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The Earth is Full of His Glory

The Earth is Full of His Glory

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Published by John
Based on a talk given in February 2007.
Based on a talk given in February 2007.

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Published by: John on Feb 02, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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07/24/2013

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The Earth is full of His Glory
 
Mathematicians love axioms: self-evident truths requiring no proof, from whichmathematical structures can be developed, and properties of those structures investigated.These axioms or postulates serve as starting points from which other knowledge proceeds. One example is that any two distinct points in a plane determine a uniquestraight line between them. Another is that all right angles are equal in measure. Prettyobvious, right? [And rather dry!] Two more general statements that might be categorizedas axioms are:1. The axiom of invisible phenomena: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.2. It’s the 99% of lawyers that give the rest a bad name.
I have two fundamental “faith” axioms. The first is that, no matter in what circumstancesI find myself, God is good. Sometimes this axiom must be acknowledged through grittedteeth – 
God is good.
 The other axiom is based on
Isaiah 6:3:
 Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory
.
[NIV]This is to me the key verse from which follows everything else I have to say, but before Ishare a little of my own story, and my own fascination for the beauty of creation, let me briefly quote from some poets of the recent past. This will I hope, put what I have to sayin context, with others, past and present who have found deep joy from meditating on thecreated order around them…and they describe my views far more profoundly than ever Icould.In her exceedingly long poem Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning says:
 Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God:
 
 But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries, And daub their natural faces unaware…
John Ruskin wrote that what he called the poetry of nature
“… is that which uplifts the spirit within us...”
And in his poem
God’s Grandeur 
, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining shook from foil;
In our present day, nature photographer Rick Ergenbright has said:
 
…by using the visible and temporal things of the earth to describe the invisible and eternal truths of His Kingdom, God has graciously enabled us to know Him better, and to see and understand our world and ourselves through new eyes.To see and experience the beauty of nature is a wonderful thing. But to see and experience the beauty of God through nature is infinitely more wonderful. The former is His good and gracious gift to all people, but the latter is reserved for those who seek Himand faithfully study His Word.
These are all images that I love and views that I espouse. But what has this to do with meas a Christian who also happens to be a professional applied mathematician? I have a background in mathematics, physics and astronomy, and more recently, some biology.Looking back over my life, many different academic and other threads have contributedto who I am, and where I am today. I am a “Jack of all trades, and master of none”! I wasvery much a plodder in grammar school (11-18), and have been ever since. Some of myfriends at school were extremely bright, and I used to be very frustrated with my ownlimitations. I could spend a whole weekend working on my geometry homework, and stillonly get partial credit, while they dashed it off and earned full marks!At about 12 years of age, I developed a passion for Astronomy. I read everything about itI could get my hands on. My parents were very supportive, but my father, being a farm-worker, had a very meager weekly income; however, they scraped together enoughmoney for me to buy a beautiful, but somewhat dented, old brass-tubed telescope: a 3-inch refractor (with an old tripod) that I have to this day. I spent many evening hoursoutside with it, observing the sky (most of which was cloudy); this was England, after all.I remember very distinctly my algebra teacher asking us all what we wanted to be whenwe grew up. When Mr. Archibald Chanter (Arch) got to me, I said proudly -- anastronomer, Sir. Immediately a rather worried look crossed his face as he frowned andsaid “but Adam, astronomers need to know an awful lot of maths, and you are very near the bottom of the class in this subject.” Hard though that was, it was the catalyst I neededto hear…Since that time, over the years, while I have had times of similar frustration, the Lord hasenabled me to come to terms with my limitations, and indeed, use them to advantage. Asa student, I learned to be tenacious, to wrestle with a problem until I was able to see itthrough, and that has enabled me to be better equipped than I might otherwise have been both to carry out research and to engage in teaching. It was the astronomer JohannesKepler who described what he did as “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Well, I am nota “Kepler”, so I would put it this way: I have been privileged to study a very small sliceof God’s creation in a way that opens up facets of truth about His creation.Truth…
 
But what is truth? That is a question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus. Well, Truth is not anabstraction, it is a Person, the One who was standing before Pilate: the Person of JesusChrist. All endeavors, whether scientific, artistic, mathematical, historical, musical, poetic, literary, theological or philosophical, that seek to study or portray truth, are pointed in the same direction. In particular, Christianity has nothing to fear from thestudy of science, and it is distressing to meet so many Christians who are fearful of or antagonistic towards science and scientists. After all, the universe was created for and byJesus Christ! And that includes the scientific method and mathematical structures! In the book of Colossian, chapter one we read
…for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He madethe things we can see and the things we can’t see…Everything was created through himand for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
[v.16,17, NLT]For me, the intersection of my faith in Jesus, indeed my relationship with Him, and my profession is not just cognitive – by that I mean, having reasons for believing in Him – itis experiential. Let me try to explain.When we witness a beautiful sunset, or see a majestic mountain, a magnificent Redwoodtree, or an oak, a hawk circling high above us, huge ocean waves crashing onto the shore,feel snowflakes falling delicately on our noses, observe the night sky studded with stars,notice a rainbow, walk through a meadow of flowers, you name it [Indescribable] – whatis it that they all have in common? I will tell you, and the answer is on two levels. At onelevel, the scientific one, they are exhibiting patterns following laws that can ultimately beexpressed in mathematical terms. At least, that is my belief. The “laws” were put in placewhen God spoke the universe into existence. And at a higher level all these wonderfulnatural things are doing what they were created to do, and in so doing, they glorify their creator.As I think about the full range of creation from the inanimate to the animate, increasingin complexity, culminating in the pinnacle of God’s creation - mankind, I am struck bythe simple yet profound statement found in the Westminster shorter confession of 1674:
Q1: What is the chief end of man? A1: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
So: we were made to glorify God. It is not something that happens all at once – it is agradual process, as we come to know Him better, and it will not stop when this life ends.I believe it will go on into all eternity, as our capacity to glorify Him is increased moreand more. But how do we glorify Him? How do we know what he created us for? Theshort answer is – ask Him! That presupposes some kind of awareness of His existence, but goes far beyond that. It requires that I enter into a relationship with Him. OK – howdo I do that?

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