We don’t have time for Q&A today, so let me start out with two of your questions I know that are on your mind. The first answer is, yes, we did go to the moon. And the answer to the second question is, The earth is not flat.
I’d like you to turn to Psalm 111, please, Psalm 111, one of my favorite psalms in Scripture. It speaks of the work of His hands. It’s a very short psalm. It’s a worldview psalm. I’ve been asked to come here today to show you a worldview. It speaks of the work of creation.
What I really want to impress upon you today is the amazing work of provision in that creation, given the creation of man, who bear His image; and the abilities that He’s given us, bearing His image. And we even need to consider His works of providence as history unfolds, and we can only do that through eyes that have been given—sight that has been given by His work of redemption. So this entire talk, like this entire conference, assumes the work of redemption in the hearts among those that are gathered here; and it’s only in that way, by the help of the Spirit, that we can comprehend the Word of God and bring understanding to those other works of God.
I want to lay two things side by side in the beginning here, on our minds, and then we’re going to try to bring them together. And it won’t be obvious how we’re going to do that initially, but hopefully by the end of the hour it becomes a little bit more apparent to you how we can bring them together, weave together, looking through the lens of Scripture in what we call a biblical worldview.
The first thing I want to have on our minds is Psalm 111, and then the second one’s going to be a short video clip. So join me in reading Psalm 111.
“Praise Yah! I will give thanks to Yahweh with my heart, in the council of the upright and in the congregation. Great are the works of Yahweh; they are sought”—or we could say, “studied”—“by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness stands forever. He has made His wondrous deeds to be remembered; Yahweh is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them an inheritance of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are faithful. They are upheld forever and ever; they are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever; holy and fearsome is His name. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; good insight belongs to all those who do His commandments; His praise stands”—or “endures”—“forever.”
Here’s the second thing I want to put on our minds now, and then we’ll work through trying to reconcile the two together.
[Video plays from 0:04:08 to 0:04:33]
How do they do that? How do they take all those components of metal, strap some fluid systems on there, electrical systems, data systems, put a few computers in there, program the computers, put it on a launchpad, load it up with fuel (it weighs 4 million pounds), and then light the fire (it produces 7.5 million pounds of force), and in less than 9 minutes, you’re in orbit, going 17,500 miles an hour, on a perfect trajectory to later, then, rendezvous and dock with a space station orbiting the earth at that same speed? And the two contact one another at about 0.1 feet per second, plus or minus an inch. How is that possible?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Russia, especially during the 2000s; but I’ve probably been there sixty times, accumulating six years of time over there, spending a lot of time training on the Russian part of the space station as well as the Soyuz operation. I had to learn Russian to support that training. And I lived and worked in a place called Star City, right outside of Moscow, about an hour east. And there was a regional train, and on weekends I would take the train, often into Moscow to spend some time in the city. And the platform there was called the Tsiolkovsky Platform—Tsiolkovsky, named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He’s considered the father of the Russian space program.
He wrote this: “From the rocket we shall see the huge sphere of the planet earth like phases of the moon. We shall see how the sphere rotates, and how within a few hours it shows all its sides successively. And we shall observe various points on the surface of the Earth for several minutes and from different sides very closely. This picture is so majestic, attractive, and infinitely varied that I wish with all my soul that you and I could see it.” He wrote that in 1911. He was a theorist; he was a scientist, and he had put together in his studies this concept of doing exactly what we’ve been doing now for several decades.
In 1945, a name more familiar to you, Arthur C. Clarke, wrote this, 1945: “Using material ferried up by rockets, it would be possible to construct a space station in orbit. The station could be provided with living quarters, laboratories, and everything needed for the comfort of its crew, who would be relieved and provisioned by a regular rocket service”—exactly describing in a nutshell my experience and the experience of many other astronauts and cosmonauts.
How can that be? How can we understand that through a biblical worldview? Well I want to take you to a vantage point, a unique vantage point of orbit around this planet that we call home, the Earth, and we’re going to go to the International Space Station. As I said, it orbits the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour. We started building it in 1998; it took until 2011 to complete the assembly. We put it up one piece at a time, mostly with the space shuttle, but also Russian rocket launches. It orbits the Earth about 250 miles above the earth. If you can imagine the sphere of the Earth, and you got the equator here, the plane of the orbit is inclined to the equator 51.6 degrees. So that means we cross the equator, go up 51.6 degrees north latitude, cross the equator again 51.6 south latitude. When you come around after one orbit, the Earth has rotated, so you cross about 1,500 miles to the west of the previous orbit.
So it’s an amazing platform vantage point over the days and weeks and months and seasons to study the Earth. You can see the entire Earth over time and different lighting conditions, day and night—except, of course, for the North Pole and South Pole—so it’s an amazing vantage point. And it’s still a pretty amazing accomplishment of mankind. Hopefully, I always prayed, it’s not a Tower of Babel. But it is an amazing accomplishment and tribute to what man, bearing the image of God, is capable of doing, and the provision that God placed in His creation to enable man to do it—and, by the way, to give us the dominion mandate to subdue His creation, right? It’s all part of that; that’s how we explain it.
So this is our vantage point. This is where I spent cumulative time, about a year and a half of my life. Spent about a year and a half, Anna-Marie with me “off the planet,” as she likes to say. She’s the real hero in the room, in that respect, and I want to thank her for that publicly, for the sacrifices that she put through.
But this is our vantage point. If we look out the window during the daytime, you can see structures of the space station. You can see the Earth. As I stated in the video before lunch, it’s just absolutely amazing, especially to view the Earth. It’s ironic that we spend so much time and effort to get off the planet, but then the planet ends up being our primary focus when we’re off the planet.
At nighttime it’s just spectacular. Look at that night sky. Look at the star field. Look at the globe of the Earth. You can see the yellow arc there is the atmosphere of the Earth, the life support that God has put in His creation to sustain life. Of course, the starfield is just absolutely amazing.
And you see sights like this. Orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, you can see a sunrise and sunset many times a day. We orbit 16 times a day; and every one is unique, and every one is beautiful, and every one invokes a sense of awe and wonder. By the way, the concept of wonder demands God as its explanation. You know that, right? That’s part of our worldview perspective.
If we take a closer-up look, a bigger lens, at a sunset just after the sun had gone over the horizon, the layers of the atmosphere become very clear, and they’re beautiful. They’re absolutely beautiful in color, in harmony, in symmetry. In the lower parts where you see the bright oranges and the blacks, the blacks are actually weather systems that shadow the sun over the horizon. And then you go up above the weather, and you see the different layers of the atmosphere that we all learned in school, above the weather; but the different layers are different densities of the atmosphere as we go up and eventually end up in space.
This is a very unique phenomenon, one of many. These are called noctilucent clouds; and this is one of the better pictures I was able to capture. We don’t see them very often. We would typically see them in the polar regions during that polar summer season—so over the North Pole, for example, in June and July; over the South Pole in the wintertime: December, January. Nobody really understands exactly what forms this. The theory is, of course—and I would say it’s a feasible theory—is that somehow the air currents and the jet streams take ice crystals up very high into the atmosphere—and these are on the order of 80 kilometers in the atmosphere, so above the weather systems—and then those air currents, those jet streams, as they mingle, they form this beautiful pattern. And we see this pattern when the sun is just over the Pole, and we’re flying on the dark side of the Earth; but the sun is illuminating this formation, this formation of presumably ice crystals, in the upper parts of the atmosphere over the poles.
I’m going to talk later about order. This is a clear demonstration of a mathematical order, and we see it everywhere. Or it’s in front of us everywhere, every day; oftentimes we don’t see it. But order is a critical component to understand the wisdom and the majesty in God’s creative work in creation.
One of my favorite pictures—and the object of this picture, the primary object, is the fact that we have nighttime and daytime in the picture. We call it “the terminator” in our program. We cross the terminator just like we orbit once from daytime to nighttime across a terminator, twice. Just like we have a sunrise and sunset in each orbit, we cross the terminator twice.
In Job 26—I’ll go there just very quickly—Job 26, he speaks to this. Before I get to that verse, I’ll pull out a couple of verses in Job 26. The first one: “He hangs the earth on nothing”; and it’s speaking of the majesty of God’s creative work. “He hangs the earth on nothing.” That’s Job 26, verse 7.
If we go down to verse 10, the author writes, “He has marked a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.” We call it “the terminator.” That’s a description of this. It’s a description of what ends up being on the planet’s surface that you can only see when you’re off the planet. So it’s a direct testimony; both those passages are a direct testimony to the inspiration of Scripture. This is God’s perspective as He takes pleasure in pondering His work, specifically His work of giving habitation and provision to the crown of His creation: mankind.
I can’t leave Job 26 without pointing out the last verse, where he says, “Behold” these things that he’s considered, this work of God’s creation—he says, “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how only with a whisper of a word do we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”
This is but a glimpse of who God is, right? He is so much more than this. But yet we see sights like this, we’re impacted by this; and we just see just an incredible—sometimes we imagine it as containing an infinite amount of awe and wonder and splendor and majesty, reflecting the majesty and the splendor of the One who created all. But yet it’s just a glimpse; it’s just a whisper.
Let’s go on and take a look at a few other things we can see from our vantage point. A glacier—this is in northern Pakistan, just a beautiful glacier. And I tried to take collections of photographs while I was up there in different categories; glaciers were one of those categories. I just loved the beauty of a glacier. You don’t see it from up there, but you know and you imagine what the dynamic is—the geography on the ground, the symmetry and the colors and whatnot. It’s just beautiful to our sight.
Or this glacier in the southern part of South America, in the Patagonia region—the most beautiful glaciers in the world, from off the planet. Or another example: a river delta. This one’s on the island of Madagascar. I would contend this is the most-photographed river delta in the world because it stands out to every astronaut with the naked eye, and it stands out because of its unique patterns of tributaries as well as its color. And this is the actual color of it; it’s obviously from the soils that are upstream being washed down. But just an example of the beauty on the Earth’s surface.
One that’s a little more familiar to many of you, and perhaps all of us, is the Grand Canyon. So this is an oblique view as we pass over; I think we were passing over the southern part of Arizona. So looking north, it looks like this gouge in the surface. But just another example of the beauty on the surface of the planet.
Or Mount St. Helens. We live just 40 miles from Mount St. Helens right now; we moved up there a year and a half ago. Just an incredible example of not only the beauty of nature and the beauty of God’s creation, but also the power that’s in creation. And it gives us great scientific substance to study, since the eruption happened in 1980; and there’s so many dynamic phenomena that occurred immediately at the time and then afterwards that could be studied, that actually support the worldwide flood, and young age of the earth. So it’s wonderful to be living close by there, but it’s a great example also that illustrates the worldview that we’ve been reviewing this week.
Another example of a dynamic activity on the Earth’s surface, obviously: a volcano eruption. Now I will get slapped if I don’t go to a personal story. And some of you know this, because I’ve already heard from a couple of you, “Be sure to tell the volcano story.” So I will. This is a personal story. I mentioned in the beginning I’m going to try to focus on God’s provision, His works of provision, but I also mentioned His works of providence.
So this occurred in May of 2006. It was my first long flight. It was during the time the space shuttle was grounded after we had lost the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. We grounded it so that we could try to address the issue and fix the problem before resuming flying again. So we went down to a crew of two; it was my Russian crewmate, Pavel Vinogradov, and I. His English was not that strong, my Russian was not that strong, so we were limited, although we had a great relationship, continued to this day. We were six weeks into our six-month stay. Six weeks had been a long time. And we all have experiences in life where we just have kind of a bad day, a down day—maybe extra tired, things haven’t gone your way, or just drudgery of mundane things.
I can’t really say this was mundane up there, but I was still having kind of a down day. And I’d gone back in the other end of the space station where Pavel was working. As was our custom, we’d gather together about 10:00 in the morning to have a tea. We don’t drink out of a cup, we draw it out of a straw. But I went back there for tea time with Pavel, and we chit-chatted a little bit, and I was going to head back up to the other end to continue my work; and I passed over a window, saw that we were going over the Aleutian Islands. And as was my habit, I had some time, so I grabbed the camera, got in the window and started taking pictures. First one island, then the next island, then the next island.
Something in the back of my head said, “Hey, that last one didn’t look right.” I went back and reframed it, and it was this volcano erupting. I had an opportunity to snap off just two or three pictures before it was out of view. But I got all excited, because you can see in the picture the eruption had just started. You could see the entire plume in view. So I was all excited; it’s a remote part of the world, it’s a dynamic activity, it’s happening now. I went up, and I called Houston Mission Control, told them about it. I said, “Got some pictures. I’m going to put them in the file to downlink, so come get the pictures.” We orbit the Earth every 90 minutes, so I set the alarm on my watch to be back in the window to take some more pictures in the next orbit because we were going to pass back over it.
In the meantime, the Capcom in Houston was an astronaut by the name of Steve Bowen. He got on the Internet; he found the Alaskan Volcano Observatory on the Internet. He called them up, said, “Hey, this is Steve Bowen, calling from Mission Control down in Houston. We just got a report from the International Space Station that one of your volcanoes is erupting.” He had the scientist on the other end of the phone, and he could tell he was having a hard time convincing her this was legitimate; certainly, this was a prank somebody was playing on her. But they had the conversation, he tried to assure her that it was legit.
Anyway, he got her name and phone number to me, so I called her up and said, “Hey, this is Jeff Williams on the Space Station. I heard you got the report of your erupting volcano. Did you get my pictures yet?” “Well no, I haven’t got the pictures.” “OK, give me your e-mail address; I’ll send them to you.” So I sent her the pictures. I could still tell that she thought this was a prank. Certainly, this couldn’t happen. I mean, we can all imagine that, right?
Well we got done with the call, and I was back in the window 90 minutes later to take pictures of the volcano, and here it was—not even a puff coming out of it. The cloud that you saw in the previous picture had detached and was way downwind. You see the fresh lava flowing down the mountain. This is a volcano called Cleveland—you can look it up; it’s easy to find. This eruption happened, as I said, in May of 2006. They didn’t know about it because they have sensors out there, but they don’t have real-time—at least in those days they didn’t have real-time data transmission back, to know that the eruption was occurring. So they would get that data, pick it up maybe once a day or some frequency. So they were completely unaware of it. So my report was their first awareness of it.
The backstory is Anna-Marie and I talked early that morning, like was our habit; we talked at least twice every day. She knew I was having a bad day, and she had prayed to the Lord to bring something into my day specifically to lift me out of my slump. We never dreamed it would be a volcano eruption. But to this day, I’m the only one that I know of, on or off the planet, that saw that particular eruption.
And I tell that story not because of the story of the volcano and all of that; I tell the story because it’s important for us, as we grow in our faith, to comprehend the details in the providence of God and the provision that He gives each of us each and every day, even in the little things. Although this was relatively trivial, even in the hard times, in the suffering times, He gives provision; and we are to grow in our trust in that, and we are to grow in our acknowledgement of that, to acknowledge Him as the giver, and to grow in gratitude, and give thanks. And then pretty soon, the trials of life just become light, momentary fluff, right, because we gain and grow in a perspective of the eternal weight of glory, trusting, as Phil talked about, and having the assurance of the content, that substance of our faith in Jesus Christ. Well let’s move on.
Other examples of beauty of the Earth: coral reefs. Got another whole collection of coral. Beautiful. Many of you have seen coral on the surface, I’m sure. To orient you in this picture, in the center of the picture, upper part of the picture, you can see the Florida Peninsula, with the Florida Keys sweeping out to the left. The island in the foreground is Cuba. Bermuda and the Bahamas are over to the right half of the screen; just gorgeous in color and pattern and beauty.
Here’s looking straight down at the Florida Keys. Many of you, I’m sure, have been there. Or a close-up of the major reef structure in the Bahamas, just east of Florida. Or a close-up at my favorite reef in all of the world. It doesn’t look real. It doesn’t look real when you see it out the window; it doesn’t look real in the pictures. It looks like a watercolor painting you might see hanging in a museum. But just beautiful, awesome, wondrous. God is demanded as the cause.
Or another collection: sand dunes. You see in sand dunes beauty, uniqueness in color and pattern. Notice the repeating pattern. Just like the noctilucent clouds, we see a geometric, repeating pattern, both in large scale and small scale. Just like ripples in a pond when you throw a rock in, or waves on a seashore, there’s a repeating pattern to that.
This next picture is one of my favorites of sand dunes because it’s a great illustration of the order, the physical order in God’s creative work. Here you see a repeating pattern, and you see almost a mathematical pattern. You see the orthogonal lines; you see the large-scale repeating patterns; you see the small-scale repeating patterns? This could be easily described mathematically.
And I’ve got a math and science background; I love math and science. I often get the question, “How can you be in the business that you are in—science and technology—and be a believer?” What does that question say? That question says there’s a conflict. And my answer is, “There is no conflict. There’s absolutely no conflict between the Bible and science.”
The conflict comes into your philosophical presuppositions going into your science. And it boils down to two categories, basically. There’s lots of variations in those categories, but two categories. Either there is no God, and I have to explain how everything that exists, exists by time over chance. Or the other category: There is a God who has created all things and has revealed Himself in His creation. And we know, by the grace of God, that He has revealed Himself ultimately in the Creator, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
That’s where the conflict comes in, and we know that very well; that’s been our focus this week. But one of my messages, one of my objectives, is there is no conflict between science and the Bible—not in classic science, what Ken yesterday called “observational science”—real science: observing, coming up with a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, doing experiments, looking at the results, comparing that to your hypothesis, adjusting your hypothesis, and so on and so on, and maybe resulting in the discovery of mathematical order, mathematical equations, mathematical laws or theories or whatnot. That is science.
Let’s go on just a little bit, and I want to come back to that theme, the provision in God’s creation.
Here in this picture we can see a clear example of a mathematical order in the cloud formations, and it shows up well in this screen. Behind the clouds—most screens, you can’t even see the ground here—but you see the agriculture. And agriculture is a very clear example, illustration of the provision in God’s creation—our ability to produce food for ourselves to sustain us. And you see many examples from off the planet of what we get from God’s creative work in provisioning. This is logging operations in the state of Washington, up not too far from Mount St. Helens. Historically they were logged in square miles, so it looks like a checkerboard laid over the mountainous areas. Or these are fields, grain fields north of Paris.
And here, not only do you see the provision in God’s creation, but you see elements of history. In the previous example, we saw square miles. And we know how the US was settled and the land grants that were given, and everything is marked off in square miles, down to 40-acre plots. And of course in Europe, it’s different. So you see, even the patterns are different that reflect the history of that part of the world.
Eastern Europe, another agricultural example. This one jumped out at me—just in 2016, during that flight—with the bright orange. Turns out this is rapeseed, from which, among other things, canola oil is made. My wife tells me never use canola oil. I used to think there was a canola bean. But the C-A-N in canola actually is Canada, and it’s some artificially produced substance, originally used for a lubricant. But then they found out they could make it apparently safe for food and consumption. So I apologize to the canola oil producers; but maybe all of you will stop using it now that you know it’s a lubricant. But example of provision of God’s creation.
Another one: a mine, open-pit mine. This one’s in either Arizona or Mexico—I can’t remember which one this is, but near the border of Mexico. And just think of all the things we get out of the earth in mining operations. Or salt ponds in Western China, from which, among other things—and I don’t know exactly what the operations here in this particular pond are—but among other things, we get things like rare earth elements that are very rare, very critical to technology.
And you consider it from a biblical worldview, you say, well there’s another example of—I mean, this is a desolate part of the world. Nobody’d want to live there. But yet people historically have gone there, and they searched out the land and discovered something new, and said, “What can I do with this? Oh, well let’s do some experiments. Let’s work on this. Let’s see what we can do. Let’s transform it. Let’s do whatever.” And then, “Oh, here it is. And maybe we can do something else with this. Well, let’s put it together with this over here. And oh, by the way, as we got from here to here, it behaved this way. What can we do with that?” And you can see how on and on and on goes what I would call the scientific method, as mankind subdues God’s creation and extracts from His creation the provision that He gave in that creation. And not only the plants that grow out of the soil, or the ore that we mine in mines, but the mathematical order is so important.
Not only think mathematical order, think chemical order, think biological order—think physics. If you don’t like math and science, think music—another example of the order in God’s creation. We can only launch on a rocket, produce 7.5 million pounds of thrust, fire the motor for 8 minutes and 53 seconds, and rendezvous with the Space Station going 17,500 miles-an-hour, because the order is very predictable, and we have the cognitive ability to figure it out over unfolding history.
It always amazed me—early in my experience at NASA when I was doing a lot of testing of space shuttle software, and I was being in the simulator and going over and over again with either launches or landings, and it amazed me always: “OK, we’re going to do this simulation, we’re going to start in orbit, we’re going to end up on the runway at Kennedy Space Center.” And you could tell within a couple seconds when the wheels were going to touch down on the runway before you ever did the deorbit burn to slow down. That’s because of the mathematical order.
Let me give you a little bit of a history lesson to give you a perspective. There is no conflict between science and the Bible; I said that. In fact, modern science as we know it grew out of a biblical perspective, a biblical worldview. The first great commission, to “subdue creation and have dominion over it,” is exercised in the scientific endeavor and in the development of technology.
We know names of, for example, Johannes Kepler, in astronomy and history in the 16th–17th century; Robert Boyle in chemistry; Isaac Newton, Newton’s laws of motion in classic physics; Michael Faraday in electromagnetics; Louis Pasteur—we pasteurize our milk, or we get pasteurized milk—that’s from him and his biological work; James Clerk Maxwell, the electrodynamics and thermodynamics—and many other from that era from which we have equations and laws and theories named after them. They’re very famous in science.
They were all—those names, and many others—were all theologians first. They were theologians first. They were deeply committed to the Christian faith, and they were driven by our faith and their sense of moral obligation to subdue the earth in the way that God had called them, in their place and time and circumstance on earth. And they were motivated by three presuppositions.
First is that creation is rational. There’s a rationality in creation. The world is lawfully ordered. That was a presupposition they had going in.
Secondly, in that ordering there’s a precision. And I contend that the precision and the ordering of God’s creative work is infinitely precise, infinitely precise. Sometimes we see chaos, but there’s no chaos; there’s a precise ordering in everything, and we’re only limited by our ability to measure that precision. I say that because then it helps us understand history—the history of technology development, the history of technological progress, as we talk it—and man’s ability, bearing the image of God, so given by God; and even the drive, even the drive that man has to search, to understand, to contemplate, to discover, to develop. All of that is understood in a biblical worldview. And if you’re committed to the presupposition that there’s a precision here—it’s repeatable; once you learn to understand it, it’s predictable—then you can make application. That’s what drove the scientists in the age of science. That’s why science blossomed so much in the Western world after the Reformation.
The third presupposition, very important, harder to understand: They presupposed what is called “the contingency of nature”; that is, the laws of nature are not intrinsic, but they’re imposed on creation by the Creator, imposed by God. They’re not obvious to us. As we look at creation, those laws are not obvious. They’re not understandable by reason only; reason only is insufficient. They have to be searched out.
A right understanding of God’s design and His governance requires observation, experimentation, coming up with a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, measuring—all of those things, all of the scientific activities. The universe does not have its own inherent rationality—that’s the point—but it is intelligible because it reflects God’s rationality, God’s intelligence. Science was a way, was a means, to understand, to search that out, and to subdue God’s creation, and to put on display how God had revealed Himself.
Let me give you a little illustration of the contingency of nature. You might have heard—or not—there are four fundamental forces that are considered to govern all of creation, all of the universe. They include gravity, very familiar to us. They include electromagnetism, which is pretty familiar to most of us. They also include two others called “the weak force” and “the strong force,” which are atomic in scale. Most of us haven’t been introduced to that, but basically it’s the strong force is what holds atoms together. Those four forces have been observed over time and verified by experimentation to be those primary forces that govern all of creation, but nobody understands how they work, nobody.
You’ll hear theories of quantum mechanics and so on and theory of relativity, but those are theories. Nobody explicitly understands those forces; but they’ve been discovered, they’ve been measured, et cetera—science has done that—and it’s actually a mystery of the Creator, I believe. So that conclusion of that glimpse into science is that the universe is both rational and intelligible. It is accessible to mankind who, bearing the image of God, have been given the capacity to search it out. That’s a biblical worldview.
One of the names I mentioned was James Clerk Maxwell. He lived in the 1800s; he was born in Scotland. He entered the University of Edinburgh at age 16. As I mentioned earlier, his most famous work was in electromagnetism and thermodynamics. By age 40 he was elected to a professorship at Cambridge. By the way, a lot of these guys came out of England—Cambridge University, Oxford. That’s an amazing study in history as well.
But Maxwell—and I knew him from way back in the Military Academy because of Maxwell’s equations in electromagnetism. That’s how I knew who he was; I didn’t know his history. He designed—at Cambridge—and supervised the construction of what was called the Cavendish Laboratory; and carved in these big, heavy wooden doors of the entrance of this laboratory was Psalm 111, verse 2: “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”
If you look at that psalm, these are not commands for us to study and delight, these are descriptive words of the works of God in the believer—the one assembled in the congregation in verse 1. In other words, the works of God are studied works. We naturally study the works of God if we’re a believer. And believers are delighting believers. So it’s a reminder that we are all scientists in that respect. We all have a duty and obligation to see and to grow and to contemplate and to give thanks to God for the provision of His works—the work of His hands in creation and provision and providence, understandable all through His work of redemption. All Christians are scientists in that sense.
Like I said, Maxwell was a man of deep Christian faith. For a time he served as an elder in his church. After his death there was a prayer, a written prayer among his papers found. I want to read it. Maxwell wrote, “Almighty God, who created man in Thine own image and made him a living soul that he might seek after Thee and have dominion over Thy creatures. Teach us to study the works of Thy hands, that we may subdue the earth to our use, and strengthen the reason for Thy service, and so to receive Thy blessed word that we may believe on Him who Thou hast sent to give us the knowledge of salvation and the remission of sins, all of which we ask in the name of the same, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
These great, greatest of all scientists, in my opinion, in the 18th and 19th century believed that God had created and ordered a coherent universe; and it was the duty of man to subdue it by studying it and exploiting what that provision gave.
It leads to the obvious question: Why? Why is there a conflict? Why the conflict? Well, Phil rehearsed a little bit of history—the age of Darwin, the age of Enlightenment, all of that—and all of that is familiar to us. There’s another little aspect of the history I want to highlight today, and I encourage you to take some notes and go do your own research—it’s easy to find, just do the search on the Internet and you’ll find some of these details—because most of us grew up with the notion that science clearly proved the Bible to be wrong, or mythical, or obsolete. We’ve all heard that. We’ve all grown up with it. Perhaps, some of us even still believe it. Perhaps, it still threatens our faith. It’s so familiar that many don’t even challenge it; they just passively accept it. But it turns out the so-called war between and the Bible was largely invented 150 years ago, and then effectively propagated primarily at the popular level, not at the academic level—although it’s there—but propagated at the popular level.
In the late 19th century there was a very public, very visible to the public, British atheist scientist by the name of Thomas Huxley—and that name is familiar to many of you. He was known as Darwin’s bulldog. He organized an effort to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity. That was his goal: to secularize society, to establish a scientific naturalism; in effect, to disseminate an ideology of secular religion. That was his goal; he led that effort. And to support that goal, the perceived war between science and religion was largely fabricated and popularized by two men—you probably haven’t heard of them. And they were inspired by Darwin’s publication On The Origin of Species and others.
The first one, his name was John William Draper. He wrote a book called A History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science; and he published in 1874, and he presented a history of science as a narrative of conflict between the progressive power of science with the regressive and repressive power of religion; and many of us have heard that argument. Draper was his name.
Another man by the name of Andrew Dickson White—he was the founding president of Cornell University, and when he was installed in office he declared that Cornell would be an asylum for science, where truth shall be taught for truth’s sake, not stretched or cut exactly to fit revealed religion. And he argued that history showed that religion was holding back science. His culminating work was entitled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology and Christendom. And in it he juxtaposes the light of historical truth, that is science, with what he called “the decaying mass of outworn thought which is attached to the modern world in medieval conceptions of Christianity.” We’ve all heard that argument. They were published as historical works of science.
Now shortly after that, not long after that, the academic world of historians that studied the history of science debunked their work as largely fabricated. They were gross distortions; they were rejected by historians subsequently. But the war has survived, as I said earlier, in popular thinking. It was a very successful propaganda campaign.
So one of the tools that we have as believers is to go back and refresh ourselves on that history, refresh ourselves on the history of the age of science and those believing scientists and their motivations and what they discovered and the fruits of their labor that we enjoy and take for granted. This thing that we all have on our pocket, or our pocketbook, is a great example of that.
What is the basic element here, if you went just on the basics? It’s silica; that’s why they call it Silicon Valley. What is silica? It’s sand—sand, the basic element from which a computer chip is fabricated. And then you take that, you take all the other materials, you see how it’s all put together, and then you go into the electromagnetism in the order of that, and we take this, starting out with sand, and a lot of people, a lot of thinking, a lot of development, a lot of subduing of God’s creation, even though many of those people don’t know that they’re doing that in response to the Creator’s mandate. But then we send signals throughout the world, and we all get information almost instantaneously. We communicate internationally nowadays. It’s a product of this, and it needs to be understood in a biblical worldview. That’s the result. That’s how we see these things. It’s not a conflict.
Go back, and let’s strengthen our understanding of the history of science, and let’s also strengthen our understanding of what happened in the Age of Enlightenment, to include fabrication of this war on science; it would be a great tool for us. Well let me get through a few more pictures.
Provision: This one, it was fascinating because as you orbit the Earth at that speed, there’s a point on the globe of the Earth where the sun reflects off water, and it travels very fast; so I was always looking—we called it “sun glint,” where the sun’s glint was passing over the water—because you could get some beautiful pictures. And this happens to be fish ponds in Egypt. And I found out after the flight, doing some research, that here they grow mostly tilapia for the European market. But just another example of the development of using the resources of God’s creation of man bearing His image, extracting from the provision found in His creation.
We can understand history this way as well. Here’s the Nile River Delta in Egypt; and we know the biblical account of history and the role that Egypt played in history. We see here the provision that comes out of irrigated land with the contrasting colors between the delta itself and the desert around. We see other parts of the biblical history—of course, the early life; of course, the birth of the nation of Israel. There’s lots of things that we can see from our vantage point, putting this all together. And I want you to consider this as components of the unfolding—unfolding, providential history of God heading toward a purpose, right?
And that’s the other way, the other aspect that we need to see these things: our lives. Each of us have been appointed in our time and place and circumstance, and uniquely called to faith in Christ, and then uniquely called to all the other offices that we have in life for a purpose. And we’re on that path of unfolding history toward the ultimate purpose—and we’ll come back to that in a minute.
Here’s a close-up picture of the previous one, but—let’s see, I can get—oh, I got this to work. Right there you see two squares; those are the Pyramids. Can’t quite see them with the naked eye, but with a big, 800-millimeter lens you can pick them up. But just another example from our vantage point.
Fast-forward in history, of course, we’ve got lots of history. New York City is a symbolic place in the world in terms of finances and economics and whatnot. If we want to try to apply a worldview into not only the history of the world, but civilization and what happens economically and all of that, we can do that. We can apply the Bible, the Scriptures, to all those aspects of life. This is, you could say, a culmination, if you will, of man subduing the earth and extracting what God placed in provision in His creation, and in man’s ability to extract from it. So beautiful picture; you can see all the ships in the New York Harbor. Central Park stands out there in the island of Manhattan. I can even pick out Ground Zero. This one was taken in 2016, I believe, so Ground Zero had been restored with the new structures. But just another example.
So going back to those two things I laid side by side—one was on our minds, one was Psalm 111, and the works of God, the works of His hands; and the other was this. And hopefully you have a little bit of a sense how we can put it together, how we can apply a biblical worldview understanding to how and why this can be accomplished, things like this.
Of course, as I said, we can only understand that through the lens of Scripture, and with eyes that have been opened by the grace of God, the work of the Spirit. And from our vantage point, every day we’d pass over this part of the world where from in one moment, you could see the entire landscape of biblical history. And in this view here, also see the entire life of Christ, and reflect on the history that’s recorded in the New Testament, the life of Christ, and contemplate those things; and this only has meaning, significant meaning, through that lens, through understanding the Scripture.
God created the heavens and the earth; He created it for our habitation. Isaiah 45 affirms that God created the earth not without purpose, but for our habitation; and He gave provision, and He gave man the ability to exploit that provision.
Stephen Charnock, a puritan from the 17th century, wrote this: “All things in the world”—“all things in the world one way or another center in the usefulness for man, some to feed him, some to clothe him, some to delight him, some to instruct him, some to exercise his intelligence, and others, his strength.” That’s how we as Christians should see the world around us. God has given us all of this. He’s given us certain abilities, certain opportunities, to exploit the provision according to the mandate given.
Psalm 111 ended with the fear of the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I’ve come to believe that “the fear of the Lord” you could consider as a synonym to “faith,” to saving faith, because by nature we’re not going to fear the Lord; by the nature, we’re going to hate Him, we’re going to exclude Him. So the fear of the Lord is granted to us by grace, it’s not something we achieve.
I would encourage you—I’ll give you this as homework because I’m running short on time. Go to Job 28—homework—and I’ll just give you a little synopsis of Job 28. The first half of the chapter describes—and you may not see it at first glance, but hopefully after this discussion you’ll see it. It describes two things. It describes the provision that’s in God creation, and it’s in the setting of mining ore out of the mountain. “Deep shafts” it talks about—gold and silver and iron ore. It talks about growing food out of the earth. So it speaks of the truth of how God has provisioned His creation.
But you also have the miners in the first half of Job 28, and it acknowledges the uniqueness of the ability that God has given man: to search out His creation, to explore, to discover, to find, to burrow in the mountains, to dig a deep shaft and discover what’s there and find it useful in unique ways, and then get it out. It references damming up a stream. It also acknowledges that the animals have no concept of that. You know, it talks about lions, it talks about birds; they don’t care, they don’t know, they have no cognitive ability. It’s unique to man bearing His image.
But then halfway through that chapter of Job 28 there’s that word that we always need to pay attention to, where we kind of sit up in our seat. It says, “But.” “But where can wisdom be found?” And then it goes into the description of, “We know of it, we know it’s there, we’ve heard a rumor of it.” God knows where it is. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
So the first half talks about the ability of man. And we can attain so much, given our natural, God-given ability, but we cannot attain, on our own wisdom, true wisdom; it must be granted to us by grace. That’s what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. That’s what Paul talks about in Colossians chapter 2 as Christ being our wisdom. It’s alluded to in Proverbs 8, where wisdom is personified as a master workman who is at God’s side when He marked out the foundations of the earth. We’re very familiar with John 1, the word logos. “The Logos was life, and the life was the light of man. The Logos created all things, not anything was created that wasn’t created by the Logos.”
That helps inform our understanding in what we’ve been talking about, what we’ve been considering. Logos, obviously “the Word,” right, “the Word, the Word.” It was very familiar to the Jewish mind, because the Word of God was repeated and affirmed and given throughout history of the Old Testament. But the Greek word logos had a unique connotation to the Greek mind. Basically it was used as the rationality that explained the existence of all things. It was what we know intuitively. There’s a reason everything exists. There’s a cause, a first cause. This is the effect, as John reminded us yesterday. It’s a rationality. It’s a reason. It’s a power and a force that’s outside of creation. That rationality has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ—and that’s John’s point.
And Hebrews 1 speaks of the Son, that God had “spoke to us in the Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world, who is the radiance of [the] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” I love that word “upholds.” Paul uses it, “He sustains it”—right? He sustains, He upholds the words of creation. That word “uphold” in the Greek conveys an idea of “bringing forward” or “progressing in time toward a purpose.” So He is upholding His creation as in providence, the unfolding history occurs that culminates in a purpose.
What is the ultimate purpose? The ultimate purpose of God from eternity past is in unfolding time to redeem a people of His own, and then to gather them together in time to form them in what the Bible calls “the body of Christ” or “the bride of Christ,” that the Son goes to redeem and purchase and suffer and die for, and then in God’s unfolding providence to collect, to bring to faith, to be granted the wisdom, to unfold, if you will, those entries in the Book of Life, those name written in the Book of Life to be presented as the bride of Christ.
That’s our purpose. That’s our worldview. That’s how we ought to see this work of science and technology and whatever else is unique in our place on earth.
That, by the way, is aurora. I could talk a lot on that, right—awe and wonder, electromagnetism, unknown phenomena, how does that work, the contingency of nature.
I want to end—and then I’ll close with prayer—I want to end with a short video. It’s about a three-minute video, and it’s the best example that I have visually that invokes some of the things that we’ve been talking about, invokes maybe in a new way the awe and wonder of the wisdom and the power and the majesty of our Creator who is also our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let’s watch this video, and then I’ll close with prayer.
[Video playing from 1:03:11 to 1:06:57]
Dear Heavenly Father, we come before You with a renewed sense of Your majesty and the wisdom and the purpose, the design in Your work, in the work of Your hands and in Your work of creation, in the work of provisioning the creation in so many ways, so many ways that, Lord, we can only begin to consider just the tip of the iceberg in the ways that You have provisioned and ordered Your creation and, Lord, given us the ability to subdue it, to observe it, to contemplate things: How do things work? How does this work? What can we use it for? And You’ve given us the ability to develop it and exploit it, and to bring comfort to life, and to bring enjoyment to life, and to give us ways to provide for each other, provide for our families; and all that’s by Your common grace.
And Lord, we can only understand that through Your work of redemption, Your work of specific grace, the granted fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, fulfilled in our Redeemer Jesus Christ, who’s also our Creator, and who upholds His creation to bring it to final purpose, Lord. Let us grow in our contemplation of these things and our understanding of these things and the response that each of us has in the calling that You’ve given us in life, to bring even these aspects of a biblical worldview to bear to our own households, to our congregations, and to those around us—ultimately so that we give witness to Christ, that He is glorified in our witness. Lord, let us grow in gratitude for Your works, for the gracious works of Your hands, to the end of glorifying our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.
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