Monday, October 19, 2009

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE ENVIRONMENTALISTS


Christians are called to stewardship and mission--including creation care

Here's the guts of a reflection I recently prepared for a magazine. I'm indebted to Dr. Howard Snyder for help with some of these perspectives.

LITANY OF CONCERNS. We read and hear about local, national, and global environmental issues all the time: Global warming. Climate change. Deforestation. Loss of wetlands. Air pollution. Strip mining. Water pollution. Impacts of suburban sprawl. Acid rain. Species depletion. Depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, like oil. Degradation of the Ozone layer. Dying seas. Endangered species. Etc.

URGENCY FOR ACTION. Like never before, we are constantly made aware of the fragility of planet Earth. We could debate each other on cause and effect, levels of severity, who’s to blame, and what’s to be done about any and all of these concerns that confront the future sustainability of human habitation. But it all adds up to a clarion call for new levels of care for God’s creation.

WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS CARE? But why should Christians, in particular, care for God’s creation? Isn’t it enough to leave environmental issues to people with a passion for them? And aren’t Christians involved in a greater rescue, salvage, and restoration project--the human heart? Here’s why Christians are called to care about the environment:

1. CREATION IS A GIFT

Genesis 1 records that after God had caringly created the heavens, earth, sun, moon, stars, cycles of seasons, days and nights, sea creatures, fowl, land creatures and humans in his own image, God declared it all to be “very good.” God gave creation to humanity as a stewardship. God called for us to be joyful, responsible guardians of it all--from the greatest to the least. The Old and New Testaments repeatedly compel us to see creation as a gift of God to be used carefully, restored restfully, and renewed prudently. God’s people were called to be the first environmentalists.

2. CREATION IS GROANING

Genesis 3 tells the story of how the sinful choices of humans led to a downward spiral of sin that even impacted the environment. Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation has been “groaning,” Paul says (Romans 8:22). Our selfishness, carelessness, violence, and greed have increasingly harmed the earth, its living creatures, plant life, and natural resources. All creation feels the brunt when we sin, abuse, and misuse the resources God has given us. Still, all creation hopes and waits for its liberation from this time of degradation. As people liberated from sin and sinful ways, we begin to live and act in ways that anticipate and cooperate with what God originally intended and ultimately desires for the people and world God created.

3. CREATION--THE CONTEXT OF RECONCILIATION

When John says “God so loved the world,” (3:16), it wasn’t just humans that were the focus. Paul makes clear that God is interested in reconciling “all things in heaven and on earth” to himself (Colossians 1:20). Instead of just rescuing a handful of the created human species from a dying earth, the New Testament paints a picture of a renewed heaven and earth in which people--once estranged from God, from themselves, from one another, and from creation--are reconciled to each other and to God. So, working for reconciliation between humans and the created order is an essential part of the Gospel we have share with the world.

4. CREATION CARE—A WITNESS TO THE WORLD

Paul called for the Christian community to be a company of reconcilers--literally to stand in the gap and pull people and creation together in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we know full well the power and impacts of sin, and if we know full well the power of Jesus Christ to break the self-destructive sin, attitudes and actions, then we are living witnesses to hope in a world that alternately worships the creation and despises it. Instead of blindly participating in the degradation of creation or foolishly worshiping it, we can be reconcilers of all to one another and to God, working across traditional boundaries and divisive barriers.

4 FALLACIOUS VIEWS OF NATURE

· Romantic – views nature as the primary source of beauty and truth, rather than reflecting the glory of God. Romanticism also overlooks the violence of nature.

· Commodity – views nature as raw material for profit-making. Nature is something merely to be used, consumed, diverted, exploited, and capitalized. This view degrades nature and often “kills the goose that lays the golden egg.”

· Worship – some people in ancient and current times view nature as a god to be worshiped, appeased, offered sacrifices, feared, or loved. This perspective is popularized today through several New Age gurus and animistic religious sects.

· Spiritualize – this view, often mistakenly espoused by some Christians, states that creation has no value in itself, it only exists to demonstrate spiritual realities. It degrades the real value of the material world that God created and declared good. It also leads to using devalued creation for one’s own purposes willy-nilly.

2 EXTREMES TO AVOID

· Only saving the earth from ecological collapse.

· Only saving souls from destruction of the material universe.

Instead, the Christian perspective is to pray and work for RECONCILIATION between all. 

Learn more about Creation Care and get involved with others in this effort: http://www.creationcare.org

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