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Why Study Science?

After reminding students that scientific laws are not infallible, Jay Wile, author of Exploring Creation with Biology defends the study of science this way:

If science isn’t 100% reliable, why study it?  The answer to that question is quite simple.  There are many interesting facts and much useful information not contained in the Bible.  It is worthwhile to find out about these things.  Even though we will make many, many mistakes along the way, finding out about these interesting and useful things will help us live better lives.  Because of the advances made in science, wonderful technology like vaccines, the television, and the computer exist.  Thus there is nothing wrong with science.  In fact, it is even a means by which we can celebrate the awesomeness of God.  When we learn how well the world and its organisms are designed, we can better appreciate the gift that God has given to us in his creation.  The problem occurs when certain people who are enamored with science end up putting too much faith in it.  As a pursuit of flawed human beings, science will always be flawed.  Because the Bible was inspired by One who is perfect, the Bible is perfect.  As long as we keep this simple fact in mind, our study of science will be very rewarding! (p 15)

There is a lot of truth in this paragraph, and Wile’s dedication to homeschool science is evident in all the textbooks he writes.  Yet, in defending science to those who would suggest that only the Bible is necessary, he almost misses something very important that is eloquently expressed in a document from 1561, the Belgic Confession.

Article 2—How God Makes Himself Known to Us

We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature, as the apostle Paul says in Rom 1:20. All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.

This shows another aspect of the study of creation—it tells us about God.   And, yes, some people misuse the idea that creation is like a book and instead say that certain scientific theories are like a book; often this idea is used to support the idea that scientific theories can be used to correct the Bible (as in the suggestion that, if God created at all, he used evolution).

However, the Bible clearly shows us how creation does play a large part in God’s self-revelation.  In Psalm 8, the psalmist looks at the stars and is overwhelmed by praise.  Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God for all the intricacies of creation.  Isaiah points to creation to remind us that God is the creator and is powerful—and he also reminds us that this great God loves us.  Most memorably, when Job was facing the limits of human thinking about God, life, and justice, God’s answer was to show Job himself through nature.  Romans 1 points out that God’s power has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made, so clearly that no one has any excuse to doubt his existence.  Over and over, the natural world is used to teach us things about God and about the spiritual world.

Now, Wile’s focus is to explain why it is a good idea to study science even though science is not 100% reliable and the Bible is; on the other hand, the Belgic Confession is occupied with explaining how God reveals himself to us.   Putting the two together and discussing the question ‘Why study science?’ in a general way, here are some considerations.

The Belgic Confession as well as Wile’s quotation, aimed at different audiences and therefore showing different aspects of this discussion, both agree that God’s creation is an expression of who he is and deserves to be studied simply on that basis as well as for utilitarian purposes.  In fact, approached wisely both science and nature study can be a form of worship just as Bible study ideally is. And, just as it is both foolish and dangerous to avoid studying God’s Word, so it is almost as foolish and dangerous to avoid immersing ourselves in and learning about God’s creation.

Nature is given to us to use responsibly and to develop (Genesis 1:26-30), but it is also a way in which we learn about God.  There is a horizontal, people-directed way of looking at science and that is good, but Christians should never forget the vertical, God-directed aspect either.  Ideally both are present.  Christians need to learn to value creation as a gift from God to help us see who he is as well as a resource to treasure, understand, and harness for the good of other people.

Of course, all that does not mean that everyone needs to become a scientist, but everyone does need to gratefully notice the world God has put us in, to make time to see the gifts he has given us, and to be full of awe and wonder at the things he has created.  In practical terms, we need to get outside, look, listen smell, feel, and enjoy.  We need to keep our eyes open and be ready to exclaim in grateful amazement.

On the other hand, some of our young people will be drawn to a career based on understanding creation and on applying scientific knowledge for the benefit of other people.  This is good and necessary, but they, too, need to remember awe, gratitude, and worship in their work.

In conclusion, then, why study God’s creation (i.e. science)?  The answer to that can be summed up in Jesus’s words.  We study God’s created world in order to be better equipped to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Thus this study has both God-directed and people-directed aspects.  In fact, the study of creation is part of both the great commission (Matthew 28: 18-20) and the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28-30), although understanding how to make this work is an ongoing challenge.  And, for all these reasons, studying science is vitally important.

So let’s learn science joyfully with our children, and let us together be in awe of the God who made this amazing world.

Soli Deo Gloria—praise to God alone!

This is part of a series of articles exploring why we teach our children the things we teach them, and why we, too, need to learn.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This article may be linked to Finishing Strong , Raising Homemakers.  

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