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God Revealed in Creation

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July 25, 2010 Tags: Education

Today's video features Daniel Harrell. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video, pastor Daniel Harrell looks at how we can worship God by understanding the world around us as revelations of God’s nature. Harrell notes that, to him, faith must correspond to how things are, not merely how we wish they could be. Thus, exploring nature can be seen as a way to also explore our faith.

Harrell also notes that the idea of God revealing himself through creation is “very, very old indeed.” Scripture acknowledges it, and a long history of theologians and thinking Christians have held this perspective. Just as David marvels at creation in the Psalms and considers how his understanding of nature can influence his understanding of God, so too we can marvel at the complexity of DNA or the diversity of life or the majesty of the universe and consider how these are also manifestations of God’s character.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Daniel Harrell is the Senior Minister of Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota. He is the author of the books Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith, How To Be Perfect: One Church’s Experiment with Living the Book of Leviticus, and the forthcoming Wisdom of the Saints (And Near Saints): Christian Inspiration from A-Z. He also teaches theology at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul.


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merv - #23481

July 26th 2010

Thanks, webmaster, it appears fine now!

-Merv


merv - #23489

July 26th 2010

JKnott, I think a case can be made that God does reveal himself even through what we now call “bad science” (I’m not sure I agree with your choice of labels on that because it seems to carry an implicit assumption that all error of the past = bad science and that what we have now is “good” science which has dispensed with error; —- “better science” or “more developed science” might be more livable terms)

But anyway, in I Samuel when we are told that the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s——that would be using the science of the day (the “bad” stuff of thinking that the immovable earth must rest on something) and using it to teach that the earth down to its utmost foundations is still all the Lord’s.  We accept the teaching as it is even though it was accommodated to wording they would understand even with its faulty literal way.  Since the passage isn’t about science or the earth, but about God, the teaching remains perfectly valid, doesn’t it?  This all fits the Christian notion of incarnation—- that a perfect God could enter into the flesh and life of a broken world and meet us where we are (both in that age and this.)

—Merv


conrad - #23490

July 26th 2010

And BTW Spielman,....... as for “Wild eyed preachers on street corners” ,...  I should remind you that John Wesley started out that way.

I don’t see anything wrong with that.
  I recently saw the plaque on a brick wall commemorating the place where Wesley first went out to preach to the coal miners.

I AM PROUD TO BEING THAT TRADITION !
THANK YOU.


merv - #23492

July 26th 2010

If God accommodates himself to our age (and I believe He does), then (being aware of our obsession for scientific technicality) we would no longer compare God’s attributes to things that now seem faulty to us.  But we might say something like “God is as vast as the cosmos” which would carry expanded meaning for us now that the ancients never imagined. 

As infants we may imagine our parents to be these objects that are (mostly) at our beck & call.  As children we become aware of new dimensions our parents have—-they can play with us and talk with us!  As teenagers we lean on our parents in newer & bigger ways.  It isn’t that our parents are changing (though no doubt they are), so much as we are changing.  As we see and learn more, God grows for us as well.  At least that’s how I see it.

—Merv


merv - #23493

July 26th 2010

HI CONRAD!!!  I don’t doubt that some famous preachers of history were KNOWN FOR SHOUTING.  And the deaf and hard of hearing were probably appreciative.

In modern visual forums, though, such shouting may bring more to mind the saying: 

“WHERE REASON CAN’T GET THE JOB DONE, GO FOR VOLUME!”

...but for the record, I don’t think all your reasonings are necessarily un-interesting or weak—so it would be a pity if the shouting distracts readers from due consideration of your points.

—Merv
p.s.  big bang was a great boon for Christians as opposed to a steady-state universe.  But trying to exact such expansive and exact concordance between modern understandings and ancient wordings strains at credulity in unnecessary ways.


merv - #23494

July 26th 2010

... or perhaps I should have said:  “the big bang was a great *boom* for Christians ....”


R Hampton - #23495

July 26th 2010

Moreover, I’d like to hear some specifics: what precise finding or findings of science tells us what, exactly, about God?

Science tells us about how God made Creation, and how it continues to function. With this knowledge, we have a better understanding of how all of Creation relates to itself, and thus to God who is the first cause and the sustain force.

Consider the folding of proteins - fundamental to RNA based life - which requires a firm understanding of fields such as quantum physics, biology, chemistry, genetics, computer science, et. al. It’s so very complicated and we still don’t understand it, yet a protein can intrinsically fold into a precise 3-D shape in fractions of a second. Even with our limited comprehension, we can already design proteins.

Looking at the larger picture, we know that protein folding was inevitable given the fundamental physical principles of the Universe. In fact, everything exists because of a simple set of initial conditions. in other words, Creation is the most brilliant engineering ever conceived—something so perfectly formed that it can build increasingly complex structures from within, and come alive.


R Hampton - #23496

July 26th 2010

If we were to follow God’s lead as Creator (engineer, artist, etc.), then we would always optimize designs (desires) to maximally achieve an inherently good goal with the absolute minimum of resources. Furthermore, the means by which our design proceeds from beginning to end must also be inherently good. Finally, our design must be fully integrated with everything else. Obviously an impossible standard, but it does positively direct us to demand ever more of ourselves and of civilization.


conrad - #23500

July 26th 2010

Uh Merv,, we shouldn’t even use the term Big Bang.
That term was coined by a man who was trying to ridicule evidence of creation, Fred Hoyle.

He was a devout steady state believer at the time and an agnostic.

In fairness to Sir Fred Hoyle, who was later knighted, he gave up both the steady state views and the agnostic view after examining the evidence further.

He decided it could only happen if there was a God who created it.
Christians should be telling the story of Hoyle’s life but they hardly ever do.
It is another missed opportunity,.......AND I AM GOING TO SHOUT ABOUT IT!!!!!!

You see there is no evidence of either loud noise or an explosion.

BUT THERE IS EVIDENCE OF SUDDEN,..... MIRACULOUS ...... CREATION.

Read about Fred Hoyle’s life. Here was a hard headed scientist and a maverick who found God through science.

His helper Chandra Wicksramasinghe still lives and he thinks Darwinian evolution is flawed in many ways,..... AND HIS VIEWS ARE MORE CONGRUENT WITH DAY 3 OF THE BIBLE I.E PANSPERMIA.

But I don’t want to shock the other fine board readers, so I will not go into that now.
Look him up.


nedbrek - #23502

July 26th 2010

R Hampton: “we would always optimize designs (desires) to maximally achieve an inherently good goal with the absolute minimum of resources”
Is that what we see in creation, especially re. an old earth?  Hundreds of millions of years of animals, 50% or more of whose species are now extinct.  A galaxy 15 billion ly across, just for one planet full of people?


HornSpiel - #23503

July 26th 2010

RH

Are you saying that you think genome and or organism designs have been optimized according to your criteria?

One form of optimization which does not occur in the genome, as far as I know, is what is called in software engineering refactoring. This is a rewrite of all or part of the code to make it more robust, efficient, and extensible.

If we saw evidence if occasional refactoring in the genome then this would be strong evidence for intelligent intervention. I wonder if any one has any knowledge of this one way or the other.


R Hampton - #23514

July 26th 2010

nedbrek,
If we believe a priori that God is inherently good, omnipotent and omniscient, then it stands to reason that his plan is optimal. That we don’t understand the purpose of vast time and space does not mean it lacks divine purpose. We must recognize that God’ plan includes more than just Man himself or his primary needs.

HornSpiel,
Optimized in that everything that has existed, currently exists, or will exist, was conceived of before creation to fulfill the divine plan.


nedbrek - #23520

July 26th 2010

You are assuming God’s purpose is to demonstrate His mad engineering skills.  I don’t see anything in the Bible that indicates that.

God is demonstrating His attributes - love, justice, mercy, etc.

I believe God is a better engineer than we are (witness the incredible code reuse present in DNA), but that is a secondary point.


nedbrek - #23521

July 26th 2010

HornSpiel, I don’t believe God practices refactoring.  We refactor to keep complexity within a region we can understand - God has no such requirement.


JKnott - #23522

July 26th 2010

@merv - #23489 and 23492

It seems to me you are saying God accomodates to our understanding of the cosmos.  I agree.  But that hardly answers my critique of the view in question.  B/C if God can accomodate, then we don’t need good or better or more advanced science to know God.  We do like it for other, very legitimate reasons.  And I don’t question those.

@R Hampton—

I think HornSpiel has a point.  That is, I’m not sure everything could be said to be efficient.  Maybe it is in a way we don’t know.  If so, we are speculating, and not really learning from our knowledge of the nat. world. Anyway, Paul in Romans 1 could not possibly have been speaking about protein folding.


R Hampton - #23529

July 26th 2010

JKnott, HornSpiel
Everything is efficient given God’s plan - a creation that allows for free will and contingent (and random) events. In judging efficiency, we must remember that nothing (material) exists simply for itself, but as a part of a unified whole. Thus the genome is optimized given all its interactions and reliance upon physical laws. Man is prone to judge things like the genome on its own, but that is not how it was created.

To put it another way, while we may conceive of a better genome unto itself, could we conceive of a better way to create the universe in which a better genome arises and still satisfy God’s objectives? If so, then we are smarter than God. The supposition, however, is that God’s plan is optimal and thus a better genome would result in a loss of something more important.


HornSpiel - #23533

July 26th 2010

RH

In other words, we live int the best of all possible worlds?  That’s a comforting thought, but it does not help my lower back problem. :-}

As far as science goes it is not helpful for understanding creation. If everything is a priori optimized then there is no point in trying to distinguish between intelligent intervention and the various kinds of inefficiencies predicted by evolutionary theory.


R Hampton - #23536

July 26th 2010

As far as science goes it is not helpful for understanding creation. If everything is a priori optimized then there is no point in trying to distinguish between intelligent intervention and the various kinds of inefficiencies predicted by evolutionary theory.

You are correct in that Science can not tell the difference between a God created universe and a randomly created universe. That’s how the Ancient Greeks were able to formulate rational philosophy, develop mathematics and lay the foundations for science. But to know First Cause you need Special Revelation, and that lies outside the bounds of Reason.


R Hampton - #23539

July 26th 2010

NOTE: In the above post, I used “random” in the sense that Christians opposed to Evolution understand the word - meaning Theologically unguided - and not in the statistical sense of lacking a scientifically determinable outcome.


merv - #23545

July 26th 2010

JKnott wrote:  “...we don’t need good or better or more advanced science to know God. “

I agree with that 100%.

RHampton, the problem with discerning how God may / should have optimized things in creation is that we have no idea what God would have optimized *for*.

E.g.  A car may be traveling at high speeds down a road making you think:  “crazy driver!”  But the driver may be optimizing his travel according to rate—-maybe getting somebody to the hospital.  Another car may be going under the speed limit (this would be me), while you curse and swear behind him.  But he may be optimizing for gas mileage.  Another car may be flowing with traffic but staying near the speed limit—he may be optimizing for safety.  Without knowing the rationale in each case you really aren’t in a position to know what’s going on.  Everyone of these vehicles is being “most efficient” but according to different rationale.  How much less can we guess what constitutes “efficiency” or can we guess about the efficiency of *what* when it comes to God creating your average universe.  We have no statistics to help us since we have a sample of 1.

—Merv


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