I am on vacation this week in the Minnesota north woods. My parents have had a place on a lake since I was 3 (early 1960’s) and I’ve been spending time here ever since. When I was young (i.e. until I left the state for graduate school) bald eagles and loons were unheard of on the lake (about due west of Duluth), although I did see loons further north in or near the Boundary Waters. Today loons are ubiquitous here (apparently an indication of improved water quality) and there are frequent eagle sightings. I was out on the lake this week and an eagle flew to a tree nearby looking for prey. The great outdoors really is great!
Douglas and Jonathon Moo have a new book and DVD set exploring Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World. The video lectures are fascinating and well done, I watched the first 12 of 14 episodes on our drive to Minnesota for vacation. Unfortunately a warning should be present in large print wherever it is sold. I purchased the DVD hoping to use it for an adult education class at church next year (at full price from Amazon rather than the cheaper price now advertised at Zondervan). Unlike many DVD’s sold by Zondervan, public use in a church is explicitly prohibited for Creation Care – although I had no intimation of this when it was purchased and only realized it because I usually do read the fine print. It turns out that these lectures are part of Zondervan Academic’s online or self-paced study courses and are for individual use only. This is unfortunate because we need to good resources to explore the topic in our churches and this set would be a great option. Suggestions anyone?
Now to the book and videos. The book is titled “Creation Care” rather than “Nurture of Nature” or “Upkeep of Environment” for a reason. Using the word creation rather than nature or environment keeps the focus on theology rather than anthropology, on God rather than on humans (or plants and animals). The word nature “is sometimes used to refer to a semi-deified “mother nature,” with any idea of a personal God left to the side. … On the other hand, “nature” is often thought of in a purely mechanistic way, as something separate from God and open to manipulation at human whim. Both of these views depart rather significantly from the biblical view of the world as God’s creation.” (p. 25)
Environmentalism and environmentalist can conjure up images of radical movements and political positions. Daek green “religion” that view a world without human participation as very good. But Doug and Jonathan suggest that this is only a minor concern. “The biggest downside for the word is that it tends to make human beings the focus of attention.” (p. 25) While the earth is a good environment for humans it is also valuable in its own right.
Our cosmos is not merely the accidental by-product of chemical and physical processes. It is something our God called into being, something he created for a purpose, which is nothing less than to bring glory to the One who created it. Speaking of “creation care” – rather than for example environmentalism or “nurture of nature” – rightly anchors our topic in a Christian worldview, appropriately privileging theo – logy over anthro-pology. (p. 26)
Care for the environment is an important issue in today’s culture. Doug points out that evangelicals were “on board” with concern for the environment early on. Francis Schaeffer’s book Pollution and the Death of Man first published in 1970 provides an example. Schaeffer tried to bring a Christian perspective to the topic of care for the environment.
Environmental science is a going concern. New tools, new models, increase in computing power, advances in physical, chemical, and biological sciences. We have much more information and a better understanding of cause and effect than in the past. We need to address the issues of climate change to consider carefully natural changes and human caused changes. Are there changes caused by humans that oppose God’s ideal for his creation?
DDT was a miracle of chemistry … until the unintended side effects became apparent. The regulation and restriction of harmful pesticides has led in part to the rebound in the eagle population. The picture to the right is one I took when the eagle spotted its prey and took off from its treetop perch. Controlling mosquitoes is good. But we need to take care … not all effective methods are good.
Environmental changes are affecting humans … sometimes dramatically and negatively. As Christians we should be concerned with this impact and the people who are hurt by climate change, by pollution and waste. As Christians we have a unique and important perspective. All humans are created in the image of God and of value. God’s creation is also good in its own right and should be tended not destroyed. Creation is part of God’s revelation.
To keep the focus on creation we next turn to the Bible. But that is for the next post.
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