After reading about the charge of Panentheism, and then quoting Wordsworth, that great poet of nature, I was reading my little Truth for All Time by Calvin a few days ago, and in it, under the heading What We Must Know About God, I read something I thought I’d share:
Since God’s majesty is intrinsically above and beyond the power of human understanding, and just cannot be grasped by it, we must adore its loftiness rather than scrutinise it, so as not to be entirely overwhelmed by such brightness.
This is why we must seek and consider God in his works which, for this reason, the Scripture calls manifestations of what is invisible (Rom. 1:19-20, Heb. 11:1) because these works portray to us what we could not otherwise know of the God.
We are not talking here about empty and frivolous speculations which keep our minds in a state of uncertainty, but of something which it is essential for us to know—something which does us good, and which establishes in us a true and solid piety, that is, faith mixed with fear.
In looking at this universe, then, we gaze upon the immortality of our God. It is this immortality which gives rise to the beginning and origin of everything which exists. We gaze upon his power which has created such a vast system and now sustains it. We gaze upon his wisdom which has brought into being such a great and varied array of creatures, and rules them in a finely-balanced and ordered way. We gaze upon his goodness which was the very reason why all these things were created and continue to exist ….
Indeed, it is so very necessary for us to be plentifully taught about God, and we really ought to let the universe do it for us. And it would do, if it were not for the fact that our coarse sensitivity is blind to such a great light …
We therefore have to come to the Word of God where, through his works, God is very well described to us. There his works are not evaluated according to the perversity of our judgement, but by the standard of eternal truth. We learn there that our God, who is the only God, and who is eternal, is the spring and fountain of all life, righteousness, wisdom, strength, goodness, and mercy. Everything which is good, with no exception whatever, comes from him alone. And so it is that all praise should rightly return to him.
And although all these things appear clearly in each part of heaven and earth, it is ultimately in the Word of God that we always truly understand what is the main goal towards which they are heading, what their value is and in what sense we should understand them …
What I hear him saying is that there is much we can, and indeed should, learn of God from his creation, but because of our blindness it is not where we receive our full understanding of God and his ways. As Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts “nature is not God but God revealing the weight of Himself, all His glory, through the looking glass of nature …” (which is not what I understand Panentheism to be). And as I read by Tim Keller recently “A fully Christian worldview allows us to fully delight in creation”. I don’t think anyone need be discouraged from an awe at and delight in creation, so long as it is rightly directed to God.