Our theme for October is “Why I Believe.”
The creation, theologian David Hart insists, is a divine act of love and joy. Charity and kindness toward humankind. God didn’t have to make the world, and God didn’t have to make it good.
There was no reason for him to give us the many nooks and crannies our scientists study or the changes in the seasons or even evolution—there was no reason for him to create a world in which he would be creating things over and over again, in constant contact, allowing us to create good things.
God didn’t have to make the world, and God didn’t have to make it so beautiful. But he did, David Hart insists, and he gave it to us.
My husband, Michael, and I were driving from Indianapolis to Lexington to attend his grandparents’ recent memorial service at Asbury Seminary. The Midwest is no pinnacle of natural beauty. There are no soaring mountains and no rugged coastlines here. Central Indiana is as naturally flat as the floor in your house, but driving south has promise. The ground begins to wiggle, and eventually, near the Ohio River, it swells. Green everywhere, farms rolling with the hills. A muddy creek traveled beside us for ten miles or so.
God didn’t have to make the world, and God didn’t have to make it beautiful, but sometimes I think it is.
Nor, we all add with the betrayal burning in our throats, did he have to make the world so sharp, so brittle, and so cruel. Freedom of will could have been allowed without humanity’s capacity for sadism, without this concoction of society that creates systemic hatred and alienation and powerlessness.
A divine act of love and joy? That’s rich. As beautiful as the earth is, if this creation is a charitable gift toward humankind, God has given his children a stone instead of bread.
As we turned onto 275 and into Kentucky, nature became uniform and bland. We drove past the Creation Museum and made the appropriate jokes. I watched the thick tree-line on either side of the six-lanes to assuage my mourning for the muddy creek.
“I wish I could time travel back 300 years,” I told Michael. “I want to see what this would look like. I wonder if we would see things differently.”
For the next few miles we debated if—as his father once told him—300 years ago a squirrel could run on tree branches from one side of the continental United States to the other.
We began to see things differently—through the squirrel’s eyes, maybe—but still we traveled forward to a funeral. Michael’s grandparents were ninety-six and ninety-seven when they died. As missionaries, they saw swaths of the world and met hundreds of people from dozens of different cultures. Maybe by the time I’m ninety-six or ninety-seven I’ll see things differently. Maybe I’ll see divine love in the allowance of racial violence, torture, and marginalization.
Maybe I’ll understand why a stone-like gift is actually bread. Is that faith or curiosity? If it is belief, I believe in keeping my eyes open and my heart ready for change.
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).