Awhile back, when I first started my Unschooled Master of Theology Program, I completed a documentary series that I wanted to watch since I was married, but never seemed to find either the time or the motivation to do so. But, with my newfound commitment to my uThM program, I was actually able to finish all the episodes of Planet Earth.
It’s a strange and peculiar world we find ourselves in, isn’t it? I’m partially convinced we’re trapped here, somehow held prisoner to our limitations, held hostage by our own technological inabilities. But, there is something so fascinating about the physical world, about life itself.
So, let’s dig into this crazy world we find ourselves in, Planet Earth…
What is the natural world that we, but one species among the panoply, believe we could somehow possess it? What is it to be immersed in it, to be a part of it, to be apart from it? From it’s wealth and death and morbid efficiencies, as it, like an eviternal clock, it ceaselessly lumbers forward from the past, through present, and falls headlong toward futurity.
As part of my Unschooled Master’s of Theology in Biblical Studies, I completed the entire collection of the Planet Earth Series, moving systematically through major themes of the natural world, from pole to pole, from desert to forest and all open spaces in between. The series portrayed the animal kingdom in unprecedented fashion, capturing grand spectacles, never-before-seen secrets these elusive creatures have thus far kept close to their chest.
Through it all, I was struck stunned and awed with gaping maw by the simplistic complexity of this our spherical home, this natural world that still surrounds us, even though we might tend to forget it.
The series is certainly a journey, and one not taken lightly, as the original Blue Planet broadcast spawned a myriad of other shows that would eventually be packaged together as the Planet Earth Collection.
I genuinely recommend this series to anyone interested in the natural world and have a desire to explore it.
Beautiful Planet Earth
The opening scene in the series is always of the planet from space. A grander expanse than any other seen before or since, the majesty and sanctity, a brilliant blue hue, slated across the surface of this incredible home inhabited by such a vibrant and enduring diversity.
They claim we are in danger of destroying ourselves, that humanity has effectively signed its own demise through the mining and refining and ultimate combustion of fossil fuels. To think the use of the remains of a long lost pre-historical world would spell our untimely end. And, their end was too, as paleontologists claim, serendipitously catastrophic.
Of course, theirs was out of their control. Without rational, cognitive abilities, the giants of pre-history can in no way be held liable for the presumptive asteroid strike or biblical flood that, either way, rendered the earth uninhabitable for long enough to wash all evidence of their existence from the earth.
Is this, too, our fate? Will we succumb to external forces? We know by God’s promise, our extinction will never again be attributed to a world-wide flood.
But, despite the inevitable fates of those from pre-history or even our own, we cannot help but be awed by the wonder that is this beautiful and magnificent world.
Watching episode after episode, one is struck with the wonder and exquisiteness that unfolds before us. Matrixes of finesse and intensity and astonishingly rich variety. The sheer depth and breadth of life that prospers here is monolithic, beyond human capacity to fully comprehend.
From a heliospheric perspective, the vast and open are miniscule when compared to volume of that which we call a solar system, and microscopic when measured against the vastness of our galaxy.
The grandeur that lay beyond in a seeming infinity of other galaxies and worlds and suns and planets. Where is there an end of this existence? Can we find a point at which reality ceases to be?
Of course, the images we have of our Milky Way, looking from the outside in, are simply artistic renderings. Our space probes Voyager 1 and 2 have just recently left our solar system, and this only after traveling for most of the time I’ve been alive.
What, then, are we to make of the beauty and the sheer gravity and sobriety of space and the universe and all it might contain?
Do we celebrate? Do we mourn? Do we plot and devise schemes, hoping we might one day out maneuver whatever fate is lurking just out of sight?
Brutal Planet Earth
It is a rather futile venture, for, despite its incredible and incomprehensible beauty, this planet is just as paradoxically brutal.
All around us is impending and inescapable death and chaos and savagery. Years ago, as an aspiring hermit, living in a single room cabin on my own version of Waldon Pond, I, spotting a moment to sit and quietly read on my front deck, not long later heard a peculiar sound coming from the water’s edge.
On closer inspection, I was shocked to find a majestic and sanguine Blue Heron, full of grace and poise, repeatedly stabbing with murderous rage, a catfish it had caught in shallow water.
I sat there, mesmerized for the good two minutes it took the large bird to kill its meal, and unceremoniously scoop the fish up and swallow it whole.
The video series captured this kind of abomination again and again, yet, to the predator, there is no animosity within. The tiger does not wish for the fawn to die as it sinks it’s fangs in. The wasp after the frog’s eggs does not wish any harm to the frog or the eggs it protects.
It is only the human perspective that acknowledges and projects some sort of malefic motivation in its actions. The animal kingdom is not like the civilized world of man. In nature, there is a kind of unspoken order, a perpetual ebb and flow, a uniformity, a continual re-balancing at work.
With man, it is not so. We are burdened with emotional complexity, with the ability to communicate in such complex and rich ways, all of which carrying with it a sub-text of injury and misconception and a subtle innuendo.
It is a relentless march of man, having long ago transcended the natural dance between predator and prey. But, a question arises as the struggle between two distinct world views rages on. Has it always been this way? Has nature always held to this peculiar balancing act, with death begetting life and life falling victim to death?
Those of faith and a genuine adherence to a serious interpretation of the biblical text would argue no. There was once a time when death did not reign supreme. There was a time when there was no rain and no oceans and the earth was a foreign place.
So, the inevitable question then arises: what transpired to change everything?
Natural World Fallen
Before the fateful events of Genesis 3:24, the earth was apparently a much different place. There was no hydrologic system on the earth, no rain, no storms – the only precipitation being a continual mist that rose up from the ground that was sufficient to provide water for everything.
There is also speculation that even after the fall, there could possibly have been a layer of water in the upper atmosphere that protected the earth from the harmful effects of solar radiation. It would provide a possible reason for why biblical people lived for so long, as there are many accounts of individuals living for nearly a thousand years.
But, much of this changed with the passing of the curse by God at the end of Genesis 3. He handed down sentences to the woman, to Adam, and to the serpent, but also to the earth, to all of creation, and then he cast the lot of them out of the garden.
From then on, a quiet chaos has reigned on the earth. Animals began eating each other after the Fall. After the flood, the speculative hydrological canopy was depleted, and the cycles of precipitation and evaporation began in earnest.
This transformation sparked what we know today as the perpetual dance found in the natural world, among the wild and free – an ebb and flow between astounding beauty and horrific brutality.
It was not the long, protracted process of some mythical, godless evolutionary process. This is a perverse world’s antidote to the righteous judgment of God. No, this was the consequence of Adam’s sin, for the curses for the other two pertained only to themselves and to each other. The curse of Adam, though, rippled throughout all Creation.
The reality is, this world captured in this series, is a fallen, destitute world, one that συστενάζει (G4959) “groans, moans together,” awaiting the revealing of the sons of God with αποκαραδοκία (G603) “earnest, eager anticipation.”
The transformation the created world underwent, this fundamental, radical, irreversible shift altered everything we see and everything we can know.
The world is not in danger. It does not need to be saved. It is doomed. It’s ultimate destiny has been predicted and it will come to pass. The world and all that live upon it must play their part. But, what then is the end?
The Coming End
It is an age-old story. One of intrigue, mystery, covert plans and nefarious agents working in secret in back alleys. But, to our account, the details matter little, and defer instead to the whole of the physical world, the planet itself destined to an ill-fate.
Somehow and at some time, beyond our own knowledge as a species of God, a revolt occurred in heaven (Revelation 12). This saw the victory of God and those angelic beings that sided with him, and the decision was subsequently made that there was no place remaining for the betrayer in heaven any longer. So, Satan and a third of heaven were cast to the earth. Christ even remarked of once seeing Satan “fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). This begins the inevitable, predicted, and pitiful end of a raging, inter-dimensional, intergalactic war between two unmatched adversaries: God and the devil, with Creation, unfortunately, in the cross-fire.
Of what greater or lesser significance the earth played in the previous, angelic civilization is unknown. Did they always dwell in heaven? There are several biblical references that insinuate as much. But, with our limited knowledge, it is simply unclear.
What we have been informed of is clear, though. There is coming a time (unknown by anyone but the Father, Matthew 24:36) when, “the heavens will pass away with great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works therein will burn up” (2 Peter 3:10). It is clear two more verses later, that Peter is referring to the στοιχεία (G4747) “fundamental, principle elements that make up matter and give order to reality.” These will be set on fire and the base building blocks to reality will τακήσεται (G5080) “melt away, liquefy” (possibly referring to a state similar to Genesis 1:2).
This is the promise. The destruction and reduction to fundamental building blocks from which it was first created and brought into existence.
But, what does that mean for us? For humanity? For animals? For sentience? What of God’s creation, the נשמה חיה (H5315/H4216) “living being, soul.”
New Heaven and a New Earth
For all the beauty and majesty and glory we might see in the four-dimensional tapestry that is Creation, it still remains a pitiful reminder of what this place once was. Beyond that, major mysteries abound concerning the gap between Genesis 1:1, when God created the heavens and the earth, and presumably everything contained within it, and Genesis 1:2, when it היתה (H1961) “became” without form and void.
It could be argued that between these two verses rests an entirely foreign account of the creation of the Lord’s Hosts, the angelic beings, often presented at least, categorically, as a two position hierarchal system (cherubim and seraphim), with the possibility of many more distinctions. Where they come from, when they were created, and for what purpose, remains unknown.
But, there is coming an appointed moment in time, its arrival known only by the Father, when which he will give the Only Begotten the order to fetch his bride. On that day – the Lord’s Day – the sky will roll back like a scroll, the mountains will move from their places, there will be great signs on earth and in heaven. And, then it will be the end of all things.
But, in Revelation we are promised, after all that is said and done, and after the wicked have been purged from God’s presence, we will enter into a new period without time, and Creation will return again to its pre-fallen state.
The new City will descend from the lofty heights of heaven, and we will enter in by its gates, and there will be no oceans and no sun or moon any longer, for Christ will be its eternal and perpetual and glorious light.
Within its walls will be the Tree of Life, and we will freely eat of it, and we will live on forever, children of God, co-heirs with Christ, and fellow servants with the mysterious angelic beings known as the Sons of God.
So, this is Planet Earth. The real and lasting and destined for destruction Planet Earth. Of all the glory and spectacle that we see now before us, the wild and brutal and malefic severity present between predator and prey, among human monsters and viperous sheep, there is an end to it all.
Whether on a pole, a mountain, from the grasslands, or a river or ocean or jungle, we humans have cornered the market on creativity, on innovation, on expression and self-reflection. Yet, we are losing the war for our soul as unique and favored of God’s creations
The video series, Planet Earth, though maybe faulty in its motivations, still attempts to present and does capture the grandness and exquisite awe we find hinting at God’s authorship in the nature around us.
Will we find, as we each shuffle off this sacred and holy sphere, a welcoming and comforting existence on another plane, introduced to another, more vibrant, more intense dimensional expression of thought and consciousness and purity and transcendence? Or, do we, once our time has come, slip free of the binds that hold us present to this experience, and drift free into the nothingness that permeates everything and is nothing but makes up all things?
However our journey will end, the vehicle by which we get there, this incredible, unmistakably inspiring and simultaneously brutal and severe planet we must, out of necessity, call home – there is an centrally defining thread that runs through everything and encapsulates the human condition, the condition to life, to existence.
From the Word, we find comfort. For, God assures us in our times of need, we should not fear. “Be of good cheer,” he tells us. “For I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In his overcoming there is both a price paid and likewise a promise made. “For he who overcomes, I will give you to eat from the tree of life, [you will] not be hurt by the second death, I will give you from the hidden manna to eat, I will give you a white stone with your name written on it that only you will know, and I will give you power over the nations, and [you will be] clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out your name from the Book of Life, but will confess your name before My Father and his angels, and I will make [you] a pillar in the temple of My God, and I will write on [you] the name of My God and the name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, and [you] will receive my new name, and [you] will inherit all things, and I will be your God and you will be my people.”
Until my next review….
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Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
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