Natural Theology

The subheadings for fourteen RS/Priesthood/YM/YW lessons on God gleaned from Natural Theology

I. God is far too complex to understand. Too intricate. Too magnificent. Too cold and pitiless like the blank places between galaxies. Hotter than the nuclear engines of massive suns. Too far. Too close. Neither microscopes nor telescopes can contain, compress, nor bring Him near or drive him away.

II. God can be cruel and unbending, like the eyes of a wolf or the blood-covered jaws of a lioness. He is unrelenting in His pursuit. He follows you into darkness or light. God sticks to the trail and if you pause and listen you will hear His breathing close behind. There is no escape. God is a predator.

III. To focus on one detail or one process—one leaf, or the vain of a leaf, or the cells on the vain of a leaf—obscures, and forces Him into a box into which He will not go. God is wild and cannot be tamed or made to fit in any cage.

IV. God cares for His own. Like the mother crocodile He carries his offspring from the sandy shore where they peep and cry to the river—where they flourish in abundant flowing water.

V. God is beautiful. Beautiful but very dangerous.

VI. Sometimes God scatters His influence far and wide hoping it will find a home like the eggs of a parasitic wasp laid deeply in the flesh of a hapless caterpillar. Some eggs are lost, but some go on to hatch, pupate, escape the host, become an adult, and search for their own host. God is a parasite.

VII. God goes on and on. He can be damaged but never stops. Just as Spring follows Winter, God rides cycles and cycles within cycles.

VIII. God can be scarred and has been. Only slowly does His mending take place. Sometimes it takes eons. There are things God has never recovered from—cannot recover from.

IX. God can be studied, but you can’t control all the variables and what you find in the laboratory will be much different than what you find in the field.

X. To experience God you must immerse yourself in Him. Quiet all other voices and flee anything of your own contrivance. Then, in the stillness of thunder and the hush of crickets you will feel Him—more or less.

XI. There is no crack so small that He cannot not invade. No barrenness that can long withstand Him. He comes on the wind, on the waves, from every direction. Like the first seeds arriving on the gale after the emergence of a volcanic island scouring or the wandering flies after a flood. Even great wastelands cannot long withstand His healing.

XII. On peaceful days, God sits and chews on His creation. He chews over the birthing of our bright universe. God chews and chews and chews. Sucking sweet juices from abundant grasses. God is a herbivore.

XIII. God is all around you. Out your window you can see Him, or in high corners you can see where He builds a small web. Brush it away and he builds another. He can never be completely dismissed–you are part of Him, part of the fragile threads that He watches patiently from his hiding place.

XIV.

The End

Painting: Detail from The Apocalypse, by Ernst Fuchs. The mural is painted in The Chapel of St.Egid, Klagenfurt

Comments

  1. This is beyond awesome. Especialyy 7 and 8.

  2. Awesome. While I was doing research at Harvard over the summer, I went through boxes of teenage students’ natural theology notebooks from the eighteenth century. They were cool.

  3. 1 + 2 + 3 = extraordinary.

    8 (wow) through 13 = grand crescendo of truth/beauty.

    6 = mandatory addendum to Preach My Gospel.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    VIII needs some explanation please.

  5. Steve, Look at D&C 19:18. As Eugene England notes he cannot even finish the sentence at the memory. Also look at his hands.

  6. His scars define who He is. And interestingly (and as an addendum to my last post), it is the scars, the marks of His execution, that capacitate recognition of Him in His true identity and being.

  7. Steve Evans says:

    Not disagreeing, just wanted to flesh out the idea.

  8. Just gorgeous, Steve. I wonder if the answer to “How are we to understand God resting on the seventh day?” isn’t something just like your #12. Love it.

  9. Left Field says:

    This is off-topic, but don’t click on the “than vs then” link on the sideblog. It was amusing, but there was stuff there that badly messed up my Firefox.

  10. Great stuff, Steve.

  11. This seems to be coming from a similar place as Ralph Waldo Emerson (among many others): “The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere and its circumference nowhere.”

    Likely, though, the more direct link would be Borges’ Fearful Sphere of Pascal and Library of Babel.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    John Mansfield, you’re more right than you know. Have you read Steven Peck’s expansion of the Library of Babel idea? His novella A Short Stay in Hell is really worth reading.

  13. Thank Steve! (And I do love me some Borges).

  14. I’ll have to chew on this myself.

  15. Wow. Steve, you are fast becoming my favourite Mormon intellectual. Here’s hoping that in 2012 your voice will be heard far and wide.

  16. Ronan: you’re just now coming to that conclusion? Get with the times, man.

  17. Thanks SteveP! So everything I know about natural theology at the moment comes from 1) this blog post and 2) Wikipedia as of about 3 minutes ago. Worthy of note, though, is that it does seem like all my spiritchal reflection as of late starts with thinking about photosynthesis. Hmmmm….

  18. mellifera, that’s a great place to start!

  19. This is very good. Natural theology was trashed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It needs to be rehabilitated–at a higher turn of the spiral. This is a step in that direction.

  20. Frank Bisti says:

    I assume,based on past reading of many posts here that have led me to have confidence in your intelligence, that this post and the effusive praise in most of the comments, are all meant to be sarcastic. While poetic and mystical (as in “magical worldview”), it is otherwise useless and vapid.

    Dave G says: …”It needs to be rehabilitated–at a higher turn of the spiral.” A rose by any other name is still a rose. In the case of “natural theology” baloney is baloney.

    Teach me. What am I missing?

  21. Frank, I suppose that whether the emperor has clothes or not only time will tell.

  22. Frank, what you’re missing is a sense of decorum and generally an awareness of how to avoid sounding like a total dick. Does that help?

  23. Nicely put, Evans.

  24. Raymond Takashi Swenson says:

    And what does this have to do with Mormonism?

  25. #24: I think it epitomizes Mormonism pretty well.

  26. Raymond: I don’t understand your question.

    Frank: Baloney is an American sausage derived from and somewhat similar to the Italian mortadella (a finely hashed/ground pork sausage containing cubes of lard that originated in the Italian city of Bologna). It is commonly called boloney, baloney or, more formally, bologna. In Pittsburgh and the surrounding area of southwestern Pennsylvania it is called jumbo. U.S. government regulations require American bologna to be finely ground, and without visible pieces of lard. Bologna can alternatively be made out of chicken, turkey, beef, pork, venison or soy protein.

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