This is the 12th post in a series on the writings of John Polkinghorne.
The “Two Books” is a common metaphor in the science / faith discussion. We study both scripture (God’s Word) and the book of nature (God’s works). Since God is the author of both books, both can lead us to truth. Sometimes the truths we encounter are so counterintuitive that many exclaim “That’s impossible!” (eg. scientific truths like quantum mechanics or common descent; biblical truths like the resurrection). But even though these truths seem to contradict common sense (are virtually nonsense), on close examination, their veracity is demonstrated by the evidence.
Although all truth is God’s truth, not all truth is equally significant. As Polkinghorne notes, both of God’s books contain truth, but they differ greatly in the potential to impact our lives:
There is one important difference, however, between scientific belief and religious belief. The latter is much more demanding and more dangerous. I believe passionately in quantum theory, but that belief doesn’t threaten to change my life in any significant way. I cannot believe in God, however, without knowing that I must be obedient to his will for me as it becomes known to me. God is not there just to satisfy my intellectual curiosity; he is there to be honoured and respected and loved as my Creator and Saviour. Beware! Let me utter a theological health warning or, rather, promise: “Reading the Bible can change your life”The truth in scripture can change our lives because it introduces us to the Author of creation, the purpose of creation, and the purpose for our lives. The book of nature, no matter how awe inspiring and wondrous, can never do that. We should never confuse the book for the author (a mistake that has been made repeatedly since the dawn of human consciousness).
Searching for Truth, page 16
As we prepare to celebrate the time when the Author inserted himself into the book of nature (in an altogether unexpected fashion!), let us give thanks for both his books. And we should also remember that no matter how satisfying it is to gain knowledge from these two books, knowing the Author and being known by him (1 Cor 13:12) is even better.