When we “look up at the heavens” that God “set in place” (Psalm 8:3), I think we want to see a work of art. We want to marvel at a masterpiece honed to perfection, every last brushstroke precisely composed as the artist intended. We want to wonder at the final product, awed that anyone could be so skillful, certain we could never reproduce anything so astonishing. We don’t want to know how it was made; that would break the spell. Questions would creep in. Could it be reproduced? Could it have been done differently? Could it have been done better?
As wondrous and awe-inspiring as an expertly composed painting or photograph can be, they lack an essential element of creation. However perfectly they may represent the vision of the artist, that perfection exists only for a fleeting moment. Layers of paint crack. Pigments fade. Canvases tear. Art restorers remain employed for these very reasons. Whatever dynamics these works of art might experience, they can only convert the image away from the artist’s intended result.
If God is an artist, time itself is his medium of choice. The result is not forms, but transformations: chaos to order, dust to life. By working in time, God fashions a creation that is alive. A living creation can transform itself towards God’s vision, not just away from it, by responding to decay and decomposition with renewal and redemption. This renewing creation must be able to sense its own decay to respond appropriately. When a sensing creation becomes a conscious creation–when human beings enter the picture–it cannot help but achieve awareness of its own becoming. We are meant to see the transformations because the transformations are the creation, not just a means to an end.
And what a blessing it is to see the Maker at work! An artist who has completed her task and left behind only her handiwork is inaccessible. We might know of her, inferring her existence from the fact of her art, but we cannot know her. The Creator of the world invites us to sit at his feet, watch him create, and come to know him in the process. Is he concerned we will learn his secrets and steal them away? By no means! He gives each of us a measure of time in order that we might create in the very same medium he uses. He calls us to work with that time as he does, to pursue redemptive transformations so that his will might be done.
So when we tell the story of creation, we needn’t gloss over the details of how God transforms. We can be grateful for the language of science which allows us to describe those processes in rich detail. It was God who prompted us to develop this language when he commissioned Adam to name the animals. When we can describe the world more precisely, we can better understand where it needs renewal and how we can bring about that renewal.
May you find “The Big Story” video (and associated resources) helpful in sharing an accounting of creation through the language of science, and in calling others to join the labor of redemptive collaboration with the Creator.
About the author:
Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichÃ©d notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two teenagers, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.