1. Spiritual Revival is Inherent in Wilderness
Wilderness itself worships the Creator. By its very nature it offers a quiet but exuberant praise of God which people should acknowledge. This natural worship gives wilderness inherent worth, presence and value that stretches beyond its potential monetary values from supplying commodities or raw materials
When visitors to wilderness feel the presence of pines and plants, streams and rivers, earth and soil, sunlight and shadows, they connect to an aspect of something greater that elicits wonder, admiration and ultimately humility before the great work of our Creator-God.
Millions of people visit wilderness places for hunting, fishing and recreation, but there is a more significant possibility, a re-creation, a spiritual renewal, which becomes possible when wilderness is entered for expressly religious purposes. Wilderness can then open and impart its unique teaching - an inspired wisdom formed by the very process of creation. This enhances, even revives our sense of God who is everywhere present and fills all things. “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that your name is near.” Ps. 75:1
In this way we find in wild nature a reminder of God’s presence within creation, a recollection of how the life in our own bodies is intertwined with the life of all other living things. As Christians, the Lord of this life is the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we find connection, even a unity, with the life of creation.
2. Teacher, Healer and Prophet
Wilderness is an intact, untrammeled expression of God’s creative action. Thus it reveals aspects of His divine nature. John 1:2-3 “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” As such, God’s wild creation serves as a teacher, healer and prophet.
As teacher, wilderness is inspiring, beautiful and manifesting of wisdom; it is also stern, just and uncompromising. As flowers are obedient to their natures, so wilderness everywhere teaches obedience to its Maker and each part demonstrates fidelity to its purpose. This is a lesson which our society has not yet learned.
As healer, wilderness is recreative, regenerative and spiritually uplifting when approached with respect, reverence and a search for God. Every one of us needs healing. When the therapeutic values of wild nature are understood, wilderness becomes medicine for wounded souls and stressed minds, a prescription written by the wisdom of our Maker for the strains and tensions of modern life.
As prophet, wilderness reveals the eternal power and divine nature of the Creator. The more we intuit wilderness’ prophetic nature, the more we also develop humility and gratefulness. Therefore we see the witness of wilderness as a great prophetic lesson for human society - its display of submission to divine principle and the integration of its designs into the biophysical systems of the planet that provide a test for the suitability, sustainability and integrity of human action. Human actions and development must enhance and complement the already existing systems of nature or they should not be carried out.
Despite all of these magnificent features and miraculous functions wilderness is still fragile and vulnerable. It requires love and intentional care to preserve and protect it as well as recognition that it can be wounded and even destroyed by careless or thoughtless human action.
3. A Geography of Goodness
Just as Jesus often withdrew into the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16), so all Christians can benefit from following this blessed example.
The very existence of wild lands reminds us that the world yet retains vestiges of its primeval purity. This beckons us into our own forms of purity in imitation of the image and likeness in which we have been created. In this way the existence of wilderness can serve as “a geography of hope,” a beacon for the possibility of purity.
Thus, wilderness imbues us with a sense of the virtues, evoking faith, hope and charity and the righteousness which we repeatedly learn from scripture as well as from our own inner life.
When faith, hope and charity, are set alongside the thanksgiving, humility and submission of our lives as disciples of Christ, we can relearn an old lesson which early Christians knew well: that wilderness becomes “a geography of virtue,” a form of religious teaching which deepens our discipleship.
4. Wilderness as Tithe
Creation provides the context of our lives and the framework for our journey of discipleship. It is a gift from God that He has given to us to steward and to have dominion over in a way that requires justice, prudence, temperance and holiness.
Yet wilderness is fast disappearing. Less than 0.3% of North Carolina’s once magnificent forests and mountains has been set aside for future generations to experience and enjoy. If we are to rightly steward and take dominion over this land, we must leave creation’s full evangelical witness intact for the future, so that our children and grandchildren may benefit from the natural lessons of our Creator without defilement or without elements missing from its grand and eloquent commentary.
Wilderness has unseen dimensions. Just as plants have roots that are out of sight, so there is a depth unseen in wilderness that may surpass what we can observe with our eyes. Wilderness reflects the timelessness and depth of its Creator and may even hold answers to questions we have not yet learned to ask. To degrade or destroy it before it can impart the witness of its Unseen Maker is irresponsible and the height of folly.
We are inspired, therefore, to invite all churches of North Carolina to reflect on wilderness as a social tithe, as a setting aside of the first and best of what ultimately belongs to God. In this way, future generations may also enjoy the beauty and good in God’s undefiled creation.
For these reasons, and more not listed here, we ask North Carolina’s representatives of Christ’s continuing ministry, to consider the following recommendations:
1. Reflect on the nature of our responsibility to future generations, especially as it involves protection for wilderness. Will our children’s children thank us and bless us for how we have left the land, or will they look back at prior generations and grieve at irreversible mistakes that have silenced the land’s witness?
2. Invite churches and clergy into a discussion of the spiritual values of wilderness. What are they? Why are they? What is their value for congregations today?
3. Visit the Lost Cove-Harper Creek area intentionally seeking its spiritual side. Go with a search for God and for spiritual learning. Go with prayer and thanksgiving.
4. Take action to preserve and protect this wild area. North Carolina has few good candidates for wilderness status - this is one of the best remaining places.
We submit these recommendations to all churches in North Carolina, first that our religious traditions might be strengthened and reinvigorated to fulfill the biblical mandates to love God, to love our neighbor, and to care for the Lord’s good earth, and second, so that wilderness might be protected. we encourage every church to enter into a deeper examination of the potential for wilderness to offer a religious witness complementary to every manifestation of the Way and the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.