Understanding Nature via God

The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

I find it interesting – though not surprising – that many of the early conservationists knew God and saw Him in creation.  John Muir wrote to a friend, “Aye, my lassie, it is a blessed thing to go free in the light of this beautiful world, to see God playing upon everything, as a man would play on an instrument, His fingers upon the lightning and torrent, on every wave of sea and sky, and every living thing, making all together sing and shine in sweet accord, the one love-harmony of the Universe”.

Views along Beverly Beach, Oregon
Views along Beverly Beach, Oregon

Others did not have that relationship with God.  Aldo Leopold believed in a ‘mystical supreme power’, but not in God, Himself.  Edward Abbey is quoted as writing, “God is a sound people make when they’re too tired to think anymore.”

Intricate and exotic plants at the Willowwood Arboretum, New Jersey
Intricate and exotic plants at the Willowwood Arboretum, New Jersey

Yet most of the most famous environmentalists and conservationists at the very least believed that there was a Being that created the world.  Unfortunately, they often spent their lives looking for understanding in the wrong place – in the creation rather than the Creator.

Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge, Oregon
Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge, Oregon

We cannot fully understand the natural world without a healthy relationship with God.  He made the world with an infinite mind, totally creative and yet not random, elements so detailed that we are still discovering new species and designs.  In school, we’re taught to ask “why?” about the natural world.  While we can figure some things out logically (God gave us pretty good brains!), the ultimate answer is a revelation from God as much or more than just our brainwaves.

Dundee Creek, Wyoming
Dundee Creek, Wyoming

Most early scientists knew this.  Johannes Kepler (who discovered the laws of planetary motion) wrote, “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”  Galileo Galilei wrote, “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”

Grasshopper at the Red Hills Desert Garden, Utah
Grasshopper at the Red Hills Desert Garden, Utah

More common in our current world, many scientists have embraced the idea that God and science are an oil-and-water mixture that do not mix.  Herbert A Hauptman, Nobel-prize winning scientist, declared that the belief in God is “damaging to the well-being of the human race.”  Scientists like Hauptman reject God in part because of the church’s unrelenting stance that if you believe in evolution you can’t be a Christian.  While I believe that God created the world – the Genesis account – I also believe that too many Christians and churches have put their faith in a worldview rather than in a Savior.  Under this worldview, they reject anyone with another idea – even people that God is drawing to Himself if only someone could give them grace while He revealed Himself to them.  Instead of bringing life, the story of God’s creation has become a barrier to keep people out of relationship with God.

Views from Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Views from Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington

But God hasn’t let that stop Him from revealing Himself through His creation.  Despite it all, the professors telling the students they can’t be a Christian and a scientist, the Christians saying you can’t be a Christian and an evolutionist, the tree-huggers who look to the natural world for their salvation, God is still working and moving on the hearts of individuals.  He still speaks to people.  Usually, they are listening, sometimes not so much.  We who know God have the privilege of asking the One who created the design, “Why did you do it this way, God?  How does this work?”  And it is His joy bring us into a better understanding – of Himself and the things He made.