Is Nature our Mother?
by Dr. A.J. Higgins (USA)
This article examines the flawed concept of “mother nature” and points the reader to consider the Creator Himself – the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, revealed in the Bible.
All of us have likely been guilty of using the expression “mother nature” at one time or another when referring to the material creation all around us. But let it be no more. The line has been drawn in the sand by the blasphemy of our society. The material world does not have a “mother”. It has a Creator – benign, benevolent, and omnipotent. All honour and glory for the magnificence and grandeur of creation belongs to Him. Referring to “mother nature” is not quite the same thing as allowing our children to believe in the tooth fairy. This is something of far greater import. We must never contribute by our careless language to the marginalisation or elimination of God from His creation.
Nothing so encapsulates the worldview of our secular society as does their love for “mother nature”. Whether rank materialist, atheist or pantheist, each has descended to worshipping the creature and the creation in place of the Creator (Rom 1:25). Whether we consider the speciesism of Peter Singer, the tree huggers of the environmental movement, or the ‘ecosexuals’ who facilitate ceremonies in which humans are encouraged to marry the ocean, all are worshippers of the creation and not the Creator. Oceans and trees, however, are tough things to cuddle with by the fireplace on a cold winter night!
Western society has travelled back to the pre-Christian era of idolatry, animism and pantheism. We have almost arrived back to Corinth, circa 55AD, and we may well need to apologise to Corinth, for our decadence may eclipse theirs in time.
None of this should be construed so as to negate the value of nature. Human beings are stewards of the environment. God gave Adam the responsibility to ‘keep’ the Garden and to represent Him in His creation. But what gives nature value is not that God is in every tree and plant; it is that God created every tree and plant. God is outside of, and greater than, nature. Frank Lloyd Wright, the noted architect of a previous generation commented: “Water can never rise higher than its source. Whatever man might build could never reflect more than he was”. In other words, as great as the creation is, the Creator must be greater than His creation.
Much of nature worship has its roots in Pantheism – the belief that God consists of everyone and everything. Whether a tree, a mountain, the universe, or you, all of it is God. Pantheism is found in many nature religions and is held by many New Age followers.
In contrast, the Word of God reveals a God who is outside of His Creation yet intimately involved in it. He created it, transcends it and controls it. Nature has value because it reflects the glory of God, not because it is God. We can see God through nature, through the world He has created. It was meant to be a voice to all humanity (Psa 19). But God is not nature and nature is not God. The result of thinking of nature as God and every man as being part of the divine, is that men worship nature and humanity, investing it with value and honour which belongs to God alone. Elizabeth Browning, in one of her poems, expressed it so aptly.
Earth is crammed with heaven
And every common bush aglow with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
So, why the desire to ascribe creation to the title “mother nature”? It is not merely evolutionary thought – it’s a denial of God’s rights, transcendence, wisdom, omnipotence, and glory. Ultimately it removes God from His own creation.
Animism is the belief that animals, plants, rivers, mountains and all of nature possess a spiritual dimension. The form which animism takes will vary, depending on the geography, religious background, spiritual history, cultural background and worldview of a particular group who practise it. It is found in expressions of shamanism and neo-paganism, as well as other spiritualities.
The root of the English word ‘animism’, is ‘soul’ or ‘life’. It is related to other English words like ‘animal’ and ‘animate’ (or ‘inanimate’). Those who practise animism believe that the spiritual world and physical world are deeply connected. They believe that spirits or souls exist. They also believe that animals, rocks, wind and rain have spirits or souls. Animism is really a worldview about the universe and people. Many native American tribes held beliefs similar to animism, believing in the spirit of the land and the souls of their departed families inhabiting the land. Closely related to this is the Shaman who engages the spirit world by means of entering into a trance. Those who follow this belief system feel that shamans have the ability to connect with the spirits of deceased people. Shamans also may be called upon when disasters strike a community, to engage with the spirit of the soil, rain, sun, or other related agricultural factors to reverse whatever crisis has occurred.
We may not be able to arrest or even slow down the descent into paganism which is sweeping across the western world, albeit in its more sophisticated forms. We can, however, by our words and actions, bear witness to the God of creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psa 19:1), so let us contemplate something of the universe He has made.
The Voice of the Vastness
Just how big is our universe? We exist in a galaxy known as the Milky Way galaxy. To gain some concept of how big our galaxy is, consider this: aside from the sun, the nearest star to earth is Proxima Centauri. Imagine boarding a spaceship which could travel at 60,000 mph. Now sit back as you journey to Proxima Centauri. Be patient; it will take 46,000 years. To reach the edge of our galaxy, imagine a jet plane travelling at 600 mph. You will need 650 million years to cross the entire galaxy. Furthermore, we are just one galaxy amidst what astronomers estimate to be two trillion galaxies1 – and, we are not even the largest galaxy.
The vastness of the created universe witnesses to the greatness of God. Immensity bordering infinity tells of a God who not only borders infinity, but who is infinite in His person and power. The Creator must always be greater than His creation. Little wonder the Psalmist so often tuned his harp to sing the praises of the God of creation.
The Study of the Stars
The Milky Way galaxy contains a mere 200 million stars. “He made the stars also” (Gen 1:16) must rank as the greatest understatement ever made. Now (feel free to use your calculator), try to imagine two trillion galaxies, each containing from millions to billions of stars. And He made every one. More than this, He knows their names (Isa 40:26). If God knows the names of billions upon billions of stars, and at evening roll-call, they all appear (Isa 40:26), can we ever begin to think that He forgets us or does not know the way we take (Isa 40:27)?
If the vastness of the universe shouts to all humanity the mighty power of God, the song sung by the stars is testimony to His wisdom. This God of infinite power and wisdom is our Father. This wisdom and power are not only directed to creation, but are available for us. In His prayer in Ephesians 1:15-21, Paul prayed that the Spirit of wisdom might enlighten us, and that we might know the exceeding greatness of His power. He points to a power even greater than creatorial power – it is the power exerted when He raised His Son from among the dead (Eph 1:19-20). Again, in Colossians 2:2-3, it is in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.
The Sermons of the Sun
The eloquence of the sun rivals that of any evangelist or teacher. It has a greater audience, embracing the entire population of earth (Psa 19:3). It has a varied message which tells of the glory of God, His faithfulness and His promises. It requires no interpreter for its language to be understood (Psa 19:3). As it makes its circuit in the heavens, the “strongman running his race” trumpets its message to the entire globe.
It tells of the glory of God. The brilliance of the sun shining and warming the earth, giving life to all it touches, is a fitting reminder of the warmth and healing that comes when God’s face shines upon His people. This was the prayer of the High Priest uttered in Numbers 6:25, repeated six times in the Psalms, and then uttered in Daniel’s moving prayer for His people (Dan 9:17).
It tells of the faithfulness of God. The Lord Jesus spoke of God causing His sun to rise on the evil and the good (Matt 5:45). Each day, the sun which God created sheds its warmth and brings attendant blessings on men who defy God, deny God, and deride Him. Yet, He continues to show kindness and mercy to them. Upon men who raise their fists in blasphemous defiance against God, the very same God rains down daily creatorial blessings.
It also tells of the certainty of God’s promises. In Malachi 4:2, God concluded His message to the nation with a thrilling promise. “Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings”. The imagery is eloquent and full of truth. His coming will indeed bring healing to the nations and health-restoring mercy to the troubled earth. There may be, however, in the metaphor of the Sun, an additional thought. Each morning when the remnant in Israel arose, as they looked eastward and saw the rising sun, it would remind them that, just as surely as the sun rose that morning, another morning would dawn when the Son of righteousness would come. Just as punctually as the sun appeared, so in God’s time, the Sun of righteousness would appear for His people. It must have been a comfort to the small remnant in Malachi’s day. It will be a greater comfort to a besieged remnant in a future day.
The Creation and the Covenants
God in wondrous condescension and grace has stooped to enter into covenants with His creatures. There are three covenants distinctly related to earth; the Noahic, Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. There is one covenant, the New, whose blessings are known by a heavenly people now, and whose terms for blessing will be known by the nation of Israel in a coming day.
Those covenants, made exclusively with a view to the earth, are all linked with a visible token in the sky.
God made a covenant with Noah assuring him there would never again be a world-wide, destructive flood. As an assurance, He gave him the sign of the bow in the clouds. The bow became a token that the land would never be destroyed.
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He gave him the promise not only of the land but also of the lineage. His people would be as the stars in the sky: “So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:5). To a barren and aged man, God made a promise and gave him the assurance of its completion by the sign in the sky. Only recently, scientists have estimated (and it is a mind-boggling thought) there are as many stars in the sky as grains of sand on the seashore!
Centuries later, during one of the darkest days in Israel’s history, as the Babylonish hordes besieged the city, God reiterated His promise through Jeremiah. “Thus saith the Lord which giveth the sun for light by day…the stars for a light at night…if these ordinances depart from before Me…then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me” (Jer 31:35-36).
More than one millennia after His covenant to Abraham, God confirmed a covenant with David. This time it was not the land or the lineage, not the place or the people, but God promised a line and a Prince to sit upon David’s throne (2 Sam 7:12). Once again, in the dark days of Jeremiah, when the prince upon the throne was about to be deposed and carried off to Babylon, God again pointed to the skies. “If ye can break My covenant of the day and My covenant of the night…then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant” (Jer 33:20-22).
Well might we worship the God of creation, seeing in His handiwork attributes which tell us of His glory. He is the God of infinite wisdom and power, kindness and goodness, faithfulness and assurance. Let us be careful to ascribe creation, at every opportunity, to the God of creation. Creation did not have a “mother” who gave it birth. It has an omnipotent and good God whose word spoke it into existence!
- This number has been updated from Dr Higgins’s original article to bring it in line with current estimates. See http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2910-a-universe-of-two-trillion-galaxies
(Article used with permission from Truth and Tidings magazine)