Monthly Archives: September 2011

Science as Theology

Some say you cannot mix science and theology, but au contraire, you cannot separate science and theology. Science itself is, in a way which I hope to explain, a branch of theology when properly understood, and as we owe God praise and credit, we ought to think thus of science. This is certainly not to say that science cannot be used—and used to great instruction and benefit—without thinking of God, but that using science without thinking of God is not seeing all that science has to tell us and, more importantly, is robbing God of his due credit. It is not using science to its full potential or even its ultimate purpose.

The Bible says that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). That is, the universe preaches to us, in general terms, about God’s creativity, wisdom, and goodness, and this proclamation, found in the world around us which we observe daily, is everywhere present, making it obvious that God is there and that he has acted. Dante said that “nature is the art of God,” and who could deny it? The Apostle Paul said that what can be known about God (apart from special revelation) is plain to people because God has shown it to them in the things he has made! Though nature is not very specific in what it tells us about God, it does tell us certain things quite clearly. For instance, nature tells us about his eternal power and his divine nature (Romans 1:18-20). That is, from the natural order it is easily deduced that God is immensely powerful—that he is in reality God. He is not like us.

When we look deep into the secrets of the world, from the cosmos to the quanta, we learn about how nature operates. We get an idea about how things function and what causes what. We begin to formulate laws that govern how particles interact with each other, or with energy or gravity or magnetism; we discover and record how animals survive and how they interact with each other in eco systems; we look at the behavior of waves, of light and sound; we reduce physical behaviors to mathematical equations to predict the motion of the planets or the acceleration of the stretching of space. In any and all of these cases we are ultimately learning about the maker of the these systems, just as studying Michelangelo’s artwork will tell you about Michelangelo himself. We believe that God upholds all the created order by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). Science is the study of the means he uses to do so. Science tells us what God created and how he conserves creation. It tells us how he keeps it all together. Physicist Dr. John Hartnett once observed that “the universe, including the created laws that describe the way it normally operates, often turns out to be far more ingeniously constructed, and at the same time elegant, than previously imagined” (Starlight, Time, and the New Physics 12).  When we wonder at how it all works, we often have no idea how amazing it really is. This is because God is infinitely wise. The living cell was once thought to be a simple little blob. Newtonian physics was once thought to perfectly and exhaustively describe the motion of bodies in space. But God was working on another whole level.

When archeologists and anthropologists want to learn about an ancient culture, they study their artifacts. The universe is the dig site of the artifacts of God. When we engage in science, we engage in the study of God’s work. When we engage in the study of God’s work, we are studying God. When we unpack the laws of nature, we peak into the mind of the lawgiver. May science be treated with enough respect to be acknowledged as a vehicle for learning about how great God is, and may God be worshipped and glorified as we lower our microscopes and raise our telescopes to the purpose of finding out just how awesome and mighty a God we serve.

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