The last Green post scored 42 comments – possibly more by the time you’re reading this because the last one was a thoughful and lengthy comment from Joel. Anyway, like I said yesterday I am not sure I can keep going down this path because it seems pretty circular at times. But, Amy’s pastor friend challenged my biblical position and I haven’t really addressed that since, so here are some biblical propositions:
1. The great Biblical imperative – or the greatest commandment we are given is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Mark 12) we’re also to love our neighbours as ourselves. Some in the “green friendly” group make caring for the environment an outworking of “love” – I put it to you, readers, that God’s understanding of love should define ours. And rather than quoting John 3:16 – I give you Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If Jesus death is the focal point of God’s love – and indeed the focal point of God’s word – then should it not be our focal point? Rather than distractions like the environment. There are plenty of people worried about the environment and not enough worried about evangelism as far as I’m concerned. And while some claim care for the environment does not mutually exclude care for people – but nor is it the purpose of existence – and in fact it is a distraction.
2. Creation was made for man, not man for creation – we are given the impression from the first page of the Bible – from the creation story – that creation was made to house mankind. As a location for the narrative of God’s redemptive story. Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17 thanks the father for those he was given by the father “before the creation of the world” – and Ephesians 1:4a is helpful too…
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
And Psalm 115:16 is more specific:
The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man.
God’s plans included us before the world was created. It’s not like we’re here as groundskeepers to look after the planet, the planet is here for us – in order that God might gather a people for his glory.
3. The great overarching trajectory of the Biblical narrative is a story of the movement from creation to new creation. The Bible starts and ends that way. The problem of sin breaks God’s good creation – so that it is no longer good – but cursed (in Genesis 3) and groaning (in Romans 8). We can not, by our toil, and based on the curse, expect anything but the fruits of our labours. There is no promise that we will redeem creation – but instead that God will. As Christians we must be careful not to make the mistake of trying to redeem that which is not ours to redeem. In Romans 8 the suggestion is that creation will only be released from bondage when God’s people are revealed – that to me suggests the order of priority – and indeed suggests that if you really want to see creation released you should be preaching the gospel. Romans 8:19
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
4. Putting caring for creation ahead of caring for people is a contravention of God’s command referenced in point 1 – there are examples where caring for the planet is a way to care for people, and I hear those points, but our priority as Christians is to worship God – and Romans 12:1 would suggest:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
And anyone who argues that less pollution is somehow of more value to a sovereign God, in control of the end of all things than the salvation of his elect should spend some more time reading their Bible.
I would contend that the Green movement often makes an idol out of the environment. The non Christians and pagans involved in the party would call it caring for the “mother earth” – and see some sort of spiritual significance to what they do. Significantly many “alternative” religions – those outside of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – elevate creation to the status of God. Thus doing exactly what Romans 1:25 tells us not to do:
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
5. It is right to care for creation – because creation in its natural state points to a creator. Maintaining the beauty of creation is a worthwhile aim. But. The brokenness of creation also points to the brokenness of humanity and the curse. Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
6. Your concern for creation is shaped primarily by your eschatology – how and when you think creation will end will shape how and when you choose to treat creation. The Bible says that nobody knows when creation will end – Mark 13 – but that when it does God will control it.
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
It won’t be a cosmic accident. It will be purposeful. It may well be that God will use human stupidity to bring about the destruction (or almost destruction) of the world – that would be fitting. What we do know is that there has always been a sense of urgency given to gospel work because our lifespan is but a fleeting moment – evangelism is a task spoken of with far greater urgency than conservation. The gospel is the power of God – the same passage in Romans that argues that people will recognise that there is a God through faith is preceded by Paul saying just that – Romans 1:16:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile
And now some that for the sake of not spending too much time on this I won’t go into too much.
7. God’s expectation is that we use the resources of the planet for our lives. That’s been clear right from the start – the trees in the garden bearing fruit that was good to eat, the curse suggesting that man must toil the ground in order to survive, buildings have always been made from wood and stone (the Temple for example). We are called to be good stewards – but whether or not mining is stewardship is not a question of theology but of economics – and we should not expect non-Christians to act in any way but greed.
8. Jesus curses a fig tree – not really relevant just an instance of God interacting with nature in a not very positive manner… Matthew 21:19…
Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.