creation is bigger than nature

by Eric Daryl Meyer

Reading Jurgen Moltmann’s, God in Creation I came across another way (probably a better way) of saying what I was trying to get at the other day. Once we have a sense of our independence from the world around us, we have a proclivity to wield that independence over our surroundings in relationships of control and domination.

Creation is bigger than nature.

By “nature” we can signify all that is subject to scientific study and, on some level, to human control. The concept of nature is strongly tied to “natural law” so that nature is everything that follows predictable patterns of behavior. Over the last few century’s “nature” has expanded to include not only physical laws like gravity, but (viaDarwin and friends) biological development and behavior. The development of psychology aims to incorporate the human mind into nature as well–the “experimental” and “philosophical” branches attempting to account for the neurological (objective) and existential (subjective) aspects of the mind, respectively.

Yet, so far as nature has expanded, there has always been something outside it… the “I” of the critical observer. Scientific knowledge does not arise without some final motivation, nor does it remain mere knowledge–fodder for wonder and filler for five-inch textbooks. Scientific knowledge, at least in the form our society pursues it, aims toward technology, innovation, and greater control of our surroundings.

“Creation” on the other hand, signifies not only the totality of nature, but human subjectivity as well. Creation encompasses humanity but also humanity’s relationship with the entity which we have labeled “nature” in order to provide some distance between it and ourselves. As such, the study of creation entails an evaluation of human activity and human attitudes within the context of the whole planet.

Creation is an unavoidably theological concept because it necessary includes the consideration of purpose, value, motive, and desire. We cannot begin to think about creation without placing the actions of humanity into the context of a meaning that necessarily transcends humanity. Are we living in harmony with the meaning of the whole? Are we misunderstanding our place and our purpose? We can methodologically ignore these questions, but we cannot make them go away.

The study and “use” of nature must always be considered within the framework of our knowledge of creation as a whole. This is to say that whatever benefit is derived from the methodological distance between ourselves and the world’s law-abiding functions must always be understood in light of our relationship to the world. Recognizing that we are related to the planet and subject to its laws must come before any self-serving control we derive from understanding those laws.

Moltmann takes this view from the Genesis account of humanity’s relationship: So human mastery over the earth is intended to resemble the cultivation and protective work of a gardener. Nothing is said about predatory exploitation.(p.30)

Yet, according to Alexander Mitscherlich: Our relationship to ‘Mother Nature’ has hitherto been an undisturbedly infantile, predatory one. Our capacities for exploitation have grown to gigantic proportions; but the same is by no means true of our capacity for controlling our own emotional reactions as human being, and our own desires.

Creation is bigger than nature. The gap between them is the story of the Fall, extended in history.