I know, I know. It makes no sense whatsoever. These are the people who believe that “the earth is the Lord’s;” who sing the glories of “my Father’s world;” and who have been made “agents of reconciliation” of all things. But when an evangelical scientist or conservationist dares to speak up in a Christian publication, the readers’ comments tell a nearly incredible story. This sort of backlash assures that their preachers will almost never mention creation stewardship. And politicians devoted to killing environmental protections can generally count on their solid support.
I’ve struggled to understand this myself, and then to explain it to others. But sometimes, the unedited words of our critics tell the story better than we ever could. A couple of days ago, this comment came into Beloved Planet from an evidently sincere young Christian in Pittsburgh:
“The great commission that Christians are to fulfill is to make disciples of all nations – I don’t see why conservation should trump that. The earth, the spectacularly complex beautiful creation of God that it is, has only been around for 6,000 years and it will not be around much longer. Christ promised that he will return and engulf the entire planet in flames (2 Peter 3:10-13). Don’t get me wrong – we should not be polluting our air and water unnecessarily – but if Christ is our example, we should be spending our limited days spreading the gospel instead of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
There you have it, in a polite but thoroughly unvarnished nutshell. The Earth – with all of its millions of created species, and indeed, all of the billions of galaxies God has made with their trillions of stars – will have an unimaginably short lifespan from the time of creation, ending in fire. Everything that was made is merely a stage setting for a few generations of humans on this tiny galactic outpost to pray the sinner’s prayer, and get ready for the everlasting post-apocalyptic world of the spirit. We will blissfully look down upon the utter destruction of everything God made – no matter that He called it “good,” and promised to renew and reconcile it to Himself.
It may be “good,” but it’s the Titanic, destined to rust forever in the frigid darkness. No unnecessary graffiti on the gunwales, please, but why bother retooling the engines?
Now, if you’re a Christian, I doubt that you appreciate my straw-man tactics: trotting out the most facile arguments and implicitly assigning them to all of us. And you are surely correct, to a degree. But something has to explain the otherwise incomprehensible opposition of white American evangelicals to serious efforts to care for the Creation. And the seeds of that opposition are all evident in this little manifesto. Here are a few of the themes you may have noticed:
The Creation is for us. You missed that? Here it is: The only thing in the world that is important is fulfilling something called “the great commission” to humans, not obeying our Creator with respect to his entire Word. But we learn in the Bible that “the Earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” It’s not ours at all. In fact, the Bible’s creation story tells us at the very beginning what mankind’s purpose was: “to tend and keep” the garden. The Hebrew words are “avad” and “shamar.” And together they mean to serve, preserve, love and bless. The Creation is not ours; it is entrusted to us as loving servants and stewards. Continue reading