Melissa Cain Travis is an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University and a PhD candidate at Faulkner University. She is the author of Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation between Faith and Science Reveals about God (Harvest House, 2018). Hank Hanegraaff recently dialogued with Melissa on the Hank Unplugged podcast — concerning “Women in Apologetics.” The following is adapted from the discussion on the “Maker Thesis.”
Hank Hanegraaff: I want to talk a little bit about your new book, Science and the Mind of the Maker, subtitled What the Conversation between Faith and Science Reveals about God. In that book, you have a moniker called the “Maker Thesis.” What does that explain?
Melissa Cain Travis: I write about the Maker Thesis in the article, which just came out in the Christian Research Journal, entitled, “A Grand Cosmic Resonance: How the Structure and Comprehensibility of the Universe Reveal a Mindful Maker.” The idea behind the Maker Thesis is that the enormous success of the scientific enterprise that we have watched unlock many of nature’s secrets strongly implies the existence of a Maker. Not only does it strongly imply the existence of a Maker but it implies one who desires to share some of His mind with His creatures. We would say that because we are made in His image. This is the reason we are able to share in His mind. From what we observe, it looks very much as if one of the main goals of this development of the natural world was the existence of rational beings who can investigate its deep structure. As we investigate the deep structure, we thereby understand something of the mind that seems to be behind it all.
Turns out that there are features of the universe in general, and features of planet Earth in particular, that make man’s home incredibly hospitable to the scientific enterprise.
To go along with that, we have the kind of minds that are suited to carry out that kind of investigation. This coincides very well with the Christian doctrine of the imago Dei — the idea that mankind is not just a creation but he is the crown of creation, made in the image of God. As such, we are endowed with these cognitive faculties that allow us to have not just moral awareness but also higher rationality.
I think using resonance as I do in the Journal article is perfect for describing this crazy situation we find ourselves in.
There was a fourth century Alexandrian bishop named Athanasius, Saint Athanasius, and he is one of my absolute favorite Christian saints. I have loved reading his works. He used the analogy that always comes to my mind when I am thinking about the cosmic resonance behind the Maker Thesis. He said,
Like a musician who has tuned his lyre, and by the artistic blending of low and high and medium tones produces a single melody, so the Wisdom of God, holding the universe like a lyre, adapting things heavenly to things earthly, and earthly things to heavenly, harmonizes them all, and leading them by His will, makes one world and one world order in beauty and harmony (Contra Gentiles 31.4).
I just love that. I think it is so appropriate to the thesis of my book. When we observe the world and we observe our own nature, we see this incredible resonance that leads us to understand that there is a Maker whose mind we are able to tap into just a little bit when we carry out the natural sciences.
Hank: I love that you quoted Athanasius. It reminds me of the power of one. If you think about Athanasius in the forth century. It was “Athanasius contra mundum” — Athanasius against the world. He was willing to stand against Arianism, and his arguments ended up winning the day. I also love the fact that he overtly said what many have said throughout the centuries, that God became man so that man might become God. Now, he did not mean that man can become as God by nature. We are gods by grace. We participate, as Peter said, in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), but he opened a door, which points out just how special we are. We are so special that God has invited us into fellowship within the Trinity. I mean it is incredible to think that the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence wants that kind of relationship with us, a relationship that brings us into the fellowship with the Triune God.
Melissa: Yes, absolutely! Many of the church fathers talked about this very same thing. They talked about how nature is like this grand book and because we are made in the image of God, we can read that book. We can discern some of His wisdom and power in the things that He has made.
Hank: We think about the Bible, rightly so, I have spent a lifetime memorizing the Bible. But, there also — as you just pointed out, Melissa — is the book of nature, and we can see God’s imprimatur, we can see His fingerprints on the universe that He has created.
Melissa: Yes! These arguments actually go pretty far back. They even predate the existence of Christianity. We see roots of these ideas in ancient Greek philosophy, most particularly Plato. And then by first century BC to first century AD Judaism, we see these ideas about a Creator having resonance with the mind of man absorbed into or, I guess a better word would be, inspiring the writings of Judaism such that the extrinsic platonic forms that in Greek philosophy just kind of exist out there somewhere are now placed in the mind of a creator God, as the pattern that God used to create the universe.
Then our early church fathers come along, and we see the appearance of this wonderful metaphor about the book of nature — the idea that the creation is this communication vehicle by which God reveals Himself to mankind. They saw creation as a natural revelation that can be used in tandem with the special revelation that we find in Scripture. They saw these two in complete harmony and actually synergy because they thought by observing the world we better understand Scripture, and by reading Scripture we better understand what we are seeing in the world.
Then, of course, we see these ideas communicated in both the Old and New Testaments. Psalm 19 is famous one where we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (NIV) and they send a message to all the earth. Then in Romans 1:20, Saint Paul tells us that God’s power and wisdom are so clearly seen in what has been made that mankind is without excuse when it comes to knowing and worshiping the Creator of all things.
In the book, Science and the Mind of the Maker, what I have tried to do is weave together this glorious intellectual history with the most up-to-date findings of science and the most up-to-date progress in philosophy, and show how these very ancient arguments have not been debunked by the rise of modern science. They have in fact been truly vindicated by modern science.
To listen to the full Hank Unplugged episode, click here.
Read the article “A Grand Cosmic Resonance: How the Structure and Comprehensibility of the Universe Reveal a Mindful Maker” in volume 40, number 1 of the Christian Research Journal.
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Check out other Christian Research Journal articles from Melissa Cain Travis:
To request a copy of Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation between Faith and Science Reveals about God by Melissa Cain Travis, click here.