The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Seeing God in nature

According to the Bible (for example Romans 1; Psalm 19), nature should point us to God. Author Philip Yancey writes about this in Christianity Today: A Whole Good World Outside: Opening our blinds to the prevailing wonder of creation. Here’s a quote:

It was this whole good world outside as much as anything that brought me back to Christian faith. I emerged from childhood with a distorted image of God: a frowning Supercop looking to squash anyone who might be having a good time. I have since come to know God as a whimsical artist who fills the world with creatures like the porcupine and skunk and warthog, who lavishes the world with wildflowers and tropical fish more beautiful than any design on display in an art museum.

Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, sees God’s hand in the magnificent coding of the DNA double helix. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard sees it in the creatures that swim and dive in Tinker Creek in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. From nature writers such as John Muir, Henri Fabre, Loren Eiseley, and Lewis Thomas I gain appreciation for a Master Artist they may not even believe in; their precise and reverent observations help to raise the blinds for me.

I have met a pastor in Bahrain who can identify by sight 2,000 species of seashells, and a missionary in Costa Rica who has assembled a world-class collection of butterflies and moths. Church historian Mark Noll remarks that the song “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” plainly errs when it says, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” No, he says, the rest of the world grows clearer, not dimmer, in the light of Christ. God created matter; in Jesus, God joined it.

HT: Wonder of Creation

Grace and Peace

August 7, 2009 - Posted by | Nature |

14 Comments »

  1. Doesn’t Collins claim the opposite? That he believes that there is not evidence in biology for a creator (he’s anti-ID). Strangely, he seems to see design in cosmology though. Go figure.

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    Comment by Kenny | August 8, 2009

  2. Kenny:

    My copy of The Language of God is packed away, but the way I remember Collins’ argument is that the finely-tuned parameters and laws apparent in cosmology which allow the universe to be the way it is are the same laws that allow DNA to exist and work in such utterly marvelous ways.

    There are significant differences between the theistic evolution of Collins and the divine intervention model of ID. Collins would say that nature is set up to allow for the emergence and evolution of life; that evolution is part of God’s creative process. God is still required to create and sustain the fully-gifted universe; it didn’t pop into existence on its own, nor did it end up being just right for complex life at random. The ID-ers teach the opposite: that the universe is set up in such a way that divine intervention is required for the origin of life and for major advancements.

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    Comment by geochristian | August 8, 2009

  3. The fine-tuning argument does seem to be a better argument for the existence of a “designer of the universe” than the intelligent design “irreducible complexity” arguments. Evolution provides plausible explanations for the diversity of life, but there don’t seem to be equally plausible explanations for the properties of atoms, for example. The “multiverse” theory is unsatisfying even to an atheist such as myself.

    I can see how someone who believed in evolution might still believe in a god which specified the properties of matter that controlled the chemistry which led to life. It isn’t necessarily a contradiction.

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    Comment by lightsmith | August 8, 2009

  4. Lightsmith:

    I can go either way on this one and see some validity in both Christian perspectives we’re talking about.

    Theistic evolution could be correct — God certainly could have created a fully-functional universe capable of self-organization and evolutionary progress.

    ID could be partially correct as well — 50 years of origins of life research have shown us just how big a jump there is from non-life to life. I’m not yet convinced that this is possible with the laws of nature as we understand them. I’ve written about this before: Simple cells?.

    The Bible really doesn’t address such issues, and though I’ve read quite a bit on the subject, I’ll remain non-committal.

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    Comment by geochristian | August 8, 2009

  5. I’m somewhere close to Geochristian in that I believe both positions are plausible. However, I’m much more committed to ID, because I don’t believe from our observations thus far that it make highly unlikely that life evolved from non-life through purely naturalistic processes. I see the same thing with macro evolution. While I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, I’m unconvinced that purely naturalistic causes could do all that we see. Could God create a universe where such a thing was possible… I certainly believe he could, but I think our observations so far don’t make that seem likely.

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    Comment by Kenny Johnson | August 8, 2009

  6. Kenny Johnson, while science is probably closing in on abiogenesis, at this point it is still an open problem.

    My question to those who are “much more committed to ID” is, what kind of malevolent bioterrorist designs viruses like smallpox and yellow fever?

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    Comment by lightsmith | August 8, 2009

  7. Lightsmith:

    I’ll make one suggestion for a solution to the smallpox/yellow fever problem. I don’t know whether or not it is correct, but I believe it is consistent with both nature and divine revelation in the Bible.

    Young-Earthers usually present the Garden of Eden as covering the entire Earth. Like many YEC concepts, this is something they read into the Bible, rather than letting the Bible speak for itself. Reading the opening chapters of Genesis, on the other hand, it becomes clear that the Garden of Eden was of limited extent, somewhere in Mesopotamia. Biblically, this was the home of the first humans, those who bear the “image of God”. (I’m not saying anything at this point about pre-Adam hominids or other contemporaneous humans).

    My understanding of what the text of Genesis is teaching is that Adam and Eve lived in this Garden: a special place prepared for them by God for fellowship and testing. Outside of this garden was the rest of the Earth, which, rather than being a safe place like Eden, was a wild and dangerous place. The wild was a place with death—predation, aging, and disease—serving as a warning to Adam and Eve of what God meant when he warned them that they would die if they disobeyed. Without this, Adam and Eve would have had no idea what God was talking about in his warning.

    In this scenario, smallpox and yellow fever served a purpose even in the “good” creation. We don’t look at it as a pleasant purpose, but who are we to tell God what he can do? Perhaps if Adam and Eve had obeyed, the entire Earth would have been transformed into Eden. As it is, it is the other way around, and we are subject to the pain and suffering of a wild world.

    Conclusion: The “malevolent bioterrorist” complaint against God is not valid.

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    Comment by geochristian | August 8, 2009

  8. I think the malevolent bioterrorist complaint is still valid. Any other malevolent bioterrorist who threatens to unleash such threats unless his demands are met is still simply a malevolent bioterrorist, especially if he makes good on his threats.

    The fact that they could be driven from the garden does support the claim that the garden was not a global phenomenon, so I’d agree that your reading of Genesis is more correct on that point. (Perhaps the flaming sword which is said to have blocked the entrance at that point was extinguished later in the flood).

    However, I’m not familiar with anything in Genesis which suggests that Adam and Eve had any knowledge of anything outside the garden prior to their unfortunate snack. It seems to me that they could not have been aware of such “evils” as death, predation, and aging, since it was the snack itself which purportedly conferred such knowledge. I don’t think that part of your argument is on solid ground, biblically.

    My own reading suggests that death itself must have been part of life inside the garden as well, since Jehovah’s main concern once the forbidden fruit had been consumed is that Adam and Eve would consume another, not-forbidden fruit which would confer immortality, and make themselves “like gods.”

    There seems to be an odd sense of urgency on Jehovah’s part to convince his fellow gods to evict the boarders before that can happen.

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    Comment by lightsmith | August 8, 2009

  9. (Just addressing a small point due to my time constraints.)

    Some of the difference here is phrasing. Take a parent who tells her kids not to play in the street and points out a piece of roadkill as example.

    One could say that mother is a malevolent terrorist threatening her kids with death and destruction unless they obey her. (hateful)

    Or, one could say that mother is warning them against something that can hurt/kill them, and showing them examples to reinforce the point. (loving)

    Take your pick. The events are the same, but the way they are described is vastly different.

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    Comment by WebMonk | August 10, 2009

  10. Can an atheist call malevolence or bioterrorism “evil” without borrowing the concept of evil from somewhere else?

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    Comment by geochristian | August 11, 2009

  11. In lightsmith’s “defense” (though I disagree with him), I think he means that by the standards Christians hold, God’s actions would be considered malevolent and bioterrorism.

    Feel free to correct me if I’m putting false words into your mouth, lightsmith.

    Like I said, I think lightsmith is twisting his description way out of whack. In listening to politicians, everyone knows that it’s possible for them to describe the exact same thing as either a world-ending atrocity or a world-saving miracle.

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    Comment by WebMonk | August 11, 2009

  12. WebMonk, I think your understanding of my words is reasonable.

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth either, but I suspect you, geochristian, and I probably have similar ideas of what is “evil.” My own definition would be something like “a willful act undertaken with knowledge of the damage it would do or the pain it would cause, which doesn’t have positive effects which outweigh the negative.”

    In my own worldview, smallpox virus is a “bad” thing, but its existence is not evil. It is not itself conscious of the damage it does, and it was not created by a conscious act by a being which DID understand what the consequences would be.

    My thinking is that Christians would have to view it not only as “bad” but as “evil,” if they believe that the smallpox virus was created by God, since God presumably knew what kind of effects such a virus would have on humans.

    Your analogy of a child who is told not to play in traffic seems less than convincing to me, at least as a rationale for the story of Adam and Eve. Playing in the street is inherently dangerous; eating a food which imparts knowledge is not.

    To me, the story you’re attempting to explain would be more fairly analogized as: Parent tells child not to eat the cookie, then leaves the cookie on the table where the child can easily reach it. When the child disobeys and eats the cookie anyway, the parent sends the child into the street to play. “I told you that cookie would kill you!” Oh, and by the way, YOUR kids now have to play in the street too, and their kids, and their kids…

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    Comment by lightsmith | August 11, 2009

  13. Lightsmith (#12):

    Thanks again for your civil and challenging contributions. I’ll comment on just one thing right now and try to get back to you later on the other points you raised.

    To “know” something in Hebrew implies more than just knowing a fact. Think of Adam “knowing” Eve.

    One can know about the holocaust by reading about it in a book. My family knows the holocaust at a slightly higher level by having visited the concentration camp at Dachau. But the only people who really know the holocaust in a full sense are those who lived in the concentration camps. This full experience of evil is what Adam and Eve gained when they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    They were not a couple of ignorant, blank souls before this; I have no doubt that they were growing daily in their knowledge of each other, their world, and their Creator. By taking the forbidden fruit, they didn’t gain an intellectual knowledge of ethics; they gained a direct, experiential knowledge of conflict, pain, and death.

    What a shame. Satan promises much, but delivers only death.

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    Comment by geochristian | August 11, 2009

  14. The real issue here is whether the bible is truth. If the bible is truth, then the creation story is actually done in six days, since it very definitely refers to sunset and sunrise as the boundaries for each day of creation. If you don’t agree with that, then the whole discussion is moot because then the bible is just a bunch of feel-good stories passed down in history. God did not create disease, death or suffering,and that is not how the world outside the garden was. the garden provided all that was needed for Adam and Eve without effort on their part. Sin is disobedience to God and He cannot be in the presence of sin. think of light and dark. darkness cannot be in the presence of light, so the sin of mankind had to leave the presence of God, and if they lived forever, then there would be no ending to the sinfulness of man. God knew what would happen from the beginning,and already had a plan for how to save mankind.. Disease and suffering came into being because of man’s sinfulness. They are all from mutations that normally once would have been beneficial, but when exposed to misuse, mutated to become dangerous forms. even now when we develop a way to defeat a disease, it will mutate and continue to destroy life.

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    Comment by kim | May 28, 2014


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