Viewing the Wonder
January 20, 2018 by Jeffery Johnston
Science is a beautiful thing. The world around us fascinates me. I have emphasized the humanities in my academic career; however, I have also always enjoyed the beauty and wonder of the created world. You don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate and delight in science.
The Creation Appreciated
In 1990, I spent a summer working in Northern Ontario doing wilderness reforestation. The government of Canada required logging companies to plant trees in the areas they clear cut, which provided great summer employment for poor college students. It was an extremely strenuous and physically demanding job. The company only paid seven cents per tree. Planters had to work hard to make money.
During that summer I was struggling with issues spiritual and metaphysical. In short, after growing up going to church and youth group, I arrived at a point in my life where I began to question the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity. I thought I was doing pretty well. I was a relatively decent young man, and I began to believe I could find meaning in life in various causes without the Bible or Christianity.
Fortunately, the Lord had me struggling through these inward matters while my outward circumstances challenged my body and mind. The hard, frustrating, and cursed, mind numbing piece work of planting trees was tearing down my body. The cold temperatures gnawed at my fingertips day and night. I woke up with snow on my tent on June 4th of that summer! When the temperature finally began to rise, swarms of insects emerged with a hungry ferocity. Black flies attacked my eyes and face daily and the constant incessant buzzing drove many of my colleagues to quit early and return to the city.
At the same time, my mind was elevated by the beauty of the wilderness around me. The quiet music of the birds on the breeze and sweet smells of cedar and pine ministered to my soul. The deep darkness of the midnight sky seemed to make a hundred million stars sparkle like diamonds never seen in the dull glow of our city streets. I saw sweeping green hills and crystal clear forest lakes. I was amused by the wildlife and fascinated by the natural activity. I watched a snake catch and swallow a frog and a skunk fearlessly walk into our camp, open a cooler, and steal my supper (one does not “shoo” off a skunk). All of these insignificant experiences worked together in my heart to build a sense of wonder at the order of things.
Through all of this, the Spirit of God pursued and broke my stubborn heart. Despite my best efforts, I could not convince myself that all of this was because of chance. The beauty of the world together with the struggle for life cried out for something greater, something significant.
That fall, when I went back to school, I returned to my doubt and skepticism, but I could not escape the impressions of the wonder. The beauty of creation and order of things gripped my heart. I took a course in geology in which I had the blessing of studying the rock formations carved out by Niagara Falls and the glaciers of some ancient past. At the same time I was taking a literature course and came to appreciate poetry and the beauty of words. These studies caused me to wrestle with the big picture and purpose of things. I participated in a student demonstration at the provincial legislature and became involved in causes that I believed would give meaning to the wonderful world I was discovering. I continued to turn away from God and look at this world. God continued to pursue me.
The Creator Admitted
Throughout the semester, I wrestled with the gnawing contradiction in my heart. I was at the same time trying to deny the existence of a Creator while admiring His creation. It was the following February that I became a Christian (that is another story for another post). My point in sharing all of this is to underscore the importance and beauty of science. While I have heard it said that science causes people to lose their faith, my position is just the opposite. Bad philosophy masquerading as science is what attacks faith. Unstated and coercive presuppositions attack faith.
Romans chapter one is very informative in this matter:
“…men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…”
Unfortunately, God has shown us things about Himself, but humans suppress it in our hearts. Science should not turn us from God, but instead it should turn us to Him as we uncover the works of his hands and see “His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20) When we look at beautiful art we ought to appreciate the artist. Likewise, when we marvel at the wondrous glories of creation, our hearts should turn in wonder to the Creator. Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…”. Science should say, “Amen.”
One of our aims at Bradford Academy is to help our students to be worshipers of the living God. The correct study of science is one way to build in them a sense of wonder, elevate the heart and mind, ground their faith, and show them that this world does indeed have purpose and meaning. Our God is glorious and has done glorious things. Science is a beautiful thing and I hope our young scholars would all see it as such. Peace and grace.