Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it. — Michael Faraday
For the Christian, the material world can be a door to the sacred and God can be glimpsed through the things of this world such as math, science, music, poetry, politics, and art. The entire world belongs to God and reveals his nature (Psalm 24:1; Romans 1:20). All of life is to be lived to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Experience of God is not restricted to religious settings. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes that the world is “charged” with God’s grandeur. Exploring the material world through the tools of science goes hand in hand with glimpses of this grandeur, and the proper response is gratitude and wonder.
A sense of wonder is not unique to the Christian faith; people of other faiths and those who profess no faith also experience and express wonder at the beauty and intricacy of the world. Expressing wonder does not make one a Christian, but being a Christian comes with a call to wonder and be grateful because faith in Christ means receiving the world as a remarkable gift and testimony to God’s wisdom. Reductionism, on the other hand, views the world as just matter in motion, humans as just chemicals, and the natural environment as just resources. This kind of thinking erodes wonder.
Christian faith insists there is more: we inhabit a multifaceted creation in which God delights and in which God calls us to delight also. Delight does not mean ignoring the darker side of life; rather it means fully acknowledging the difficulties of life while remaining determined to celebrate what we can as we trust the underlying goodness of God. Such delight, both delight in the beauty of the world and delight in the people who help us glimpse its marvels, is a form of wisdom (Proverbs 8:12-31).
Wonder and understanding are not at odds. Wonder may emerge from a sense of mystery, acknowledging there are things in all areas of life—including science—that we do not fully understand. But it may also emerge from seeing how things work and gaining knowledge of the intricacy of the world. Wonder is not just for the gaps, the things we have not yet explained, it is a basic stance of appreciation and celebration that embraces what we know and what we don’t yet know.
The science classroom is not automatically a place of wonder. Humdrum classroom practices can reduce science to a series of tasks, chores, and exercises in remembering names for things. Yet teaching and learning science can be approached in ways that intentionally evoke and model a sense of beauty, mystery, and wonder. The classroom can explicitly raise awareness of the limitations of reductionism and create space for expressions of celebration and gratitude. It can cultivate an attentive, loving gaze, and a listening ear.
Christians believe that God speaks through his world (Psalm 19:1). We need an attentive, receptive attitude to discern the grandeur of God in creation. Do our classroom practices foster such an attitude?
Explore these FASTly activities and consider how they make space for wonder: