The second chapter of Engaging God’s World discusses two main, broad topics. First, it discusses the relationships between God, man, and nature. Second, it discusses the purpose of man and nature.
One of my high school teachers used the image of a triangle to illustrate the relationship between God, nature, and man. In this image the base vertexes were labeled creation (or nature when applied to Plantinga’s second chapter) and creature (or man according to Plantinga). The top vertex was labeled as Creator (or God). Two arrows connected the Creator and creation to represent the glory that nature gives to God and the care that God gives to nature. Plantinga expands on this to say that there is communication between God and nature. While I am convinced that nature reflects God’s glory and brings him praise, I do not agree that nature and God share the same kind of communication that God and man does. In my teacher’s image there were also two arrows connecting Creator and creature (God and man). This represents the fact that man is made in God’s image, is meant to bring him praise and that God cares for and guides man. Between creation and creature are also two arrows. These represent the interaction of man and nature. According to Plantinga this interaction would involve man’s stewardship over nature and nature’s revelation of God to those who see it through God’s Word.
Plantinga also discusses the purpose of nature. God purposefully chose to create this world in order to display His love and imagination. Every part of nature displays something marvelous about God. Furthermore, the general variety of nature shows that God takes pleasure in his creation.
Man and nature were both created out of God’s desire to do so, it was not a whim nor was it necessary nor was a solution to boredom. God delights in His creation more than we can understand. As G.K. Chesterton points out, God loved His creation even before it He made it. Plantinga says that “God loves creation. God celebrates creation. God even plays with His creation.” He does not need creation but His delight in it is beyond our understanding.
Plantinga maintains that man is made to be the image of God in three ways. First, we are images of God when we act as stewards of creation. Second, we are the image of God when we live in harmony or shalom with each other. Third, we are images of God when we suffer like Christ suffered.
Plantinga shows how man is in need of times of silence and times of rest. This corresponds to Lewis’ statement in “English Syllabus” that man works so that he can rest. Essentially they are both reminding us of Ecclesiastes 3 in which we are told that “there is a time for everything.” It is also a reminder of the fifth commandment to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. It is very easy to get caught up in our work and busy schedules in this culture where even our commercials remind us that we are “on the go.” (Dunkin Donuts) However, God has designed us and commanded us to break up our busy schedules with a time of rest in which we should seek God and be refreshed by Him.
In addition to these specific purposes for nature and man Plantinga discusses eight deeper meanings for all of God’s creation. First, all of creation is redeemable. Second, all of creation has a purpose even if it is somewhat mysterious to our finite minds. Third, there are no limitations to what God created because it was made from God’s infinite imagination. Fourth, because God created all of nature it should not be esteemed as anything other than an image of God. Fifth, everything that God has created is good. Sixth, God created man in His image and as such we have natural rights, responsibilities, and worth. Seventh, God has made us special as both individuals and also as a community of Christians. Eighth, man has a unique position between God and nature: we should not over value or undervalue ourselves.
To sum up this very detailed chapter, God has created a good world in which man, who holds His own image, may flourish with the ultimate purpose of His glorification.