Wendell Berry: God So Loved the World

If we read the Bible … we are apt to discover several things about which modern Christian organizations have kept remarkably quiet or to which they have paid little attention.

We will discover that we humans do not own the world or any part of it: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein” …. In biblical terms, the “landowner” is the guest and steward of God: “The land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” ….

frog (2)We will discover that God found the world, as he made it, to be good, that he made it for his pleasure, and that he continues to love it and find it worthy, despite its reduction and corruption by us. People who quote John 3:16 as an easy formula for getting to Heaven neglect to see the great difficulty implied in the statement that the advent of Christ was made possible by God’s love for the world – not God’s love for Heaven or for the world as it might be but for the world as it was and is. Belief in Christ is thus dependent on the prior belief in the inherent goodness – the lovability – of the world.

We will discover that the Creation is not in any sense independent of the Creator, the result of a primal creative act long over and done with, but is the continuous, constant participation of all creatures in the being of God. Elihu said to Job that if God “gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh shall perish together.” And Psalm 104 says, “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.” Creation is thus God’s presence in creatures. The Greek Orthodox theologian Phillip Sherrard has written that “Creation is nothing less than the manifestation of God’s hidden Being.”

Picture1This means that we and all other creatures live by a sanctity that is inexpressibly intimate, for to every creature, the gift of life is a portion of the breath and spirit of God. As the poet George Herbert put it: “Thou art in small things great, not small in any … For thou art infinite in one and all.”

We will discover that for these reasons our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them ….

William Blake was biblically correct, then, when he said that “everything that lives is holy.”

Selections from The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry, Part V: Christianity and the Survival of Creation, pp. 307-308.

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