On vacation this week we spent a day at the Grand Canyon. It is the second time my wife and I have been here and the first time our youngest daughter has seen it.
Before our earlier trip I had told my wife that I had seen the canyon from the air, being roughly 25,00 feet above it. She said I had to see it up close. And she was right. The canyon is vast in its dimensions. It is long. It is wide. It is deep. And it is beautiful
Geologists teach that the canyon itself is roughly 5 million years old. As we climbed down into it we went through layers of rock that were laid down 285 million years ago. This week marked 38 years since I joined the Navy. I can grasp 38 years. 285 million years is much too large of a number for me to wrestle with. It is large. It is gargantuan. And ultimately it is unimaginable to grasp in a meaningful way.
On one of the displays we saw in a museum at the canyon, the processes that created it were put into a rough mathematical formula. When water meets rock, given sufficient time, water always prevails.
And that is what people see at the Grand Canyon. Water working on rock, day-by-day, year-by-year. It is a process that continues today, deepening the canyon by the thickness of a single sheet of paper each year.
Theologians, depending on their persuasion, would have a different take on the creation of the canyon. Some would have no problem in accepting the geologist's account of the canyon's creation. Others would beg to differ. Just last week I read a an account where a Bishop Ussher, in Ireland during the 17th century, dated the earth's creation to a precise day approximately 6,000 years ago. Using his date of creation, then how does something that appears to be so old come into being if the age of the earth is, relatively speaking, so young? The answer is that it is because God made it that way.
For a person who believes that the world came into existence through the action of God, then it is no stretch of the imagination to believe that God, who created the world, could have created all manner of things within it, making it to look however he thought best, no matter what the working of logic on our minds may think of the results. God, after all, is God, and he possesses the freedom to act, in all situations, in whichever way suits his purposes.
Geology and theology can differ on their understandings of many things, the Grand Canyon being just one example. My understanding of science is not developed enough to fully grasp the geologists arguments on the age of the earth and the processes of creation.
And while I have a deep interest in theology, particularly it's systematic and biblical branches, I study them to nurture my ability to apply theology pastorally. I want to bring theology to the real-life situations of the people I preach to on Sunday. The people I visit in the hospital and nursing homes. The people I pray with in the community.
And in that regard the Grand Canyon, however it was created, is evidence of the glory and majesty of God. For me it brings to life the words of Paul, in Romans 1:20, where he writes:
"For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."
The Grand Canyon also brings to life the words of the Psalmist, from Psalm 19:1:
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."
Not just the heavens, but also the ground below proclaims his handiwork. To my eyes the Grand Canyon clearly proclaims the handiwork of God. I don't know if it is 5 million years old, or 6 thousand years old. What I do know is that ultimately it is the creation of a loving and holy God.
It is a work of beauty that is virtually beyond my ability to comprehend. Which leaves me with only one fitting response. Glory.
Glory to God in the highest, for his beauty and majesty in creation.
And glory to God in the highest, for being a God who could create something so wonderful as the Grand Canyon, and yet also be so generous to me, who is so insignificant in terms of time and space. For he has given me salvation, a most precious gift from his Son, my Savior, Christ Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.