Science can’t discover anything that God hasn’t created
Science and Technology
“If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
George Washington Carver was a black American slave who used his great mind to pull himself from bondage, becoming one of America’s greatest scientists. He held over 1,000 patents for the use of the peanut alone. Asked how he could think of 1,000 ways to use the peanut he replied that he held the peanut in his hand and said, “God, You made every seed bearing plant and You said they were good.1 What did You make the peanut for?”
Virtually every astronaut who has ventured out into space, has returned to Earth talking about the Creator, awestruck by the magnificence of the cosmos. King David and King Solomon were not only great political leaders but loved science2 and worshiped the Lord of Creation. For the Jews, creation was the first revelation of God. Paul said it is the material
world which so eloquently reveals the invisible attributes of God that no one has an excuse for not seeing Him.3 Paul argued with the mystics of his day that God is not only the God of the unseen world but also of the seen.4 It could be argued that modern science as we know it came from the biblical view that God created everything there is and He created it with laws by which it works. The discovery and understanding of those laws can lead us to a better quality of life.
Today, however, many Christians loathe the discipline of science, thinking it is the battleground for disproving the existence of God. Others feel it is the lesser plane of the material and not as important as the spiritual realm. Some actually believe that it shows a lack of faith to search for and use scientific discovery. These ideas are a far cry from the teaching of the Old Testament, the fruit of the early church, and the root of both Jesus and Paul’s messages. An understanding of the message of Christ not based in a clear biblical foundation of the material world is more Eastern and mystic than it is biblical.
As the gospel traveled the globe in the first 1800 years, it took the message of “cleanliness is next to godliness” with it. Improved sanitation and health accompanied the concept of salvation. The sanitation practices of the Jews in the black plagues of Europe were so superior that some thought they had “magic” arts, when, in fact, they were just continuing to practice what God had taught in the books of Moses. How does this compare with a “Christianized” southern Africa that is faced with near extinction because of disease? When some of the most important moral issues in the 21st Century are being asked in the realm of science, what does the near absence of a clear biblical view forewarn?
Let’s begin to get an idea of what Moses was teaching:
9 When you are encamped against your enemies, keep away from everything impure.
10 If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, he is to go outside the camp and stay there.
11 But as evening approaches he is to wash himself, and at sunset he may return to the camp.
12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself.
13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.
14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.
The scriptures are very down to earth and deal with life at its most basic. God deals with every dimension of His creation. Topics that make you and me uncomfortable are brought out for common sense understanding. This paragraph in Deuteronomy begins by dealing with nocturnal emissions. We will spare the men and skip that, and take up verses 12-14 which embarrasses everyone equally.
God has brought a great deliverance for more than two and a half million Isralites and alien slaves. They have experienced the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. They have been eating miracle manna dropped from the sky on a daily basis. But they still needed to use the bathroom. You could say that this scene in the wilderness is the juxtaposition of God’s teachings on the material world. He can invade our creation and do what none of us understands, but the daily norm is to work with the natural laws by which His creation was made to function. In these verses God is teaching basic hygiene.
The principles are fairly straightforward. The community is to take responsibility to make provision for the daily need of all its citizens to urinate and defecate. Secondly, the citizens were to take personal responsibility to follow those guidelines. Thirdly, the waste was to be buried, as opposed to put in the water or left on top of the ground. Fourthly, the highest motivation possible is used – God’s presence. God, through Moses, is teaching public health. He is teaching sanitation and preventive health measures. The same God who did the impossible for His people by parting the Red Sea wants to teach them about His material world and the laws by which it works and He wants them to take responsibility for what they have learned. He is discipling them.
The Unclean Scriptures
When I was growing up, the “unclean” scriptures were taught allegorically as parallels for sin. I was glad that I hadn’t lived in Old Testament days because walking through the streets shouting, “I am unclean,” and spending a day outside the camp seemed fairly heavy treatment for minor infractions. From this allegorical treatment one got the notion that perhaps women were more unclean than men. I think this was drawn from the teaching that the mother was unclean for more days after the birth of a female child than after the birth of a male child.5 This concept of women being more unclean became tied to the idea that Eve sinned first and, therefore, women are more prone to deception than men. Altogether, it was a grim scenario for women. However, the “unclean” scriptures are not allegories, they are historical and, more importantly, they were pragmatic guidelines given by God for community health.
This list of everything in the books of Moses, which would make you unclean, is quite revealing:
- Touching anything taken as spoils of war – Deut. 13:15-16
- Touching a human bone or grave – Num. 19:16
- Touching or being in the presence of a dead body – Num. 19:11
- Touching the discharge of a woman’s period – Lev. 15:19,25
- Touching the discharge of a man’s semen – Lev. 15:2,16
- Touching a man with a bodily discharge or his spit – Lev. 15:7-8
- Touching the bed or saddle touched by a man with a bodily discharge – Lev. 15:4,9
- Touching the nocturnal emission of a man – Deut. 23:10
- Touching human uncleanness, meaning urine or feces – Lev. 5:3
- Touching anything that touched any of these things – Lev. 7:21
- Touching the bed or chair that a woman with her period had touched – Lev. 15:20-21
- Touching or having a skin rash or outbreak on the skin – Lev. 13:2-3
- Touching or being exposed to mildew – Lev. 13:59
- Touching the blood of the sacrifices, if you were a priest – Lev. 16:14
This list teaches us many things. First, it would appear that men are more likely to be unclean than women. Secondly, it seems that the poor priest is going to be the most unclean of all. Thirdly, none of this is about matters of the heart. It is about hygiene. God is teaching community health and prevention. When He says, “If you obey my laws you will have none of the diseases of the nations that surround you,” He is not giving some formula for spiritual magic. He is teaching the prevention of transmittable diseases. And He is teaching this nearly 3,800 years before man will discover the germ. Not until the late 17th Century would we learn that there are invisible microbes and viruses that can be transmitted from one thing to another and cause disease. We would not understand clearly until the 1990’s that the most viral transmitters of these invisible enemies are bodily fluids. It has taken the AIDS epidemic to reveal the extent of God’s advanced understanding.
In 80 percent Christianized Africa, one out of four people, possibly even one out of three, are dying of AIDS. What would the statistic be if we added in all the other infectious diseases taking lives in that region? Where is the biblical influence that produced the healthiest, most scientifically advanced nations of the world? Remember, when the gospel came to Europe, Europeans were the “filthy pagans” that the advanced middle easterners weren’t sure they wanted to mingle with. Where did antiseptic Switzerland, Germany, and Scandinavia come from? The minds and then the cultures of these peoples were transformed by a gospel that not only dealt with the conversion of the soul; the gospel they received was a gospel that dealt with all of life. It was a gospel that brought physical health as well as communion with God.
George Kinoti says, “Africa is plagued by numerous diseases. The most important are infectious diseases, which are both curable and preventable. An obvious example is malaria, which causes untold suffering in Africa and claims something like a million African lives a year. Malaria was once a major disease in the warmer parts of Europe and the U.S.A., but improvements in the living conditions led to its disappearance.”6 Two-thirds of the world is crying out for this gospel. Who will go? How will they know if someone does not tell them?
A young mother of two children under four sat across from me in a New Zealand restaurant. She had just discovered that a dreaded lymphoma cancer had reappeared in her body just months after thinking she had been cured. The prognosis was not good. She looked at me and asked, “What do you think of healing?” Everything in me wanted to give popular charismatic or evangelical answers such as, “By His stripes you are healed; claim it and believe for it.”7 I wanted to give her the happy ending version, but I had been studying the Bible too long, and I knew that is not all that it teaches. Scripture does not teach that if we believe in Christ we will never get sick, that if we believe, we will be healed or that we will never die! You can find individual scriptures that would seem to mean that, but that is not what they mean because they make nonsense out of many other scriptures. Jesus died and Paul had a physical ailment that God did not heal even though Paul prayed three times.8 Lazarus was raised from the dead and then he died again.
With a heavy heart I said to my friend that the Bible makes it clear that miracles are possible, but they are exceptions, not the rule. Miracles are spectacular interventions of God for His own unique purposes but they will never be the norm. We may always pray and ask God for healing, but the gospel message is that in death the enemy of our souls is finally defeated, not that we will not die. We live in a fallen world and disease is a reality. Our mortal bodies are wasting away. We can learn to live more wisely and deal with disease with prevention and cure, but we will all die. Then what is our hope? Our hope is that, through His death, Christ has overcome the evil one. At the very moment that Satan feels he has conquered us, the point of death, we are given an immortal body not corrupted by sin. The cross has removed the sting of death, not death itself. Job reveals to us that the enemy of God can sorely try us with crisis and illness, but Job also reveals that Satan cannot take our life when we belong to God. The issue is more when will we die, not if we will die.
The thinking of many Christians today is that there should be no suffering, there should be no death, we should have heaven now. Quoting Dr. Kinoti again, “religion…enables many to evade reality. Christians…sometimes use their faith as a narcotic to evade the pain, the ugliness, the difficulties, the concrete reality of the world in which we find ourselves.”9 The author is speaking specifically about African believers. But this is not only an African problem. This is one of the great problems in evangelical, pentecostal, and charismatic thinking in the last century and a half. We have drifted towards a belief that salvation delivers us from living in the material world. And it does not.
As I left the restaurant with my suffering friend I longed to say something that would comfort, and that was true. I put my arm around her and said, “Here is what I do know. If you live, you will be pure gold through this trial. If you die you will go into His presence and be perfected into His likeness. Either way, you cannot lose!” The week I was preparing this chapter I attended her funeral… knowing I had given her the comfort of His Word.
Worship And The Material World
All through scripture, creation draws the hearts of God’s people to Him. David was stunned by the God who created the innumerable stars. Solomon tried to grasp understanding of the seasons and the God who created the rotation of the planets. Paul expected man to understand the existence and attributes of God simply by considering the creation around him. Creation captures God’s awesomeness. In the era of Cathedral building, Europeans were mystified by the nature of space. They could not yet define the molecular structure of all things, and so air was mysterious and awesome. They incorporated this into their worship by getting architects and engineers to invent new building technology to convey the awe and wonder of God’s creation in their cathedrals. They understood that science and worship could work hand in hand. Millions still visit these great monuments every year.
God is not at war with His material world. Science is, of all the domains, the most limited because the scientist cannot discover anything that God has not created. Certainly scientists can have theories that are not based in fact. But scientists cannot create new laws or new truths in the cosmos; they can only discover them. Today many Christians believe, or at least behave as if by virtue of our faith, we are alienated from all science. This can be a grave danger. In the 16th Century the church and science were at odds with each other. Galileo and others had begun to postulate that the world was not flat but round. The theology of the day was built around a flat earth concept, and it supported the idea that heaven was up, and hell was down, and that man and the earth were at the center of the universe. The first proponent of this concept of a round globe was executed for heresy, teaching against the doctrines of the church. The second, Galileo himself, was put under house arrest.
Of course, in this instance, science was right and the theological interpretation of the day was wrong. God knew the truth all along. He was not thrown by our discovery. Science’s discovery of some fact in His universe does not destroy the validity of scripture or challenge God’s truth. This discovery simply led to a clearer understanding of what God meant by man being the center of the universe. It created the possibility that man was central to God’s plan, but not necessarily central in cosmic geography. We did not yet know that up and down are relative terms relating to gravity. What these concepts mean outside our planet is quite another issue. God is not shaken by scientific discovery. He is not alienated from His material world; He uses it to reveal Himself and man is still discovering Him in it.
When I saw the Hubble telescope’s pictures of the birth and death of stars, I was awestruck! The color, the power, the majesty in the creation of just one tiny star! Explosive plumes millions of miles high. Who cannot worship the God of creation when they see and discover such things? I was humbled to think that I live in the first generation that God has graced with such a view of what He has made, the awe of His power, the beauty of His universe in every detail. King David was overwhelmed by the innumerable stars. He saw God revealed in the shear scope of what he could see. The Hubble telescope was aimed at a black spot at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. This spot was ten times blacker than anything we can see with the naked eye. The telescope viewed this black spot for ten days, absorbing light from deep space. When astronomers looked at the picture that the telescope sent back, they counted ten galaxies, all larger than ours, in the one black spot. Who cannot worship at the thought of His grandeur? Who cannot marvel at the Creator God? And yet today, with split thinking being the norm amongst Christians, if you heard of the Hubble telescope’s discoveries at all, it was in the light of how the money could have been used for evangelism.
Are you beginning to get the picture of what we have lost in scripture? Are you seeing the tragedy of keeping God so boxed in? What else is God going to reveal to us in His universe? What other advanced understanding of the material world is He waiting to impart to us for the prevention of disease? God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God has not changed; we Christians have lost our understanding of God. He wants to restore us, to revive us through the revelation of Himself in the material world. Will we let Him?
We have looked at one small passage dealing with sanitation. There is so much more: teaching about ecology and our responsibility to steward His creation, about cures, about the priestly role in primary health care, about the pharmaceutical properties of plants. When you finish this study in the Bible you must conclude that God loves science.
Themes to consider when studying and coloring science in scripture: health, nature, hygiene, medicine, engineering, technology, ecology, animal kingdom.
The domain of science reveals: The Creator
The primary attributes of God revealed in science: Order and power
God governs this domain through: The laws of nature
The color I used: Blue
WORKING VOCATIONAL MISSIONS STATEMENT:
To discover and use God’s laws for the blessing of all people, pursuing a higher standard of living, better health, and better stewardship of all God’s natural resources. Great issues include:Prevention of disease, discovery, and stewardship.
NOTE TO ALL BELIEVERS:
God is not afraid of science or discovery. Neither should you and I be. For me, a balanced approach to biblical healing is:
- Confess all known sin.
- Bind the enemy.
- Do everything medically known that may be helpful.
- Pray for a miracle.
- Put yourself in the loving hands of the Father; He knows best.
I believe I can support all of this from the Word of God. I would ask God to reveal to His science professionals a cure, just as He revealed preventives of infectious disease to Israel. Which do you think is the greater lasting witness: a miracle for an individual or a cure for everyone? Perhaps we cannot fairly ask that question as both reveal God. Are you praying for both revelations – miracles and cures – for the nations?
Are you prepared to refuse skepticism about all science and let God speak to you through what He is allowing us to discover? Man is fallen and tends to corrupt anything that can be corrupted. Of course, cloning could lead to trying to duplicate humans. But cloning and DNA research could also lead to a cure for many common diseases. Can we not see this discovery as the hand of God extended to us in mercy? The story of the tower of Babel is often used to discuss the evils of technology. But the sin of Babel is really political imperialism; the tower was just the symbol. What we see in scripture is that when the technology got out of hand, God destroyed it by confusing the people.
What is the point for us then? Don’t fret about new discoveries and developments. If they threaten God’s plan, He will deal with them. If He is allowing the discovery, our question should be, “God, how do you want to use this to glorify Yourself?” Christians did this with the discovery of movable type and printing and, consequently, are still the largest publishers of printed matter. But, we tend to push aside the technology of the internet as demonic. What has changed? God? No, we Christians have. Alienation from discovery which God is allowing can only result in lessening the purposes of God. Let’s work again to receive the whole council of God’s Word in this wonderful arena of science and His material revelation.
A NOTE TO THE SCIENCE PROFESSIONAL:
When I spoke on this topic in Urbana, Illinois a sanitation engineer, whose brother was a missionary, came up to me in tears. All his life the work of his brother had been applauded as a spiritual calling. This brother had been made to feel less important because of his unspiritual profession. He said to me, “No one has ever told me that what I do is important to God, too.” I was in 40 percent10 Christian Togo some time ago and saw that people had taken to spray painting, “Ne pas uriner ici!” “Do not urinate here!” on the walls around their houses and businesses. I thought “Great! Half the gospel of sanitation.” But who will teach them the other half…where should they urinate? Several summers ago a large tribe of pentecostal Gypsies came to Switzerland to hold healing and evangelistic services. They pitched a giant tent very near my home and used the parking lot of our forest running and exercise course for their cars and trailers. The two small toilets of the exercise course and their trailer toilets were obviously not adequate for the needs of such a large group. As the week’s evangelistic services went on, the forest trails became increasingly littered with feces and toilet paper. At first, you may be irate and think this is just stupid, but we need to be more compassionate. You see, these dear people had been taught that Jesus saves and Jesus heals, but they had never been taught what the Bible teaches about sanitation.
As a professional in the science domain, you have a high calling. You are the discoverers and stewards of God’s material creation. You are called to know Him in a special way as He reveals Himself in the things He has made. You are called to use that knowledge to bless individuals, communities, and nations. No calling in God’s Kingdom is second rate. No domain of revelation is more or less important than another; they are all created by God to reveal Himself. The pastor has one job and you have another. The missionary prays to be shown worthy of his calling and so should you. God makes His “cause and effect” relationship with man most evident in this domain. He uses His natural laws to humble us and reveal His awesome power and wisdom. Are you one of God’s George Washington Carvers? Are you called to hold in your hand something of God’s creation and say, “God, you made this and you said it was good. Why did you make this peanut, atom, DNA cell, planet, bug, tree?” The sky is not the limit. God’s revelation of Himself stretches to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. How far is that? Perhaps He will use you to reveal that to us and strike us with awe again. You are part of God’s strategy for discipling all nations.
1. Genesis 1:11-12
2. 1 Kings 4:33
3. Romans 1:20
4. Colossians 1:16
5. Leviticus 12:1-5
6. Kinoti, Ibid., page 7
7. Isaiah 53:5
8. Corinthians 12:8
9. Kinoti, Ibid., page 3
10. Johnstone, Ibid