I went on ad nasueam about science’s inability to know a coin qua coin and a diamond qua diamond in the last post. And so, you may be asking:
- What does this have to do with the Adventure Science Center?
- How does modern science limit the glory of nature?
- What does any of this have to do with a discussion of double-vision, which was to be the focus of this blog series?
I will do my best to bring it around as painlessly as possible.
Nature is on display at the Adventure Science Center, but nature has something more to say than can be said in the strict context of modern science. This is not a complaint against science centers!
Another more radical way of putting this is that the glory of nature is to declare something beyond the context of mere nature.
All the elements of creation, individually and in unison, have something else to declare than their own material reality. That is, in a very strange and yet mundane manner, all of creation bespeaks the reality of God: His existence, power, order, wisdom, beauty, dominion, and glory (etc.).
What does this have to do with the current blog series? If you have just joined the discussion, or need some re-orientation, we have been discussing the nature of double-vision.
For instance, when I see a drawing of a man, I see both a drawing (made of paper, and pencil) and I see a man.
Or, when my parents spend time with my son and daughter, they see Elijah and Beatrice, and yet, they can’t help occasionally seeing me (or themselves). There is often a confusion of names that accompanies our time together these days.
In a similar manner, when we behold the heavens, we do not only see a sun, a moon, clouds and stars. We also behold something of their Maker. Nature, made in God’s image, is intrinsically double. It is a thing and an image of a thing other than itself. (cf. Romans 1:19-25; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3)
Imagine a man picking up a quarter and saying in all earnest, “this is no image, it is but a coin!” It would be clear to most people that while the quarter is a coin, it is also a representation of George Washington. Or more correctly, a representation of his profile (for he presumably had a torso).
A photograph is even more double in that it does not simply have a picture, but is a picture of something. One might point to a photo and remark: that is my father. What makes it a photo is the very fact that it is a photo of something else. And yet, for the most part, we would never mistake the photo for that which it is a photo of.
In the same sense, nature is an image of God. One does not behold the created universe and think: God looks like the sun or the milky way. Rather, it is a representation of God’s nature. A photo may picture a man’s face, but nature depicts order, power, consistency, wisdom, beauty etc. All of which are invisible things.
In one manner nature abides and exists in the context of power, order, beauty, glory, and yet in another, it suggests something beyond itself. This can be experienced intuitively (Romans 1) or logically (the five ways of Thomas).
Just as an original exists above and beyond any portrait, so too must nature’s glory be understood. Ancient wisdom occasionally strayed off course in the worship of nature. But this can be understood.
Nature presents man with an other. An other which is grand and terrible, gentle and violent, regular and unpredictable.
It is the Christian vision which says yes, present there is indeed the hand of God, but yet, God is not there (Genesis 1; Exodus 3; Exodus 19; 1st Kings 19)
The rest of this post will examine nature in terms of its participation in declaring its maker’s glory
As discussed in the post on Universals, each created thing is a word of God.
The sun is created through a divine speech-act, and what God speaks in that act (and thus speaks into being) is the sun. The sun is therefore a word of God.
God’s speech is creative and constitutive, powerful and intrinsically meaningful. It is communicative (communicating being) and deep.
Different from our own, God’s speech not only effects creation, but is not intrinsically vocal. Yet, the results of His speech, the embodiment or ‘word’ communicated can be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ in His creation, for his creation is the language He sets forth for us. His creation, constituted of words, is in its totality a word to us bespeaking his glory.
The signifying signs of God’s language, the resulting ‘words’ which we ‘hear’ are intrinsically meaningful in as much as they both display and participate in the reality which they declare, even as they are separate from the reality of God.
The visible word(s) of creation simultaneously evoke not merely the creation, but its creator. The sun silently declares its own nature and reality; yet, simultaneously it declares (in its own peculiar manner) the reality of its maker.
Each created being and object partakes of this double speech. We are here at last readers.
Thus each creation (and creation as a whole) partake of a speech which is same and other. Same as itself and yet other; same as the whole and yet other:
- The sun declares God’s glory in a similar but also unique way to all other things (same and other displayed in one)
- It also declares this same and shared reality in congregation with the cosmos (same and other displayed in the many)
The sun, as simply one word of God, can never bespeak its own being without simultaneously pronouncing the reality of its maker.
Thus each word of God, and so each visible and invisible reality of creation, presents a double aspect in its very being.
The declaration of the glory of God is not something other than the being of the heavens and sky. Rather, they make this declaration in their very structure and mode of existence. But what they declare is never simply themselves or their totality. Nor does this does not mean that God’s nature or glory is utterly, perfectly, fully, essentially or forcefully manifested, but that creation announces and images Him.
Just as with human speech, God’s words are not ultimately the things which they are about. But unlike human speech (for the most part), divine words always bear a an invisible likeness to that which it represents. That is to say that creation participates to some degree in the divine reality it images, by being like it and sustained through it.
It is this sustained likeness, this abiding as and within the words of God and ultimately the Word of God, which allows us to say that creation is meaningful (Acts 17:28). That is, it is meaningful in itself and/but only in relation to Him– in itself, but never apart from Him. Creation is never a self which stands outside the context (the words or Word) of God.
This is the real glory and fun of the Discovery Center. It is fun, not because it houses facts about the universe, but because these often surprising, beautiful, terrible, and wondrous facts (each individually and in harmony) declare the mysterious reality of God. They participate in his Image.
Whether this is a kind of double-vision or double-sight, our experience of such participation moves us beyond the merely empirical. Our recognition of sameness and otherness, of order, of beauty, of meaningful language and longing, all take us beyond what we can merely see or hear. It takes us to the invisible realm of cognition, and ultimately to the realm of faith.
The metaphors of sight and hearing (double-vision or double-speech) are equally apt. For they refer us to the way in which all of creation calls our attention to itself and simultaneously beyond itself. They refer to an awareness which is like sight or like hearing, and still more fundamental than any of the senses. For this awareness ultimately instructs the senses. This kind of knowledge is what Plato & Aristotle would consider noetic.
It is not the senses alone which tell us one thing is like another, but a more fundamental power of recognition. It is not our senses that ultimately tell us what is beautiful or good or true, but something else within. We might call this something else, the image of God.
In the next post, we will explore the image of God as it relates to mankind.
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