How many of you remember Sir Isaac Newton? Before I dug a little deeper in preparation for writing this post, I could have told you that he was a scientist fairly important in the world of physics. I probably would have remembered he developed some of the laws by which that particular discipline operates, but I’m not sure I could have gone farther than that.
Although science fascinates me, it was never my best subject.
Recently, though, I was listening to R.C. Sproul teach on God’s words to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-14), and something he said caught my attention. It drew me back to my high school days when poor Mr. Miller patiently tried every technique he could fathom to press Newton’s principles into my mind.
Finally, almost thirty years later, one of those laws is cemented firmly, because I now see how it affects my faith.
Newton, Motion, and God
Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it. ~Sir Isaac Newton, First Law of Motion
Isaac Newton was born in 1642 in Middlesex, England.Throughout the eighty-plus years of his life, he was a mathematician, astronomer, theologian, author, and physicist. He proved the sun was the center of the solar system, created the first practical reflecting telescope, calculated the speed of sound, and developed infinitesimal calculus (not that I understand what that is or how it affects my life).
Knighted in 1705 by Queen Anne, he was a professor at the University of Cambridge and served two terms as a Member of Parliament. Unusual for his day, he refused to take the holy orders in the Church of England even though he was a devout Christian. He spent the last years of his life serving in London government.
Laws and Theories
Before we get back to Newton’s laws of motion, I want to take a moment to discuss the difference between laws and theories. Often, people discuss a theory as if it is an ascertained fact. Although that is quite convenient to some arguments and positions, that is not truth. (And trust me, I looked hard for simplistic explanations for you.)
According to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. on ThoughtCo.com,
A law in science is a generalized rule to explain a body of observations . . . In order to be a scientific law, a statement must . . . be based on repeated experimental evidence. Scientific laws may be stated in words, but many are expressed as mathematical equations.
A law is a rule based on repeated observations. Given the same set of circumstances, a law predicts what will happen. Dictionary.com quotes the Law of Gravitation (also by Newton) as “any two masses attract each other with a force equal to a constant multiplied by the product of the two masses and divided by the square of the distance between them.”
In other words, every time you step outside of a second-story window, you will be attracted to the earth. You will fall down.
According to Lisa LaBracio on the TED-blog, “In contrast, a theory tries to provide the most logical explanation about why things happen as they do. . . . A theory will never grow up into a law, though the development of one often triggers progress on the other.”
So, Newton’s Law of Gravitation explains what will happen when we step outside of a second-story window, but Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation (also known as the Theory of General Relativity) explains why it happens. And that begins to step outside my comfort zone of explaining science to you, but if you want to know more about all of this, you can start here.
Carrie. Seriously. Why should I care?
I hear you! Honest. Truthfully, at least in America, we are trained pretty well to learn in boxes. Science facts and formulas, history facts and events, English rules and exceptions, and so forth, all separate from one another. But we’re rarely taught to put it all together. And they do affect one another—sometimes in profound ways!
Let’s look back at Newton’s First Law of Motion that I quoted above.
Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.
Remember, this is a law. That means that every time I see an object at rest, it will stay at rest unless something pushes it. Every. Time.
So, let’s relate this law to the Big Bang Theory of evolution. The Simple English Wikipedia says,
The universe began as a very hot, small, and dense superforce (the mix of the four fundamental forces), with no stars, atoms, form, or structure (called a “singularity”). Then about 13.7 billion years ago, space expanded very quickly (thus the name “Big Bang”). This started the formation of atoms, which eventually led to the formation of stars and galaxies. It was Georges Lemaître who first noted (in 1927) that an expanding universe could be traced back in time to an originating single point. The universe is still expanding today, and getting colder as well.
As a whole, the universe is growing and the temperature is falling as time passes. Cosmology is the study of how the universe began and its development. Scientists who study cosmology agree that the Big Bang theory matches what they have observed so far.
But what about the First Law of Motion?
I get that if you don’t want to acknowledge God or any higher being, then the Big Bang Theory describes what scientists have observed in the years after this hot, small, dense superforce exploded into the present-day universe. And scientists admit, just as Wikipedia states above, that the “expanding universe could be traced back in time to an originating single point.”
Okay. But, here’s my question, all other arguments aside for the moment: What happened before that single point in time?
If objects at rest stay at rest unless an outside force pushes on them, then doesn’t this suggest that something pushed on this hot, small, dense, superforce? What was that?
Never mistake motion for action. ~Ernest Hemingway
My intent here is not to somehow advance the whole concept blending Darwinism with the Bible. I have great difficulties with that too. Instead, I want to do two things.
First, I want to encourage you to think outside the box. I know this is more difficult for some than for others. But, what you learn in one subject affects what you already know in other subjects. Go ahead, mingle your knowledge together. It can be fascinating and eye-opening!
Second, I want to point out that God is amazing.
- He purposely added truth all around us that points directly to Him.
- Language is not a barrier! He speaks so philosophers and scientists and teachers are all drawn to Him in the way they think and process and communicate.
- He speaks plainly and in parables, causing us to think, allowing the lessons to burrow deep, and making great truths knowable.
It all proclaims precisely what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:18-20 (The Message):
But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.
Over the last several years, I’ve talked with a lot of Christians who didn’t feel like they had a good foundation. Maybe that’s you. Whether you’ve been attending church for years or are new to your faith in Jesus, if you have questions about prayer and tithing and fellowship, this is a good place to start.
The moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became a member of God’s family. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 1 that through our faith in Jesus, we were adopted as sons and daughters. That means you now have a huge family cheering you on, including me!
Perhaps that’s a bit overwhelming. Maybe family hasn’t been something good in your life, or you fear the expectations other Christians will place upon you.
Take a moment and breathe.
One of the key pieces of information God wants to give you is this: Only His opinion matters. Yes, God will use other people and circumstances to help you along the way, but they should never take precedence over what God says.
That is why hearing God clearly is critical, and that is why I wrote this book.
Join me in learning more about what it means to be part of God’s family. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do this perfectly or know the answer to every question. Just take a step forward and turn the page.
We’ll get through these first steps together.