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Creation Care

Creation-Care

We have no need to protect natural resources in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ–did you know that evangelical Christians believe that?

Except that we don’t.

Upon receiving the Global Environment Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School in 2004, Bill Moyers claimed that James Watt expressed this view to the U.S. Congress. Watt was President Reagan’s first Secretary of the Interior and a conservative Christian.

Moyers later apologized for passing along this falsehood, but it’s just a recent incarnation of a persistent myth that can be traced back to 1967 when Lynn White, Jr. wrote an article in Science magazine called “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” In it, he argued that Christians have to shoulder the blame for environmental problems because our theology is hostile toward the natural order.

Hooey.

As Austin celebrates Earth Day 2016 this weekend, it’s a good time for believers to emphasize “creation care,” as we call it. Oh, evangelicals will differ with certain environmental groups that deify the environment or elevate other species above human beings who are made in the image of God. We even differ with each other on the contentious issue of climate change. But, as the late Charles Colson once urged the press, don’t miss the bigger story: “Evangelicals of all stripes agree that caring for the environment is our Christian duty. And articulating this care is an important part of a Christian worldview.”

True, this hasn’t been an issue on the front burner. We’ve been a little busy what with human trafficking, clean water initiatives, disaster relief, religious liberty, right-to-life efforts, to name a few. But creation care is on the list, too. As evangelical environmentalist Calvin DeWitt said, “There’s been about three decades of a creation theology and a creation-care theology that is really coming into its fruition.” He added, “The biblical theology comes from re-examining texts that are very well known but haven’t been applied in recent years. These include things like the expectation that people will serve the garden and keep it [Genesis 2:15].”

So, learn how to be good stewards of this earth God has entrusted to us. It’s part of our life’s calling!




Three Popular and Poor Responses to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

duty_calls

Ever since Friday’s Supreme Court decision redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships, three of the most popular Christian responses on social media need some refinement.

“Let’s Be Snarky. Some Christians have responded with edgy and snide comments about the decision or about those who celebrate the decision. Most of this comes from resentment. A culture we once perceived as “ours” no longer looks familiar, and we rail against the loss. Of course we should express our concerns about anything we see as detrimental to the nation we love, but we need to do it in a way that engages instead of alienates. As Ed Stetzer has said, “We can’t hate a people and reach a people at the same time.”

“Let’s Just Criticize the Critics.” Here’s a second poor response that Christians have made on social media. Some lament the snarky comments of some Christians but they go no further. They rightly criticize Christians who alienate others on this issue, but then they don’t demonstrate how to rightly engage others on this issue. In the end, this response is a dodge. No doubt, we need to call out the members of the Family who aren’t representing us well (see Point One). But criticizing the critics doesn’t do a thing to move the ball down the field. Quit quarterbacking from the skybox and suit up. I’ve tried to model this kind of respectful engagement myself, but no one does it better than Tim Keller (a sample).

“Let’s Engage Elsewhere Instead.” The third poor response is to drop all discussion of this topic and focus attention elsewhere. David Brooks in today’s New York Times suggested that believers ought to adopt this approach, and no doubt I’ll see his article referenced on my social media feeds before the week is out. He writes:

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness….

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

Why would I label this a weak response to the question of same-sex marriage? First, because it falsely sets up an “either-or.” We’re perfectly capable of addressing the sexual revolution and social care at the same time. In fact, anyone really familiar with evangelicals and Catholics knows we’ve been doing that for some time. Besides, to fail to address the sexual revolution even as we extend social care means we’re failing Martin Luther’s challenge. He wrote, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

But there’s a second reason why Brooks’ advice is a poor response to the crisis at hand. The sexual revolution has already made it harder for evangelicals to extend the social care that he wants to see. Ask the Little Sisters of the Poor, or the Salvation Army. The litigation against non-profits that will follow last Friday’s Supreme Court decision will only increase. Ignoring the sexual revolution doesn’t mean that the sexual revolution will return the favor. We need people to protect the right of faithful Christians to offer on our own terms the social care that Brooks wants to see.

It’s healthy to review our reactions to the same-sex marriage debate. Let’s make sure we don’t fall in to these three poor ways to respond.

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(Of course, there is a fourth poor response by Christians, and that is from those who celebrate the redefinition of marriage. The hyperlinks provided in this post should help you understand why this is a poor response from those who are supposed to be taking their marching orders from the God-breathed Word.)




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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