I’m continuing my summary and review of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger.
The third reason that many environmentalists blame Christianity for the ecological crisis is eschatological: If this world is going to burn, why take care of it? If Jesus is coming back soon, why be concerned about what the world will be like 100, 1000, or 10000 years from now?
Environmentalists commonly point to a supposed statement by James Watt when he was Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan:
God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.
It is debated whether or not Watt said this, but to many in the environmental movement, this quote sums up their perception of Christianity.
Bouma-Prediger’s acknowledges that the complaint is at least partially valid because there are a number of Christians whose behavior and statements reflect this kind of attitude. His main counter-argument is based on 2 Peter 3:10, in which most translations say the Earth will be “burned up” when Christ returns. He argues that a better translation would be that the Earth will be “found,” “disclosed,” or “discovered.” The English Standard Version reads:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” [emphasis added]
According to Bouma-Prediger—and I think this is consistent with Premillennialism as well as the other eschatological viewpoints—the Earth will not be destroyed at Christ’s return, but be redeemed and transformed into what it should be. Therefore the return of Christ affirms the goodness of creation rather than denying it.
I’ll add a thought of my own. I believe in the literal return of Christ, and that it could happen at any time. This does not negate my responsibility to take care of the Earth any more than it negates my responsibility in any other area. I take care of my body, even though I believe that some day I am going to get a new one; a body without aches and pains, sore hips and graying hairs. It would be foolish for me to abuse my body, even though my resurrection body will be even better. The same goes for the Earth. It is foolish for us to consume resources at unsustainable rates, pollute the air and water, and force thousands of species into extinction when we could live otherwise.
Grace and Peace