What kind of God can we encounter in nature? What must such a God be like, one who provides visual illustrations and symbols of his existence and divine attributes in creation? What kind of a God would—or even could—communicate these qualities to the human race through what he created? On the other hand, what kind of God cannot be revealed in nature? There are religious worldviews whose concept of deity disqualifies their god from being the God of creation, and therefore incapable of revealing any alleged divine qualities in nature.
God’s self-disclosure in and through creation precludes religious worldviews that consider God an impersonal substance or essence—a pantheistic view of God proclaimed in Eastern religions. In this religious philosophy, God encompasses everything that exists; more precisely, everything that exists is God. Anything that appears distinct from God (e.g. physical nature) is maya—an illusion. This god is not a creator who exists apart from the physical universe. Therefore, theologically and logically, such a view would make it impossible for this god to reveal anything about itself in nature. There is nothing tangible to reveal.
Similarly, worldviews that embrace animism are equally disqualified. Animism is the second major category of world religions, and the fundamental belief of all tribal cultures. Although most animists acknowledge a supreme bring, he is generally remote and seldom enters into human affairs. Rather, animists focus on the spirit world. They believe spirits indwell every aspect of nature, both living (animals and plants) as well as nonliving (rivers, lightening, sacred mountains, and so on). These spirits, which allegedly lurk throughout nature, are feared more than revered; they are generally not beings one would wish to draw close to. In fact tribal cultures practicing animism live in constant fear of angering spiritual forces, and through rituals, prayers, and other activities regularly seek to appease them. In short, with their preoccupation with the spirit world, animism reveals nothing substantial or positive about God in nature.
We are left with only one religious choice: theism, the third major category of world religions. What are the necessary qualifications for a theistic God to self-disclose in creation? And does a God revealed in nature make nature itself divine? Both questions will be answered in next week’s blog article. ©
Note: Since this series of blog articles are adapted from a new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.