Saturday, July 5, 2014

Worship in Nature

Observation of the living animals and plants in our neighborhood afford our family ample opportunity to worship God in the setting of nature. For Christians, worship is defined by adoration, respect, reverence, and love for the God of the Bible. Apart from the Christian worldview, our post title may be cause for misunderstanding. Worship of nature is not identical to worship in nature. Pantheism is a term in which everything, including the world of nature and its living creatures, could be regarded as God. In the view of pantheism, God does not exist as a personal Being. Christians worship the Creator of Scripture without assuming a pantheist identity. The Person of God in the Bible is the Creator of all things. 

While the study of worship in group gatherings of God’s people in settings such as a church building may help define worship, Christians may experience worship experiences wherever and whenever the reality of God’s creative handiwork is observed. Many locales offer opportunity to fulfill the experience of worship. Having enjoyed the natural world throughout life, we propose that the outdoor setting is an appropriate and meaningful worship venue. Many phenomena tangibly lead us to the experience of worship. Observation of animal life is perhaps one of the best examples. For young children, questions and answers to “Who made these wonderful creatures with their outstanding beauty and ability?” has incredible value.

Understanding the dimensions of worship and means of experiencing worship is a complex topic. If we propose an outdoor setting for worship and suggest study of the characteristics of animals and plants to enhance our experience of worship, some acquaintances might believe we misunderstand the concept of worship. They may endorse a traditional and overly narrow concept. Many Christians traditionally worship most effectively in church at definite scheduled times. We hasten to affirm the appropriateness of this sort of worship experience, but one’s view of worship will broaden as knowledge of the natural world increases.

While observing the wildlife in our surroundings we experience a blend of emotions. From a purely analytical approach, we may describe the physical appearance and behavior of the area wildlife as if we were writing a biology textbook. Observing the animals more carefully and deeply we observe complex physical design features and unique behavioral characteristics. In past posts we have referenced “soulishness” as a characteristic of some higher forms of animal life. Even less advanced forms of animal life without soulishness manifest complex physical and behavioral traits. We experience worship because we believe God is the Creator of all things including our neighborhood wildlife.

Some may cite the wonder of living creatures as evidence of the existence of God, giving them occasion for worship of the Creator. Naturalist biologists may scoff at this idea, claiming bio-science is completely naturalistic. Theistic believers, however, claim design and behavioral characteristics of living creatures give evidence of activity of the Creator. 

Even if evidence for God is not present in a scientific sense, such observations support an interesting concept proposed by theistic philosophers and theologians such as William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga. As creatures made in the Image of God we are gifted with an inner awareness—a God-consciousness. In the Craig and Plantinga proposals it is reasonable to believe in God (and worship him) without physical evidence. They have written entire volumes on their concept of “properly basic beliefs.”

Lest we fail to simplify the point of this post, we claim worship experiences emanate from a variety of events and are experienced by different individuals in diverse ways. As we reinforce our belief that God created all things, we encourage readers to search for opportunities to worship God in ordinary and mundane events.