Upheld by the Word of His Power
All around us, wherever we look, we can see regular patterns, and systems which are under control. Man in his sin and self-will often gets out of control, but not the natural world, for it submits to the laws of the Lord. Night follows day, summer follows spring, the moon waxes and wanes, the nearer planets and the farther constellations in the night sky follow patterns which are recognisable year after year. The times of sunrise and sunset are so regular that they can be calculated years in advance, as can the ebb and flow of the tides, accurate to within seconds. These can be traced back to the constancy of the annual orbit of the earth round the sun, its daily spin on its axis, and, for the tides, the monthly lunar cycle - all of them set by their Creator.
It is the same in the living world. Look at the birds. The swallows and other summer migrants arrive on time from thousands of miles away, make their nests in the same place as last year, stay for a few months to rear their young, then leave us again in late autumn. In the gardens and fields, green growth breaks through the bare earth and the blossoms appear at the time you have come to expect them, before bearing fruit and withering away. In the large rivers, salmon from the ocean swim upstream and leap raging waterfalls to spawn in the very gravel beds in which they started life years before. In our own bodies, the cycles of blood circulation, breathing, food digestion are regular and so commonplace that we hardly stop to think about them (until something goes wrong!), whilst special functions like having babies are so programmed that delivery dates can be prepared for well ahead. It is all very marvellous.
Those who have studied any of these matters will tell you that they follow well-known laws which have been discovered over many years of observation and measurement. It is clear that everything is not in a state of chaos. Certain principles are obeyed which scientists have called natural laws. To the believer, the existence of these laws is no surprise. They originate in the wisdom of Almighty God who stamps order as well as beauty on everything He does, who does everything after the counsel of His own will. All of Gods creation is upheld by the word of His power (Heb 1.3). His word is not simply the law they obey; He personally has them all in control. The universe is not ruled by science, it is ruled by God.
Science provides descriptions and explanations for natural processes. Sometimes the explanations and their laws are given in terms of complex and elegant mathematics. It has even been claimed that the universe is pure mathematics. Sir James Jeans (1877-1946), a renowned English scientist/mathematician, wrote the following:
"The universe appears to have been designed by a pure mathematician...If the universe is a universe of thought, then its creation must have been an act of thought. Modern scientific theory compels us to think of the creator as working outside of time and space, which are part of his creation, just as an artist (does) outside his canvas".1
Jeans is among the many great thinkers who have been led to acknowledge the Creator from observing beautiful design and precise order in the universe. His language might not be what we would use to describe God, but his words exemplify the truth of Romans 1.19-20, which the inspired writer says leaves man without excuse.
God is the creator and sustainer of everything. He is superior to every law, the law-maker Himself. And all these laws, like the moral and spiritual ones, are for the benefit of all. A world which obeyed no laws would be a dangerous place, even as a lawless society would be.
The Fundamental Laws
Four fundamental laws govern the natural world.2 It is noteworthy that their discoverers acknowledged that what they were studying were the wonderful works of God.
1. The law of gravitation. The best known application of this universal law is the law of gravity which controls all movements on earth. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1867) who discovered it saw "the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being who is Lord of all". The related laws of planetary motion explain and describe how and why the earth and the other planets move round the sun in elliptical orbits. When Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) discovered these he prayed, "O God, I thank Thee that Thou hast permitted me to think Thy thoughts after Thee!".
2. The laws of electrostatics. Opposite charges attract each other and like charges repel, with a force which rapidly diminishes the farther apart they are. These laws, along with the related laws of electromagnetism, govern every electrical device you can think of, natural or man-made. Michael Faraday (1791-1867), one of the great pioneers in this field, was a preacher of the gospel, and honoured God in his work.
3. The laws of thermodynamics. These laws were deduced in the nineteenth century from studies on heat (thermo-) and motion or work (dynamics). They govern all processes, changes and reactions, whether chemical or physical, natural or technological. The first of these laws is conservation of energy energy cannot be created or destroyed. So the immense power or energy in the universe must have been provided from outside of itself as the Bible says it was. The second law governs the production of useful work, and shows that when work is produced energy has to be wasted (e.g. in cooling an engine). These laws were formalised by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson; 1824-1907). He said, "Science positively affirms creative power".
4. The laws of life. The most basic of these is the law of biogenesis formulated by Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). It states that life can come only from previous life. Life never comes from dead matter yet one of the key claims of evolution is that it did! This law says this would not happen! Only God can initiate life. Pasteurs work led to antiseptic surgery, pasteurisation, immunisation, and vaccination which have saved countless lives. He said, "The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator".
Law and Order
In every field of science and technology, in every application from microbiology to astronomy, from oceanography to vulcanology, from computer science to crop science, and dozens more, it is law and order that prevails. If this were not so, the subjects would be impossible to study, and their benefits unavailable.
This law and order is a gift of God to His creation, as is mans intellect to discover and apply these laws. Sad to say, many of these discoveries and applications have been abused, and not employed for mans benefit. Think of explosives - for digging tunnels, extracting minerals, or making bombs and landmines. Think of the uses and abuses of printing, the internet, and so on. The extra knowledge and ability now available have highlighted the basic human dilemma - how to decide between good and evil, what to use resources for, how to make the correct choice. Science can offer no guidance for this.
But for all who are willing to seek it, guidance is available. It is found in the moral and spiritual law of God: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Ps 19.7). "Order my steps in thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (119.133).
Those four fundamental laws of nature encompass many other helpful laws or principles used in specialised fields of science and technology, to "spell out" the details and applications. A similar thing is seen in Gods spiritual law. The Lord Jesus said that the message of the law and the prophets was contained in two fundamental commands: to love the Lord with all the heart and the soul and the mind; and to love ones neighbour as ones self (Mt 22.36-40). Or, "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom 13.10). Many precepts of Holy Scripture "spell out" the details and give particular examples in daily life, but the fundamental law is the law of love. It is the first and greatest commandment.
This perfect law of the Lord, revealed in His Word, shows us how to glorify Him and be of benefit to others. Those natural laws which we have considered, "the word of his power" (Heb 1.3), also do this. They exist, perhaps unnoticed by many of us, for the benefit of all. They also point us to God and they glorify Him.
To be continued.
1 Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe. New York, Macmillan, 1930.
2 The laws of Relativity and of Quantum Mechanics are too specialised to describe here.