We humans really like our boxes and labels. In our attempts to categorize everything, we can make some mistakes and establish false dilemmas. One I’ve been noticing lately is the nature of God as the creator. We tend to think of God as one of two things. Either God is the wise engineer who perfectly designs everything to be the most optimal and efficient they can be, or, God is the creative artist, less concerned about efficiency than beauty. What I observe though is that God is both, and we need to read both into all of creation to truly understand it. Here are a few ways that we can understand god as both the artist and the engineer.
Fine Tuning by an Engineer
The existence of life in this galaxy is incomprehensibly unlikely to happen by random chance. The natural conclusion is that it did not happen by chance, but that a mind that intelligent enough to design our universe. Between the many factors within human biology, the conditions of our planet and galaxy, and even the very framework of our universe, it appears as if life exists on a knife’s edge. For such a seemingly impossible system to function, God would have to be the most brilliant engineer of all time.
We in the apologetics community in particular tend to hyper focus on the evidence that points to God as that engineer. However, our conversation about God should not end there. Why did God make such an elaborate system in the first place? On the one hand, we could rightly respond that God may have designed us in the most optimal way possible when considering all the tradeoffs, but ultimately we cannot say without seeing the bigger picture. However, the other consideration is that even if God could design a simpler more efficient system, he may not have wanted to. Perhaps God valued something higher than efficiency. Neither view of God really completes the conversation alone.
Beauty by an Artist
Many of us have lost sight of what true beauty is. I will be the first to admit that I struggle to appreciate many of the finer arts. It’s a skill I simply have not used, but that does not mean something is not inherently beautiful. Just as a technical masterpiece of craftsmanship cries out for a designer, beautiful art points us to the artist. Unfortunately, the church has largely accepted the cultural viewpoint that beauty is subjective, rather than objective. But if there is a God who designed everything, beauty must be more than simply personal preference. Beauty must also be more than natural instincts that attract our attention to help us survive. Something is beautiful because of how it reflects the perfect creator.
Can Art be Objective?
Romans 1:20 states, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Why has God given us the ability to appreciate a sunset, or an ocean view? Ultimately we see God in them too, and they can serve as not only another way to appreciate and understand him, but they can also point us to him in the first place. This beauty demands an explanation, and that demand leaves us without an excuse. In the last days, how can we say God should have made himself clearer or revealed himself further? We already had his masterpiece before our eyes.
Dr. Phil Tallon describes it this way. “If the Christian God exists, who is beautiful in His very nature, we would expect there to be objective beauty. Because this God is the creator of the world, and it reflects His nature, we would expect the world to be invested with a great amount of objective beauty. We would also expect, given the claims of Christian theology, that beauty would be integrated with other values in a way that reflects the ultimate union of Beauty with Truth and Goodness in the nature of God.” We can call art objectively beautiful because we have a source of transcendent beauty. Similar to morality, it all comes back to the perfect standard.
A Quick Note on Space
How can we apply that to viewing God’s creation? I think space is one of the best examples of this duality of God. Space is bigger than the human mind can fully comprehend. The question is why? Some take the volume of space as a sign that we are insignificant.
“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”-Carl Sagan
If we are so special, why would God create us surrounded by so much seemingly wasted space? Based on our current understanding of physics, we’ll likely never see or experience most of it. But what if God did not make it for optimization? If God is an engineer and an artist, we must consider both when studying creation. Perhaps God made it out of necessity to balance out other aspects of creation. Or perhaps God designed the greatest piece of art possible and has given us a front row seat to it. When we look up and marvel at the night sky, ask yourself why this is beautiful. Is it merely sensory overload of lights and colors, or does it point you to the creator and true source of light and color? “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”-Psalm 50:2
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