Nature is Not Natural

Nature can neither explain itself nor cause itself. Nature is not endogenous: it does not generate itself. It must therefore be generated, informed and environed by an ontologically prior supernatural matrix, of which it is a product, derivation or procession. Nature is exogenous: generated by something other than itself. But this means that the world is not a natural process. Nature is a supernatural procedure.

This notion – call it exogeneity – calls for some unpacking.

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Exogeneity means that nature mysticism is apposite to our condition. See that mountain over there, see that tree? God just now made it. Look, he just made it again! And again! Amazing. Look at anything: you are looking at something God just now made. Remember this, the next time you sing the Benedicite Omnia Opera.

It’s not just that the heavens are telling the glory of God, although they are. It’s that the heavens – and ergo this Earth, that floats in the heavens and is an integral member of the heavenly choir (Earth is that determined soprano who sings always flat) – can tell the glory of God only because in their origin they just are that glory. The stars cannot communicate an energy they do not first possess. If the stars shine, then, it is because their being, and thus their light, derive wholly from the uncreate Light of all light.

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Exogeneity sheds some of that uncreate star light on Romans 1:20:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Indeed; nature being a supernatural procedure, the Doctrine of General Revelation follows trivially. Exogeneity makes the cosmological argument a truism: given exogeneity, how could any world possibly fail to reflect the order of its creator?

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Exogeneity means that anything might happen. The regularities of nature seem quite reliable to us – that’s why we call their formalizations Laws of Nature – but really, they aren’t. Because nature’s nature is given supernaturally, not only the fact of the world but the order of the world are a continually renewed surprise. We don’t notice this, because we have become accustomed to the surprise, so that we have come to expect the reiteration of the comfortable old regularities. We are surprised only by irregularities, by oddities, or synchronicities, strange “coincidences.” But really every subatomic particle is a synchronicity, a deeply odd coincidence of countless trillions of influences that come together in an intelligible way, again and again and again.

Really, when one thinks of the orderliness and causal coherence and intelligibility of the world under the aspect of its supernatural origins, the sheer labor involved in stitching it together from one moment to the next is just staggering. The really surprising thing about the world is the incredibly unlikely fact that it remains orderly and coherent from one moment to the next, when there are so many ways that it could fly apart into nothingness. The “lawfulness” of nature is the most curious, amazing and serendipitous thing about it. Fairies at the bottom of the garden, water turning into wine and then into blood, gods walking about among us and messing with our affairs:  any such departure is far more likely than this incredible normality we so take for granted.

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Here’s how to think about this. Say that you flipped a coin googol times, and with every flip the coin landed on its edge. Pretty unlikely, right? The order that is reiterated with each moment of the history of our world – with each moment of the history of every single particle of our world – is like that, except that it is almost infinitely less likely. It’s almost like the game is rigged. You think?

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Consider again then this notion of water into wine into blood into God into us. Consider the eucharist. It’s a good test case, because all the mysteries of Christianity are involved in the eucharist: Incarnation, Atonement, Participation, Redemption, Prayer, Confession, Absolution, Grace, Eschaton, Communion, you name it, all of them operate in the eucharist. Not to mention the things that we don’t think of as mysteries, but that really are: eating, love, respiration, fermentation, intoxication, remembering, apprehension, transaction (whether economic or physical), enaction, music, coordination, fluids, mass and energy, causation, being.

Compared to the mysteries of love or music or causation, the mysteries that are thought of as peculiar to Christianity or to the eucharist are simple, easy, and straightforward.

All right then: If nature is not natural – if its order and “naturalness” from each moment of its life to the next, from each event to its immediate successors, is a wholly optional gratuity, an amazingly unlikely stroke of good luck – then how, exactly, is the eucharist extraordinary? The only really extraordinary thing is that there should be any such thing as “ordinary.”

Explain being to me – explain your mere existence – and then you can explain how the eucharist is an extraordinary, unlikely thing.

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Exogeneity means that God is at the bottom and beginning of every event. Creatures may then muck things up, as indeed they often do; but to get even a jot of a chance to muck things up, creatures must first exist, and that existence is procured to them moment to moment by the Divine donation. God is at the root of each moment, each event. He is at the root of you, right now. So to be saved from ruining everything, all you need to do is turn from the wickedness of your creaturely life to the purity at the root of your being. You feel it down there, don’t you? Of course you do.

Exogeneity means that in ontological terms, repentance is simple, and easy. It requires no work. It requires the cessation of all your work. The more work you do, the worse your situation. To repent, all you need to do is stop all your work, and turn to the purity, and totally relax. It’s easy, and it heals everything, salves all your wounds and makes you whole again. What’s holding you back?

Fear, right? I know.

6 thoughts on “Nature is Not Natural

  1. In the thinking of Coleridge — who became a notable conservative and Trinitarian-Christian philosopher — a distinction between nature as phenomenon (natura naturata) and the underlying unmanifest nature (natura naturans) was basic. Time doesn’t permit me to develop this now!

  2. Pingback: Credo: Resurrexit « The Orthosphere

  3. Pingback: Miracles are Natural ↔ Nature is Miraculous – The Orthosphere

  4. Pingback: Miracles are Natural ↔ Nature is Miraculous – CHRIST THE MORNING STAR

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