Creation as the "living garment of God"

“Or what is Nature? Ha! Why do I not name thee God? Art not thou the ‘Garment of the Living God’? O Heavens, is it, in very deed, He, then, that ever speaks through thee; that lives and loves in thee, that lives and loves in me?” 
Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Restartus (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1893), p. 130.
In “The Knowledge of God the Creator” (Institutes I.V.1), Calvin offers the following comment on Psalm 104:
Therefore the prophet very aptly exclaims that he is "clad with light as with a garment" [Ps. 104: 2 p.]. It is as if he said: Thereafter the Lord began to show himself in the visible splendor of his apparel, ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze."
Thanks to Thomas Hastings for these quotations (both taken from his excellent study on the twentieth-century Japanese evangelist and social reformer Kagawa Toyohiko—Pickwick, forthcoming). Here is Kagawa himself:
[S]omeone may ask this question: Are God and the universe one? And are God and human beings one? Pantheism takes that stand. But I am not a pantheist. I am an advocate of the Holy Spirit. No, beyond that I am one who rejoices in the Spirit-filled life.  
Is the child living in the womb identical to the mother? Although conceived in the mother, the child is a different person from the mother. The mother transcends the child. Still, the child is living in the mother. And the child comes from the mother. In like manner, the absolute God transcends human beings while embracing human beings, and human beings are created by God. 
We can think of the relation of God and the universe in the same way. The material world is not itself God. But God transcends it, dwells in it, and through it manifests himself. I wonder if it is not most appropriate to think of the material world as the garment of God.


Yahnatan said…
Thanks for sharing these quotes.
Jews recite Psalm 104:2 each morning while putting on a prayer shawl. I find it to be a similarly beautiful and awe-inspiring image.
I have often pondered the relationship with God and his creation in this way. These scriptures and commentaries give me something to ruminate. Thank you!
Monica Schaap Pierce said…
A belated response, but I discovered this fine little gem of a post while searching for any historical precedent for the use of the "clothing" metaphor to talk about the natural world as the garment of God. I am writing on Calvin's Pneumatological Doctrine of Creation (for my dissertation) and have found this metaphor instructive in understanding the Spirit's relationship with the world (although I also am drawn to the child-in-the-womb image you include here). Elsewhere in the "Institutes" Calvin describes the Spirit as "diffused" and "transfusing" into all living things. I contend that this language is very fruitful for understanding God's relationship with the world and our relationship with other living things, united through the continual inspiration of the Spirit (though not one and the same!). A renewed eco-theological ethic follows closely behind these renewed ways of understanding relationality in the world.
Robin Parry said…
Thanks Monica

That is very interesting.


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