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Burnishing God’s Word

When I worked in the corporate world, I asked one of my outdoorsy work friends if he attended church. His response was “nature is my church.”  I perceived he knew about church as he spoke in a church lingo sometime; however, he chooses not to go to a church as an adult. Since then I have met numerous persons who have abandoned conventional Christianity, including Indigenous people who have said “nature is my church.”

Reverence for nature runs deep and is held in deep respect by Indigenous people. The Creator is evident in creation which surrounds us, and they know life is sacred. We can see it and experience it with our senses. We are part of it. Humility is acknowledging that we are not separate from creation; “we are all related” is a Native American saying. God has given all people general revelation which refers to God's revealing of Himself through nature or natural means. 

In addition, God has giving people special revelation which can be defined as a mystical communication from God that has been given to all humanity. This communication can come in either spoken or in a written method. The truths revealed by special revelation could not be known through looking at unwritten or oral tradition, nature, wisdom, history, and our conscience.

Instead of a barrier to spiritual life, creation is an entrance.

The incarnation of Jesus is at the heart of a creation-affirming spirituality. We meet God in creation because we meet God everywhere! Instead of a barrier to spiritual life, creation is an entrance. Indigenous people who live in a deep and harmonious relationship with nature have always known God's illumination of Himself through nature. 

Church denominations already have this significant doctrine of general and special revelation and the incarnation of Jesus that could fill a library; however, Indigenous people could help to rekindle and burnish special revelation and the incarnation to western Christianity. Why? Because western Christians often  take a dim view of the mystical and creation. 

God has come into this world and not come simply as a faraway visitor

For example, John 1:14 writing is scandalous, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . .” Western thinking would tell you what it means and read this text with a careful and methodical eye. The contribution of Native traditions to this reading is our openness to wisdom from many approaches beyond which rational thought would read these texts with a mystical, devotional, and supernatural lens.  These lenses together can make something beautiful.

I think in the ancient world and today, people think God was perfect and separate from creations. This world was less than perfect, defective, and not living in harmony with other people.  The amazing mystery of the Gospel is this, the hope we find in Christianity is not found in a creaturely hope that comes from this world. But also what we understand in John 1, God has come into this world and not come simply as a faraway visitor but came and appropriated the substance of this world to become terrestrial and material. So when we encounter Jesus, we discover Jesus was not just human solely, Jesus is the Son of God, the Word become flesh, and is God, and that is a very big difference. 

Jesus Christ in John's gospel is the point of contact that tells Indigenous people of the world where the divine reality and creaturely life meet. This is an important revelation to the world. Where Indigenous people might revere the creations, now we can worship Jesus because he is both creator and creation. God in giving us his creations was a foreknowledge of Jesus. To our “Nature is my church” folks one can now communicate this message that Jesus is perfect.  

In becoming flesh, God is deliberately drawing near to us, so that we may come to know Him.

Photo by Dan Kiefer on Unsplash


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