The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Serve the poor, serve the Earth

Helping the poor and caring for the creation often go hand in hand. From Scott Sabin of Plant With Purpose: The Connection Between the Poor and the Earth.

Here are a couple quotes:

I frequently get asked how we, as Christians, choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation, as if we have to choose one or the other. As often as I have been asked that question, it still catches me by surprise because my own concern for the earth first grew out of a concern for the poor.

As someone told me recently, creation care seems like a cause for bored middle-class Americans who want to have chickens in their backyard, whereas the poor don’t have the luxury of worrying about their environment. The idea is that environmental issues are primarily aesthetic and fall pretty high up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

However, if you live in a world in which water comes in plastic bottles and food comes from the supermarket, it is easy to see the environment as purely decorative. In the US, we have been able to use our material wealth to purchase several layers of insulation from the earth. Therefore, I believe we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in rural communities throughout the world. They recognize that there is a direct connection between environmental quality and the most basic of needs: food, water and air.

——————————

We quickly learned that the problem was not one of ignorance, but rather a lack of opportunity. I have had more than one poor, illiterate farmer give me an elegant description of how a watershed works. But, as I was told recently in Haiti, they also have a saying that translates to “Either this tree must die or I must die in its place.” Nonetheless, they are aware of the long-term stakes and would do more to care for the environment if they had the opportunity.

Thus, helping to create opportunity – serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator. We need not make a choice between the poor and the earth.

HT: Flourish

Grace and Peace

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Creation Care, Environment, International Development, Missions, Nature, Quotes | | Leave a comment

Three Piper quotes

Here are some quotes from pastor and author John Piper:

Sheer existence is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all.

What God has made is like a toy compared to the complexity and depth of who God is. All the sciences that scratch the surface of the created universe are mere ABCs compared to Christ’s exhaustive knowledge of the created universe.

Hatred for the truth is not easily defeated by facts.

From Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pp. 27, 60-61, 68

Grace and Peace

P.S. Piper takes no position on the age of the Earth, and elders within his church are free to accept an old Earth. When I wrote about this last year, some commenters were sure that I was twisting Piper’s words, and they twisted his words to prove it to me.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Quotes | | 2 Comments

Spiritual growth in this life

“This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is [the] road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.”  —  Martin Luther

Grace and peace

HT: Cyberbrethren

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | | 3 Comments

C.S. Lewis on Progress

From Mere Christianity:

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the [man] who turns back soonest is the most progressive. . . . And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

HT: Her.meneutics — Humans in Creation: Another View

Grace and Peace

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | | Leave a comment

Life Together quotes #2

Last week, I gave a few quotes (here) from the first two chapters of Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Nazis in the final days of World War 2. Here are quotes from the rest of the book:

Chapter 3 — The Day Alone

But silence before the Word leads to right hearing and thus also to right speaking of the Word of God at the right time.

The most promising method of prayer is to allow oneself to be guided by the word of the Scriptures.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.

Chapter 4 — Ministry

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin in Jesus Christ will rightly think little of himself…. Because the Christian can no longer fancy that he is wise he will also have no high opinion of his own schemes and plans.

The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among theives, perhaps–reading the Bible.

Chapter 5 — Confession and Communion

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone…. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship…. The fact is that we are sinners!

The misery of the sinner and the mercy of God–this was the truth of the Gospel in Jesus Christ.

We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God…. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?

I highly recommend this book for its Christ-centered approach to Christian fellowship.

Grace and peace

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | | Leave a comment

Life Together quotes

life_togetherI’m re-reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, subtitled “The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community.” At 122 pages, it is not a long book, but it is a gem.

I know that Bonhoeffer was a bit liberal theologically, but the Christ-centeredness of his writings puts to shame much of what goes on in Evangelicalism today.

Here are some quotes from the first two chapters of the book:

Chapter 1 — Community

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.

He [the Christian] knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.

If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.

…the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.

Chapter 2 — The Day with Others

Christian prayer takes its stand on the solid ground of the revealed Word.

It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.

Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.

It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word.

Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer.

Grace and Peace

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | | 2 Comments

For the Beauty of the Earth

for_the_beautyLast year I ran a series of posts with quotes from For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger. This book develops a Biblical view of creation care that is neither Earth-centered nor man-centered, but God-centered. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I periodically recycle previous posts. For this book, however, I won’t re-run all eleven posts, but will just give you some highlights:

Chapter 1 — Where Are We? An Ecological Perception of Place

Despite our education we remain ecologically illiterate. Or perhaps more accurately, because of our education we remain ignorant of how the world works.

Ecological literacy is “built on a view of ourselves as finite and fallible creatures living in a world limited by natural laws.” (Quote from David Orr, Ecological Literacy)

Chapter 2 — What’s Wrong With the World? The Groaning of Creation

The author refers to Calvin DeWitt (professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and a co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network), who lists “seven major degradations brought on by our assault on creation”:

  1. land conversion and habitat destruction, e.g., deforestation
  2. species extinction
  3. degradation of the land, e.g, loss of topsoil to wind and water erosion
  4. resource conversion and production of wastes and hazards
  5. global toxification, e.g., oil spills
  6. the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion
  7. human and cultural degradation, e.g., the displacement of agriculture by agribusiness

The author, Steven Bouma-Prediger, goes through these degradations (and others), and I’m not going to restate those here. It is clear that much of human impact on the Earth is not just bad for woodpeckers, wildflowers, and walruses; it is bad for us as well.

Does our soaring consumption really make us happy?

Chapter 3 — Is Christianity to Blame? The Ecological Complaint Against Christianity

Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures. It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economies as are most industrial organizations. –Wendell Berry

Bouma-Prediger then analyzes four common complaints against Christianity given by many anti-Christian environmentalists:

Complaint #1 — The first is that monotheism in general, and Christianity in particular, is the primary if not sole cause of the despoilation of the earth.

How do we as Christians answer this complaint? Bouma-Prediger gives a few ideas:

  • Understand that humans are in some way unique; we are made in the image of God.
  • Also understand that we are not only unique, but are also part of the creation. We are made of the same stuff that the rest of creation is made of, and are embedded in the creation. The name “Adam” is very similar to the Hebrew word for “earth” — ‘adama.
  • Distinguish between dominion and domination. One who has dominion, like the ideal king of Psalm 72, is one who “rules and exercises dominion properly.”

For Jesus, to rule is to serve. To exercise dominion is to suffer, if necessary, for the good of the other. There is no question of domination, exploitation, misuse. Humans, therefore, are called to rule, but only if ruling is understood rightly.

Such a reading of Genesis 1:28 is contradicted by virtually all the rest of the Bible, as many people by now have pointed out. The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it? — Wendell Barry

Complaint #2 — Christian theology emphasizes the spiritual over the material, resulting in the material being abused or neglected.

The initial premise is unacceptable– the claim that the Bible promotes a dualism between soul and body, spirit and mater–this argument is not sound.

Some additional thoughts of my own:

  • The original creation was proclaimed to be “very good” even apart from anything “spiritual” in its description. (Genesis 1:31).
  • Christ became fully human as well as being fully God. The incarnation is a sign that the material is good and of eternal value.

Complaint #3 — 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?

Bouma-Prediger 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.

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.

Complaint #4 — The fourth complaint against Christianity given by environmentalists is that because the Christian worldview is largely responsible for the rise of science and technology, Christianity is to blame for the ecological crisis that is upon us. This idea was promoted by a widely reprinted essay by historian Lynn White entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.”

White’s thesis is accepted without question by most environmentalists, but Bouma-Prediger points out the weaknesses of the argument:

  • While Christianity had a role in the rise of science and technology, it was not the sole factor
  • “Ecological crises are not peculiar to Christian-influenced cultures. Non-Christian cultures have also caused severe or irreparable harm to their ecosystems.” — quoted from James Nash.
  • In general, environmentalists accept White’s critique of Christianity but ignore the section where White points out that there has always been a stream of thought in Christianity that affirms the value of the Earth. White proposes St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint for ecologists.

Chapter 4 — Is there a connection between scripture and ecology? — Biblical wisdom and ecological vision

Some lessons from Genesis 1-2:

God is the creator of all things.

Humans are given the delegated, royal responsibility of ruling the earth.

The chaotic, to be sure, exists, but the universe is a place of order and structure, purposefully and lovingly designed by God.

Creation is good. The universe originates not out of struggle or battle or conflict, as portrayed in so many ancient creation stories, but through a seemingly effortless and struggle-free divine speaking and making.

The earth is a home for all earthly creatures. The earth is created as a habitat not only for humans but for all living things.

The sabbath reminds us, among other things, that the world is in God’s loving hands and, therefore, will not fall to pieces if we cease from our work.

Chapter 5 — How should we think of the earth? A theology and ethic of care for the earth

Neither cosmocentrism, with its “ethic of adoration,” nor anthropocentrism, with its “ethic of exploitation,” is adequate since both tacitly assume a dualism between nature and history, differing only in which has priority. Only a theocentric perspective, which refuses to accept such a dualism, is able to cultivate a proper “ethic of responsibility.” For these and other reasons Richard Young concludes that “the Christian Scriptures, when interpreted through a theocentric perspective, offer the most satisfying and realistic solution of the environmental problem.”

Jesus Christ is Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler; yet many who call on his name abuse, neglect, and do not give a care about creation. That irony is there for all to see. Honoring the Creator in word, they destroy God’s works in deed. Praising God from whom all blessings flow, they diminish and destroy God’s creatures here below. The pieces of this puzzle do not fit! One piece says, “We honor the Great Master!” The other piece says, “We despise his great masterpiece!” — Calvin DeWitt

Chapter 6 — What kind of people ought we be?

In this chapter, the author develops seven ecological virtues:

1. Act so as to preserve diverse kinds of life.

Creatures exist to praise God and are valuable irrespective of human utility. From this theological theme comes the ethical principle of intrinsic value.

We are obligated to preserve nonhuman species except when other moral considerations outweigh or overrule this duty. And since such species cannot exist without their homes, we are also obligated to preserve habitats.

2. Act so as to live within your means.

We have a prima facie duty to preserve nonrenewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources.

The author doesn’t advocate austerity, but rather discipline and self-restraint, as individuals and as a society.

3. Act cautiously.

We are to act cautiously in our relationship with the creation both because we are finite and because we are faulted. Because we are finite, we don’t understand all of the implications of our activities. Because we are faulted—fallen into sin—we are “alienated from God, other humans, ourselves, and the earth.”

4. Act in such a way that the ability of living creatures to maintain themselves and to reproduce is preserved.

It is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful, not just people. — Calvin DeWitt

We are permitted to use the fruit of the earth, but we are not allowed to destroy the earth’s ability to be fruitful.

Ecologically speaking, foolishness is the disposition to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable and expendable.

5. Act in such a way that the creatures under your care are given their needful rest.

In the ten commandments, the command for sabbath rest doesn’t just apply to humans, but to their livestock as well.

6. Act so as to care for the earth’s creatures, especially those creatures in need.

Dominion does not mean domination but responsible care.

It is not enough merely to refrain from doing harm; in certain cases we are morally required to do good.

7. Act so as to treat others, human or nonhuman, fairly.

It is not that animals are equal to humans, but that we have certain responsibilities toward them because of our position over them.

Chapter 7 — Why worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew?

  • The intrinsic value argument: Nonhuman creatures have an intrinsic value, because God created them. I think this is a real strength of the Christian argument for creation-care, as opposed to secular or non-Christian arguments. The secular environmentalist can assign value to nature only in an arbitrary or self-centered way. To the Christian, nature and its creatures have value simply because God created them. They were valuable before we came on the scene, and are not valuable just because they are useful to us.
  • The earth community argument: or the we’re-all-in-this-together argument. This is similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, but Bouma-Prediger modifies it to a Christian form. We, as humans, are a part of a much bigger biosphere, and what we do to the biosphere turns around to have an effect on us. This is not an appeal to self-interest, but rather an acknowledgment that what is good for the environment is good for us.
  • The divine command argument: or “because God says so.” Bouma-Prediger bases this on his interpretation that the earth-care mandate given in Genesis 2:15 (”The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” ESV) means that we are here to serve and protect the earth, not to do whatever our sinful desires would have us do.
  • The image of God argument: or “because God’s concerns are our concerns.” God cares for the creatures of the earth, and as his viceregents—created in God’s image to rule in his place—we are to show the same care.

Grace and Peace, and take care of the Earth

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Blog Recycling, Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

Need vs. greed

The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. — Mahatma Gandhi

Grace and Peace

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Ethics, Quotes | Leave a comment

Good conservative quotes on the environment

I’ve been involved in a discussion over at Cranach about the battle for the soul of the conservative movement: Conservative civil war. I threw in a few quotes from noted conservatives to point out that there is nothing conservative about allowing pollution and degradation of the Earth.

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean, pollution-free environment.” — Barry Goldwater

“Nothing is more conservative than conservation.” — Russell Kirk

“Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution” — Ronald Reagan

“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Grace and peace

November 14, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Politics, Quotes | 1 Comment

Good observations

Scientists don’t have to be right on everything to make a lasting contribution. Good observations tend to endure longer than interpretations.

From Winter, J.D., An Introduction to Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, p. 424. This is from Chapter 21: “An Introduction to Metamorphism,” and referred to the 19th-20th century geologist George Barrow, who first described metamorphic zones in the Scottish Highlands. Barrow attributed the zonation entirely to the thermal effects of nearby granitic intrusions (contact metamorphism) without recognizing the regional nature of metamorphism due to mountain building. His zones live on, even if his interpretation was a bit off.

Grace and Peace

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Geology, Quotes | Leave a comment

Good oak

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.

Quote from Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, “February”

(andirons — metal supports for firewood on a hearth or fireplace)

Grace and Peace

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dead at 89

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday, at the age of 89. I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich back in high school and volume one of The Gulag Archipelago in college. These books portray the savage brutality that is all too common in human experience, and yet offer glimpses of hope as well. Here is a quote from the second volume of The Gulag Archipelago from John Piper’s blog this morning:

It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!

Suffering is an ordinary part of life, and as a Christian I might suffer more in this life than I would have if I were not a Christian. May I accept suffering and trials with God’s peace and joy.

Grace and Peace

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

Earth Day 2008

Earth Day is coming on April 22nd. Here’s a quote to get us thinking Biblically about our stewardship of the Earth:

“There is one ultimate owner in the universe, God. All others are trustees.” –John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, p. 89

Grace and Peace

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

Christ-centered Christianity, from beginning to end (Part 3 — Jerry Bridges)

THE GOSPEL IS FOR BELIEVERS

Jerry Bridges has a great book on Christ-centered, gospel-centered Christianity entitled The Discipline of Grace. I haven’t completed my list of “top ten Christian books” but this one will probably be on it.

Bridges wrote an article for Modern Reformation magazine called Gospel-Driven Sanctification. Here are a few quotes from the article:

The Bible is far more than a rulebook to follow. It is primarily the message of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, with everything in Scripture before the cross pointing to God’s redemptive work and everything after the cross—including our sanctification—flowing from that work.

My story is not unusual. Evangelicals commonly think today that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once we’re inside the kingdom’s door, we need the gospel only in order to share it with those who are still outside. Now, as believers, we need to hear the message of discipleship. We need to learn how to live the Christian life and be challenged to go do it. That’s what I believed and practiced in my life and ministry for some time. It is what most Christians seem to believe.

As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God’s blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.

Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds–our spiritual sacrifices–are acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”

We must always keep focused on the gospel because it is in the nature of sanctification that as we grow, we see more and more of our sinfulness. Instead of driving us to discouragement, though, this should drive us to the gospel. It is the gospel believed every day that is the only enduring motivation to pursue progressive sanctification even in those times when we don’t seem to see progress. That is why I use the expression “gospel-driven sanctification” and that is why we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”

Bridges has much to say about about being dead to sin, definitive (or positional) sanctification vs. progressive sanctification, and motivation for living a holy life when its all about Jesus and not about us.

Read it for yourself: Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Grace and Peace

HT: Extreme Theology

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Pollution and the Death of Man

pollution.jpgI recently finished re-reading Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. If you read only one book on why Christians should care about nature, this is the book. It is short, and fairly easy reading (by Schaeffer standards). It is not a book about “50 ways to be green;” rather it lays the Biblical and philosophical foundations for taking care of the Earth. Even though it was written almost forty years ago, it is still relevant to the environmental issues we face. Unlike many conservative Evangelical leaders, Schaeffer was willing to admit that we face an ecological crisis.

The book has seven chapters:

  1. “What Have They Done to Our Fair Sister?”
  2. Pantheism: Man Is No More Than the Grass
  3. Other Inadequate Answers
  4. The Christian View: Creation
  5. A Substantial Healing
  6. The Christian View: The “Pilot Plant.”
  7. Concluding Chapter by Udo Middelmann

The book also has two essays as appendices. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” by Lynn White, Jr., and “Why Worry About Nature.” by Richard Means. These were two important essays of the late 1960s; the first was written to state the case that the environmental crisis is Christianity’s fault, and the second was written to present pantheism as the answer.

I gave a long quote a few weeks ago: “I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness.”

Here are some more quotes:

Near the end of his life, Darwin acknowledged several times in his writing that two things had become dull to him as he got older. The first was his joy in the arts and the second his joy in nature…. The distressing thing about this is that orthodox Christians often really have no better sense about these things than unbelievers.

Our agreement with Means [an advocate of pantheism as the solution to the ecologic crisis] at this point centers on the fact that the hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too, a long, long time ago, before the counterculture ever came onto the scene.

Again, a pantheistic stand always brings man to an impersonal and low place rather than elevating him. This is an absolute rule…. Eventually nature does not become high, but man becomes low…. In the Eastern countries there is no real base for the dignity of man.

Far from raising nature to man’s height, pantheism must push both man and nature down into a bog.

A poor Christianity is not the answer either.

Much orthodoxy, much evangelical Christianity, is rooted in a Platonic concept. In this kind of Christianity there is only interest in the “upper story,” in the heavenly things—only in “saving the soul” and getting it to Heaven…. There is little or no interest in the proper pleasure of the body or the proper uses of the intellect…. Nature has become merely an academic proof of the existence of the Creator, with little value in itself. Christians of this outlook do not show an interest in nature itself.

We should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it.

The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real intrinsic value. But for the Christian, there is an intrinsic value. The value of a thing is not in itself autonomously, but because God made it.

But we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.

But Christians who believe the Bible are not simply called to say that “one day” there will be healing, but that by God’s grace, upon the basis of the work of Christ, substantial healing can be a reality here and now.

Here the church—the orthodox, Bible-believing church—has been really poor. What have we done to heal sociological divisions? Often our churches are a scandal; they are cruel not only to the man “outside,” but also to the man “inside.”

The same thing is true psychologically. We load people with psychological problems by telling them that “Christians don’t have breakdowns,” and that is a kind of murder.

On the other hand, what we should have, individually and corporately, is a situation where, on the basis of the work of Christ, Christianity is seen to be not just “pie in the sky,” but something that has in it the possibility of substantial healings now in every area where there are divisions because of the Fall. First of all, my division from God is healed by justification, but then there must be the “existential reality” of this moment by moment. Second, there is the psychological division of man from himself. Third, the sociological divisions of man from other men. And last, the division of man from nature, and nature from nature.

One of the first fruits of that healing is a new sense of beauty.

We are to have dominion over it [nature], but we are not going to use it as fallen man uses it.

Man is not to be sacrificed…. And yet nature is to be honored.

Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers. We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect.

Most Christians simply do not care about nature as such…. These are reasons why the church seems irrelevant and helpless in our generation. We are living in and practicing a sub-Christianity.

If we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.

To just list quotes does not do justice to the stream of reason that Schaeffer develops in this book. If environmental issues are important to you, this is a must-read.

Grace and Peace

January 19, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

“I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness”

A story from Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer:

Some years ago I was lecturing in a certain Christian school. Just across a ravine from the school there was what they called a “hippie community.” On the far side of the ravine one saw trees and some farms. Here, I was told, they had pagan grape stomps. Being interested, I made my way across the ravine and met one of the leading men in this “Bohemian” community.

We got on very well as we talked of ecology, and I was able to speak of the Christian answer to life and ecology. He paid me the compliment (and I accepted it as such) of telling me that I was the first person from “across the ravine” who had ever been shown the place where they did, indeed, have grape stomps and to see the pagan image they had there. This image was the center of these rites. The whole thing was set against the classical background of Greece and Rome.

Having shown me all this, he looked across to the Christian school and said to me, “Look at that; isn’t that ugly?” And it was! I could not deny it. It was an ugly building, without even trees around it.

It was then that I realized what a poor situation this was. When I stood on Christian ground and looked at the Bohemian people’s place, it was beautiful. They had even gone to the trouble of running their electric cables under the level of the trees so that they couldn’t be seen. Then I stood on pagan ground and looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness. Here you have a Christianity that is failing to take into account man’s responsibility and proper relationship to nature.

(quote from chapter 3 — Other Inadequate Answers)

What do “pagans” see when they look at us? Do they see people who place value on the creation and its creatures because God places value on them? Do they see people who use the Earth’s resources wisely because God has called them to be good stewards? Do they see people who create or people who destroy? Do they see people who live in contentment or people who are caught up in the destructive consumerism of our society?

Another way to ask the question: Do they see beauty or do they see ugliness?

Schaeffer stated that Christianity has failed to take into account two things in regards to ecology: What is our responsibility toward the creation? and What is our proper relationship to the creation?

How should we then live?

Grace and Peace

January 1, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 2 Comments

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 7

In Chapter 7 of For the Beauty of the Earth, author Steven Bouma-Prediger gives ten arguments for why we should “worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew.” All of his arguments have validity to some degree—the author points out weaknesses of some arguments—but I’ll focus on the ones that I think are strongest for me as a Christian.

  • The intrinsic value argument: Nonhuman creatures have an intrinsic value, because God created them. I think this is a real strength of the Christian argument for creation-care, as opposed to secular or non-Christian arguments. The secular environmentalist can assign value to nature only in an arbitrary or self-centered way. To the Christian, nature and its creatures have value simply because God created them. They were valuable before we came on the scene, and are not valuable just because they are useful to us.

“Unlike the animal rights argument, this argument hinges not on the fact that certain nonhuman creatures have rights but rather on the fact that humans have duties to… sentient life, organic life, endangered species, and even entire ecosystems.”

“A focus only on human use—even if wise use—is a stunted viewpoint that fails to acknowledge intrinsic value in a world not of our making.”

“It does not necessarily follow from the intrinsic value argument that we have the same kind of duties to dogs or sequoias or rain forest that we have to humans.”

  • The earth community argument: or the we’re-all-in-this-together argument. This is similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, but Bouma-Prediger modifies it to a Christian form. We, as humans, are a part of a much bigger biosphere, and what we do to the biosphere turns around to have an effect on us. This is not an appeal to self-interest, but rather an acknowledgment that what is good for the environment is good for us.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” — John Muir

“The creatures of the natural world are not there for the sake of human beings. Human beings are there for the sake of the glory of God, which the whole community of creation extols.” — Jurgen Moltmann

  • The divine command argument: or “because God says so.” Bouma-Prediger bases this on his interpretation that the earth-care mandate given in Genesis 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” ESV) means that we are here to serve and protect the earth, not to do whatever our sinful desires would have us do.
  • The image of God argument: or “because God’s concerns are our concerns.” God cares for the creatures of the earth, and as his viceregents—created in God’s image to rule in his place—we are to show the same care.

Given an acknowledgment that God is concerned about more than just humans, and given that we are called to image or represent God, it follows that we should care for more than just our own kind or our own place.

Care for the earth should never be construed as somehow anti-people.

Conclusion: 1. Nature has value in and of itself. 2. We are connected to the rest of creation. 3. God tells us to take good care of the creation. 4. God has made us in his own image, so we have certain responsibilities and obligations.

So how do we live as individuals? How do we live as a church?

Grace and Peace

December 22, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

Wisdom from Sally Brown

I was looking for a quote from the “Peanuts” character Sally Brown. These are from her reports written for school:

  • When writing about Church History, we have to go back to the very beginning. Our Pastor was born in 1930.
  • This is my report on Rain. Rain is water which does not come out of faucets. Without rain, we would not get wet walking to school and catch a cold and have to stay home, which is not a bad idea. Rain was the inspiration for that immortal poem, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” After a storm, the rain goes down the drain which is where I sometimes feel my education is also going.
  • English Theme: “If I Had A Pony.” If I had a pony, I’d saddle up and ride so far from this school it would make your head swim!
  • Some people are right-handed. Some people are left-handed. There are other people who are able to use both hands with equal ease. Such people are called Handbidextrous.
  • This is my report on the importance of knowing how to read. If you can’t read and you get a love letter, you won’t know what it says. That would be very sad. Although in the long run, it also could save you a lot of trouble.
  • Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. … So why are the afternoons so long?
  • One “Rod” equals nine feet. One “Span” equals nine inches. One “Pace” equals three feet. One “Handbreadth” equals three inches. And one “School Day” equals a hundred years! … Sorry, ma’am, I couldn’t help slipping that in there.
  • There are seven continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, and Aunt Arctica.
  • The largest dinosaur that ever lived was the Bronchitis. However, it soon became extinct. It coughed a lot.

These are from Wikipedia

Grace and Peace

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Quotes | Leave a comment

Following Jesus

From the introduction to The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men escape from the hard yoke of their own laws, and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ. But does this mean that we ignore the seriousness of his command? Far from it. We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when his command, his call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety. Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, find his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. “His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5.3). The commandment of Jesus is not a sort of spiritual shock treatment. Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen and heal it.

Grace and Peace

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 6

for_the_beauty.jpgChapter 6 of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger is “What kind of people ought we be?” In this chapter, the author develops seven ecological virtues:

1. Act so as to preserve diverse kinds of life.

Biodiversity is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity.

Creatures exist to praise God and are valuable irrespective of human utility. From this theological theme comes the ethical principle of intrinsic value.

We have an obligation to protect our watershed not only to preserve safe drinking water for the people who live there but also because we have a direct duty to the trout and herons and muskrats who inhabit that watershed.

We are obligated to preserve nonhuman species except when other moral considerations outweigh or overrule this duty. And since such species cannot exist without their homes, we are also obligated to preserve habitats.

There are many practical reasons to preserve biodiversity that Bouma-Prediger doesn’t go into here. Instead, he focuses on the moral and theological arguments.

2. Act so as to live within your means.

We have a prima facie duty to preserve nonrenewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources.

The author doesn’t advocate austerity, but rather discipline and self-restraint, as individuals and as a society.

3. Act cautiously.

We are to act cautiously in our relationship with the creation both because we are finite and because we are faulted. Because we are finite, we don’t understand all of the implications of our activities. Because we are faulted—fallen into sin—we are “alienated from God, other humans, ourselves, and the earth.”

4. Act in such a way that the ability of living creatures to maintain themselves and to reproduce is preserved.

It is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful, not just people. — Calvin DeWitt

We are permitted to use the fruit of the earth, but we are not allowed to destroy the earth’s ability to be fruitful.

Ecologically speaking, foolishness is the disposition to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable and expendable.

5. Act in such a way that the creatures under your care are given their needful rest.

In the ten commandments, the command for sabbath rest doesn’t just apply to humans, but to their livestock as well.

6. Act so as to care for the earth’s creatures, especially those creatures in need.

Dominion does not mean domination but responsible care.

To till (‘abad) means to serve the earth for its own sake, and to keep (samar) means to protect the earth as one caringly guards something valuable. In Aaron’s benedictory blessing, in which God is called upon to bless and keep his people (Num. 6:22–26), we catch sight of what it means to be a keeper. We are to serve the earth for its own good and protect creation as God protects us.

It is not enough merely to refrain from doing harm; in certain cases we are morally required to do good.

7. Act so as to treat others, human or nonhuman, fairly.

It is not that animals are equal to humans, but that we have certain responsibilities toward them because of our position over them.

In the face of ecological apathy, ignorance, and fear, it takes courage to persevere.

Grace and Peace

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 2 Comments