How Science Can Inspire and Inform Worship: NASA’s Jennifer Wiseman

Jennifer Wiseman is an accomplished scientist and author. She has degrees from MIT and Harvard, and currently serves as Chief of NASA’s ExoPlanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory. She is also a strong Christian and an all-around nice person, as you might guess from the photo below. I enjoyed meeting her this summer at a gathering of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), where she will serve as president for the next year. ASA is a fellowship of men and women of science who share a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science. Also, she is the new director for the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. So she is known to speak with broad knowledge in matters of science and faith.

 

I discovered an article of hers on the BioLogos website, “SCIENCE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF WORSHIP: Can recent scientific discovery inform and inspire worship and service?”

This essay is a gem. I will give a summary here, but I encourage readers with interest in the subject to go read the whole thing (10 pages -includes neat pictures). Direct quotes below from the article are in italics.

I believe it is important to rejuvenate our congregations with a sense of joy and unity in contemplating the magnificence of Creation, with forefront scientific knowledge. Since God is responsible for all nature, there is nothing to fear in studying the details; in fact God calls us to study his handiwork as a means to learning of God’s character and glory. The time has come to raise up Praise, based on knowledge and wonder, as a primary response of our congregations to scientific discovery.

 Jennifer notes four ways that recent scientific discovery can promote worship and service:

(1) Studying the Creation can show us the nature of God.

(2) Science can inform us of what we need to do, as stewards of God’s Creation.

(3) Understanding the natural world gives us a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ.

(4) Science can give us a better understanding of ourselves.

She unpacks each of these aspects in some depth. Under point (1), she writes:  

So what could we learn about the character of the Creator God by what we have discovered in the universe? This is subjective, but I believe there are several characteristics of the Creator that one could glean (not scientifically) by considering the universe in which we live:

Powerful ,Creative, Creates and Loves Beauty, Patient, Faithful, Desires Freedom, Enables Life, Loves

She cites examples in the universe that illustrate each of these properties. For instance,

Patience is implied as we now can see, through careful astronomical study, the slow (to us) formation and maturation of galaxies and stars over billions of years, leading to our life-bearing planet, where fossils and formations tell a tale of a slowly changing Earth. Yet faith reminds us that God has been in charge this whole unimaginable time, knowing that each of us, and our Savior, would eventually appear.

I’ll close with one more extended quote, related to point (3) above:

This third and most profound reason to infuse our worship with the study of nature is also the most enigmatic. … I have discovered a profound truth that bears emphasis in teaching our congregations. Jesus, the Christ (“Messiah”, or “Chosen One”) was not only the Redeemer, becoming incarnate as a man as divine remedy for the sins of humanity. He is also profoundly described as the Living Word through whom the universe was created and is upheld:

“In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1, New Living Translation)

And from Hebrews:

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”   (Hebrews 1, Today’s New International Version)

Our worship should embrace the revelation that the Universe we explore was conceived and is continually upheld by our Savior. That the Christ who lived among us for 33 years on earth as Jesus is also responsible for galaxies, black holes, planets, oceans, and porcupines. To focus more closely: when we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we must mean that “Jesus is Lord of all time and space.” Who was Lord at the Big Bang when Time began? Jesus. Who was Lord when the first galaxies coalesced and the first stars turned on? Jesus. Who was Lord as galaxies evolved and our own solar system came into being? Jesus. Who was Lord during all the epochs of life on Earth – the Cambrian, the Pleistocene, the era of early hominids? Jesus. And who will be Lord as long as time exists, and forever outside of time as well? Jesus.

…Our worship of the Risen Christ should therefore acknowledge not only His victory over sin and death but also His Lordship over all time and space. In this way, scientific discovery can lift the minds and hearts of believers to a deeper level of awe and reverence for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Who is also Lord of all Creation.

******* FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO THIS BLOG *********

Previous posts are listed on the right hand side of the main window.     There are longer essays or letters (e.g. STAN 3) that are accessed by clicking the tabs at the top of the page. I’d suggest skimming the README page first, to get an overview of what is in these letters.

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About ScottBuchanan

Ph D chemical engineer, interested in intersection of science with my evangelical Christian faith. This intersection includes creation(ism) and miracles. I also write on random topics of interest, such as economics, folding scooters, and composting toilets. Background: B.A. in Near Eastern Studies, a year at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a year working as a plumber and a lab technician. Then a B.S.E. and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Since then, conducted research in an industrial laboratory. Published a number of papers on heterogeneous catalysis, and an inventor on over 80 U.S. patents in diverse technical areas.
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2 Responses to How Science Can Inspire and Inform Worship: NASA’s Jennifer Wiseman

  1. 777grace says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I found it helpful in renewing my mind and motivating me not to fear open discussion of science topics. I appreciated Jennifer’s points on how frequently the evangelical church has discouraged thinking and discussion, when in fact there is nothing to fear and much to gain from learning and discussing. I appreciate Jennifer’s gracious spirit and joy in worship.

  2. Pingback: Listing of Articles on Science, Faith and Other | Letters to Creationists

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