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Finding Our Voice

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February 13, 2011 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by Mark Sprinkle. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Conversations about the relationship between science and faith in the Christian context will nearly always include some reference to the idea of the natural world and the Bible being the “two books” through which God has made himself known. Another way of making the same distinction is to say that each represents a different kind of revelation: general, whereby God shows Himself as creator, and special, wherein He shows Himself to be redeemer.

Referring to Paul’s statement that “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20), cultural historian Ken Meyers observes that “theologians, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards, have argued that God’s eternity, power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, truth, justice, and judgment are displayed in the universe. But not his grace. For that, we must rely on his special revelation in redemptive history, in Christ, and in the apostles and prophets.”

What then is the relation between the two books, the two kinds of revelation? Are they really as “separate” as the image of two books sitting beside each other on the same shelf suggests? Can we read one, but not both, and still have the picture of God and ourselves that He wants us to have? Usually such questions are approached through philosophy and theology—the more rational and analytical modes of our human thinking. But I wonder if the answer might lie not in our study of God but in our praise of Him. For in praise, we take up our own dual natures— both as part of what has been created and as heirs to the divine process of creating.

When we make the very air vibrate with the sounds of our voices and instruments, we ever so gently counter claims that the two revelations are set apart from each other, that one must supersede the other. Following Jesus, we take on the priestly role of singing the love of the Father to the creation and singing the love of the creation back to the Father. Perhaps these are not two books after all, but two hands working in concert, an accompaniment as we give voice to the unity of God’s revelation of Himself.

This is the image of praise that emerges in Alex Mejias’ new setting of 19th-century Scottish preacher and hymnist Horatius Bonar’s text, “O love of God, how strong and true!” Bonar’s words shift from an initial statement of the opacity of God’s essential character through a series of statements about how we can, nevertheless, “read” of Him in His works, both natural and historical. In effect, Bonar gives a narrative line that moves from general revelation to special revelation. But in writing a new refrain that alternates with the original verses, Mejias reminds us that God continues to reveal Himself in the natural world, most explicitly in us, who he has enabled to share in his character and fellowship and love, though we are yet part of the creation.

In structure as well as words, then, Mejias’ hymn reminds us that God’s two kinds of revelation—the two books—may both be “read,” but their meanings emerge most fully when we engage with, respond to, and share them as a unified whole. Indeed, he ends the piece not with a reprise of the refrain, but with Bonar’s own statement of how we are assured that the presumed distance between heaven and earth was collapsed in the resurrection of Jesus. The hope and prayer that all creation will “find a voice” begins to be realized in the act of raising our own voices in thanksgiving and praise for that act of unification, one that compels us on behalf of all of creation to “speak His mercy and rejoice.”

“O love of God, how strong and true!”

by Horatius Bonar/Alex Mejias

O love of God, how strong and true!
Eternal, and yet ever new;
Uncomprehended and unbought,
Beyond all knowledge and all thought.

O wide embracing, wondrous love!
We read thee in the sky above,
We read thee in the earth below,
In seas that swell, and streams that flow.

Let all creation praise His name
The wonders of His love proclaim
Let all creation find a voice
To speak His mercy and rejoice

We read thee best in Him who came
To bear for us the cross of shame;
Sent by the Father from on high,
Our life to live, our death to die.

Refrain: (x2)
Let all creation praise His name
The wonders of His love proclaim
Let all creation find a voice
To speak His mercy and rejoice

We read thy power to bless and save,
E’en in the darkness of the grave;
Still more in resurrection light,
We read the fullness of thy might.

Alex Mejias is the founder and director of High Street Hymns, a non-profit music ministry that exists to spread the Gospel and worship the Triune God in spirit and truth through hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Alex grew up in New Jersey and outside Washington, DC, receiving a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. For the past 15 years he has been leading worship for churches and ministries, writing and recording both new and old hymns, and touring the east coast as a singer-songwriter. Alex is also committed to the power of the creative arts to advance the Gospel and promote justice and healing in the name of Christ, serving, supporting, and collaborating with several other non-profit ministries. More details on these projects and music may be found at High Street Hymns.

Mark Sprinkle is an artist and cultural historian, and was formerly Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A phi beta kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996 he has been an independent artist and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. Mark and his wife Beth home-schooled their three boys, and are active in the local home-school community in Richmond, Virginia.

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William Mayor - #51692

February 19th 2011

I believe that the question of the two sources for knowledge about God is a clear mistake.  Aquinas warned that a mistake about the creation will lead to a mistake about the creator, thus science and religion must work together.  Unfortunately what I find all too often is one side making limiting assertions and then requiring the other side to work with within the limitations.  Must creation be “ex nihilo”, or there a different way to understand some biblical assertions?  Must God be outside all laws of physics or can He be understood within these laws, possibly with some amendations as have been applied to various laws as new discoveries have been made.  For example, must “Sin” be something God is incapable of as opposed to wise enough to avoid?

Perhaps what we need to do is to revise our worldview, undergo a paradigm shift as it were, to gain sufficient insight to easily reconcile science and religion.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #51762

February 19th 2011

I do not think that we need to bring God down.  I think that we need to raise Creation up as the psalmists do.  God’s Creation is not stupid as the selucularists say.  God’s Creation has been imbued with the wisdom of God’s natural law and moral law.  God’s Creation is not purposeless as the secularists say.  It has been wonderfully structured to be the home of life, human and other kinds of life. 

Bonar is right.  God’s love and faithfulness are found in God’s creation.  God didn’t have to do it, but God did.  God’s faithfulness is in and over all God’s works.

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