Who Is Mother Nature?

cloudsOnce again I heard a weatherman credit “Mother Nature” with the change in the wind currents and pressure gradient influencing the forecast he was about to make. When I first heard the term as a child, I understood it to refer to a make-believe person like the Jolly Green Giant who oversaw the growth of amazing frozen vegetables.

Today, however, more and more people speak of “Mother Nature” as if she actually exists. Some, to be sure, are speaking of her as a personification of the force of nature, but others, by the way they are crediting Mother Nature for things like a good night’s sleep or unexpected rain, seem to actually believe a sentient being is at work.

I have to admit, I’ve been guilty in the past of tongue-in-cheek claims of “Mother Nature’s” work. I thought it was harmless pretend.

Sometimes, however, harmless pretend can soften a person or a society to a concept. As mysticism has taken hold of Western culture, ideas I once thought far-fetched are now considered normative. “Mother Nature” is slipping into that role.

But who is “Mother Nature”? A quick look at the history of the term discloses roots in various religions as well as in Greek mythology, attaching the term to a number of different goddesses.

The popularization of the term, however, has escalated as actual characters or “Mother Nature” figures have worked their way into such media as The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause movies, Happily Ever After, episodes of Stargate SG-1, and Avatar.

As society gets more and more comfortable with the idea of a being working in and through nature, who is not God, I have to wonder if stage isn’t set for a rebirth of goddess worship.

Dare I say, there are women who are part of the feminist movement who already hold their beliefs with religious fervor. If there is not already a worship of the idea of Woman, the underpinnings are there. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to me to think that a religion centered on goddess worship is just around the corner.

So, in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, I want to point out that there is no separate force controlling nature apart from God Himself. He is both the creator and the sustainer of our world. In Him all He brought into being holds together.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17)

Maybe it’s time we retire the pretend “Mother Nature” lest we find ourselves on the edge of religion that worships nature and credits something other than God as the force behind it.

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Published in: on September 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. You managed to write the whole article without referring to Mother Nature by her modern name, which is Gaia.

    When I was at university studying biology, a professor set our first assignment to sit on the balcony of the building looking out over the valley and consider what we meant by the word nature. After an hour I decided that I didn’t believe in “nature”, but only creation. Nature is such a slippery word, especially when it gets to “natural”. If natural is what is there, how can there be anything “unnatural”?

    I remember two other incidents from the time (around 1970). As a student I was involved in studying the old market garden fields where the university was being built. A group of us were asked what we thought would happen in the field. We gave answers based on the work of Eugene Odum, possibly undertaken in Ohio. The professor asked if we had’t read the textbook, what would we expect to see? Obviously, we said, the blackberry thicket down in the creek would spread up the hill and the few Cootamundra wattles would cover the rest.

    Later I was on the staff of the biology department. We were asked to come up with assignments for students working in a low eucalyptus forest with a creek running through it. I had been in the field with some of the students. There was an old car body rusting in the creek. The students seemed to ignore this or wish it wasn’t there. Those times were very big on “nature”. So I offered an assignment to measure the insect activity in various parts of the creek, including inside the car body. The students who did this found results which surprised them.

    Nature is what is there. We need to learn to see it for what it is, not what we expect it to be.

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    • I decided that I didn’t believe in “nature”, but only creation.

      I’ve never thought about it in contrast before, but I think you have a point, Ken. I’ve never studied this, but in my mind nature is creation apart from Humankind. So not quite synonymous. It’s what God put Adam in charge of.

      Either way, it is not a god to be worshiped. And I didn’t mention Gaia because I didn’t know her name.

      Becky

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  2. This dog won’t hunt!!! I am so after it! Angers me so severely that it was/will be one of my primary targets.

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    • I have to confess, I don’t understand the idiom, Amber, but I appreciate the commitment you have to the truth!

      Becky

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  3. Maybe it’s time we retire the pretend “Mother Nature” lest we find ourselves on the edge of religion that worships nature and credits something other than God as the force behind it.

    I think that if C.S. Lewis had come to a similar conviction about something like that, he would try to redeem the phrase, showing the myth bowing in worship before Christ.

    Maybe Lewis’s time was different. But as we are being appropriately careful to avoid pagan spirituality, we need to be careful not to strip away the level of legitimate wonder in myth and mysticism. If we make a cultural concept anethema, it seems like an admission of failure on the part of our faith — that we couldn’t take on an ancient cultural fixture, that we’re afraid the other side might have some legitimacy.

    Mysticism is a complicated topic, and like the word “religion,” it is used in many different ways and on many different levels. Some of the same things that tempt us to sin also give us some of our most powerful weapons against unbelievers. Something that causes temptation is not necessarily wrong, if the temptation is carefully avoided.

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    • Interesting to consider what Lewis would have thought. He did believe all myths were a shadow of what he termed the True Myth. He did, in fact, employ the redemption of myths in Narnia–which is why Father Christmas, Bacchus, and satyrs made appearances.

      I don’t know, though. I think idolatry is something different from mythology. What would Lewis have thought of Greek gods had he lived in the first century when they were actively worshiped? Which brings me back to what you said about his time being different.

      About mysticism, though, I think it is anathema, at least as defined by the OED:

      belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.

      There’s no part of that with which I agree. The Holy Spirit in us is not “union with or absorption into” God. There’s nothing tricky about it: He lives in, makes His dwelling in, each believer. I don’t need to contemplate or surrender–sort of a works way of getting close or closer to God, which Scripture warns against. (Col. 2:6 – “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”).

      OK, this is long! Sorry about that.

      Becky

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  4. I’ve been reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and I came across a quote so relevant that I just have to share it!

    G.K. Chesterton wrote:

    The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.

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    • That quote is absolutely perfect! Nature, our sister. Yes! That’s a great way of thinking of it. Thanks for sharing that.

      Becky

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