In the mid-1500s, scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton challenged commonly accepted scientific beliefs with their discoveries. Their conclusions gave rise to a new outlook on the universe, and changed the widespread emphasis from God to man. This period in history is known as the Enlightenment. How could such a drastic transformation in popular thinking be made by just some new ideas? Here are two principles that were widely accepted in these theorists’ time. #1. There is an omnipotent God Who rules the universe. #2. That He is a personal God and answers the prayers of mankind. These beliefs were held by a majority of people in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, when Newton’s book Mathematical Principles was published, for example, it was shown that the universe operates on the basis of regular, predictable natural laws1. Thus a third theory was eventually added to the list of generally accepted beliefs. Then the conflict began. People believed in God, that He is all-powerful and personal, but they couldn’t reconcile these beliefs with the undeniable principle of natural law. In time, religious belief faded into the background and was replaced by reliance on scientific researchers for the knowledge of truth. In today’s world, belief in God as herein described is the exception. Is there a way to resolve the apparent conflict between these three principles? In this essay we will explore the answer.
Mark 10:27 says this: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” Jeremiah 32:17 declares, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You.” So we see that our first principle is certainly true. Psalm 66:19-20 affirms, “But God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!” Psalm 120:1 states, “I call on the LORD in my distress, and He answers me.” Now we see that the second principle is also correct. The third principle, the principle of natural laws – laws of gravity, physics, thermodynamics, and many other areas – is so well contended for in so many places that we won’t go into that here and now.
To gain a clearer understanding of the facts surrounding our dilemma, let’s look at some of the characteristics of God’s nature. God is not limited by space like we are as humans. God created space, but He is not limited by it. God also created time, and time and space are inseparably joined. God is infinite, omnipresent, and eternal – He has always existed, will always exist, and exists everywhere at once. He was, is, and always will be. Try to grasp this concept. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). As finite, mortal beings, this is hard for us to comprehend, yet it is true.
Now, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created them under the power of natural laws, but those same natural, scientific laws are under God’s sovereign authority. Without God, the universe would not exist. God created the world with a plan for His honor and glory. Part of the way He glorifies Himself is by answering the prayers of the people He created. One of the most amazing things in history is God’s undying love for us. Jesus humbled Himself by coming to this world in the form of a man – He laid aside His position as God’s Son and died to pay for our sins.
And so we discover that our three points all agree with each other: God is omnipotent and sovereign over the entire world; He made laws, like any good sovereign does, to rule over His universe; and He is a loving God Who cares for us. All are true and cannot be done away with, yet because of their seeming contradiction of each other, many people have turned to their own reason to tell them what is true. Let us remember that God alone is the source of ultimate truth.
1 Exploring America; by Ray Notgrass (Copyright 2007)