I am at an interfaith conference at the moment on the theme of the environment. We just had a speaker who expounded a Sufi Muslim idea of creation as the “writing of God”. There seems to be some parallel here with our Christian idea of the “two books” of revelation, the “book of Nature” and (of course) the “book of Scripture”, and with the Jewish idea of the integral place of the Hebrew language and script in God’s creating work.
But it brought to mind an image for me. I was once a professional librarian. Librarians love books. They buy them new and pristine and put them on the shelves where they look all nice and pretty. AND THEN: people come to use them. They open them, break their spines, write in them, spill coffee on them – all in the process of READING them. Some librarians never come to terms with this reality.
Of course, on the other hand there are some VANDALS (who deserve to be hung by their thumbs from the highest bookshelf) who tear out pages, rip off covers, deface the book etc. etc. The most extreme form of this crime is book burning. We will say no more about these base individuals.
But as an image for the “writing of God”, ie. the Created World, it is not a bad one. There must be a balance between the extreme fastidiousness of those (rare and few) librarians who have a phobia of people actually using their nice new books, and those vandals who actually destroy the books. The Book of Nature is there to be read. In the process of reading a book, the book begins to look different. Handling a book modifies it. Sometimes it doesn’t look so pretty. But it has a purpose. That purpose cannot be served if the book is left on the shelf untouched – neither can it be served if the book is destroyed or made illegible.
There is a balance here. It is focused on the purpose of the book. The book is to be read. The “writing of Creation” exists for human beings to read it. But woe to him who defaces it, and obscures the “writing” and its Author.