Rick, I think you are interpreting my post in a black and white way when in reality I am seeing things in shades of gray. Jason gives me a great segue into a way to explain what I am trying to say more clearly.
Augustine in Bk 10 ch 14
says “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible. “ (reading the rest of this will make the context much more clear which is why I gave the link)
This theme of our individual journey being a microcosm of the journey of the human race in history is something often seen in the patristic literature, as is the advance from the visible to the invisible. And there is also an understanding that within each age is a unique administration/dispensation of grace. This is true both historically and individually. This is the paradigm from which St Paul draws out his plan of salvation in Romans. He starts with the “pagan age” if we may call it that in which God makes himself know through creation and our conscience. (Rom 1-2) The godly in these ages, as Jason notes, give thanks to their creator and render to Him worship according to that dispensation. But as Jason also notes above, as St Paul notes, the temptation here is to let the creation become an idol.
Then he talks about circumcision and the law (ch 2-5) We are told of Abraham, who lived what God required of man in this pagan dispensation as perfectly as was possible and, so from Abraham came Isaac and Israel, and from Israel came the nation of Israel and a new administration of grace, a new age wherein God revealed himself more fully and more personally, and which foreshadowed Christ more perfectly.
The Israelites were promised all the blessings of the law, but also had greater responsibility. It’s like the difference between the infant who simply lives in their parents’ presence and under their care without real understanding, and the child who has now been given rules to live by as they become more active and responsible members of the household, but without yet being full adults.
But the while the Law was a tutor to educate, and material blessings were promised (see the rest of ch 14 from City of God) the administration of grace under the law still did not have the power to “crucify our body of sin.. so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." Rom 6:5-6. It was a more external grace, not the law of God written on the heart.
The perfection of Israel's dispensation was found in Mary of whom Christ was born and of whom came the Church starting a new administration of grace. As St Paul says Eph 3: 7. “ I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery(sacrament) , which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is only in the administration of the mystery, the sacrament, in Christ that we have the adoption of sons, the remission of sins, the purification of the heart, and in general the fullness of our redemption. And this is what St Paul moves into in ch 6-8 of Romans. He talks about being baptized into Christ, dying with Him in order to be raised with Him and the spiritual struggle for freedom from sin, and moving into the “law of the Spirit of Life” and being set free from the law of sin and death. But we see once again that where there is more grace and a closer relationship there is more responsibility. The Christian is responsible not just for an external obedience to the law, but for the internal struggle to bring the soul into obedience to God.
Therefore, in my posts above, I am not trying to say one can’t experience God in a sunrise, but I am trying to say that this is not the type of experience of God or manifestation of grace that is characteristic of those who are living in the Church, ie the Christian dispensation of grace. It is the type of experience of God that Paul talks about in ch 1-2 of Rom and indicative of this level of relationship with God.
So I in the end, seeing God in the sunrise and giving thanks is fine for the pagan, or the child, or one who is just coming to God. But for us, let us run the race that is set before us and grow up in all things into Christ who is our head. Let us allow God to move us through the ages of grace in our own individual life, recognizing the lack of grace and the imperfection in each of these ages, while neither denigrating nor denying God’s true working in them.