How “green” should the Christian be?

JP: Factoid: The first “Earth Day” was when I was a Junior in College. Good article from Pulpit Magazine.

On Saving the Planet

On February 14, 2005, the National Council of Churches USA published a document entitled, “God’s Earth Is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States.” The letter calls on Christians to repent of their “social and ecological sins.” According to the letter, citing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:

“[T]o commit a crime against the natural world is a sin . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.”

The document goes on to assert that too many Christians have bought into “a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits—a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone.” In recounting the sins that must be repented from, the authors state the following: “We confess that instead of living and proclaiming this salvation through our very lives and worship, we have abused and exploited the Earth and people on the margins of power and privilege, altering climates, extinguishing species, and jeopardizing Earth’s capacity to sustain life as we know and love it.”

But such statements reflect an understanding of “sin,” “salvation,” and “gospel” that is a far cry from the New Testament. The Gospel of the New Testament centers on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3–4), as the sole means (John 14:6) through which individual sinners (rebels against God’s moral law—Romans 3:10–18, 23) can be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17–21; Col. 1:21). It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16), such that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31). As Paul explained to the Romans, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10).

Nowhere in the New Testament is sin, salvation, or the gospel ever defined in terms of corporate ecological responsibility. Rather than being consumed with the things of this earth, believers are commanded to focus on the life to come. The apostle Peter, speaking of the destruction of this earth, makes this point in 2 Pet. 3:10–13.

We are not called to focus all of our resources on preserving this current planet. Instead we are to focus on the world to come, and live this life in holy conduct and godliness. When the National Council of Churches suggests that: “In this most critical moment in Earth’s history, we are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care for Earth as God’s creation,” we could not disagree more.

The central moral imperative for the church in this age was articulated by Christ in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). We are to take the true gospel (that individual sinners can be reconciled to God through faith in Christ) to lost and dying souls. Saving the world, for Christians, is not about saving the planet, but about saving the lost. Moreover, the greatest legacy we can leave the next generation is not a cleaner planet, but the truth of the Gospel (cf. Deut. 6:5–9; 2 Tim. 3:14–15). Instead of being distracted by attempts to save our broken planet, Christians should focus on what God has actually called the church to do—looking forward to the day when He will create a new earth which lasts forever (cf. Rev. 21–22).

Comments: We never want environmentalism to become “the gospel”!

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