|God the Governor|
|by T. M. Moore|
|July 11, 2012|
God governs in an unaccustomed and mysterious manner at times.
On the sixth day he completed his work on the natures of created things, but even now he does not cease to govern them; and on the seventh day he rested from the work of creation, but he never ceases from the exercise of government. For we are to understand that God was a Creator then, but is a Governor now. Therefore if among created things we see anything new arise, God should not be thought to have created a new nature, but to be governing that which he created formerly. But his power in governing his creation is so great that they may seem to be creating a new nature, when he is only bringing forth from the hidden depths of its [existing] nature that which lay concealed within. Through such unaccustomed [acts of] government, when things reveal through the will and power of the Governor that which they do not accomplish as a part of their functioning day to day, there come the miracles of which Scripture tells.
- Anonymous (Augustinus Hiberincus), On the Miracles of Holy Scripture
He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
- Psalm 147:15
This obscure Irish text is remarkable as a kind of prototype of early scientific thinking. The anonymous writer contended that the universe is God’s creation, now subject to His intimate management and care. This was also the conviction of such men as Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, and Newton. God is no longer creating new things; at the same time, things happen – miracles – which our human understanding cannot explain, and which seem to us to be new things.
But God is wiser than we, our writer explained. He understands better than we ever will the “hidden depths” of the “natures of created things.” And when it suits His purposes to depart from His standard approach to governing the universe, in order to do something expressive of His superior wisdom and power, then, by the “unaccustomed government” of the cosmos, God brings forth miracles out of the existing nature of that which is transformed by His direct, albeit mysterious, work.
We might regard our Irish thinker as a reductionist, seeking to fit the mysteries of the unseen realm within the “laws” of the seen world. But this is not his intention. Rather, He wants to exalt the greatness and wisdom of God by explaining that not only are miracles His direct work, but so also is everything needed to keep the universe going in its accustomed manner. God governs in familiar ways – the sun rises, the rains renew the earth, the breezes come. But He also governs in an unaccustomed and mysterious manner at times, a form of providence which only He understands. It is at such times that miracles occur.
This 7th century Christian “physicist” was quite comfortable with a certain measure of “unknowing” in his cosmology. He knew God, knew Him as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Builder of His Church, and He was quite certain that nothing happened in any part of the cosmos apart from God’s will and power.
God’s work of creating and governing the cosmos is “so that he might reveal through created things all the vast goodness and power and benevolence which beforehand he possessed within himself along…” All our study of, meditation on, and working with the creation, therefore, must be done in a manner consistent with the character and purposes of God. To do otherwise is to be guilty of the kind of rebellion against God which the devil and his minions pursue unceasingly.
Early Christian scientists were quite at home integrating their faith with their work, the joy of discovery with the humility and wonder of unknowing. Their work, more often than not, exalted the greatness of God even as it sought to explain the benefits men could expect from increased understanding of God’s ways of governing the world.
These early thinkers made great progress. They laid a solid foundation for subsequent scientific development, and they never departed from their firm belief that there is no conflict between the work of science and the life of faith. Either without the other is, in some ways, incomplete.
We build on that foundation when, in our labs and classrooms and publications, we not only describe the work and employ the methods of science, but when we celebrate the Governor of all things Who sustains His creation, which He loves, and entrusts its care, development, and use to those who know and honor Him. It pleases God for us to grasp the workings of His accustomed governance of the cosmos. And it also pleases Him when, in the face of mysteries, we are able humbly to bow before Him and to rest in a superior wisdom which we shall never be able to attain.