3 Ways We See God When We Study Science

3 Ways We See God When We Study Science

Do you think faith and science are at odds? Do you worry that giving credence to scientists will undermine your faith or the faith of others?

While debates between theologians and scientists can be valuable, they have often been vitriolic. Some scientists find no value in spiritual pursuits, and some religious followers distrust input from the scientific community.

However, as Dr. Francis Collins points out, faith and science are asking — and answering — different questions. No wonder the debate has seemed futile at times. Dr. Collins, who led the National Institutes of Health for 12 years, says that faith deals with questions of why and science deals with questions of how.

That said, questions of why and how don’t always have to live in separate quarters. They can mingle and join, similarly, perhaps, to the way the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system interact on a continuous basis. Each can empower and inspire the other.

Believing in God as the Creator of the universe helps us understand why we are here, why the universe is as it is, and what our role is to play here. Loving the God who created our world can lead us to awe and wonder, generating curiosity about how the world works. Science can empower that curiosity to help us understand God and his creation better, and to help us participate in the health and well-being of that creation—both humankind and the natural world.

I invite you to consider ways that we can learn about God our Creator through the lens of science.

1. The Power of Observation

Science is rooted in observation. Intricate tools — like microscopes, telescopes, and spectrometers — have been developed to aid observation. In spite of their high-tech tools and years of effort, scientists will often conclude their reports by saying “more research is needed.” Another way of saying this is “we need to watch longer, to look more closely, in order to understand better.”

Scripture instructs us to carefully observe the world around us to learn about God. Job was good at this. He used his observations of the natural world to keep his experiences in perspective. In Job 12:7-10, he observes animals to better understand God’s wisdom. In Job 37:14-16, he urges his listeners to consider the weather to better understand God’s power. And the well-known Psalm 19:1-4 invites us to listen to the “speech” from the heavens and the skies — we can experience God and know him more by observing what he has made.

Scientists insist on careful observation. They invest years and all the funding they can find to watch their object of study and record what they see. While some believers are professional scientists, any of us can take inspiration from both Scripture and the science community to look more closely at how the natural and human worlds work and how we can help address some of the problems we may see there.

2. Delight in Repetition

Our observations of nature — even a brief gaze at a leafy tree — will teach us that God uses repetition in his handiwork. As G. K. Chesterton famously pointed out, the natural world is so full of repetition (monotony) that we have to think it might tell us something about God’s personality:

“Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately but has never got tired of making them” (Orthodoxy, p. 108–109).

Do you see that Chesterton is answering the question why? Perhaps God repeats himself in every sunrise and sunset, in every daisy, because he delights in repetition.

What would science say about how? From a science perspective, humankind has learned that the rising and setting of the sun is the visual effect of the earth turning around on its axis — it’s not the sun playing peekaboo. Understanding how this works enables us to make the most of that repetition; we can predict with some accuracy how this revolution of the earth will affect light and dark, warmth and coolness, weather and climate. Scientists delight in the power of observing how the universe works and in the challenge of understanding something so vast.

When it comes to our lives with God, it can be very helpful to realize that God delights in repetition and that he uses it to bring stability and well-being to our lives and our environment.

Can you find some of God’s delight in the sameness of your day-to-day activities? Or perhaps you need to remember his way of using repetition when you feel you’re learning the same life lesson for the millionth time. And see if you can remember this the next time your child wants to read that same book again. God uses — and delights — in repetition.

3. Reporting

Remember writing lab reports in school? Depending on your personality — and that of your science teacher — memories of lab reports might make you cringe. Or perhaps they bring back the satisfaction of completing forms with concrete, objective information. The objectivity in reporting is key to useful science.

Scientists report their work in order to make it usable to others. Until they have reported their observations, no one else can repeat, and thereby verify, the steps that led to those observations. (There’s repetition playing an important role again.) But when even a small discovery is verified, it can be built upon to create new understanding and solutions.

Scripture is full of calls to share what we’ve seen and heard in our experience with God. For example, in Psalm 108:3, David says,

“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

The field of theology (a word that means “the study of God”) has developed standards for sharing observations about God that are, in important ways, based on methods for sharing scientific observations.

Invited to Delight

All this time we’ve been talking about scientists, and a little about theologians. For most of us, talking about these professions brings up images of super smart experts with very serious faces, saying very significant things. But I suppose God sees a different side of them.

Recently, I heard a radio news piece featuring an entomologist (an insect scientist), talking about the next brood of cicadas expected to hatch in our city. After he shared an astonishing wealth of observations about the way cicadas are made and their repetitious behavior, the host asked him how he got started in this profession. With a laugh, he described himself as “that kid” who was always catching bugs and showing them to his mom. Although he is now a dignified scientist, in his heart, he is not so far removed from that little child who delighted in what he found and in the chance to show his mom something cool.

I imagine that, from God’s perspective, even the most sophisticated scientific or theological observations sound elementary. I imagine him seated in his chair, grinning with enjoyment as we use our best vocabulary to describe what we’ve seen and heard. We are, after all, children of God, made in his image, and invited to observe, delight in, and report on the world around us.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/gorodenkoff

Allie Boman is a wife, mom, follower of Jesus and freelance editor in the Chicago area. She served for 15 years with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship and studied classical piano in college. She loves adventurous cooking and exploring the natural world. She can be found online at BomanEditing.com