Two books . . . and yet

It is often said that God has written two books, the book of scripture and the book of nature. Both are true and trustworthy (it is said), because both are from God.

This book metaphor is frequently marshaled in support of the idea that, if we reach a conclusion after careful scientific study of the book of nature, that conclusion is as trustworthy as anything we have concluded from scripture – in fact, the assured results of scientific inquiry into God’s book of nature should chasten our ever-so-fallible interpretations of the book of scripture.

And this (it gives me no end of cheer to report) allows us to revise venerable interpretations of the Bible (Genesis, in particular) so we can sit at the table with the modern scientific community and not feel like idiots. If that isn’t a cause for thanks, now, what is? I mean, it’s just plain awful to feel one is lacking by the latest standards of intellectual credibility.

So what are we to make of this? Let’s leave aside for now the question whether God “speaks” to us in nature about nature (i.e., the book of nature includes science lessons) or about Himself, or perhaps both. That’s not a small question, by the way – we need to have some idea what God intends to say in the book of nature (what its contents are) before we get too confident about our inferences from it. But let’s just suppose for a moment that we were to get a “sure word” from the book of nature about something in nature – something really indisputable by every known standard of accepted science.

What if this “sure word” in the book of nature were to clash – absolutely, irreconcilably clash – with something in the book of scripture? Well, surely God wouldn’t lie to us in the book of nature, right? It’s absolutely reliable. So if the book of nature says “X” and our reading of the book of scripture says “non-X,” we need to listen to nature and revise our reading of the other book accordingly.

Okay. Now suppose (HT: Mark Horne) that the book of nature tells us fairly definitively that the body of a 90-year-old woman can’t conceive, that her body is (to borrow a phrase) “as good as dead”? God wouldn’t lie, would He? He wouldn’t deceive us. His providential laws of nature can be relied on absolutely; there’s no “God in the gaps” messing with things.

Abraham was a good scientist. When God told him Sarah was going to have a baby, he laughed (Genesis 17:17). “That just doesn’t happen. The book of nature says so.” Probably he heard God wrong. Better try a new reading of the divine promises, one that brings them into accord with the conclusions of accepted science.

There’s a technical term for that. It’s called unbelief.

My point is this: there are times when the book of scripture tells us, without equivocation, that God has done, is doing, or is going to do something that is impossible by every responsible reading of the book of nature. And faith says, “Yes, Lord.” Not because it is irresponsible, but because it understands that the cosmos isn’t governed by laws of nature; it’s governed by God. And He can do – He does do – stuff that makes no sense by the canons of accepted science. Why are we so afraid to accept this?

Category: Science, Theology, and Priestcraft Comment »

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