Saturday, October 31, 2020

From My Nature Journal: The Bible as 'An Outdoor Book'...

With my apology for my frustrating inability to find the time to write lately, I need to get a little assist this week and draw on another Wendell Berry quote I recently ran across.

I’ve just finished a newer book from Zondervan’s Biblical Theology for Life series entitled Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World, a 2018 publication by father/son academics Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo. It’s pretty good. The book is formatted with many quotable quotes in its margins, and I really liked one by Berry, who has long been one of my faves. Berry, an environmental activist, farmer, poet, essayist and novelist, has appeared in my blog before, one of my heroes. Here’s a link to my first post in which I highlighted him; you can find others through the index tab above, though I confess it has been quite some time since I fully updated my index. I’ll get to that some day.

When Wendell Berry speaks, many Christian environmentalist/naturalist types listen, and he is vastly respected outside the church as well. He’s one of the few voices of faith well known in the larger public sphere who does not embarrass Christians every time he opens his mouth. We need many more of those. I am less familiar with his essays than his fiction and poetry (an FYI shout out for my favorites – one of his poetry collections, A Timbered Choir, and his novel Jayber Crow), but I more often run across quotes from his essays, and value what he says in one about the Bible as a book best read outdoors:

I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a ‘hypaethral’ book, such as Thoreau talked about – a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.*

Hypaethral. How can you not like a word like that? It’s from the Greek by way of Latin and simply means ‘exposed to the heavens,’ as Berry infers. God’s most awesome cathedral IS outdoors, after all. So it stands to reason that God’s word might best be appreciated there. 

What do you think? I’m reading through the New Testament this fall with several dozen others in our church, so I think I’ll do some of my reading outdoors and see how it feels.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the skies his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make God known.” – Psalm 19:1-2

Get outside.
~~ RGM, October 30 2020 

*Source: Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, Community: Eight Essays (1993)

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