From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

By God’s appointment, human beings are the earthly rulers of the created world. From the beginning God’s intention was that as they brought the physical world under their control, nature would enter into fuller glory and people would enter into greater blessing ( Genesis 1:28). Nature’s destiny was tied up with that of the human race. Therefore, when Adam and Eve sinned and brought suffering upon themselves, nature also suffered ( Genesis 3:17-18;  Romans 8:20;  Romans 8:22). Only when a redeemed humanity enters its full glory will nature enter its full glory ( Romans 8:19-23).

Different attitudes to nature

People who do not believe in God may not agree with the Christian that the human race has authority over nature. They may consider that men and women have no more rights than animals, plants, or even lifeless things such as minerals. As a result they may worship rocks or trees, and sometimes may treat animals better than they treat people. The outcome of their belief is not that they raise nature to the level of humans, but that they lower humans to the level of the animals ( Romans 1:20-25).

God’s people, while not giving animals, plants and minerals a higher place than God intended for them, should nevertheless realize that these things have a place and purpose in God’s order. This was demonstrated in the law God gave to ancient Israel. He allowed his people to plant trees for fruit or to clear forests to establish settlements ( Leviticus 19:23-25;  Joshua 17:18), but he did not allow them to chop down trees unnecessarily. People could not destroy forests and orchards simply to use the trees for building siegeworks. They were to use only those trees that were not useful for anything else ( Deuteronomy 20:19-20).

Likewise God taught his people to be kind to animals. They were to give proper food and rest to the animals that worked for them, and were not to use their animals in any way that could be considered cruel ( Deuteronomy 5:14;  Deuteronomy 22:10;  Deuteronomy 25:4). In killing animals they were not to be heartless or thoughtless. They had to consider the animal’s instincts and feelings, and remember the need to maintain the balance of nature ( Exodus 23:19 b;  Leviticus 22:28;  Deuteronomy 22:6-7). In particular they had to acknowledge that God was the owner of all life, and that they could take the life of an animal only by his permission ( Leviticus 17:13-14;  Deuteronomy 12:15-16;  Deuteronomy 12:23-24;  Psalms 50:10-11; see Blood ).

Responsibility to God

Although given authority over nature, people are not to treat nature according to their own selfish desires. They do not have unlimited right over nature, for they are merely the representative of God in administering what God has entrusted to them. God is the owner of nature ( Psalms 24:1-2; see Creation ), and people are answerable to God for the way they treat it ( Genesis 2:15;  Psalms 8:6-8).

According to the gracious permission given them by God, people may use nature for their own benefit. God allows them to take minerals from the earth, to enjoy the fruits of plant life, to cut down trees to build houses, to eat the meat of animals, and to kill insects and animals that threaten their lives ( Deuteronomy 8:7-10;  Deuteronomy 12:15;  Joshua 6:21). But God does not give them the right to desolate the land solely for monetary gain, or destroy life solely for personal pleasure. Their attitude to nature should be a reflection of the care over nature that the Creator himself exercises ( Psalms 104:10-30;  Matthew 6:25-30;  Matthew 10:29).

God gave specific laws to the people of Israel concerning their attitude to nature in the matter of farming. He told them to rest their land one year in seven. If they failed to, he would force them to rest it by driving them from it ( Leviticus 25:3-7;  Leviticus 26:34-35;  Leviticus 26:43; see Sabbatical Year ). God assured the Israelites that he would use nature as a means of blessing them when they obeyed him, but of punishing them when they disobeyed him ( Deuteronomy 11:13-17;  Deuteronomy 28:1-24;  2 Chronicles 7:14).

It seems that God so created the natural world that, when people act towards it without restraint, they help bring ruin to it and to themselves ( Isaiah 24:5-6). Christians know that human sin affected nature from the time of the rebellion in Eden ( Genesis 3:17-19), but they know also that when they are finally delivered from the effects of sin, nature also will be delivered ( Romans 8:19-23).

In their personal lives Christians work towards the goal of their deliverance from the consequences of sin. They should work towards similar deliverance in all things affected by sin. Not only should they purify themselves because of the likeness they will one day bear to Christ, but they should also help towards the healing of nature in view of the full glory God has planned for it ( Philippians 3:20-21;  Titus 2:11-14;  1 John 3:2-3).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

1. The revelation of God in Nature. -The basis of St. Paul’s appeal to the men of Lystra ( Acts 14:15 ff.) is that ‘the living God’ manifests Himself in creation. In  Romans 1:19 ff. the Apostle elaborates the same argument, drawing out its sterner implications and showing that the Gentiles were under condemnation because they had repressed the knowledge of God imparted to them in the works of His hands. No countenance is given to either of the two modern extremes of thought: there is no disparagement of Nature’s teachings; and, on the other hand, they are never set forth as sufficient for man’s spiritual needs. St. Paul’s purpose is answered when he has asserted ‘the fact that the Gentiles possessed lofty conceptions of God which nevertheless had not proved to them the way of salvation. This true knowledge had been attained very largely through a right apprehension of the natural world which in all ages has been the “living garment” men have seen God by’ (R. D. Shaw, The Pauline Epistles, Edinburgh, 1903, p. 210). Naturalism and Nature-worship which substitute Nature for God are alike remote from apostolic thought. God’s invisible attributes have been revealed in the universe which proclaims His wisdom and His power. He is, therefore, to be worshipped with adoration and thanksgiving. In  Romans 8:19 St. Paul poetically personifies Nature and represents it as sympathizing with humanity’s hopes. ‘He conceives of all creation as involved in the fortunes of humanity.… Creation is not inert, utterly unspiritual, alien to our life and its hopes.… With the revelation of the sons of God humanity would attain its end, and nature too’ (J. Denney, Expositor’s Greek Testament, ‘Romans,’ 1900, in loc.).

2. The light of Nature. -The revelation of God in Nature implies a corresponding responsibility on the part of those to whom it is given; it affects man’s moral condition according as he is or is not guided by its light. In  Romans 2:14 St. Paul grants that Gentiles may do ‘by nature’ the things of the law. There is, therefore, a standard by which they may be judged although they do not possess the written Law which is the Jews’ glory. ‘For whenever any of them instinctively put in practice the precepts of the law, their own moral sense supplies them with the law they need’ (Sanday-Headlam, International Critical Commentary, ‘Romans’5, 1902, p. 54). To appreciate the force of the Apostle’s argument, it is important to remember that although he regards the light of Nature as insufficient, he recognizes that the knowledge of God derived from Nature is true and good. ‘The hinge on which everything turns is the forsaking of the knowledge.… The Theism of the Gentiles failed not because its light was delusive, but because its light was not used.’ St. Paul is not, therefore, ‘to be understood to mean that the Gentile world of which he wrote was lying in universal wickedness, unredeemed by even a single ray of human goodness’ (R. D. Shaw, op. cit. p. 216 f.). St. Paul taught that in the visible creation men may discern the workings of a supreme Mind and Will; he also taught that the revelation of God in His Son is the climax, not the contradiction, of His revelation in Nature. He knew that from the depths of man’s spiritual being questions arise to which Nature can give no clear and unambiguous answer. Unless men pass from the light of Nature into the presence of Him who is the Light of life, theirs will be the disappointment of all who seek in converse with Nature what can be attained only in communion with God through Christ. In the NT ‘nature’ is never used in what may be called its prevailing meaning in modern thought; the early Christians had no conception of ‘nature’ such as is implied in definitions which make it ‘co-extensive with science, which deals with sequences only, reserving all beyond for philosophy, which deals with causes also. Thus nature will not be the sum of things, except for one who maintains that phenomena have no true causes at all’ (H. M. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God2, Edinburgh, 1908, i. 47).

3. Nature and grace. -The Pauline antithesis between ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’ has been dwelt upon above (see Natural). Most frequently, however, man’s natural condition, moral and spiritual, is, in the NT, contrasted with his experience in a state of grace. ‘St. Paul had an altogether persuasive and beautiful word for the supernatural, which he was never weary of using, and which the Church should count one of her chief treasures-the Grace of God’ (J. Watson, The Doctrines of Grace, London, 1900, p. 6). St. Paul described Barnabas and himself as ‘of like nature’ with the men of Lystra ( Acts 14:15 Revised Version margin). He was disclaiming the ascription to men of divine honours, and acknowledging that he was not exempt from human feelings and infirmities (cf.  James 5:17). But when St. Paul says to the Ephesians: ‘we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest’ (2:3), he associates himself with those who before they were quickened and became partakers of grace were ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ He regards sin as ‘a constitutional malady. There exists a bad element in our human nature.’ ‘Our trespasses and sins are, after all, not forced on us by our environment. Those offences by which we provoke God, lie in our nature; they are no mere casual acts, they belong to our bias and disposition’ (G. G. Findlay, Expositor’s Bible, ‘The Epistle to the Ephesians,’ London, 1892, p. 104). In the context of this passage St. Paul explains what it is to be ‘saved by grace.’ His teaching agrees with the statement in  2 Peter 1:4 that the promises of grace are given in order that men who inherit a sinful nature may ‘become partakers of a divine nature.’

Literature.-J. Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, London, 1899; P. N. Waggett, Is there a Religion of Nature?, do., 1902; W. L. Walker, Christian Theism and a Spiritual Monism, Edinburgh, 1906; J. O. Dykes, The Divine Worker in Creation and Providence, do., 1909; C. F. D’Arcy, Christianity and the Supernatural, London, 1909; R. Eucken, Naturalism or Idealism?, Cambridge, 1912.

J. G. Tasker.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Nature The term ‘nature’ is not used in the OT. nor was the conception current in Hebrew thought, as God alone is seen in all, through all, and over all. The idea came from the word physis from Hellenism. Swine’s flesh is commended for food as a gift of nature in 4Ma 5:7 . In the NT the term is used in various senses: (1) the forces, laws, and order of the world, including man (  Romans 1:26;   Romans 11:21;   Romans 11:24 ,   Galatians 4:8 ); (2) the inborn sense of propriety or morality (  1 Corinthians 11:14 ,   Romans 2:14 ); (3) birth or physical origin (  Galatians 2:15 ,   Romans 2:27 ); (4) the sum of characteristics of a species or person, human (  James 3:7 ), or Divine (  2 Peter 1:4 ); (5) a condition acquired or inherited (  Ephesians 2:3 , ‘by nature children of wrath’). What is contrary to nature is condemned. While the term is not found or the conception made explicit in the OT, Schultz ( OT Theol . ii. 74) finds in the Law ‘the general rule that nothing is to be permitted contrary to the delicate sense of the inviolable proprieties of nature,’ and gives a number of instances (  Exodus 23:19;   Exodus 34:26 ,   Leviticus 22:28;   Leviticus 19:19 ,   Deuteronomy 22:9-11 ,   Leviticus 10:9;   Leviticus 19:28;   Leviticus 21:5;   Leviticus 22:24 ,   Deuteronomy 14:1;   Deuteronomy 23:2 ). The beauty and the order of the world are recognized as evidences of Divine wisdom and power (  Psalms 8:1;   Psalms 19:1;   Psalms 33:6-7;   Psalms 90:2;   Psalms 104:1-35;   Psalms 136:6 ff.,   Psalms 147:1-20 ,   Proverbs 8:22-30 ,   Job 38:1-41;   Job 39:1-30 ); but the sum of created things is not hypostatized and personified apart from God, as in much current modern thinking. God is Creator, Preserver, and Ruler: He makes all (  Isaiah 44:24 ,   Amos 4:13 ), and is in all (  Psalms 139:1-24 ). His immanence is by His Spirit (  Genesis 1:2 ). Jesus recognizes God’s bounty and care in the flowers of the field and the birds of the air (  Matthew 6:26;   Matthew 6:28 ); He uses natural processes to illustrate spiritual, in salt (  Matthew 5:13 ), seed and soil (  Matthew 13:3-9 ), and leaven (  Matthew 13:33 ). The growth of the seed is also used as an illustration by Paul (  1 Corinthians 15:37-38 ). There is in the Bible no interest in nature apart from God, and the problem of the relation of God to nature has not yet risen on the horizon of the thought of the writers.

Alfred E. Garvie.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [4]

1: Φύσις (Strong'S #5449 — Noun Feminine — phusis — foo'-sis )

from phuo, "to bring forth, produce," signifies (a) "the nature" (i.e., the natural powers of constitution) of a person or thing,  Ephesians 2:3;  James 3:7 ("kind");   2—Peter 1:4; (b) "origin, birth,"  Romans 2:27 , one who by birth is a Gentile, uncircumcised, in contrast to one who, though circumcised, has become spiritually uncircumcised by his iniquity;  Galatians 2:15; (c) "the regular law or order of nature,"  Romans 1:26 , against "nature" (para, "against");  Romans 2:14 , adverbially, "by nature" (for  Romans 11:21,24 , see Natural , Note);  1—Corinthians 11:14;  Galatians 4:8 , "by nature (are no gods)," here "nature" is the emphatic word, and the phrase includes demons, men regarded as deified, and idols; these are gods only in name (the negative, me, denies not simply that they were gods, but the possibility that they could be).

2: Γένεσις (Strong'S #1078 — Noun Feminine — genesis — ghen'-es-is )

is used in the phrase in  James 3:6 , "the wheel of nature," RV (marg., "birth"). Some regard this as the course of birth or of creation, or the course of man's "nature" according to its original Divine purpose; Major (on the Ep. of James) regards trochos here as a wheel, "which, catching fire from the glowing axle, is compared to the widespreading mischief done by the tongue," and shows that "the fully developed meaning" of genesis denotes "the incessant change of life ... the sphere of this earthly life, meaning all that is contained in our life." The significance, then, would appear to be the whole round of human life and activity. Moulton and Milligan illustrate it in this sense from the papyri. See Natural , B.

King James Dictionary [5]

NATURE, n. L. from nature, born, produced,

1. In a general sense, whatever is made or produced a word that comprehends all the works of God the universe. Of a phoenix we say, there is no such thing in nature.

And look through nature up to natures God.

2. By a metonymy of the effect for the cause, nature is used for the agent, creator, author, producer of things, or for the powers that produce them. By the expression, trees and fossils are produced by nature, we mean, they are formed or produced by certain inherent powers in matter, or we mean that they are produced by God, the Creator, the Author of whatever is made or produced. The opinion that things are produced by inherent powers of matter, independent of a supreme intelligent author, is atheism. But generally men mean by nature, thus used, the Author of created things, or the operation of his power. 3. The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute it what it is as the nature of the soul the nature of blood the nature of a fluid the nature of plants, or of a metal the nature of a circle or an angle. When we speak of the nature of man, we understand the peculiar constitution of his body or mind, or the qualities of the species which distinguish him from other animals. When we speak of the nature of a man, or an individual of the race, we mean his particular qualities or constitution either the peculiar temperament of his body, or the affections of his mind, his natural appetites, passions, disposition or temper. So of irrational animals. 4. The established or regular course of things as when we say, an event is not according to nature, or it is out of the order of nature. 5. A law or principle of action or motion in a natural body. A stone by nature falls, or inclines to fall. 6. Constitution aggregate powers of a body, especially a living one. We say, nature is strong or weak nature is almost exhausted. 7. The constitution and appearances of things.

The works, whether of poets, painters, moralists or historians, which are built upon general nature, live forever.

8. Natural affection or reverence.

Have we not seen, the murdering son ascend his parents bed through violated nature force his way?

9. System of created things.

He binding nature fast in fate, Left conscience free and will.

10. Sort species kind particular character.

A dispute of this nature caused mischief to a king and an archbishop.

11. Sentiments r images conformed to nature, or to truth and reality.

Only nature can please those tastes which are unprejudiced and refined.

12. Birth. No man is noble by nature.

NATURE, To endow with natural qualities. Not in use

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) The personified sum and order of causes and effects; the powers which produce existing phenomena, whether in the total or in detail; the agencies which carry on the processes of creation or of being; - often conceived of as a single and separate entity, embodying the total of all finite agencies and forces as disconnected from a creating or ordering intelligence.

(2): ( n.) The established or regular course of things; usual order of events; connection of cause and effect.

(3): ( n.) Conformity to that which is natural, as distinguished from that which is artifical, or forced, or remote from actual experience.

(4): ( n.) The sum of qualities and attributes which make a person or thing what it is, as distinct from others; native character; inherent or essential qualities or attributes; peculiar constitution or quality of being.

(5): ( n.) Hence: Kind, sort; character; quality.

(6): ( n.) The existing system of things; the world of matter, or of matter and mind; the creation; the universe.

(7): ( n.) Physical constitution or existence; the vital powers; the natural life.

(8): ( n.) Natural affection or reverence.

(9): ( n.) Constitution or quality of mind or character.

(10): ( v. t.) To endow with natural qualities.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [7]

The essential properties of a thing, or that by which it is distinguished from all others. It is used also, for the system of the world, and the Creator of it; the aggregate powers of the human body, and common sense,  Romans 1:26-27 .  1 Corinthians 11:14 . The word is also used in reference to a variety of other objects which we shall here enumerate.

1. The divine nature is not any external form or shape, but his glory, excellency, and perfections, peculiar to himself.

2. Human nature signifies the state, properties, and peculiarities of  Prayer of Manasseh 1:1 :

3. Good nature is a disposition to please, and is compounded of kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, and self-denial.

4. The law of nature is the will of God relating to human actions, grounded in the moral differences of things. Some understand it in a more comprehensive sense, as signifying those stated orders by which all the parts of the material world are governed in their several motions and operations.

5. The light of nature does not consist merely in those ideas which heathens have actually attained, but those which are presented to men by the works of creation, and which, by the exertion of reason, they may obtain, if they be desirous of retaining God in their mind.


6. By the dictates of nature, with regard to right and wrong, we understand those things which appear to the mind to be natural, fit, or reasonable.

7. The state of nature is that in which men have not by mutual engagements, implicit or express, entered communities.

8. Depraved nature is that corrupt state in which all mankind are born, and which inclines them to evil.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

The inherent qualities of a being manifested in the various characteristics which mark and display its existence: the aggregate of such qualities is what is termed its nature, and one class or order of being is thus distinguished from another. Men by nature are the children of wrath,  Ephesians 2:3; whereas the Christian becomes morally partaker of the divine nature,  2 Peter 1:4; of which love is the characteristic: he is made partaker of God's holiness.  Hebrews 12:10 . The work of God in the Christian which forms his nature thus finds its expression in him. The Creator can design and predicate the nature of a being before that being has an actual existence in fact; but we, as creatures, can discern the nature only from the existent being, and cannot therefore rightly speak of the nature save as characteristic of the being.

Nature is also a term descriptive of the vast system of created things around us, to each part of which the Creator has given not only its existence, but its use, its order, its increase, its decay — often called 'the laws of nature' — the laws which govern each and which constitute its propriety. Thus nature teaches that a man should not have long hair,  1 Corinthians 11:14; and a multitude of other things that are of God's order in creation.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

In Scripture the word nature expresses the orderly and usual course of things established in the world. St. Paul says, to ingraft a good olive tree into a wild olive is contrary to nature,  Romans 11:24; the customary order of nature is thereby in some measure inverted. Nature is also put for natural descent: "We who are Jews by nature," by birth, "and not Gentiles,"  Galatians 2:15 . "We were by nature the children of wrath,"  Ephesians 2:3 . Nature also denotes common sense, natural instinct: "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him?"  1 Corinthians 11:14 .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

I. New.-Test. Usage Of The Word . In  James 1:23;  James 3:6, the Greek is Γένεσις ,- Έως ; elsewhere, as  Romans 1:26, Φύσις . It is variously used for,

1. the laws of the natural or moral world ( Romans 1:26;  Romans 2:14;  Romans 11:21;  Romans 11:24).

2. Birth, origin, or natural descent: "Jews by nature" ( Galatians 2:15;  Romans 2:27); "Which by nature are no gods" ( Galatians 4:8).

3. Genus, Kind: "For every kind (marg. ' Nature') of beasts," etc., "is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind" (marg. "Nature Of Nman" [ James 3:4]).

4. The native mode of thinking, feeling, acting, as unenlightened and unsanctified by the, Holy Spirit: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" ( 1 Corinthians 2:14; comp.  Ephesians 2:3).

5. Nature also denotes a customary sense of propriety: "Doth not nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" ( 1 Corinthians 11:14). It was the national custom among both the Hebrews and Greeks for men to wear the hair short.

II. Philosophical Import Of The Word . "The term Nature is used sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a narrower extension. When employed in its most.extensive meaning, it embraces the two worlds of mind and matter. When employed in its more restricted signification, it is a synonvme for the latter only, and is then used in contradistinction to the former. In the Greek philosophy, the word Φύσις was general in its meaning; and the great branch of philosophy, styled Physical or Physiological, included under it not only the sciences of matter, but also those of mind. With us, the term nature is more vaguely extensive than the terms physics, physical, physiology, physiological or even than the adjective natural; whereas, in the philosophy of Germany, natur and its correlatives, whether of Greek or Latin derivation, are in general expressive of the world of matter in contrast to the world of intelligence" (Sir W. Hamilton. Reid's Works, page 216, note).

"The word nature has been used in two senses, viz., actively and passively; energetic (=forma formans), and material (=forma formata). In the first it signifies the inward principle of whatever is requisite for the reality of a thing as existent; while the essence, or essential property, signifies the inner principle of all that appertains to the possibility of a thing. Hence, in accurate language, we say the essence of a mathematical circle or geometrical figure, not the nature, because in the conception of forms, purely geometrical, there is no expression or implication of their real existence. In the second or material sense of the word nature, we mean by it the sum total of all things, as far as they are objects of our senses, and consequently of possible experience the aggregate of phenomena, whether existing'for our outer senses or for our inner sense. The doctrine concerning nature would therefore (the word physiology being both ambiguous in itself, and already otherwise appropriated) be more properly entitled phenomenology, distinguished into its two grand divisions, somatology and psychology" (Coleridge, Friend, page 410).