When I refer to the book of nature*, people invariably wonder where they might get a copy. Thus, the question: What in the world is the book of nature?
First, the book of nature is a reference to general revelation. Special revelation reveals what God did to reconcile the world to himself (the Bible). General revelation reveals what God has shown in creation (the book of nature). As King David put it, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” and “their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1, 4).
Furthermore, the book of nature reveals God’s invisible qualities. The apostle Paul said exactly that: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Finally, the book of nature augments human reason through natural revelation. Indeed, it was failure to apply the explanatory power of natural revelation to the mysteries of the universe that trapped pagan thinkers in the intellectual cul-de-sac of their own making. Aristotle idealized the world in terms of how it ought to be. Augustine turned pages in the book of nature and discovered how it really was. Luther went so far as to say that “any potter has more knowledge of nature” than
was written in the books of Aristotle.
Suffice it to say, Aristotle thought himself to be living in the quintessential age of invention and innovation—prejudice precluding the progress of science. In place of a rational God who orders the universe according to knowable principles, Socrates declared astronomical observations a “waste of time,” and Plato persuaded his devotees
to “leave the starry heavens alone.” While obsessing on astrology, they left astronomy an unexplored domain. Likewise, they mastered the magic of alchemy* while remaining blithely ignorant of the majesty inherent in chemistry.
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
For further study, see the epilogue in Hank Hanegraaff, Has God Spoken? Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).