The Intelligibility of Creation

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The weather outside provides a beautiful backdrop as I sit down to write this article. Abnormally large snowflakes began their descent earlier this morning and continue to blanket the landscape. I am amazed by the radiant white highlight casing the ground, houses, and trees—a stark contrast from the same snowless view yesterday.

This snow has a perfectly logical scientific explanation: cold air from the Arctic and warm air from the Gulf of Mexico created the conditions for a nor’easter, leading to the precipitation falling as snow because of the low temperature. The scientific explanation adequately explains the mechanisms producing the beauty, but falls short in the determination of beauty itself. Far from being an accidental quality of natural mechanisms, the biblical doctrine of creation describes beauty as resulting from a world created by God in wisdom and love. Though powerful in its methodology and explanatory power, science requires a biblical worldview to attain fullness. The weather outside provides a beautiful backdrop as I sit down to write this article. Abnormally large snowflakes began their descent earlier this morning and continue to blanket the landscape. I am amazed by the radiant white highlight casing the ground, houses, and trees—a stark contrast from the same snowless view yesterday.

Cairn University will launch new biology programs in Fall 2018. While this project involved creating new curriculum, the pursuit of academic excellence in the sciences marks a continuation of what the University has been doing since its inception, according to the understanding that “All truth is God’s truth.” God created an interdependent, intelligible world and all academic disciplines are subservient to Him; therefore, the integration of disciplines is a central feature of a Cairn education.

While these biology programs are new to Cairn, they embody the ongoing mission of the University to educate students to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world. Cairn’s approach to the sciences has been carefully and thoughtfully designed to produce biblically minded, well-educated and professionally competent men and women of character.

Biblically Minded

Cairn’s science programs will challenge students through a rigorous curriculum centered on a biblical worldview. The centrality of Scripture is especially pertinent in a culture that views religion and science as two distinct domains, the former allied to faith and the latter to reason. In his book No God, No Science? Michael Hanby argues that science is never without metaphysical and theological commitments, even when both are vehemently denied. Reason requires faith, and faith rooted in the metaphysics of creation “liberates reason from its arbitrary self-restrictions and restores it to its own fullness, which continues to show forth even now in spite of our attempts to suppress it.” In other words, faith and science do not offer mutually exclusive explanations of the world.

God ordained the temporal origin of creation from nothing (ex nihilo), and science involves the study of a creation sustained by God at every moment; in light of these realities, it is a mistake to read the first two chapters of Genesis as only referencing a past event. The passage in Colossians 1:17 “in Him all things hold together” describes God’s sustaining power in the most literal sense. Creation, and thus science, would cease to exist if God were to remove Himself from creation.

Scientific methodology ably conveys truths about the natural world, but to reach ultimate truth requires explanation that goes beyond science. As a distinctly human discipline, science uses a specific methodology with its accompanying limitations and assumptions about nature, aimed at understanding the material world. As one scientific study analyzing the efficacy of prayer demonstrates, an understanding of science as the arbiter of all truth fails to adequately address life’s most important questions. This well-funded study contained all the aspects of a good experiment, control group and all. One group of sick patients knew they were being prayed for, another group did not, and one group was not prayed for at all. According to the data generated from this study, prayer does not work. Prayer was even shown to have negative consequences because those who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of complications during their medical procedure. Studies like this one reveal the insufficiency of scientism, the belief that science has explanatory power over all spheres of knowledge. They also demonstrate that worldview strongly influences the questions guiding scientific studies.

Christians need not fear science, nor feel the need to leave their faith at the door upon entering a laboratory. The Christian approach to science begins with God, the immaterial first cause of nature who is Himself without a cause, and through whom our study of nature is conceived. Faith’s rationality provides the framework that properly valuates science, generating deeper meaning than the scientism which approaches science as a framework unto itself. For this reason, a biblically centered worldview serves as the necessary backdrop for a curriculum intent on producing well-educated and professionally competent scientists.


The Christian approach to science views God as the creator of the world and the source of its being and intelligibility. A central feature of Cairn’s educational approach, the integration of all academic disciplines is essential to producing well-educated students. Intentional cross-curricular integration within science courses produces a more meaningful biblically based education than simply taking science courses alongside Bible courses.

The modern division of subjects stems from a more expansive cultural understanding that meaning, if such a thing exists, results from the accumulation of autonomous facts. Not surprisingly, this division encourages a specialist approach to education, essentially reinforcing the idea that more facts generate more knowledge. According to this approach, facts are primary to any meaning or unity, and thus cross-curricular connections should only be considered after analyzing the facts. Cairn’s approach to science rejects this notion, because the meaning and unity of the natural world are primarily established by God. The facts never simply stand alone; rather, the facts exist only as they stem from a unifying source. The facts are intimately tied to their Creator.

Far from rejecting the scientific discipline, an approach centered on the primacy of God produces a more meaningful evaluation of scientific data than if the data were analyzed autonomously. The term science (scientia) once referred to a search for knowledge through exploration of all academic disciplines. The modern division of academic disciplines wreaks havoc on the Christian mind and has no place in a Christian education which views all academic disciplines as the product of a good and intelligible world created by God in wisdom and love.

In keeping with this understanding, the various academic departments at Cairn communicate with one another to achieve a holistic, biblically based education. At Cairn, we believe Scripture provides the framework for everything we teach, and consequently, a proper understanding of the created world can only occur within this integrated model. When engaging with other disciplines in meaningful ways, students learn to appreciate science as a means of approaching a world full of meaning and purpose that far exceeds the scientific discipline itself.

Additionally, viewing the world as a unified creation shapes the questions we ask when approaching science. For example, in a physiology class, students will explore how creatures function at the cellular level, but this study will be accompanied by the discussion of an additional important question. “What does it mean to be a creature with a given form and limits?” Questions like this prove essential in a world bent on the denial of God-given creaturely limits and boundaries. Cairn’s science programs will produce well-educated students who ask good questions and evaluate ideas through the intentional integration of all academic disciplines.

Professionally Competent

Students will develop professional competence in their particular field of study by learning how to ask good scientific questions and testing those questions in a rigorous and engaging laboratory environment. For example, when studying cell biology students will perform laboratory experiments essential to the field, such as gel electrophoresis and protein blotting. However, producing professionally competent men and women of character requires far more than providing a rigorous science curriculum.

Idolatry is the inevitable result of knowledge isolated from the one hope to which Christians are called, for as we read in James, “even the demons believe—and shudder!” Rigorous scientific and biblical training must be paired with faithful seeing. Cairn’s science programs will produce health professionals, teachers, and researchers with the understanding that these professions stem from a primary call to unity in the body of Christ, for we are called to a greater hope: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:5-6). Accordingly, Cairn’s biblically centered science curriculum trains disciples capable of living out their faith through various scientific professions. Knowledge acquired from a rigorous curriculum can lead to professional competence, but rooting this knowledge in faithful seeing produces professionally competent disciples who impact the church, society, and the world in all they do.

Professional competence must also be accompanied by a biblical vision for one’s profession, the application of which has the power to uniquely shape the scientific community. A professionally competent Christian doctor has the skills to treat patients and the wisdom to view those patients as uniquely created people bearing the imago dei. A desire shaped by obedience to the cross of Christ fundamentally alters a doctor’s approach to the medical profession. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggests in Life Together, “the most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.” God alone can fully heal bodies, because God knows creatures as they truly are. Medicine practiced through a distinctly Christian vision utilizes physical healing to draw others to God, and thus professional competence in a Christian results from wisdom linked to knowledgeable practice.

With the support of the Forward Campaign, and through careful and thoughtful development in line with Cairn’s mission, Fall 2018’s new science programs mark an exciting chapter in the University’s history. With God’s help, we are confident that the University’s commitment to a biblically centered science curriculum and an intentional focus on integration will produce biblically minded, well-educated, and professionally competent men and women of character.

Greg Jensen is an assistant professor in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He can be reached by emailing