The Art and Science of God
The Divine Watchmaker
God’s Wonders at the Exodus
When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why is it, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.
There are long and complex arguments about the power of God whose premise rests upon a perspective of perfection. The branch of religion called deism focuses on the concepts of perfection as efficiency, consistency, and the lack of mistakes. I suspect it arose, in part, out of the ontological argument for the existence of God. In summary, this argument takes the concept of cause and effect and applies it universally, naming God the first cause.
While this was done in the Spirit of making God more sensible, particularly to the more scientifically minded. However, this moved discussion and description of God from the narrative form, which we have in scripture, to a more logical form found in a Greek Philosophy. The result of this endeavor was deism, the idea that God created the world and now sits back and watches His perfect creation at work.
Unfortunately, scripture is filled with examples of God intervening and working in our world long after the initial creation. It is a defense of this logical concept of God, not from an overwhelming amount of evidence. I expect that the alternative is that without this “first cause” line of reasoning, there is room for doubting the existence of God, or at least the idea of God being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. So the perspective almost necessitates the idea that God is the great cosmic watchmaker, who creates everything and sets it together in perfect harmony. Then He simply sits back and admires His creation. Perhaps, from time to time, if we take a lenient view of this, He is allowed to reach in and regrease the gears or adjust some small aspects. Overall though, His perfection is based upon His ability to get it done right the first time.
What if God is not a watchmaker though? What if creation is not mechanical, but rather something more organic? What if, more in line with the biblical account itself, God created the world like a garden, knowing full well that it was not a one-time deal… that it would need continual oversight and care? That would explain why God continually invades our world, intervening, healing, pruning, weeding… It would explain why we ourselves find ourselves dealing with a constantly shifting world that defies our attempts to automate it.
If God is a gardener, then He certainly would have a kind of science about His work. But I suspect there is an art to universal gardening as well.
- (Cp Ex 14:1–31) ↩