Nature as sibling: biblical ramblings

who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,

‘Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the hoar-frost of heaven?

God declares his motherhood over creation to Job in his typical “not answering the question” style.

Many of creation Psalms don’t seem to domesticate nature as we do.

From Psalm 148

Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
old men and children.

From Psalm 147

He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.

Psalm 8 asks the question why we as humanity receive such honour from God when compared to the magnificence and power of the rest of nature we are fairly itty bitty.

These few verses which I take to reflect a lot of other passages indicate that we are instrinsically part of creation and therefore nature is not that ‘thing’ we need to look after nor is it that ‘thing’ we look at in admiration. It’s family.

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Squabbling children 2 : Nature as troublesome sibling

In the previous post I ruminated about nature being humanity’s sibling. I think there are a lot of interesting ‘offshoots’ in thought that could come out of this.

I’ve often heard arguments for God expressed in the form of his ‘obvious’ presence in nature. So if we see a beautiful sunset we see the beauty of God or if we see a rather nice storm we talk of the power of God and so on. I think a lot of this kind of talk veers toward extreme sentimentality. Nature is seen as benign, full of goodness, full of harmony and balance, therefore obviously reflecting God.

A few hundred years ago the majority of humanity would have disagreed. Nature was frightening, full of disease, disaster and death. Nature had to be fought and resisted. I would contend that the language in the bible reflects this historical reality where the elements of nature are fearful and fearsome so much so that only God could control it. So in other words humanity is asking God to protect it from nature.

The philosopher Zizek uses the interesting phrase “Ecology: The New Opiate of the Masses“. He seems (one never knows!) to say that our very view of nature is flawed and too sentimental. He proposes that nature is just a series of catastrophes and there is no ‘harmonious state’ that we all have been told to fight for.

I don’t agree with his rather dark analysis but I think he is very right about our sentimental view especially in Christian circles about nature. It must be said that a society which has tamed nature sees God in it. If so a dog and god don’t make much difference. They’re both tame and so lovely! So if I was to go further along the thought of seeing nature as a sibling within the framework of biblical creation then it leads to some interesting possibilities.

As of now the main one that strikes me is that ‘natural’ disasters and disease can be seen as one part of creation hurting another. We have seen little children hurt one another sometimes with no consequence but occasionally with disastrous consequences. I’m also led to rethink how I should live responsibly alongside my sibling my environment and intriguingly ask ‘how do we proclaim the gospel to ends of the earth?’

 

Squabbling Children

This morning as usual I was woken up by the kids and sometimes it’s fine. We have our coffees and on Saturdays we probably climb back into our bed to have a cuddle and some games. Sometimes it’s not that great. There’s loads of squabbling and whining and fighting in the bed and it all goes rather unpleasant.

I rather irritably said ‘well God never had to deal with THIS! I thought in the incarnation he got to know all our troubles, but not this.’ Then somehow the story of Jesus and the storm popped into my head. Well he was woken up from a deep sleep. And did he then had to deal with squabbling children?

In a sense I think yes. He crossly asks the disciples, ‘where’s your faith?’ Then he gives a right old scolding to the storm. It strongly reminded me of a parent coming and telling both children off in different ways. After all God did give birth to the elements that make the storm just as he gave birth to us.

So Jesus gets woken up by the disciples like the whiny young child complaining about the big brother or sister bullying them. Jesus grumpily asks why the younger siblings of humans couldn’t have sorted it and gives the big brother storm a good rollicking.

Since God gave birth to all creation I think it’s legitimate to think of parts of creation as being siblings with each other. This probably could or should change the way I look at the environment. It also puts the whole struggle we have with nature in terms of disease and ‘natural’ disasters in a different light.

After all, all creation needs to be saved. And Jesus in Mark was ‘with the wild beasts’, he walks on water in the storm and so on. Are these glimpses of Jesus proclaiming salvation to creation itself? Can we view the rest of creation as older brothers or sisters since within the creation stories we are ‘younger’? And as the younger or second siblings fulfil the promise of God in so many stories of the bible, is that why Jesus comes as a human and shall not incarnate himself as any other part of creation?

Possibly lots to think there.