Twelfth-century theologians used the term Book of Nature as a metaphorical description of God’s revelation outside the Bible and through creation (nature). Although wildness is only a partial reflection of the greater beauty and majesty of the Creator who fashioned it, the Book of Nature can enhance anyone’s appreciation, wonder, and delight in God.
I’ve been reading this “book” for much of my adult life (I explain why below), and down through the centuries numerous Christian thinkers and scholars have acknowledged its truth and value as a revelation of God. Here are a few examples:
Thomas Kempis (1380-1471), author of one the best known Christian devotional books, captured the essence of the Book of Nature when he wrote: “If thy heart were right, then every creature would be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and abject, but it reflects the goodness of God.” Reformation theologian, Martin Luther (1483-1541), expressed this same truth: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” Theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) agreed, but illustrated it quite differently: “The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells of God.” The brilliant eighteenth century American philosopher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758), put it simply: “There are many truths concerning God, and our duty to him, which are evident by the light of Nature.”
The wilderness has always been a place of high adventure for me, a place of excitement, expectancy, and inspiration. Its beauty lifts my spirit; its sounds and smells invigorate my senses. The very word wilderness conjures up in my mind memories of shadowy forests blanketed with lofty trees and lush vegetation; of thundering rivers and mile high mountains; of bears, moose, wolves, and myriad other free-roaming animals. Other times I reminisce about the desert wildernesses I’ve explored: arid mountains with long views across broad and lonely valleys; amazingly adaptive plants and animals; rock, wind, heat, silence, solitude—a place where one can really be alone.
Behind all these whimsical daydreams and nostalgic reflections lies one unalterable reality. The source and substance of all the wildernesses that have meant so much to me—and played an influential role in my life since childhood—is the Creator. Not an impersonal, aloof, unapproachable creator, but a personal God who desires his creatures to know him, to draw close to him, and to learn from him. He is a God of such extraordinary love for the human race that he has provided, through the grandeur and mystery of nature, an opportunity for everyone to discover his existence and begin to experience his divine presence. ©
But . . . do all people benefit from the Book of Nature? No. Is the Book of Nature a book of science? Yes and no. I’ll explain both these answers 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.