By James Jordan, Biblical Educator, Vol. 2, No, 11 (November 1980)
While there has been published, in recent years, much excellent material from the Creationist and Flood Catastrophist position, there is an area of real importance to science teaching which has not been addressed with any great thoroughness. That is the philosophy of science. It is assumed by our Creationist scientists that there is such a thing as “natural law,” and this “natural law” was created by God to rule the universe. This notion is, however, not Christian but Deistic.
Henry Morris, for whom I have the utmost respect, writes this erroneous paragraph in his book The Genesis Record (Baker, 1976; $12.95): “It would be helpful to keep in mind Occam’s Razor (the simplest -hypothesis which explains all the data is the most likely to be correct), the Principle of Least Action (nature normally operates in such a way as to expend. the minimum effort to accomplish a given result), and the theological principle of the Economy of Miracles (God has, in His omnipotence and omniscience, created a universe of high efficiency of operation and will not interfere in this operation supernaturally unless the natural principles are incapable of accomplishing His purpose in a specific situation), in attempting to explain the cause and results of the great Flood” (p. 195). Everything in this paragraph is wrong.
First, the problem with Occam’s Razor is that it implicitly denies the doctrine of the Trinity. (Not that Dr. Morris intends any such thing; my point is that Dr. Morris is mistaken, not that he is a heretic, which he surely is not.) The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is ultimately One and Many at the same time. His Oneness is not more ultimate than His Threeness, and vice versa. Unity is not more ultimate than diversity, and this fact is reflected in the created universe. Any attempt to reduce explanations to the “simplest” is reductionistic and denies the unity and complexity of existence. That explanation is correct which is correct, not which is most simple. Thus, the Flood may be both a simple and a very complex event.
Second, the Principle of Least Action is explained as something “nature” does. Now, this is a personification of an impersonal principle, called ‘nature.’ What is this ‘nature?’ Does it exist? The Bible does not teach any such thing. The Deistic philosophy is that God created the universe and infused it with natural laws. Now God does not interfere in the universe, but lets it run itself. Christians try to modify this Deistic philosophy by asserting that God occasionally intervenes in the natural processes, such interventions being called miracles.
This is fundamentally wrongheaded. The Bible teaches that God directly runs his universe. What we call “natural laws” are simply summary statements of what God usually does. There are no “natural laws” which God has infused into the universe to run the universe automatically. God is wholly Personal, and He personally runs all things.
God manifests His Lordship in three simultaneous ways. God is the Controller of all things, and by His providence He ordains all that comes to pass. He personally brings all things about. Second, God is the Authority or Lawgiver to all things. He rules by, His Word, or decree. His Word establishes those things which come to pass. This may look like an impersonal natural law, but it is the personal Word of a personal God. Finally, God is actively Present in all that comes to pass. God is extremely near, working things according to His plan. It is this concept of God’s presence which natural law theory cannot accommodate. It is the goal of secular natural law theory to push God out of His universe, to deny His presence. Christians make a mistake when they concede this point and only seek to retain God’s occasional presence through miracles.
This brings us to the third error in Dr. Morris’s statement. There is in the Bible no such thing as an Economy of Miracles. The doctrine of the Economy of Miracles goes along with the doctrine of natural law, but both are false. A miracle occurs when God chooses to act in a way different from the way He usually acts. Miracles occur, as Professor John M. Frame of Westminster Theological Seminary is fond of pointing out, to shock us out of our sinful complacency. Miracles have a saving function when received in faith, they manifest God’s special redemptive nearness, which is distinguishable from His general presence with His creation
Why doesn’t God do miracles all the time? Well, the answer to that is so that we can fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15. If God were always changing His ways of doing things, we could not count on the world’s going along the same way from day to day. God, however, has covenanted to keep the world on a predictable course (Gen. 8:20-22). What we have here is not some natural law which we may ‘take for granted, but God’s covenantal faithfulness which must lead us to worship. Science is possible only on the basis of faith in God’s Word, His promise to keep things going in a predictable way. We can count on God, depend on Him. Thus, all scientific investigation is based on faith, and is a branch not of philosophy but of theology.
The “law of gravity”, then, is not some natural law built into the universe, but it is God’s continual action of pulling or pushing things down to the surface of material bodies. He can reverse this action, if He pleases, so that iron floats (2 Kings 6:1-7).
The same is true of life. We do not have life in ourselves, as if God infuses life into us and then it drains out over the years until finally we die. Rather, life is a gift of the “Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,” as the Nicene Creed states. The breath of God which was breathed into human clay at the beginning is the Spirit (Gen. 2:7). Men die when the Spirit leaves them (Gen. 7:22; Eccl. 12:7). We depend on Him moment by moment for our breath.
Moreover, the angels are God’s personal agents who enforce His Word and are present in the universe running it. Both the eternally active God and His angels are busy working the universe. The Bible associates the angels with the stars (Job 38:7; Is. 14:13; Rev. 12:4; Judg. 5:20). Whether the stars are angels in one of their forms, of whether the stars are the homes of the angels, or whether they sustain some other kind of relationship, we do not know. But when you look at the stars at night, see the angels in their dance, as they govern God’s world for Him.
The Bible associates angels (stars) with the weather. Special storms are brought by the angels on special occasions (Ezek. 1, 10; Ps. 18: 1-9; Ex. 19:6; and Heb. 2:2), but weather in general is also controlled by the angels (Ps. 104:2-4). Evil as well as good angels have a hand in the weather (Eph. 2:2), which explains those sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee which threatened Jesus Christ when He walked the earth. Next time you fly in an aircraft, remember that it is God’s good angels who restrain the demons which might toss you right out of the sky.
God’s other personal agent in running His universe is man. Man was given dominion over those things listed in Genesis 1:26-28, and so man establishes the “law” for the animals, etc. We have no trouble seeing that man’s governance is not “natural law,” and if we keep this in mind, we will be able to see that the angelic and Divine governance of all things is also not “natural law,” but wholly personal.
Understanding this truth makes prayer more relevant. It also explains how the Bible can promise a change in weather, long life, change in animals’ eating habits, etc. There are no “natural laws” governing these things, only God’s flexible administration of His world.
The association of angels with stars solves a number of problems which vex some people. It tells us when the angels were created (Gen. 1:16). It tells us where they live, and why it is that they have to traverse space to get to the earth (Dan. 10:13). It tells us why Satan can be called the “prince of the powers of the atmosphere” (Eph. 2:2). It indicates why the universe is so vast in size, when man has only been given the earth to take dominion over. It helps to explain the Biblical association of angels with wind and fire (Heb. 1:7). The angels were busy during the Flood year, rearranging the world.
It may be objected by some that this exhaustively personalistic view of the universe eliminates science altogether, and makes science part of theology. Well, so what? As a matter of fact, the Christian view does eliminate modern science’s presuppositions. This does not mean that there is no place for men to investigate how God is governing His universe. Such an investigation may properly be called science, but of a Christian sort. But when we do science, let us realize we are studying how God runs His world, not some impersonal “natural law.”