Nature gets lots of press these days – laws of nature, human nature, natural foods, , natural resources, natural selection, et. al. We’ll talk about these and one more – “mother nature”. Here’s an interesting thought to ponder as you read on – are we part of nature or do we just exist in it? Once again, we’ll see how our worldview matters.
Webster’s simple definition of nature is, a) the physical world and everything in it that is not made by people, b) the natural forces that control what happens in the world, c) the way that a person or animal behaves, d) the character or personality of a person or animal. Natural, in the context of part a) of Webster’s definition, then would be all that exists that is not manmade. Thus, all of the things, including ourselves, that we encounter, that we did not make are natural. The things we make are often labeled as “artificial”. I’ve already discussed the origins of the nature that exists in our universe. In the example from the last post, the apple tree is not manmade, so it’s natural.
The natural forces, i.e. physical laws of nature, in part b) of Webster’s definition include gravity. In our example, gravity is what makes the apple fall to the ground and not fly off into space. Those forces have the same origin as nature itself. The most logical alteration or suspension of these laws would be by their Creator. There is ample Biblical evidence for these occurrences, such as in, 1) moving a shadow against its cast by the sun , and 2) among His many miracles – raising the dead , for one. In turning water into wine , it’s interesting to wonder about His process – it was unnatural, but was it artificial? At the time, He was simultaneously all God and all man. Nevertheless, I think He could have turned water into apple cider, too!
How we behave, or our human nature, as Webster’s part c & d) indicates is a product of the actions by our body, soul (mind, will and emotion) and spirit. It is the expression of our character or personality. I’ve indicated man’s inequality with animals – thus, they are not included in this discussion. This inequivalence is clear, in my worldview, from our Creator’s endowment to us of absolute dominion, as good stewards , over the animals . There is no Biblical indication that animals have a spirit (conscience), not to be confused with their “spirited” (aggressive, etc.) behavior. We humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of the Creator. We have a soul not driven by instinct, but by a spirit that can, by choice , be governed by the Spirit of God.
What is our responsibility for caring for the natural resources we have been given? For example, the data says that global warming is happening. The real issue, is whether these natural cycles are being exacerbated by man’s disregard for nature. Those who believe that nature has a great enough “dynamic range” to absorb whatever we throw at it, are gambling. This gamble is not with the “end of the story”, but with the quality of life that we derive from our environment, for all of the generations that will exist between now and then. Good stewardship is the logical path we should pursue. Father God can lead us, but in reality, “mother nature” does not exist. She is a sentiment related to the beauty and care of the earth, but is not based in a logical explanation of origins.
We are at the point , beyond recent fiction, of being able to modify genes without the introduction of foreign DNA into a species (“Jurassic Park” (1993) – “nature found a way” to yield disastrous consequences). This is perhaps the first step to realizing the growing of organs (kidney – “Star Trek: The Voyage Home” (1986)) from a single medication. The ethical statement publically posed is always, “…because we can, doesn’t mean that we should.”
If one’s worldview enables action to “improve” upon His nature, it is without the knowledge or wisdom to understand the potentially irreversible consequences of altering it. Improving God’s creation is a different thing than either redemptive work or remediating what is ailing or polluted. If humanity is not wise, we could engineer some of the woes to which many will be subjected ! At the end of the day, God cares for His creation and He will redeem it. As John related from his vision, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”