“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,” declares Job (12:7). Do we really believe animals speak to us of God? The Anglican theologian Gerald McDermott’s Everyday Glory challenges Christians to look for God in all reality, from the dirt beneath our feet to the stars above our heads and everything in between—animals included. McDermott insists his book isn’t saying anything new: it’s “an attempt to retrieve a profoundly Christian way of seeing reality” (vii). In the past, Christians believed because the triune God made and sustained the whole universe, they could expect to see “traces of that Trinity” as they contemplated the natural world, history, and human nature. Two things of late have undermined this Christian vision of reality. The first is secularism, which robs the world of mystery, beauty, and any meaning beyond the scientific and material. The other has been tendencies in Protestantism (especially among evangelicals) to focus on sin and redemption to such a degree that we become oblivious to God’s presence in creation. As a result, modern Christians tend to view the world around us no differently than non-believers. And because we don’t discern God in his handiwork, our faith suffers for missing out on all he would teach and encourage us through his beauty, power and glory revealed in reality.
We Reformed Christians have confessions that proclaim the universe “before our eyes like a beautiful book, in which all creatures great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God” (Belgic Confession, 2). However, I suspect most of us know deep down that McDermott is on to something: secularism has rendered us illiterate to read this beautiful book. So let’s receive with gratefulness Everyday Glory and its call for “a conversion of the imagination.” With chapters on how God is revealed in science, sex, animals, law, sports, and world religions, and written in a clear and personal style, Everyday Glory has wide appeal. And pastors and educators will find the book rife with illustrations and examples for preaching, teaching, and conversation.
McDermott draws on several past Christian thinkers to guide his counter-cultural argument, leaning especially hard on the great Reformed theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703-55), who filled notebooks with jottings on how the universe was “full of images of divine things,” and whose thought was unusual in our tradition for its emphasis on God’s beauty. Like Edwards, McDermott makes a strong philosophical case for God’s revelation in reality. It’s not just that everyday things point to God like signposts or suggest metaphors for what God is really like. Rather, things and events actually participate as “types” of the greater reality of God and his story of redemption narrated in Scripture. McDermott spends an entire chapter examining how the Bible’s frequent use of types suggest a full-blown “typological vision of reality.” This strong typological case for how reality reveals God might be overdone. McDermott himself backs away from it at times to speak more cautiously of ‘patterns,’ ‘traces,’ or ‘hints.’ At other times, he sees things that apparently reveal God, which should, in my opinion, remain hidden to mortal eyes. If I wasn’t entirely convinced by the case made in Everyday Glory, I found myself wanting to be— as if my heart were yearning to see the world differently. (Baker Academic)