The Theater of Glory
by Jon Payne
In his magisterial Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin describes creation as a theatrum gloriae. The Latin metaphor characterizes the world as a grand theater in which God’s power, wisdom, goodness, and glory are on public display, “being too clear to escape the notice of anyone, however obtuse” (1.5.1).
The psalmist writes: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1–2). Creation is a clear and unmistakable testimony to God’s “eternal power and divine nature, having been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20).
Those who deny the existence of God on the basis of insufficient evidence should stop and look around. The fingerprints of God are everywhere. Only a fool denies it (see Ps. 14:1). Creation leaves mankind without excuse. In addition to holding mankind accountable, God’s creation stirs up wonder, love, and praise in the hearts of Christ’s disciples.
Five years ago, my family and I moved to Charleston, S.C., to plant a church. One of the unexpected blessings of the move has been the rediscovery of the sheer magnificence of God’s creation. Indeed, if the world is a theater of God’s glory, the South Carolina low country is a front-row seat.
The sun rising majestically over Charleston harbor is like “a bridegroom leaving his chamber” (Ps. 19:5). As its morning light is cast upon the sea and coastal marshland, it sets in motion a flurry of activity. Elegant blue herons and snowy egrets begin their methodical fishing routine. A pod of dolphins playfully darts through the water, chirping as they go. Palmetto trees and mighty gnarled oaks confidently glisten as fiddler crabs scurry sideways across the pluff mud. Lovely scents of Confederate jasmine and salty marsh fill the air. It’s a low country symphony of praise, designed to stir up our affections for God and fill our lives with humble worship.
God could have made the world in black and white, speaking it into existence with a kind of bland uniformity. Instead, He gave us brilliant colors and stunning variety. Calvin writes:
Wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty; . . . it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around, without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. (1.5.1)
The signature of God’s creative genius is openly manifest from the Milky Way to the millipede. The world truly is God’s theatrum gloriae. May it ignite our hearts with worship. And may it remind us that the One through whom God created the world took on human flesh and sacrificed Himself for us on Calvary’s cursed cross (see Col. 1:16–20).