Science in Christian Perspective
The Voice of the Ordinary
STUART F. HAYES
Department of Physics,
University of Guam
Agana, Guam 96910
From: JASA 23 (September 1971): 81-82.
God is not at all absent from the scene accessible to man. The correlation between observations of our own planned activities and the activity which we observe on a grander scale in our environment suggests the continual presence of the Creator. This is not anthropomorphism. Rather God has communicated something of His Nature to man by correlating man's activities with His own. Apparent chaos in our environment is a difficulty because our knowledge of God's behavior is even less than our knowledge, say, of nuclear physics. The Israel of New Testament times experienced similar difficulties in attempting to decide whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. God is active not only in our environment but also in the outflow of human thought. Even if life is manipulated in a test tube, the activity will still be His. Ordinary everyday observations speak to us of Him.
Too often we feel that the signs of God's presence are scarcely to be seen. But
perhaps our vision is so indistinct that the signs of His activity
occur all about
us without being perceived. The ordinary events of daily life are so familiar
as to be taken entirely for granted. Yet herein may lie the visible reassurance
of God's continual care for His creatures.
As an example, consider the ocean of air in which we thrive. A considerable measure of protection is afforded by the atmosphere against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, primary cosmic rays, and meteorites. The wind scoops up water from the sea, distills it in doing so, and carries it inland a thousand miles. The descent of heaven's sweet rain is gentle, again due to the atmosphere which restricts each droplet to its own maximum velocity. Temperature control together with the supplying of oxygen to living creatures and of carbon dioxide to plant life pass nearly without comment because we are so accustomed to these. Or to take another example, what thanksgiving is evoked by the continuance of one's effortless process of breathing, by the unfolding of one's mental powers over the years, by the repair of one's body over the course of a night's sleep, by the magic screen upon which the eye's refractive system brings light to a focus?
Some would say that no conclusions can he drawn from such ordinary facts of life. Perhaps experience suggests the very contrary. For it is surely a matter of experience that to construct a working system, mechanical or electrical or biological, requires a considerable degree of planning on our part. One reaction to the splendid efficiency of a complex computer system is to marvel at the quality and quantity of thought which must have gone into its development. Is it an unusual reaction then to think of nature's designs as being the product of a planning and creative mind? And of what magnitude must be such a mind!
At this point the word "anthropomorphism" insinuates itself. One is said to create God in man's image. This old saw overlooks the possibility that the Creator fashioned man's mind after the pattern of Himself in order to communicate some idea of Himself. We learn by experience something of our powers of mind, our emotions, our conscience. We see similarities between these and the surrounding environment. And we can be brought to our knees by the strong suggestion that here we see openly displayed on a grand scale the intelligent thoughts of the Designer Himself. "We are the offspring' of God," (Acts 17:29)
However, other difficulties inject themselves, Not all things work 'veil; there is a measure of chaos in the world. The balance of nature depends upon the slaughter of some animals by others and often rests upon famine or war. It is maintained by death, whatever the form. Or again, the same mechanism which saves the human body by rejecting foreign organisms also inhibits the success of a heart transplant. Something is wrong.
Indeed, there are some things which are wrong. First, one must allow for the effects of our shortcomings upon us and upon our environment, shortcomings so serious that the Scripture cries out, "There is none who does good, not even one." (Rom. 3:12) Second, the accumulation of man's understanding has been gradual enough to suggest that he should not expect to comprehend fully and immediately why God conducts His arrangements in the way in which He does. We do not understand fully either the phsics of the nucleus or the secrets of DNA. And how' are we to understand fully the behavior of the Lord of all? Nevertheless, we gain a partial understanding by using the correlation between man the inventor and God the Inventor.
A good example of the sort of difficulty that makes us doubtful of such conclusions is quite familiar from New Testament times. The Lord was recognized for who He was by less than a majority of Israel. There were His observed signs and wonders to be sure. But was not Messiah to be from Bethlehem rather than from Nazareth? Might not this be one who deceived with the very powers of Satan? Was he not a glutton, a friend of taxgatherers? He worked on the Sabbath, did not fast properly, and allowed his disciples to eat with unwashed hands. Perhaps at most he was a prophet . , . but not the accepted version of Messiah. Which should prevail, the problems or the observations?
Well then, with observations in hand to compel us, perhaps we can assert at least that God shares activity with man in our environment. God can evolve a certain species of animal or nourish a tree with rain and sunlight. It takes a man to transplant a tree or to fabricate a transistor. Oh but really, does God lack so? For what purpose has He imparted ability to man? When He wishes to fabricate a transistor He does it through that small fraction of His own intelligence which He has imparted to man. And He has been "doing good" for ages by the hands of men, whether they have been evil or good, whether willing or unwilling. He pours out His benefits, gradually unfolding them in men's minds. While denying His existence, they do His will. Both man and natural law serve Him day and night.
Perhaps this picture would be overturned should man create life in a test tube type experiment. Create? This cannot be a serious suggestion. Has man ever created the laws or the materials of nature? Indeed, he has only manipulated existing matter and energy, making them interact under the regulation of existing natural principles. If man is permitted to manipulate life in a test tube, Cod will remain undisputed Lord.
Surely the ordinary things of life speak with an audible voice. They cry out that the Creator infuses life into everything about us which is good. The abundance of His presence and His benefits we can constantly enjoy consciously. For "He gives to all, life and breath and all things." (Acts 17:25)