Handbook of the Fellowship of Scientists

Readings 41-50


Be doers of the word...

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act - they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:22-27


Frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world...

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simone Weil says simply, "Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love."

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pg. 248


The ordinances of the heavens

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, 'Here we are'?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods cling together?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
or lie in wait in their covert?

Job 34:33-40


The hills gird themselves with joy...

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.

By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.

You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.

Those who live at earth's farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges,
softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Ps. 65:5-13


We cannot contemplate without a certain love.

Science has as its object the study and the theoretical reconstruction of the order of the world-the order of the world in relation to the mental, psychic, and bodily structure of man. Contrary to the naive illusions of certain scholars, neither the use of telescopes and microscopes, nor the employment of most unusual algebraical formulae, nor even a contempt for the principle of noncontradiction will allow it to get beyond the limits of this structure. Moreover it is not desirable that it should. The object of science is the presence of Wisdom in the universe, Wisdom of which we are the brothers, the presence of Christ, expressed through matter which constitutes the world. We reconstruct for ourselves the order of the world in an image, starting from limited, countable, and strictly defined data. We work out a system for ourselves, establishing connections and conceiving of relationships between terms that are abstract and for that reason possible for us to deal with. Thus in an image, an image of which the very existence hangs upon an act of our attention, we can contemplate the necessity which is the substance of the universe but which, as such, only manifests itself to us by the blows it deals. We cannot contemplate without a certain love. The contemplation of this image of the order of the world constitutes a certain contact with the beauty of the world. The beauty of the world is the order of the world that is loved.

Weil, Waiting for God, pp. 169-170


Natural theology in Romans

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Rom. 1:18-25


Miracles Violate Our Understanding of the World

One of the points at which science and Christian theology seem most to be at odds is the subject of miracles. Now a proper definition of miracle sees it first as either appearing to violate the laws of nature as they are currently known or appearing as an extremely improbable coincidence of diverse elements, and second as having a deeper significance than simply being a rare and unusual event for the persons involved.

The claim is made that science has shown that miracles are impossible. What is really meant is that because the structure of a miracle does not fit the structure of scientific truth, it cannot therefore be true. Actually, since miracles are unique historical events, science can say nothing about them at all. The only judgement that science can bring fairly is to say, "Miracles are not expected". But that, after all, is the very nature of a miracle and hardly constitutes an argument against their reality.

One of the most troublesome aspects of miracles is that they seem to call for God to intervene in a normally orderly and well-behaved world in order to produce something special. But we need not think of the world as having been outfitted by God at some time in the past with the various physical laws that govern the behaviour of matter, and of its having continued since that time on the basis of God's initial momentum without his specific activity in the whole system (a Deist, not a biblical, view). In this framework a miracle becomes an oddity, an affront to the work of creation, a meddling with a self-sufficient world that is operating well. On the contrary, if it is realized that the biblical view is that the very existence of the world from moment to moment depends upon the creative and sustaining power of God, that no natural law has any power of its own to continue (i.e. physical laws are descriptive and not prescriptive), and that no "expected" circumstance has any ability to bring itself into being, we come to the conclusion that God's activity in a miracle is not qualitatively different from God's activity in natural phenomena.

For corn to grow does not require a different kind of activity by God than for the dead to rise. It is just that in the pattern of reality set by God, it is common and expected that the corn will grow, given the right conditions of soil and rain. No particular surprise or deeper significance need be read into the growth of corn (although it is clear that a genuine reaction to the growth of corn often produces both wonder and awe). But the resurrection of the dead is a unique and special kind of event, occurring in the present state of the world only at those rare times when the people of God were enabled to display the love and power of God in an unusual and striking way.

Can Scientists Believe?, pp. 116-117


In wisdom you have made them all...

Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.

-- * --
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are your works!

-- * --
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works -
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.

Psalm 104


The present for a present on its birthday...

My God, I look at the creek. It is the answer to Merton's prayer, "Give us time !" It never stops. If I seek the senses and skill of children, the information of a thousand books, the innocence of puppies, even the insights of my own dry past, I do so only, solely, and entirely that I might look well at the creek. You don't run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled. You'll have fish left over. The creek is the one great giver. It is, by definition, Christmas, the incarnation. This old rock planet gets the present for a present on its birthday every day. Here is the word from a subatomic physicist: "Everything that has already happened is particles, everything in the future is waves." Let me twist his meaning. Here it comes. The particles are broken; the waves are translucent, laving, roiling with beauty like sharks. The present is the wave that explodes over my head, flinging the air with particles at the height of its breathless unroll; it is the live water and light that bears from undisclosed sources the freshest news, renewed and renewing, world without end.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pp. 104-105


The covenant with every living creature

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Gen. 9:8-17

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