Nature – the first Bible

I recently had the privilege of taking a group of young children from church on a bug hunt at Ashburnham Place in East Sussex. Or did they take me? I’m not sure.

One of the toads found on the bug hunt
(sorry about the poor pic quality)

Their fascination and enthusiasm for the insects, woodlice, toads and other small creatures they discovered was simply inspiring. No wonder we talk about childlike wonder!

Chrysalis found hanging from tree bark on the bug hunt

I introduced the kids and their parents to the idea of Nature being the ‘first Bible’. As I explained, there seemed to be a lightbulb moment – for children and adults alike.

The Bible means different things to different people.

For some, it’s an outdated book of myths and contradictions.

Or a ‘weapon’ they’ve been ‘bashed’ with, to try and make them convert or conform to a particular brand of religion.

For others, it’s the LITERAL, INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD!

For me, the Bible as we know it, which was first compiled about 200 AD, is a uniquely inspired, messy and diverse collection of literature that has the potential to impart wisdom, wonder and faith, and ultimately to reveal the complex mystery and love of God.

Wild carrot – past its best now but still displaying its complex beauty

For me, the Bible’s variety of verse, presenting a spectrum of spiritual perspectives on life and God, helpfully reflects the paradoxes and contradictions of life, making it a relatable, believable book.

However, this was not the first Bible.

The first Bible is Nature, “written at least 13.8 billion years ago, at the moment that we call the Big Bang, long before the Bible of words,” as Fr. Richard Rohr puts it.

Recent moonrise

As early as the 4th Century AD, Anthony of the Desert made a similar assertion that there were two books of scripture: the Bible and Creation.

Or in the words of Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), “Creation is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine.”

Like the Bible of words, this first Bible – Nature – is, amongst other things, a uniquely inspired, messy and diverse collection of (living) literature that has the potential to impart wisdom, wonder and faith, and ultimately to reveal the complex mystery and love of God.

Like the Bible of words, the first Bible, with its strange brew of utter beauty, wild wonder, danger, and downright cruelty, reflects back to us the paradoxes and contradictions of life.

Sparrowhawk (sometimes seen as a ‘cruel’ predator), in our back garden

Standing with the diversity of each ‘Bible’, accepting and holding its differing perspectives simultaneously in tension can give us the strength of spirit to navigate the seeming impossibilities of this life.

The Bible itself is filled with invitations to study and meditate on Nature for wisdom and spiritual direction. Its pages are a constant stream of prophecies and teachings, from ancient prophets and from Jesus himself, inspired by the world of Nature.

Ancient oak – a haven for a wealth of wildlife

It’s almost as if the Bible is saying, “Don’t just look at me and enshrine my words – read the first Bible too! Its wisdom will literally jump off the pages at you!”  

A particularly colourful acorn on a younger oak

One small, simple thing I shared with the group on the bug hunt, which I hadn’t prepared but struck me as we were talking, was this:

“We look at all this Nature, and think how wonderful it all is, and marvel at its beauty. How much more, then, does God look at us, and think how wonderful and special we are.”

May you hear the voice of Nature, God and the Universe for yourself, as you look and listen to the world around you today.

Small Copper, Ashburnham

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(Photos all mine, but no copyright. Feel free to use / share, with my blessing!)

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