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"How Many are Your Works?" On Christians and Biodiversity

Tuesday, 31 August 2010  | Mick Pope



The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that the current species extinction rate is some 1,000-10,000 times the natural rate at which species disappear. Habitats are being destroyed. Human polluting activities are destabilising ecosystems and contributing to climate change, yet biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are needed to support life and human civilisation.


Yet beyond simply an ‘enlightened self-interest’, three good reasons stand out for becoming involved in creation care and stemming the tide of climate change and biodiversity loss. The first is doxological. In their book The Cross and the Rain Forest, Whelan et al. claim that trees are not needed for worship; they are just a source wood. Yet the Scriptures prompt us to imagine even the trees as contributing to the worship of God (Isaiah 44:23) and not just as part of God’s earthly temple (Isaiah 60:13). John Walton points out in The Lost World of Genesis One that Genesis 1 tells the story of God establishing his cosmic temple. In that temple, everything that God has created and reproduces “according to its kind” takes its place to testify of his wisdom (Psalm 104:23). God loves his diverse creation and its wondrous variety calls forth awe and wonder—“How many are your works?” (v. 24)—as well as responsible stewardship: which brings us to our second reason.


Genesis 2 pictures us as God’s appointed gardeners: humanity was to till and tend the garden (Genesis 2:15). There were also ‘wild places’ outside of the human economy that God tends directly for its own sake (Psalm 104, Job 38-41). But in our post-industrial technological era, human activities dramatically affect the entire planet and the ‘groaning’ of creation of which Paul speaks takes on a more urgent meaning (Romans 8:19-20). As Derek Kidner notes in his Genesis commentary, a creation without humanity playing its proper role is like a choir grinding on in discord. If creation is to be liberated from its bondage in the future, why not work now for its preservation? Have you ever heard of a Christian recommending moral laxness because our complete sanctification lies in the future?


Finally, the imperative to love our neighbour as ourselves has never been sharper than in a globalised economy where industrialised pollution and environmental damage has extended to the third world. Greenhouse gases know no national boundaries. Of course, complex problems abound. If we reduce greenhouse gases (and hence impacts on the poor) by eating local foods, we deny growers an income in developing nations. Yet consuming cash crops, exported to pay unserviceable interest on debts, ruins local ecosystems. The link between ecosystems and economics is a close one in God’s oikos (household). Doing justice means looking after all of God’s household so that all people may live in peace and all of creation may flourish in anticipation of God’s final redemption.


Dr Mick Pope is a Meteorologist and heads up the ETHOS Environment think tank for ETHOS, the EA Centre for Christianity and Society.


Brent Pelster
November 11, 2010, 12:22PM
Dear Mick and the Think Tank.
This response will be pithy, so hang on.
We are agreed that we are living in God's creation of which we are stewards and managers.
As an engineer and horticuturalist I am very aware that nothing that is manmade is durable: moths and rust destroy.
Brand spanking new Rolls Royce engines are a threat
to human life in the air and a reliable Toyota might take you to your death at great uncontrollable speed.
A space rocket might take you to the moon or further, but it might also disintegrate and leave you as a vapour.
Indeed a Biblical status: man is like a vapour, here one moment, gone in the next.
Our every living and dying moment depends on God's
almighty and creative power.
In our daily lives we struggle with the consequences of
human inborn sinfulness as well as the curse resting on
anything people attempt: the sweat of one's brow in overcoming the briars and thorns found in whatever work we do.
I am not a scientist, but I have been unable to come to a
view that climate change is a proven fact.
The proposal that people have it in their power to reverse
climate change is preposterous I think.
It is in the same class as thinking (and fearing) the earth being wiped out by an asteroid and the human capacity
to prevent such.
I have an absolute and unwavering faith in the promises
of God in how He will deal with this earth: at the literal moment of His choosing the trumpet will sound.
The earth will be cleansed by fire. A new creation without
blame or blemish will glorify God perfectly with all His servants.
At the time of such Judgment all people will have heard of
His saving power and loving grace through the sacrifice
of our Saviour, the mighty Son of Man and Lamb of God.
The earth will also be worn out like a rag, no good for anything.
The way in which everything we can observe as people
is going backwards should not surprise us: it has been fortold.
Watch for the green leaves when the time is upon us.
Meanwhile, we must be good stewards of God's creation,
not letting 'God's water run over God's acres' as a saying
goes in a parallel with sinning so that grace may abound.
I hope this may challenge our perspective to a thorough
Biblical perspective.
Christian, brotherly greetings, Brent Pelster

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