Friday, December 19, 2008

Environmentalism and the Destruction of the World --- A Post from Andrew Barry

I found this post by Andrew Barry and The Sola Panel helpful. He hits on a truth (the destruction of the world) that is neglected in discussion of eschatology (or last things) and environmentalism. To read the article click on the button Read More. -- Bill

Environmentalism and the destruction of the world

Andrew Barry

Many Christian responses to the environment seem to obscure a very important doctrine. In their call to action, some recent books and pamphlets I have read on the topic hide the biblical notion that this world will be destroyed.

There is a hot debate running among Christians, and it is stereotypically played out as though each side owns half the evidence:

Academic and denominational publications advocating care for the environment own all the verses that talk about stewardship and the continuity of the created order with the one to come (its transformation). Grassroots individuals advocating an ‘I-don't-care attitude’ seem to own all the verses that proclaim clearly the end of the created order (its destruction).

Yet why the impasse? I think you can be concerned for the welfare of our environment and still hold to the verses that show the violent future that will come. However, often it seems as if concern for the environment silences us from announcing the news of the final judgement!

Let me propose two brief analogies that relate our dying world to mortal humans and animals:

  1. Until Christ returns, our bodies will all die. Despite this, we expect doctors to do all they can to preserve life while it lasts. This is basically their Hippocratic Oath. It is futile, in one sense, because they are fighting the inevitable decay, and yet it is worthwhile because mortal life still has inherent value. Our destiny is worm-food, and yet we still must take care of each other's bodies. In a similar way, we should take care of our world as we were created to do, even if it is destined for fire and destruction (2 Pet 3, Heb 12). The mandate to stewardship is perhaps our ‘Hippocratic Oath’.
  2. The Bible says that a righteous man is concerned for the life of his animals, whereas the wicked man is cruel to them (Prov 12:10). This verse applies especially to those animals a man eats! The underlying word is often translated ‘cattle’. Here is the parallel: even though we subdue the earth and use it, and even though it will not last forever, it is not our place as Christians to be particularly cruel or wanton in ruining the world. Just as righteous people care for the animals they ‘use’, we also must care for the world we ‘use’.

In this discussion, I take it as given that Christians should care for the environment in some way. But I want to urge us to think about our environmentalism and how it relates to our message of the final destruction and renewal of all things. The future does not hamper our efforts to care for this world; it actually gives us clarity, and avoids both the pitfalls of the new godless ‘environmental religion’ and the ‘don't-care’ attitude of some Christians.

Let's be good stewards of the environment, but let's also keep preaching the end of all things shamelessly! The devil is probably rejoicing that what seems an urgent thing (environmental concern) has silenced us from preaching an even more urgent thing (that God will destroy and renew all things himself).

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