Substituting Nature Religion for the Real God

Saturday Afternoon MusingsMajestic Mountains

C.S. Lewis writes about seeing “glory” or “an image of glory” in nature and its effect on us. We see beauty, we see majesty—and something happens in the deepest parts of our soul. Glory and longing, and love rise up in our souls.  We see a majestic mountain view, or a forest stream bathed in dappled sunlight, or a breathtaking sunset and we long to express love and appreciation for the glory that we see.

Our hearts cry out

“I need more of this” (need-love), or
“I want to protect and preserve this” (gift-love), and perhaps
“I give thanks for this and value this” (appreciative-love).

All of this is good and right. Our initial response is in sync with the design of the creation (Psalm 19:1).

But in all of this, our heart longs for more. We long for something behind the glory, something that is at once more permanent and even more glorious than the image or experience we are having when “glory” impresses itself on our consciousness. We want the thing that the glory in front of us points to. We want God. And our souls tell us this even if we fail to understand its dialect completely.

To find it, to find the One to whom the glory we see and experience in nature points, Lewis suggests that we need to take a detour.

We must make a detour—leave the hills and woods and go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees.
                                         (The Four Loves, chapter II)  

If we fail to take the detour, Lewis prophesies dire results:

[Our] . . . love of nature is beginning to turn into a nature religion. And then, if it does not lead to Dark Gods, it will lead to a great deal of nonsense. 

I think Lewis is right and I think we are seeing evidence of that in so much of our modern world. But nature religion is a poor substitute for the magnificence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Emmanuel. Let us love the creation. Let us protect it and preserve it. Let us subdue it for our good but let us leave a light footprint on its beauty. And above all, let us look to whom it points.

Let us, as Lewis advises, “go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees” and seek the living God who is more glorious than all of his creation.

2 thoughts on “Substituting Nature Religion for the Real God

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