Chapter 1

God’s Two Books: Nature And The Bible

How do we honor the truthfulness of the Genesis account of creation while also acknowledging the controversy over what geology, biology, and physics appear to be telling us? What can we all affirm about the truthfulness of the Genesis record of creation?

How can people of the Bible unite around an issue that too often divides us? While standing apart from those who refuse to believe in a Creator, can we stand together on those affirmations that, down through church history, have been regarded as the necessary and essential implications of the Genesis account?

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 “special revelation.

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 showcases the handiwork of God in the creation, and it serves as the record of His direct and indirect actions in earth and human history.

General revelation, then, which is readable to anyone willing to look, 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 most 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 gave rise to the sciences, and Christians were in the majority.

Scientists of past generations studied 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 a sanctuary where the books of God’s special and general revelation spoke in eloquent harmony.

The Difficulty of Reconciling Both Books. Many have concluded that special and general revelation are not in agreement when it comes to the age and origin of the world. The vestiges of long-extinct life forms, for instance, have caused many to wonder if such artifacts found in the natural world are in conflict with the record of the Bible.

One significant area of tension with fossilized remains has to do with their apparent age. By many scientific methods, these fossils are millions of years old. The tension arises from those who think that a proper reading of the Bible will not allow belief in an earth more than 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Many with this conviction say that the problem with modern science is that it uses uniform assumptions that do not account for the kind of cataclysmic changes that would have occurred from an event like a worldwide flood.

For young-earth advocates, modern science’s estimates of geological time (earth history) and apparent astronomical time (cosmic history) place God’s two revelations in opposition to each other. Those who see this conflict must choose one over the other, Bible over science—either attempt to reinterpret or explain away the scientific evidence for a much older creation.

The disagreement, therefore, is not just between creationists on one side and naturalistic evolutionists on the other. There is conflict between Christians too. Some, while accepting the truth of the Genesis account of creation, disagree on how the early chapters of Genesis should be interpreted. Sometimes the disagreements become intense, with both sides accusing the other of not being faithful to the revelation of Scripture or to the revelation of the natural world.

This is the conflict many face. Let’s see if it’s possible to affirm the truthfulness of the Genesis account in a way that makes our differences far less divisive.