Easter and Earth Day

Sunday, in addition to being Easter, was also Earth Day.  Earth Day always falls on the 22nd, and unlike the Philippines, we didn’t have the good sense to just move Earth Day to Monday to avoid stepping on the toes of Christians who think the Resurrection of God the Son is more important than “Mother Earth.”

But there’s no reason to turn this into another battle in the “culture wars.”  Instead, why not point out the fact that “Mother Earth,” which is to say, “Creation,” points to a Creator?  The laws of nature, and all of Creation, point to what the Declaration of Independence refers to as “Nature’s God.”  Look at how St. Augustine, in a 411 A.D. sermon during the octave of Easter, used the beauty of the Earth to show that we have a loving God:

“Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them; question all these things. They all answer you, ‘Here we are, look ; we’re beautiful.’

Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable? Finally in man himself, in order to be able to understand and know God, the creator of the universe; in man himself, I repeat, they questioned these two elements, body and soul. They questioned the very thing they themselves carried around with them; they could see their bodies, they couldn’t see their souls. But they could only see the body from the soul. I mean, they saw with their eyes, but inside there was someone looking out through these windows. Finally, when the occupant departs, the house lies still; when the controller departs, what was being controlled falls down; and because it falls down, it’s called a cadaver, a corpse. Aren’t the eyes complete in it? Even if they’re open, they see nothing. There are ears there, but the hearer has moved on; the instrument of the tongue remains, but the musician who used to play it has withdrawn.

So they questioned these two things, the body which can be seen, the soul which cannot be seen, and they found that what cannot be seen is better than what can be seen; that the hidden soul is better, the evident flesh of less worth. They saw these two things, they observed them, carefully examined each one, and they found that each, in man himself, is changeable. The body is changeable by the processes of age, of decay, of nourishment, of health improving and deteriorating, of life, of death. They passed on to the soul, which they certainly grasped as being better, and also admired as invisible. And they found that it too is changeable; now willing, now not willing; now knowing, now not knowing; now remembering, now forgetting; now frightened, now brave; now advancing toward wisdom, now falling back into folly. They saw that it too is changeable. They passed on beyond even the soul; they were looking, you see, for something unchangeable. So in this way they arrived at a knowledge of the God who made things, through the things which he made.”

Or look at how St. Paul, in Romans 1:18-21, makes the same argument. Paul’s point is that there

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

These are two sides of the same coin.  Augustine praises those who, seeing nature, come to believe in God; Paul condemns those who see the same evidence for God, but refuse to.  So it’s safe to say that Christians have good reason to celebrate Earth Day, since the Earth is a testament to God which even those who never hear the Gospel can see and understand.

Of course, this sort of celebration of Earth Day relegates the Earth as a beautiful gift from God, and as a means to come to see His eternal Power and Divinity.  Those who, instead, turn it into some sort of Gaia-worship are what the Bible refers to as “fools.”  Specifically, Paul, in the very next breath from what I quoted above, condemns those who see the beauty of nature, and worship nature (Romans 1:22-23):

While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

Paul’s specific objection is that these idolaters “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25). Or put another way, Creation can’t have created itself. You might as well claim that the Mona Lisa painted herself.  So Creation must have been created by a Creator, and that Creator must have been so wonderful and so powerful that He was capable of creating something so grand and so beautiful.

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