|Witness to the King|
|by T. M. Moore|
|June 21, 2012|
The works of God are truly astounding, mysterious, and full of wonder and glory.
The King who rules over cold and heat,/my true King who watches over me;/it is he who has established every division,/the King beyond reckoning, beyond telling.
With grace the bright King of mysteries/has revealed to us every wonder,/that through them we may understand him – a bright protection – and through the multitude of his miracles.
- Anonymous, Saltair na Rann
“In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without a witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
- Acts 14:16, 17
The earliest natural philosophers – those who laid the foundations for the modern scientific enterprise – were unabashed in relating their work and discoveries to God. They found in the creation a witness to God that spoke clearly and compellingly of His wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness.
In expressing this conviction they were only echoing the view of their Christian forebears. Paul brought the witness of the Old Testament (cf. Ps. 19:1-4) to the pagans in Asia Minor, explaining to them that the reliable patterns of sowing and harvest, which they had enjoyed for centuries, were a witness to the goodness and love of God. The anonymous author of the Saltair na Rann (Irish, 8th-9th century) declared the same in his poetic tribute to the greatness of God as Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos and Redeemer of His chosen people.
Christians readily took to the study of the creation, not simply out of curiosity concerning what they might learn, but as a way of increasing in the knowledge of God. Creation, in the minds of those early scientists, was the second “book” of divine revelation which, alongside and in the light of Scripture, could lead us to a fuller and more fruitful understanding of God (Ps. 36:9).
Our anonymous writer shows great sophistication in understanding the intersections between theology and science. God rules the cold and the heat, even as He exercises shepherding oversight of His people. He has established the creation by “divisions” – patterns of relationship and function which depend entirely on God’s continuous care. Certainly we cannot expect to understand His ways completely: He is “beyond reckoning, beyond telling.” Yet by grace God has chosen to reveal Himself in the wonders He has made, so that “through them we may understand him” – and not as a God to cower before – as did the pagan Celtic forebears of our Irish scribe – but as our Protector, a God Who cares for His creation and especially His people.
The works of God are truly astounding, mysterious, and full of wonder and glory. Christians working in the sciences have a responsibility to the rest of us to “read” the stories of our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Lord as they rise from the pages of the book of creation. We are like children who cannot read. The language of science and mathematics is to many of as foreign as the dialect of some remote South Sea island. We need translators, interpreters, and story-tellers to help us understand what the Divine Author is saying to us about Himself in the works of His hand.
Why should the secular scientists be the best story-tellers? Where is the Christian counterpart to Cosmos, The Elegant Universe, or A Brief History of Time? We who know the Author of creation’s infinite stories should be the most eager in translating these for a more general readership.
We must not fail to take up and proclaim creation’s witness to our great King of Mysteries. Parents and teachers, pastors and Bible study leaders, professors of science and practitioners – we have a joint duty to bring the witness of creation to the attention of our community and to the world as a whole. Our forebears understood the importance of this, and we are only building on the foundations they laid as we continue this work of witness in our own day.