Why should we study and explore the Creation?
Psalm 19:1-4a The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Psalm 104 Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth:wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works—he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.
Augustine "There is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? Why, heaven and earth shout to you: 'God made me!'" City of God, 11:22 by Augustine of Hippo
John Chrysostom "If God had given instruction by means of books, and of letters, he who knew letters would have learnt what was written, but the illiterate man would have gone away without receiving any benefit…This however cannot be said with respect to the heavens…Upon this volume the unlearned, as well as the wise man, shall be able to look, and wherever any one may chance to come, there looking upwards towards the heavens, he will receive a sufficient lesson from the view of them…" Homilies to the People of Antioch, IX.5, 162-63 by John Chrysostom
Joseph Caryl “The works of God should lead us to God Himself. Our study of the creature should be to gain a clearer light and knowledge of the Creator. There are many expressions and impressions of God upon the things which He hath made, and we never see them as we ought, till in them we see their Maker. A critical eye looks upon a picture, not so much to see the colours or the paint, as to discern the skill of the painter or limner; yea, some (as the apostle speaks in reference to spirituals) have senses so exercised about these artificials that they will read the artist’s name in the form and exquisiteness of his art. An Apelles or Michael Angelo needs not to put his name to his work, his work proclaims his name to those who are judicious beholders of such kind of works. How much more (as the Psalmist speaks), 'that the name of God is near, do His wondrous works (both of nature and providence) declare' to all discreet beholders! That which the eye and heart of every godly man is chiefly upon, is to find out and behold the name, that is, the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in all His works, both of creation and providence. It were better for us never to enjoy the creature, than not to enjoy God in it; and it, were better for us not to see the creature, than not to have a sight of God in it. And yet when we have seen the most of God which the creature can show us we have reason to say, how little a portion is seen of Him! And when we have heard the most of God that can be reported to us from the creation, we have reason to say, as Job here doth, 'How little a portion is heard of Him?'”
Richard Baxter "When man was made perfect, and placed in a perfect world, where all things were in perfect order, the whole creation was then man's book, in which he was to read the nature and will of his great Creator. Every creature had the name of God so legibly engraven on it, that man might run and read it. He could not open his eyes, but he might see some image of God; but no where so fully and lively as in himself. It was, therefore, his work to study the whole volume of nature, but first and most to study himself. And if man had held on in this course, he would have continued and increased in the knowledge of God and himself; but when he would needs know and love the creature and himself in a way of separation from God, he lost the knowledge both of the creature and of the Creator, so far as it could beatify and was worth the name of knowledge; and instead of it, he hath got the unhappy knowledge which he affected, even the empty notions and fantastic knowledge of the creature and himself, as thus separated. And thus, he that lived to the Creator, and upon him, doth now live to and upon the other creatures, and on himself; and thus, 'Every man at his best estate' (the learned as well as the illiterate) 'is altogether vanity. Surely every man walketh in a vain show; surely they are disquieted in vain.' And it must be well observed, that as God laid not aside the relation of a Creator by becoming our Redeemer, relation, but the work of redemption standeth, in some respect, in subordination to that of creation, and the law of the Redeemer to the law of the Creator; so also the duties which we owed to God as Creator have not ceased, but the duties that we owe to the Redeemer, as such, are subordinate thereto. It is the work of Christ to bring us back to God, and to restore us to the perfection of holiness and obedience; and as he is the way to the Father, so faith in him is the way to our former employment and enjoyment of God. I hope you perceive what I aim at in all this, namely, that to see God in his creatures, and to love him, and converse with him, was the employment of man in his upright state; that this is so far from ceasing to be our duty, that it is the work of Christ to bring us, by faith, back to it; and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of God's works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them. 'His works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein," but not for themselves, but for him that made them. Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works – this is the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object, and the life of them all.
And, therefore, I shall presume to tell you, by the way, that it is a grand error, and of dangerous consequence in Christian academies, (pardon the censure from one so unfit to pass it, seeing the necessity of the case commandeth it,) that they study the creature before the Redeemer, and set themselves to physics, and metaphysics, and mathematics, before they set themselves to theology; whereas, no man that hath not the vitals of theology, is capable of going beyond a fool in philosophy. Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies. Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature must be read as one of God's books, which is purposely written for the revelation of himself. The Holy Scripture is the easier book: when you have first learned from it God, and his will, as to the most necessary things, address yourselves to the study of his works, and read every creature as a Christian and a divine. If you see not yourselves, and all things, as living, and moving, and having being in God, you see nothing, whatever you think you see. If you perceive not, in your study of the creatures, that God is all, and in all, and that 'of him, and through him, and to him, are all things,' you may think, perhaps, that you 'know something; but you know nothing as you ought to know.' Think not so basely of your physics, and of the works of God, as that they are only preparatory studies for boys. It is a most high and noble part of holiness, to search after, behold admire, and love the great Creator in all his works. How much have the saints of God been employed in this high and holy exercise! The book of Job, and the Psalms, may show us that our physics are not so little kin to theology as some suppose." The Reformed Pastor 1656 by Pastor Richard Baxter
Stephen Charnock "No desire for the remembrance of him. How delightful are other things in our minds! How burdensome the memorials of God, from which we have our being! With what pleasure do we contemplate the nature of creatures, even of flies and toads, while our minds tire in the search of him, who hath bestowed upon us our knowing and meditating faculties! Though God shows himself to us in every creature, in the meanest weed as well as the highest heavens, and is more apparent in them to our reasons than themselves can be to our sense; yet though we see them, we will not behold God in them: we will view them to please our sense, to improve our reason in their natural perfections; but pass by the consideration of God's perfections so visibly beaming from them. Thus we play the beasts and atheists in the very exercise of reason, and neglect our Creator to gratify our sense, as though the pleasure of that were more desirable than the knowledge of God. The desire of our souls is not towards his name and the rembrance of him, when we set not ourselves in a posture to feast our souls with deep and serious meditations of him; have a thought of him, only by the bye and away, as if we were afraid of too intimate acquaintance with him. Are not the thoughts of God rather our invaders than our guests; seldom invited to reside and take up our homes in our hearts? Have we not, when they have broke in upon us, bid them depart from us, and warned them to come no more upon our ground; sent them packing as soon as we could, and were glad when they were gone? And when they have departed, have we not often been afraid they should return again upon us, and therefore looked about for other inmates, things, not good, or if good, infinitely below God, to possess the room of our hearts before any thoughts of him should appear again? Have we not often been glad of excuses to shake off present thoughts of him, ane when we have wanted real ones, found our pretences to keep God and our hearts at a distance? Is not this a part of atheism, to be so unwilling to employ our faculties about the giver of them, to refuse to exercise them in a way of grateful remembrance of him; as though God that truly gave them had no right to them, and he that thinks on us every day in a way of providence, were not worthy to be thought on by us in a way of special rembrance? Do not the best, that love the remembrance of him, and abhor this natural averseness, find that when they would think of God, many things tempt them and turn them to think eleswhere? Do they not find their apprehensions too feeble, their motions too dull, and their impressions too slight? This natural atheism is spread over human nature." The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock, pp. 159-160.
Jonathan Edwards "We now but little consider, in comparison with what we should do, how full the world is of God's goodness, and how it appears in the sun, moon, and stars, and in the earth and seas, with all their fullness, and wheresoever we turn our eyes, and how all ranks and orders of being, from the highest angel to the lowest insect, are dependent upon, and maintained by, the goodness of God. These the saints in heaven clearly see: they see how the universe is replenished with His goodness, and how the communications of His goodness are incessantly issuing from God as from an everflowing fountain, and are poured forth all around in vast profusion into every part of heaven and earth, as light is every moment diffused from the sun. We have but faint, imperfect notions of these things, but the saints in heaven see them with perfect clearness."
"It is the peculiar diginity of the nature of man...that he is made capable of actively glorifying his Creator. Other creatures glorify God: the sun, moon, stars, the earth and waters, all the trees of the field, grass and herbs, and fishes and insects glorify God (Psalm 19:1-6; Job 12:7-8)." Altogether Lovely: Praise One of the Chief Employments of Heaven by Jonathan Edwards
J.C. Ryle "Now the Lord God is perfect in all His works. He does nothing by chance. He caused no part of the Scriptures to be written by chance. In all His dealings you may trace design, purpose and plan. There was design in the size and orbit of each planet. There was design in the shape and structure of the least fly’s wing. There was design in every verse of the Bible." "Examples of Holiness" by J.C. Ryle, p. 101
C.H. Spurgeon "In his earliest days the psalmist [David], while keeping his father's flock, had devoted himself to the study of God's two great books—nature and Scripture; and he had so thoroughly entered into the spirit of these two only volumes in his library that he was able with a devout criticism to compare and contrast them, magnifying the excellency of the Author as seen in both. How foolish and wicked are those who instead of accepting the two sacred tomes, and delighting to behold the same divine hand in each, spend all their wits in endeavouring to find discrepancies and contradictions. We may rest assured that the true 'Vestiges of Creation' will never contradict Genesis, nor will a correct 'Cosmos' be found at variance with the narrative of Moses. He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, 'My Father wrote them both.'" 1. "'The heavens declare the glory of God.' The book of nature has three leaves, heaven, earth, and sea, of which heaven is the first and most glorious, and by its aid we are able to see the beauties of the other two. Any book without its first page would be sadly imperfect, and especially the great Natural Bible, since its first pages, the sun, moon, and stars, supply light which follows would be dark and undiscerned. Man walking erect was evidently made to scan the skies, and he who begins to read creation by studying the stars begins the book at the right place." Introduction to Psalm XlX, The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon
R.C. Sproul "Even though God has not been pleased to reveal Himself to us as He is visibly, yet as the Scriptures tell us, He has not left Himself without a witness. The heavens declare the glory of God, and we are told again and again in the Scriptures that the whole earth is filled with His glory. Not that there are a few obscure hints buried in the bushes available to only some gnostic elite group that can probe creation and get a glimpse here and there of the glory of God. No! God has filled His creation with His glory. It's all around us. Maybe it's beneath the surface. But if it's beneath the surface, it's not far beneath the surface. All we need to do is look, and there it is. John Calvin said that we as sinners walk through this magnificent theater of divine creation as people wearing blindfolds. On the one hand, I like that metaphor because it describes that our failure to see the glory of God is somewhat willful. On the other hand, I see a weakness in that metaphor because it suggests that even though the glory is there, we never see it, but we do see it. We can't obliterate it. As much as we hide our eyes from the glory of God, the glory of God still breaks through, but it is obscured. Instead of looking to the deus revelatus of which Luther spoke, we concentrate on the deus absconditus, the way in which God remains hidden from our view." Dr. R.C. Sproul, excerpt from the 2004 Pastors Conference, Overcoming the Eclipse of God
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*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.