When God’s revelation through creation interacts with God’s revelation through the Bible, Christ’s lordship over all things is powerfully affirmed.
In 2006, Dr Masaki Hayashi made an amazing discovery. Studying the inflows and outflows of Lake O’Hara – a lake high in Canada’s Rocky Mountains – he stumbled upon an inconsistency: the inflows from surface water sources were significantly less than the lake’s outflows. How could this be? With further study, Dr Hayashi realised what was going on – there was groundwater in the Rocky Mountains above the tree line. Until this time hydrologists had only known about groundwater below the tree line.
Dr Hayashi describes the implications of his discovery for the Bow River (a major tributary that flows from the Rockies and feeds several Western Canadian cities):
“In the highest part of the Rocky Mountains, the peak snow melt is in late June or early July. If this snowmelt water came out very quickly then we would have a lot of water coming down the mountain in a few weeks and not much left afterward. A sizable fraction of snowmelt water and glacier melt percolates into the rocks and sediments and becomes part of groundwater. The groundwater remains in the rocks and sediments for a few weeks to a few months and slowly comes out to streams and maintains the flow during the summer and the fall. This is like storing snowmelt and glacier melt in a bucket with a slow leak. The bucket can buffer the effects of climate warming; for example, an earlier timing of snow melt, or more rain and less snow in early spring.”
Reading Dr Hayashi’s words, I couldn’t help but recall the miraculous Exodus story, where God brought water from a rock (Exodus 17). Apparently, this is how God works; he makes “rivers flow on barren heights” and brings “streams out of a rocky crag and [makes] water flow down like rivers” (Isa. 41:18; Ps. 78:16).
Held together in Christ
God is the kind of God who cares for thirsting people in sometimes surprising ways, whether in a desert over 3,000 years ago or in a globally warming world today.
When I consider this, alongside Jesus’ promise that all who drink of him will never thirst again (John 4:14), I tremble at his cosmos-holding presence.
Through the mind of Christ, the nature of mountaintops was first imagined. Through the spirit of Christ, Moses was led to strike a rock. Through the promise of Christ, our spiritual thirst can be satiated. And through the work of Christ (via a research scientist made in the empirical image of God) a hopeful creation-word was spoken.
Right now, Jesus truly is the Lord of all of these things…everything held together in him (Col 1:17).
A held-together moment like this is not merely a cognitive exercise or a this-is-that rational observation, it is a relational moment, a pulling-back-the-veil moment where Christ feels near – intimately near to us and to all things.
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A ringing bell
I’ve often wondered if this feeling is akin to how the New Testament writers might have felt when they were able to “see Christ” in the Old Testament in new ways once they’d met him (ie understanding that the suffering servant passages in Isaiah were pointing to Jesus). Could it be that we are meant to more clearly see Jesus through creation once we’ve met him though the Bible?
Biblical scholar FF Bruce writes that Jesus “used language which must have rung a loud bell, or several loud bells, in the minds of those hearers who had some consciousness of their people’s heritage [in the Old Testament]”. (Quoted in Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus)
It is this kind of bell ringing that I have been experiencing in relation to hearing Christ through creation. I notice things that seem to echo, reflect or rhyme with what I know of him through the Bible.
Which makes sense, doesn’t it? If the Spirit that hovered over the face of the cosmos and breathed everything into being is the same Spirit who directed Jesus’ life and words and is also the same Spirit who lives in us and gives us ears to hear, then shouldn’t we be hearing bells everywhere?
I believe God wants us to engage his word wherever it is spoken – through both the Bible and creation, and that God is using both books to reach us.
John Van Sloten is a community theologian in Calgary, Canada and author of God Speaks Science.