Tag Archives: the environment

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An apology for that time (in 2009) I got the “Christian” approach to the environment wrong

One of the things about blogging is you can go back and find what a past version of you thought and wrote, and be a bit horrified. I think it’s a thing I like, but often I’m prepared to let past me slide, or to excuse past me as a bit silly and immature. But sometimes I read past me, and I’m just really sorry that I was a total jerk. Future me will probably also think this about present me.

Next term our church is working through a series called “What the Church Gets Wrong about X, But Jesus Makes Right,” one of the Xs is the Environment. I know Christians get the environment wrong, because I know I did.

In fact, this is one thing that stops me arguing with straw men. I’m often, if not always, arguing with a past, or alternative, version of myself. A version of me that has been, or definitely could be, but for God’s grace, the smart people who teach me things, and a dose of experience. Writing stuff down and thinking about it is certainly helpful.

Anyway. I got the environment totally wrong back in 2009. Not once, not twice, but three times. My friend Amy called me out on the first one, she mustered up some thoughts from her pastor, I was arrogant and dismissive in my approach to his wisdom. And I was arrogant and pretty stupid in a later response. It might not have taken me six years to realise this, but it has taken until now, as I went back to find what past-me thought, for me to realise just how wrong and abrassive I was, and to think that the record probably needs to be set straight.

The problem with the post I’ve linked to where I was arrogant and stupid is that some of what I said is true, but it’s incredibly simplistic and I buy into a heap of false dichotomies — like the idea that you can preach the Gospel to your neighbours without loving them (and that you can claim to be loving without caring for the world that people live in). I said:

“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.”

It was thinking like this that led another dear friend to say that I have an “anemic doctrine of creation,” I got a little defensive then. My problem, I think, isn’t so much that I want to argue for the supremacy of the Gospel in the Christian life, but in the idea that how we interact with the environment isn’t part of our proclamation of the Gospel. I argued for a pretty disembodied approach to evangelism. And this was wrong.

I also try to split God’s love for the people he redeems from his love for the world he redeems — while it’s true that God definitely loves his people, and his aim is to gather them, it’s to gather them to live in the world that he loves, and that he will dwell in. God shows his commitment to dwelling with his people in his world-as-temple in a way that doesn’t really set up people and creation in a weird hierarchy, but sees his creation — humanity and world — living in harmony with him.

So, if you were reading back then, or you see this now, sorry I was a jerk, sorry I was wrong, and to those who loved me enough to try to correct me — I’m sorry I didn’t listen because I was so certain I was right. I wasn’t.

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On redeeming creation

Izaac, in reflecting on the Engage conference he was at recently, mentioned what he sees as a push towards redemption in our doctrine of creation. I think it’s probably a helpful corrective, I have been accused of having an “anaemic doctrine of creation1 in the past. Pretty much any time I said anything about why I think caring for the environment is a secondary issue (compared to preaching the gospel).2 I’m not suggesting it has no value, just that it only has value when it aids our primary purpose.

The danger of correctives is that they push to far. As Zack points out, and Mikey reiterates. Here’s the quote from Izaac:

“But I’m concerned when redeeming creation is starting to get equal billing with the gospel. The balance hasn’t tipped yet, but it ain’t too far away. At the moment its simply good critiquing of the church.”

This issue nicely fits in with my post about work, rest and play, and my post about my ethical framework – and the “redemption angle” is probably the best articulation of the difference between my approach on the issue of gay marriage, and Mark Baddeley and Tim Adeney’s corrections (and I think, by extension, Oliver O’Donovans – who I really need to read).

Here’s my doctrine of creation in analogy form (from a comment on Mikey’s post). As you’d expect, it takes a pretty utilitarian approach to “redeeming creation” where the end is not the work in itself, but the work of the gospel.

I like to think of culture/the world as a sinking ship, Robinson Crusoe style, where any redemption is pulling stuff off the ship and waiting for a new one to come. I think sitting around on the ship polishing floors (or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic) is a little pointless in the bigger scheme of things… Even though the ship will eventually be refloated.

I think the concept of “redemption” is more helpful, and more often related, to getting people off the sinking ship as opposed to cleaning up the sinking ship. And I think, to stretch the analogy, that cleaning the ship is only useful so long as it clears a pathway to make it easy for other people to get off.

So I think we ought to work hard too, but I think we ought to work hard primarily because it’s part of the process of having a consistent witness and part of our gospel mission.

I think the restoration, Romans 8 style, is a complete renewal of Creation not just a renovation where God fixes the bits we’ve missed. It seems to me that the planet gets a refresh regardless of our efforts – while people don’t get that same second chance, so that’s where we should be focusing our energy (unless you’re a universalist, in which case being a tree hugging hippy is equally morally valid).

I guess my sinking ship analogy almost perfectly personifies a retrieval ethic. And I’m ok with that.

Also, this PDF study guide to Christian ethics from AFES is pretty good.

1Also, it’s very interesting how closely my conversation with one “David Walker” paralleled my conversation with one “Mark Baddeley” – perhaps they are the same person. Separated by oceans.
2And nothing proves the point about the danger of being a corrective like the way I put forward those views in that pretty ugly series of posts. While I agree mostly with what I said still – there was a bit of nuance missing. I don’t think either/or dichotomies are a helpful way of approaching these issues – I think primary/secondary concerns is probably better – and acting for a secondary concern can often aid in a primary concern, but should never supplant, or contradict, it. That’s my theory.

Why you shouldn’t drink bottled water afterall

Bottled water is for dummies. Anybody who has held a bottle of Evian up to a mirror knows that. It’s a joke perpetrated and perpetuated on us by the major softdrink labels – for whom it represents a license to print money.

If you buy bottled water (and I do) for any reason other than the fact that it’s a hot day, the water is cold, and softdrink is sugary and bad for your teeth, then you should check out this infographic.

If you live in that Australian town that banned bottled water (or Magnetic Island) then you should read this graph so that you have great statistics to use in your next argument.

Presented by Online Education
The Facts About Bottled Water

Benny on the environment

During the campaign of the last federal election, the top issue of the day was the environment, specifically climate change. My friends and I used to bicker about the usefulness of having so much campaign time dedicated to the issue of the environment. They were of the belief that finally politicians were focused on something that mattered. I was of the opinion that the hysteria building around the campaign about the environment was leading to mostly empty, reactive bantering, and no matter how much focus was put on the topic, the additional impact on Australia’s environmental policy was going to be minimal.

I don’t think it has been the governing domain where any perceived failures in environmental activism have occured. I think, prior to becoming a media staple, the environment received adequate consideration by government. I would even go as far to say that the government was the platform where much environmental awareness was raised, discussed and launched.

Then came along the GFC, which took some of the momentum out of the environment’s pillar of current issue drive.

A lot of people have been quick to say that climate change is such an important issue, other issues should be given very low consideration in saving the environment.

One idea raised was that Australia should stop exporting coal.

During the GFC and its aftermath, job retention became a key issue. I still believe that Anna Bligh won an election by stirring peoples fears of lowering job security. In 2008-09, coal represented well over half of Queensland international merchandise exports (PDF).

I still think a lot of people need a reality check when it comes to the impacts of some of the policies being flouted. Proposed energy trading schemes, taxes, quotas, etc etc is going to have a real impact on the costs of basic provisions. Queensland is already suffering from heightened costs associated with basic infrastructure (transport, water). Queensland’s future is looking increasingly precarious. It’s strong population growth, inadequate and increasingly expensive infrastructure will need to be repaired over the coming decades, and Queensland needs to ensure that it can cope with a changing landscape of the resource sector.