intelligent beings capable of deduction and thought, the human race has over millennia learned to read that text with ever increasing skill and accuracy. Science is that skill. At its core it is simply observing (reading) the physical world our Sovereign God has created for our pleasure and learning. In the terms of classical or ‘systematic’ theology, science enhances our reading of General Revelation as biblical hermeneutics enhances our reading of Special Revelation, expounding Christ to our minds and hearts. Both ‘texts’, both Revelations, declare the glory of God.
Two final observations distilling, I hope, all I’ve alluded to here.
- Science ‘works’ because the world is ordered by the Sovereign Creator. If the universe were random there could be no science, for there would be no patterns to observe. Thank God for science by which we may the more see God’s glory.
- An attack on science is heresy in the same way as an attack on the study of the biblical text. For both attacks impoverish our vision of the glory of God.
That is why I trust science and scientists. Soli Deo Gloria