The Weightier Matters

The Weightier Matters (Part II)

Science and religion.

R. M. RITLAND, Director GeoScience Research Institute

ONE of our greatest needs today, when science is becoming a dominant force in our civilization, is the same as that of the scribes and Pharisees in Christ's day—a need for balance and perspective. We need the insight that will enable us to dis­tinguish between the broad fundamental issues and specific individual problems, between the gnats and the camels, as we compare competing and often conflicting philosophies. A serious danger we face as students is in becoming preoccupied with problems or details for which we do not discern immediate solutions, and losing sight of the basic evident truths regarding God's place in the world. But as men of faith we need not be left alone, for we have this assurance that "the Comforter," "the Spirit of truth," will guide us into all truth (see John 16).

There is space to mention very briefly only a few of the "weightier matters."

1. Energy relations in the earth and the universe and the existence of apparent order and organization

According to scientific laws known to man, the universe left to itself, like a spring-operated clock, would eventually run down. It is a common but universal observation that heat flows only from warmer to cooler objects, but never spon­taneously flows in the opposite direction. A container of hot water placed in a room will cool, giving off heat to its surroundings until all objects approach the same tem­perature. A container of cold water never takes on and concentrates heat from its surroundings, and without specific source of heat never spontaneously begins to boil. Water seeks its own level. Water never spontaneously reverses the direction of its flow in a waterfall. Without an appropriate source of energy, nails, boards, and shin­gles (or on a smaller scale, atoms and mole­cules) never become spontaneously arranged into elaborately organized struc­tures.

These apparently irreversible one-way processes, one-way streets in nature, are ex­pressions of a broad principle governing the behavior of energy sometimes called the second law of thermodynamics. Left to itself for a long enough time, the stores of available energy in the universe and our solar system—in the sunshine and rain, in the waterfall and brook, in the forest and vineyard—would eventually be depleted. A universe that still possesses a high degree of organization and boundless stores of available energy can hardly be infinitely old unless there is a source for renewal of power and organization. And for either the initial or the renewed power and organi­zation there is no known natural explana­tion.

Science can describe the "unwinding of the universe," but although attempts have been made, science has been at a 'loss to account for the creative or "winding" phase. The Christian recognizes in God the source of power, of organization, and of design. He may thus see in nature con­firmation of central truths of revelation. "The work of creation cannot be ex­plained by science."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 414. "The creative energy that called the world into existence is in the word of God."—Education, p. 126. "By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear" (Heb. 11:3, R.S.V.). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through him, and with­out him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4, R.S.V.).

This same God who creates also sustains and upholds. "The God of heaven is con­stantly at work. It is by His power that vegetation is caused to flourish, that every leaf appears and every flower blooms. Every drop of rain or flake of snow, every spire of grass, every leaf and flower and shrub, testifies of God."—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 260.

"From the stars that in their trackless course through space follow from age to age their appointed path, down to the mi­nutest atom, the things of nature obey the Creator's will. And God cares for every­thing and sustains everything that He has created. He who upholds the unnumbered worlds throughout immensity, at the same time cares for the wants of the little brown sparrow that sings its humble song without a fear."—Steps to Christ, p., 86. (Italics supplied.) "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the proph­ets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his na­ture, upholding the universe by his word of power" (Heb. 1:1-3, R.S.V.). "He is be­fore all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17, R.S.V.).

2. Fitness of the environment

In numberless ways our planet is ideally suited for life: the chemistry of matter, which allows for those countless complex processes necessary for life; the abundance and unexpectedly unique properties of certain essential compounds and elements such as water, carbon, oxygen, and nitro­gen; the atmosphere with moisture and life-supporting gases; the location of the earth in the temperate zone of the solar system, which together with its atmosphere and pattern of rotation and orbits main­tain the essential narrow range of favor­able temperatures for life; the continued existence of a myriad of suitable environ­ments in mountains and valleys, land, air, and sea; the balance and essential cycles in nature; order and organization on every hand. To the Christian the adjustments of our planet for life are simply too remarkable and numerous to be accounted for by chance. Furthermore, life is too complex to have accommodated by chance wish­fully to just those circumstances we find on this planet. The Christian is reminded by these phenomena of the word of the Lord as recorded by the Messianic prophet: "For thus says the Lord, who created the heav­ens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be in­habited!)" (Isa. 45:18, R.S.V.).

The witness of men of science who have thought deeply on the things of nature tes­tifies that such phenomena are considered by some of them to be among the "weight­ier matters." This may be illustrated by selected passages from Kirtley Mather, emeritus professor of geology at Harvard, a man whose beliefs in many respects do not correspond to ours, but who still rec­ognizes herein evidence of divine wisdom and power (in Walter Howey, ed., The Faith of Great Scientists, pp. 13, 14):

"We live in a universe, not of chance or caprice, but of Law and Order. Its admin­istration is completely rational and worthy of the utmost respect. Consider the marvel­ous mathematical scheme of nature that permits us to give consecutive atomic num­bers to every element of matter from num­ber one, hydrogen, to number 94, plu­tonium."

"Very evidently the administration is in­volved in a program of organization. Elec­trons, protons and neutrons are organized into atoms, atoms are organized into mole­cules, some of the molecules into living cells, and some of the cells into increas­ingly complex animals and plants."

"The administration has certainly not been functioning in a blindly, mechanical manner. Instead, it has proceeded in much the same way as would an intelligent, per­severing and purposeful person."

"One gets a definite sense of sympathetic relationship between oneself and the in­finite Creative Power. You somehow be­long to an administration of that sort. You have faith that 'spirit with spirit may meet.' "

It is true that there are numerous indi­vidual problems that may be beyond our present grasp to resolve, but let us not lose sight of the forest in looking at the trees; let us not be overwhelmed and gulp down camels as we are trying to strain out gnats.

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R. M. RITLAND, Director GeoScience Research Institute

October 1967

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