Evidence strongly suggests that God has given us two inspired books from which to learn His ways: the Bible, and Nature. Tradition, personal experience, as well as two Scriptures back up this belief:
- 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
- Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have clearly been seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Most Christians are steeped in the language and the processes of interpreting and applying the Bible, but less so with the Book of Nature. At times it appears we forget that God spoke to man through nature long before he did through his written word. And, for many cultures that remains true even today. In fact one could say that nature was the first Bible. And, if we but have the eyes to see and the ears to hear we can see God’s activity and hear His voice in nature just as easily as through the Bible.
The Book Of Nature
“Listen to the voice of nature, for it holds treasures for you.” – Huron Tribe Proverb
“When man moves away from nature, his heart becomes hard.” – Lakota Tribe Proverb
The Bible and the life and words of Jesus are the full manifestation of the truth of God, but nature has much to reveal to us about God as well. Paul in Romans 1:20 makes it clear that God reveals himself in nature, and therefore, men are without excuse. The creation account in Genesis also makes it clear that nature is a manifestation and witness of God’s truth in the world. In fact, even God in observing His creation admires it. All of creation then is worthy of our attention, admiration, joy, and delight.
This is further verified through a careful reading of Holy Scripture which reveals that many of the most well known and loved stories of the Bible occur outdoors or involve animals. And, that most of Jesus’ parables were set in nature and that Jesus’ favorite places to commune with God were on seashores, mountain tops, and gardens. Similarly, God followers throughout the centuries have read, delighted, and meditated on Holy Scripture, but many have also discovered that the Book of Nature can be read in a like manner.
Nature Through The Eyes Of Francis Of Assisi
In stories of his life, Francis of Assisi is quoted as talking to animals and natural elements. He does not speak to them just as birds or wolves, but as mutual spiritual beings who are worthy of being addressed. He was always telling them who they are, why they should be happy, and why they make him happy. He said they give glory to God just by being who they are. One of his early biographers wrote, “We who were with him saw him always in such joy, inwardly and outwardly, over all creatures, touching and looking at them, so that it seemed that his spirit was no longer on earth but in heaven.”
Francis was completely attuned to God’s presence everywhere and at all times. He saw in all things the likeness of God, fingerprints and footprints that reveal the divine DNA underlying all creation. Nature itself—not spaces constructed by human hands—was Francis’ primary cathedral. For Francis, the daily cosmic events in the sky and on the earth were a continuous sacrament and signs of God’s universal presence in all things.
It is clear that through nature God not only provides for us, He also speaks to us and teaches us, as we see in Job 12:7-10:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
One can argue that God has made himself known in a general sense in and through the created world, and he has revealed himself in a more specific sense by means of the Bible. But, the two are not in conflict, but rather, they complement one another.
Posted on February 23, 2021