Recently Nicholas Kristof and his 15-year-old daughter hiked the spectacular 200+ mile Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon.
As an Oregonian, I couldn’t agree more with his daughter’s description of the region as “the most beautiful place in the world.”
After soaking in the wonders of creation by day and drifting asleep night after night under the open skies counting shooting stars, the awestruck NYTimes journalist wrote,
“We imbibed from glacier-fed creeks, startled elk, and dallied beside alpine meadows so dazzling that they constitute an argument for the existence of God.”
When the iconic sufferer Job was wrestling with some of the biggest questions any human being ever asks about God, God responded by taking his beleaguered child on a nature walk. This wasn’t a tactic to distract Job from his problems by changing the subject. To the contrary, God was getting straight to the very heart of the questions bothering Job.
God pointed to nature and unexpectedly turned the questioning back on Job. What Job learned from nature brought him to his knees with these words,
“You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” —Job 42:3-6
My week began by reading a blog on science by Peter Enns. “Thinking about God just makes me want to keep my mouth shut” is a mind-bending contemplation of the marvels modern science is uncovering and what those marvels are telling us about God.
Enns’ blog opened with these staggering statistics:
“Smart people tell us that the universe is about 14 billion years old and about 46 billion light years across. Light travels about 5.87 trillion miles a year (you heard me). Multiply that by 46 billion. My calculator broke. I came up with 2.70231100992E23. According to my extensive 10 second Google research, the numbers before the E are to be multiplied by 10 to the 23rd power.
I think this is what God laughing at us looks like.”
From the beginning of creation, God has revealed himself through nature. Professional theologians call this “general revelation,” and it is accessible to every human being. But please don’t mistake general revelation as “theology for dummies” or entry level theology from which we’re supposed to graduate to the more advanced courses taught in seminary classrooms and from pulpits that focus solely on the special revelation of the Scriptures. Of course, both are gifts. Both are important. And the combination of the two, well it’s simply mind-blowing.
But it’s the subject matter, not the classroom setting, that throws us into depths where we’re all in over our heads. As Dr. Enns explains,
“To take this all in, as far as I am concerned, is above our mortal pay grade. Those of us who believe this kind of God exists should feel put in our place, pretty much walking around with that ‘I can’t believe what I just saw’ look in our eye.”
So where is science taking us? Does it take us away from God and destroy our faith as some evangelicals fear? Or does it draw us to him with a force that is stronger than gravity?
Natural science compelled Nicholas Kristof to ponder the existence of God.
A nature walk took the agonized and doubting Job to a deeper realm of trust in God—within the context of unspeakable losses, unchanged circumstances, and the evils done against him.
Modern science gave a Ph.D. Old Testament professor a clearer perspective on God, himself, and life that rendered him speechless.
So for the spiritually dry, the curious, the skeptic, the struggling soul who is hungry for God, or for those who misperceive theology as a boring, dry subject—a nature walk or a science lesson may be just the thing. And maybe afterwards we’ll find ourselves on our knees, contemplating things too wonderful for words, in a awestruck humble silence, with a flagging faith in God recharged and an appetite for more.
“I’ve often wondered if our best worship leaders shouldn’t be coming from the scientific community. When scientists investigate the endless frontiers of creation — probing upward in the universe and downward into the microscopic intricacies of the atom and DNA — it makes sense that they would be the first to fall on their knees with songs of praise to the Creator, whose wisdom envisioned, planned, and created such marvels. The legendary sufferer Job wasn’t a scientist, but that’s exactly how he responded when God took him on a nature walk. Somehow, contemplating God’s creation and how beautifully it all works together under his all-seeing eye reminds us that our God is a Master Architect who knows what he is doing, even when his ways are baffling to us.” —Half the Church