Thursday, 2 February 2012

Science as worship

Lots of people find it refreshing and relaxing to be outdoors, enjoying the beauty of the natural world. For many Christians, the natural world reminds them of God. And as regular readers of this blog will know, I'm firmly of the opinion that humanity's efforts to better understand the natural world should cause Christians no worry at all. Something I read in a novel today took this idea further, though; equating the practice of science as a kind of worship. In the passage, a woman is describing her aunt's vision of what science can be:
Idelba's vision of science had it as being progressively improvable, just as a matter of making it more scientific. That aspect is one of the ways you define science, as against many other human activities or institutions. So to me this makes it a kind of prayer, or worship... It is a devotional labour.

I just love this thought – that, far from being opposed to faith in God, the search for truth about the natural world is actually part of what it means to worship God.

By the way, if you've read the book (The Years of Rice and Salt) you might just remember that the little part I left out of the quotation rather changes the meaning. In the book, it says 'So to me this makes it a kind of prayer, or worship of the world'. I was struck by the idea that the scientific endeavour is an act of worship, not of the world but of the God who set it all in motion. I love it when novels send my thoughts off in interesting directions and Kim Stanley Robinson is fast becoming my favourite author!

Note to self: ideas are all well and good but I must not use them as defence mechanisms that shield me from the demands that Jesus makes on my life if I'm to be His disciple...


  1. This is a really interesting blog. Thanks for the book recommendation.

  2. Science as devotional labour and worship? Many years ago, I heard a sermon regarding work. God put Adam and Eve to work in the garden, He gave them tasks, He gave them duties. I forget the details now but the speaker tied all this in with other verses and his conclusion was that doing your work well was an act of worship.

    So I'd say all work can be a devotional labour...or perhaps even should be a devotional labour. Mind you, science involves a different mindset and a different way of thinking that helps you control for the cognitive biases that mislead you. Getting to the point where you can think clearly about an emotionally laden issue and seeing what others cannot see is akin to reaching a certain level of meditation. It feels freeing (not that I've mastered anything close to that yet myself).

  3. Oh, I agree - and I've also heard that idea of life in Eden involving work. Work is good, work is of God; so work done for God's glory is worship, whatever the exact nature of the work. I was just struck by the thought that scientific investigation can be worshipful work, even though some Christians seem to view science / scientists as the enemy.