News and the Good News

The Psalm for The Week: May 31st

Psalm 104: For the week of May 31-June 6

It may be dangerous to wade into the debates about Intelligent Design in a very short reflection that is meant as a devotion rather than an argument. But I’ll venture a few things, off the cuff, in light of the Psalm for this week that speaks of some of the glories in the creation and contends that creation bespeaks a creator.

First, much of the debate about Intelligent Design is not, well, so intelligent. Very few acknowledge that part of the problem is the splintering of knowledge. Philosophy has virtually disappeared from secondary education. Further, in previous ages there was a drive to unite or synthesize the findings of diverse disciplines. This was called consilience. Well, that is gone, too. So, where do we think through questions like ‘Does the world have a design? If so, what does it mean or imply? Can chance account for everything?” and the like. Well- meaning Christians have said, in effect, “Well, science is where the debate is, do put Intelligent Design in science!” There is much fundamentalism (close-mindedness) in modern science, but it’s true that questions about the leap from order in the universe to a Creator is properly in philosophy and theology (though we can certainly imagine a type of educational model where such questions are allowed across the curriculum—such a model prevailed for centuries in Europe!)

Second, in ordinary conversation with science teachers at the prep school where I taught, I was startled at how few realized the congruence between the biblical perception that there is order and the scientific model of hypothesize, test, repeat. Only an orderly universe, one that has some abiding structures, laws, and dynamics can be tested for regularities. It was the biblical confidence in an orderly creation that spawned the scientific revolution.

So, third, it is not unreasonable to find delight in the orderliness of creation and sense purpose in and behind it all. (Another wrinkle in the claim of the close-minded evolutionists: how can we speak of adaptability without using the word purpose? Let me know if you find an answer.) It is just such a delight the Psalmist finds in the marvelous works of God. It is also—have a look—the beauty and magnificence of creation, its order and goodness, that is held out to Job in his misery as an anchor, held as self-evident (!), for faith in a good, or trustworthy God.

Our moods, our anxieties, our habitual disbelief, and our challenges can weigh us down. And the prevailing intellectual culture can hide things from view, too. In the Chrhonicles of Narnia, there is a scene in The Silver Chair, I think, in which the witch of the Underworld tries to tell the children and a character named Puddleglum that her world, the cave, is the only world that exists. She uses a magic fire to enchant them and make them drowsy enough to believe her. Puddleglum heroically stomps out the fire en route to an escape to the full, real world. As I see it, the creation speaks, bespeaks, of a creator nevertheless, quite independent of us, even if we've been snookered into believing there is only a bare universe, empty of divinity, random and a product of chance alone. Have a look at the manifold works of God: look closely at that butterfly, that tree, the clouds in the sky, that little rabbit hopping about. It all sure looks wonderfully, like a Great Big Choreography, open to inspection, yes, but also a dance that we can join with delight.   

Here is the Psalm:

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.

27 There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.

28 All of them look to you *
to give them their food in due season.

29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.

30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.

31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
and so you renew the face of the earth.

32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.

33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
he touches the mountains and they smoke.

34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
I will praise my God while I have my being.

35 May these words of mine please him; *
I will rejoice in the Lord.

37 Bless the Lord, O my soul. *