I’ve just started reading God’s Philosophers by James Hannam and this idea caught me early on. Hannam points out that in contrast to the medieval worldview modern humans don’t see anything in creation as having a purpose.
“For modern people who hold a naturalistic worldview, nothing ultimately has a purpose. The universe just is, and has no guiding hand. We do not need to look for conscious reason for anything to know how it works. In fact any such explanation involving a purpose is scientifically invalid. To a medieval mind, such a view would be completely irrational. They would say that rationality itself requires a reason for everything. Take an example from the animal kingdom: today, when we want to know why a lion has sharp teeth and claws we will look to the theory of evolution to explain it. To the medieval mind, the correct question to ask was what purpose the lion served. The answer would be that God designed it to catch its prey and it therefore had the attributes that enabled it to do that. Furthermore, God gave the world the lion to act as a symbolic reminder of his Son, Jesus Christ, who is king of men just as the lion is king of the beasts.” p. 34
I think this modern naturalistic worldview has permeated the church through and through. We consequentially struggle to read the book of creation as a book written with purpose by God. Would we think that the reason God had lions exist was to teach us about majesty and awe and power, so that He had imagery to use when revealing His Son?
We should see the creation as containing purpose and reason. Creation was made this way for a reason. And so, for example, it’s right and good to see God creating light to be simultaneously two apparently contradictory states, wave and particle together, to teach us about the unity of the human and divine nature of his son, the true light of the world; something that seems impossible and yet fundamentally makes the world as it is.
I wonder if we also think like this not just in our reading of the book of creation but also when we read the bible. We don’t think that things are necessarily written with a purpose. I don’t mean the big stuff, like God promising one to come who will crush satan’s head, but I mean in the little things, like why Jesus curses a fig tree, not any other tree. Or why it’s the jawbone of a donkey that is used as a weapon. Now you might say, well that was just what was to hand at the time, I’m not sure there is any symbolism there. But why did God purpose a donkey’s corpse to be nearby? Why not an ox? Or a goat? Or why a bone at all? Why not a stick? Why mention the instrument at all? Scripture is rich, and has richness for a reason