This post is number five of a six-part blog series introducing the science and God debate.
Catch up on the series here:
5. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (c)
In parts a through c, I share why the study of God’s world and the study of his Word go together.
We will look at writings of scientists present and past who show the compatibility of science and scripture.
Sir Francis Bacon, regarded as the Father of modern science, was the originator of the scientific method.
His philosophy of science was based on “empirical scientific methods—methods that depended on tangible proof—while developing the basis of applied science.”
His process was, “gathering data, prudently analyzing it and performing experiments to observe nature’s truths in an organized way.” 1
Like Kepler and Galileo, he too saw no contradiction between science and Scripture. In fact, he famously wrote that God has written two books: scripture and creation. God created the cosmos and inspired the scriptures. Therefore, what we learn from both complement each other.
This is a common understanding among theologians and Christian scientists today.
In her book Origins, Deborah Haarsma writes about these two books. The book of Scripture is the written Word in the pages of the Bible. The book of nature is the creation of the heavens and the earth.
She writes, “The God who created the planets and the stars is also the God who inspired the Bible and who is personally revealed in human history. We cannot separate our study of God’s word from our study of God’s world because both come from and point us toward the same God.” 2
Fourth century Theologian, St. Augustine, writes of these two books,
“It is the divine page that you must listen to; it is the book of the universe that you must observe. The pages of Scripture can only be read by those who know how to read and write, while everyone, even the illiterate, can read the book of the universe.” 3
In this blog series, I’ve introduced you to ideologies of secular scientists and philosophers. I’ve also introduced you to Christian scientists and theologians on the compatibility of science and Christianity.
Now, let’s explore biblically why the books of creation and scripture harmoniously flow together.
Two Types of Revelation
Have you ever been to a gender reveal party? They are wonderful celebrations for parents to discover, alongside their family and friends, the gender of their child.
Two such experiences come to my mind.
I went to my friend John and Sarah’s house for the revealing of their first child. Everyone was gathered around them as they prepared to find out what the child would be. After a five second countdown, they both enthusiastically twisted their poppers.
To our amazement, pink confetti flew everywhere! We all cheered because we were so happy for John and Sarah. Today, they have a beautiful baby girl.
Another memorable gender reveal party was from my friends, Cheekee and Troy.
Instead of poppers, though, they revealed the gender of their child in the form of bat and ball. Cheekee stood about 15 feet away from Troy and threw a plastic softball in Troy’s direction.
Troy, being the manly man that he is, hit the ball with such force it exploded blue dust all over their backyard. Once again, we all delighted at this revealing.
There’s many different ways to reveal the gender of one’s child. And people often get very creative with how they let everyone know.
Similarly, God has various means of revealing his nature and character to humanity. But all of these fall into one theological term called revelation: how God reveals himself to people.
“Anything we know,” says Larry Hart, is because “God has graciously revealed it to us.” 4
A few weeks ago we explained that the deep longing of every human heart is to know God. The term revelation could be understood, then, as an “unveiling” or an “uncovering.” 5 It is, as R.C. Sproul puts it, “making plain that which has been hidden.” 6
Revelation gives us insight into the nature and character of God. By knowing him, we can relate to him and understand how to best live in his world. Revelation is divided into two sub-categories for how God reveals himself.
They are general revelation (creation) and special revelation (scriptures). Let’s look at these to see why they are important to our discussion.
General revelation is how God “reveals himself to all people at all places at all times” 7 Everyone who has ever lived has known God—from the inner cities of California to the most remote villages in Madagascar.
The Apostle Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, uses the book of scripture to explain the book of creation.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18–20).
Note that it says God’s eternal power and divine nature are “clearly perceived.” On this basis he concludes that we are “without excuse” for not believing.
A skeptic once asked apologist Josh McDowell, why didn’t God just write “Jesus saves” on the moon? Wouldn’t that have been easier? Why did he not write “Made by God” on every human cell? Shouldn’t he have made his existence more obvious? 8
The reality is that he already did those things.
Isaac Newton, who held the chair at Cambridge University quips, “The most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” 9
The mathematical precision of the laws of nature and the sophistication of human cells are enough evidence of his intelligent mind. God has signed his name on creation.
But even if he used human language, it wouldn’t matter. Adam and Eve knew him face to face and still turned away.
The book of creation has revealed God’s existence and that’s enough to hold us accountable. But general revelation is inadequate to help us truly know God. The sciences cannot reveal the desire, will and intentions of the One who made the heavens and earth.
Science is limited on the big questions of life, and we need another form of revelation.
Special revelation is “saving revelation,” says Larry Hart.
It’s where “God takes a further step to fully establish his kingdom. He acts and speaks in human history. He calls out a people to himself to be a witness to all the nations. This is the most dramatic story every told—a story found in the most influential book of all time: the Bible.” 10Special revelation is saving revelation. - Larry Hart Click To Tweet
The Bible is God’s inspired word to humanity. Although written by human hands, it is guided by the Holy Spirit.
The disciple Peter teaches, “for prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
To further elaborate, Paul teaches, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The word inspired means that God’s Word is “breathed out by God.” As important as the book of nature is, it is the book of Scripture that counts most.
Because it is God’s spoken and written word, it is our ultimate authority. It teaches us about God’s moral standards, the love he has for humanity, and what his people look like truly free.
Carl Henry explains the primacy of the scriptures, “The first claim to be made for Scripture is not its inerrancy, nor even its inspiration, but its authority.” 11
Hart adds, “By the authority of the Bible we mean that the Bible, as the expression of God’s will to us, possesses the right supremely to define what we are to believe and how we are to conduct ourselves.” 12
Special revelation certainly informs us about creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). And modern archeological discoveries confirm the scriptures teaching.
But providing scientific explanations is not the ultimate aim of the Bible.
The Bible’s primary role is to teach us about God and how he relates to humanity. Moreover, it tells us about the tragic fall of mankind and the saving grace of Jesus that reconciles us back to our heavenly Father.
Galileo Galiei, quoting Cardinal Baronius, said it best: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” 13The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. - Cardinal Baronius Click To Tweet
This is why Jesus, as the central figure throughout all of human history, is important. Creation has always revealed God’s glory, but now Jesus reveals God’s gospel.
It is through Jesus and the message of the good news—his substitutionary life, death, and resurrection—that we are reconciled to our creator and can discover and enjoy his redemptive purpose for our lives.
Jesus shows us the importance of special revelation, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:62).
“Spirit and life,” Jesus says.
This means there are spiritual ramifications for believing in Jesus’ teachings and applying them. If Jesus, “upholds the universe by the power of his Word” (Hebrews 1:3), then he upholds your life too, as you abide in it.
If you hold to the view of naturalism, the belief that only physical things exist, you will never find help for your deepest spiritual longings.
You may succeed like many atheists at eliminating God from your life, but you will live in this world with no hope.
The Hole in Your Heart
Scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal explains the human dilemma,
“There is a God-sized vacuum in every heart that can be filled only by the One who made it: What else does this craving proclaim . . . but that there was once in man a true state of happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him . . . though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object, in other words by God himself.” 14
If you ever wondered why you should consider Christianity, it’s not because it’s a good choice on the menu of religious options. It’s because Christianity is the reality of the life of God in the soul of man.
Jesus understood this void in the human heart.
His first message to humanity was clear: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is ‘at hand’” (Matt 4:7). In one sentence Jesus declares the human problem and God’s solution.
The word “kingdom” means, “rule,” or “governance.” God’s kingdom is not limited to the physical cosmos like we would think. It certainly includes that, but it is a spiritual kingdom that impacts the physical.
“Repent,” then, means to change the way we’ve been thinking about God and ourselves—reconsider our current way of living and submit to God’s governance. Life in his kingdom has wonderful affects on the human who trusts in Jesus.
These words “at hand” literally mean that God is as close as our reach of faith. It introduces us to the spiritual reality of God’s care interlacing human experience.
This is important to understand.
There is a realm outside of scientific observation that brings life and vitality to your soul. Your God-sized vacuum that longs for meaning is only filled by through life in his kingdom.
As John so gracefully teaches us, “In him was life, and that life was the light to all mankind” (John 1:4).
Concluding Post Forthcoming
Next week I will provide a conclusion for this series.