In the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis we find the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. One can only imagine what a beautiful place this was. In the closing chapters of the Book of Revelation we are given a glimpse into what is to come. The place where God reigns is indescribable but in some ways it is similar to the original Garden of Eden. The tree of life is there and a river as well. I’ve wondered at times if the author of Revelation wanted us to see heaven as Eden restored.
The Bible reveals that the sin that entered the world in the Garden of Eden had ill effects on God’s Creation. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that Creation “groans” and eagerly awaits redemption. Maybe Paul, too, envisioned a new Eden to come.
Twice this week I have photographed last light in Arches National Park at a placed they call “The Garden of Eden.” The picture above was taken last night and the one below on Sunday evening. It is a beautiful location and worthy of its name. Standing there as the warm light of the setting sun strikes the red rock formations I experienced a remarkable sense of peace and joy. Maybe it’s the same peace and joy Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture. Or perhaps it is a foretaste of the peace and joy that will be ours when the new heaven and the new earth arrive. Either way, it is a feeling I can give thanks for in the here and now.
On the trip I am on I have already visited four different national parks. In each park I have encountered a pristine beauty that delights my soul. In each I have felt a closeness to God. Since the original Garden was a place of communion for the first humans and God, I find myself thinking that the Garden of Eden might still exist. It exists wherever we encounter God in His glorious Creation.
(This entry was written yesterday but due to a problem with the internet in Bryce Canyon I was not able to post it until today.)
I studied in the biological sciences in college, getting BS and MS degrees in plant and soil science. I have also been a Christian all of my life. For me, learning about nature through the sciences helped me see the wonder of this world and strengthened my faith.
Studying the ecology and the history of an area helps me better understand it. Discovering how a plant or animal lives because scientists have studied that gives me new perspectives and a greater sense of awe. Chuck had shown a photo of a snow plant earlier. Here is one in context of its environment, the ponderosa pine woods of the Sierra Mountains (Yosemite National Park). What is fascinating to me is that this plant has no chlorophyll — what you see here is the plant’s flower stalk and that is all that ever comes above ground! At first, it was thought that this plant either broke down dead material in the ground for “food” or it tapped into a tree’s roots as a parasite.
The actual story is more complex. The ground is filled with mycorrhizae, root-like filaments of soil-fungi that have a very unique function. They have a direct connection to the trees and tap into the tree roots. However, they are not parasites. They are partners with the tree. The fungi has better access to nutrients from the soil and helps the tree get more of them. The tree, in return, supplies food from photosynthesis. Such mycorrhizal fungi is very important to most forests, and usually specific species of fungi are connected to a specific species of tree.
Along comes the snow plant. Its main root supports its flower, but small roots infiltrate the mycorrhizae and tap those fungal strands for its food. When you see how large and bold a snow plant is, you realize how extensive the mycorrhizae are.
All of this came from science investigating the life of nature and revealing this remarkable and amazing connection of life below the ground. There is no logical reason for a snow plant to exist, yet it does, and it is beautiful. To me, this shows what a stunning world we have, a world created by a God who knows far more than we do and loves art!
All of these thoughts were stimulated by an opinion piece from USA Today published this past Monday called “We believe in evolution — and God.” I love this quote from the article, “We understand science as a gift from God to explore the creation.” The article is on-line at http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/08/we-believe-in-evolution-and-god-.html?loc=interstitialskip. The authors also have a website, The BioLogos Foundation at www.biologos.org.