by Nathan Brown
We need to reclaim the wonder of creation. While the arguments continue to be argued in so many forums and voices, our first task should be to pause — for at least a moment — and simply survey the world around us, the beauty of so much of what we often overlook and the complex miracles of life.
Belying our quest for scientific certainties, our limited understandings should be a source of humble joy: “In the natural world we are constantly surrounded with wonders beyond our comprehension” (Ellen White, Education, p170). Contemporary Christian writer Brian McLaren has put it like this: “The beauty of ‘in the beginning God created’ should make us giddy with joy and speechless for decades, leaving us little time to argue” (More Ready Than You Realise).
I was reminded of this attitude recently — and we need to be reminded of it regularly — by tree-hugging, river-loving lady from my small local community in her narration of a journey from where our local river meets the sea in the centre of the city of Melbourne to the river’s source high in the hills above our valley: “The outrageous mystery of how we evolved from stars, that what we are made of is — literally — stardust, is a tale of such magnificence that we ought never recover from the wonder of it” (Maya Ward, The Comfort of Water: A River Pilgrimage).
Amid the origin wars and pseudo-religious political debates, we must remember the simple fact of our existence, however we came about, is a foundational miracle and source of wonder. The Bible does not tell us how the world was created — in a scientific, literal sense — and we need to be careful in seeking, contriving and relying on certainties beyond what the Bible actually says. Rather the Bible tells us a story of the creation itself, how wonder-filled that creation was and is, and even more importantly why our world was created.
The Bible is filled with celebrations of the natural world — both by God, such as in Job 38-41, and God’s people, such as Psalm 148. Jesus too, drew examples of God’s goodness and care from the natural world (see, for example, Matthew 6:26, 28-30), commending both our reliance on God and an appreciation of the simple gifts that surround us with wonder: “To live intimately and sympathetically with the earth is to see that we are surrounded and sustained by gifts on every side and to acknowledge that the only proper response to this unfathomable kindness is our own attention, care and gratitude” (Norman Wirzba, The Paradise of God).
As Adventists — those who look for and anticipate God’s coming — the beauties, joys and goodness we see and experience in the world around us are glimpses of what our world was and will be. Our focus on Creation is as much about re-creation. Yet even the shadowed beauty and the imperfect joy speak to us today of God’s love.
In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul urges the “wisdom and scope of God’s plan,” specifically describing God as, “the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth,” and draws imagery from the natural world in trying to convey the vastness of God’s love and its place in our lives and in the church: “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (NLT). Ultimately, this is what our creation understandings, arguments and wonder must be about.
Yes, it is worth spending time and attention on the importance of the doctrine of creation, responses to the challenges of alternative theories and the theological implications of these varying worldviews. But may we also pause to experience, enjoy and wonder at the realities and beauties of creation, and the life, world and love God has given to us. If we were to pause to wonder more and more often at the miracle of creation, some of the other arguments may fall into place more easily or even begin to fade in their importance and damage.