The World in the Shadow of God: An Introduction to Christian Natural Theology
by Ephraim Radner
Cascade, 169 pages, $20

This world “continuously displays the life of God.” So writes Ephraim Radner in The World in the Shadow of God , his new collection of poems drawn from meditations on the Apostles’ Creed.

In an introductory essay, Radner argues for the theological necessity of poetry: “It is important that the Christian faith itself struggle with the character of transitory emptiness (a shadowed form from something beyond its seeming), and allow it to speak . . . that is what a robust natural theology can do, and it is what poetry most especially is bound up in doing.” For, says Radner, poetry, as “the supreme art of imitation,” is made up of the “scraps and threads of descriptive claims”this is the nature of verse . . . that it most ‘looks like’ the world.”

How, Radner asks, “can the world not witness to, even ‘reveal’ God?” “If nothing else, the visible world of secondary causes, as Gregory of Nazianzus eloquently urged, was so marvelously fraught with mystery that at the least it unveiled the greater veil of God’s marvelous being.”

Northrup Frye, in The Great Code , his seminal work on the Bible and literature, wrote of how weighted words such as fountain , tree , oil , stream , vine , and mountain can become analogies for sacred experience. In the poems of The World in the Shadow of God , Radner lets such words as earth , meat , vine , rock , flame , and mountain provide an ample architecture of primitive natural expression that draws us to the divine. In the poem “God,” for example, he writes:

Each day, each following rock,
each flame
for Israel”
Oh Moses, look inside the mountain
when its top is shook, its sounding
summit blazing, trumpets blast
again announcing that at last
the contents of the promised hill
are bared for the stars to see,
the stilled
heavens to wrap, and peace
relentlessly
to hold: they are all swarming,
and the endless
tables filled.


Losana Boyd is marketing director of First Things .