The world began with a story. A spoken word made material through the power of an omniscient and omnipotent creator, whose metaphors reside among the stars, the moon, and the rising sun. Far from being a one-time event, creation is constantly continuing, and what’s more, is constantly revealing to us the presence, the power, and the creativity of God. Dr. David Bradstreet, award-winning professor, author, and master of astronomy, is a theistic creationist—he sees the work of a divine creator when he studies the heavens. In his book, “Star Struck,” Bradstreet explores the ways in which he sees God in the wonder of our natural universe, and shows us how we can see the same—an act which can only strengthen our faith.
Dr. Bradstreet writes of our “Goldilocks World,”—a planet which is “just right” for the sustaining of life in innumerable and improbable ways. For example, if our world were tilted at a slightly different angle, if out atmosphere were but a little different in composition, if Earth had less water, and had no tectonic movement, life would not be possible. Our very position in the galaxy itself, on a quiet arm of the spiral-shaped Milky Way, away from danger, speaks of intelligent design. And then there is the fact that everything we see, all of our enormous universe, came from nothing. The Big Bang does not contradict God’s creation of the world. The fact that something came from nothing—a scientific impossibility—points toward a divine creator. God, Himself, speaks of His role in fundamental natural processes in Job 38, proclaiming his dominion over everything from underground deposits of water to the path of light, itself.
It is understandable why atheistic materialists—those who believe that creation arose from natural, impersonal processes that have no spiritual component—believe as they do. It is their worldview, and an integral part of their entire belief system. But it is puzzling why so many Christians shy away from meeting God through scientific inquiry. Romans 1:20 reads, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Paul, here, is verifying the fact that we can see God’s hand in all of creation. So why doesn’t the Christian church embrace this and use science as another tool to strengthen the faith of believers, and to the general population?
It is because there is a longstanding, false dichotomy between faith and science—an illusory wall constructed out of mutual distrust that stretches far into the past. Historically, what tends to happen is that the scientific community makes a discovery, and the church reacts against it, its leaders thinking that the discovery contradicts scripture. But can reality really contradict scripture? What happens when the two disagree?
We must remember one thing. God makes sense.
God is the God of heaven and earth, of the observable physical laws, of all reality—it was religion which gave rise to the idea of an ordered universe that can be studied. In fact, it may surprise you to know that, as Dr. Bradstreet writes, “The Big Bang Theory was first proposed by a Roman Catholic Priest”. All truth belongs to God, and so it follows that if a scientific discovery reveals something about reality that seems to contradict scripture, our understanding of scripture may need some revising.
Note that we are talking about scientific discovery, and not cultural and moral shifts. Scripture is not, and has not ever been in line with these fluid systems, and to attempt reinterpretation of the Bible based on every cultural change would rip the objectivity from God’s Word, leaving it distorted, shapeless, and ineffective.
What we’re talking about is the fact that reality and scripture will never, ever disagree.
The reluctance to take a second look at scripture in light of new discoveries has ever been a source of the Christian church’s antagonism toward the scientific community. This antagonism has resulted in an unfortunate strain of anti-intellectualism within American culture in which scientists, intellectuals, and scholars are distrusted. We must remember, though, that the Bible is a living document that continually speaks, but must also be continually interpreted in light of what we know of reality, and when what we know changes, that interpretation must necessarily change. And who is often the herald of that change? That’s right—scientists, intellectuals, and scholars.
Why is any of this information important for the Christian church? For one, shunning scientific discovery limits our understanding of our Creator. Relegating science to the domain of atheists leaves a Christian, as Dr. Bradstreet writes, “secretly afraid lest some new truth may expose the juvenility of his faith.” Looking for God in the workings of the physical universe is not only faith-affirming, but faith-protecting. We stand more strongly in our faith if we pursue God’s truth rather than attempting to hold to our own, human, interpretation of it.
Denying science can also have a profoundly negative effect on new believers. New Christians are often given a certain set of expectations concerning who God is, expectations which they embrace zealously. Of course, God will get me out of debt if I pray. Of course, I’ll live a charmed life as a Christian, now. Of course, God will refute those atheists who posit that the world is billions of years old.
And then those expectations are shattered, and like a young lover who discovers that the deeply idealized object of his desire is a flawed human, the new believer flees, heart and faith, broken.
Establishing expectations which are grounded in all of God’s truth, however, leads to a greater, more secure faith in new believers. God is bigger than what we often give Him credit for. He isn’t afraid of our scientific discovery of reality. He created it, after all.
And what of the world’s view of the Christian church? Does it hurt itself in its mission to bring the message of God to others when it actively casts aside scientific discovery? Almost certainly. The church does not need science to function, of course, but the acknowledgment of discoveries, and the flexibility to adapt to new information, aids in bringing God to others, tearing down those illusory walls of mistrust.
In the field of literature, authors often use metaphor to communicate what straightforward words cannot. Metaphors hold our attention—they involve imagery, motion, action, and engage the senses. They can often teach us better than direct language can. God was the first, and remains the ultimate storyteller, and the whole universe is His metaphor—the prime metaphor—everything from the farthest galaxy to the smallest subatomic particle of our bodies. We can take simple, sweet joy in using scientific methods and tools to continue to discover the wonder of creation, which we can be confident will only continue to affirm our faith, never destroy it.
As Dr. Bradstreet writes, “Who wouldn’t want to look, to watch, and to wonder?”