I recently gave a talk at a local youth group on how current science supports the Genesis creation account and how science provides evidence not only that God exists but can tell us something about God and the truth of the Bible. When I was finished, a parent spoke up and basically said that I shouldn’t be using science to help inform us about God. The Bible actually teaches the opposite. Scripture is constantly telling us that the study of nature will point us to God. Since studying nature is doing science, the Bible teaches that we should do science to learn about God!
We see several examples in scripture showing us that it is important to God for us to know about the universe. The Old Testament teaches that Solomon was wiser than all other men; 1stKings lists some of the topics about which Solomon was wise.
He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish.
King Solomon was a naturalist! God chose to give biological knowledge to Solomon, which he then shared with “people of all nations.” Information about the natural world - also called science - must be important to God. Solomon understood this when he said, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”
Psalm 8 compares the universe to God.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him.
We obviously have to know about nature in order for this comparison to work; we must have already done some science in order to see how great God is. When we see the incredible immenseness of the universe, we realize how much God must care to pay attention to such a small speck. The more we learn about how fine-tuned the moon and stars have to be for life to exist on earth, the more we see the love that God has for us. Psalm 19 directly tells us that the universe will teach us about God, so we need to do some cosmology, astronomy and geology to see that the heavens actually do “declare the glory of God”.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
Historically, Christians have used what is discovered about nature to help inform them about what scripture is teaching. Augustine wanted the interpretation of scripture to stay consistent with the cosmology and physics of the classical tradition and used the natural sciences in his role as a theologian and bible interpreter. Christians should think of Scripture and Creation as two “books” that should be read together for understanding of the fullness of God’s self-revelation; science is a God-given tool for discerning the handiwork of God in Creation and is fully compatible with God’s Word revealed in Scripture. The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church is the Belgic Confession of 1561. Article 2 proclaims that we can know God by studying nature.
We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which allcreatures,great and small,are as lettersto make us ponderthe invisible things of God:God’s eternal power and divinity,as the apostle Paul says in .All these things are enough to convict humansand to leave them without excuse.Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s gloryand for our salvation.
Augustine also wanted Christians to be knowledgeable about the natural world and use it as a handmaiden of theology and religion. He worried about Christians talking nonsense about science and how that would hurt the religion.
Augustine made it clear that although scriptural knowledge is vastly superior to knowledge gained through the senses, the latter is inestimably superior to ignorance. Moreover, he worried that Christians, naively interpreting scripture, might express absurd opinions on cosmological issues, this provoking ridicule among better informed pagans and bringing the Christian faith into disrepute.
Augustine’s warning to Christians is still relevant today. Bernard Ramm in the 1950’s observed this exact thing and gave a similar warning.
It is impossible to settle the complex problems of Bible-and-science, theological and empirical fact without a well-developed Christian theism and philosophy of science. For example, the idea of creation is rather complex. Evangelicals were not always aware of the great deal of thought put into this matter by Augustine and Aquinas. As a result, evangelicals posed the problems of modern science as resolving down to : (i) fiat, instantaneous creationism; or (ii) atheistic developmentalism. This is certainly a gross over-simplification, not a genuine probing, of the entire concept of creation.
This way of thinking has resulted in science being taught with absolute disregard of biblical statements and Christian perspectives. Science mostly is done with no interest as to what the Bible says on the subject and is now developed and is now mostly controlled by people who do not believe in the scientific credibility of the Bible. Both science and theology are hurt when we operate as if the divide between them exists.
God has put us in this universe and made us curious because what we learn about nature teaches us about Him. Biochemistry is showing us that only an incredible mind could be responsible for the information and intricate systems we are finding. Cosmology is teaching us about the grandeur and vastness of the universe; which had to be created by something even more grand. Geology and biology are showing us the incredible fine-tuning needed for life to exist on earth and the care that had to be taken by the creator to make a home for us. Recent discoveries in geology have added support to the creation narrative in Genesis.The very small and the very large both point us to God and show us His characteristics and His greatness. The Bible tells us to do science for this very reason. Christians throughout history have followed this instruction; it has been to the detriment of Christianity when we haven’t.
1 Kings 4:33 ESV
Proverbs 6:6 ESV
Psalm 8:3 ESV
Psalm 19: 1-2 ESV
Belgic Confession of 1561, Christian Reformed Church
David C. Linderg, When Science and Christianity Meet, University of Chicago Press, 2003, page 14
Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, William B Eerdmans Publishing, 1954, page 19