They’re surprised because most people today assume that science and believing in God don’t go together. (They’re incompatible). That ONE is about EVIDENCE and REASON. And the OTHER one is about believing WITHOUT evidence. ONE is about the PHYSICAL, MATERIAL world. And the OTHER is about the SPIRITUAL world.
It’s a pretty common opinion in the world today. But it’s really only been around for the last three hundred years or so. Since the Age of Enlightenment. Scientists and philosophers, from the late 1600’s, valued human reasoning, and focussed on measurement and the scientific method.
The Enlightenment produced the Industrial Revolution and constitutional government and lots of other great things. But philosophers like David Hume focussed SO MUCH on the value of human reasoning, they proudly decided that if the human mind couldn’t understand, or explain, or measure or observe something, then it WASN’T REAL. And so, they decided that since you couldn’t prove a miracle, or reproduce it, then miracles weren’t POSSIBLE. Miracles, by definition, broke the laws of nature, and since the laws of nature were always kept, then miracles couldn’t happen.
And since you couldn’t prove the existence of GOD, then HE mustn’t exist EITHER. There was no spiritual realm. There was only the physical, measurable, observable world.
And that’s probably been the dominant belief in University science and philosophy departments ever since. And it’s dribbled down into popular culture so most people today believe religious faith has no part to play in public life. In schools, or Universities, or political decisions or scientific enquiry or business.
The compatibility of the Bible and science
But it wasn’t the ONLY belief to come out of the Enlightenment. There were plenty of Christians at that time whose faith in the God of the Bible encouraged them to investigate HIS CREATION.
They believed God was intelligent and consistent in creating the world. So that meant the world was designed and consistent, and that order could be IDENTIFIED. He made it GOOD, so it was WORTH investigating. And he gave us the task of ruling and subduing the earth, so STUDYING it helped us do that better.
Rather than thinking that the spiritual and the physical were SEPARATE, they thought the physical world provided EVIDENCE of the spiritual. God had left his fingerprints all over his creation.
Scientists such as Robert Doyle, the founder of modern chemistry in the 1600’s, who wrote “God [is] the author of the universe, and the free establisher of the laws of motion.” Or Sir Isaac Newton, probably the most well-known scientist. “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
Or Lord William Kelvin, who worked on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale. He said, “If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.”
In fact, Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution explaining the origin of species has been used as a weapon AGAINST belief in God, wrote “The question of whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the Universe has been answered in the AFFIRMATIVE by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.”
To that list of scientists who recognise the Creator in his creation, we can add the writer of Psalm 104. Let’s spend a few minutes looking at it together. The more he looks at nature, the more he sees GOD. Studying the PHYSICAL world teaches him more about the SPIRITUAL. He begins with a faith statement, or if you’re a scientist – a THEORY based on EVIDENCE.
Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, YOU ARE VERY GREAT; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
A great and majestic God he can talk to. What’s his EVIDENCE for that? He begins by looking to the SKY. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.
I think we’ve all looked up at the sky, and imagined what was beyond what we can see. And then beyond THAT. And SO on. We’ve got a much greater understanding of the size of the Universe than the Psalmist did! And God is BIGGER than all of that. And MADE it all. THAT’S evidence that God’s great and majestic!
Then, v5, the writer turns his attention to the EARTH. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. The sky, stretching on and on, says something of God’s SIZE. The solidness of the earth says something of God’s STABILITY AND STRENGTH.
And when you add the way the OCEANS cover the earth, v6, and how uncontrollable they are, we see something of God’s POWER. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. YOU set a boundary they cannot cross.
Hydraulic engineers and plumbers and builders will tell you how difficult it is to keep water where you want it. And out of where you DON’T want it. But God sets the place for water to stay. And it stays there.
But that’s not all. The Psalmist turns his attention from CREATION to PROVIDENCE. From God’s MAKING of the world in the beginning/ to his CARING for it, day by day. More evidence for his theory that God is great and majestic.
From v10, he thinks about the way water moves around the planet via the water cycle. From salt to fresh. From liquid to vapour to ice. From depths to mountain tops. From earth to clouds. And all the way, providing life for plants and animals and fish. And God’s commanding and controlling it all. V10.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. 11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
We can build dams, and set irrigation quotas, and restrict water usage. We can design water saving devices – flow inhibitors on taps and half-flush toilets. We can change our plans for harvesting, and breed genetically-modified drought-resistant crops. But we can’t make it rain.
There are LIMITS to what science can do. There are questions science can’t answer. And problems science can’t fix. And studying God’s world -using the TOOLS of science – teaches us THAT LESSON.
When there’s drought, and farmers and weather-forecasters and government policy-makers run out of ideas. And despair and hopelessness grow. EVEN THE UNBELIEVER TURNS TO PRAYER. Because, no matter how much he doesn’t want to believe it, he knows deep down the truth of v13. That GOD waters the mountains from his upper chambers, the earth is satisfied by the fruit of HIS work. And, just perhaps, one of the reasons we’re in drought is that God wants Australia to HUMBLY ACKNOWLEDGE him. And turn from pride and independence.
Since the age of enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, we’ve slowly forgotten that we’re CREATURES, not CREATORS. That we’re DEPENDENT, not SOVEREIGN. Science and technology have, one after another, solved our big problems: mechanisation, immunisation, antibiotics, electricity, computers, organ transplants and joint replacements. We’ve travelled to the moon, and captured images from the millions of light years away. And we’ve mapped the human DNA genome.
But we can’t cure a cold, or control the weather, or the tides, or bushfires. We can’t cure Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or cystic fibrosis. We can’t stop wars, or gun massacres, or racism. We watch on helplessly as earthquakes, floods and tsunamis rage. GOD is Creator. And we’re simply his CREATURES. And humbly studying his world helps us REMEMBER that.
But as well as HUMILITY, we should ALSO be GRATEFUL and JOYFUL. Because God PROVIDES for his creatures. V14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth: 15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
We can plant the seed, or the grape vines. But we’re dependent on GOD to make the crops GROW. We can squeeze the grapes, or grind the grain. But it takes YEAST that God created to turn the juice into WINE. Or the flour into BREAD.
The Psalmist continues. Not just HUMANITY. V16, God provides for the REST of his creatures. For trees and birds and goats. Even the LIONS, down in v21, so powerful and independent. Even THEY seek their food from God.
Verse 24, there’s the summary statement. The natural scientist proposing the conclusion to his investigation. 24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
V25, including the SEA. VAT. Teeming with life. V27. 27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
God is the one who PROVIDES and WITHHOLDS. Who GIVES LIFE and TAKES IT AWAY. It’s a very different way of looking at the world to a David Attenborough nature documentary. That’s all about chance, and survival of the fittest. And death.
There’s one last conclusion about God, v31 and 32. About his connection to his creation. Giving us a hint about why God made us in the first place. “May the LORD REJOICE in his works.” The joyful relationship between the CREATOR and his CREATION.
And then the Psalmist turns to HIMSELF. The practical application of his investigation. V33
33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. 35 But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.
Just as the Creator rejoices in his creation. So the right response is for creation to humbly rejoice in the Creator. That what God requires from his creatures.
Investigating creation drives him CLOSER to God. The truth is/ the material and Spiritual worlds ARE connected.
But the Psalmist wasn’t alive at the right time to see the GREATEST connection between God and the physical world. When the Creator BECAME a creature. When the Word became FLESH, and made his dwelling among us. When Jesus, the eternal second person of the Trinity, didn’t hold onto equality with God, but made himself nothing. And took on human flesh.
People MAY find God in creation. But they’ll see him much more clearly in JESUS. God in the flesh.
And when your scientific or rationalistic friends question how you can believe in God and be a modern, thinking person. By all means point them to CREATION. To the evidence for intelligent design in the Universe. But, even BETTER, point them to JESUS. Give them a Bible. Offer to READ it with them. Take them to a course like Christianity Explored.
Because the historic documents about Jesus are evidence that can be studied. People saw and heard and touched Jesus, and they were convinced that he was God in the flesh. And that he died and came back to life.
One of those eyewitnesses wrote this, in 1 John 1.
1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
And Jesus himself ENCOURAGED that same investigation. When people worried about life (Luke 12), he didn’t say, just TRUST me. He said, Consider the ravens. Look at the lilies. If God looks after THEM, he’ll look after YOU.
INVESTIGATE God’s CREATION! IT will POINT you to your CARING CREATOR.
When a lame man was lowered through the roof for Jesus to heal (Mark 2), and Jesus said his sins were forgiven. He didn’t just say, Trust me, I’ve got the authority to forgive sins. He said, Which is easier to say – your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk? And then he HEALED him. AS EVIDENCE that he could forgive sins.
And when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection (John 20), Thomas wasn’t there, and he didn’t believe them. He said “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” But Jesus didn’t rebuke his scepticism. He didn’t cast him aside because of his unbelief. When he appeared to him too, he invited him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” And Thomas DID, and the evidence supported his belief, and he WORSHIPPED Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
We have nothing to fear from investigating, and reason, and examining the evidence, and searching for the truth. You can be confident that science will never discover something that disproves the Bible.
Good science and Christianity are in agreement. They both encourage A SEARCH FOR TRUTH. Science can do lots of great things. And we should REJOICE in them. Christians should study science, and discover better ways for us to cultivate and care for and rule the earth. But science can’t stop a war, or forgive your sins, or cure a broken marriage, or resurrect the dead, or locate the human soul, or analyse LOVE. It can’t explain why we weep while listening to an opera or symphony, or gaze at a sunset or painting, or laugh at a joke. And it can’t measure the immeasurable. Or see the unseeable. Or understand what’s beyond human understanding. Or know tomorrow. So don’t place your ultimate trust in Science. Place it in the One who CREATED us. And who, from beyond eternity, sent his Son into time and space to SAVE us.
God influences his physical world every day. All the time. And he calls US to DO THE SAME. To be incarnational TOO. To infect our world with Jesus. To imitate him. To be his hands and feet. To live out, by the power of his Spirit, truth and love and forgiveness and acceptance and joy and purpose and peace. So that people might see the eternal, spiritual, Trinitarian God in US. That’s why God MADE you!
“Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though almost 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. Although I suspect I will never fully understand, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe … and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since.
The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help Him get that job done.”