God’s truth in Geophysics

It’s comments like these that compel me to write my next book on the topic of ‘work’.

“I know I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with you on this sermon, it’s really made a difference in the way I look at my work.  I have a feeling that it will really hit me tomorrow morning when I log in to my computer at the office…geophysics for me has been made new again!” Geophysicist and New Hoper, Marc Chen

After church the wife of a second sermon researching geophysicist came up to me and said, “Thank you for honouring [my husband’s] passion.” And the wife of yet another geologist said, “[My husband] was squirming with excitement as he listened to the sermon.” Later that afternoon another geologist, who was visiting from another church, sent me a note saying, “It struck me that geophysics, or at least seismic sound wave interpretation, is all about reflections. Perhaps we interpret the reflections of God’s actions through the prism of Jesus. The apostle Paul I believe states somewhere that we see through a glass darkly; perhaps he meant indirectly, as through a mirror. But ultimately we will know fully, when we meet Jesus.”

And all I can think, in response to this feedback, is, “This is what church needs to do… exegete and preach God’s truth in thousands of vocations from thousands of pulpits!”

Sunday’s church service felt like such an honouring event; image bearing geophysicists were honoured (via the recognition of their passion to explore and discover the world God made and place them in), the science of geophysics was honoured (by more fully understanding God’s gifts of seismic, physical constants, etc…), and Jesus himself was honoured, as we contemplated his Alpha and Omega nature in the context of our 4.5 billion year old planet.  And the profound connection of geophysics’ concept of the analog to the bible’s concept of anthropomorphisms…  well that was just amazing to me (you’ll have to watch the message).

What struck me most though, was what Marc Chen said to me immediately after the service. In the weeks leading up to the sermon I told Marc, several times, that when he does his geophysics 101 ten minute talk on the front end of the message, he ought to think of it as part of the sermon, and not just as an introduction to the sermon. “My prayer is that God will speak through geophysical truth as you preach it, even as he speaks through the theological response I will present in the second half of the message. I expect the Holy Spirit to lead you, empower your words, and impress God’s truth on listeners, even as I expect (and pray for) the same for my words.”

So Marc comes up to me after the service and says, “Something happened to me during that last song before the sermon… I was deeply moved and started to lose it.” At that point both of us started to tear up. Just before getting up to preach, this rational, left brained scientist experienced a deeply emotional God moment. The Spirit who hovered over the face of the earth when it’s geology was first formed, had hovered over him for just a second. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to get up and talk,” he said.

But he did talk… he preached.  And God spoke.  Through him, through both of his image bearing preachers that day.

Yesterday I read a great quote by Marilynne Robinson on John Calvin’s thought on the nature of humanity. It helped me understand how I met God through the words and science of a geophysicist;

“[Calvin’s] humanism is expressed precisely in his understanding of the teaching of Genesis, that humankind is made in the image of God, the likeness being “that glory of God which peculiarly shines forth in human nature, where the mind, the will, and all the senses, represent the Divine order.” . . . [He] places this incandescent divinity—it is the glory of God that “shines forth from human nature”—at the very center of individual experience and presence. And this sacredness is an attribute not of saints only, nor of Christians only, but is inherent and also manifest in all human beings as such.” John Calvin: Steward of God’s Covenant (from Comment Magazine, Spring 2012)

It was the glory of a geophysicist’s image bearing human nature – his mind, and will and senses – that represented the Divine order to me. Through Marc’s glory I encountered God’s glory. Through the ordering of Marc’s mind I sensed the ordering mind of Christ.  Marc and his geophysics became an icon to me; something I looked through to encounter the presence of Christ.

And the name of that last worship song that the Spirit hovered over before the sermon?  Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide.


3 thoughts on “God’s truth in Geophysics

  1. Len

    This is deep Theology, fascinating science, effective liturgy, profound spirituality, and effective evangelism all rolled up into one. Good word, John. And I’m looking forward to the book.

  2. Jacqui

    This is just beautiful. And exciting. As all encounters with Christ probably end up being.

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