A Calvin Theological Seminary Publication by Students & Alumni
Faith, Nature and the Wisdom Tradition

Faith, Nature and the Wisdom Tradition

Don’t forget to check out some of the opportunities next door at Calvin College! Recently I attended one of Calvin College’s “Christian Perspectives on Science” Seminars, a lecture by Tom McLeish entitled “Faith, Nature, and the Wisdom Tradition.” These seminars presented by leading scholars open conversations on the relationship between faith and the natural and applied sciences.  In this seminar, McLeish argued that the debates between religion and science, often centered only on Genesis 1 and 2, are the wrong place to look for a biblical understanding of the relationship between science and faith. Instead, he argued that wisdom literature books, in particular Job, offer a valuable window into the deep questions of how science and our relationship to God relate.

A factor often missed by theologians who read Job is that the questions in the book and the accusations against God are accusations against the workings of nature: the chaos and destruction embedded in the creation order. While theologians tend to struggle with God’s response to Job, McLeish points out  that  if Job accuses God of unfaithfulness in the creation, it’s very fitting to God to answer Job with creation answers. Instead of Job being simply a polemic against questioning God, it’s an invitation to enter the questions of science and the ways in which God’s order emerges from chaos.

One of McLeish’s concluding comments encouraged all Christians to embrace the questions of science and how they relate to our understanding of God. When asked how he would respond to Christians who say science is “over their heads,” McLeish responded that although  music is incredibly complicated, that doesn’t stop most people from appreciating it and having opinions about it. It is his hope that believers can  learn to approach science the same way.

McLeish’s thoughts seem particularly relevant for seminarians who will soon minister to people for whom the relationship between creation and God’s sovereignty, particularly as it relates to death and suffering, may be very troubling. The mystery of how the natural world with its chaos and death relates to God is a question wisdom literature prompts Christians to wrestle with without using cliches in which God’s sovereignty makes the created order irrelevant to what happens.

The series opens again in Spring 2014 on February 21, 2014 at 3:30 with a lecture on “Randomness, Divine Providence, and Anxiety” by Jim Bradley. Based on the quality of the seminar I attended, I would highly encourage seminary students to walk over and check it out.

Written by Monica Brands