The Sovereignty and Stewardship of Man Over Creation, as Seen in a Commercial

The advertisement below depicts all kinds of animals screaming in fear at the thought of a shark. Sharks do indeed inspire fear.

What is interesting is that Scripture says it is not sharks that inspire fear among the animals; it is we:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand (Gen 9:1-2).

While some larger animals occasionally attack (and even kill) human beings, such occurrences are rare and typically a result of fear we have incited in them. Even the fiercest predators generally avoid us, only engaging when they feel threatened. We are not a staple of any animal’s diet. In this matter we are unique, and we manifest the authority and stewardship God gave us over all living things.

Consider well, then, our dignity and responsibility as those appointed by God to oversee His creation.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Sovereignty and Stewardship of Man Over Creation as Seen in a Commercial

Creation, Too, “Longs” for the Healing That Christ Will Bring

In the first reading for Tuesday of the first week of Advent is expressed the implicit longing of all creation for healing. Isaiah tells us of the healing that will one day come to creation when prey lie down in peace with their predators:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Hence, when Christ from His judgment seat shall finally say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5), and when with John we see “a new heavens and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), I have little doubt that animals will share in that recreated and renewed kingdom where death shall be no more (Rev 21:4).

In this passage, St. Paul goes so far as to “personify” creation:

For indeed, creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).

Yes, creation itself eagerly awaits the day when God will say (in the words of an old spiritual), “Oh, Preacher, fold your Bible, for the last soul’s converted!” Then creation itself will be set free from its bondage to death and decay and will be gloriously remade into its original harmony and the life-possessing glory that was once paradise.

Maybe now, through the mystery of our interaction with our pets, God is giving us a glimpse of the harmony we will one day enjoy with all creation. Perhaps our pets are ambassadors for the rest of creation, a kind of early delegation sent by God to prepare the way and begin to forge the connections of the new and restored creation. Maybe they are urging us on in our task of making the number of the elect complete so that all creation can sooner receive its renewal and be restored to the glory and harmony it once had. Who knows? But I see a kind of urgency in the pets I have had over the years. They are filled with joy, enthusiasm, and the expectation of something great.

They show joyful expectation! Yes, there was a kind of joyful expectation in the dogs of my youth: running in circles around me, dashing to greet me when I arrived home, and jumping for joy when I announced a car ride or a walk. My cats have always sauntered over to meet me at the door with a meow, an arched back, and a rub up against my leg. Somehow our pets manifest the passage above: creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19).

While I realize that we humans often project what we want their behavior to mean, I am still fascinated by the way our pets come to “know” us and set up a kind of communication with us.

Dogs, especially, are very demonstrative, interactive, and able to make knowing responses. Cats are more subtle. My cat, Jewel, knows my patterns. She also knows how to communicate to me that she wants water, food, or just a back rub. She’s a big talker, too, meowing each time I enter the room. Sometimes I wish she could just tell me what she wanted!

Yes, this interaction with our pets is indeed mysterious. I am not suggesting that animals are on a par with humans intellectually or morally; Scripture is unambiguous that animals are given to us by God and that we are sovereign stewards over them. However, animals—especially our pets—are to be appreciated as gifts from Him. Scripture is also clear that animals will be part of the renewed creation that God will bring about when Christ comes again in glory.

They are part of the Kingdom! Without elevating pets (no matter how precious to us) to the full dignity of human beings, it is not wrong to think that they will be part of the Kingdom of God in all its restored harmony and beauty.

One day when Christ comes again, creation, now yearning, will receive the healing for which it longs.

The first song in this video, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” takes some of its lyrics from earlier verses in Isaiah Chapter 11, from which we read this day.

On the Cosmology of Fireworks

One of the great paradoxes of creation and our existence in God’s world is that many blessings are unlocked by explosive, even violent, forces. The cosmos itself is hurtling outward in a massive explosion. Here we are, living part way through that explosion.

When I consider the fireworks on the Fourth of July, I often think that each of those beautiful, fiery explosions is a miniature replica of the cosmos. Everywhere in the universe, the burning embers we call stars and galaxies glow brightly as they hurtle outward at close to one hundred million miles per hour. Yes, from one great singularity, God sent the power of His fiery, creative love expanding outward, giving life, and seeming almost limitless. The cosmos is unimaginably large, but its creator is infinitely large.

Even here on Earth, a relatively cool and stable bit of dust compared to the Sun, we stand upon a thin crust of land floating over an explosive sea of molten, fiery rock. The Book of Job says,

As for the earth, out of it comes bread; Yet underneath it is turned up as it were by fire (Job 28:5).

This fiery cauldron produces the rich soil in which we grow our very bread. The smoke and gases of the fires provide essential ingredients of the atmosphere that sustains us. The molten fires beneath us also create a magnetic field that envelops Earth and deflects the most harmful of the Sun’s rays.

Yes, all around us there is fire with its explosive violence, yet from it come life and every good gift.

To small creatures like us, God’s expansive love can seem almost violent. Indeed, there are terrifying experiences near volcanos and from solar bursts that remind us that love is both glorious and unnerving. It is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of a living God (Heb 10:31).

In some of our greatest human works, we too use violent means. The blades of our plows cut into the earth, violently overturning it. We raise animals and then lead them to slaughter for food and/or clothing. We break eggs to make omelets. We stoke fires to cook our food and warm our homes. We smelt iron and other ore we violently cut from the earth. Even as we drive about in our cars, the ignition of the fuel/air mixture in the engine causes explosions, the energy from which is ultimately directed toward propelling the vehicle.

Violent though much of this is, we do these things (at least in our best moments) as acts of love and creativeness. By them we bring light, warmth, and food. We build and craft; we move products and people to help and bless.

Yes, there is a paradoxical “violence” that comes from the fiery heat of love and creativity. The following is an excerpt from Bianco da Siena’s 14th century hymn to the Holy Spirit, “Come Down, O Love Divine”:

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming

Fire—can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Let the fire burn; let the seemingly transformative “violence” have its way. It makes a kind of paradoxical sense to us living in a universe that is midway through its fiery, expansive explosion of God’s love and creativity.

Disclaimer: I am not affirming gratuitous violence for selfish and/or merely destructive ends. The term “violence” is used here in a qualified manner, as an analogy to convey the transformative and creative power of love phenomenologically.


Where is the Dwelling of God?

The following old Hasidic story was related by the late Jewish philosopher Martin Buber:

“Where is the dwelling of God?” This was the question with which the Rabbi of Kotzk surprised a number of learned men who happened to be visiting him. They laughed at him: “What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of his glory?” Then he answered his own question: “God dwells wherever man lets him in.”

Indeed, there is only one place in all of creation where God will not go without permission; that place is our own heart. Jesus says,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me (Rev 3:20).

Yes, God knocks. He does not barge in. He is not rude or overwhelming; He knocks.

God fills all creation with His glory, but our heart has such an influence that if we do not admit Him there, we may well miss His presence elsewhere, including creation. Today there are some who deny God’s glory, which is so clearly manifest in creation. “No,” they say, “it’s all the result of random mutation, blind evolution. There’s nothing to see here, no one to see.”

If God is refused entry to our heart, our minds easily fall into vain reasoning. Of this St. Paul writes,

For what may be known about God is plain to [the Gentiles], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and senseless hearts were darkened (Romans 1:19-21).

To those who admit God into their heart, who open the door, His glory is seen everywhere.

The spacious firmament on High
With all the blue, ethereal sky!
And spangled heavens a shining frame;
Their great original proclaim!

Another song says,

O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain

If we admit God into our heart, suddenly the world lights up with His glory. We become “mystics on the move.” The world is full of God’s glory, and reason alone can conclude the existence of a creator from observing the book of creation, but if we open the door of our heart to God we are struck with wonder and awe, and we see the glory of the Lord as never before and in an ever-deepening way.

Look up to the stars. There is more there than just suns, planets, galaxies, and the vacuum of space. There is a revelation of God’s glory and love, a revelation of God Himself in His handiwork. Consider the stars and planets; learn their proclamation:

Though they in solemn silence all
move round our dark terrestrial ball;
And though nor real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found;
in reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice,
forever singing as they shine,
‘The hand that made us is divine!’

Does the Lord dwell in your heart? He will only dwell there to the degree you allow Him.

Let Him in and watch creation light up as never before. Yes, the world is full of God’s glory—do you see it?

Joy and Mystery, as Seen in a Commercial

by Amy Lohrman

Two things occurred to me after watching the video below.

First, God’s law is not burdensome; it is a joy. The safest place in the world is inside the will of God.

The students in the video below are given a homework assignment: they are to investigate the law of gravity. The very study of it unlocks a few days of fun-filled activity. I have found this with God’s Law as well. I love to read Scripture and ponder God’s ways. It has become my joy and is tied into wonder and awe. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! ( Psalm 119:97, 99)

Second, gravity is one of God’s greatest mysteries.

We can measure it, but we do not know what this strange force is. What is this mysterious attractive force? Are there invisible cords that draw us? We see its effects but we do not see it or know what it really is. It is, even to physicists, one of life’s imponderables.

O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

Enjoy the mystery of gravity!

Order! Order! A Meditation on how the mystery of order proclaims the glory of God

By Jengod at en.wikipedia  Licensed under  CC-BY-SA-3.0  or  CC-BY-SA-3.0
By Jengod at en.wikipedia Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0

One of the things that most amazes me about the universe is its order. And its order is even more striking for its context of another widespread force: disorder, the tendency of things to fall apart. Let me explain.

When we look at things we can observe that, left to themselves, things tend to fall apart and and become disorderly.

Consider for example a house in Detroit (Photo upper right). Let’s say that in 1890 human beings assembled basic elements like wood, nails, brick, glass, and so forth and ordered (or assembled) these materials into a complex system known as a “house.” It has divisions, known as rooms and other structures that supply electricity, ventilation, water and so forth. It has a purpose, known as “shelter.”

Now, as long as humans live in or near the house and maintain it, the house continues to exist as an orderly and purposeful system. But suppose now it is 1985 and, due to the economic factors, the house becomes abandoned. Within a few years the order of the house will begin to decay. Perhaps within fifty years it will have completely collapsed and been reclaimed by the earth.

This illustrates the tendency of things to fall apart unless they are acted upon by some force outside themselves to order and sustain them.

The Paradox of order – As we look around in the natural order we observe the tendency of things to fall apart or revert to less complex states. For example, mountains erode, compounds breakdown into elements, living organisms and systems die and return to dust.

And yet we ALSO observe the exact opposite. All around us is order and purpose. Somehow natural things have sprung up into orderly systems. Explosive disorder (the big bang) where things moved rapidly apart, have swirled into orderly and complex systems known as Galaxies and solar systems. Here on earth from the most basic elements of dust and water, complex life forms have developed. These life forms exhibit order and purpose. A complex ecosystem interacts at multiple levels and exhibits tremendous order and synergy. And all of this exists in world where we also learn that, without some unifying force things tend to fall into disorder.

Life is ordered energy, and death is disordered energy. And yet, from a purely natural perspective order seems to exist in the midst of a lot of disorder and a strong tendency of things to fall apart.

So where does order come from and what and directs the purpose and complex interaction and order of all things? Order points to purpose, purpose points to intelligibility, intelligibility points to intelligence. To every atheist I know, which is not very many, I ask, why is there order, rather than disorder? Why is there order even in the midst of disorder. What causes it. Why do things seem to work for a purpose and attain an end. The universe manifests a tendency to fall into basic elements. What causes complex interactive systems that are intelligible, manifest a purpose and attain to an end, to emerge out of things that otherwise tend to fall apart? Frankly, why is there existence at all? And whence does order and complexity have its origin.

To me, as a believer, Creation shouts the existence of one who orders and directs it. We who believe call this someone, “God.” It seems evident to me that without God’s purposeful ordering of things, the tendency of things to fall apart and return to basic, less complex systems would envelop all things. Just like the abandoned farmhouse described above, all the complexity and biodiversity we see in the world around us would collapse and be reclaimed by more basic elements. Like the farmhouse, something or someone sustains all this, and orders it in a way that is intelligible and rational since we see order and purpose in it. Creation shouts out God.

Of course all my feeble musings point to a much better articulation of the point by St. Thomas advanced in the Summa:

The fifth way [of demonstrating God’s existence] is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. (Summa I, 2.3)

Here is a beautiful video that rejoices with wonder and awe at what God has made. Such beauty, such order, such glory, the glory of God:


Forever Singing as they Shine, the Hand that Made Us is Divine: A Consideration on the Hymn of Creation

A certain number of comments that come over the transom here at the blog never see the light of day. Perhaps they are unnecessarily hateful, contain profanities, or are personal attacks on other commenters, clergy or other public figures.

One such comment came recently which I did not post for just about all the reasons I just listed. Among his profanity-laden words, was a sneering denunciation of  God as “your magical sky-fairy” (sic). Our combative commenter, and self described consumer of “brave science,” may be surprised one day to meet our true and living God who is in fact no little “sky-fairy” but is Deus Omnipotens (God All Powerful).

It is a strange and remarkable thing to me how, in this age of discovery, where we have discovered such magnificent realities that show a universe steeped in order and unbelievable size, that increasing numbers of people want to hold that the whole thing is just dumbly there. In other words, to increasing numbers today, the obvious order of the universe is accidental; we human beings are simply the result of random, blind, and unguided mutations; all the order of creation we can plainly observe, and the sophisticated interdependent systems which give rise to complex life, are all just accidental. We are asked to believe by some that all this obvious order, an order that no one can miss, somehow leapt together, unguided and accidentally, from a primordial dust and soup; that from disorder, came order. Yes, and, although things tend to fall apart and go back to their basic components (the Law of Entropy), nevertheless, in this case, we must believe that in a somehow random and accidental way, things actually moved from disorder to order, all their own, even though, as some insist, no outside force, energy or intelligence acted on them.

To me this sort of belief requires more “faith” than simply to believe that a higher and intelligent being (whom we call God) both created and introduced the order that is so obvious in the universe and in this world, not to mention our bodies, down to the smallest cells and atoms. And to be sure, the atheist/secularist notion of random, unguided, accidental order is a  belief, for its conclusion is outside of what science can study or demonstrate. For all the denunciation by many atheists of Philosophy, Theology and Metaphysics, those who deny God’s role in creation are not making a scientific claim, they are staking out a philosophical, theological and metaphysical claim and asking others to believe it. To me, such a “belief” in the random, unguided, and accidental existence of things, in the face of such overwhelming and consistent order is unreasonable in the extreme.

The whole universe shouts Order! Consistency! Intelligibility! Our bodies, and every delicately functioning system on this planet all echo back the refrain: Order! Consistency!  Intelligibility! And while I cannot, and do not, ask a scientist to specifically affirm the Biblical and Christian God and our whole Catholic Theological tradition by science, the existence of consistent order in the universe and in the world is plainly obvious, and serves as the basis of the whole scientific method. For if things were truly random, and not orderly, intelligible, or predictable, science could not brook theories, test results, or verify them. No experiment would turn out similar results if everything acted randomly. The scientific method presupposes order and consistency within a verifiable range. Thus while science need not draw conclusions as to how this order came about, it is wholly inappropriate, as certain scientists have done, to be dismissive of believers who conclude from order that someone ordered it so.

Yes, what a glorious and magnificent thing creation is. And to this believer it loudly proclaims God who made it.

There is a beautiful hymn that I have seldom heard sung in Catholic Parishes, that takes up the voice of creation, especially that part of creation we call the stars (firmament) and the planets. The hymn is a gloss on Psalm 19, and, to me, it is a minor masterpiece of English poetry. It was written by Joseph Addison in 1712.

It comes from a time before skeptical agnosticism and hostility to the very notion, (let alone existence), of God had taken deep root in our culture. And, frankly, it also comes from a more sober time that was able to accept the plainly obvious fact that creation is ordered, and therefore was ordered by someone in a purposeful and intelligent manner. That someone we believers call God.

Consider the beautiful words of this song and its reasoned conclusion that, as Psalm 19 notes, creation shouts its Creator.

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator’s power display;
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth:
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll
and spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice;
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

Yes, the hand that made us is divine, and He has done a marvelous thing!

Here is a sung version of this wonderful song:

The Majesty of God is Manifest in What He Has Made – A Meditation on a Great Hymn of Creation

OK, it’s gotten controversial to say it, but I want to say it anyway, that creation shouts its maker. It reveals its creator, and manifests its God. While the more militant atheists the more extreme followers of scientism and secularism may well scoff and urge believers like me to the door, I want to say again, I see God in what he has made, and he has done a marvelous thing.

Scripture often sings of the majesty of God manifest in what he has made. Some of my favorite verses in this regard come from the song of creation at the end of the Book of Sirach:

  1. The sun at its rising shines at its fullest, a wonderful instrument, the work of the Most High! Great indeed is the LORD who made it, at whose orders it urges on its steeds. (Sir 43:2,5)
  2. Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor (43:11)
  3. The thunder of his voice makes the earth writhe; by his power he shakes the mountains. (43:16)
  4. He makes the snow fly like birds; Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes, the mind is baffled by its steady fall. (43:17)
  5. Those who go down to the sea recount its extent, and when we hear them we are thunderstruck; In it are his creatures, stupendous, amazing, all kinds of life, and the monsters of the deep! (43:23-25)
  6. Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen! (43:32)
  7. More than this we need not add; let the last word be, he is the all! Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works; (43:27-28)

Yes, creation shouts, proclaims and sings the Lord who made it. And we too, who believe ought to take up the song, today more than ever. For increasingly there are those who see the created world only as an impersonal machine of sorts, rather than a living revelation of God. We who believe must take up the ancient song, too easily cast aside by a secular world. Some may call us fools, but at least add that we are fools for Christ!

With that in mind I would like to share with you a minor masterpiece of English and German hymnody that will help us take up the song.

Some of you who read this blog regularly know that I am a fan of hymns, and especially those from the English and German tradition. One of my regrets is that, when we went over to the use of English in the Mass here in America, we did not draw more deeply on 400+ year tradition of hymns, but instead went to mimeographed and stapled song sheets containing mostly (poor) folk music, quickly composed to fill a gap. Many of the great hymns in the English hymnals were often beautiful translations of old Catholic, Gregorian hymns. The German hymnals also effectively imported ancient material and adapted it well. Many of the German hymns were then taken into the English hymnals as well.

And this song of creation taps into these rich traditions. I consider the song a minor masterpiece in terms of its poetic rhyme and the various tunes (Usually Haydn’s Creation) are also quite wonderful. Consider this text which is a gloss on Psalm 19:1-6):

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
Unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator’s power display;
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth:
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll
and spread the truth from pole to pole.

And though in solemn silence all
move round our dark terrestrial ball?
And though no real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found.
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice;
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine!”

Yes, the hand that made us is divine! And note the way that the text says, “In reason’s ear” for I will assert what was never controversial until the last Century, that the created world demonstrates to our reason, our intellect, that all this was created by an intelligent, orderly (and I would add) loving Creator. And this Creator we call God. Some in this modern world will call us kooks and fanatics, but at least add that we are kooks for Christ, and fanatics who are trying to be faithful.

What a magnificent poem indeed. Imagine the stars and planets, forever singing as they shine, “The hand that made us is divine!” And remember, as Sirach (Jesus Ben Sira) said above: Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen!

Here is a version of the song sung to a different melody than is commonly used, but I post it first because of its higher production quality:

And here is the traditional melody :