Definitive moments in life transcend time and are unforgettable. One such moment occurred for me in Arizona on a lazy, late afternoon in November of 1980.
My wife and I, newlyweds en route by car from Louisiana to California, were seated on a bench overlooking the south rim of the Grand Canyon. My mind was somewhat numbed due to its recent exposure to a National Park presentation explaining the evolutionary origin and age of the strata before us. Both of us were in a lackluster state as we stared inattentively at the extraordinary vista. To our rear I heard a bus putter to a stop and its occupants unload in a cacophony of voices. As the voices approached the volume noticeably decreased. I could distinguish German phrases. "Great," I thought, "tourists and foreign to boot!" What happened next stunned me in my stupor. An elderly, large-framed German lady marched past us and stopped abruptly a few feet in front of us. With a sweeping motion of her eyes, she surveyed the scene before her. She lifted her hands toward the sky and out from her mouth poured resounding and angelic "Alleluias" (German for, you guessed it, Alleluia).
The Blunt of Naturalism
I had lost an attitude of wonder and it took this worshipping lady from Germany (God bless her) to rouse me from my inattention. What had dulled me for a few moments has blunted modern culture for generations. One of the characteristic signs that a culture is under divine judgment is a loss of wonder in the greatness of God's Works. The prophet Isaiah articulated this truth over 2,700 years ago:
Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink; who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! And their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst. (Is. 5:11-13, emphasis added.)
Modern culture, indoctrinated by the evolutionary presuppositions that govern its education, media, and politics has, as a result, absolutized the naturalistic perspective. Rainbows, rocks, stars, butterflies, and the entirety of humanity are nothing but pieces of driftwood washed up on the shore of fate. Converts to this "evangel" stare inattentively at the Grand Canyon and repeat the liturgy of despair, "Praise and honor to Strata, Subsidences, and Uplifts."1
Seeing the world through regenerated hearts and "Biblical eyes" will produce awe and wonder in the beholder. God has designed every aspect of the created order to instruct us (Job 12:7-9). The "evangel" of evolution, with its sweeping applications to every area of thought and life has, by its denial of the Creator God, blinded the eyes of a great many people to this reality.2
The Pleasure of Creation
This has not always been the case. Science historian Reijer Hooykas (1906-1994) said this about the early European scientists: "What strikes one most about the early Protestant scientists is their love for nature, in which they recognize the work of God's hands, and their pleasure in investigating natural phenomena."3 Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), one of those scientists, found the same pleasure in the study of heavenly harmony as the 1924 four hundred meter Olympic gold-medallist and "Flying Scotsman" Eric Liddell (1902-1945) did when he ran. According to Liddell, "God made me for a purpose. He made me for China [as a missionary ? JN]. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."4 For John Ray (16271705), who wrote Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation (first published in 1691),5 nature was a vast library of creation and there he found a limitless store of divinity. He believed the most glorious calling of man was to study and enjoy the Works of God as manifested in nature and, by that, honor the wisdom and goodness of the Creator. He said, "You ask me the use of butterflies. I reply to adorn the world and delight the eyes of men, to brighten the countryside like so many golden jewels. To contemplate their exquisite beauty and variety is to experience the truest pleasure. To gaze inquiringly at such elegance of color and form devised by the ingenuity of nature and painted by her artist's pencil, is to acknowledge and adore the imprint of the art of God."6
Modern proponents of evolutionary naturalism, having their understanding darkened to the reality that the world is the product of a personal, rational Creator, can only find "pleasure in pleasure." This pleasure can never endure (Heb. 11:25) since, for them, the world is a cold, blind, and purposeless realm. Whatever purpose man finds in life must therefore be self-created. Man must, using the Darwinian mechanism, "fit himself in order to survive in this cruel world." For the Biblical Christian, purpose comes from a source outside of himself; i.e., from the calling of God. As Liddell confessed, "God made me for a purpose: for China and to run fast." If a man's vision is governed by naturalism instead of supernaturalism (the Biblical God, His purpose, and His presence), then he ultimately walks alone, without comfort or hope. Whatever comfort or hope man finds is self-generated, dependent upon circumstances, and temporal (since at death, everything ends for naturalistic man). The message of Biblical Christianity frees man from the oppressive burden of creating his own purpose, his own pleasure, and his own world. The glad tidings of the gospel not only deliver man from the encumbrance of sin, they transfer man into a realm (the kingdom of God) where he can learn to realize the reality of the presence, power, and pleasure of God.
Delighting in God's Revelation
The Psalmist David responded to God's Works with pleasurable delight, "The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them" (Ps. 111:2). David's attitude toward the Works of God was the same as his attitude toward the Law-word of God, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:2). David delighted in the Works and Word of God because he considered them to be of highest value: both revealed to him his Creator and Redeemer.7 David's pleasurable delight in the revelation of God was a direct consequence of his intensive study of that revelation. He meditated on the law of God day and night. His study of the Works of God received similar attention: "I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk on Your deeds" (Ps. 77:12). "I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Thy hands" (Ps. 143:5). The story was once told of a wealthy family that prominently placed a beautifully bound book near the entryway to their house. Friends, as they walked by it, would often remark about its elegance. As the sands of time passed, the family moved away, and the house deteriorated to the point that it had to be demolished. Before tearing the building down, what remained in the house was removed. The book was one of those remaining items. As the book was retrieved, it was discovered that it was impossible to open it. Its pages were uncut due to a printer failure. The book had served only a decorative purpose; its contents had never been opened or studied. Both God's Word and God's Works are like the uncut pages of this book to many people, both in the church and outside the church. The Bible may have a prominent decorative place in some homes and God's Works are all around us. Yet, how many people have opened the book of God's Word and the book of God's Works with the intent of serious study?
Biblical Meditation and Delight
The Bible commands us to meditate upon His Word and His Works, and pleasurable delight is the consequence of such reflection. Biblical meditation is an active and deep engagement of the heart (contra the passive transcendental meditative practices of Eastern mystics). We also cannot equate the Biblical practice of mediation with study; i.e., study as we commonly know it (e.g., I've got to study for this exam by stuffing facts in my head). Biblical meditation is a prodigious leap beyond mere study. Meditation is the amazing and marvelous capacity God has given man to discover and observe the revelation of God in His Word and Works, to compare and contrast each of its parts. The treasures of the revelation of God must be patiently excavated because "it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter" (Pr. 25:2).
Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Biblical meditation results in memorization (in no way equivalent to rote memorization), in muttering to oneself with pleasure the Works and Word of God (in no way equivalent to senile mumbling), and in composition. The Hebrew word for "study" in Psalm 111:2 means "sought out, to tread frequently, to beat a path, to learn or study, to compose a book studiously." We may respond to our musings by writing a book or by composing a Psalm, prayer, or a piece of music (Job 36:24). We can also respond in triumphant and joyful celebration (Ps. 92:4). As we particularly reflect upon God's Works (in the context of and in submission to God's Word), we also come to acknowledge God's exhaustive sovereignty (Job 9, 37-41). More importantly, since Biblical meditation is always linked to faithful obedience (Jos. 1:8; Pr. 4:20-22), its practice will generate enduring fruit (Ps. 1:3) and our lives will become a "living epistle, known and read by all men" (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
Creativity, Invention, and Ethics
The principles of meditation are keys to creativity and invention. The characteristics of the great inventors are intense diligence and persistence (they keep coming back to the object of study leaving no stone unturned), optimism, and originality of approach combined with an almost mystical conviction that there are more effective, more elegant ways of doing things. The English physicist E. N. da Costa Andrade (1887-1971) said this about the meditative habits of the great English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): "I would rather say that Newton was capable of greater sustained mental effort than any man, before or since."8 Science historian Stanley L. Jaki (1924-) notes that "Newtonian science was the product of a truly inventive intellect pondering the witness of the senses."9 Speaking to the YMCA at Blue Ridge, North Carolina in 1921, the scientist George Washington Carver (1864-1943), a seasoned student of God's Word and Works, said:
Years ago I went into my laboratory and said, "Dear Mr. Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for?" The Great Creator answered, "You want to know too much for that little mind of yours. Ask for something more your size, little man." Then I asked, "Please, Mr. Creator, tell me what man was made for?" Again the Great Creator replied, "You are still asking too much. Cut down on the extent and improve the intent." So then I asked, "Please, Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?" "That's better, but even then it's infinite. What do you want to know about the peanut?" "Mr. Creator, can I make milk out of the peanut?" "What kind of milk do you want? Good Jersey milk or just plain boarding house milk?" "Good Jersey milk." And then the Great Creator taught me to take the peanut apart and put it together again. And out of the process have come forth all these products!10
The three key ingredients for creativity are contemplation, imagination, and wonder. Non-Christians who possess these qualities have and can invent. Biblical Christians have the ethical and redeeming component (the glory of God) to motivate them to bring healing to the nations via their discoveries and inventions (Rev. 22:2). This Christian ethic is a crucial distinction.11 Without the Biblical ethic (produced by the Biblical gospel) controlling the personnel involved in the scientific enterprise, its fruits will be governed, in the words of famed World War II General Omar Bradley (1893-1981), by "nuclear giants" who are "ethical infants."12 One of the ethical lessons that scientists must learn is that science has limitations. To assume otherwise, to assume that science can find a technical solution to all problems, is to embark on a road to disaster.
"Mr. Carver, does the Bible tell about peanuts?" queried the United States Senate Ways and Means Committee in 1921. Carver answered, "No sir, but it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did."13 Ethical maturity is not the only component that Christians bring to the scientific table. Christians also have an additional laboratory assistant (as Carver readily acknowledged); they are in fellowship contact with the Author of all things, the Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom of knowledge, and the illuminatory ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is to the chagrin of the Christian church and a dishonor to the name of Christ that Christians are not consistently on the forefront of scientific and technological invention.14
1. Renowned philosopher (according to the standards of modernity), logician, and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) once made this remarkably incoherent proposition: "only within the scaffolding of these truths [that humanity is the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms - JN], only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built." Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 107.
2. Professor Richard Dawkins (1941-) of Oxford University, along with the late Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002) and Carl Sagan (1934-1996) are/were modernity's self-proclaimed "evangelists" of Darwinism. Like Bertrand Russell before him, Dawkins, in his classic national bestseller The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W. W. Norton, [1986, 1987] 1996), puts on the cloak of the atheistic "evangel" and proclaims, "Darwinism encompasses all of life human, animal, plant, bacterial, and...extraterrestrial. It provides the only satisfying explanation for why we all exist" (x). "It is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence" (xiv). For him, given enough time, non-random (his semantic "end around" for hurdling the problem of "random chance") reproduction has "consequences that are far-reaching" (xv). Again and again, he restates his case that the design and order that we detect in the universe is only the mere appearance of design. And to him, it takes a "leap of imagination" (xvi) to believe this. He proves that this leap is possible, not empirically, but through the use of a computer program ("designed" to illustrate the portentous power of non-random reproduction). What Dawkins is doing is designing a proof to show that all design is only apparent design. Hence, by his logic, the design of his computer program must also, of necessity, be only apparent (along with its output). Hence, everything in life is therefore only apparent, a chimera whether it be ethical standards, the nature of reality, or the quest for and assurance of knowledge. This is vanity (cf. Eph. 4:17-20)! Rousas J. Rushdoony's comments are apropos: "Evolution is a belief that violates a variety of scientific concepts. It posits spontaneous generation, the emergence of something out of nothing, miraculous changes such as a non-eye somehow becoming an eye, and so on. For God's creative act, it substitutes time and process and endows both with God-like powers. Somehow the mindless churnings of process for billions of years work amazing miracles. Somehow, out of total nothing, a single atom emerged, and that single atom had all the potentialities of a universe; in brief, it had amazing god-like powers! Evolution requires belief in miracles greater than any described in the Bible! It is not only the faith of those who hate God but also of those whose premises are irrational ones." In Genesis (Vallecito: Ross House Books, 2002), 5.
3. Reijer Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 105.
4. Hugh Hudson, dir., Chariots of Fire (20th Century Fox, 1981). Liddell kept his love of running in balance. When asked, in the context of his missionary work in China, if he missed the limelight, the rush, the frenzy, the cheers, the rich red wine of victory, Liddell replied, "Oh well, of course it's natural for a chap to think over all that sometimes, but I'm glad I'm at the work I'm engaged in now. A fellow's life counts for far more at this than the other. Not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible, you know." Cited in Sally Magnusson, The Flying Scotsman (New York: Quartet Books, 1981), 102.
5. According to C. E Raven, this was the book that "more than any other determined the character of the interpretation of nature till Darwin's time." In Natural Religion and Christian Theology (Cambridge: University Press, 1953), 110.
6. Cited in Richard S. Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1973), 46.
7. To paraphrase Cornelius Van Til (who borrowed from John Calvin), we must use the spectacles of the objective Word of God to see clearly (understand) the Works of God. It is only through the light of God's Word that we can understand anything properly (Ps. 36:9).
8. E. N. da Costa Andrade, "Isaac Newton," The World of Mathematics, ed. James R. Newman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), 1:275. Newton is reported to have been able to spend eighteen to nineteen hours a day in study and writing.
9. Stanley L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1978), 119.
10. Cited in Ethel Edwards, Carver of Tuskegee (Cincinnati: Ethel Edwards & James T. Hardwick, 1971), 114-117. Carver discovered nearly three hundred derivative products from his study of the peanut.
11. Taking the lead from Voltaire (1694-1778), the pen name of François Marie Arouet, who ridiculed the Christian convictions of the great mathematical genius Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), modernity considers a scientist with Christian convictions (i.e., Biblical view of reality, knowledge, and ethics) to be, at best, deplorably inconsistent.
12. Bradley said this in Boston on November 10, 1948. Cited in Jaki, 304.
13. Cited in Charles E. Jones, The Books You Read (Harrisburg: Executive Books, 1985), 132.
14. The reason that we are not on the forefront is because of the insidious snare and strangling affects of pietism. I believe that we shall once again rise to this forefront due to the impact of the demonstrative teaching of Biblical Christian mediation in Christian day schools, home schools, and universities. Eschatology and the Power of Myth .
- James Nickel
With decades of combined professional experience as a mathematician, systems analyst, and educator, James Nickel also holds B.A. (Mathematics), B.Th. (Theology and Missions), and M.A. (Education) degrees and is the author of Mathematics: Is God Silent? (available from Ross House Books).