ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS
A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY
Since childhood I’ve explored countless wild habitats: forests, deserts, chaparral, grasslands, mountain slopes, and riparian. I’ve written two books and more than thirty articles on nature, wildlife, and environmental ethics (from a Christian perspective). And for many years I’ve sought insight into what can be learned about God through nature: What does creation teach us about God’s divine attributes, His flawless character, His eternal love and provision for humans and animals, and His promises to the human family?
Theologians call God’s self-disclosure in nature general revelation. As the term implies, this channel of divine revelation is limited in scope and in details about God. For example, it does not explain God’s plan for human redemption, nor does nature reveal anything specific about Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, general revelation does provide a legitimate way for people to learn truth and gain knowledge about God. This in turn can encourage serious spiritual seekers to consider further, fuller insight into the God of creation (i.e. through the Bible and God’s people).
I’m writing this series of blog articles (and the book-in-progress from which they’re adapted) for both Christians and non-Christians. My intent is to provide visual confirmation and illustrations in nature of some of the eternal truths and knowledge that God has revealed in the Bible. At the same time, I’ll share some of the breathtaking wonders and boundless beauty of God’s creation. I’m convinced that nature can strengthen a Christian’s faith in God. It has for me.
In terms of non-Christians, there are millions of outdoor enthusiasts—campers, sportsmen, wildlife photographers, hikers, environmentalists, and neo-pagans (nature worshippers)—who hope to find spiritual fulfillment in nature. This series will show why God’s self-disclosure in nature can be a conversation starter—an apologetic point of contact—with this variety of spiritual seekers. This in turn can lead to opportunities to share Jesus Christ.
Here’s why nature can be an effective evangelistic and apologetic point of contact:
Just as the human race possesses an intuitive sense of eternity, because God has placed such knowledge in the human heart (Eccl. 3:11); just as the human race intuitively recognizes a fundamental, universal moral code, because God has placed such a code in the human heart (Rom. 2:13-15); so too God has placed within the human heart an innate awareness of His existence, which can be awakened through contact with nature (Rom. 1:19-20). By means of numerous illustrations and symbols found throughout nature, any earnest spiritual seeker can sense God’s active presence in creation, identify some of His divine attributes, gain insight into His character, and even intuit some of the eternal promises He has made to the human race.
General revelation, then, can be a bridge from ignorance of God to recognizing the reality of his existence, so that, as the Apostle Paul put it to the Greek philosophers in Athens, “men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (17:27, NIV). Future blogs in this series will show that nature is a universal testimony to God’s existence—and a call for all spiritual seekers to “find” him.
Beginning in part one next week, and continuing for many weeks to come, I’ll provide compelling biblical and other evidences on what I’ve briefly touched on in this introduction. Along the way I’ll share some my own insights and experiences from many years of wilderness wandering. If readers come to better appreciate and enjoy nature in the process, so much the better. ©