Theologians have historically categorized the Bible and nature as “two books,” which when read side by side combine to reveal the God of creation. The first book, comprised of the inspired Scriptures of the Jewish and Christian faith, is called His “special revelation.” Its combined influence extends all over the world and stands at the heart of Western culture, making the Bible the most widely translated, circulated, and studied book in history. The Scriptures are considered special, in part, because if God had not chosen human writers who were inspired by the Spirit of truth to disclose this unique and specific knowledge, we would not be aware of it—especially the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The second of God’s two revelations is the book of nature, termed “general revelation.” This is the implied record about our Creator that is discovered in the natural world around us. It is considered general in that it is a disclosure of reality that has been generally available to all people throughout the ages. It showcases the handiwork of God in the creation, and it serves as the record of His direct and indirect actions on the earth and in human history. So, according to the Bible, God reveals Himself not only through the inspired words of Scripture, but also through the book of nature.
Since the creation of the world [the Creator's] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (Romans 1:20).
The Hebrew author of Psalm 19 expressed an observation similar to that of Paul when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (vv.1-4).
General revelation, then, which is readable to anyone willing to consider it carefully, makes known God’s glory (splendor and riches), His handiwork (creativity), His everlasting power (including His moral perfection and His capacity to control and alter natural forces), and His divine nature (realities that show He is worthy of our worship). Together these disclosures demonstrate that the natural world contains a vast collection of good gifts that reveal to us a great deal of truth about the personhood, intelligence, and character of our Creator. The creation not only shouts “God,” it declares, “He is powerful, wise, and wonderful!”
Reading Both Books
Science, at its best, is an attempt to read and understand the book of nature (or God’s works). But at its worst, science takes its finite and materially limited findings about nature and turns it into a naturalistic faith and philosophy that ignores or denies an infinite and materially unlimited supernatural Creator.
As a result of its naturalistic focus and because of the ascendancy of Darwinism within the scientific community, science has often been dominated by agnostics or atheists—even though a majority of scientists might admit some level of faith in a creator God. Before Darwin, however, it was the dominant belief in a Creator separate from His creation that actually gave rise to the sciences, and Christians were in the majority. In fact, it was belief in a rational, intelligently planned, and orderly creation that helped to make modern science possible.
Many of the pioneers of science—Kepler, Bacon, Newton, Pascal, Faraday, and others—were devout believers of the Bible who considered both the supernatural and natural revelations to be witnesses of the truth about God and His creation. In an oral essay on National Public Radio, Joseph Loconte pointed out that “too many skeptics have forgotten the massive historical debt they owe to the Jewish and Christian belief in an orderly cosmos. They cast religion as the enemy of science and progress, when in fact it was the religious [biblical] worldview that helped launch the scientific revolution over three centuries ago.”
Scientists of past generations had no problem studying the quantifiable facts of general revelation (nature) while accepting the truthfulness and authority of the Creator’s special revelation (the Scriptures). More than a few scientists and great thinkers of the past have walked in the tradition of men like Moses, David, and John the Baptist who found, in nature and in the wilderness, a sanctuary where the books of God’s special and general revelation spoke in eloquent harmony.