He is the image of God, the invisible one,
The firstborn of creation.
For in him all things were created,
In the heavens and here on earth.
Things we can see and things we cannot—
Thrones and lordships and rulers and power—
All things were created both through him and for him.
-The first stanza of one of the earliest Christian poems as recorded in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, Colossians 1:15-16
The thing of it.
I grew up around Sola Scriptura thinking. I attended Bible churches for the first half of my life. I attended Moody Bible Institute after high school. In these institutions the trinity of Scripture, right living and evangelism were constantly posited and deemed to be what mattered most. The rest of the cosmos seemed immaterial, except for the tithe. And, not once during that time did I hear anything about science and the nature of things. It was if nature was to be seen but not heard from. But gnostic thinking didn’t come from Jesus. He offered his body and blood as true food and drink (John 6: 53-57).
It wasn’t until I took a college level physics course which employed a mathematics course I was taking at the same time that I became wowed by the nature of things and the theology of science. When I saw that mechanical forces and properties could be defined in beautiful mathematical terms I knew that God was the Designer. I was wowed into worship. I knew for the first time that every…thing… would lead me back to the Creator in a way that Sola Scriptura could never do.
It was also at that time that I began a career in electrical engineering. I saw engineering as a place where the material and the spiritual could be fused in a creative process. As an engineer I no longer used my Sola Scriptura-infused right brain to dismiss the left brain and its focus on objects—things–as unspiritual and of no eternal value.
Why study the nature of things and theology of science? Everything in the natural world is a sign, a trace, an echo, an image and a sacrament of the triune God. The goodness of God is diffused into HIs good creation. As such, everything in creation has been given a profound relationality with a space to be and a sense of particularity so that it is encountered and not just used.
Science, and certainly engineering, attends to the particularity of things. Both scientists and engineers must understand a thing and how it relates to other things. Imagine if they didn’t. Imagine if geneticists, physicists, biologists, chemists and aeronautical engineers didn’t consider how things relate to each other. Imagine if an electrical engineer didn’t consider that 3000 amps through an aluminum conductor rated for 600 amps would cause heating and the ultimate melting of the conductor. God gave us Scripture so that we could understand God’s nature expressed in the Word (John’s Gospel chapter one). God gave us nature so that we could understand God’s nature as expressed in things.
God creates in particular and yet everything created is related. Electrons are relational to protons and neutrons. The periodic table reveals that relationality.
Before the elements ever began to appear in Mendeleyev’s table they had been fused together-related-in the nuclear furnace of stars. The dying stars sent the dust off into space, into our space, where the elements are now used by engineers to design airplanes, prosthetic arms, super colliders, diodes, super conductors, …every…thing…known to man.
Why study the science of things? Because God made them to be studied. God made the unpredictability of quantum physics for us to puzzle over, to reflect on and then to uncover its mysteries, e.g., light as both particle and wave. That contemplative exercise is necessary for the theology of science. And, it what’s required for our theology of the mysterious three-in-one Trinity.
Why study the science of things? Because nothing is stamped on the bottom, “made by God.” That’s for us to find out. We were created to be scientists.
The Lord and Creator of the Universe, the One for whom all things were created, the One who has taken on a stardust composite of an image-bearing human is standing on a hillside speaking to a massive crowd of people about his kingdom on earth. Just then, a creation of about 13.8 billion years in the making darts by and lands near an open spot. Jesus then talks about what he values in particular…
“Don’t be afraid of people who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul. The one you should be afraid of is the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. How much would you get for a couple of sparrows? A single copper coin if you are lucky? And not one of them falls to the ground without your father knowing about it. When it comes to you—why, every hair on you head is counted. So don’t be afraid! You’re worth much more than a great many sparrows.”
-the Gospel according to Matthew 10: 28-31
All things reconsidered, since Paul’s poem tells us that all things were created for Jesus, then Jesus’ words to us give us a clue to where his treasure lies: “Show me your treasure, and I’ll show you where your heart is.”
The Pleaides and Orion by John Michael Talbot