by Pr Sue Redman
Eco Steward - Pastor's Piece - Ecological actions from the Christian standpoint
I have to admit I've been just as guilty as the next person for both ignoring and being altogether disinterested in environmental concerns. It has only been in the last couple of years that God's heart for this earth has started to become my heart (1) but I'm now with Dr John Baldwin, a professor of theology at Andrews University, who says, "It's time for Seventh-day Adventists to be more active in environmental issues." (2)
Other Adventist academics expressed similar convictions during an interview with Adventist News Network. "Even though the Bible promises a 'new heaven and a new earth' at the conclusion of the book of Revelation, that's not a reason for Seventh-day Adventist Christians to ignore pressing environmental concerns," they said. "Adventists 'need to resurrect again the beauty of our doctrine and importance of health and a healthy lifestyle.'" (3)
As I've thought about this over the last few years, I've realized that just like the promise of a perfect world doesn't make child abuse okay in the here and now, neither does it make earth abuse okay. As Christians we are called to be responsible stewards of the home God has created for us and to help us do that we need to understand the biblical basis of ecology, the reality of the ecological crisis and some positive steps we can take. (4)
The biblical basis of ecology
To understand the biblical basis of ecology, we first need to understand the biblical doctrine of creation. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," Genesis 1:1 tells us. But ". . . he did not create (the earth) a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18) and according to God it was "good", in fact "very good"! (Genesis 1:31)
Whether we truly believe God's creation is "good" is profoundly reflected in how we "rule over" it. God originally gave humans the responsibility of caring for the earth in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:26, 28) and He explained how to do that when He told Adam to till and keep it (Genesis 2:15) and told the Israelites to let it rest (Leviticus 25:2-8). Charles Bradford summarises the implications of this in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology,
"The stewardship of the earth, which God entrusted to Adam and Eve, still belongs to their descendants. We who inhabit the planet are responsible for its care. In the final judgment, the 'destroyers of the earth' are destroyed." (5)
Sound a bit steep? Bradford is actually quoting Revelation 11:18 and this is just the beginning. Imagine what God would say about the greed that is significantly contributing to the bleak future of this planet and a Christian's responsibility to protect the poor who are the hardest hit by the ecological crises.
The reality of the ecological crisis
The reality of the ecological crisis is becoming more and more obvious. Many scientists now believe we are living on borrowed time, and tragically, we are borrowing from future generations. The longer this generation puts off sustainable living, they say, the harder it will be for the next.
According to Bernard Nebel and Richard Wright, there are four basic principles of sustainable living and an ecological crisis exists when any one of these principles is compromised: 1. recycling to dispose wastes and replenish nutrients; 2. using solar energy; 3. maintaining the size of consumer populations to prevent overgrazing; and 4. maintaining biodiversity. (6)
Presuming this to be true, is it any wonder we have an ecological crisis? Consider a well-known compromise in the third principle, the deforestation of rainforests. More than 40 million acres of tropical rainforests are lost each year to deforestation and given that 40% of the world's oxygen is believed to be supplied by the tropical rainforest belt, is it any wonder we are on alert?
What about the effects of burning fossil fuels like coal, a well-known compromise in the fourth principle? Or the debated ozone hole over Antarctica? These are just a few examples of environmental problems we are facing today but in and of themselves they illustrate the need for positive change.
Positive environmental steps
The concerned Christian's imagination is the only limit to creating positive ways to nurture the earth God has entrusted to us. We can recycle, use compost for gardens, use alternative means of transport to cars. We can support quality environmental organizations, use our pens and use our voices.
Still not sure this will make a difference? Or not sure all the Adventists in the South Pacific can make a difference? Be encouraged by Pastor Don McFarlane, the President of the Adventist Church in the United Kingdom, who said,
"We might think that our individual contribution to climate stabilization might be too small to make a difference, however every little bit counts. Every snowflake in an avalanche has some responsibility for it." (7)
As the whole creation groans in labor pains, as Romans 8:22 describes it, I can't wait for the day when "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:21) God's redemptive work, through Jesus Christ, is not only for us but also the natural world around us and my prayer is that we will be faithful keepers of this garden until Jesus returns!
Feature article from RECORD (Seventh-day Adventist Church magazine): May 29, 2010.
(1) See Job 38-41.
(2) Bettina Krause, "It's Time to Raise Environmental Awareness," Adventist News Network (August 7, 2001).
(3) Mark A Kellner, "Adventists Should Embrace Environmental Concern," Adventist News Network (November 15, 2005).
(4) Dr John T Baldwin, "Keepers of the Garden: Christians and the Environment - An Adventist Perspective," dialogue.adventist.org/articles.
(5) Charles E Bradford, "Stewardship," in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, ed. by Raoul Dederen (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000), p 662.
(6) Bernard J Nebel and Richard T Wright, Environmental Science: The Way the World Works, 4th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993), p 552.
(7) Alan Hodges, "England: Reducing Climate Change, One Church at a Time," Adventist News Network (December 5, 2006).
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