By Pastor Glenn Pease
Edwin Conklin the biologist said, "The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop." The Christian says that life was created by God, but modern science feels that it will soon be able to create life in the laboratory. Many have jumped to the conclusion that if science does this it will destroy the need of a Creator to account for creation. There is no logic in this, however, for why should God be excluded because He made man capable of learning some of His methods? Leslie Weatherhead, the great British preacher, said that man's creating life does not exclude God, for he and his wife did it many years ago, but God was not excluded because they were permitted to have children and enter into the realm of creators.
Man is constantly copying the Creator. In so doing he is not eliminating God from the picture, but is acknowledging God's wisdom. Man has developed an airplane in which he can fly and duplicate God's creation of the birds. He has not made a Creator of birds unnecessary by so doing, but has only demonstrated that man can copy God. Centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci said, "A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law; an instrument which it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements."
A modern author, John Storer, in Bird Aerodynamics writes, "A bird is actually a living airplane. It flies by the same aerodynamical principles as a plane and uses much of the same mechanical equipment-wings, propellers, steering gear, even slots and flaps for help in taking off and landing." Man's ability to copy the Creators pattern, because He has not put a patient on it and forbid its use, does not weaken the evidence for a Creator, but strengthens it. Davy writes, "It is doubtful whether man would ever have conceived flight had nature not provided the pattern." God has built design into all His creation, and because man is given the intelligence to see the design he can also duplicate it. Even the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs are copying the process that takes place on the sun, which provides us with light and heat and life.
Sir George P. Thompson in the Journal Of The Washington Academy Of Science after describing natures machine tools wrote, "Henry Ford may have thought that he was initiating something new when he gave us mass production in its most characteristic form, but he was merely a humble imitator of nature." Joseph Paxton was said to have floated to fame on a lily leaf. He designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1850. The principles he used came from his study of the Victoria Regina Lily. He wrote, "Nature was the engineer. Nature had provided the leaf with longitudinal and transverse girders and supports that I, borrowing from it, have adopted in this building."
Not all designers are humble enough to acknowledge that they are copying from the Great Designer of all, but acknowledge it or not, they are imitators of God. The water and sewage systems of cities with all of their valves and pumps are but imitations of the blood system with all of its arteries, veins, and the heart.
Paper had always been made from rags in Europe until the end of the 18th century. A French naturalist Rene Reammers noted that wasps used minute filaments of wood fibers to make their nests, and that they were made of a material which was remarkably like paper. He wrote to the Royal Academy of France in 1719 and declared that wasps, "Teach us that paper can be made from the fibers of plants without the use of rags and linen, and seem to invite us to try whether we cannot make fine and good paper from the use of certain woods." His idea was ignored until the end of the century when rags became scarce and another resource was needed. Then wood was tried, and Jacob Schaffer in his 6th volume work on paper making calls the wasp the first paper maker and man the imitator.
During World War II man looked to nature to find answers to many of the problems he faced. This was especially so in the important realm of camouflage. One example will show what nature taught man along this line. Planes on anti-submarine patrol were painted white on the bottom to resemble the fish eating birds like gulls and terns. "It was realized that a submarine about to be attack by an aircraft is placed in much the same strategic position as a fish about to be attack by a bird." Nature provided the bird with white undercoating to make it difficult to distinguish against a bright sky. Man saw the value and copied it. Man's use of radar is also an imitation of the bat and certain fish that emit and pick up electric signals.
All of these and many many more illustrations come from the book, The Universe: Plan or Accident? By Robert E. D. Clark. His purpose is to show design in creation which compels us to recognize a Designer. He reasons that if we call the inventions of man the instruments of design and purpose, how can we fail to see nature as designed and purposeful? He writes, "As well might we give the credit for inventions to those who plagiarize the work of others but not to original inventors themselves."
If man should not just produce life in all forms, but even go so far as to produce a living, intelligent creature, he has only done what he has always been doing, and that is imitating the original Creator. All man can ever do is discover and imitate the wisdom of God. A wise man, therefore, and a wise scientist will acknowledge the inescapable fact that creation speaks loud and clear of a Creator.
Men without revelation could see this. Aristotle and Cicero believed in a Creator and Governor of creation. Christians, of course, have always believed this, but the use they have made of nature as a revelation of God has varied. Paul here in Rom. 1:19-20 says that God has made himself sufficiently plain in His creation to leave men without excuse who do not acknowledge a Creator, abut instead worship the creation. It is a clear biblical truth, therefore, that God does speak through His creation, and that men are held accountable for this revelation as well as for what God says through His Word.
The modern history of the use of nature to teach spiritual truth began with John Flavel in 1669. His book Husbandry Spiritualized was a best seller among non-conformist of England for a century. He took common experiences of life with nature, and especially farming, and showed how these experiences were analogies of biblical truth. The idea crossed the ocean and in the 1690's Cotton Mather, the well-known Puritan leader, picked it up and developed it in this country. In 1702 he wrote, "To fetch excellent, and enriching instructions out of the creators that surround us, is most certainly one of the highest uses that we can put them unto." He deliberately developed nature studies to reach the masses. Fourteen leading ministers of Eastern Massachusetts signed a statement in one of his books which said, "To spiritualize the common actions of life, and make a religious improvement of worldly affairs, is an holy and happy act."
The idea became so popular among the Puritans that it was run into the ground. Everything was spiritualized until it became superficial. Jonathan Edwards, who has been called the greatest mind America has ever produced, got sick of this moralizing, and he determined to do something about it. He wanted to see Christians gain respect and be in good relationship to scientific truth. He began collecting notes for his book which he called The Language And Lessons Of Nature. His goal was to show that nature was not just for illustrating Christians meanings, but that it was actual evidence of Christian truth.
Jonathan Edwards put nature on the level where Paul puts it here in Rom. 1. It is a level where it is a revelation of God's truth to man. It was a Puritan revolt against Puritanism that made nature, as seen through the regenerate eye, an authority, not just to illustrate the Bible, but to demonstrate the truth of the Bible. Anyone can read the Bible said Edwards, but the supreme act was to be able to actually see God the Creator in His creation.
In one of his sermons he said, "And sometimes, when the soul is full of the Spirit of God, wherever they turn their eyes, if they look up to heaven, or if they look on the face of the earth, still there seems to be a cast of the glory of God to be seen in things. Sometimes there effect arise from beholding some particular part of the creation. Sometimes it may be in beholding the sun, or in viewing the moon, or in seeing the stars in their height and glory, or in looking at the clouds in the sky, or in viewing the face of the earth with the works of God upon it, the trees, grass and flowers. Sometimes it may be such a particular thing as the singing of birds, or seeing other creatures which God has made for us."
Edwards went through the Bible showing how it constantly refers to nature to back up its truth. He finds natural things being used as types of spiritual things and is convinced that God deliberately created all things to be types of spiritual realities, just as He commanded Moses to build a Tabernacle which was a type of the heavenly Tabernacle. If Jesus is the true light and the true vine, then the Sun and the natural vine are types of Him. This study was not by a liberal sentimental nature lover, but by the classical fire and brimstone preacher. He took God's Word very seriously, and because of it, he took God's revelation in nature very seriously as well. We all need to honor God as Creator as well as our Redeemer and Heavenly Father.