The Things of Earth

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March 14, 2010 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

The Things of Earth

The hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" assures us that as we look closer into the wonderful face of Jesus, the things of this earth "will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace." However, as Philip Yancey notes in his editorial "A Whole Good World Outside," the hymn gets one things wrong: faith in Christ should illuminate, not diminish, the beautiful world around us.

Yancey discusses how this world outside the church played a crucial role in bringing him back to faith in God:

"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." – Philip Yancey, "A Whole Good World Outside"

The church provides an important community for believers. However, Yancey reminds us that we can also seek inspiration outside the church's walls, in the natural world that surrounds us – whether it be in the magnificent symmetry of a DNA molecule, or the majesty of the flowers in the field and the birds of the air.

Philip Yancey's full editorial can be found on Christianity Today's Web site.

Image courtesy of BaylorBear78 / Flickr



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Gordon J. Glover - #6803

March 14th 2010

Those Texas blue-bonnets remind me of home!


Karl A - #6839

March 15th 2010

I appreciate the portrayal of God as “a whimsical artist who fills the world with creatures like the porcupine and skunk and warthog”.  However, I feel a bit of discomfort.  I’ll try to articulate it.  One of the things I grieved when I first came to accept evolution was the loss of perceived meaning in the universe.  I thought I only had two choices - either God created it by miracles or, to borrow Dawkins’ phraseology, I was in a random universe of “blind, pitiless indifference.”  BioLogos has helped me see how this is reductionistic.  God has purposes in this universe and is active, even though his manners frequently are not clear to us.

Still (and this may be throwing on a wet blanket), how do we *know* God is a whimsical artist from looking at the skunk?  How do we know that the stripes and smell of the skunk are God’s plan, and not simply either random accidents or adaptations to a particularly ecological niche?  Maybe this is part of a larger question of what we can really infer from God’s character from observing the world.  Whoa, put it that way and it’s clear this would require a book-length reply.

Am I over-analyzing things here? 


Mike Gene - #6841

March 15th 2010

Hi Karl,

I don’t think we can infer very much about God’s character from observing the world.  That’s part of the reason why the Incarnation and Resurrection are such a scandal to the empirical mind.  And there is no need for any gnawing feeling of nihilism.  For here’s another scandal.  This universe, this creation, exists because of us.  God, who does not exist in time, could have created an infinite number of possible universes.  So why this one?  Why the one where random mutations and natural selection spawned us after over 3 billion years?  Precisely because it was the one that spawned us. That’s why it was chosen.  After all, we cannot exist in any other creation. This is our home (for the time).  Smelly skunks and all.


John VanZwieten - #6851

March 15th 2010

Karl,

The beauty of the BioLogos is it admits there is need to “chose” between God’s plan and random accidents or adaptations.  It’s a both/and rather than either/or position.  So you can be intruiged by natural processes that bring about skunk strips as well as worship the creator and sustainer of those processes.

I agree with you that it’s a tougher question of what we can infer about God’s character from observing the world.  I have friends who have more of a “nature pathway” to knowing God better, and they hear all kinds of messages in nature, and I often think “how did you get there from that?” 

But perhaps the nice thing about seeing God in nature is that you don’t have to get overly dogmatic about it.  What one person sees might be invisible to another person.


Dan Lioy - #6890

March 15th 2010

Actually, while not much (i.e. in terms of sheer volume of information) can be inferred about God by observing His creation, there are some inferences that can be made. Specifically, Romans 1:20 points to two “invisible qualities” (TNIV) of God, namely, His “eternal power and divine nature”. The apostle states that these “have been clearly seen”.

Also, while it seems valid to assert that God created the universe for humankind, I think there is more to it than that. Put differently, God’s purposes in creation, while including humankind, are not limited to the latter (cf. Rom. 8:18ff.). Moreover, one meta-objective surely includes the Creator-King bringing glory to Himself.

Now, to the general point of the blog, it is helpful to note that believers should not have a compartmentalized, either-or mentality when it comes to the temporal and eternal, the material and the immaterial, the physical and spiritual aspects of reality. In God’s sovereignty, every aspect of His creation has value, meaning, and purpose, at least from a theological point of view.


Dan Lioy - #6891

March 15th 2010

(Continued. . .)

Still, from the limited horizon of human existence, reality can at times seem to be filled with paradox, enigma, randomness, and so on. A candid study of Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, Job, etc., bears this point out. The latter observation notwithstanding, Hebrews 1:3 states that the Son is “sustaining all things by his powerful word”, including every aspect of the material universe in which we live. Moreover, Colossians 1:17 notes that in the Son “all things hold together”.


Mike Gene - #6892

March 15th 2010

Hi Dan,

Also, while it seems valid to assert that God created the universe for humankind, I think there is more to it than that. Put differently, God’s purposes in creation, while including humankind, are not limited to the latter (cf. Rom. 8:18ff.).

But “humankind” is a conceptual abstraction that distances us from reality.  We need to be face-to-face with reality here to truly grasp the point.  And what does that mean?  God intended Dan Lioy to exist.  Y’see, “humankind” could exist without Dan Lioy.  So it doesn’t go deep enough to posit the creation of “humankind,” especially one that is “included.”  God intended us to exist. 

Moreover, one meta-objective surely includes the Creator-King bringing glory to Himself.

Yep.  That could very well explain why, among all the possible sentient beings God could have brought into existence, he chose to bring you, me, and the rest of us into existence.


Dan Lioy - #6894

March 15th 2010

One could say that *any* label being utilized is a “conceptual abstraction”, including terms such as “reality”, “us”, etc.; ergo, even speaking of “reality” can distance one from the so-called notion of “reality”.

As for the reference to “sentient beings”, there is no monolithic understanding concerning the latter. Some might be even bold enough to argue that “you, me, and the rest of us” humans are not the be-all and end-all of what constitutes “sentient beings”.


Mike Gene - #6900

March 15th 2010

Hi Dan,

Yes, I know that one could say any label could being utilized is a “conceptual abstraction.”  So let’s try it as a question.  Could humankind exist (and have existed) without you and me ever having come into existence?


Dan Lioy - #6902

March 15th 2010

From a purely theoretical standpoint, I would have to say ‘yes’. Of course, your Q presupposes a purely hypothetical construct, for the sake of argumentation, especially given that each of ‘us’ exists as individual, sentient persons.


Mike Gene - #6904

March 15th 2010

But it’s not just purely theoretical.  One hundred years ago, we did not exist.  But humankind existed.  Humankind can clearly exist without you and me.  In fact, humankind has been around longer without you and me than with you and me.  What’s more, a class of individual, sentient persons could exist that were not humankind.

But, as a Christian, it’s not enough for me to say that God intended humankind to exist.  Or that some “individual, sentient persons” exist.  We were chosen. I believe he intended for us to exist.


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