Bridges & pathways to experiencing more of God: Nature

For some, speaking of nature (or of “the creation” in Judeo-Christian language) as a bridge for God’s presence in our lives is so obvious it draws a “Well, duh!” response. This “of course” response is certainly not limited to Jews and Christians, but is easily documented as a response in most of the great religions of history, as well as in all kinds of spiritual encounters past and present—not least being some of the American Indian tribal heritages.

For others, however, nature is the place where they have become convinced that there is no God, or perhaps even more often, where they have found what they consider powerful arguments to bolster their already strong conviction that there is no God. Still others find nature to be a sphere that convinces them that there must be a God, but a very distant and uninvolved God when it comes to our “natural laws” and “systems.” For others, God’s creation is a bridge by which only occasionally we experience the powerful presence of God while other pathways are more common in our spiritual journeys. And for still others, creation is the source of very few, if any, direct experiences of God’s presence, but the source of many reasoned conclusions that there must be a real and active God in the universe.

Obviously, when people have such disparate experiences and divergent ways of interpreting data, it’s an indication that they must also be working from some pretty drastically differing Master Stories of reality. Here’s an example: Although the quote accredited to Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin, saying he looked in space and found no god, is probably a somewhat spurious, after-the-fact accreditation, in 1963 his fellow cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky apparently did tell newsmen that “No Soviet cosmonaut believed in God and none of them had seen anything to change their minds during their space flights.” On the other hand, John Glenn’s response to very similar data was extremely different: “To look out at this kind of creation—to not believe in God is to me impossible.”

Carl Sagan experienced the decoding of DNA as further evidence that we really do not need (or want) a God to explain nature; yet Francis Collins the head of the “Human Genome Project” and currently the Director of the National Institute of Health experienced the discoveries so profoundly that he now writes of the informational gifts encoded in life as “The Language of God.”

All of these examples can be multiplied by the thousands, both in reading the works of the great minds of history, science, art, music, sociology, and religion, and in talking with the neighbors who live on your street or in your apartment building.

As turns out to be true with all “Master Story Paradigms” and “Big Pictures,” our big picture paradigm of nature is not capable of unquestionable “proofs.” Proofs work only with the small, comparatively simple, and repeatable realities. Our big pictures can be shored up with evidences, plausibilities, consistencies, coherences, and experiences, but all of them also include a leap of faith—a deep, core level decision about who and what we trust, which is a decision that cannot avoid a certain amount of risk.

In my next few blog posts, I intend to write about the biblical big picture of creation as a pathway to experiencing more of God’s presence and empowering. I believe this big picture is true and reflects reality, but I also know it cannot be reduced to “proofs” any more than Christopher Hitchens’ atheistic view of reality can be reduced to proofs. Some see the various ways humans interpret the data as evidence of almost total relativism. I see it as evidence that Our Creator is far more interested in our choice to trust than in coercing us with indubitable proofs. Trust and risk are inescapable in God’s creation. How do you see it?

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