Let Creation Rejoice | Reflections & Notes

Jonathan A. Moo & Robert S. White. Let Creation Rejoice: Biblical Hope and Ecological Crisis. IV Press, 2014. (187 pages)

letcreationrejoice


REFLECTIONS


I frequently get frustrated at the many hindrances that humans construct against the truth. Some of those hindrances are data-driven manipulations. Others are philosophical. Both are psychologically rooted. By far the most complicated hindrances to navigate, however, are theological, which are both psychologically rooted and religiously tinged.

It is in that context that I am grateful for Moo’s and White’s contribution, and their Evangelical voices for ecological, environmental, and creation care. The subtitle really is the best summary: “Biblical hope and ecological crisis.” (If I had my way, I would have worded it “Biblical hope for redeeming our ecological crisis.”) Both are true. We are in an ecological crisis, and we need a moral revolution (specifically “hope”) to redeem it. What is more, Evangelicals—those who believe the Bible—have everything needed to be championing this endeavor most vociferously. While it is still far too common for one’s political alignment to be more influential than one’s religious convictions, it is the hope of books like this to change that reality, and redeem the faith yet again for the sake of the world.

As I said in my review of a climate for change, “I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can.” Let Creation Rejoice is an excellent roadmap for Evangelicals who need a little theological nudge toward a biblical view of creation care. And it may be just the right tool to advance the cause of getting us all on the same page, for after all, we are all on the same planet.


NOTES


Preface

Yet what is inescapably different about today is that never in the history of human life have so many people been so threatened by the changes our planet is undergoing; never have some of the planetary changes we are witnessing occurred so quickly, with so little time for adaptation; and never before has one species (us) been identified as the primary cause of such rapid, large-scale changes. It is this recognition of our vulnerability and our culpability, along with the fear that things are on the verge of getting much, much worse and there is little we can do about it, that lies behind the despair so prevalent in this age. (8)

This book, though, is about hope—and about the only and ultimate source of our hope. (8)

…it is our desire that readers come away from this book with a renewed appreciation of the wonderful world that God has created, as well as a firm understanding of its present condition and the potential that we have to affect it. But most of all we aim to encourage a profound trust in the Creator and Redeemer God whose faithfulness is the only and ultimate ground of our hope. (9)

1. Apocalypse Now? Living in the Last Days

In a world increasingly tempted to despair in the face of dysfunctional politics and economic and ecological crises, we need now more than ever to be able to articulate clearly the hope we have in Christ—and to embody that hope in our lives and actions. (12)

…the world is in terrible trouble. … Am I optimistic about the future? No, not at all. But that’s irrelevant. It’s imperative that you do something, even if you don’t think it’s going to do any good. – David Attenborough

Most of us, Christian or not, have probably not entirely bought into the apocalyptic rhetoric that marks many of today’s discussions of climate change and the environment. Many of us, however, might find ourselves vaguely identifying with one or more of the categories of response that we catalog below. Do you find yourself in any of these groups? (16)

Ignorance-is-blissers: [too complicated & irrelevant]

Seekers: [interest and ignorance]

Deniers: [lack of both information and interest, and lack of will]

Problem solvers: [progressive optimists]

Despairers:

Post-apocalypse hopers: [in a smaller human community to perpetuate the species]

As you might have guessed, we do not find any of these categories adequate for capturing what a distinctively Christian response should look like. …if the Christian gospel fundamentally reorients us in our relationship with God and his world, then there ought to be something fundamentally different in our approach and in our attitude toward how we engage with our fellow human beings and with the rest of creation. (18)

2. Life on Earth Today

Even in a cosmic or a geological time-perspective, there’s something unique about our century: for the first time in its history, our entire planet’s fate depends on human actions and human choices. – Martin Rees

There are two main reasons, then, why it is profoundly difficult for us to take environmental change seriously. The first, as we have just observed, is that it often occurs relatively slowly in comparison to human time frames. (23)

The second reason why we may find it difficult to recognize the magnitude of global environmental change is that most people, at least until the late twentieth century, lived out their lives in a very small geographical area. (24)

cf. Millennium Project

Our village is global. We no longer have any excuse to claim ignorance of the changes humankind is imposing on the planet or of the consequences of those changes for our fellow human beings around the world and for all of life on earth. (25)

Yet to ignore population growth is to ignore one essential part of the equation that at the very least has to be recognized as affecting life on earth, even if we were to conclude that there is nothing to be done about it or that other issues must take priority. (26)

| The world is undoubtedly getting more crowded. (26)

[via: It appears as if the world’s population may plateau and being to decline sooner than anticipated, though there’s obviously much debate about future projections. Here’s the “worldometer” which tracks population: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/]

The best way to stabilize population growth involves a three-fold strategy of improving healthcare, providing education and empowering women. (27)

Over the four decades from 2011 to 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 2.4 billion, but those living in urban areas are projected to increase by 2.6 billion. So not only will cities absorb all the population growth, but there will be a continued move away from rural areas as well. (28)

| The benefits of cities—for individual opportunity, jobs, culture, creativity and (in well-managed cities) efficiency and even sustainability—are well known. One negative consequence of increasing urbanization, however, is that people are ever more divorced, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally, from the source of the food and water on which they depend for their very lives. (28)

Increasing urbanization also means that the capacity for as ingle disaster such as an earthquake or flood to affect a huge and growing number of people is now vastly increased, even compared to a century ago. (28)

cf. An Essay on the Principles of Population, Thomas Malthus

Malthus famously claimed that an increasing human population would inevitably outstrip agricultural production and lead to a return to subsistence farming; this came to be known as a Malthusian catastrophe. (29)

cf. Paul Ehrlich, The Population BombThe God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans, Mark Lynas; Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

At the very least, the highly complex interactions between the different elements of the biosphere mean that any simple technological solution for one problem can easily exacerbate another. It would be foolish to respond to the false prognostications of those like Ehrlich with a naive optimism in the ability of our own species or civilization always to evade the challenges that have faced all others. (30)

Estimates of the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth vary widely according to what assumptions are made, but most lie in the range of 6 to 14 billion people, with the most common being 6 to 8 billion, roughly the same as the present global population. The question that all such estimates raise, however, is just what we mean by sustainable and to what extent we include humankind’s impact on the rest of life on earth. (3)

[via: The discussion around population is tenuous for the argument(s) made in this book, as referenced above in the current population. How convenient, that “6 to 8 billion” is seen as the “sustainable carrying capacity of the earth.”]

Several related approaches have been developed for quantifying and tracking the impact of humans on the earth. One popular method is to attempt to calculate the “footprint” of human activities and to devise ways to keep this within sustainable bounds. Another is to look for “tipping points” beyond which the earth system will run away no matter what we do,… A third approach…is to map out boundaries to our various activities,… (32)

Why should we care about loss of biodiversity? Apart from aesthetic or moral considerations, one reason is that as humans we rely on living systems to keep our air breathable, our water drinkable, and to provide us with sufficient food. (35)

To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed. – Teddy Roosevelt, “Seventh Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives,” December 3, 1907

From a Christian perspective there is a more compelling reason than the strictly utilitarian one for seeking to prevent the unnecessary loss of other species: we have been set the task as God’s image bearers to care for his creation, to be vicegerents in its governance on his behalf. (36)

Economic valuations have their place, and utilitarian approaches can be useful in broadening support for the sorts of policies necessary to preserve (36) biodiversity. Yet, for christians, to reduce all of the beauty and fruitfulness of God’s creation only to a monetary value is ultimately an affront to the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. (37)

[via: The next several pages are various explications of the above principles as found in the examples of nitrogen, food, climate, land use, etc. Notes on these, and other topics, are found in other books found in my blog.]

3. Global Climate Change

Why Is It So Difficult to Make Changes?

The first is the self-interest argument,… (78)

The second response is the one that we develop in the remainder of this book. If we are truly to love our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus commanded us to do, then those of us in the high-income counties that historically have caused global climate change through our emissions of greenhouse gases have to take account of the effect of our actions on our neighbors and on all of life on earth. (79)

4. Why Hope? The Gospel and the Future

The future is not a gift—it’s an achievement. – Robert F. Kennedy

Two Reasons Not to Give Up on Hope

The first reason to pay attention to Scripture’s vision of the future is that the contours of biblical hope provide for us the context in which Christian love and charity are to be worked out. (82)

A biblical theology of creation, as well as a biblically derived environmental ethos, is rooted in the affirmations in Genesis and many other passages in both the Old and New Testaments that it is God alone who establishes, upholds and sustains all of creation. (83)

…eschatology: the Christian gospel itself is driven by hope and is inseparable from its orientation toward the future. (84)

If hope drives the Christian gospel and is inextricable from the story that the Bible tells us about God and his relationship to us and his creation, it will be impossible for us to live as gospel-centered people without looking toward the future promised us in Christ. (85)

For all the helpfulness of these summaries, however, they can be misleading if we fail to recognize their limitations. As abstract distillations of one aspect of how the biblical story applies to us as individuals, they necessarily miss the bigger picture. …we do well to remember the limitations of such summaries and to remind ourselves that they are not the gospel itself, but only derivations from it. (87)

[via: This was incredibly well put.]

What is the gospel? Here is one way (92) it can be summarized: it is nothing less than the good news that in Jesus, the Son of God and Messiah of Israel, God has defeated the powers of sin and death and has inaugurated his restored rule over all of his creation. He has made provision through the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus for all people—Jews and Gentiles together—to receive forgiveness of sins and new life in the Spirit, enabling them to live forever as his children under the lordship of Christ. This good news is for the whole of the earth. It reveals the way in which God’s purposes for all of creation are accomplished in Christ, the means by which a world racked by sin and corruption is renewed and restored to its Creator. It is good news for Israel, whose promised anointed King and Lord is come to restore his people and save them from their sins. And it is good news for Gentiles, who now find themselves joined to God’s people in Christ, rescued from idolatry and sin and made joint inheritors of Israel’s promises. The gospel is the story and the proclamation of what God has accomplished in Jesus, and it confronts all who hear this good news with the call to respond in faith. It invites everyone to join the community of God’s children who have been reconciled to him in Christ and who now serve him as their King. It is also a gospel that drives action. Paul calls this action the “obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 9:13). (93)

| This “good news,” with its proclamation of Jesus as Lord of all, is of such cosmic sweep that it necessarily challenges any and all other claimants upon our worship. (93)

5. Bringing New Testament Hope Down to Earth

Heaven is a place on earth. – Belinda Carlisle

Why should the nonhuman creation care about the resurrection of the children of God? It is because, according to Paul, the future of the entire creation is bound up with the future of God’s children. (103)

The frustration of creation in the context of Romans 8, for example, is seen above all in its failure to reach the end or goal for which it is intended: to bring glory to God. Human beings, who ought to perceive in creation a reflection of the glory of the Creator God and worship him alone, have instead rejected God and turned to the idolatrous worship of creation itself. (Rom 1:21-23) (107)

If the biblical picture of humankind’s role within creation once appeared naive to some for the way in which it assigns such profound responsibility for the earth to one species, it no longer appears so—not in an age when human beings are having such widespread effects on the earth that scientists have begun to call it the “Anthropocene,” or “Age of Man.” The need for us to take seriously our responsibility for creation has never been greater, and the potential consequences of the failure to exercise our responsibility well have never been so cataclysmic. (110)

Whatever else we might conclude about the details of our Christian hope, we must affirm in the light of Romans 8 that this creation, this very earth, will not be left behind. (111)

But just as what we know with scientific certainty about the finality of death in this life in no way undermines our faith in God to bring new life in the resurrection, so what we know through science about the fate of the universe and the future of our own earth does not undermine what Scripture reveals about the new creation. (113)

6. Cosmic Catastrophe?

Whereas secular prophecies of doom are based on extrapolation of current trends into a future otherwise much like the present, Christian expectations are rooted in hope for a future that is dramatically different from the present. (115)

Given that Peter is addressing a context where scoffers deny the reality of God’s judgment and claim that the world will go on forever as it always has, it is not surprising that Peter should find it necessary to emphasize the radical discontinuity that marks the day of the Lord. Peter makes it as clear as possible in this passage that things will not always go on as they have in the past; the world as we know it will be “laid bare” before the fire of God’s judgment (2 Peter 3:10), and afterward there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (v. 13). In the light of this, Peter emphasizes, we must radically reconsider what sort of lives we are to live. (vv. 11, 14). (118)

Like much of biblical prophecy 2 Peter 3 describes events that transcend ordinary human experience, and only metaphor, poetry and the language of apocalypse are adequate for the task. …we will miss the point if we try to derive from this text a “scientific” cosmology. (119)

A number of scholars have thus argued that Peter is describing here not the melting of the earth but the destruction of heavenly “elements” prior to God’s judgment of the earth. The idea expressed in 2 Peter 3:10 would in this case echo Isaiah 34:4, where an ancient Greek translation describes God’s judgment as a time when “all the powers of heaven will melt.” (121)

Peter is using vivid cosmic imagery in this passage to convey the common biblical idea that on the last day there will be nowhere for anyone or anything to hide from God’s judgment. … Against the scoffers who thing that they can avoid ever having their actions judged by God, Peter makes it clear that not only is God’s judgment certain, but there will be no chance of covering up one’s evil deeds on the last day. All will be brought into the light of God’s truth and be disclosed before him. (122)

| The focus of God’s judgment throughout this chapter is in any case clearly on human evil, not on the doing away with creation. (122)

Peter’s “positive vision of the future” is “a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). But Peter is keenly aware that it is only through the unmasking of human injustice and its judgment by God himself that this place “where righteousness dwells” can ever be realized. (123)

Peter reminds us that our world’s fundamental (129) problem is not technological but moral. (130)

7. Jesus, a Thief in the Night and the Kingdom of God

Fear and reverence of such a God thus means not being afraid of anything else; it means not being fearful and anxious for your own life. Jesus reveals to us a God who cares for even those small and common creatures that are rarely valued highly by human beings—and a God who cares all the more for us. (139)

[via: “The fear of God as the beginning of wisdom” is a colloquial way of saying, “fear nothing else.”]

…it is now abundantly clear that we cannot care for our global neighbors—or even truly for our neighbors next door—if we do not also care for the rest of creation of which we are all a part. (142)

Many Christians have found the image of a steward, like the “faithful and wise manager” (or “steward,” Gk. oikonomos) cited by Jesus in Luke 12:42, to be useful for describing the nature of these responsibilities that we have within creation. (142)

[via: That word, οικονομος is also where we get our English word “economy” which could also mean “household management.”]

8. Revelation and the Renewal of All Things

…every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them… (Rev 5:13)

The book of Revelation paints the fullest and grandest picture of Christian hope in Scripture. (147)

We rarely lament over a warming and abused planet where whole ecosystems, species and human communities are struggling—and sometimes failing—just to survive, where there are still “bodies and souls of human beings” sold as slaves to produce the goods we buy, and where the earth continues to be polluted and destroyed to sustain our way of life. (154)

| Yet we would lament if we saw our version of Babylon fall. (154)

There is a fundamental continuity between this creation and the new creation, a continuity that gives us hope for this world in God’s future and challenges us to anticipate his kingdom even in how we live and care for the earth now. (158)

| There must of course be a radical discontinuity if the kingdom of this world dis to become the the kingdom of the Lord and his Messiah, and John tries to help us understand the nature of this break by listing seven things that are “no longer.” (158)

…the sea (21:1)
   …death (21:4)
      …mourning (21:4)
      …crying (21:4)
      …pain (21:4)
   …curse (22:3)
…night (22:5)

So the doing away with this sea and the darkness of night means for John’s (159) readers the removal of all threat of judgment, of all potential for evil to arise in the new creation. (160)

9. Finding Joy in an Active and Living Hope

We suggest that Scripture provides us not with all of the answers in a simple list of dos and don’ts, but with a countercultural vision of radical discipleship, a godly wisdom and an ethos that fundamentally reorients us to the world. (165)

Screen Shot 2021-05-27 at 04.31.43 (2)

Afterword: Practical Resources

www.arocha.org

www.careofcreation.net

www.creationcare.org [Evangelical Environmental Network]

www.renewingcreation.org

www.yecaction.org

www.ausable.org

www.faraday-institute.org

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

One comment

  1. Pingback: Saving Us | Reflections & Notes | vialogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: