“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” Psalm 19:1-6
I recently performed a funeral for a church member who, as far as I understood him, was neither an artist nor a romantic. He was a physicist. An analytic. He observed nature from the perspective of the scientist, not the poet.
But when he observed the world from that perspective—when he studied the intricate mysteries of how the world works—what he saw there was not accident, but design. He saw order rather than chaos. The physical laws codified by such men as Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein made sense to him because they are descriptions of how the world actually works. And he recognized—even as the verses of this Psalm attest—that the physical world works so wonderfully and perfectly because it was designed.
FAITH VS. REASON?
Sadly, a gap has appeared in our culture between Christianity and science—a seemingly unbridgeable divide between faith and reason. However, many men and women of science—biologists, doctors, physicists, etc.—recognize the design in the universe. And they willingly and reverently ascribe it to the hand of a powerful creator. In fact, the very foundations of science that spurred men like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein to their discoveries are anchored in the assumption that the universe is orderly precisely because it has been designed.
In her book, The Soul of Science, Nancy Pearcey makes the case that modern scientific inquiry and discovery would never have materialized without the basis of the Christian worldview that dominated Europe for nearly two thousand years. “Today,” she writes, “a wide range of scholars recognize that Christianity provided both intellectual presuppositions and moral sanction for the development of modern science” (p. 18). She goes on to point out that “modern science arose within a culture saturated with Christian faith. That historical fact alone is suggestive. It was Christianized Europe that became the birthplace of modern science—there and nowhere else.” The recognition of the natural world as a good creation rather than evil, accidental, or divine created a basis for what she calls “‘faith in the possibility of science’” (p. 21). The cultural mandate given to humanity at creation (Genesis 1:28) is truly the driving force behind all scientific enterprise.
For so many thinking people–including my late friend–the design, rationality, order, and predictability of the natural world affirm and solidify faith in God. Because if the world was carefully and wisely designed, the logical inference is the existence of a Designer. As the Psalmist wrote: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1). The very creation, in its design and its beauty, is speaking—singing, talking, even shouting—to us about its Maker.
The question is, are we paying attention?
WHAT ABOUT THE CHAOS?
It’s easy to analyze objective data and discern evidence of a Designer. We might recognize his design when we contemplate the stars or the beautiful mathematical simplicity of the theory of relativity. However, life is short and full of difficulty. It’s consuming, and oftentimes, hard. It brings with it joy, but also pain and suffering and death. It’s difficult to discern a Designer when chaos rather than order is what defines our days. At times like these, God’s fingerprints are not so easily evident in the mess.
The scientific method itself requires an assumption that verifiable results can be reproduced. That the machine of the physical universe, as understood through a scientific lens, will always be consistent. That there is order. But when we look at our lives, it often seems like someone threw a monkey wrench into the middle of the machine, and the result is chaos.
However, if there is a divine Designer, we can be certain of at least two things. First, we can know that he not only designed the universe, but he also designed each of us perfectly, in his image. Secondly, we can have certainty that he is in control of everything, including the minutes and moments of our lives.
SO WHERE DO I FIT?
In another Psalm, King David echoes the opening verses of Psalm 19:
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1-4
David is asking the question that we all ask: “In this great, well-designed, and orderly universe—a universe you have obviously created, oh God—where do I fit?”
Let’s listen in as David answers his own question by affirming the dignity and worth of our lives: “Yet you [God] have made him [that is, all of mankind] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor…” (v. 5). God has made us according to design, with a certain glory and honor that reflects his own. He has given us a privileged place in his created universe.
More than this, he has fashioned even the daily details of our lives: “in your book were written, every one of them,” David again writes, “the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). The same order that we can see when we look at the stars in the sky, the design of a strand of DNA, or the symmetry of a butterfly can also be found in our bodies, our minds, and the seconds and minutes of our days.
And this is Good News, because it reminds us that God has not forgotten us! He has not left us alone. He does not look down on our misery and turn his back, like the absent god of the Deists. Instead, he walks with us when nothing makes sense. He journeys with us when we are lonely. He comforts us in our grieving. He gives us strength when we are fatigued. And he “works all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
“The LORD is my shepherd”—again, the words of the Shepherd-King David —“I shall not want.” In other words, I go without nothing that I need. Why? Because my Shepherd cares for me in every detail of my life–even the difficult ones. The Psalm continues: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1,4).
The chaos of life, though very real as a result of the sin in the world, cannot ultimately touch me. Even when it presses in on all sides, casting shadows on every moment of our lives, we can be assured it is not the last word. Why? Because God has promised not only to walk with us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but he has walked that same road himself. He has done so in the Person of Jesus Christ, who became human and walked a very human, very lonely, road to death. Our Savior knows exactly what we are going through in our darkest and most chaotic moments. So take heart.
Take heart in this as well: that the God who made you, who designed you, who governs your days, and who loves you, cares for you, and comforts you—has also made you for a purpose. He desires both your love and your praise. What a privilege and opportunity we have to add to the praise of the created world—the world that in its simple design “declares the glory of God.” We have the privilege to sing in praise of this good and gracious creator. We have opportunity to love him and praise him, even when it’s difficult. Even when the tears come easier than the songs.
And he will give you the strength, even for that.