Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Natural and the Super-natural?- Article published in the Augusta Chronicle, Jan. 2011

The ancient Greek word physis we translate into English as “nature” and from which we get the word “physics.” Physics is the study of nature, matter, energy, force, motion, and the way these things relate to each other.   I am reminded of my long and challenging hours spent studying physics as a requisite for my engineering studies at Clemson University, but I am also reminded of how much I loved learning about the workings of this universe into which God had placed me.

It is not uncommon in this day and time to find people who consider the “natural” all that there is, but is it the whole show, or is there a much larger reality at transcends the natural, what we call the supernatural?  Exceedingly few of our ancestors would have dared to deny or ignore the supernatural, but it is different today. We explain today’s pervasive discounting of the supernatural by telling ourselves we live in a scientific age, and to believe in something beyond nature is antiquated, unscientific and even superstitious.

But is this the truth?  As an engineer, as an applied scientist who is fascinated by the wonders and working of the physical world, you would think I would be drawn in this direction, into some sort of “scientism” in which science provides all the answers.  The fact is, my scientific background has had the opposite effect.  The more I know of the physical world, the more its incredibleness points me to God.  Is it reasonably the best answer to conclude that the system of interlocking natural forces and realities of our world can exist without a complementary system of supernatural forces and realities?  To me it is like asking if a watch can exist without a watchmaker, or a finely tuned orchestra can function without a conductor.  Perhaps one can reach this point if at the outset he or she philosophically rules the supernatural out-of-bounds for the modern thinker.  That in itself strikes me as unscientific.

Therefore, it has been a life-long quest of mine to understand the supernatural with the same diligence I have sought to understand the natural.  The result has been my Christian Faith.  It is in my Christian Faith that I have discovered a wholistic worldview that spans both the natural and supernatural.

But why Christianity?  Is it because in this western culture that is my heritage?  Surely, yes.  Is it because it is reasonable and rational?  Again, yes, although this might surprise some who stand outside Christianity looking in.  But far beyond these considerations, I am a Christian because God has revealed Himself to me both naturally and supernaturally.  Christians who have come before us like Thomas Aquinas and Richard Hooker can speak to this reality more eloquently than I, but God’s natural and supernatural revelation of Himself to me have created a personal relationship in me with my Creator.   In fact, I have discovered that it if for this personal relationship with Him that God created me in the first place. 

An engineer and a Christian… what a powerful combination for comprehending the world and our reason for being in it!

1 comment:

  1. A friend, Robert Folger, offered this reflection on the topic of the Reconciliation of Science and Religion:

    (Preliminary Draft of an Introduction using Neutral Terminology)

    Major Premise: The universe we know was created, not a chance occurence.

    Minor Premise: The One who created the universe has revealed Himself both in the physical creation and by special revelation to selected humans.

    The Nature of the Physical Creation:
    Complexity evolved from simplicity -
    Four fundamental forces: Gravity, Electromagnetism, Weak Nuclear, Strong Nuclear
    Mass evolved from eight fundamental subatomic particles: Quarks
    Evolving life ordered by gene patterns in DNA based on the same 4 amino acids
    Order out of chaos without corruption - physical world examples of decreed order
    prevailing along with "freely random action"
    Radioactive decay
    Gas Law Dynamics from random atomic and molecular movements -
    pressure and heat transfer

    The Nature of the Creator:
    Revealed in Creation -
    Process - Self consistent
    Purpose - Freely chosen fellowship
    Beyond Time - Both preexistent and coexistent relative to the created universe

    Problems of Revelation:
    Limitations of Recipients - Result of freely chosen rebellion against created order
    Personal and culturally restricted observation
    Both vertical and lateral communication subject not only to
    misinterpretation but also to interference by "static".

    Resolution: The nature of the Creator requires consistent truth in all of His revelations.