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Exploring the Theology of Travel: A Conversation with Samuel Chestnut

christian male backpacker admiring God's mountainous creation

God Designed Us to Explore

"I believe that God has wired every human being to be an explorer," said Chestnut. "To explore is to be human."

He pointed to Genesis 1:28 as evidence for this, where God commands humans to "fill the earth and subdue it." According to Chestnut, this shows that movement and exploration are built into human DNA.

"To be human is to explore. To be human is to go. And whether that's some far from place on the planet or in your own backyard or the field next door, that’s within us, we love exploring and we're wired by God to do that."

Travel Allows Us to Marvel at Creation

As we explore, Chestnut said that we discover awe-inspiring parts of creation, which leads us to marvel:

"We cannot not stand on the precipice of the Grand Canyon, you can’t not stand at the top of a beautiful mountain in any location looking down and not marvel. Something within us is created by God just to go, Whoa, that is amazing. So we marvel. I believe we're designed by God to go and explore. We're designed, when we find those things, to actually to marvel and just shout about it."

Sharing Our Discoveries Points to the Creator

This marveling then leads us to want to share what we've experienced with others, according to Chestnut:

"You can't find those things and not talk about it. We want to share, we want to gossip, the things that we find about in our holidays and we travel and the things we discover. So we're wired to share it."

For Christians, this sharing can point others to God as the ultimate Creator. As Chestnut put it:

"I think that natural progress of exploring and marveling and sharing it can be applied not just to creation. Here's my point, that we actually can apply it to the character and the goodness of God."

Travel Rehearses Us for Eternity

Chestnut believes this pattern of exploring, marveling, and sharing will continue into eternity:

"What we do on this side of the resurrection, I think is a rehearsal of what we'll do on the other side of the resurrection when Christ returns. There will never be a place where we will have reached the full depth of the exploration of God's character. He's infinite. We will spend our forever and discovering little extra nuances about his grief and his goodness. And as we find those things, we will marvel at them and then we will turn to those who are with us in eternity and we will share and talk about it with them."

He encouraged Christian travelers to see their exploration now as practice for exploring God's creation for eternity.

Develop a Theology of Travel

To help travelers intentionally honor God in their travels, Chestnut has developed a "Christ-centered theology of travel." This includes:

  • Acknowledging Christ's lordship over all of life, including our travel and leisure

  • Seeking out ministry opportunities at destinations

  • Using travel to build relationships and share the Gospel

Chestnut's own travel company, Edengate, puts this theology into practice by connecting travelers with missionaries and ministry efforts across Ireland and Europe.

So for Christian travelers, exploring God's creation through travel is not just a fun hobby - it is a foretaste of eternity and a way to grow closer to Christ. The wonders we experience now are just a glimpse of the infinitely greater wonders to come.

Listen or watch the full podcast episode!

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