by Maurice Hamel
"Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" - Mark 12:24
As our culture has become more preoccupied with forming theories of how this world could have brought itself into being, we have made little effort to understand what God has already told us about our world. For example, we can learn a lot about nature by looking at what Jesus had to say about it. His words in the Sermon on the Mount point out many of the misconceptions that are widespread in our day. Jesus implies that dogs and pigs are less worthy of good things than others, a snake is something treacherous, wolves are destructive and thorn bushes and thistles yield bad fruit. (Mat. 7:6-17)
If these were merely the cultural attitudes of that day, which Jesus did not share, shouldn't he have been correcting rather than reinforcing these perceptions? Didn't he know that statements like these would be used to fuel the destructive outlooks of many who would abuse nature? If modern thought would label Jesus as being foolish, I think it is time that we take a closer look at the presumptions that have gone into modern thought and determine who it is here that is lacking discernment.
In John's gospel, Jesus is first introduced to the reader with this description: "through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made". (John 1:3) Try to grasp what is happening in these passages. The one who made everything and called it "good" during the account of the creation is now speaking poorly of creatures within that creation. What happened? The Maker of all things appears to have withdrawn his hearty endorsement of nature and now refers to it when he needs to illustrate something as a bad example. Between the time when Scripture says "it was good" (Gen. 1:25) and the time when Jesus said, "do not give dogs what is sacred" (Mat. 7:6) came the Fall of man and the subsequent curse upon the land. This corruption of the original creation can be better understood through Jesus' choice of metaphors when he described the God's kingdom as a field which in which an enemy had planted weeds. (Mat. 13:24-32) This makes it apparent that not all that we see in nature today can be considered as part of God's original "good" creation.
We see nature from a human perspective. God sees it as part of the bigger picture. Too often we project our own perspectives upon God and assume that he reasons like we do. Because people feel God is absent from the world, they get possessive about his creation for him.
The error in that point of view can be seen in the following illustration. For a decade, my wife and I lived in a suburban neighborhood on a third of an acre. She loves flowers, herbs and English country gardens. So over the years we transformed a suburban lawn into a major work of biodiversity and beauty. There was color and symmetry, fragrance and texture. It provided a place of refuge where creatures could find food, water and shelter.
After we moved to the country, we drove by the house to see how the new owners were appreciating the work of our hands. We found that the vines and shrubs, the trellises and fencing had all been cut down. The new owners' image of how to use the land was totally different than ours had been. They had taken possession of the land and destroyed "the garden."
Of course these things were to be expected. A new family wants to have their home reflect their own character and needs. But people look at nature from that same possessive point of view. They try to speak to others for God, assuming that God thinks like they do. They reason that God created nature just as we find it in the "undisturbed" areas of the world: the North American old growth forests; the rain forests of South America and New Guinea; the Serengeti Plains; the Alaskan wilderness. It is argued that these unaltered "natural" habitats should stay just the way we find them. The "balance" which God has created in nature should not be changed. Like the garden in the suburbs, people look at the beauty in nature and project their emotions on God.
While protecting the environment is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, the Bible makes it clear that nature, as we know it, has changed considerably since it was given to us in Eden. A scriptural perspective of nature needs to include the fact that today's balance of nature, even in those "pristine" areas, has lost the harmony of its original state.
© Maurice Hamel
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