When we think of nature, we think of the outdoors, of plants and animals, of the wilderness undisturbed by human beings. Yet nature can also mean the essential or intrinsic qualities of someone or something. One might speak of a person’s natural talent for running or writing. One might try to discover the nature of a difficult problem. Both these meanings go back to the Latin root of the word natus, meaning birth, the same root which gives us words like native. Things that are natural are those that we are born with, things that we do not choose. Nature as in the wilderness is that which exists and existed around human beings before we began constructing society and changing the world around us. Nature as in talents or characteristics, consists of the properties of a person or a thing which were not chosen but instead are inherent.
Today, the natural is often ignored. We live in a world driven by individualism, where each of us is free to make our individual choices. Any sort of quality which is not chosen is seen as an infringement on liberty and self expression. We do not like to be constrained by things beyond our control, and nature is definitionally beyond our control. But not liking nature does not make it cease to exist. No matter how much we would like to ignore it, nature has a way of making itself known. We cannot escape the limitations of our particular unchosen planet and our particular unchosen human bodies.
At the Harvard Ichthus, we believe that a loving God created the universe. If a loving God created the universe, then its nature is not to be thought of as arbitrary nor taken lightly. Nature was created with a purpose. Of course that is not to say that everything that is natural is good. As Christians, we believe in original sin, that all human beings have a sinful nature that we must strive to overcome, and that the Holy Spirit gives us power to act against our sinful nature. Moreover, as Christians, we believe the natural world around us is God’s creation and that we as human beings are called to both subdue and steward it. In Genesis 1, God gives humans dominion over creation, and then in Genesis 2 God places Adam in a garden to care for creation.
In this issue writers consider issues of nature from a Christian perspective. What do Christians have to say about the care of the environment? What do Christians have to say about how we view the cosmos and mankind’s place within it? What do Christians have to say about the nature of God? We invite you to join us in considering the nature of the world around us.
The Harvard Ichthus