Spectacular lightning and deafening thunder rolled through Southern California last week and dazzled, drenched, and even delighted heat-weary locals. Rancho Cucamonga (where I live) enjoyed a couple of downpours reminiscent of a large crowd’s long-lasting applause. I like to take the dogs for a walk at a nearby natural park during a rainstorm, but in this case it was pouring too hard—and one dog is afraid of thunder.
The dogs’ noses hit the trail the next day––lots of new scents, I’m sure––while I scoped out the “storm damage.” Intrigued by the pattern of temporarily coursing water, I wondered what the Creator had in mind when he set the thunderstorm in motion. That brought to mind the skeptical complaint that “God is a show-stopper.” In other words, religious believers tend to invoke God when they encounter nature––to the detriment of the advancement of science. If God did it, why bother exploring how things came about? The complaint delivers a further sting when skeptics suggest that such an antiscience attitude smacks of indifference toward both human suffering and resolution of global problems.
I don’t get that impression at all from working alongside scientists here at Reasons To Believe. Although they operate with the assumption that a Creator is responsible for the universe and life, nothing stops them from asking the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. They possess an insatiable curiosity to gain understanding of anything––from the tiniest components of the cell to the greatest expanses of the universe––that can be known about the created order. You might call it a “weak methodological naturalism.” That is, if something can be explained naturally then so be it. God gets the glory because he is responsible for the laws of physics but there’s no settling for can’t-explain-it legerdemain.
Ingrained curiosity and a quest for knowledge seem to be hallmarks of humanity. From a Christian perspective that’s what one would expect, given that all human beings are image bearers of their Creator.
Thus, while I might have explained thunder to my kids when they were younger as “God is bowling again,” I wouldn’t leave it there. I still don’t understand lightning and thunder, but I wonder about the countless facets of a storm: how debris is carried along, how water moves, how water is absorbed by plants, why thunder is so loud when it’s right on top of you, how clouds hold water, and so on.
Maybe Christians haven’t done the best job of communicating that they are just as concerned as nontheists about helping to solve the world’s problems through scientific advances. That perception can be remedied.
Aren’t Christians at least as curious about the natural realm as nontheists? If so, how can we make a more positive impact? How can we show skeptics that the grand theatre we both observe as we stand side-by-side was designed with intelligent precision for the benefit and reward of all people willing to ask outside-the-box questions?
We’ve got work to do.
Hugh Ross demonstrates some of his scientist’s curiosity as he explores nature’s features in Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job.