My Friend, the Architect (Part Two of A Conversation)
No Regrets

Birds. Bees. Calvinists.

Ct_1Of late, I have not had a lot of time for magazine reading, something I regret, and the stack of magazines beside the sofa is precarious and ridiculously high.  I did however read three articles recently that were intriguing enough to mention.

The September issue of Christianity Today includes an article on the resurgence of Calvinism among the young.  Entitled "Young, Restless, Reformed," the author profiles two pastors: John Piper, of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and author of the bestseller, Desiring God, and Joshua Harris, the youthful pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  It also looks at the change in seminaries, like Southern Baptist Seminary, which is now headed by Al Mohler, a Calvinist.  It's a sympathetic portrayal of the movement toward the Reformed faith.  A text-box features a helpful explanation of the key doctrines summarized in the acrostic "TULIP."  (If you haven't an idea what that means, see the text-box!)  Mostly, reading it made me want one of the t-shirts on the CT cover with a picture of Jonathan Edwards and the words "Jonathan Edwards Is My Homeboy."

Bc_1And then, there's birds, and bees.  The latest issue of Books and Culture includes an article, entitled "The Bird Man," surveying several biographies of John James Audubon, the naturalist painter of birds who lived in the first half of the 19th century.  Audubon was a "character," to say the least --- all the biographers documenting his consummate lying, his brilliant mind and yet death of dementia, his aversion to discussing religion and yet confidence in his calling (how can you use the word calling without belief in Someone who calls?), and his flirtatious nature yet devotion to family.  His passion was birds, and how amazingly he painted them, 435 contained in his massive Birds of America, still unrivaled.  How a man who could be so absorbed in the study of birds, noting their diversity, their coloring, the attention to detail, and yet not speak of their Creator, is unfathomable.  Even now, as I write this, a red male cardinal eats beneath the bird feeder, casting wary looks my way, below a bright yellow goldfinch perched higher up on the feeder, and I marvel at their construction and their color, the evidence of design.

Finally, in the most interesting article of all, Eric Miller tells us of the much maligned honey bee, a non-being to most, an annoyance to others ("Shock and Awe," in Books and Culture).  Indeed, honey bees are fascinating and critical to life in ways most do not appreciate, and he surveys several books, all of which hold dire warnings about the decline of the bees and the effect on civilization.  No bees, no flowers.  No flowers, less food (1/3 of our food supply is dependent on pollinating bees).  But, after this survey, he notes the emptiness of the writers' arguments for restoring wonder and amazement and protection to the bees, asking "How far can secular awe take us toward the spiritual and moral renewal to which these authors call us."  She contrasts their vacuous rationales with the God-centered faith of Jan Swammerdam, a Dutch scientist with a passion for bees who lived in the late 1600s.  "Sir," he once wrote to a friend, "I present you with the omnipotent finger of God in the anatomy of a louse."  Swammerdam knew that, as the author concludes, the "way to devotion to God leads through that which is made."  Surely it does.  Surely every tree, flower, bee, giraffe, cat, ridge line, stream, and cloud leads us back to God, but man's capacity for unbelief and self-deception is well-attested.  I'm reminded of an article I read in the Amicus Journal, a secular environmental periodical, nearly two decades ago, which sought to lay a spiritual rationale for environmental protection, and yet which failed, ultimately, for it had no authority for truth to which it would appeal.  The arguments are pragmatic, not spiritual, and pragmatism only goes so far. (I suggest reading Francis Schaeffer's Pollution and the Death of Man, for a proper basis for environmental preservation.)

Bees.  Birds.  The TULIP.  Stare at them long enough and their meanings become rich and ultimately unfathomable.  They all lead to worship.  The road to God is through what is made.