Science and God’s Works of Creation, Providence, and Miracles
Christianity and Science: Part 2 of 12
- Kant’s philosophy: noumenal and phenomenal; science is lower story, religion upper story
- Modern rule of science: explain everything by natural processes; rule out supernatural
- Example: Intelligent Design movement is a scandal to the scientific community.
- Why? Because it breaks the rule; it posits a supernatural explanation for life.
- Should we really compartmentalize our thinking, operate on naturalistic assumptions?
- Proverbs 3:5-6 indicates that we should not. Science should be done by faith.
- It is to be done for God’s glory by his image bearers (Gen 1:28).
- Therefore, it is appropriate for us to conceive of science as the study of God’s work.
Categories of God’s Works
1. The Work of Creation
a. The calling into being of what did not previously exist
- Gen 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Not summary, but act.
- Psalm 33:6: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
- John 1:3: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
- Heb. 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
- Creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo): the free act of a sovereign, independent God.
b. The ordering of what had been called into being according to God’s plan.
- Some commands are ex nihilo: “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3).
- Some commands make use of what already exists: “Let the earth sprout vegetation” (Gen. 1:11)
- All of the work of Gen. 1:1-31 is the work of creation.
c. Implications of the doctrine of creation:
- God is supreme over all; doctrine of aseity vs. dependence
- Creation has an order, design, purpose
- Because there is and order, there is a possibility and hope for justice.
2. The Work of Providence
- Once creation was properly ordered, God rested (Gen 2:1-3); that rest continues forever.
- But it does not mean inactivity; God continues to be closely involved with creation.
- Elements of providence:
(1) Preservation: Col 1:17: “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
(2) Government: Eph 1:11: God “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
- Romans 11:36: “For from him, and through him, and to him are all things.”
- Deism: the denial of the doctrine of providence; creation has autonomous power.
- Christian theology: the order of creation is sustained in being and operation by God.
3. The Work of Miracles
a. What is a miracle? An extraordinary work of God that provokes wonder.
- Miracles operate outside of ordinary providence, but their results fit into its stream.
- Example: Jesus turned water to wine; but the people drank & digested it as normal wine.
- Sometimes miracles have scientific explanations, but the timing/intensity matters.
- Example: Numbers 11:31-32; God used a strong wind to bring quail into the camp.
b. Why does God work miracles?
- Wrong answer #1: Because his universe has to be tinkered with from time to time.
- Deists reject miracles because they regard them as unworthy of God.
- Wrong answer #2: Because he wants to demonstrate raw power.
- Miracles do demonstrate the power of God, but that is not all they do.
- Right answer: God’s miracles accomplish his redemptive purposes:
- Deliverance of his people, judgment on his enemies (plagues on Egypt)
- Revelation of his mercy through meeting needs (Elisha and the widow’s oil)
- Testimony to the identity of his Son (water to wine, raising of Lazarus, etc.)
- Foretaste of the coming kingdom (healing miracles, casting out demons)
Implications for Science
1. Science is concerned primarily with providence.
- Providence is the basis of order and regularity that is needed for science to work.
- What are scientists actually studying when they study “scientific laws”?
- Scientific laws hold true at all times/places: omnipresent, omnitemporal
- Scientific laws do not change: immutable
- Scientific laws do not fail: infallible
- Scientific laws cannot be perceived with the eye: invisible
- Scientific laws cannot be overturned: omnipotent.
- Scientific laws, in other words, have divine attributes.
- Am I saying that nature itself is divine?
- No: scientific laws are not “part” of nature.
- Vern Poythress: “So-called ‘law’ is simply God speaking, God acting, God manifesting himself in time and space.”
- Scientific law: the Word of God in action, governing his creation.
- Example: If someone has cancer, prays, and is healed miraculously, we thank God.
- But what if someone has cancer, prays, and is healed through treatments? We also thank God.
2. Miracles are outside of the ability of science to explain.
- This is true by definition. Miracles are extraordinary, whereas science studies what is regular.
- Many scientists assume methodological naturalism (ruling out miracles as possible).
- But if miracles do happen, methodological naturalism will lead to faulty conclusions.
- Example: naturalistic reading of the Gospels; feeding 5,000 is really a story about sharing.
- Scientists should both (1) recognize that miracles happen; and (2) recognize limits of science.
3. As a miraculous work, creation presents a unique problem to science.
- Naturalistic scientists assume: only natural processes can explain present phenomena.
- Examples: diversity of lifemust have evolved over billions of years.
- But Scripture attributes the origin and diversity of life to God’s creative work.
- Scientists are seeking a providential explanation for what belongs to the category “creation.”
- C.F. von Weizäcker: “It is not by its conclusions, but by its methodological starting point that modern science excludes direct creation. Our methodology would not be honest if this fact were denied . . . such is the faith in the science of our time, and which we all share.”
- The Bible leads us to expect that we could have much greater understanding of his ongoing work of providence than we could of his original work of creation.
- Distinction: origins science vs. operations science
- Are we hypocritical if we trust scientific advancements in medicine but remain skeptical about evolution? No, we are simply following what that Bible would lead us to expect.
- On questions of origins, it is best to remain humble and reliant on Scripture.
- The focus of science is one part of one category of God’s works.
- Outside the category of “ordinary providence” relating to the natural world, it has little to say.
- Science is an immensely valuable, yet also limited, endeavor.
- Recognize its limits.
- David Berlinski: “If nothing else, the attack on traditional religious thought marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion. From cosmology to biology, its narratives have become the narratives. They are, these narratives, immensely seductive, so much so that looking at them with innocent eyes requires a very deliberate act. And like any militant church, this one places a familiar demand before all others: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”