Now given that my last post was on Creationism, that’s somewhat been on my mind as of late. As I’ve been commenting back and forth with people, I found myself having a discussion with my wife about the idea that “nature is the 67th book of the Bible”. If you’ve been around creation circles for any length of time, that idea comes up and is used as a defense of the whole idea that empirical science is some sort of revelation. One of the frequent examples of how it is used is in the question of distant starlight.
In the starlight example, people who are defending one of the various theistic evolutionary models will make the point that if C (the speed of light) is a constant throughout the universe, empirical measurements indicate quite strongly that the light from various stars has been traveling for millions or billions of years. If then the universe is young (i.e. less than 50,000 years old), that light is deceiving us. It appears to be telling us “I’ve been on the move for millions of years” when it hasn’t, and people will often suggest that God speaking through nature isn’t saying the same thing as God speaking through scripture. Lo and behold, people who have a deficient doctrine of scripture (and/or a lack of skill at exegesis) always tend to side with what’s called “the book of nature”.
The creator lies but the creation doesn’t (ironically that’s equally applied to the bones and the people who examine them).
So I was chatting about that idea with my very smart wife and we agreed that God, like all communicators, uses words to explain the pictures that he provides…and that nature isn’t a “book” in any way, unless you completely abandon any sort of objective definition of the term “book”…but if everything is a “book”, then the term basically becomes meaningless:
Bookie Bookelson booked books bookingly on the book bookage with Books Bookington.
My wife then made a point of how God is unlike other “gods” in that he is one who actually speaks and reveals himself in propositional language, which then flashed a scripture into my mind: 1 Kings 19:9-18.
The passage follows 1 kings 18:20-40 where Yahweh (via Elijah) just had a colossal victory over the prophets of Ba’al, 1 Kings 18:41-46 where Yahweh (responding to the prayers of Elijah) breaks the drought and brings rain (which was supposed to be Ba’al’s job), and 1 kings 19:1-3 where Jezebel hears that Elijah has lead the Israelites in killing all her favorite prophets and she puts a price on Elijah’s head. In the passage immediately preceding, which is 1 Kings 19:4-8, we see Elijah basically “throwing in the towel”. He’s served Yahweh, had some victories, but then when things look like they’re turning around it’s the same old, same old: Ahab and Jezebel are trying to slay the prophets of Yahweh again (look at 1 Kings 18:7-14). It seems like everything that Elijah has done has been, more or less, for naught. Rather than have Jezebel kill him in a way that shames Yahweh, Elijah asks Yahweh to do the honors (1 Kings 19:4). Instead, Yahweh sends Jesus to feed Elijah and strengthen him for the journey to Mr. Horeb (1 Kings 19:5-8).
So what in the world does this have to do with nature being the 67th book of the Bible?
In 1 Kings 19:9-10, Elijah comes to Yahweh and makes his same plea as he made before. He basically says that his serving the Lord has been, in the long run, for nothing (or so it appears). Then we come to 1 Kings 19:11-13. Let’s read the (ESV) text:
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
So we have three occurrences happening: wind that smashes rocks (that’s some serious wind), an earthquake, and a fire. The text explicitly tells us that God is not appearing in any of them. Then, there’s a low whisper; Elijah hears it, goes to it, and hears the Yahweh speaking to him.
Now many people love the “still small voice” phrase and pull it out as some sort of normative expression of God’s leading/communicating in people’s lives. If I had a dime for every time I have heard someone talk about “listening for that still small voice” like it’s something that should be part of normal Christian experience, I’d be driving a gold plated Bentley.
But if the passage isn’t simply describing how God speaks to people (or something about his tender voice, his gentleness, etc.) what is going on in the passage then?
Well, the big deal is found in the emphasis and the contrast:
1. “the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind“
2. “after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake“
3. “after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire“
In these three statements, we see what would have been three unmistakable manifestations of Ba’al to those who worshiped him: a storm (windstorm), an earthquake, and a fire. Ba’al was a storm god; the bringer of rains and lightening, hence the challenge to bring fire in 1 Kings 18:20-40 (if Ba’al was supposed to be able to do one thing, it was starting a simple fire). Storms and wind were Ba’al’s calling card, as were earthquakes and fire (only gods can shake the earth, and the only “naturally” occurring fires are usually started by lightening). These three “manifestations” of Ba’al were thought to be obvious indicators of his presence (at least to every Ba’al worshiper), but the author emphasizes (by use of repetition) that Yahweh wasn’t manifested by them at all.
The wind was just a wind, the earthquake was just an earthquake, and the fire was just a fire. Yahweh brought those things, sure, but he wasn’t in them. That wasn’t how he made himself known to mankind.
When Yahweh did make himself known he did so in a way that Ba’al never could; he spoke out loud.
That is the big contrast, and that’s part of the takeaway from the passage (the other takeaway being what he said: he foretold the future, which Isaiah 41:21-24 explains as another sure-fire proof of deity). The difference between Yahweh and Ba’al is that Yahweh is the only one who talks.
Yahweh is the only god at all; he’s the only voice there is to hear. Ba’al was actually a pseudo-deity fabricated by people misunderstanding storms, earthquakes, and fire. The whole reason Ba’al existed was because highly religious people looked at nature, tried to explain it in supernatural terms (as they always do), and got it horribly wrong.
So what does this have to do with nature being the 67th book of the Bible?
Well, the flaw of evolutionary theory is an error that mankind has been making for thousands of years; it’s the same flaw that lead to the worship of Ba’al. People look at nature and, in their suppression of the truth about God (think Romans 1:18-30), they come up with explanations that are complex, clever, widely-believed (remember how many prophets of Ba’al there were?) and promoted by whole countries (by leaders like Ahab and Jezebel), but all those explanations are equally dead wrong. They’re not off by a little bit; they’re blatantly incorrect and actually contrary to reality.
God makes the ultimate nature of reality (and the ultimate reality of nature) known because the ultimate nature of reality (and the ultimate reality of nature) are revealed by God. When people look at nature and attempt to explain it, the only way that they can rightly make sense of what they’re seeing is to understand it in alignment with how God has revealed it to be. To not factor God into one’s understanding is to choose, from the outset, to work towards a wrong understanding (of anything). In other words, if you’re trying to work out the answer to a questions (i.e. 2 + 2) and you rule out the actual answer (4) before you even start examining the question, you’ll never arrive at the actual answer.
People who think that nature can be rightly understood (in any sort of ultimate way) by unregenerate men observing the phenomena of nature, whether storms or supercolliders, are thinking like worshipers of Ba’al, not worshipers of Yahweh. Nature is not entirely self-revelatory, and those who observe nature are not neutral in their supernatural leanings when it comes to supernatural explanations (i.e. Richard Dawkins and his hilarious comments about transplantationalism/directed panspermia).
So, not only is nature not the 67th book of the Bible, the whole concept is a blatant disregard for the 66 books that are of the Bible. The who idea also has more in common with those who worship Ba’al than those who worship Yahweh.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “awaiting the wide and amazing misunderstandings that will ensue” Unger