Created Nature

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In any discussion of nature, one of the things we must always be on guard against is this. We are a sinful race and when we sin intellectually, it is always with the materials that are ready at hand. We fail, when we fail, because we have not resisted our own temptations. We also failed because we tend to spend a lot of time and energy manfully resisting the temptation of another era. As Lewis puts it somewhere, confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers.

For example, in the time of the Deists, some thought of nature as something that had quasi-independence from God. And from that idea, it was the easiest thing in the world for a rising tide of atheism to dispense with the clockmaker and keep the clock. In this older view, nature runs the way it does because that is just what it does . . . things fall down when dropped because — Gravity. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.

So when you’ve gotten to the point where you think something called gravity makes things fall down, then you really have compromised with some form of autonomy. But gravity doesn’t make anything fall down. Gravity is the name we have for the phenomenon of things falling down – which is quite a different thing altogether.

If I had a hypothesis that said whenever I let go of a pencil over a table, the nearest pencil fairy grabs it and offers it as tribute to the fairy of the table, and it is part of their custom to always have the lesser fairy approach the more important fairy at a pace of 9.8 m/s squared, could I then establish my hypothesis by dropping pencils? No?

Everything in the cosmos is held together by the Word of God, and Jesus is in fact that Word. In Him, all things hold together. In Him, all things have their coherence (Col. 1:18). There’s no such thing as impersonal natural law, and any attempts to banish the concept of impersonal natural law should be met by shouts of acclaim. The winds and the waves still obey Him. There is nothing impersonal about it at all.

But men were sinning before the Deists showed up, and when they did, they did so with previous sets of materials. In the European setting, most of those materials involved some sort weird juju concerning the Virgin Mary, but that is another subject for another time. In our era, we are not tempted by the fixity of nature, but rather by the fluidity of nature. We don’t have nature operating like a clock, unless it is one of those clocks in a Salvador Dali painting.

And this means that men will now tend to sin with the available new fluidity, instead of sinning with the old fixity. It is quite true that we cannot absolutize nature, without reference to God’s Word. But at the same time, we can regard certain things within nature as fixed precisely because God made a point of fixing them.

Of course, some things He does not pour in concrete. For example, once I was a young man, and now I am not. There was no boundary on my youth that was somehow “unnatural” to cross. So a young man can turn into an old man, and we are not messing with anything by “allowing” this to happen. But if a young man decided to turn into an old woman, using some available surgery, he could not defend his confused perversion by saying that the idea of fixed limits in nature were somehow idolatrous. His sin remains unnatural. His sin is a sin against nature.

This means that any theological description of nature that links it entirely to the Word of God — a good and necessary endeavor — must have a means of identifying those elements of nature that God requires us to honor and obey. In other words there must remain specific laws from nature that obligate us fully, even when no specific command in Scripture addresses it.

There are many examples, but just take two — sex change operations, and intercourse with a sexbot. Does God forbid such things by means of nature? Discuss among yourselves.

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Drew
Drew
7 years ago

Yes, God does forbid such things by means of nature. And I think He also forbids anal sex between a husband and wife by means of nature, something I’ve had a quibble about with Mark Driscoll and other evangelical establishment types who think “anything goes” in the “context of marriage.” I don’t think so.

J
J
7 years ago

I’ll admit I had to read that post a couple of times before I arrived at a place that might be in the same town as Conclusion. With that said I’ll do the easier thing and interact with Drew… The problem I see with your statement is that it mixes the questions and switches the answers. Here is how I see the question you are asking. “Does God forbid anal sex between a lawfully wed couple (man and woman only) by means of nature?” You answer yes. Here is people like Mark Driscoll’s question “Is God’s command (in the context… Read more »

JDA
JDA
7 years ago

Doug,

I think the grammar fairy might have been out on a tea and crumpets break?

“As Lewis puts it somewhere, confront with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers.”

would read a bit better if it were:

As Lewis puts it somewhere, confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers.

Cheers,

JDA

A Wheelr
7 years ago

J, I could be wrong, it does happen, (it’s likely to happen even more today with a head full of sinus infection) but I think the point is that when we look at nature we need to start and end with God. As Doug said in the first paragraph, we are sinful and tend to stray in our views. The first of the 2 paragraphs you quoted is showing how we come up with our own “hypothesis” and then test it by our own standard to prove it true. The second paragraph is statement of truth from which we should… Read more »

J
J
7 years ago

A Wheelr – Thank you for your reply. I’m still not sure you have answered my question, but I have another one. If the way things are in nature, such as a bird flying or a fish swimming, give us laws we should not mess with then what is to stop this argument from being used in terms of medicine, technology, or any other “manipulation” that we have come up with to change our situation from what we had to something we deem better? This next statement may sound absurd but try to answer the argument and not the absurdity.… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
7 years ago

How does turning an infertile womb into a fertile womb (via the implantation of embryos that were made in a petri dish, for example) fit into this whole discussion? Control over fertility would seem to be one of the things in the Bible that clearly belongs to the domain of God.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Nature = Stuff

Stuff has no law, just description.

Those descriptions give info about what God requires.
And what God requires, He obligates.

The Westminster Confession at I1, however, needs to be amended when it says “knowledge of God … is necessary unto salvation” since nature doesn’t carry enough description.

Knowledge of God qua description is insufficient unto salvation, whether it comes from nature or Scripture.

A Wheelr
7 years ago

J, It is still a matter of your jumping off point. There is a boundary line in medicine, technology, and other “manipulation” that can be found, although it may require much working from God’s Word to see it. Of course, many people “advancing” medicine and technology are not looking for it. Some boundaries are obvious ones like fish & birds but there are a lot of obscure ones. It is an easy line to breech if we are not careful. If you look through the Bible, did God ever acknowledge physical maladies and restore a person’s health? Of course He… Read more »

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

So, what do we say to the people who were conceived in the petri dish, you shouldn’t have existed? BTW, the first in vitro baby is 35 this year.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

So, what do we say to the people who were conceived in the petri dish, you shouldn’t have existed? That sounds like a really mean approach to take. But is it fundamentally different from the logic of what we believe about children conceived out of wedlock, not in the “rushing the honeymoon” sense but in the “relations with reference to marriage” sense? A person will “exist” if God wills it, and God has obviously willed that every person who has ever existed, has existed. But that cannot mean there are no bounds on the ways in which children come into… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Sorry, that should be relations WITHOUT reference to marriage.

bethyada
7 years ago

If you’re going to read nature you need to access the facts of nature rightly and reason them rightly. Ignorance and unsound arguments inhibit this which suggests caution. If we reason from nature in an area that Scripture speaks to and get the same answer we are more likely to be reasoning correctly. It is also imperative to remember that the world was created perfectly but is now broken. God made men and women perfectly. Aging and illness is due to the brokenness. Addressing illness is reversing the effects of the Fall. Turning boys into girls is an affront to… Read more »

BC Cook
BC Cook
7 years ago

The difference between, say surgically repairing a limb, and surgically altering one’s sex (aside from the obvious failure within present medical technology to truly “alter one’s sex”,) is that with the former, we are attempting to redeem something (imperfectly albeit,) according to its original given nature. This as opposed to the latter example, where we are attempting to impose a new order upon that which is already given. Still, distinguishing between a spirit of “redemption” and one of “imposition” can sometimes be difficult to discern. Sometimes we get dizzy trying to address all the potential “opportunities” of approaching life. We… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Actually neither aging nor illness is revealed as due to the fall.
They may have been original design features.

BC Cook
BC Cook
7 years ago

Death is explicitly a product of the Fall, not an original Design feature. (“Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so sin spread through all men.” Romans 5;12) Although “aging” in the sense of maturation, (ie: a child growing into adulthood) might be argued as possibly being within the original Design, “aging” in the sense of an adult growing into an aged adult seems easily dismissed, as the forces at work in this process are primarily defined by entropy, which is a dying that leads ultimately unto a final death. Death came… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

“Natural” death is not taught by the Word a consequent of the fall.

in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Now for all you literal dayers, what makest thou of this?
Did He relent?

Or did not “death”, nay — not physical expiration, but awful, horrid, walking death not immediately overcome our first parents and us?

Yet, praise His mercy, we have been quickened — we who were “dead in trespasses and sins“.

Jonathan
Jonathan
7 years ago

That, Eric, is an example of something I said recently in another thread. That verse is stated so plainly that some people would say “it is a non-negotiable that Adam and Eve died a physical death the very day that they ate the fruit”. If it wasn’t for the fact that we almost immediately find that that wasn’t true. And the verses that are often put up as absolute non-negotiables are usually far more obscure than that one. Which, I believe, is the great difficulty in maintaining major positions on one or two debateable verses without much broader and stronger… Read more »