Lesson 2: Beginning Insights

Jesus at work in CreationIt’s helpful to remind ourselves that Nature can be defined from different perspectives (e.g. as universe, world, or creation). We can talk of the universe, my world, and God’s creation. Each use different language types. The scientific speaks of vast stars and galaxies, the poetic of a beautiful starry night, and the theological of the awesome heavens that declare the glory of God.

None brings us any closer to the Truth than the others. Science might be more accurate when considering causal relationships, but poetry and theology speak to other just as important characteristics. As Shakespeare writes in “As You Like It”, they find “tongues in trees, books in the running brook, sermon in stones, and good in everything.” Indeed, even modern quantum science acknowledges all depends on the observer.

When science speaks of the universe, it most often refers to the physical cosmos. It’s materialistic interpretation reads it as mindless, devoid of purpose, and not directed towards any end. However, today it does sees the inter-relatedness of all things, often claiming it is more like an organism than a machine.

Suddenly poetry is not alien. The poet, Christian Wiman, can write in “My Bright Abyss,” “If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand. And we are of that life, part of that communication.”

We often miss that the Bible, also, sees this inter-relatedness. Accustomed to read creation only from the perspective of Genesis 1 and 2, we think of it as something that happened long ago. Other passages speak of an ongoing creation that depends every moment on God’s presence.

Acts 17: 22- 28, for instance, proclaims, “he is not far from each of us. For “in him we live and move and have our being”. God is the source and ground of all things, the reality in which all things have being at every moment.

Psalm 104 speaks of God laying the foundations of the world, but spends much longer describing how he provides for the needs of all its parts. It climaxes with, “These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”

The longest treatment, Job 38-41, pictures God speaking from a whirlwind to confront Job with his inability to understand creation. He asks how Job can presume to know what it takes to govern and care for all its parts. He was not there when God laid the foundations of the earth or when he established the limits needed to control evil. Even now the human can not comprehend what it takes to provide growth for plants, food for animals, and order for the stars. Indeed, God must supervise birthing and sustenance for wild animals who can not provide for themselves, and even parenting for birds too dumb to care for their young. The long passage ends with the assurance that God tames the dragons and sea monsters even the bravest humans’ fear.

John says much the same when he identifies the Logos, the order and wisdom that holds the creation together, with Jesus, the Christ. God loves the world into being and continues to share his Spirit with it.

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    I decided to add Gerard Manly Hopkins’ poem, The Grandeur of God as an example of poetic and religious truth.

    THE world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs— Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

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