We can read God in nature. What kind of a God? It comes as a kind of shock to find that God in nature teaches us three deep lessons, three laws of life. It takes time to get these lessons. Only after you have learnt them do you start to ask the right questions that lead to other kinds of revelation.
Insight 1: Our life is Not our own
The first lesson is that our life is not our own. It is a possession of nature itself. Only a complete idiot thinks his life is his own possession. It is not. Of course people are unique. They have unique personalities, none of us are identical. But this we have in common. Our life is not our own. From atoms upwards to galaxies we are aware that we are at one with the creation. We are not strangers to the creation. The processes of creation make us. What God made in the big bang was heavy elements, and that is us. We are the elements of nature. Life, death, procreation, birth, growth, decline and decay are all natural processes. We cannot undo them. They come to us a gift, as surprise, as mystery. Our life is not our own. But what is our own is the ability to choose. Butler was too much of an individualist to recognise our radical inter-dependence.
Insight 2: God is not the creation
The second lesson is an even bigger shock, a harder lesson. God is not the creation. Nature, God’s creation, has become able to observe itself, its processes, and even manipulate them a little. We have, as the book of Genesis so sublimely put, become like God himself. We can play at being God. We do play at being God. And we find at this level God in nature is quite neutral. No divine intervention stops the tsunami. No divine intervention stops genetic manipulation. As we discover more about reading God in nature we come to the most awful realisation. In the creation God actually hides himself. But that was what the Bible always affirmed. God is not the creation. The vast mistake made by so many in today’s world is to identify the creation with God. Butler did not fall into this trap. He saw the limitations of a God who acts supernaturally in the natural order.
Insight 3: The Universe is Spiritual not Material
This insight is found on the next page Introducing Natural theology 4
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