My pastor and good friend, Kenneth Garrett, has written a fine piece on his blog today regarding Earth Day. I appreciate Ken's timely response to many of the Earth Day advocates who would have us worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. I encourage you to read Ken's post, which you can access from my blog list. I was planning on writing a post some time in the future on my perspective of nature, but I am going to do it now, since I feel inspired by Ken's post.
Unless you are an Atheist I think everyone agrees that when we engage our 5 senses with the natural world around us we are experiencing God. However, a Christian would say that experiencing God through nature is like that of experiencing a painter through his painting. The painting tells us something about the character, philosophy, intelligence, creativity, and aptitude of the painter. So it is with nature. God is "not" nature anymore than a painting "is" the painter. Therefore, we can know God through what he has made, as Psalm 19:1-6 says,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
And as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20,
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made...
The Bible teaches us that we can know God through nature, but it also teaches us that God stands apart from nature as its Creator. During the 18th century Enlightenment Deism became the popular definition of God. The scientific God. The God who started it all, but then removed himself from his creation and let nature take it's own course guided by "laws of nature". Deism is most well know by the famous analogy of a person winding up a clock and then letting it go. He is the "Clockwork God". The Bible teaches us that God is both transcendent (apart from his creation) and immanent (involved in his creation). God both creates and sustains nature and so every moment of every day God is at work moving the atoms and shaping the natural world in a fashion that suits his plan, as Colossians 1:15-17 says,
He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.
Deism is not the prevailing idea of God today, as it was in the 18th century. Today, we are getting a very different picture of God than what the Deists taught and what the Bible teaches. Today's popular view of God is that He is Pantheistic. Pantheism teaches that "all is one". God, nature and mankind are all essentially the same and simply different manifestations of the same being. Eastern religions like Hinduism and tribal religions like the American Indian are Pantheistic, which is why they identify with animals and can worship nature as, "Mother Earth". The "New Age" movement today is really in to this. The Bible warns us not to worship the creation, but to worship the Creator. This is not just a divine threat, or just about giving credit where it is due, but it is also about the "proper" way to view the world. And, the proper way is the best way. And, the best way is the most beneficial way. When we view nature as a "creation", then we will stand in awe of a "Creator" who is greater than the creation. Certainly we can and should acknowledge that the creation is majestic. However, the majesty ascribed to the creation is taken to another level when we see that a majestic creation is the product of a Creator who must then be even more majestic. Remember the painting/painter analogy? What impresses you more, the painting, or the painter? Furthermore, the greater the painting, the greater the majesty ascribed to the painter. So I say, "glory to God!"