Studying the Sciences
Have you ever praised God for a protein’s tertiary structure? Have you ever exalted his name for the excitation of an atom? Why ever not! As Augustine once said, “nature is what God does” and what God does, is deserving of praise.
As you explore God’s world with the tools science gives you, you will be following in the footsteps of many a scientist before you who have known the joy of discovering new depths and details to God’s creative genius. Mixed with the thrill of discovery, however, is the frustration of our own limitation, thinking God’s thoughts after Him (as Johannes Kepler put it) is not easy. Whether you’re wrestling with Mat-Lab, wading in a freezing river, spending hours waiting for experiments to process or being brought to tears because your data isn’t normally distributed – you’re experiencing what it means to be a Christian scientist. Science and discovery is intoxicating because God made the universe to be intelligible, and it is frustrating because we aren’t as intelligent as He is.
You may discover this year for the first time the joys of truly being a geek as you find yourself obsessed by the amino acid sequence of a little known enzyme or enthralled by the technicalities involved in modelling the mechanics of a vibrating guitar string. This is simply the exhilarating experience of encountering first-hand God’s wonderful handiwork. A shared experience of this kind can be a wonderful opening for the gospel as you study alongside your sceptical friends.
As your degree progresses, you will experience the focusing effect of tighter deadlines and the heightened stakes of final year exams. The time you have free for other pursuits such as CU activities and, well, fun, will increasingly become squeezed as honouring God in your studies gets pushed by increasingly intense assessment right to the top of your agenda. As you enter your final year of university your vocation as a science student will inevitably acquire a new degree of focus and intensity that, perhaps, up until then it lacked (no judgment being made!)
With focus, however, comes the challenge of keeping perspective. The promise of success or threat of failure that looms on the horizon can begin to become the guiding principle for your life. As a result, the joy of the Lord starts seeping away and even minimal setbacks can send you reeling. The solution as ever is to daily fix your faith on the goodness, power and grace of the God who loves you.
Enjoy His goodness in creation, draw from Him the strength for the demands of the day and entrust to Him the outcomes of your faltering obedience as you seek to live and speak for Jesus in your studies as a science student.
Dr Jonathan Dawson, EPSRC Research Fellow, University of Southampton (BSc Plymouth 2001-04, PhD Southampton 2004-07) & David McNee, UCCF Cardiff CU Staff Worker (MEnvSc Southampton 2007-11)