by Alexei Laushkin
When you start to really listen to the testimonies of Christians on how they came to know the Lord you hear a surprising number that start with God's creation. Even some of our best regarded American evangelicals have similar stories. Here's the testimony of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) as recorded in The Works of President Edwards:
I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father's pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together" After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory in almost every thing. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and the stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature.
When I talk to friends and family members it's this sort of experience of God, in His creation, that really captures something of the heart. Before the head is warmed to the truth of Christianity, the heart has to be open to the experience of something else. Those experiences often happen in God's creation, which should tell us something of how God values what He made. After all it's His world and one day heaven will come down to earth again and as is said in the book of Revelations, God will once again make his dwelling place here.
World without end. Amen, Amen.
by John Elwood
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it." Genesis 2:15
The year was 1554. In England, Queen Mary I was busily earning the epithet "Bloody Mary" by burning some 300 Britons at the stake. Much less dramatically, in Geneva, Reformation patriarch John Calvin published his Commentary on Genesis.
Calvin's day was not like ours. Only eleven years earlier, the Polish cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had upended the universally-accepted worldview that the earth stood at the center of the universe; but his work was published posthumously to assure that his death would come naturally.
Another 55 years would pass before Galileo Galilei built his famous telescope, and set out to prove Copernicus right. Still later would come Johannes Kepler, and with him the basic principles of scientific inquiry. And nearly a century would pass before the arrival of Isaac Newton and the essentials of calculus, gravitation and light spectography.
Two centuries would come and go before the arrival of James Watt's steam engine, James Hutton and the new science of geology, and Benjamin Franklin's experiments with electricity. And the germ theory of disease wouldn't gain any traction for almost three centuries to come; leeches and herbs would have to do for many more generations.
Calvin: Creation steward
Needless to say, people in Calvin's day didn't know much of what we take for granted regarding the earth and its ecosystems. No one had reason to suspect that human activities could wreak significant harm on terrestrial and aquatic habitats, poison streams and rivers, drive created species to extinction, and threaten the earth's atmosphere with pollutants.
And yet, without any of these advances, Calvin looked into the Bible, and found the divine command that resonates to this day: the mandate to care for the creation as God's stewards. Calvin saw in Genesis the story of God's placing the man he created in his garden "to work and keep it." Here is what this great Christian had to say:
The earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation" . The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that " being content with a frugal and moderate use of them " we should take care of what shall remain.
Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be marred or ruined by neglect.
Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us, let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.
A few of Calvin's ideas are worth considering in our day:
The words "Calvinist" and "Puritan" bring vivid images to mind for many of us who are casual students of history. But the real Calvin might surprise us, no? In our day, might Protestant Christians once again heed the teaching of their spiritual forbears?
John Elwood is author of the The Clothesline Report, which deals with issues of environmental degradation, climate change, and their effects on people everywhere.
Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say, "Well, I don't have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one." Often we also treat people this way. We say, "Well he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanged their business we'd better not take the risk of getting involved with them." When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignorring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.
We are all bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true commuity if a fellowship of the weak.
--- Henri J. M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, Harper San Francisco, 1997
From the Cloud is a regular series of posts featuring insights, truth, and wisdom from Christians who have passed this way once before.