Glorifying God through nature - a dilemma

As most people know here, I love nature and am a keen conservationist and birdwatcher. But I was wondering, is it truly glorifying God by experiencing nature, whether in person, or on nature documentaries. I am starting to think that God is better glorified through experiencing humanity, the image of God and climax of creation, and the amazing things which humanity can do. That is not to say that nature ‘cannot’ be enjoyed, only that humanity should be enjoyed more.

However, what an experience of humanity cannot do is show us the sheer ‘diversity’ of God’s creation, which Psalm 104 seems to celebrate. For that we need animals, plants and landscapes. Yet we do not need the animals to be alive to celebrate this diversity, as long as we have fossils and historical records, though in my own personal subjective opinion an experience of nature in the flesh is much more awe inspiring than simply reading about nature on the internet.

However, I still accept that conservation is a God honouring duty, since God promised safety to the animal kingdom after the flood. Currently, the main reason why I continue birdwatching is because websites like eBird use the data from people’s observations for scientific research and conservation.

What do you think. Can God be celebrated through nature, or is nature lacking in comparison to man’s glory?

I would imagine that we would miss out a lot if we focused on only the one realm, without the other–each informs and enriches the other, as you seem to imply. We have some unique capabilities, but they are more a matter of degree, if I can understand it correctly, in comparison to animals. We learn humility and wonder by research and comparison.

I number of years ago, I read a book called Sacred Pathways about nine different ways of encountering God. The author said that people are different in terms of what “pathway” brings them closest to God. Anyway, one of them was experiencing nature. I think for some people, contemplating and being immersed in the natural world can be a gateway to spiritual communion with God. But it doesn’t have to be a universal, “right way to do it” kind of thing. Some other people, (Mother Teresa comes to mind) encounter God in profound ways through interactions with other humans. I don’t think one is better than the other, some of it is how we are wired. But on the other hand, the more ways of connecting with God that you can cultivate in your life, maybe the richer your spiritual life will be, so there isn’t anything wrong in exploring “pathways” that come less naturally.


I am a fan of the Parson-Naturalists like John Ray and Gilbert White, who believed natural history could tell us a thing or two about God, the creator of nature. If they were correct (and I think they were), animals have uses both dead and alive, and should not be wasted.

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How about the principle of interconnectedness? Does every being have a role in God’s creation? In keeping man alive? If so, I am doing the Lord’s work by checking biodiversity.


I guess if we are allowed to guide creation–yes–but in the spirit of Christ, more of a servant leader for the earth than for just our own benefit; we are stewards. What do you think?

I don’t think every creature needs to contribute to keeping man alive to deserve our respect. I’m not at all sure if we are the center of creation. Our form of consciousness certainly seems pretty special but I’m not sure it justifies thinking creation is all about us. So long as our well being depends on us, it probably behooves us not to cut ourselves out of the web of life and just throw the rest away. Also we didn’t create it so it isn’t ours to break. Long story short: I think I’m agreeing with you Reggie. Biodiversity matters.

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I don’t think we should protect biodiversity solely for man’s sake, animals matter too (Jonah 4:11), but in order to preserve the lives of humans and animals we need to preserve biodiversity. Do you agree?

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Entirely. In addition I don’t think it is right for us to destroy what is not ours or at least not ours alone. I think it is both prudent and right to do so.

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