The Beauty of Creation: Readings for Earth Day
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
While I don’t count myself among the environmentalists, I affirm the beauty of creation and the signature of its Creator. And so for Earth Day, I felt it appropriate to collect just a few of the many voices who have spoken of the connection between creation and Creator. Some, like Calvin, are straightforward. Others, like St. Francis’ emphasis on spirituality and nature, are a bit more mystical (though lets not misconstrue his language for pantheism), though showing a progression in understanding of the natural world.
The Psalmist, David, ca. 1000 B.C.:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
St. Athanasius, ca. 400 A.D.:
God knew the limitation of humanity; and though the grace of being made in the image of God was sufficient to give them knowledge of the Word, and through Him the Father, as a safeguard against their neglect of this grace, God also provided the works of creation as a means by which the maker might be known…Humanity could thus look up into the immensity of heaven, and by pondering the harmony of creation, come to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father, whose sovereign providence makes the Father known to all. (St. Athanaisus, On the Incarnation, ca. 4th Century A.D.)
St. Francis of Assissi: “Canticle of the Sun,” ca. 1224 A.D.
Be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures
especially by brother sun
by whom we are lightened every day
for he is fair and radiant with great splendor
and bears your likeness, O highest one.
Be praised, my Lord, for sister moon and the stars
you have set them in heaven, precious, fair and bright.
Be praised, my Lord, by brother wind
and by air and cloud and every weather
through whom you give life to all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, by sister water
for she is useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Be praised, my Lord, by brother fire
by him we are lightened at night
and he is fair and cheerful and sturdy and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, by our sister, mother earth
she sustains and governs us
and brings forth many fruits and colored flowers and plants.
Be praised, my Lord, by those who have been pardoned by your love
and who bear infirmity and tribulation;
blessed are those who suffer in peace
for by you, O highest one, they shall be crowned.
John Calvin: from the intro to The Institutes, ca. 1536:
There are innumerable witness is heaven and on earth that declare the wonders of [God’s] wisdom. Not only those more arcane matters for the closer observation of which astronomy, medicine, and all of natural science are intended, but also those which force themselves upon the sight of even the most unlearned and ignorant people, so that they cannot even open their eyes without being forced to see them.
The Belgic confession of 1561:
We know [God] in two manners. First, by the creation, preservation and government of the universe, which is before our eyes a most beautiful book, in which all creatures, great and small, are like so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely, his eternal power and Godhead, as the Apostle Paul declares (Romans 1:20). All of these things are sufficient to convince humanity, and leave them without excuse. Second, he makes himself known more clearly and fully to us by his holy and divine Word; that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to his glory and our salvation.
Jonathan Edwards, ca. 1730:
It is very fit and becoming of God who is infinitely wise, so to order things that there should be a voice of His in His works, instructing those that behold Him and painting forth and showing divine mysteries and things more immediately appertaining to Himself and His spiritual kingdom. The works of God are but a kind of voice or language of God to instruct intelligent beings in things pertaining to Himself…If we look on these shadows of divine things as the voice of God purposely by them teaching us these and those spiritual and divine things, to show of what excellent advantage it will be, how agreeably and clearly it will tend to convey instruction to our minds, and to impress things on the mind and to affect the mind, by that we may, as it were, have God speaking to us. Wherever we are, and whatever we are about, we may see divine things excellently represented and held forth. (Jonathan Edwards, The Images of Divine Things, p. 61-69)
Towards the end of his life, Karl Barth suggested that we need to rediscover a theology of the Spirit for the present age. Could it be that with the current emphasis on “green,” that a theology of creation (and creativity) could be of some benefit?
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.