Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wilderness Connection

I read an article in The Oregonian this past week entitled, “Nature in Our Nature.” (The Oregonian, 5/27/09, pg. B1) Researchers have discovered that we humans have a connection to nature that is vital to our existence. Evidently, people heal faster from surgery when exposed to the natural world than if not. Also, heart rate, mental well being, and anxiety all are affected by our exposure to nature. And, it’s not just the visual that is important, it is the experience of nature that makes all the difference. When patients were put in a room with a video presentation of a wilderness scence they did not respond as well as when they opened a window where they could see, hear and smell the outdoor environment.

What does this mean? We are interconnected with the natural world. Many tribal and indigenous cultures live very close to nature. They take names for themselves from the geography and animal world around them. Their religion celebrates and includes the natural world. They wear ceremonial dress that mimics the animals of the wilderness. In short, they see themselves as “part” of nature, not distinct from it. Genesis 1:28 tells us, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’...” People have often misused this mandate from God to abusively “lord over” creation. This passage does teach us that we are supreme in creation. We are the capstone of creation, but we are still part of it. We are told that God created us from the “ground” (Gen. 2:7), which is a fact in and of itself declaring our interconnection to nature. God put Adam and Eve in to the world to “tend” the garden, not rape it (Gensis 2:15). I applaud those who have sought to protect and preserve the garden from exploitation. Men like John Muir, David Brower, Edward Abbey and David Suzuki. These are the people that have understood the need for blank spots on the map and that, even if no man goes there, we need undeveloped wilderness. Why? God made us interconnected with the natural world. We are part of the ecosystem. It is not optional, but essential for us to experience wilderness and live as part of it. This is not my idea. I am not making it up because it sounds cool, or it’s politically correct, or it fits in to my personal desires. I am just a messenger reporting on what God has already said and what my fellow humans have found to be essential for healthy and wholesome living.


Brenda Lance said...


Good post. Some added thoughts, if you will indulge a rambling of ideas. God created Adam directly from the ground, the dust. Eve was not created directly from the ground itself. She was created indirectly from Adam's physical body. One could say that since Adam was created from dust, then his total physical body structure is nothing but dust, and so Eve's physical construction also is nothing but dust. In this sense, mankind is a piece of the ecosystem, but does that make him completely "one" with nature? The Bible does say that God "breathed" life into Adam. This essential difference between nature and mankind must be addressed. We may be a part of the ecosystem God created, but we are a part of that ecosystem in a unique manner. There is the truth that the totality of creation, including man,is a manifest of God himself. Order, structure, beauty, complexity, mystery, life, and many other characteristics are evident. I believe 1. the close ties man has with nature comes from both the fact that we have been created directly or indirectly from dust and 2.God's manifestation exists in both nature and man, both of which is cause for the claims in "The Wilderness Connection." However, there is an essential difference that is not addressed: the uniqueness of man in comparison to nature. Created life in both man and nature is not disputed. However, the distinction between man and nature has been disputed. How would you clearly distinguish between the close ties we have with nature and the separate distinction that exists?

Joe Staub said...


Thanks for commenting. I agree with you, but in this post I was emphasizing the "connection" rather than the uniqueness. As humans were are made of the same stuff as all other creatures and things in the world. Quantum physics is a wonderful revelation about how the atomic world works and it reveals to us the interconnectedness of all things. In another post I might want to stress mankind's dominion over all creation, but I wonder if we have overcooked that idea amongst ourselves as Christians? Maybe we need to hear more about what we seem to be missing today - respect for nature as God's creation. Thanks for you input and clarification!

Brenda Lance said...

If you can understand Quantum Physics, you are well beyond most of the world. That's an area I will just let others inform me about, because it's all "GREEK" to me! It is true we miss out on a lot and can over emphasize the distinction. Your clarification in response brings more clarification to your points.

downtownpastor said...

Thanks for a wonderful post, Joe. As I've had to spend much time bound to home these past couple of years, post-surgery, in chemo, etc., the biggest loss I've felt has been not being able to get "out in the woods," as Sharon and I call it. It's also done wonders for my sermon prep to see that I get out of the office to wander in the woods and really mull over whatever I'm studying that week. I've been looking closely at the phrase "unformed substance" (Ps 139:16), one word in the Hebrew, usually literally translated "embryo." I'm wrestling through whether the term might actually be better understood as stating that God knows the physical components that are "me" (in the Psalmist's case, David) BEFORE conception occurs. (How can an embryo be referred to as "unformed substance"? An embryo is definitely "formed".) So, that substance is the dust of the earth of which we are formed, and share that "connection" with all created matter. Some have argued that "substance" is not referring to physical matter, but that doesn't make sense to me, and others that "substance" should be translated "unlived days," but then again--such an interpretation calls for an allegorical interpretation before honestly considering a literal one. Anyway, I look forward to talking with you more about that! Thanks again, brother!

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