God of an Orderly Universe (Scholar’s Compass)

cells photoQuotation

Jeremiah 33:25-26 (see below)

Reflection

Biologists study life processes – perhaps we should be astounded by a world in which we can study!

We live in a remarkable universe, with God’s fingerprints all over. Though undoubtedly marred, nature still appears intricate, dynamic, and perhaps even fine-tuned for life. This world is not just a bunch of stuff pointlessly colliding with other stuff, but it is purposeful throughout. We find, for instance, that some parts have moral features like good, bad, right, and wrong. Here and there you can find mental features like consciousness, understanding, pleasure, and pain. The universe’s many facets can be profoundly though incompletely described in poetry, in music, or in mathematics.

Jeremiah 33:25-26 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.

God says to his people through the prophet Jeremiah, that the personal faithfulness of God is demonstrated by the regularities in the natural world created by Him. For those in the natural sciences, every experiment requires a consistent background against which to test for causes and effects. Inferring real scientific laws, types of causes, or categories of objects requires the existence of genuine regularities holding across space and time, at the foundation level of science. Medical diagnoses, historical studies, and economic analysis all depend to some extent on the same feature of the world. The process of academic exploration in any discipline depends on the universe continuing in a regular way from day to day, otherwise everything is reduced to a meaningless series of random events.

The existence of laws in creation, the fact that mathematics applies to the natural world, and that the mathematics is comprehensible (at least to some!) are all pointers to the God who is love behind it all, whether you see this God as an artist, an engineer, a composer, or even a microbiologist. If the last idea is particularly implausible, perhaps spending more time looking down microscopes will open your eyes to the amazing world of living things too small for us to see, but well within God’s sight.

To move from seeing the world as ‘nature’ to seeing it all as ‘creation’ is to see the world for what it really was all along. For instance, there is one who has set up fixed laws in this place. God is trustworthy in nature and faithfully carries out His plans, which culminate in Jesus Christ, the son of David whose rule over creation does not end. 

Questions

Does the order in the universe require an explanation going beyond science, and what kind of explanation might it require?

Does reflecting on the role of Jesus as both creator and the culmination of God’s promises change your view in any way?

Prayer

God, help me to see you as faithful and trustworthy. As I study some aspects of your creation, please help me to see your faithfulness more clearly.


Image courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.com.


Scholars-Compass-image-40x40Note: Part of both the Scholar’s Compass series and a series on how studying biology reveals God on the Emerging Scholars Blog. Part 1 of 3. Stay tuned for the next entry!

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Zachary Ardern

Zachary Ardern is currently completing his PhD in biology in New Zealand, investigating the genetic basis of adaptation across environments in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. He has been involved in the IFES movement in that country and in various talks, panels, and debates exploring the reasonableness of Christian faith. Zachary blogs on his broader interests in natural theology, ethics, and associated musings at zacharyardern.wordpress.com

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One Comment

  • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
    Andy Walsh commented on August 25, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Zachary!

    To your first question — I wonder sometimes if (part of) the explanation is that we humans have a cognitive bias towards seeing patterns/order/narratives, and so we organize our understanding of the world in those terms and emphasize the aspects which are orderly or seem orderly. That’s not to say there is no order; we wouldn’t be able to make accurate predictions if there were no order. Rather I wonder if we perceive more order than there actually is because the orderly parts are the parts we can study. There are plenty of phenomena we can’t currently predict.

    To come at it another way — is this the most orderly of all possible worlds? Perhaps it is. I think a case could be made that too much order wouldn’t allow for much to actually happen. Do you have any thoughts on how we might quantify just how orderly the world is? Such an exercise would likely get pretty speculative pretty quickly, and it might wind up telling us more about the limits of our current understanding rather than the actual properties of the universe, but it still might be fruitful.

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