Can you find God in nature?
The words of Jesus are a great starting point, "No one can come to me unless the Father draws him." Studying the Bible alone will not draw you to God. Attending a church service regularly, on its own merit, will not draw you to God. Giving money to the present most popular televangelist will not draw you any closer to God. God as Holy Spirit is the only one who calls and draws. Are these things capable catalysts. Yes. But powerless they remain on their own.
The Empty Church topic of the week focuses on nature and its role in the Spiritual life. Based on the Bible we must conclude that the beauty and fierceness of nature is not enough to find God.
Can God reveal himself through nature?
There is little argument over the merits of prayer, scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines as being capable vehicle for God to reveal himself to us. Taking only Jesus as our model we can see that the Son found great merit to fasting, praying, studying and proclaiming the Scriptures. If it was good enough for Jesus its crucial for us.
On this list of spiritual disciplines you rarely find the command to "go thou and take a nature walk." But I am not sure why. Let me break down some theology for you:
There are two ways to view earth and nature in regards to the church:
- The church was created to help heal a broken world
- Creation was created as the backdrop for the story of redemption which is revealed in the church.
(For a great primer on this subject check out Simon Chan's Liturgical Theology. Especially Chapter 1).
No matter which you subscribe to, Creation (i.e. nature) plays a crucial role. Therefore it makes sense, at least to me, that nature is a perfectly capable medium for one to feel the presence of God. Remember, the very words of God are woven into the fabric of the Creation. His words spoke it into existence. At the very least there are echos that are reverberating throughout the universe until the time of the new heaven and new earth.
Why no Nature Walk commandment?
The church is a reactionary body. It responds very specifically to posed threats - it recoils and builds protective barriers against the threat.
Nature, from the very beginning of sinful living has provided descriptive nomenclature to false gods that stand in opposition of Jehovah. Sun gods, moon gods, tree gods, all make there appearance in recorded history. People have even taken the stance that Nature, and everything in it, is deity. Christians don't claim Mother Earth and the subsequent pantheistic views as true. They are a threat and therefore the customary reaction is recoil and build.
I certainly can't blame Christians for their actions. We like lemmings follow many ideologies because they have hints of truth in them. We follow them off a cliff. Sometimes it is better safe than sorry. Why don't church leaders regularly recommend the saints to take nature walks? Two possibilities:
- They fear people may worship creation instead of its Creator
- Most spiritual leaders are intellectually stimulated and figure if they find God best through study then surely everyone else does to.
Pastor's want what is best for their people. Even if their care can be shortsighted.
Listen to our discussion on God and Nature
So, can I find God in nature?
Gary Thomas writes about the ways people connect with God. In his book Sacred Pathways, Nature is one of those ways. So is learning, care-giving, enthusiastic worship, and tradition. Thomas posits that people are uniquely created and respond to God differently. This is great news for all you nature lovers.
Yes, you can connect with God through nature. Enjoy hiking to a mountain top or resting on a beach. Marvel at the daffodils and be enthralled with the grub worms. Sometimes the stark contrast between societal responsibility and the calmness of nature is the perfect atmosphere to hear the Spirit whisper.
But, because I love you and want what is best for, I warn you to not become a worshiper of the creation and forget the Creator. All things should be a response of worship and gratitude to the One who gave. This same warning goes to the one who loves books (i.e. myself), enthusiastic worship, or any of the other sacred pathways. Our hearts are idol factories and we will take any opportunity to worship what we love more than the One who loved us.