I was driving home out of hope.
My mom had spoken about the promises of God to me and that seemed good. As I came into the driveway, I looked up and there was a rainbow stretching over our house. This was good. God used that moment to help keep me from despair.
There have been other times that the combination of nature and some human structure reminded me of God’s justice and mercy.
Later, thinking about those moments, I realized that the cosmos was full of signs. There were warnings against doing evil, sometimes ignored, sometimes heeded. There were signs of God’s faithfulness, sometimes ignored, sometimes heeded. Obviously, this is not true just for me or even especially for me.
The Heavens declare the glory of God.
This does not mean that God tinkers with the cosmos just now to cheer me up or warn against doing wrong. Yet the cosmos is designed and full of meaning from the beginning in the foreknowledge of God. The cosmos is interconnected, every action, every object impacted by every other. With billions (at least) of beings with free wills, including God, some particulars change and some are (practically) unchangeable.
Consider: the cosmos is constantly proclaiming the glory of God, warnings about the judgment of God, reinforcing the meaning, the goodness, truth, and beauty of the world. Broken people hide this at times: our light pollution blots out the stars. Yet humans also at our best, the business people, the artists, the fathers and mothers, garden, create, and build on the core messages of the cosmos.
When I say all this, the critic in me says, “If the message is always there, a rainbow for all to see, then there is no message.” This is as foolish as thinking that a book being always on a shelf, being picked up and read by a woman, the message of that book helping her was not “to her.” If Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre to wrench romance from mere passion, but show how passion, liberty, and law can work together in a woman, then a woman finding Jane Eyre and seeing and finding joy in the message is reading the book aright.Charlotte Brontë being dead, yet speaks.
God has this advantage over Brontë. He can prompt us, if we are listening, to see what is always there in a new way. He can use the vast volume of meaning build into God’s cosmos to speak to us just now. Imagine the cosmos as a vast library with many volumes worth of meaning and God waiting to point us to just this book. In fact, God did call me, I believe, to take and read Jane Eyre and this book brought me to repentance, even deeper regret, about my views on romance. God turned me to the rainbow in my driveway, or to the clouds over a palace in Vienna, or the waters in the Bay at Monterrey to speak.
Usually, I am too busy, or my screen (even now!) is taking my time. I put ear buds on and drown out the songs of the angels we call birds. I walking to work, yet missing seeing the stump of a tree, slowly decaying every day, and learning the lesson of my own aging. There are rainbows, clouds, flood waters, everywhere. God dialogs with us in nature not as augury, but as confirmation.
Revelation and reason provide the dictionary
And, of course, naturally, we need a prior vocabulary of meaning to frame this dialog, Christianity provides this. This is why generally we cannot use this to help unbelievers. This is reasonable within the Faith, but without the grammar, the language of the cosmos is lost.
Yet there is hope for all, because the common human nature that God gave all of us means that God can speak in very general ways to anyone. My atheist friends can feel wonder when they see the glory of God in the cosmos.
Something is knowable to all God’s children.