God communicates with us through nature

I beg your pardon? - God reveals himself

People are resourceful beings: they open up the world with their minds and senses and learn more and more about processes in nature, about dynamics in human coexistence and about personal developments. Can God also be found in all of this? And if so, what do people learn about him?

Some people let themselves be seen by a natural spectacle - the bright red setting sun; the clear reflection of a peak in a mountain lake; a delicate blossom breaking through the last of the snow; a spider web in which the dewdrops of the early morning glitter - touch and sense divine in such an event. Moments of an enriching encounter, love between two people or a jointly mastered part of life can also be called experiences of God and in this sense also be interpreted as divine revelations. Those who go through life with open minds and a wide heart can even say with the Jesuit Alfred Delp (1907-1945): «God's world is so full. From every pore of things it gushes towards us, as it were. "

What faith experiences and gets to the point in this way sounds anything but commonplace from a religious-philosophical perspective: Here it is basically said that what absolutely exceeds our understanding and perception breaks into the world and thus lights up in our horizon of experience. So that God reveals himself is not a natural process. Because even if the divine appears in nature, so is nature itself not God. But is that what God lets us perceive - through nature - more than blinding light and unspeakable glory? What can be said about God? And above all: what does God tell us?

Teaching or encounter?

For a long time it was undisputed in the church where one had to listen in order to hear God's word: In an unsteady world, the magisterium of the church, embodied locally by the clergy, was responsible for the faithful transmission of everything that God entrusted to humanity. Because the revelation of God is not simply about personal experiences of faith, but rather God's self-communication should serve the salvation of people, it was agreed that it is absolutely important for all believers to be well informed about God's message in order to be able to get on with life ( and in dying) to be able to behave "correctly". Under these conditions, revelation turned out to be empowering instruction. The teachers of the church endeavored to capture all knowledge of faith in one system and to make this elementary for the needs of the "simple" believers. However, the fact that God's revelation is actually a personal encounter threatened to go under - and not official instruction.

The Bible is full of stories of the encounter between God and man (s). In the “Book of Books” or in the various books in this book, numerous people have their say who give testimony to their experiences with God. In their writings they make it clear what they have understood about God. And the community of believers has passed on these biblical writings over the years and centuries in the conviction that what is written in the individual testimonies reveals essential things about God.

Jesus of Nazareth

The people who followed Jesus of Nazareth came to believe that he was the Messiah (anointed) of God and that God showed himself to people in his life and death. So it can be said: This Jesus disclosed not just God, but him is God's revelation in person. But what has been gained with this knowledge? First of all, it can be said that God's revelation is not a special piece of knowledge that needs to be memorized. God does not communicate anything about or about himself to man, but has "decided in his goodness and wisdom to reveal himself", as the Second Vatican Council states.1 For his self-revelation, God chooses a human life, so that the Gospel of John has Jesus say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (Gospel of John 14: 9). It could also be rephrased: Anyone who met Jesus of Nazareth came close to God.

Paul, one of the first witnesses of faith, describes the message connected with this event of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ with the following words: «For God's Son Jesus Christ, who was announced to you through us [...], is not a yes and no at the same time came; yes is realized in him. Because it is the yes to everything that God has promised. " (2 Corinthians 1: 19f). God's revelation in Jesus Christ is thus a promise and guarantee of God himself for the benefit of those called into existence by God.

God is and creates communication

The content of God's revelation is not the only important factor. The content and process of self-revelation correspond to one another: in that God himself notifieshe shares yourself With. Experiences of interpersonal communication make it clear how this is meant: When someone tells me something, I am not only capturing certain content. As I listen, I also learn a lot about the other person. And vice versa, I always share something (or even a lot) about myself when I communicate - from the exterior to the tone of voice, choice of words and topics to facial expressions and gestures: In all of this I - also - make myself known . It can happen that “the same language” is not spoken on all levels and that the person opposite misunderstands my actual message. Communication is ambiguous. Where people communicate with one another, there is no guarantee of clarity.

With God everything seems even more complex: When God speaks today, we do not perceive a human counterpart directly with our senses. And yet we sometimes sense the divine in what we encounter in interpersonal encounters. Christian theology tries to spell out in the doctrine of the Trinity that and why God as life-creating and creation-affirming reality (promises) into our reality - although it often lacks the appropriate words for it. God is thought of as threefold and is consequently related in itself. Traditionally speaking, the three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit together - and only in this way - are God. As persons, their relationship is communicative, from which the other way round can be inferred: When God communicates himself to the world, he * she does not simply give insight into divine reality (in the sense of information). Rather, God's revelation would then be understood in such a way that God accomplishes himself in it, by doing it towards creation, which also happens “within the divine”: God communicates and shares himself - as the source and goal of all being, as companion and counterpart , as life force and inspiration. To be spoken to by this God and drawn into conversation opens up a life and thus a salvation perspective for man.

Hearers of the word

The theologian Karl Rahner (1904-1984) sums up the conviction that every person is basically accessible for God's self-communication in the formula of the «hearer of the word». No one can fathom himself. The call to life precedes every human self-fulfillment, and in the end one's own origin remains unavailable. According to Rahner, humans experience themselves as transcendent (self-transcending) beings. Based on the idea that God called creation into its existence through words (cf. Genesis 1), human existence can also be traced back to God's encouragement. At the same time, the statement that people are communicative creatures motivates us to see people not only as words of God, but also to ascribe to them the ability to react communicatively to God's speech: hearing, interpreting, testifying, following, referring, answering.2. Against this background, God's revelation becomes a translation process that can be continued:3 People grasp - inspired by God's Spirit - their experiences, grasped by the divine and "unconditionally recognized"4 to be in words. These words in turn are recorded in writing and passed on orally - in the expectation that such words in turn have the spiritual power to touch and move people.

Mysteriously close

In interpersonal communication, we experience that people cannot be brought down to a common denominator. Even if you wanted to, you cannot fully reveal yourself to the other person, let alone fully grasp the other person. The doctor and theologian Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) sums this up in the following words:

“In general, isn't there a lot more mysterious in the relationship between man and man than we usually admit to ourselves? None of us can claim that we really know someone else, even if we have lived with them every day for years. We can only communicate fragments of what makes up our inner experience, even to our most familiar ones. We are neither able to give the whole thing about ourselves, nor would they be able to grasp it. We walk with one another in a semi-darkness in which neither can exactly see the other's features. "5

We are on the way - on our own path in life. We meet others, our paths cross or we walk on side by side. Being on the move shapes. We are constantly discovering new sides to ourselves and to our companions, without ever fully understanding ourselves and them.

Even God, of whom people keep saying that he made himself tangible to them as a loyal companion, never completely reveals himself to us. Ultimately, God remains a mystery in and in spite of his revelation. Because God promises and promises life, it is worthwhile to stay on the trail of this mystery for a lifetime.

  1. Revelation Constitution Dei Verbum, No. 2 (emphasis on I.S.), see: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_ge.html (5.9.2020).
  2. Cf. with a view to the relationship to God: Isabelle Senn: Encounter God praying at: http://glaubenssache-online.ch/2019/05/29/betend-gott-begegnen/ (5.9.2020)
  3. Cf. Jürgen Werbick: Art. Revelation VI. Systematic-theological, in: Lexicon for Theology and Church, Vol. 7, 3rd edition, Freiburg i. Br. 1993, Sp. 993-995, here 995.
  4. This is how Christoph Böttigheimer describes salvation understood as a Christian in the context of the present. See Unconditionally Recognized. The contribution of faith to personality development, Freiburg i. Br. 2018.
  5. Albert Schweitzer: Testimonials: From my childhood and youth. Between water and jungle. Letters from Lambarene, 8th, unchanged edition, Munich 1988, p. 57.


    Cover picture: Dreifaltig. Photo: knallgrün / photocase.de. Photo 1: rainbow. Midsummer in Finland. Photo: iStock / petejau. Image 2: Franz Schams: The missed sermon - A young couple is reprimanded by the pastor. Oil on canvas 1883; Artnet / Nagel. Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain. Image 3: Paul Klee: Angel im becoming, human being, oil on canvas on wood, ~ 1934, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Wikimedia Public Domain. Photo 4: birth. Photo: iStock / SanyaSM. Photo 5: twins. Photo: iStock / gpointstudio. Image 6: Seeing means hearing. Painted feelings. Franz Marc: The Little Blue Horses. Oil on canvas, 1911. Collection of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain. Photo 7: life. With skin and hair. Photo: iStock / Tunatura