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Counterbalance

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

I received a gift of counterbalance in my decade-long wrestling with/amidst my root tradition’s obsessions with scripture–its tendency to idolize current understandings with it, disregard (even demonize) the feminine, prioritize histories of interpretation over the sufferings of today’s’ human beings often wounded most, etc. Daniel Cooperrider’s “new” book scratched my itch in a way I didn’t realize was available. He has gifted us with a look at scripture through the book of nature.

Speak with the Earth and it Will Teach You: a Field Guide to the Bible (Pilgrim Press, 2022) charts the ancient tradition within Christianity of considering “God’s Two Books,” the “idea or metaphor that God writes or inspires not one book, but two: the book of nature and the book of scripture.” Augustine of Hippo explicitly formulates and affirms this way of thinking, as do Maximus the Confessor, John Scotus Eriugena, Hugh of St. Victor, Hildegard von Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Meister Eckhart (5-6). It’s not a Wiccan, pagan, or new-agey thing, in other words, even as our contemporary habit is to polarize the two, dissociating or denigrating nature while overvaluing human words of scripture imputed to be Divine Writ (even though crafted almost entirely by only half the human species). This tension is often cloaked in “science vs. religion” or “empiricism and theology” in today’s disciplinary terms. Cooperrider bypasses those binaries, offering a view of scripture through the realities of nature, its elements of water, fire, earth, air. Or rivers, mountains, trees, clouds, to use the scriptural equivalents.


He offers an easily enraged conscious feminine clergywoman a respite. A place to sit that feels welcoming, Invited, closer to Sacred than the bible speaks to her today.


Cooperrider is not a scientist, but a poet, pastor, constructive theologian. He names his efforts at “reading nature by being a body in nature,” “reading the first book (of nature) as it makes its presence known and shapes the second book of scripture from within.” Be in your body, in nature, he invites.


And he roots his invitations in trust.


I trust that deep in the story and poetry of the book of nature there is more than enough life-giving and life-changing revelation to transform how curious creatures like us see the world and make meaning and beauty and action and care of it. I trust there is enough... I trust there is enough to lead us ever deeper in love and knowledge of the God in whom we live and move and have our being...if we but speak and listen and learn with the earth…” (11-12)


This is no “use scripture as a plumb-line for what you can know or see.” This is a willingness to be the earth we are, surrendered to the divine order of things, kin with everything. One-ing with the energies of all. Perichoretically, we might even say.

Counter-balance to today’s anthropocentric fears and refusals.


Heaven on earth for this weary woman-soul.


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1 Comment


Work With Libby
Work With Libby
Jun 20, 2023

I haven't read the book, but what your post brings up for me is the idea that -- we are not separate from nature, we do not have to go anywhere to be with nature - we are nature. To fully inhabit our own body is to be in nature! Colonialism (and ongoing coloniality!) separated us from spirit, our body, and nature. It's time to reclaim all of those connections.

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