The theistic religion that provides the most information about God’s self-disclosure in and through nature—and the one that develops the concept most thoroughly—is the Judaeo/Christian religion. This true God is a transcendent, sovereign Creator who exists independent and apart from what he created. At the same time, the Judaeo/Christian God is everywhere present (immanent) throughout nature. He is fully aware of every aspect of creation by virtue of being its creator—somewhat like an architect is intimately acquainted with every component he designs into a building. Only such a God is capable of revealing information about himself in and through nature.
Unlike Eastern and Tribal religions (see part three), the Christian God is personal and approachable. He desires his people to know him, to draw close to him, and to learn from him. He is a God of such breathtaking love that He created nature (among other reasons) to be a reliable pathway on which any sincere spiritual seeker can embark upon and discover that God does exist—and that he has revealed something of his nature and character through what he has made. And in an extraordinary act of grace, God has further ordained that the grandeur and mystery of nature can be a steppingstone to a personal encounter with him outside and independent of nature—a topic we’ll explore in a later blogs.
Does This Mean Nature Is Divine?
Nature is sacred in the sense that God created it, owns it, reveals himself through it, and instructed the human race to be his caretakers over it (see my book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists?). But there is an enormous difference between recognizing the sacredness of nature and considering it divine. Earth-centered religions, such as Gaia, Wicca, and neo-paganism, consider nature divine and therefore worship it. But this view is out of sync with the Christian God, who is revealed through what he created but is not to be identified with it. Such a demeaning view of God elevates what was made above who made it. Should the potter be of less value than the pot? Should the Creator be of less value than the created? Earth-centered religions entertain irrational views of God, incorporate elements of pagan mythology, and are contrary to coherent reality as most people understand it. The Christian religion rejects the belief that nature is divine and should be worship.
Recognizing that nature is sacred, while avoiding worshiping it as divine, is simply a matter of understanding that nature is the creation of the transcendent, all-powerful God described above. It is precisely because the real God is the God revealed in the Christian religion that we can encounter him in nature; learn something of His divine qualities through what He has made; and enjoy his creative handiwork—all without being drawn into the fantasy world where nature is supposedly divine and demands our worship.
Now that we have identified the one true God, we can examine how he is revealed in and through nature. What does it mean that God wrote the Book of Nature, and what does this “book” tell us about God? This will be the topic of next week’s blog. ©
NOTE: Since this series of blog articles are adapted from my new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.