I stepped outside today and saw the yard flashing with lightning bugs. I have not seen more than a few lightning bugs in several years – they used to be abundant in June. They are demonstrating their skill at using bioluminescence. We humans fail miserably if we try to imitate this skill. The main purpose of this light display is to support community, to be able to meet other lightning bugs and maintain their species. But they provide a wonderful show and a beautiful dance. I think this show is greater than the fireworks that we plan to see on Wednesday.
Eighteen months ago, I visited Zion National Park with my family. Zion is one of my favorite National Parks. Grand Canyon is bigger, but you mainly look down into Grand Canyon; Zion you can explore from the base of the canyon, and every turn of the path brings a new view of the rock walls and mountain formations. Scientists have developed an explanation of why the canyon formed, the forces of water and wind that carved the chasm, and the geologic forces and various materials that created the variety of rocks and layers in the canyon walls. Even with an explanation of these forces and processes, I gaze in wonder at the majesty and artistry formed by these natural forces. They point my mind to God.
On Monday, I was leaving the church parking lot after a meeting. I looked up and saw this:
I know a guy who has a vacation house with a deck that looks out over a lake and into the Smoky Mountains. He often posts a picture on Facebook and says, “Good one tonight.”
Sunsets are just the scattering of the light from the sun as it passes through the atmosphere. Sometimes the colors and patterns are enhanced by the natural and man-made particles that float in the air. And the weather patterns of clouds provide a surface for the scattered light to become visible. I don’t think my friend is posting to Facebook to celebrate and share the atmospheric conditions of western North Carolina. This light show is a demonstration to him of the beauty that God built into the universe for us to enjoy.
I recently read a small book on astrophysics by a famous scientist who is also a famous atheist. Even though I understand a lot of science and mathematics, I do not understand astrophysics. Do you think Jesus understands astrophysics? Actually, he invented astrophysics.
“He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:2-3)
This scientist/author showed a lot of awe or reverence for the marvel of the universe and its structure and the way it was formed. He even named one chapter “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” But he had no interest in any discussion of the marvelous Creator. He is a spokesman for the popular mindset that science and God are in opposition. He seeks to learn as much as possible about the universe and science, but he thinks that it would be unscientific to admit that God had a hand in the formation of the universe. The universe was created by the power of laws of nature/science without any pattern or plan or guiding influence. To people that share this line of thought, attributing something to God is to admit that we have a gap in our understanding of the science. I don’t think he has an explanation of the source of the single point of material and the massive expenditure of energy that constituted the initial Big Bang.
To me, there is marvel in the science of the formation of the universe, but it includes the marvel of a Creator who had great purpose in mind and prepared the universe with a plan. There are many scientists who are motivated by their interest in understanding the processes of our world, but also acknowledge the One who powers these processes.
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:16-17)
Some people have become so focused on increasing in knowledge and scientific understanding that they don’t see the purpose of the science they are studying. In the middle ages, when “science” was being invented, the scholars named the study of God “Theology.” This was known as the “Queen of the Sciences” because it was the basis and purpose of all other sciences. Biology and Psychology and Physiology and all of the other “-ologies” were studies of an aspect of the world that God had created and given over to us to manage and harness and use.
King Solomon considered all of the opportunities of life and found that none of them satisfied the soul. “I have seen all of the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” (Eccl 1:14). He sought out an understanding of science and knowledge and wisdom, as many still do today. “I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven…my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge…I realized that this also is striving after wind.” (Eccl. 1:13,16,17)
Whether Solomon thousands of years ago or scientists in the 21st century, there is value in seeking an understanding of science, but it doesn’t satisfy the hole in the heart of a person. Studying science can help us make sense of the earth and the universe. Science helps us understand how the world works so that we can invent and design and benefit from the bounty of our world. Without knowledge of the laws of science, we could hardly build a shack to shelter ourselves from the weather. We would not be able to grow food to sustain ourselves and our neighbors. Science helps us to live, but it is also intended to lead us to God. “Since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” (Rom. 1:20)
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems pretty pessimistic, stating that there is no point in anything in life, certainly not knowledge, science and wisdom. And he is right that there is no point if we miss the point. And the point is to point us to God.
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might; Let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this; that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” (Jer. 9:23-24)
I hope you enjoy the world in which we live as much as I do. I hope you marvel at the wonders of nature and the vast variety of plants and animals (yes, and even insects). And I pray that the beauty and wonders of the world and of science point you to the awesome God who created them.
Scott Sibley is on our Leadership Team. He also serves as our Director of World Outreach. His favorite times of the week are serving with Youth@Hope. It has been 40 years since he responded to Jesus’ command to “Come follow me”.