Welcome to the sixth of seven articles in response to the Lausanne Theology Working Group's paper on "The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World." If you've not had a chance to read the paper, you can do so by following these links:
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (condensed version)
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (full version)
You can also read all seven parts of this series here.
3. Regarding the Whole World
The final section of the LTWG paper seeks to answer the question, “What is the World?” This is also capably accomplished in calling our attention to the world of physical creation, the whole human race, and the world as “an interlocking web of systems and structures that perpetuate the effects of our falleness and sin” (p. 30, full version). I have here two items to highlight. Let me take only the first today.
First, I was profoundly impacted by the section on “The World of God’s Creation.” Christian environmentalism has tended to make me very nervous. Still now, I have great concerns about the environmentalist movement that seems to be very often driven by political agendas and ideologies that do not arise out of or even appear compatible with a Biblical worldview. I think we have to be very careful in this regard. But the biblical theology on this issue that is encapsulated in the LTWG’s paper is compelling. In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to a paragraph on p. 25:
“Many Christians’ understanding of the gospel seems to start in Genesis 3 (“We’ve got a sin problem”), to end in Revelation 20 (“There is a day of judgment coming”), and then presents Jesus as a means to solve the first and escape the second . . . . But it is not the whole of the gospel, for it does not tell the whole biblical story. The Bible begins with creation (Gen. 1-2), ends with a new creation (Rev. 21-22), and presents Jesus as the one through whom God has reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to himself through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:15-23). The gospel is good news for creation, for the reason that the gospel is the good news of what God as done in Christ to undo all the effects of human sin and satanic evil and to redeem his whole creation.”
Well, that has just fundamentally moved me in my thinking on this issue. I’m not at the finish line yet, and I look forward to reading other papers on this topic in the future. But, this has me thinking quite a lot. In particular I have found that it has been good for me to consider what I anticipate redeemed creation (new heavens and new earth) to be like. That is, in the same way that mission has become for me about “presenting everyone complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28)--just as they will be in heaven, so perhaps I should be thinking of stewarding non-human creation in the same vein. This is something of an “already / not yet” way of thinking about the earth. Could there be a legitimate component of mission that is focused on moving the fullness of the earth towards God’s ideal which will only be fully realized in eternity? Hmm. . . perhaps. If so, what kind of practical goals should flow out of such a mission? Initially, the following has come to my mind:
· Certainly eternity will feature clean air, land, and water.
· The new creation must be a place that is safe and habitable.
· The new creation will be free from disease.
· The new creation will be bountiful in resources.
· The new creation will reflect the creativity of God through biodiversity.
Question #6 – How can the Church reframe the issue of environmentalism and take the lead in cause of “creation care” so as to ensure that we are working towards a truly Biblical vision of creation, the world, and reality?
I agree with the need for Christians to be actively and intentionally taking part in the care of God's creation. however, and for the purposes of discussion, I would hasten to ask for clarification on the following points: Isn't the Gospel primarily good news for people? I don't see any examples of Jesus' ministry to the environment. If anything I see multiple places where his interaction with the environment comes secondary to his ministry to people - withering the fig tree, casting demons into a heard of pigs, etc. I know that many Christians, esp. in the US, are taking the environment for granted, or worse, abusing it intentionally for selfish gain. This hurts our witness to the people of the world because we claim to love the creator but abuse his creation. However, my anxiety lies in the danger of putting the cart before the horse. If we win souls to God's kingdom, won't good stewardship follow as the result of authentic transformation?
Very good point, Donovan. This is very embryonic for me, as I tried to express. So, I doubt that I could faithfully represent or expound upon a position that isn't fully my own (at least not yet). I'm interested in your points about Christ's personal ministry. In particular, the example of the fig tree really stands out to me. However, also the point made in the Lausanne paper about Genesis 1-2 and Rev. 21-22 is quite powerful. Also, the image of Romans 8 and all creation longing to be redeemed is difficult to get away from.
If we embrace a fuller, more biblically comprehensive definition of "gospel" (cf: http://codylorance.blogspot.com/2010/10/confronting-deficient-concepts-of.html), then I think it is easier to consider "creation care" as at least a component of a missional life. If our view of the gospel is too narrow, if we think God is only working to get people to walk aisles and sign pledge cards (so to speak), then there will be no place for it. But then, there'd be no place for a lot of things.
So, I'm not sure. I'm really grateful for your response because it is giving me very helpful insights to think about. Again, especially the fig tree. You've hit on something there. What? I'm not sure. But definitely something.
If i can interject a totally new idea that only strengthens the idea of caring for God's creation.ReplyDelete
Many followers of Christ believe that God actively created the earth and everything in it. This is very true, but to only stop there we miss out on the benefit of understanding God's Providence.
Creation was made to point to God and who he is. To only give God credit for what he made (past tense) falls short. This idea isn't the fullness. God is actively keeping creation in existence. This is His providence. He continues to keep this computer a computer. Now, now, now, and now. He keeps creation running. To only worship God for what he made, makes God uninvolved. This is a Deistic form of worship.
A fuller worship of God praises him not only for creating earth and everything in it, but for keeping everything together. Because of this, God shows how actively involved. I mean if God wasn't providential then Science doesn't even work. The scientific methods only work because God is providential.
So we should actively pursue taking care of the world, because God actively involves himself in creation. This allows our works to share our faith. I take care of the poor, because I was poor and in need and God provided salvation for me. I give water to the thirsty, because I had a thirst for living water and Jesus gave me living water. I offer my body as a living sacrifice, because Jesus gave his body as a living sacrifice. I actively want to care for the earth, because we have a Father in Heaven that is actively involved in taking care of creation.