Chance or Design

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1)

Anthony Flew is dead. He was a professional philosopher. His book on atheism was required reading for my college course in philosophy. He set forth the logic of atheism, the rationale that nothing can explain the universe other than mere accident. Those who see some plan at work, a deity that has laid out the cosmos according to some complex blueprint, are delusional, projecting little more than a concept or wish in their own minds. In his later years, following the discovery of DNA, Professor Flew had a change of mind—not necessarily a conversion of heart, because he called himself a deist, not a member of an organized religion—but he came to the conviction that the universe cannot have come into existence by mere chance or by accident. There is a design at work behind it all.

Orthodox Christianity in principle does not engage in arguments claiming to prove objectively in the presence of a deity. Such “proofs” for the existence of God rarely are definitive except for those who already believe that God does exist. We prefer to give God the glory for the obvious evidence of His presence and proof in the world and within ourselves. One such wonder is existence itself. Why should there be anything at all? When we recognize goodness, beauty and love, what else can it come from other than God? Not only are we humans made in the image of God, the entire universe is in a way made in God’s image, the reflection of all that is positive anywhere. In contemplating the wonders of creation, we celebrate the awesome mystery of it all. Proofs tend to convince those who already have faith, but not often do they convert the skeptics and doubters. Flew is an exception. Others may mock the beautiful phrase above from Psalms, as for example the renowned atomic physicist Niels Bohr said of the atomic structure of all matter: “The atoms are telling the glory of God, and the protons and electrons are showing His handiwork.” We don’t know if he gave God any credit since he left the Lord out of the matter.

Faith and science need not and ought not to spar over whether a divine power is at work creating, sustaining and planning the future of the universe. Pure science will not deal with topics transcending their arena of operations. It suffices to state that under certain controlled conditions of temperature, pressure, content and mass, the following results occur, from which are described as axioms and then laws. We rejoice in the beauty and wonders that the Hubble and other spacecrafts photograph, and we anticipate results of creation’s origin if indeed the atom smashers at Geneva and elsewhere provide. But to think that science will be able to prove or disprove the existence of God is out of the question. A deity whose existence can be discovered or defined by human reason is no God at all.

The anonymous author of the classic Aeropagiticum about our knowledge of God wrote: “God is unknowable and inscrutable. He is above any idea and any name, above all definitions, above mind, essence and knowledge.” The Life within the Holy Trinity conceals itself from all scrutiny and transcends any ability of human reason to fathom its mystery, but this doesn’t mean that God conceals Himself from the rational creatures He created to know, love and unite with Him. God in self-realization communicates to all that exists, but only through revelation. We are not to think or discuss anything about the nature of God except what is revealed through the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, Jesus Christ. All else is mere speculation.