The worship of nature is nothing new to humanity. The practice was so common at the time God gave the Law to the Hebrew people that he expressly forbade the worship of the sun, moon, and stars (Deuteronomy 17:2-5). The apostle Paul berated those who “exchanged God’s truth for a lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the creator,” (Romans 1:25).
I cannot subscribe to the practice of worshiping what God has created, and I cringe at the assertion that the earth is my mother. In this, I am more aligned with the Darwinian philosophical naturalists who proclaimed nature to be a cold, soulless mechanism that is, as Alfred Lord Tennyson described it, “red in tooth and claw” (In Memoriam A.H.H, 1849, Canto 56).
Though the worship of what is created is not a new concept, it does seem to me that there is a current-generation rise in earth worship, environmental spirituality, Gaia, etc. Bizarre statements abound, statements such as, “The call is to serve the wellbeing [sic] of the living planet, Gaia … to enter into a holistic consciousness” (Barry McWaters, Conscious Evolution), or this spiritualistic comment from the Sierra Club’s Well Body, Well Earth, “The more you contact the voice of the living Earth and evaluate what it says, the easier it will become for you to contact it and trust what it provides.”
The driving force behind the annual Earth Day event is a posture of worship. It is in that vein we see and hear a wide variety of worshipful acts and chants such as, “Sacred Earth Power, bring healing to Planet Earth,” intoned by Circle Sanctuary Wiccan priestess, Selena Fox.
Elinor Gadon, author of The Once Future Goddess said, “In the late twentieth century there is a growing awareness that we are doomed as a species and planet unless we have a radical change of consciousness. The reemergence of the Goddess is becoming the symbol and metaphor for this transformation…[and] has led to a new earth-based spirituality.”
I say none of this with any sense of alarm. To be candid, I find it humorous (if not downright hilarious) that the very ones who roll their eyes in sarcasm at my faith are worshiping the very things my God created with the breath of his voice. But to take it to an even more-laughable level, the objects my ridiculers worship do themselves worship my God, the very God who created them.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge. – Psalm 19:1-2, NIV-1973
Jesus stated that if those shouting “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” were made to hold their peace, the very stones in the ground would cry out in praise (Luke 19:38-40). It seems that the creation itself knows a great deal more about worthy worship than does that segment of humanity obsessed with worshiping the creation.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:12, ESV
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them. – Psalm 69:34, ESV
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness. – Psalm 96:11-13, ESV
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created. – Psalm 148:3-5, ESV
There are innumerable examples beyond these, but these are sufficient to make the point. The worship of nature is a misguided, ill-informed activity. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV)
I do not claim to understand the full purpose of God in creation. I can observe its beauty and appreciate that. I can see the handiwork of my God in what he has made. And I can see from scripture that one aspect of the purpose of the creation is that what is created should shout the praises of the creator.
As noted above, we see this theme repeated often throughout scripture. If the trees, rocks, rivers, and hills can cry out in praise to God, it seems even more appropriate that we who breathe the air should embody the final verse from the Psalms: “Let everything that has breath praise Yahweh! Praise Yahweh!“