Tuesday, May 5, 2009

God's Voice in Nature

Two centuries ago, many believed that theology was the “queen of the sciences.” Tacit acceptance of this belief by a substantial segment of the populace began to erode quickly at roughly the time Charles Darwin was boarding The Beagle for South Sea research ventures. Those journeys led him to propose the theory of evolution in 1859. We must be careful not to over-generalize the sentiments of centuries ago, or even the sentiments of today. But the climate of respect for the idea that the world of nature speaks of God and His works is still waning in our secular world.

Majestic Psalm 19 uses terms such as declare, proclaim, and pour forth speech in reference to the heavens. Their voice and words are understood by people of all languages to the ends of the world. Romans 1:20 (NIV) states, “God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” It is as if the natural world speaks with words, inviting observers to use reason and logic to help them understand how God has worked, and what His qualities are.

Psalm 29 uses the word voice seven times to describe the reality of God manifest in nature. This Psalm describes a literal raging, thunderous tempest at sea which proceeds inland, shredding great trees and then shaking the surrounding mountains and wilderness. Readers may wonder what is more powerful and impressive. Is it the destructive storm described? Or is it the cause and effect events resulting from the properties of matter? Earth’s atmosphere is composed, innocently enough, of tiny air and water molecules. Obeying natural, physical laws, however, these tiny bits of matter produce the astonishing events described in Psalm 29. How did the matter originate, we might ask? And how did the natural laws which govern those events originate?

Humans have been endowed with considerable creative ability, a tiny reflection of God’s creative ability described in the first chapters of Genesis. When our fellow humans produce a “creation,” whether it be a clothing fashion, a culinary delight, a literary or musical composition, an object of art, a simple craft, or a dwelling, they often sit back when it is finished to contemplate the finished product. In a sense, the product speaks back to the maker, reminding him and other observers how it was designed and built. It also speaks of its own beauty, function, and value.

God contemplated His own works as the creation days progressed. God observed that His works were “very good.” In a sense, the creation spoke back to its Maker of the design characteristics, function, and beauty it possessed. Today the creation also speaks to us, highlighting the work and character of the Maker. Against this background, there are many contemporary arguments about whether the concept of intelligent design is really science. The believing scientists of several hundred years ago who began to revel in the discoveries enabled by scientific method in the early days of the scientific revolution would have been surprised to see how things have changed.