Idolatry is tricky business. We are so easily captivated by its pleasures and promises. Romans 1:18-32 shows us the dangers of giving undue attention to the creature rather than the Creator. John Calvin tell us in his Institutes that we as fallen sinners are “idol factories.” What is clear from Scripture is that we have the problem, not the created order. How can we love we love God and not the world? How can worship the Creator and not the creature?
For some of us who have been trapped in the snare of naturalism, we understand full well the call of the wild. We hear the enchanting whispering winds and and behold the majesty of snow-capped mountains. How easy it is to allow our highest affections to be dedicated to such beauty, to become entranced by its glory. Nature feeds our natural senses ever increasing our thirst and hunger for more. But is that all bad?
Before we explore that question, let me rebuke myself. In the sentence preceding the question, I took some poetic license by indicting nature as being the entity that creates “our thirst and hunger for more.” This may sound eloquent, but it is not accurate. One ancient writer has already taken poetic license to describe the primary function of nature. Under the inspiration of the greatest literary artist, the Holy Spirit, David penned, “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19). That is what nature does on top of all its practical function of giving man a place to inhabit and exercise dominion. It declares the glory of God.
I take the time to go through all of this to show how easy it is it slip in wrong thinking about the relationship between us and the Lord and his creation. Very often when I read different poets and other artists expressing their thoughts about God, I see a little too much creativity that has breeched the limits of biblical imagery and truth.
There is a time for creative expression, and there is a time for surgical precision; one wrong cut can lead to a bleed-out. Recently I read a beautifully written article celebrating the nature of music and how it reflects its Creator. Unfortunately this young artist was not grounded in his Theology Proper and spoke of God’s nature within creation. I am sure that this young musician does not want to be guilty of the heresy of panantheism, but that is indeed what happened.
Creativity never trumps orthodoxy. We serve a God who created all things, of which he utilizes via imagery in his special revelation to us in his written word, but what we know about our Lord and the grand of redemption is expressed in propositional truth, e.g. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
So back to the original question, is that all bad? Can or should we enjoy the wonders of nature and even things in culture? Yes, in as much as it draws our attention to the one true God who made it. When we recognize their assigned glory by God and give him the glory that is due to him, then and only then can we truly enjoy the things he has given us.