God made us to understand and control his world, and we can praise him for its wonder.
Genesis 1: 26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The science of Physics, as we know it today, only started in earnest about 500 years ago. Many would argue that it was astronomy that kicked off “modern” physics, as Copernicus, Galileo and others laid the groundwork of observation and interpretation that was built upon by Isaac Newton and other later greats.
Johannes Kepler was one such astronomer, whose laws of planetary motion are still taught today and inspired Newton’s universal law of gravitation. Kepler, however, was also a Christian who recognised that the science that he practised was ultimately governed by God. He is attributed as saying, “I am merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
Kepler’s idea follows logically from the passage that we read today. In it, God tells us that we are made in his image, in his likeness (vv 26, 27). Although we often focus on the spiritual aspect of that likeness – that we have a spiritual dimension and are made for relationship with God – it is also true that we possess a capability for deep abstract and analytical thought as a result of it.
God also told humankind that we are to fill the earth and subdue it (v 28). It’s widely been observed that to subdue the earth, i.e. bring the forces of nature under our control, we need to be able to understand it. Our study of the fundamental laws of nature leads to new and useful technologies (including vaccines, solar power, and computers).
In all of this, the key point of the passage is that it is God who initiates and rules these activities. Our capability to do science is a direct result of him making us the way that we are. Our practice of science follows a mandate that he has given us. This can be contrasted with certain humanistic views of science, which sees that activity as a human-initiated effort that has arisen to challenge the Christian (for example) view of the world. Rather than making God irrelevant, science reveals the details of the world that God has given us, and the glory of the one who gave it.
In the words of J. J. Thomson, the Nobel-prize-winning discoverer of the electron, “In the distance tower still higher [scientific] peaks which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects and deepen the feeling whose truth is emphasized by every advance in science, that great are the works of the Lord.” Or in the words of David, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8 vv3,4). And God ultimately shows his care for us through Jesus’ sacrifice – the greatest of all of God’s works.
Head: Since science hasn’t, and can’t, make God irrelevant, then it is not intrinsically opposed to God. Why do you think that some scientists oppose God?
Heart: Science, and knowledge generally, is a powerful and useful thing, yet part of God’s world. In what ways are you tempted to worship human achievement rather than the one who made it possible?
Hands: One way to use God’s gift of science well is to use facts to inform our choices. Think of science-evidence-based choices you can make in different areas of your life. (Examples might include environmental or medical decisions.) Choose to see evidence-based decisions as Christian stewardship. Will this require a change of mindset?
Prayer: Father, thank you that you made an interesting and exciting world, and gave us the power to understand and control it. We are sorry for the times we try to use the power you’ve given us to try to take ultimate power away from you. Please help us to worship you only. Please help us to learn to use our power over nature wisely and well, in our lives individually and as a society. Amen.
A song to listen to: Only You can satisfy
Geoff Pryde- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina