(You can find this entire paper on barneywiget.com)
I propose that there are five fields in which the stubborn Sower sows his seed (and into which the furious wind of the Spirit wafts it). There may be more, but these are the fields that I’m aware of from both my understanding of the Bible and my own observation. He’s not passive but passionate in propagating his truth in every place possible.
His clues are like breadcrumb trails for us to find our way back home to him. These clues can be rationally and even instinctually unavoidable. He reaches out to every part of our being – I guess he knows something about our “parts,” having invented and installed them all. He’s not just trying to get into our heads, but our hearts. His breadcrumb clues actually nourish us on the journey back to show us he’s our sustenance. But he also drops hints like rose petals leading up to the bedroom! He’s not just interested that we know that he is, but that we know he’s a lover.
He’s not passive but passionate
in propagating his truth in
every place possible.
I hope I can convince you how prodigal the Sower is in his distribution of seed and the importance of each of these fields into which he generously sows his clues among the people he loves. I call these five fields: Creation, Conscience, Culture, Creed, and Christians.
Field #1 – CREATION
- · Psalm 19:1-4 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world
- · Romans 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 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 people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God…
A lot of God-seeds go into the Creation field. He made his world with such wonder that clues about him abound at every glance. Where do I begin? Stars, flowers, the human brain, sunsets, how warts sometimes go away without any attention, the Grand Canyon, how gravity is just enough to keep us from floating away but not so much as to flatten us like crêpes! I’m no science buff (can you tell?), but it’s just way too much for my puny brain to think that we just evolved this way without a superior intelligence supervising. I don’t know how it all works, but I know that even before I met the Sower, when watching a meteor shower I felt an attraction to Something/Someone– and I don’t think it was the pot I was smoking that night!
“… there’s no place where their voice isn’t heard…” (Psalm 19) Have you been to the zoo and used the little plastic animal keys that go into the storybook boxes that tell the story of a particular animal in its original habitat? God has these little speakers too at sunrises, waterfalls, and baby smiles. They whisper the message that leads you back to the one who made them up. But he doesn’t make us listen. Some people can muster the will to believe that it all just happened without a Designer. Don’t you just want to say, “Come on, you don’t see God – a personal one – behind the cacophony of color in a school of tropical fish? You don’t hear his voice in the melody of ocean waves?” A lot of people choose to experience the created and avoid its Creator.
Creation isn’t the only field in which he plants seeds from his garden, but if they’re honest with themselves, I suspect that most people are influenced by it and even feel an attraction to the Maker because of it. The left-brained person who marvels at the molecular structure of the butterfly wing and the right-brained who wonders at the imaginative color scheme, both hear a voice say, “Nice, huh?” Whether for the mechanical phenomenon or the aesthetic spectacle of it, one is tempted to reply with, “Thanks!” (to someone).
Sometimes I think about how he could’ve made things differently. I don’t mean that he could’ve put our nose in our forehead or our mouth where the belly button is now. If he’d done that, I’m sure we’d have gotten used to it in 1000 years or so. What I mean is that he could’ve made our earth like the frozen moonless planet “Alzoc III,” which is covered with desolate, frozen plains, and endures a powerful sun glaring harshly off the reflective snow. (OK, this is a Star Wars planet.) I’m just saying! He could’ve made our world differently. He might’ve made us without the capacity to enjoy – as in, not enjoy anything. Can you imagine a world where pepperoni pizza tastes the same as a Hershey Bar, and no different from lemon-aide! I had a roommate in college who had a motorcycle accident without a helmet. (It wasn’t illegal in those days – like I said, this was when I was in college during the early part of the Paleolithic Age.) With the brain injury he lost his sense of smell, and along with it his sense of taste. What a bummer that was/is for him! But my point is that our taste buds (when undamaged) and our eye for beauty (most of us are not color blind because we have something called “cones” as well as “rods” in our eyes) both communicate a message to us from the Maker. “Go ahead and enjoy. Oh, and by the way, I love you!” Our pleasure sensors are connected to our ability to smell flowers and enjoy sex and feel the thrill of fast cars. These all tell me that Someone made the world in a certain way and put people in it with the capacity to enjoy it. Take away this amazing capacity to enjoy, and we have a pretty dull world. But with it, I see God – don’t you?
If God is, “not far from everyone of us” (Acts 17) he shouldn’t be all that hard to locate in the world. He can be encountered everywhere inside and outside his Garden. He’s not agoraphobic; he gets out. I honestly think that it takes more work to miss him in this world than it does to find him! He gives light to everyone (John 1), and though it’s possible to lower the blinds and shut the light out (Romans 1), it makes sense, doesn’t it, that shutting it out takes more effort than to simply accept it?
Whether for the mechanical phenomenon
or the aesthetic spectacle of it,
one is tempted to reply with,
Lately I’ve been thinking a number of people mentioned in the Bible who seemed to have followed the seed-trail back to the Garden without having had the benefit of actually hearing the witness of another human. You’ll probably recognize most of the names:
- Rahab – the Gentile prostitute who was saved from Jericho’s destruction (Joshua 3)
- Abimelech – the Philistine king who seemed to know God better than father Abraham (Genesis 20)
- Balaam – the pagan prophet who had a conversant relationship with God (Numbers 22)
- The Ethiopian eunuch – worshipped with Jews in Jerusalem, and read the most poignant Old Testament prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion before God sent Philip to tell him the rest of the story (Acts 8)
- Cornelius – the Roman army commander who loved God, prayed to him and did good works before hearing about Jesus from Peter (Acts 10)
It seems to me that each of these ate the life-fruit that the Sower sowed, and when someone showed up to “witness” to them, they found them well on their way to (if not already in) the Garden. When Rahab gazed up after dark there’s no doubt that she heard the “voice” of the Sower bidding her toward his kingdom of light. If you read the story in Joshua, you’ll have to admit that this lady (of the night) had quite a profound revelation of Jehovah (she even used this Hebrew covenantal name for God in her conversations with the Jewish scouts). She might even have had a more vivid revelation of him than the spies did themselves!
Let’s go on to the second field…
Field #2 –CONSCIENCE
- · Romans 2:14-16 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
The human conscience is one of the fields in which God plants his life-tree seeds. If Paul’s right, and people have “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts,” someone must have done the writing – right?
The conscience is that little voice in all of us that says, “This is right and that is wrong.” Someone said that it’s the part of you that feels bad when the rest of you feels good! It’s not a perfect rule of thumb because, like a computer, it’s affected its programming, and it can be skewed or silenced. Like the witness of God in creation, the testimony of conscience can be suppressed. But when it’s working right, it points to the Sower.
An atheist friend with whom I’ve been corresponding asked me recently, “What makes you think that religious people have a monopoly on compassion?” My sort of terse response was this:
Well, they absolutely don’t. There are lots of social justice groups that are not faith-based (although, my experience is that a lot of their volunteers are Christians). I know that there are lots of caring/compassionate people in the world who are not people of faith. Frankly, I attribute benevolent things that non-christians do as evidence of them being the offspring of God. He’s the most compassionate being in the world, and when he made us in his image, that caring quality was included. In my view, his image was marred and twisted when we kicked God out of our lives, but there is still a clear vestige of his personality left in us in the form of our conscience…
Compassion is just one aspect of God’s personality that’s left in us after our removal from the Garden. But I think it is through our conscience that we experience these divine promptings. One little boy said to his little brother, “What does God’s voice sound like? I’m starting to forget.”
Someone said, “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that somebody’s watching.” It might be thought of as sort of “the voice of God in the soul,” a compass which God surgically implanted in each of us at birth that tells us if we’re going the right direction or not. It’s the only one of the five fields that’s actually inside us. On the day I was born God installed a “homing device” which beeped incessantly until I found my way home to the Installer. Before I decided to follow Jesus I ordinarily drowned out the sound of its irritating warning with other sounds so I could do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it without being bothered by it. I could hear it only when I let silence last more than a second or two. Eventually it led me right to the one who put that annoying apparatus inside me to begin with. It did its job.
C.S. Lewis called the conscience “inside information” about God. He wrote, “You find out more about God from the Moral Law (conscience) than from the universe (creation); just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than by looking at a house he built.” Lewis also said that two things were true. “First, human beings all over the earth have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way.” He called it “The Law of Decent Behavior” (conscience).
“Conscience is the inner voice
that warns us that somebody’s
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4) My friend Richard and I were talking about this the other day. He said he thought it worked like this:
God turns on his light, and from the great distance between him and us the beam seems like a speck, as does a star from its position light years away. If we take a step toward him – instead of away – he takes one toward us, and the speck appears larger than before. It seems to increase in size and lumens as we move closer to its source. Until finally, what seemed like a pinpoint beam, now directly in front of us, is a blazing sun. What was once tiny in the distance now fills our entire line of sight. Conversely, if we move away from the light or attempt to block it out, it becomes smaller and smaller until it finally disappears altogether. But before it vanishes, God does all he can to get the beam to find its way around our hand upraised to quash it. He shoots his beam from another angle, and then another, and another until finally we either surrender to him or reject him from every direction. He’s relentless like that, I believe, until our last breath.
Of course our Gentile friends that we mentioned above had the same “Conscience Insertion Surgery.” Abimelech had what seemed to be a more developed sense of moral conscience that did his counterpart and the father of faith – Abraham. Read it for yourself (Genesis 20). While Abraham lied about his own wife and put her at risk to save himself, the King of the Philistines heard the voice of God and knew instinctively that he wasn’t someone to cross. Hmmm! He did “by nature things required by the law” without having ever read the law in the Bible.