Goodness, Beauty
&
Loving The Earth

Dateline: 2 May 2006


And God saw every thing that he had made and, behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:31

There are numerous Bible verses about God’s work in creation and God repeatedly declares that what he did was good. Sometimes it says very good. I have read somewhere that in the original text the word “good” is better translated as “beautiful.”

I think one of the most remarkable and beautiful aspects of creation is that it is never static. When an artist creates something that is generally understood to be beautiful, the finished work does not change. But God’s creation is ever-changing. Sunlight, clouds, rain, snow and wind, all play upon the earth to bring us a flux of beauty which is a continual manifestation of the Divine creation.

Every day, when I drive to my non-agrarian job I am faced with an interesting dichotomy involving beauty....

My bedroom windows on the second floor of my house face east. When I wake up and look out the window, I am often looking at an early sunrise, which is always different and always beautiful. I am also looking down over my garden which, during the growing season, offers many examples of God’s beautiful creation. These days, my family’s hens are usually out early, roaming about the yard, looking for breakfast treats, and I believe chickens are beautiful created creatures. Occasionally, I will see a deer or two cross through my neighbor’s field which is just past my garden. There seems to be an endless stream of beauty all about me in this rural setting.

When I walk out the door of my house I am confronted with tangible elements of creation’s beauty—things like the air temperature, humidity, mist, the sound of water flowing in the creek behind my house, the songs of birds, and the sound of wind blowing through the treetops. There are also the earthy smells that come with different weather patterns and the change of seasons.

My daily drive to work takes me through the rural countryside around my home and it is a journey that provides me with a visual treat. Part of my trip takes me over Twelve Corners Road. At one point, shortly before the twelve corners, the road dips into a wooded gully then ramps up steeply. As my vehicle crests the hill, a wide panorama of sky, fields, forests and, in the far distance, Skaneateles Lake, comes suddenly into view. When I see the sight I am always compelled to praise God for the awe-inspiring beauty of His creation.

A few moments later, I arrive at the dichotomy. It is a factory in downtown Auburn, New York. It is the place where I do so-called work as a supervisor. Concrete and steel and glass surround me. I listen to the screeching of saws, the banging of hammers, the droning of sanders and the coarse talk of people who do not share my Christian convictions. I breath in particleboard dust, solvent fumes, and the exhaust from propane powered forklifts. It is hard for me to find beauty in the bowels of an industrial factory.

When I look out the second floor windows of the factory, I see more concrete and steel and glass—and asphalt, lots of black asphalt. God’s creation has been bulldozed away and the artificial creations of men have been build in its place. Such an environment is dull, and boring. It does not inspire. It does not fulfill or satisfy.

There is no true beauty apart from God’s creation. None. Think in your mind of the most beautiful example of manmade artistry you have ever seen. When I do this, I think of Michaelangelo’s David (Warning: David has no clothes on). How amazing that this man could carve sculptures with such form and detail and beauty from a solid block of stone. Yet Michaelangelo’s masterpiece amounts to a hokey imitation when compared to the reality of God’s creation that it copies (in this instance, God’s crowning creation: man).

Anything that appears beautiful is only so because in some way it reflects the beauty of God’s creation. Even architectural beauty, for example, the Greek Parthenon, is pleasing to our senses because its proportions reflect a system of mathematical scale (the fibonacci numbers) found throughout the natural world.

The beauty we see and experience in the creation that surrounds us is a reflection of the beauty and goodness of our Creator. If you would know something of God, look at his handiwork. I suspect that the wonder and majesty of the natural world is a small foretaste of eternity. Eternity, that is, for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord. For those who die without Christ, this earthly creation will be the closest taste of heaven they’ll ever know.

I believe that men, and women, and children can better understand the nature of God when they live and work within the nature of His creation. That is why, even though I must, for a season, work in the industrial world, I am actively embracing agrarianism. To live as a Christian within the agrarian paradigm is to understand and enjoy the depth and fulness and richness that God has for us in this earthly existence.

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Afterthought...

When many modern Christians hear someone speak lovingly of the beauty and/or goodness of the natural world around us, they get a little nervous. Some actually get upset. They think that Christians are not supposed to love this world. After all, like the song says,“this world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” And another popular song proclaims, “I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun.”

In the typical modern Christian mind, people who love the earth are earth-goddess-worshiping New Agers or Pagans, or Wiccans, or something like that—cetainly not Christians.

I beg to differ. If all of creation speaks of the glory of God, and God Himself said that His creation was good, and the Psalmists often speak of the awesome beauty of God’s creation, then I will not hesitate to do the same.

The way I see it, God has put me in this world for a season and as long as I’m here, this place is my home. Yes, it is a temporary home and as a child of the King, I take comfort in knowing that a special eternity awaits me. But for now He has given me responsibilities and work to do here. The focus of my existence here should be to glorify God. There are many ways to do that. Loving His creation and responsibly caring for it is one way to glorify Him.

I do not love the manifestations of sin that I see all around me. I do not love the pridefullness and rebellion of men as expressed in the worldly culture (which includes and is powered in large part by corporate-industrialism) . But I do love the earthly work of my Lord as seen in His creation. And I love Christian culture as embodied in God’s earthly institutions of the family and the church. And I believe Christian culture can grow better and stronger and be more effective when it acknowledges the beauty of this place, distances itself from the worldly industrial paradigm, and embraces Christian agrarianism.



5 comments:

mountainfirekeeper said...

Hi Herrick!

Awesome post! You have an incredible way with words. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I find no contradiction within the Bible for finding knowledge and understanding from "what God has made". Jesus used examples from the natural world for most of His parables.

God created the Laws of Nature. We can no more break His Natural Laws with our physical body than we can break His Eternal Laws with our spiritual body.

Go ahead, try to break God's natural law of gravity....a person can compensate for the law of gravity by applying laws of physics.

Romans 1:20 "For 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."

May God continue to bless you and guide you to share your insights of God's word as well as of His Creation.

Raindear said...

I got the following quote from Jeff over at Hallowed Ground:

"Urbanization and our move indoors have even brought about a distancing of ourselves from Scripture, although of this fact most are oblivious. Just as high school students who read Chaucer no longer laugh at Chanticleer because they no longer know anything about the behavior of roosters, so too is the Bible becoming foreign to us, who now pass most of our time in artificial environments. I surely speak for many in saying that few of the significant events in my life have taken place outdoors. It was just the opposite for Jesus. Almost every important event in his life occurred outside: his baptism, his temptation, his transfiguration, his entry into Jerusalem, his crucifixion. The orbs in the sky were his roof. The fact is not irrelevant. One wonders: is the story of Adam and Eve less memorable for people who have spent next to no time in real gardens? Is the rhetorical resonance of Jesus’ agricultural parables dulled for readers who require every detail about planting and harvesting to be explained? Can those who run to sturdy shelters when tornado sirens sound fully appreciate the terror of the disciples on the waves of a stormy Galilee? Can people who do not know the difference between a sparrow and a starling have any deep emotional response to Jesus’ command to ‘look at the birds of the air’?"

- Dale C. Allison, Jr., The Silence of Angels

Herrick Kimball said...

mountainfirekeeper: I always enjoy your comments and perspective.

raindear: Great quote. Thanks for sharing it here.

Annie said...

I am an atheist so I don't agree with your view of the world as a "creation" of a supernatural entity. However, I do applaud the fact that some Christians are rejecting the awful notion that the world is all evil and hateful, based on the Bible's teachings. If you believe in a Creator then you should indeed take great joy and care of this Creation. It is, in fact, all you can know of any god for sure. You won't know if you made it to Heaven or not until later. But Earth is here and now, for which we can all be thankful.

Todd Alan said...

Amen