California poet Bill Everson affirms that “most people experience God in nature—or experience God not at all.”

A ranger teaches a child about plants in Atlanta’s community food forest (photo: U.S. Forest Service)

Not only do we experience God in nature but we can experience God in studying nature and in studying those who study nature, namely scientists.  Aquinas’s whole life was dedicated to studying Aristotle, the best scientist of his day, and relating those studies to theology.  He was harassed and ridiculed for doing so by fellow preachers who, like fundamentalists of today, said all revelation necessary is in the Bible.  But Aquinas felt otherwise, as we saw in yesterday’s DM,–“revelation comes in two volumes, nature and the Bible.”

Of course if revelation comes in nature, that includes human nature as well.  What humans can produce because of our “infinite” (Aquinas’s words) capacities for knowledge and love and creativity can also be a revelation of the divine.

Of course, the study of nature today is different from Thomas’s day insofar as we know so much more about the cosmos. 

The latest tool we are capable of misusing to distance ourselves from nature: the ability to connect to our technology anywhere. Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Were Aquinas alive now, there is no question that he would be head over heels with excitement to learn the marvels that science has revealed for us. He would be beside himself with the news of the 13.8 billion years it has taken to birth our world and the size of the universe in which we find ourselves. He would, in his own words, marvel at all these marvels. Or, shall we say, “get drunk with the plenty of thy house,” as we saw in previous DM’s.

It is telling, that the word “Lord” for Aquinas does not mean “lord and savior.” “Lord” for Aquinas is a cosmic title. He says:

The word ‘Lord’ means the maker of all creation. As in Judith 16: ‘All your creation serves you.’

The word “God” for Aquinas is not about “God and me” so much as about all of creation.

The word ‘God’ signifies the governor and provider of all things. To believe there is a God is to believe in one whose government and providence extend to all things.

“The God Song” from the Reclaiming Community. Originally posted to YouTube by PaganMusicChant.

His very definition of God extends to and embraces all of creation. He never wanders far from the sacredness of creation. And, of course, the word and work of God suggest classic concepts of the logos and the Cosmic Christ. “In the beginning was the Word (logos)” (John 1:1).

We turn to creatures to learn God for good reason.

Visible creatures are like a book in which we read the knowledge of God. One has every right to call God’s creatures God’s ‘words,’ for they express the divine mind just as effects manifest their cause. ‘The works of the Lord are the words of the Lord’ (Eccl 42:15).

We are to read creatures as we do books.  Each creature is another Christ.  Creatures can therefore be objects of the practice of lectio divina—and they ought to be. We contemplate them just as monks contemplate the biblical scriptures. Both spiritual practices awaken and strengthen the soul.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 17-20. 

See also:Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations on Creation Spirituality, pp. 59, 78, 80f., 75.

Banner Image: View of the cosmos and mountains at night. Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash.

Is it your experience that “most people experience God in nature or experience God not at all?”  Are you among those “most people”?  How deeply do we take the teaching of the “holiness of creation”?

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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3 thoughts on “God in Nature, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Dear Matthew, This is Hildegard of Bingen, Emily Dickinson, Nicholas Black Elk, and Thomas Aquinas broadcasting to let you know that we exist in Divine Ecstasy. We exist in the Divine Ecstasy that people like you, Richard Rohr, and others are explaining to humanity. It is beyond words for Us to express the gratitude We have for the Blessed efforts of everyone. We Are You. We Radiate a Beaming Cosmic Smile to All, US

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Personally I find it so much easier to see, hear, and know God in the creation of nature….then I can in the human nature. Mother Theresa once said that we must seek to see, hear and know this reality, that is often hidden behind distressing disguises. Perhaps the creation of nature knows how to simply surrender to being that which it is created to be…while humans seem to struggle with this? Why is it, in a general sense, that when humanity sees, hears and knows God’s creations in nature… they are so awed and filled with wonder at the inherent goodness and beauty we experience….and yet when we often look to each other we often do not experience this same response? Perhaps God’s creations of nature will awaken and teach us all how to really see, hear and know that same inherent goodness and beauty present in its presence within all of humanity as well… helping us all remember to simply surrender to being who we really are. The words … Be Still And Know THAT I Am resound like a struck bell calling us to simply surrender all of our distressing disguises.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, thank you so much for your comment and being willing to let us hear how you think in this comment. You speak of how it seems that it is so easy to be moved with awe and wonder at God’s creation in Nature, but not as easy to have the same response with our human counterparts. Maybe if we were trees, we would see the flaws that trees have, but we don’t perceive. And maybe they look on us with awe and wonder. I’m just sayin’…

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