Seeing God Through Science and Creation

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20)

Those of us who work as scientists are all too familiar with the nature of the work. The days in the library reading journals, the theories and the questions, the hypotheses and then the experiments. The days in the laboratory, the low drone of equipment, the smell of chemicals, the focus on your work – failure again and starting over. Then, as tension builds, new discoveries create pauses and moments of exhilaration – the electron micrograph showing the lunar-like landscape of a new species of pollen, the complex biochemistry of senescence yielding yet another clue or the DNA sequencing gel finally analysed and the gene sequence revealed. For the Christian, these can be God-moments, but what do others see? Is there any inkling at all that there is something bigger going on? Is there a sense that this new discovery is something other than just a successful experiment?

God is Revealed in Creation

God’s revelation is God’s deliberate self-disclosure to humans. This single divine activity occurs in two different ways, expressed in theological terms as general and special revelation. Special revelation is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and is the knowledge of God which is necessary for salvation, whereas, general revelation is a revelation of God as creator which is given to all people through their own self-awareness and knowledge of the world. While carrying no redemptive power, general revelation clearly mediates the conviction that God exists. What then does the Bible teach about God’s revelation through creation?

Psalm 19 shows that God reveals Himself through a two volume book; of creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and of the law (Psalm 19:7-13). This psalm begins with, "the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands". This revelation is described as being continuous ("day after day", Psalm 19:2), abundant ("it pours forth", literally gushes Psalm 19:3) and universal ("all the earth", Psalm 19:4). Here, the psalm is showing that creation reveals the divine glory and is therefore an external manifestation of God’s inner being and attributes. Elsewhere, the book of Job (36:24 - 37:24) describes a situation where natural phenomena such as rain, thunderstorms, snow, ice and the clouds are all attesting to the power, majesty and goodness of the Creator. Job 36:25 says that "all mankind has seen" this revelation.

Perhaps the clearest indication that all people have a rudimentary knowledge of God comes from the teaching and writings of Paul. In Acts, Paul is pictured as addressing the Athenians (Acts 17:24-31), and as a point of contact with these non-believers, Paul refers to their knowledge of God by virtue of God’s universal self-disclosure in both nature and history. In Romans (1:18-21), the teaching also shows that all people have a rudimentary knowledge of God as Creator. Here, Paul argues that through the revelation in nature, God is known, clearly seen and understood, and therefore "men are without excuse". The readers are also told that this type of revelation in nature dates from "the creation of the world".

It seems then, that all scientists, indeed all people, are exposed to this same revelation from God. It comes to us from the created world and resides in our consciences. It is a knowledge that is ours, by our free choice to either accept or reject. The non-believer represses this knowledge, whereas the Christian, who in the words of John Calvin "sees through the glasses of faith", has been given the capacity to have a God-moment, to appropriate this knowledge and to be transformed by it. Therefore, the non-believer working in science is a person with a sight problem. No electron microscope, computer analysis package or laboratory technique will help to reveal the ultimate truth about the part of the world under study. God is revealed to all people equally, but sin dims and alters this sight. The revelation is still given from God, and inklings of it still get through, but only when the glasses of faith are worn is God’s revelation seen distinctly and fully.

Christopher Downs

 

Recommended Reading

Berkouwer, G. General Revelation (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 1955)

Henry, C. Revelation and the Bible (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI, 1958)

Packer, J. God Has Spoken (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI, 1979)

© 1999 Christopher Downs, Palmerston North, New Zealand