Mar 18 2011

Mountains and the Way the Planet Works

SeeingCreation-1The terrible destruction and on-going problems in Japan are deservedly in the news. They need our prayers and support.

And it has made me think about God in all of this. Some of the things that photographers love about the natural world include mountains and oceans. Both of which are in abundance in Japan and in Southern California where I live. And those mountains only exist because of the way the earth works, including earthquakes and volcanoes. And part of the wonder of the ocean is also the nature of water which is susceptible to tsunamis.

SeeingCreation-2One reason people like living in places like Japan, Hawaii and California is because of the mountains and the ocean. The forces that made these things are also the same forces that made the volcanoes, earthquakes and so forth. I think it shows we live on a dynamic earth. This certainly argues against a static earth once formed by God and then nothing more happens.

I know that there are some fearful folks who feel that these forces show God’s wrath or that God originally made a perfect planet and now it is stressed by forces of evil (because of the fall of Eden). I find that hard to believe and there is nothing in the Bible that would have me believe that. I know that we all come back to the first part of Genesis, but it truly says that God made what we have and He saw it was good. There are others who would say that this is evidence that there either is no God or a God that doesn’t care. I think that is misreading the “two books of God”, the Bible and nature.

To “make” an earth, a solar system, etc., requires a great deal of energy, regardless of where that comes from. To me, God created the earth and endowed it with certain characteristics, the “laws of nature.” That explains much because the world continues to evolve based on what God started. There is a lot of energy built into our planet. You can’t have mountains and the wonderful variation of this earth without other things going on. Sure, God could arbitrarily change that, but would we want to live in a world that we could not count on? Mountains that appeared suddenly without reason, for example. I think God is smarter than that and sees a bigger picture of things than we can possibly know.

It reminds me of the movie, Bruce Almighty. Bruce thought he could do a better job than God but then he quickly understood that God cannot simply do one thing without affecting many other things. With an intricate system that is our planet, I believe there are things that happen because of the way it is so beautifully integrated, not because God is wrathful or benign. There are causes and effects that cannot be arbitrarily changed without affecting something else. Things like tsunamis and disease happen because of the intricate web of connections, connections so deep that we cannot fully understand them, connections that cannot be arbitrarily cut without changes that could be much, much worse.

That flows into many things we need to consider about our planet today. With a system so intricate that only God truly can understand all of its connections, we really cannot do just one thing without affecting other parts of that system. John Muir and the ecologist, Garret Hardin, said basically the same thing, “You can’t do just one thing.” People want to say, “but it is my right” or “but I own it”, yet those ideas truly do not sit in isolation from the rest of the world anymore. And concerning God’s world, who really owns it and do we have a right to do anything we want? Are we living a man-centered life with attitudes about what is right or wrong based on our limited point of view or do we live a God centered life that understands He is in control and probably knows a little more than we do about our planet?

SeeingCreation-3

The images here are from the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, the mountains in Zion National Park in Utah and the Pacific Ocean on the California Coast by Guadalupe Dunes.

— Rob


Mar 13 2011

The Power of God

RL 660The power of nature has certainly been on display in recent days.  The scale of the earthquake in Japan this weekend was of historic proportions and actually moved the country eight feet to the east.  The tsunami that followed caused waves so big and powerful that they traveled six miles inland.  Less than a week ago a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted shooting lava eighty feet into the air.  In the past week tornadoes have also ripped through a number of communities in the United States and late winter storms have caused some cities to come to a standstill.  Other areas of the country have experienced devastating floods following intense rainfall.  Yes, in a short period of time the incredible power of nature has been made manifest to all.

The power of nature is very humbling to humanity.  In the face of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, volcanoes and floods we cannot help but feel small.  If we are wise we will stand in awe of the power and forces of nature.  We will be even wiser if we remember that there is a greater power yet.

RL 674Throughout the Scriptures the powers of nature are acknowledged as being great but there is the consistent affirmation that the power of God, the Maker of heaven and earth, transcends nature’s power.  In Job 38 God reminds Job that it was He who “laid the earth’s foundation” and “marked off its dimensions.”  God goes on to inform Job that it was He who “shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb” and that it is He who “cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm.”

The Psalmist was wise enough to acknowledge God’s power and how nature is subservient.  In Psalm 148 he calls on the sun, moon and stars “to praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.”  He goes on to call on the “hail, snow, clouds and stormy winds” to also give praise to God for “his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”  In the New Testament the apostle Paul summed things up for us: “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…” (Romans 1:20)

RL 692I certainly lament all the loss of life and devastation caused by nature’s power in recent days but as I have watched the images on television of the incredible power found in natural forces I have, likewise, been reminded that God—the Source who brought these powers into existence—is a force even greater.  Remembering this has been a source of comfort to me.  It is good to know that the greatest power that exists is the God of Creation and the same God who has assured us through His Son that He is for us and not against us.  And to quote the apostle Paul once again, “if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

In Psalm 46 the Psalmist says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”   Today I give thanks and offer praise to the Almighty God, “our refuge and strength” and encourage you to do the same.

–Chuck

(I took the images above at Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee.  This lake was formed in 1811-1812 as the result of a tremendous earthquake.  The force of the quake was so great that the Mississippi River actually flowed backwards temporarily.)