One of my constant interests has been the wonders of God’s creation. The varied vistas and panoramas, the tiny exquisite constructions and life forms, and the amazing life forms of our American landscape, as well as those I have visited on four other continents have continue to fill me with awe.
Dean Ohlman, The GeoChristian, shares his thoughts on this subject and some views of John Muir, the famous naturalist.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:3-12)
In one of his books, John Muir mistakenly attributed the death of a simple-minded neighbor to the man’s brother who was rumored to have forced him into such hard labor that the physically overtaxed man died and fell forward onto a pile of firewood he was splitting. Though no names were mentioned, the accused man’s son recognized that it was his father that the naturalist was describing as the abuser. So the man, then in his seventies like Muir, informed Muir that the rumor was not true—yet still confessing that he, like Muir, had been regularly beaten by his father merely for not working hard enough or meeting his father’s nearly impossible requirements. Muir felt so bad about the mistake that he had the publisher redo the book galleys. In a letter to his former neighbor, however, John spoke of his feelings about abusive parenting which grew out of his experience as the oldest son of Daniel Muir:
When the rod is falling on the flesh of a child, and, what may oftentimes be worse, heartbreaking scolding falling on its tender little heart, it makes the whole family seem far from the Kingdom of Heaven. In all the world, I know of nothing more pathetic and deplorable than a broken-hearted child, sobbing itself to sleep after being unjustly punished by a truly pious and conscientious misguided parent. . . .
Your father, like my own, was, I devoutly believe, a sincere Christian, abounding in noble qualities, preaching the Gospel without money or price while working hard for a living, clearing land, blacksmithing, able for anything, and from youth to death never abating one jot his glorious foundational religious enthusiasm. I revere his memory with that of my father and the New England Puritan types of the best American pioneers whose unwavering faith in God’s eternal righteousness forms the basis of our country’s greatness.
Editor of The Life and Letters of John Muir, William Bade, wrote of this incident:
In accordance with a fairly common custom among God-fearing pioneers of earlier days, morning and evening family worship was regularly observed in the Muir household. But how easily morning prayers may become a devastating substitute for a day of real religion was apparently exemplified glaringly in both these households. Under such circumstances children often react sharply, not only against the external forms, but also against the substance of religion. The religious convictions of a shallower nature than John Muir’s would never have survived the bigotry and rigor of his father’s training. [Emphasis mine].
In spite of the unloving, abusive nature of his father and the ugliness of Daniel Muir’s “Christianity,” John Muir’s writings exude expressions of God’s love and of the unfathomable beauty of God’s creation. An example of this is Muir’s thoughts on finding a dead Yosemite bear:
Toiling in the treadmills of life we hide from the lessons of Nature. We gaze morbidly through civilized fog upon our beautiful world clad with seamless beauty, and see ferocious beasts and wastes and deserts. But savage deserts and beasts and storms are expressions of God’s power inseparably companioned by love. Civilized man chokes his soul as the heathen Chinese their feet. We depreciate bears. . . . They are not companions of men but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for bears. . . . God bless Yosemite bears! [Read Job 38-41]
To me this sounds a bit like the biblical “naturalist” David who wrote of the Creator, “You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:20-24).
Daniel Muir’s “Christianity” suffered a great deal from mistaken understandings of biblical truth about the creation. It seems, however, that even more than a hundred years later, many followers of Christ the Savior are still depreciating the natural world for which Christ the Creator was, in part, crowned with thorns to restore, liberate, reunify, and reconcile to the Father (Acts 3:21; Romans 8:21; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).