God’s other book

18 08 2009

I came across an interesting quotation recently – one I’d seen before, but it came afresh: “There is a long-standing tradition in Christianity that God wrote a Book of Works (Creation) as well as a Book of Words (the Bible).”

For the last two weeks my wife and I have been out in the midst of God’s “Book of Works”  The Psalmist wrote “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.” (Psa 19:1,2) and “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” (Psa 97:6). The apostle Paul wrote, “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, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20)

The clear declaration of those verses is that God’s greatness is obvious and should be obvious in what we might call ‘nature’ or ‘creati0n’.  I have lost count over these past two weeks of the number of times my wifre and I just stood and looked at the wonder of the country before us and just went, “Wow! That is incredible!”

Many years ago when I was having to write an essay with a strong philosophical base for part of my Teacher-Training Course, I chose to write about the existence of rainbows.  I’m reminded of that when I pick up Richard Dawkins’ book Unweaving the Rainbow. It is a book to show how wonderful creation is – without any God, it is wonderful. That is the message of it, I believe. it is a defensive book because in the preface he quotes from his colleague, Peter Atkins: “We are children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root, there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.”

I like that quote for it reveals all that is left when you take away God from the equation. Solomon, in his latter years, when he had drifted away from faith and lost sight of God, declared similarly, “Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless.” (Eccles 1:2). What is fascinating is that Dawkins agrees with that quote YET feels he has to revel in the glory of the wonder of this incredible world.  He too recognises the wonder of the world in which we live. You can’t avoid it – only try and ignore it.

But I noted some interesting reactions within myself as we gazed over tremendous vistas or stood in awe in an arboretum of nearly three thousand specimens of trees, shrubs & bamboos from around the world. The variety of size, colour and shape was incredible. We marvelled at such beauty.

But hold on! Why should it be that if I am simply the product of random time and chance molecular activity that I should have such feelings and such concepts. Surely ‘beauty’ is a mere illusion, a chemical reaction? Why should I feel refreshed and restored  after spending time in these environments where my eyes and (sometimes) ears were made accutely aware of the amazing beauty around us? We can rationalise it, categorise it and try and explain it, but it is something that still has the capacity to make all such intellectual exercise seem rather pointless. I was reminded of the poem:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

(William Henry Davies)

As I have stood and stared, I have found a response rising within me, “Lord, that is wonderful. Thank you so much.”  I feel sorry for those who have no one to thank.

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