How God Sustains and Rules the Universe

Spiral galaxy shows God's infinite power and majesty demonstrating how God rules the universe

How God Sustains and Rules the Universe


God’s creation is awe-inspiring and wondrous. He made the universe with incredible power and precision. But how does he sustain the physical world he created? In other words, by what means does he rule the universe?  This post will show that God rules the universe by natural laws which are an extension of his mind and power.


Contrasting the Pagan and Judeo-Christian worldviews


The pagan worldview sees the universe controlled by supernatural powers (or “gods”). This is shown by prayers to the sun, the rain, mountains, and the wind. Certain physical features, locations, or weather systems are also thought to be inhabited by sometimes capricious gods, powers, or spiritual essence. This is called animism. Shintoism also includes a form of animism in its beliefs.

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian worldview sees the universe as governed by one Creator God. This God is sovereign over all the universe. To govern the creation, he doesn’t act capriciously. Instead, he established immutable physical laws which are a mode of his divine power and action. And he has given humans the task of discovering these laws.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.  (Proverbs 25:2)

European scientists who had a Judeo-Christian worldview contributed greatly to scientific knowledge. Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, and Marie Curie are only a few. In fact, modern science would not exist today were it not for these scientists and their worldview. Steven Meyer, Senior Fellow at the Discovery institute, explains in this brief video their influence on modern science.


God’s Sovereign Rule


Sovereignty is one of God’s attributes. In many Bible passages, God is described as the “sovereign Lord.” The prophet Jeremiah also confessed that God is sovereign over the entire cosmos. He rules over it because he made it.

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

Some people associate the term sovereign with the word “control.” But the two words don’t mean the same. The terms used in the Bible when discussing sovereignty are “rule” and “authority.”

The physical world has no choice but to obey God’s physical laws. It perfectly obeys them. This is because physical objects don’t have a will and can’t think for themselves or act on their own.  God’s laws also govern human behavior. But humans can obey or disobey God’s laws because they have free will. This is an important distinction. God allows humans to make independent decisions, either for or against his will. In another post, I discuss how God’s sovereignty relates to the human will.


How does God rule over the physical world?

How does God rule over the physical world? Theologians answer the question differently.

Some believe God rules the universe by micromanaging. In other words, he makes trillions upon trillions of separate actions every second. And these actions move each and every thing and being he created. In this view God rules the universe by total and immediate control. Reformer John Calvin‘s view of God’s sovereignty contributed to this idea, teaching that God controls and predetermines all events, even human actions.

Theologian R.C. Sproul seemed to agree with Calvin’s view. He said: “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” Even Charles Spurgeon (whom I respect greatly) once said, “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes…” These statements suggest that God consciously predetermines the action, position, and effect of every atom and particle in the universe.

First, let me say that nothing exists apart from God’s sovereignty. On this, all Christian theologians agree. But does God have to micromanage the universe to rule it? I don’t believe so. His rule is more majestic than that.


Ruling versus micromanaging

So how does he rule it? The answer is God rules the universe by the physical laws he established. We commonly call these the laws of nature. These laws make the physical world what it is: real, observable, and predictable. Because of God’s laws, chemical reactions and physical properties of materials are predictable, and we have cause and effect. We can study the physical world by observing, testing, and measuring. And we can come to rational conclusions based on our observations.

On the other hand, if all events are predetermined and micromanaged, then we would expect the universe to be different than what we see. If God makes trillions of decisions and actions each second, he wouldn’t need laws. He would just be governing by immediate control. But at the same time, we couldn’t predict what actions God might take.

Without physical properties and laws, God could even be seen as unpredictable. And we would expect the universe to be unpredictable as well.

But God sustains and rules the universe by his laws. Sovereignty does not mean he controls all things, but he rules all things. Some theologians have a hard time with this concept. To them this means God isn’t really sovereign, but that he just wound up the universe like a clock and then let it go, and now has no dealings with it. But they misunderstand God’s sustaining power. His laws pervade the universe, even to its outermost limits, just as he pervades the universe. Of course, God can also rule by superceding his natural laws (called a miracle). But this is the exception and not the rule.


God’s word created the universe

The Psalmist declared:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.  (Psalm 33:6)

God made the worlds by his word, by his declaration. They were conceived in his mind and then brought forth by his speech. His word and speech are a perfect expression of himself.


God’s word sustains the universe

King David wrote about God:

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. (Psalm 119:89-91)

David was declaring that God’s natural laws continually maintain and sustain the universe. It’s interesting that God’s “word” and God’s “laws” are used interchangeably in Psalm 119 and other parts of the Bible. In the same way that God’s word is an expression of himself, his physical laws are also an expression of himself. They are not separate and independent from God, but they express him perfectly. They go out from him to fill and permeate the universe.


Christ the Word of God

In the gospel of John, Christ is presented as the Word of God, who was with God and was God from eternity.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3).

Christ is the speech of God, the exact representation of God’s mind. And through God’s Word, who was Christ, he created the physical world. John later describes how Christ came into the physical world through the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God in human flesh (John 1:14). Concerning Christ, the author of Hebrews wrote:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3)

So, God sustains the universe through his Word, who is Christ. He is the One who carries out God’s decrees. These decrees are the laws of nature, the physical laws that govern the universe.

The physical constants

As scientists explored the universe, they began to discover God’s physical laws. As knowledge increased, more laws were discovered, building on the knowledge that had been achieved.

When the laws of nature are expressed as equations, certain dimensionless constants appear whose values are unchangeable. They are universal and have a constant value in space and time. There are many of them, and below are some of the most familiar:

  • The force of gravity. This is a law everyone is familiar with. And after adjusting for variables, it has a constant value—the same everywhere in the universe.
  • The speed of light. This value is always 300,000 kilometers per second.
  • The weight of electrons, protons, and neutrons that make up atoms. These are all constant and unchanging.
  • The internal forces that hold together these particles within the atomic structure are also constant.

These constants are universal and unchanging, as they have well-defined mathematical relationships in the physical world. And their existence demonstrates an intelligent Law Giver. They are God’s laws, and define the physical universe we live in. These laws were mentioned by God when he challenged Job for his lack of understanding:

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? (Job 38:33)

The ancient peoples didn’t know about the physical constants and their mathematical relationships to the world they lived in. But those such as King David and Job who knew of a Creator God knew that there are laws and rules that the Creator set in place that govern the universe.


The Structure of the Universe



Many different types of subatomic particles exist in the universe, including protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons. There are trillions upon trillions of each type of particle. And each type is incredibly uniform in size, weight, energy, and behavior. They all behave and interact according to established laws—the physical constants.

The neutrons, protons, and electrons within each atom all behave according to the physical laws, giving rise to individual elements.  All isotopes of an element are exactly alike in size, mass, and energy. And the size of and the energy levels within each type of element are amazingly uniform and consistent. All of these demonstrate that there are rules that govern the universe, based on the physical constants. Because of the striking uniformity of the elements, we see uniformity in the physical world.

Order and complexity

We also see complexity and order. A good example of this is in the structure of mineral crystals. The crystal structure of each mineral is based on an orderly arrangement of atoms in a complex lattice structure. This arrangement is reproduced in three dimensions billions upon billions of times. Light passing through crystals behaves the same for each mineral, revealing a specific crystal structure and color. Chemical impurities and slight variations in the lattice structure produce an interplay of colors and incredible beauty.


Beautiful radiating blue mineral crystals over a bed of sugary white mineral crystals, demonstrating God's creativity
Cavansite mineral crystals, Pixaby image by Mansaku Ogikubo

So, God rules the universe through uniformity, order, and complexity. And these all can be described mathematically. We could say that mathematics is God’s language that describes the physical universe. All this reveals there is a great Mind behind nature, pointing to an intelligent Creator.


The universe not only consists of order and complexity, but also randomness. In the scientific realm this is sometimes called chaos. This exists in every part of the universe: from a subatomic scale to a galactic scale. Randomness occurs on a large scale in geologic events, galaxies, the movement of stars, and super-nova explosions.

But it also occurs on an atomic scale in which trillions upon trillions of energized molecules act upon each other in a chaotic environment. In fact, we could say that all molecules can be “free and loose” to some degree, especially when in liquid or gas form.  Randomness also occurs on a subatomic level: for example, the position of electrons in their energy shells within the atom at any given moment.

Cause and effect

Some people might not like the idea that God also rules the universe through chaos. But in reality, it’s controlled chaos. But there must be disorder and randomness for there to be cause and effect. This is especially true on a molecular scale. For example, trillions of air molecules in our atmosphere are pushing against the earth’s surface and each other in a chaotic environment. This gives us atmospheric pressure. Without this random movement of atoms, we wouldn’t be able to breathe.

The cause and effect we see on a large scale may appear to be very orderly and predictable. But on an atomic level it’s chaotic. We can observe this in chemical reactions, the transfer of heat energy, or the transfer of gas or water pressure. Without water pressure, we wouldn’t be able to drink. On one hand, without randomness on this level, the cosmos would be unintelligible—there would be no cause and effect, no effect of one medium upon another. But if all were chaotic, we wouldn’t have a stable world to live in—we wouldn’t even have solid objects. The various combinations of uniformity, order, and randomness make the universe what it is, with cause and effect. And God provided an earth with predictability and stability so humans can exist and live safely.


Combinations of uniformity, order, and randomness also give the universe beauty. Total order without randomness would not be beautiful to us but very monolithic and stark. At the same time, total randomness and chaos would be terrifying. But randomness combined with order gives rise to beauty. Beauty isn’t a scientific term. But when we say that something is beautiful, we mean that it is beautiful to us from our perspective as humans. Viewing a cosmic gas nebula from within, you might not see much. But viewed from earth millions of light years away, it is awesome and beautiful.


Beautiful blue green nebula in the shape of a butterfly, demonstrating God's creative power in the universe
Butterfly Nebula; photo credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble space telescope

Something is beautiful because it possesses a value or quality greater than just the physical elements themselves. And the ability to see beauty is a gift to humans. It can’t be recognized by non-intelligent beings. Also, different people appreciate beauty differently, as we need a certain amount of humility to appreciate it. I would even say appreciating beauty is a precursor to worship. It’s not just the raw physical thing that is being praised, but something behind it that makes an otherwise purely physical scene beautiful.

Beautiful colors from light passing through a thin section of spinel lherzolite rock under plane polarized light
Thin section of spinel lherzolite rock under plane polarized light¹

So, as we consider the greatness, awesomeness, and beauty of the physical universe, we realize that there is an intelligent all-powerful God who is behind it. This God created the universe by his sovereign will and rules it through his natural laws. These laws pervade the physical world to its outermost limits.

Seeking and knowing God

It’s amazing to me that a God this great and powerful would want to relate personally to the mortal humans he created. But he created us in his image so that we could have a relationship with him. I hope that the greatness and power of God will move you to seek him and reach out to him. If you call to him, he will answer you and reveal himself to you in even greater ways. He will not disappoint you.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.  (Jeremiah 33:3)



¹ Mineralogy; Free Textbook for College-Level Mineralogy Courses; Chapter 16 Petrography

Featured photo: spiral galaxy M106, photo credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage team


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3 thoughts on “How God Sustains and Rules the Universe”

  1. I enjoyed the article very much , I am a student of the Bible and enjoy a little different and deeper study of Gods Word 😊

  2. I am a pastor who teaches Physics and Mathematics at a local Christian school. This article will be a must read for my students.

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