Monday, December 04, 2006

Knowing the beauty of creation, knowing the character of God

How knowing the world and ourselves leads us to know the character of God and to anticipate the possibility of God's incarnation.
I am convinced that he asks us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength because that is how he loves us. I am convinced that he asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves because he loves us as himself.

To see the beauty in creation is to know that creation is good. But what does this tell us about the Creator? We can can only create what we can first imagine. If creation is good, then it follows that the Creator must be good in each of those ways, as great as the sum total of all of the different kinds of goodness we see. If creation is great, God must be greater, not because he left anything of himself unexpressed, but because he is the cause of the greatness, the source and origin of it all. The different kinds of goodness we see in creation must reflect the different kinds of goodness in the Creator: vastness and intricacy, precision and wisdom, power and gentleness, vibrant overflowing aliveness.

In this creation there is a type of creature, ourselves, who see the creation and experience gladness. Knowing creation causes gladness in us because of the good we see there. Our natural reactions to this goodness in creation are peacefulness, kindness, joyfulness, and love for what we see. It follows that knowing the Creator would cause more gladness in his presence because of his greater goodness: it would cause us greater peacefulness, kindness, joyfulness, and love. The glory of creation is cause for awe and wonder; the glory of God is cause for greater awe and wonder. These things are spiritual beauties: beauties that come from knowing and reflecting on the physical goodness that communicates the heart of God, the mind and soul and strength of God. I am convinced that he asks us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength because that is how he loves us. I am convinced that he asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves because he loves us as himself.

How can we know this? We can know it from Christ, and the same message is also communicated to the whole world from God's creation. If all the beauties of the world reflect God in some small measure, then what about these things of spiritual beauty, such as love? If the vastness of the stars explains the fact of God's vastness to us, then does our own love communicate to us the fact of God's own love? When we see these spiritual beauties in ourselves or others, are we seeing part of God's essential character? Would it even be possible for the creature to have a good trait (such as love) which the Creator did not have first and bring into being? So we know that awe and wonder belong to God, glory and honor belong to God, but also peacefulness belongs to God, kindness belongs to God, joyfulness belongs to God, and love belongs to God. The world could not be as it is if God lacked any of these things. We expect that the kindness and love that belong to God are greater than ours, and that his good will eclipses our own. This is cause for peace in us, and for hope. The hope is not only for his kindness; we also have cause for hope that his love may turn towards us as towards all he has made. Such a hope leads to joy.

Creation's declaration of God's goodness raises some questions. If God's goodness is reflected in some way in all the good things here, how much could God make himself present in the world, not only by proxy as it were in the things of creation, but as Himself? Would God's love cause him to be present in the world, and if so, how?

Humankind's reflection of spiritual beauties -- our capacity for love and kindness, for joy and creativity, for deliberation and benevolence -- these similarities to God -- these raise more pointed questions: why has God made a creature with that much of his image? Does he intend a higher kind of love than is possible towards rocks and trees, oceans and stars? If God is loving, does God intend fellowship with those he has made? Would he have made that possibility of fellowship, created creatures suitable to it, unless he had intended to fulfill that possibility? What if God made himself present in the world not only as creator and designer and soul whose greatness is communicated by it, but also as a participant in the life of the world? Would God ever take the form of a creature? Is there any creature more suited to house God's life in the world than humanity?

So the approach of knowing God through creation alone causes us to wonder: is God's incarnation possible? And if it were -- if God lived among us -- would we understand the mind of God that much better?

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