Well, my summer vacation is officially over as school started on Tuesday. For this semester, I happen to be teaching two introductory physics courses. In my preparation, I decided to do some reading of the Principia by Isaac Newton. In the Preface of the 1846 English translation, there is a tribute to Isaac Newton that I found particularly interesting. The first paragraph of the tribute reads:
FROM the thick darkness of the middle ages man’s struggling spirit emerged as in new birth ; breaking out of the iron control of that period ; growing strong and confident in the tug and din of succeeding conflict and revolution, it bounded forwards and upwards with resistless vigour to the investigation of physical and moral truth ; ascending height after height ; sweeping afar over the earth, penetrating afar up into the heavens ; increasing in endeavour, enlarging in endowment; everywhere boldly, earnestly out-stretching, till, in the AUTHOR of the PRINCIPIA, one arose, who, grasping the master-key of the universe and treading its celestial paths, opened up to the human intellect the stupendous realities of the material world, and, in the unrolling of its harmonies, gave to the human heart a new song to the goodness, wisdom, and majesty of the all-creating, all-sustaining, all-perfect God.
The last clause stuck out to me because we see a distinctly Christian worldview articulated through the sciences. I’ve often asked myself how my vocation is different than any other secular scientist and professor and the above paragraph articulates my view well. Personally, I don’t study physics or atmospheric science simply to be known as a great scientist. Rather, I entered into this field because the interconnectedness of the natural world reveals the Triune God of scripture. We know that the general revelation by itself is not sufficient to produce a saving knowledge of God, but after God’s grace has appeared to me in salvation, God’s general revelation in nature (and our understanding of it) produces a new song to the wisdom and knowledge of the one true God. It is for this reason that the Christian devotes himself to the physical sciences and also explains how it can be done for the glory of God. Instead of physical and moral truth being at odds with one another, they work together harmoniously to reflect God more rightly. This is also Newton’s perspective as he studied physics and theology. In describing Newton’s worldview with his scientific investigations, the tribute reads:
And yet Newton, amid the loveliness and magnitude of Omnipotence, lost not sight of the Almighty One. A secondary, however universal, was not taken for the First Cause. An impressed force, however diffused and powerful, assumed not the functions of the creating, giving Energy. Material beauties, splendours, and sublimities, however rich in glory, and endless in extent, concealed not the attributes of an intelligent Supreme. From the depths of his own soul, through reason and the WORD, he had risen, a priori, to God : from the heights of Omnipotence, through the design and law of the builded universe, he proved a posteriori, a Deity.
Furthermore, Newton is recorded as saying:
Thus, the diligent student of science, the earnest seeker of truth, led, as through the courts of a sacred Temple, wherein, at each step, new wonders meet the eye, till, as a crowning grace, they stand before a Holy of Holies, and learn that all science and all truth are one which hath its beginning and its end in the knowledge of Him whose glory the heavens declare, and whose handiwork the firmament showeth forth.
Today, it can be said that most scientists have abandoned Newton’s perspective and have embraced a naturalistic worldview. This is very unfortunate because such a perspective robs God of His glory as the only truly self-sustaining, all-creative being. God is the one worthy of worship and adoration because everything obtains its worth and value as a derivative of Him. Therefore, studying God’s creation should not lead us to worship the creation, but to worship the all-creating God.
In practice, this means that I approach my profession each day with a worshipful disposition. I don’t treat my daily activities as just some work that gives me a paycheck, but I treat it with the same discipline and focus as if I’m preparing a bible study. In my case, I’m reading from the Book of Nature and using my own research to understand God’s works of creation more clearly. God’s wisdom is vividly displayed in creation and by God’s grace, He has given me the time and ability to truly study them. Thus, I treat this privilege with the honor and the delight that it is due. The Psalmist testifies of these basic truths.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all. Psalm 104:24
All in all, I greatly enjoy the job and vocation in which God has blessed me. As the new semester begins, I pray that I may spend my life studying the works of God as I delight in Him!