Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Green is God? Pub Theology Discussion

Tonight was a bit o' Pub Theology lite, but that doesn't mean that discussion points weren't thoughtful, and observant.

Some points from the evening:

Elizabeth made note that texts from the Old Testament such as the sabbath rest for the land, and God's call to man as caretaker over the earth seemed to mark a distinct call from God for humanity to care about this planet, and therefore it was evident that God cares. Yet, she noted that it is not as easy to find a Green theology in the New Testament. Jesus, and the apostles who write the epistles appear to aim the primary concern at our behavior toward one another almost at the exclusion of the previous OT commands which might have been somewhat more focused on caring over the earth.

Carlos had just returned from lengthy walking trip through Spain. In his discussions with Spanish farmers (mostly Catholic) he found that they considered earth safe farming techniques (organic farming, and the avoidance of over poisoning the land) to be part of what it means to live a life of Christian faith.

Adam noted that he had grown up with some particular biases which now followed into a consideration of the current trends toward a Green lifestyle. he does not own a car now, and uses public transportation. He is careful about using energy at home, and consequently has a low carbon footprint. Nonetheless, as a good evangelical he does have the opinion that there is a chronic and irredeemable problem with the world. If it is gonna burn, he wonders how much effort saving it is worth.

Now this led to a short description of different eschatalogical views by me. I quickly and simply outlined pre-millennial, post-millennial, and a-millennial views of millennium and how these worked either toward, or in opposition to developing a green theology. Without going into the discussion here, and assuming many of you readers will understand the distinctions it was observed that a pre-millennial position naturally leans away from a green theology, and since most evangelicals are of a pre-millennial disposition it is problematic for the evangelical church to develop a concerted effort toward limiting our carbon footprint.

Mary noted some of the scarier elements of the science behind global warming. We discussed the idea of "saving the earth," and playing devil's advocate, I posed the question "who or what are we saving it for?" - especially if we have a pre-millennial theological position. If its all gonna burn how can we really do anything anyway?

Carlos suggested that we are saving it for our children. Adam mentioned that if the rapture was to occur they would miss that future anyway. I ended by noting that at the very least our society believes that true spirituality cares about saving the earth for our children and grandchildren, and a church that does not care does not appear to be serving humanity. Mary had noted earlier in the evening that some of the things evangelicals believe make a green theology nearly impossible to develop.

Although the evening highlighted this fact, we were a greener thinking group than might have been discussing theological issues when I first joined this Christian tribe 30 years ago.


cern said...

Does the pre-millennial position state categorically that the rapture will occur before our children have passed away? Or our childrens children? If not, then caring for the planet might be a simple way of hedging bets. :)



Pastor Phil said...

No, but for at least half (probably far more) of premil believers thee Rapture could happen any minute and the urgency of sharing faith trumps all other things.

That is the theological difficulty in adapting a working green theology to a premil/pretrib theology.

Paul Blogger said...

For centuries, theologians have tried to guess at the time when Jesus will return. It's all very literal.
The whole issue here hinges on this literal reading of the Bible. What if the return of Jesus is metaphorical and points to the more easily defended notion that we do not know the time and how of our own death?
On a slightly different angle, if the entire human race wishes for Armageddon, we will get it! Only thing is, in a literal world and not a metaphoric one, Jesus won't be showing up to save the chosen ones.

Pixie said...

I read N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" about the afterlife/resurrection. I was very encouraged by his study and explanations. He explains that after Jesus return there is a marriage of heaven and earth, people are resurrected and the world made anew. He presents this as an encouragement for mission, justice, and ecology because whatever part of God's plan we work towards right now will be completed on his return. So we work towards saving the earth BECAUSE we know that God will renew it and are eager to participate in that right now (kinda the now/not yet).

Of course, if you have questions read the book. I undoubtedly probably explained NT Wright insufficiently as he is a rather complicated thinker.