A Preamble: Here’s my go at a “proper” devotional, though it may seem pricklier than most, in part because I’m deeply concerned with the reactionary and defensive posturing that the church has often adopted in the face of science. What follows, then, is partly a science apology—in the justification sense of the word—and partly a musing on the epistemology of the kind of knowledge, comfort, and call-to-action that science might offer Christians.
A healthy dose of curiosity motivates the human mind. The search for answers drives our exploration of life and the universe, from the Higgs Boson to dark matter. And with each discovery, we process a new understanding of the world, adapt a revised relation to it, and reposition ourselves as imago dei, as God’s supreme and supremely blessed creations. That we go on discovering attests to God’s intricate creativity; his authority enlivens humanity now as ever.
When God assigned humans the privilege and responsibility of naming his creation, he invited us to dive ever deeper into the known and unknown world. In doing so, the majesty of creation would reflect God’s unsurpassable, incommensurable power and urge us into praise. One of the most significant, if veiled, blows of sin was the perversion of naming’s purpose: our mission to explore and wonder at creation became a pursuit for human dominion, a twisted and high-stakes game of “dibs.” Naming became conquest, an assertion of our undue ownership of what God spoke into being for his glory and his (and our) delight.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Constantly fascinated by the inner workings of language and meaning, I admire too often the human mind without giving credit and praise to the one who made it all possible. I exalt our creativity without even realizing I’m diminishing God’s. Because of this penchant, I acknowledge and welcome a growing need to marvel humbly at the newest advancements in science and thought. The notion of “human progress” itself entails a certain bent toward self-admiration, but a sense of our limitations reclaims a part of our original task of naming.
To name without claiming full understanding and possession is to adopt an attitude of humility, subscribing to mystery over mastery and praising the one who not only knows creation but also controls it with grace. This repositioning does not mean a regressive approach to human knowledge; we need not shy away from exploring and comprehending God’s world, since it is this task for which we are uniquely designed. But when we discover creation and God anew, we would do well to reposition ourselves in the best possible stance, prostrate in praise to our all-powerful and all-deserving Creator.
The Book of Job wrinkles the sheets in all this, and that’s why I end with Job 38. Doubt, humility, mystery over mastery: I find these responses healthy, necessary, real.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.”
Do. Please. Pray tell.
Jacob Schepers (Calvin ’12) is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (2014), a winner of the 2013 Outriders Poetry Project competition. His poetry has appeared in Verse, The Common, PANK, The Destroyer, and others. He lives in South Bend, IN, with his wife, Charis, and two sons, Liam and Oliver. He is both an MFA student and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame.