Last month, I investigated the nature of the practice of Biblical Christian meditation as it relates to God's law revealed in His Word and in His Works (cf. Ps. 19). In this issue, I want to focus on the Biblical Christian attitude toward the Works of God: what they are, why we should delightfully explore them, and how we are obediently to declare (or apply) the results of our deliberations.
What Are the Works of God That We Should Delight Therein?
- Following the standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter IV and Chapter V), the Works of God are two-fold:Creation; i.e., every atom of the physical creation including its structure and laws. Operational science1 and mathematics are perfectly suited tools that we can use to explore this realm.
- Providence; i.e., God's control of history, man, and his environment. This includes the disciplines of history (Hab. 1:5) and geography. The focus of these disciplines should be on God's redemptive plan and the eschatological goal of salvation. Christian geographer Arnold Guyot (1807-1884) said, "The entire globe is a grand organism, every feature of which is the outgrowth of a definite plan of the allwise Creator for the education of the human family, and the manifestation of His own glory."2 Specifically and personally, a study of God's Works should include God's electing grace in the salvation of sinners and His acts of kindness in our lives (Ps. 139:14; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6; Isa. 64:8; Rom. 8:28-39).
Man's relationship to the truth about God's Works will ultimately be determined by his obedient or disobedient response to God's Word. The writings of the early European scientists were impregnated with Biblical texts; they were conscious of the imminent hand of God upon every act and moment.3 The Word of God is the key to knowledge. According to Luke 11:52, Christ accused the lawyers of His day with taking away the key of knowledge. In our day, lawyers are the brunt of many jokes and are accused of taking away (or pocketing) dollars. Perhaps today's target of Christ's woe should be the educators of secularism (kindergarten through university) for they certainly have dislodged the Word of God as the source of all knowledge for the students under their tutelage (cf. Mt. 18:6-7).
Why Should We Delight in God's Works?
God's Word tells us why we should delight in the study of God's Works. We delight in them because...
The Works of God are good (Gen. 1:31). They reflect His kindness, good will, and generosity. They are also good in that they reflect a marvelous and intricate interconnectedness. The universe (comprising the heavens and the earth) can only be understood properly in the Biblical context. The universe is good in its reflection of the nature of its Creator, the Triune God (the eternal unity in diversity). The temporal universe reflects its Creator because it unfolds the interconnectedness (the unity) of all created things (the particulars). It is in this context that we are to understand that the Works of God are perfect (Dt. 32:4). They have no defect; they are whole, sound, upright, and honest. The Works of God are marvelous and wondrous (Rev. 15:3; Ps. 26:7; Ps. 75:1; Ps. 139:14). They are marvelous in that they awaken in us wonder and surprise. They are wondrous in that they are distinguished and extraordinary. Being full of grandeur and magnificence, they reflect God's beauty, order, and mighty power. They transcend human art as infinite power and wisdom exceeds the finite. Consider the star Betelgeuse (pronounced BET'l-jews) in the constellation Orion. This star is the single largest created thing that our eyes can see. Picture it as a globe big enough to enclose a 20-story building, and in comparison, the Earth as nothing but the "period" at the end of this sentence. Imagine this star to be an empty star and that we can unscrew its lid and pour in balls the size of the Earth at the rate of one hundred per second. It would take 30,000 years to fill the jar. Through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, Betelgeuse appears as a disk, not a point of light like the other stars.
The Works of God are terrible (Ps. 66:3). The Hebrew word translated in the King James Version means "stupendous, admirable, wonderful, illustrious." Nothing can compare to the Works of God (Ps. 86:8). The Works of God reflect God's loving-kindness or covenant love (Ps. 136:4-9). The Works of God reflect God's faithfulness and truth (Ps. 111:7). They are firm, sure, reliable, stable, and trustworthy. His Works are done in truth (Ps. 33:4). The Works of God reflect God's wisdom, a wisdom that is hidden in Christ (Ps. 104:24; Pr. 8; Col. 2:3). The Works of God are honorable and glorious (Ps. 111:3). They are splendid, majestic, magnificent, significant, stately, elevated, and lofty. The Works of God are just (Ps. 111:7). They are regular, orderly, proper, full, and complete. The Works of God are pleasant (Gen. 2:9). The beauty of His Works gives pleasure to the senses. The Works of God are great (Ps. 111:2; Ps. 8:3). They are great in quantity (Ps. 104:24; Ps. 40:5). According to the Psalmist David, "God tells the number of the stars and calls them all by name" (Ps. 147:4-5; cf. Isa. 40:16). Astronomers estimate that the number of stars in the visible universe is approximately 1026 (1 followed by twenty-six zeroes).4 Counting one every second, it would take you 3,000 trillion centuries to count to this number. The Works of God are also great in quality (significance). Man, created in God's image (male and female) is the crown of His Works. Man's body is fearfully and wonderfully made and man's life is the object of providential care to the degree that even the hairs on our head are numbered (Ps. 139:16-18; Mt. 10:30).
The God of nature and of grace, in all His works appears, His goodness through the earth we trace, His grandeur in the spheres.
Behold this fair and fertile globe by Him in wisdom planned, 'twas He who girded, like a robe the ocean round the land.
In every stream His bounty flows, diffusing joy and wealth. In every breeze His Spirit blows, the breath of life and health.
His blessings fall in plenteous showers upon the lap of earth that teams with foliage, fruit and flowers and rings with infant mirth.
If God has made this world so fair where sin and death abound how beautiful, beyond compare, will paradise be found! 5
Declaring God's Works
God's Word not only commands us to delight in His Works; God's Word commands us to declare His Works (Ps. 64:9). Note that if we do not first delight in God's Works we will have nothing to declare! We declare God's Works by:
- Taking hold of our vocational callings to the glory of God. The phrase, glory of God, is perhaps too overused in Christian circles. We dare not misunderstand its meaning or use this phrase flippantly (like some do when they tack in Jesus Name to the end of their prayers which to them is equivalent to rubbing the proverbial rabbit's foot). The best definition that I found for glory of God is "the inescapable weight of the sheer Godness of God."6 It is only as we situate our vocational callings under this weight that we will faithfully fulfill the dominion mandate (Gen. 1:26-28). In our vocations we must learn to understand, to excel in, and to appropriate God's Works properly in order to reflect the glory of the Creator.7 A farmer plows the soil of God's earth for His glory. A carpenter constructs with wood to reflect God's glory. A physician maintains the body for God's glory. A musician creates melodies, thereby using sounds for God's glory. An executive or manager leads people for God's glory. An educator or parent instructs youth for God's glory. A scientist analyzes, innovates, and utilizes the elements of the created order for God's glory. A writer composes words for God's glory. A theologian interprets and applies God's Word for God's glory. In this computer age, we use sand and electric current to help us use knowledge efficiently for God's glory. For those called of God in the computer arena, a properly coded computer problem is as much a "work of art" as a painting by Rembrandt. I have written programming code for computers for three decades. After completing a piece of efficient and structured code or delivering a system of programs that interact seamlessly with every given interface, I can also understand what Eric Liddell felt when he ran "head back and arms flailing" for God's glory. I can testify, using his words, "When I code, I feel His pleasure."
- Discipling the nations and thereby fulfilling the redemption mandate (Mt. 28:18-20). In this context, we are to apprentice the nations generationally; that is, to pass to the next generation what God has faithfully discharged to us (cf. 2 Tim. 2:1-2).
We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony ...which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children ...that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God... (Ps. 78:3-8, emphasis added)
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil. Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands (Ps. 90:12-17).
1. Operational science concerns itself with the practical applications (primarily useful technology) of God's law-word revealed in the structured order of the cosmos. Operational science is contra the "vain imaginations" of scientific cosmologists who squander their God-given intellectual capital and creative aptitude through the development of futile cosmogonic theories such as inflationary universes, multiple universes, and universes created in a laboratory. Other examples of nugatory scientific investigations include the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (as depicted in the movie Contact, directed by Robert Zemeckis) and the creation of artificial intelligence (i.e., robotic machines that think like humans as portrayed in Steven Spielberg's movie A.I.).
2. Arnold Guyot, Physical Geography (New York and Chicago: Ivison, Blakeman and Company, 1885), 121. By 1870, only eleven years after the publication of Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) On the Origin of Species, Guyot, a professor at Princeton University, was one of only three prominent American naturalists who rejected Darwin's thesis. The other two were Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) of Harvard University and John Dawson of McGill University.
3. Their view of the world, especially in terms of physics (a branch of science that primarily deals with the study of the laws of motion) was not a crass mechanistic view. It was mechanistic secondarily, not primarily. It was mechanistic in terms of the principle of causality (the connection between cause and effect) and the principle of quantification (the interconnectedness of the patterns of the created order that can be intelligibly explained using numbers and functional relationships). But they did not equate the mechanistic view with impersonalism (contra modern scientific naturalism). To them, God's decrees and ordinances reflected His personal faithfulness in sustaining the workings of His creation. It is because of God's faithfulness in sustaining creation that the pursuit of science is removed from realm of futile sophistry.
4. God's naming of each star signifies that each star has a unique and distinct purpose in God's plan. God does not count the stars just to count them; He counts each star in order to appoint to each His decreed purpose.
5. Cited in Richard Newton, Nature's Mighty Wonders (London: S. W. Partridge & Co., 1871), 17. Newton cites the author of this poem as Montgomery (possibly the hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854)).
6. Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 397.
7. A man who takes hold of his vocational calling in this manner will eventually be honored by God and he shall stand before kings, not obscure men (1 Sam. 2:30; Pr. 22:29).
- 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).