In this Banner Professor Don Oppewal observes that Christian Reformed folks tend to look only to the Bible to answer divisive issues (p. 36). He urges us to study diligently God’s general revelation as well. Only by carefully interpreting both general revelation (what God reveals to everyone through creation) and special revelation (the Bible) will we ever reach agreement.
I have my doubts. The “book of nature,” may reveal clearly our Creator’s divinity and power. But beyond that it gets fuzzy real fast. Our interpretation of God’s good (but fallen) creation is as prone to error and misunderstanding as the results of our Bible study. But in the name of “due diligence,” let’s give Oppewal’s suggestion a try.
Many nonbelievers “read” general revelation more carefully than most Christians. My family once moved next door to a New Age person. Glenda stopped by, seeking permission to hug our blue spruce tree—her daily habit. Once she’d walked past the tree without hugging it. It had been deeply offended. The spruce complained so loudly she had to turn back to apologize. We consented to let her hug our tree any time she/it wanted.
Glenda had a similar tussle with a yew bush. Her brother transplanted it to her backyard, but it whimpered all night. At the crack of dawn she sent her brother out to reverse the misdeed.
Glenda was very attached to nature but not to her (few) possessions. She offered us her skates. If they didn’t fit our daughter, we were to pass them on to someone who could use them. She emphasized that we don’t own stuff—we only manage it.
Once we took her to a Christmas candlelight service. She enjoyed the singing and lights. But she thought the preacher spoiled it with that looooooong commercial. Glenda preferred to meditate alone at the small shrine of dried flowers she’d set up in her hallway. She’d rather worship Mother Nature than Father God.
Because she stared herself blind on the one “book,” Glenda worshiped the creation instead of its Creator. But I agree with Professor Oppewal that Reformed Christians too often stare ourselves blind on that other book, special revelation.
That’s why John Calvin warned that the Bible is like a set of glasses. We’re not meant to look at them as much as through them—to see what Glenda was seeing but in the right, redemptive perspective.
I believe Glenda got it wrong by not studying both books. But she has much to teach us.
SUVs, iPods, and the other works of our hands to which we’re so addicted isolate us from God’s real world. Even standing right next to it, I never heard that spruce call out to me. Perhaps I was too preoccupied hauling out my garbage. And I admit I’ve never lain awake worrying over how I exercised my God-given dominion over a yew bush or a flower bulb.
I’m still not a tree hugger. But Glenda’s helped me hear God speak through the pigeons that are maneuvering in perfect formation outside my office window. It’s miraculous how they manage to be of one mind and yet fly so freely without bumping into each other.
When it comes to divisive issues, may we learn from them too.