Bridges & pathways to experiencing more of God: Nature, part III
In case you’ve missed my recent blog posts, here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been exploring:
(1) I have suggested that claiming to see “evidences” for the reality of God in nature/creation is different than claiming to find “proofs.” For many reasons, those kinds of proofs do not exist for any of the important areas of human reality, but meaningful evidences often do exist.
(2) I noted just a few of the many examples recorded in the Bible claiming experiences of God’s presence and empowering through various mediums of creation/nature.
Today and next time, I’m going to take a quick look at a few of the scriptures that speak directly to God’s self-revelation through creation.
Psalm 19:1-4 1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament/expanse proclaims his handiwork.2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
The Biblical writers claim that although nature does not speak in the same linguistic forms as humans do, it does speak to us. This certainly is not a uniquely Biblical claim. Many cultures, not least several First Nation Tribes of the Americas, believed that they experienced nature as a vehicle for the voice of the Great Spirit behind the universe. The Psalmist speaks of the creation as a channel for expressing the “glory of God,” a claim that God’s “heavy presence” can be heard through the creation in various ways.
In our more scientific way of speaking, Francis Collins, of the “Human Genome Project” and more recently the head of the National Institute of Health, speaks of this way of experiencing God as hearing “The Language of God.” So, a good practical question for us is this: “Are we listening as we encounter the creation?”
Proverbs 6:4-8 – Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; 5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. 6 Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief or officer or ruler, 8 it prepares its food in summer, and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
Passages such as this one in Proverbs speak not so much of experiencing God directly as of learning some of God’s truth by about daily living by observing nature. Of course, this particular lesson might not be the main one that those of us permeated by the American cultural experience need to hear, since we are known around the world as “crazy busy.” Perhaps we also need the balancing lesson from creation quoted in Matthew 6:28-30, by someone who was hardly a self-justifying lazybones:
“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Then, as a freebie, we also receive a lesson in scriptural application, which often gives us two opposite directives, each one demanding a search for the appropriate contextualization.
Proverbs 25:2-3 – 2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. 3 Like the heavens for height, like the earth for depth, so the mind of kings is unsearchable.
This proverbial wisdom saying acknowledges in an ancient cultural way a truth that should be at least as evident to us today as it was to these ancient wise men: It takes a certain level of affluence to allow for the freedom to do scientific research, thus the use of the term “king.” Until relatively recent times, it was usually up to kings to determine whether or not there were resources made available for scholars and scientists to do research as well as for artists to do art, builders and architects to build, etc.
In that light, think of the positive view of the relationship between God, human ingenuity, and the creation in this passage. The weighty presence and power of God is to be seen in all of the wonders God hid in the intricacies of creation, in order to provide us with the opportunity to see how powerful and wonderful our God-given minds are as we experience the joy of “scientific” discovery. But, in order to enjoy this gift, we will have to make the resources available, and apply these “unsearchably” great minds that God has given us. And, there’s a practical question: Why do so many Christians seem to think “science” is a threat to their faith when it is a kind of human “knowing” that is often celebrated in the Biblical writings?
We’ll explore that more next time.