Today’s guest post comes from Sam Prellwitz, one of an excellent class of students from Bethel Seminary who recently studied the intersection between theology and science.
The psalms speak of it. Scientists study what they study because of it. Children’s eyes are filled with it. Wonder astonishes each of us. It does so through different forms and in different venues. And we need not ask the perennial question ‘why?’. Because even without asking that question, we are all grateful that it is part of our human experience. Life is more interesting because we are prone to wonder at our world.
We wonder at its order and its complexity. We wonder at its predictability and its ability to surprise.
I’ve heard it said that humans are meaning-makers. We look for patterns and we assign explanations to those patterns. Some would say that a more sophisticated manner by which to assign meaning to patterns is by way of the scientific method. Through hypothesis revisions and controlled observations repeated over time scientists are able to predict with spectacular accuracy observable phenomena. Some would say this is where meaning can be found.
We wonder at the medical advances in the effort to cure cancer or Alzheimer’s, or the eradication of polio. We wonder at big screen TV’s and iPhones and microwaves. We wonder at fancy cars and the reaches of an internet connected world.
But our meaning making does not find an end in the observable and repeatable. Nor does it find an end in the ways that the scientific process has enabled us to now live in this world. It extends much farther than that. Starry nights catch us by surprise as we walk late into the evening. They steal our breath and lay bare a particular beauty that the word ‘majestic’ only begins to describe. Sunsets and mountain ranges are no different. Perhaps most meaningful of all are the unprovoked kind words of a close friend at a particular moment of chaotic uncertainty. More than ships in the night, we humans make meaning precisely because we do not always pass each other by.
We wonder at the sky and the way the rugged terrain brushes up hazily against the horizon. We wonder at the colors and the twinkling lights poking through the navy-black ceiling of a sky. The mountain ranges, so terrifying, cause wonder-filled fear when we ponder a path to the top or through to the other side.
We are indeed meaning makers. Drenched in wonder we make something of it. Science reaches down into the wonder to mine the pieces and see the mechanism. Theology looks ‘up’ and forward looking in the direction this wonder is pulling us toward.
Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Perhaps fear of the LORD begins with wonder. Perhaps when we wonder both ways – down to the tiniest building blocks of our world and up to the overarching direction these winds are pushing our sails. – perhaps then we can begin to grasp with gratitude the gift that wonder is.
A gift that inspires fear of God and a gift that then gives way to wisdom.