And God saw everything that he had made . . .

I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. Galileo Galilei

In my house, we obey the laws of Thermodynamics! Homer Simpson

. . . and, behold! it was very goodGenesis 1:31

The God of the Bible makes. Then He observes. And while making is standard fare for divine beings, observing is unusual. The Hebrew word ראה (ra’ah: to see) means not simply “noticed” or “glanced at”, but rather: Looked atInspectedPerceivedConsidered. God might well have been the first true scientist as he scrutinized the newly created physical world.

And he demanded that this central aspect of his being be carried forward into human society. The Sabbath rest—a command communicated perhaps more insistently than any other—was meant not to be a nap time or an afternoon co-opted by the NFL, but rather a time for observing, thinking, and assessing; a time for examining and reflecting on life, the universe, and everything.

The God-created universe is this magically ordered physical world infused with his life; a structure that sustains and houses the very breath of God. And that structure is scrutable. Being the product of divine reason, it makes sense, it submits to rules, it is knowable in and of itself. Our view is that far from being at odds with each other, or even coexisting amicably in separate spheres of thought, relationship with God forms a thrilling and dynamic foundation for the pursuit of knowledge through science.

In our community, therefore, we have people engaged in all domains of science at every level of endeavor. We have physicists, biochemists, geneticists, and mathematicians. We have undergrads, graduate students, technicians, and faculty members who conduct experiments that generate data to test hypotheses about the physical world. And in this context, we live lives of faith and deep spirituality.

. . . and the Bible

The Bible tells the story of God’s relationship with humans and the cosmos across the sweep of time. It is a creative narrative, recording pivotal moments of intersection between God and people. The Bible rarely, therefore, presents timeless abstract truths about God. Instead, we come to know Him based on how he interacts with the human situations that confront him.

This has some implications for how the Bible speaks into contemporary science. First, God does not generally communicate things that would be meaningless or uninterpretable to his current audience for the sake of a future audience. Imagine him trying to describe DNA or geological ages or the Big Bang to the Old Testament Israelites, a band of recently escaped slaves from Egypt, wandering hungry and afraid in the desert, with almost no awareness of basic scientific knowledge that we take for granted--physics, chemistry, biology, or what causes hiccups [1]. “I’m going to tell you something,” God would say, “that is irrelevant to your current plight and ultimate survival, that you won't understand, and that does not address in any way your questions of the moment. It will, however, be very important to post-enlightenment, post-modern, scientifically informed folks a few thousand years from now who will desperately want to know what I think about human cloning. So write down exactly what I say!”

What's more, the biblical writers to whom God was speaking were not investigatory journalists or lawyers, they were not research technicians recording experimental observations, nor were they Sergeant Joe Friday’s great-great-great-great ancestor (“the facts God. Just the facts.”). They were inspired creative writers who used metaphor and symbolism and poetry and images to communicate the story of God to the world.

All of which profoundly shapes what we can find in the Bible as it relates to science. The Bible was never intended to answer all possible questions; it rather provides a framework within which to ask all possible questions. And this is the heart of science--seeking answers to all possible questions about the created world, an endeavor that God is eager for us to pursue! We get all in a muddle when we seek concrete answers from the text to questions that it was not designed to answer. Rather, for those questions--which include most questions posed by science--we apply our God-given intellect to the God-breathed cosmos and delight in the discovery of creation.

[1] Irritation of the vagus or phrenic nerve.