"A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature."

- Fred Hoyle

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

- Psalm 8:3-4 NIV

"It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."

- Stephen Hawking


good science is good theology


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

- Romans 1:20 NASB

4.1 Natural revelation vs. natural theology.

Natural revelation is the discovery of certain attributes of God through the study of creation. In contrast to written revelation in which God communicates with us directly (the Bible), natural revelation is inferred from human observations. Because of the subjectivity involved in doing so, we cautiously trust natural revelation to reveal only the more general qualities about God.

Natural revelation stems from verses of Scripture like the one above. With limitations, as the verse suggests, nature can be accepted as a source of information about God for the same reason Scripture is accepted. Both were the products of the mind of God. Because God's written word bears the fingerprints of his mind and character, we reason his creation does as well.

My own field of architecture illustrates this. After one becomes familiar with a particular designer and with the way he or she thinks, it becomes possible to tell who designed a project just by studying it. In the same way, if you come to know God through the study of his Scripture, you'll be able to recognize his handiwork when you see it in creation.

This works the other way around, too. If you look closely at a project without knowing the designer and find an extremely high level of care and coherency in the details, then you can be sure that 1) there was a designer, and 2) he or she is very worthy. It's by this principle that the verse above is able to declare natural revelation leaves men "without excuse". In other words, creation so wonderfully reflects the Creator, that just being exposed to it is enough to hold you accountable to worship him. Creation alone extols the worthiness of God.

Natural theology, though sounding similar, is quite different. Natural theology accepts natural revelation as a substitute for written revelation. Natural theology believes God can be just as deeply known through nature as he is through the message of Jesus and the cross. This belief devalues the teachings of Jesus and treats his death on the cross as unnecessary. That is inconsistent with what written revelation teaches. Because it's inconsistent, then the basis for concluding it to be equivalent no longer exists. Natural theology refutes itself.

Wherever a mere human inference drawn from natural observation conflicts with God's clearer message of his written revelation, God's clearer message always wins.

4.2 What might be examples of natural revelation?

The best examples are also covered under the chapter on the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Let me repeat part of that here:

We know that the Congress of Astronomers concludes the universe to have had a definite beginning. We know that cause precedes effect. And we know that the universe is made up of space, time, and matter. So anything consisting of, or limited by, space, time, and matter must itself be merely a component part of that universe. Thus the pre-existent cause of the universe could not have consisted of those characteristics which it subsequently produced. The causal force/agent must therefore be described as:

These characteristics further suggest that:

These qualities of God, or "invisible attributes", are very likely of the type which the Bible verse above refers. They describe the same God as found in the Bible, yet come to us merely by observations of the natural world, coupled with sound reasoning.

Here are some additional examples of what nature might reveal to us about God (the following are not necessarily invisible attributes and, as such, may or may not be inclusive of Romans 1:20):

What is the skeptical response to this?

The skeptical response to natural revelation is to turn things around and say it's the latter (the world) that likely created the former (the belief in God). For example, savages long ago may have been so scared by the seeming randomness and spectre of death that they invented the idea of a God who applied death for some beneficial purpose.

While a Christian would likely argue the opposite is true, the skeptic's position has actually testified to a certain truth of Scripture. Whenever skeptics argue that beliefs about God are easily explainable as mere outgrowths of the natural world, they are admitting the reality of the passage from Romans quoted at the start; namely that creation holds sufficient revelation as to hold us accountable to its Creator. No longer is there an "ignorant savage" argument that calls into question the destiny of people who have never heard of the Lord.

Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

- Acts 17:29-31 NIV

See also:

Natural revelation: what it reveals about origins

Where did the universe come from?

Where did the earth come from?

Where did man come from?

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"Good science" is a sort of amoral high ground for all who accept empirical evidence as trustworthy.

Science is defined elsewhere, but its support is claimed by both sides in the god vs. no-god debate.

This section reinforces the endorsement Christianity has for scientific thinking and methodology, and reminds believers of the importance of God's revelation of himself in nature.