Monday, May 7, 2007

Barren Rocks and Smiling Cornfields

There seems no question that, if God exists, then Nature itself is certainly one of the revelations of God. To be sure, man has instinctively sought God in Nature more than anywhere else. Whether through pantheistic worship, Thoreau-like contemplation, or even agnostic science - we look for God (or to be god) through understanding the majesty and mystery of the natural world.

But, as Andrew Jukes points out, the revelation of God in Nature is veiled and hidden - just as he is veiled in Jesus and Scripture. Nature contains the same kind of inherent inconsistencies, such that one can be led to question whether, in fact, the Natural world was indeed the work of a single God. Or was it, after all, a result of mere chance - or, worse, the handiwork of competing gods?

Andrew Jukes goes so far as to suggest that Nature seems to misrepresent God, saying,

Does it not seem also to contradict itself, with force against force, heat against cold, darkness against light, death against life, its very elements in ceaseless strife everywhere? On one side showing a preserver, on the other a destroyer; here boundless provision for the support of life; there death reigning. Are there not here exactly the same contradictions and the same difficulties which we find in Scripture? Either therefore we must say, Nature is an inconsistent and lying book, and therefore we will not believe the testimony either of its barren rocks or smiling cornfields; or else we must confess some veil or riddle here.” (Restitution of All Things, p 10)

The history of science demonstrates that the reality of nature is indeed veiled, containing hidden contradictions that conceal the truth of it. The classic example of this is the rising and setting sun, whose movement was obvious to all for thousands of years. And yet it took a higher faculty to reveal that the sun does not move. Or does it? We still speak of the rising and setting sun. This is what most of us non-scientists can actually see and know, though we also know (by faith?) a contradictory truth - that it neither rises nor sets.

Such a paradox (now apparently resolved) is but one of many in Nature. The discovery of such a grand contradiction does not cause scientists to give up on science, declare Truth unattainable, and reject the natural world as some kind of fantasy. Dare I say, in their persistence to continually seek the truth about the physical world, they are an example to all of us who seek the truth about God

We are all dealing with revelations of a God hidden by the same veil. And yet this is a God who makes Himself known, in His good time and manner. The difference between the scientist and the theologian is that the scientist has limited himself to a single revelation. The theologian has more than one. But all the revelations are under the same veil.

The veil often frustrates me. But it teaches me that God himself decides when, where and how He will be found. That is part of what makes him God (and me not so much).

Maybe that's the point of the veil.

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