Sunday, March 28, 2010

'God of Nature' or 'God in Nature'?

The Old Testament has some remarkably relevant lessons for our day, my wife and I discovered in conversation this week.

Is God the creator and provider of "nature" or is he somehow embodied in nature? Many people, including me, feel so close to God when we are in the quiet of a beautiful natural scene. I believe there are good reasons that prophets have communed with God on the isolated mountaintops.

Nevertheless, there is confusion for some about whether they feel close to God in nature because he IS nature, or because it is merely an atmosphere conducive to communion with the Divine.

Ask yourself this question. (alt) Do you receive any moral instruction--any guidance on how to be--from the trees? Did a tree ever give a commandment or promise redemption? Did a tree build a hospital?

Really, the question isn't about where you feel God. The question of location has been a diversion for many people who decide they don't need a church. They can just spend their time in nature, they say. But God isn't interested--ultimately--in how we feel. He is interested in what we do. And the doing is to be done with our fellow men, not on a lake in the mountains.

Think of how many times a prophet in the Old Testament tried to get his people to stop worshiping nature. All the people surrounding the Israelites drifted from allegiance to one nature god after another. They were willing to honor whatever nature god might bring them relief in the moment. Elijah's competition with the priests of Baal is one such memorable story.

Nature worship is quite common today. Perhaps we could be reminded of the people of the Old Testament who had to struggle so hard against that tendency.

My wife noted that there are other forms of idol worship today that closely parallel the abominations of old. What were the parents thinking when they sacrificed their children to Molloch in the flames? What did they hope to achieve? What greater good did they think would come upon them, their children, and their community for this abhorrent act? Are there women today who sacrifice their children, born and unborn, to the gods of "freedom" and "convenience" and "timing" and "career"?


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