Here’s an interestingly put question from a podcast listener who writes in to ask, “Pastor John, how does our delight in God fuel, or provide a stable foundation for, our delight in the good gifts of creation?”
I was surprised by this question. I will try to say something about it with the help of C.S. Lewis in just a minute, but I was surprised because the question usually goes the other way around: How can our delight in creation fuel our delight in God so that it doesn’t become idolatry? I mean that seems to be the kind of concern that a lot of people have: “I love stuff so much — I love pizza, and I love friendship, and I love nature. How can that feed my delight in God without becoming idolatry?”
Nature as Creature, Not God
But that is not the question here. So I had to kind of redo my brain and say, Okay, this is good. I need to ask this kind of question. It is interesting. The question is, How does our delight in God fuel, or provide a stable foundation for, our delight in creation? So I will try to take the question seriously as it stands.
Here is the main thing. Believing in God and delighting in God for himself is the only way to protect nature — all the good things God has made — from being god. Without belief in God and delight in God as our supreme treasure, we have to treat nature as self-existent. If there is no God, nature is self-existent — the Big Bang or whatever you want to call it. And we are all wired to worship what is self-existent, especially if it is as glorious as the universe. But the moment we turn nature into a god, we lose it. We lose nature for what it really is. It was not made to be worshipped. Nature will lure us, then cheat us if we try to make her absolute. She is a creature, and all her true, amazing, scintillating, stunning glory is the glory of a God-designed creature.
Through Heaven’s Eyes
Now, no one has said this better, as far as I know, than C.S. Lewis. So the last thing I am going to do is just read a section from his book, Miracles. I am quoting it from my book. This is the most recent book I wrote: Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully. And I am quoting it because I leave out some things, and it helps collapse it down. And I am reading from page 139 in that book where I was blown away by what Lewis says. So here is a chunk of one of the greatest writers and apologists in the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis:
The Englishness of English is audible only to those who know some other language as well. In the same way and for the same reason, only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little way from her, and then turn around, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see . . . this astonishing cataract of bears, babies, and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries, fleas, gases, tornadoes, and toads. How could you have ever thought this was the ultimate reality? How could you ever have thought that it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women? She is herself. Offer her neither worship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. . . . The theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The “vanity” to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured in character: not tamed (Heaven forbid) nor sterilized. We shall still be able to recognize our old enemy, friend, playfellow, and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting.
I just love Lewis, don’t you?
Nobody writes like Lewis. So, in other words, the full God-intended beauty and wonder and delight that we are to have in creation is possible only for those who don’t make a god out of creation, but have a superior delight in the Maker of creation. Unless creation mediates to us God’s wonder through its wonder, we have not yet tasted its true and full wonder. That is the pleasure only those can have who know and delight in God through Christ above all things.