The Disciplines of Knowing: The Sciences (6)
We can’t avoid science, so we ought to appreciate it as fully as we can.
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” Matthew 16.1-3
A science-blessed world
We live in a world abundantly blessed by the work of scientists. We simply can’t get away from or avoid the many good and useful benefits science brings to us each day. Vern Poythress reminds us, “Whether we like science or not, we all have to deal with it on a practical level” (Redeeming Science). That may seem obvious, but perhaps it’s so obvious that we have taken for granted the enormous boon the scientific revolution has made possible for us. And perhaps we’ve never paused to consider whether the way we make use of science is consistent with our calling to live for the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12; 1 Cor. 10.31).
As I write this, I’m sitting in our TV room listening to a recording of Benny Goodman playing Mozart’s clarinet concerto in A major. The room is well-lighted and warm, despite the gray skies and nearly 16 inches of snow on the ground outside. Modest furnishings state the theme of our home décor – American simplicity. Some prints of Andrew Wyeth flank the walls on either side of the cabinet that holds our television. Two dogs lie at my feet, one on the hassock, the other on a reproduction Persian rug. As I clean my glasses and take a drink from the can of flavored fizzy water next to me on the side table, I hear the furnace pumping warm air through the ducts; and I’m keeping an eye on the cursor as my fingers tap away at the keys on my laptop.
None of this would have been possible without science. Science has led to the technological revolution that shows us how to harness light and sound waves; create images by computer code; reproduce paintings and recordings so that they can be widely available; manufacture inexpensive furnishings, provide heat and light for our homes; and transform fingers tapping on a plastic board into letters and words, which can be read after they have been sent by light waves over thousands of miles. Science has perfected the packaging of foods, given us lenses to improve our vision, and made possible inexpensive fabrics that can be dyed and woven into all kinds of furnishings and clothes.
Whether we like it or not, or whether we are even aware of it, we are all making use of science every moment of every day! And this should prompt within us the question, “To what end?” “Am I using science as one should who is devoted to Jesus Christ, our Savior, King, and Lord?”
I want to propose a two-pronged answer to those questions.
A call to worship
In his excellent book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller offers sound advice for improving our prayer lives. He assumes we all need some help here, and most of us will readily agree.
The focus of Paul Miller’s book is on bringing prayer more consistently into the everyday situations and activities of our lives. And given that we are inescapably and continuously involved with science in one form or another, science can function like a call to worship – if, that is, we’re open to hearing the call.
As we have said, the gifts of science all come from the grace of our Redeemer and Lord. He gives these gifts to human beings, like the boundaries and languages He provided for the early nations of the earth, so that we might realize how good, wonderful, loving, faithful, and strong He is, and might seek Him more diligently. None of what science has wrought would be possible without the work of God, as Samuel Morse acknowledged in the first demonstration of his telegraph machine. The message he sent from the nation’s capital to Baltimore was simply, “What God hath wrought.” Morse was inviting those observing the demonstration to join him in marveling and giving thanks at the way God enabled him to bring this new technology into existence. Everything science does or has made possible is of the same order – a gift from God. And therefore, everything by which we connect with or benefit from the work of scientists in a wide range of fields should cause us to wonder and lead us to thanksgiving and praise.
Take time each day, at several times in the day, to consider some object of science. Don’t take anything for granted. Ball point pens, automobiles, the food you eat and the clothes you wear – all are available for your use because of science, and because God has given a great many people the ability to employ the disciplines of science to good ends. Give thanks to God, in concrete and specific detail, for all the benefits science brings to you each day. Overlook nothing. You could spend the whole day doing nothing but moving from one call to worship to the next, praising and thanking the Lord for the goodness He lavishes upon you through science.
You can expect two benefits from letting the works of science call you to worship like this. First, you will pray more often, as Paul Miller explains. And second, you will be more constantly aware of God’s loving kindness and provision, so that you know your Savior to be truly, abundantly, profusely, and continuously good to you. Your love for Jesus will increase as you let His gifts to you through science lead you daily into worship.
A call to stewardship
Jesus’ rebuke to the religious leaders of His day was that they didn’t go far enough in their use of science. They could tell the weather by observing the skies, but they couldn’t see beyond the weather to Him Who makes and sustains it. They could not see in the blessings and patterns of weather the signs of One Who loved them with an everlasting love, so much that He sent His own Son, brandishing signs of every sort, to tell them that their redemption was nigh.
We are being good stewards of science when we use the gifts and products of science in ways that prepare us and the world for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. We should not indulge any products of science that might corrupt our souls, cause our bodies to decline or our neighbors to stumble into sin; or lead us to regard those gifts – rather than Him Who gives them – as our greatest good and joy. We should care for the gifts of science God entrusts to us, as we would a treasured gift from any loved one, and use them as intended by God, not merely by those who manufacture and distribute them.
We can glorify God in the way we use the His gifts; and in so doing, we can do much good for ourselves and the people God has put into our lives. The gifts of science can empower us for many good works, and thus enable us to fulfill our calling as followers of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2.8-10) and seekers of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 6.33; Rom. 14.17, 18).
And the more conscientious, diligent, and faithful we are in this, the more we will rejoice in the Lord, and the more we may expect Him to grant us additional gifts to use for His glory.
A second facet of our stewardship of science relates to the countless ways science can facilitate conversations about goodness, beauty, and truth – conversations that can pave the way for us to tell others about the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (Of this we shall have more to say in our final installment in this part of our study.)
1. Choose one object made possible by science that is immediately within your purview. Spend 10 minutes thinking about it from all aspects – what it consists of, what it allows you to do, how you came to acquire it, etc. Then praise and thank God for what He shows you of His love and goodness.
2. Why does it make sense to connect the good gifts of God with Christ? How does this help us increase in knowing Him?
3. How can you be more consistent in heeding the call to worship that science provides, and in exercising better stewardship over the gifts of science?
Next Steps – Preparation: As you pray in the morning, think about opportunities science will bring you to give thanks and praise to God. Jot these down on a note card or a note app, and use them to remind you to pray throughout the day.
T. M. Moore
Science has been taken captive by the secular temper of the times, and we need to understand how this has happened. Our book, Understanding the Times, is a valuable guide to understanding the world we live in and how we as Christians can understand how to live in it. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.