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Caring for Creation

This tag is associated with 3 posts

Book Review: “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Steven Bouma-Prediger

fbe-sbpThe practical consequences of… a radical faith are themselves radical. (182, cited below)

How should Christians think about creation care? More importantly, should Christians even bother with creation care? What is the state of the Earth? What does the Bible say about these issues? These are the primary topics which Steven Bouma-Prediger turns to in his work, For the Beauty of the Earth.

Place

We are on Earth, and it is a place full of the glory of God. For the Beauty of the Earth (hereafter FBE) begins with a call to marvel at creation. Bouma-Prediger traces the beauty of the earth through ecological inter-connectedness of animals, plants, and geography in mountains, forests, and lakes. It is truly astounding to think of how the world interacts as a unit; it is still more fascinating to reflect upon how even the–to use a Biblical phrase–“least of these” has an extremely important part to play. I was reading this book while on a camping trip, and it was wonderful to resonate with FBE’s discussion of the wonders of the natural world. But what’s the point?

Bouma-Prediger notes that “We care only for what we love” (21). If we do not love the Earth, we will not care for it. Moreover, he points to the interconnections found throughout the world as a reflection of the importance of all things to creation. He draws ten primary points of importance, including a rejection of the notion that things can be “thrown away”–all things go somewhere; the fact that our actions never affect just one thing; the finitude of resources on the Earth; and the amazing complexity of Creation (19-20).

The Science

Having reflected on our place on Earth, FBE asks: What is the state of planet Earth? Put simply, it is not good. Population is booming while per-capita grain production has not increased, the extinction rates are vastly larger than ever in the past, deforestation is cutting down state-sized holes in the world forests (which leads to a decrease of plants capable of producing oxygen), water consumption is increasing exponentially, topsoil is eroding more quickly than it can be produced, and more.

Bouma-Prediger is careful to present a significant amount of documentation for the claims made in FBE. Consider “Global Warming”- there is an observable upward trend in the average global temperature. There is a real consensus on this topic, although there are always who will disagree with a consensus. It is important to note that “Global Warming” is something of a misnomer because it does not reflect the complexity of the issue. “Climate Change” is a better description, which captures the full range of the impact on the planet.

These issues remain controversial, but those who wish to deny humanity’s impact upon the planet must contend with all the lines of evidence. Bouma-Prediger notes that “The real scientific debate is not over whether global warming is real, but rather is over how much and how fast average global temperature might rise, whether other factors in the climate system will counter or amplify a temperature rise, and what the specific effects will be” (52). [2014 edit: it is interesting to observe that there seems to be some increasing skepticism among scientists over the phenomenon of global warming.]

Finally, he notes that the news is “not all doom and gloom,” for there are many bright spots regarding our care for the Earth as well. Unfortunately, “the case is overwhelming that we humans are responsible for the damage to our home planet” (55). The question it raises is: what now?

Ecological Apologetics

The charge has been made that Christianity is bad for the environment. That is, Christian belief tends to denigrate creation and thus should be rejected, for it cannot provide answers to the ecological crises discussed above. Bouma-Prediger presents a number of ways this objection can be stated and responds accordingly. The complaint ranges from charges that Christian eschatology entails a lack of concern for the current creation to (a very interesting) complaint that because a Christian worldview helped the rise of science, which has itself been the source of many things which harm creation, Christianity is to be blamed for the current crisis.

Bouma-Prediger offers multiple responses. Most importantly, the notion that there is any single root cause for our current ecological crisis is hard to sustain. He offers other responses related to eschatology and more. Christian theology, he argues, in fact gives extremely solid motivation for creation care.

Interestingly, at one point he notes that perhaps substance dualism could be divorced from Christianity (a thesis against which I have argued here). His argument is brief and largely just notes that there are other strands within Christianity which do not rely upon this substance dualism.

Finally, in an interesting spin, the charge is made that materialism actually denigrates the environment. In particular, materialism in the form of economic materialism: when wealth drives worth, the environment will suffer, period. Now, the book does not make the charge that this is the only or even the root cause of our crisis; instead, the point is that when one does value economic gain over other ends, the environment will suffer.

The Question for Christians

Clearly, the most important question is whether or not there is any reason for Christians to care about creation. Interestingly, Bouma-Prediger places this section towards the middle-end of the book as opposed to the beginning. In it, he offers an analysis of several Biblical texts to show that Christians should care for and about creation. Central to this is his conclusion that “Individual creatures and the earth as a whole have an integrity as created by God and as such have more than merely instrumental value” (136). When we view creation as a gift from God–a good gift–we see that no individual part of that creation should be denigrated or seen as merely an instrument.

He goes on to offer a number of ecological vices of excess and deficiency regarding a number of areas related to theology and ecology. These include addiction, belief in autonomy, and more.

A Vision for Creation Care

Finally, Bouma-Prediger presents a brief vision for creation care. He places this squarely within the context of the vice list and Biblical theology. Christians are to act in humility, wisdom, and virtue. As such, they are to care for that which God has given them and be aware that one should not destroy that which sustains oneself. Christians are called to emulate God’s benevolence and love for all creation as illustrated throughout the Biblical text. As such, to be dismissive of individual species or parts of creation does not line up with a Christian worldview.

Conclusion

There are many more themes found throughout FBE and in particular in the area of Christians and the environment. Overall, the book is an astounding, life-shifting read. It raises one’s awareness of the integration of their beliefs with the world around us. It is amazing to immerse oneself in a sense of place–be that a forest, mountain, lake, or elsewhere–and realize that this is truly a great good which God has created for us to enjoy. As embodied creations of God, we are to honor those other created aspects of His plan. We are to care for His creation. The book is commendable in its scope, erudition, and groundedness in those concerns which Christians would perhaps be most interested in. It comes highly recommended.

For the Beauty of the Earth.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals– I write about creation care from a number of perspectives offered at a recent panel of prominent evangelical thinkers in this area.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Really Recommended Posts 4/19/13

postHere we have another excellent round of posts from across the net. Please, if you look at nothing else, look into the Gosnell case. The link I have here really puts the matter well. The other posts this week are just as important and interesting, however. We have posts on the divinity of Jesus, the “King James Only” debate [what’s that? check out the link!], Rob Bell and spiritual reality, the dominion of nature in Genesis, and Sam Harris on morality. As always, pass this post to your friends and let me know what you enjoyed!

The Gosnell Trial and Destroying the Image of God– Who is Gosnell? The horrific details of this trial confirm that the image of God is under assault. But that assault goes beyond the obviously criminal actions of this man. They extend to the fact that we have undermined the image of God in humanity by devaluing human life, period.

Did the divinity of Jesus emerge slowly after many years of embellishments?– Wintery Knight presents a fantastic summary of the evidence that the divinity of Christ was a belief tied to the earliest years of Christianity.

King James Only Debate (VIDEO)– It is depressing to admit that this is a debate, but there are in fact Christians who believe the King James Bible is the only Bible we should use because… well, watch this debate and find out. I think that James White did an excellent job refuting this position.

Rob Bell’s Recipe for Spiritual Disaster– Rob Bell has seemingly prided himself in asking the tough questions that no one is asking. But what about the answers? Are there answers? Check out this thoughtful post on Bell’s theological system. Be sure to also check out my study guide of his book, “Love Wins” which comes with links to a chapter-by-chapter review I did as well.

Does Genesis 1:27-28 authorize exploiting nature?–  Dan Story has written a fantastic overview of the issues related to interpreting Genesis 1:27-28 (dominion over the earth) as a command to exploit nature. Be sure to also check out his further analysis. For more on that issue, check out my Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals.

Sam Harris’ Equivocation on “The Good”– Max Andrews offers a brief yet poignant look at how Sam Harris has erred on his attempts to ground objective morality in a non-theistic system.

My Trip to the Evangelical Philosophical/Theological Society Conference 2012

Last weekend I had the supreme pleasure of attending the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (there’s a mouthful!). I took over 80 pages of notes (43 front/back) and enjoyed the entire time immensely. I’ll be posting in the upcoming weeks and months on a number of these topics, so for now I’m just going to very briefly outline the talks I went to and give one or two comments each. I encourage readers to browse through these and let me know which ones they’d be interested on me writing on in a bit more depth. Feel free to ask questions as well.

Scripture, Geology, and the Age of the Earth

Readers know that I am very interested in the controversy among Christians over the age of the earth. I’ve written quite a bit on the topic. This session featured Gregg Davidson (University of Mississippi), a geologist, facing off against Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis. I have to admit that I was surprised by how much this debate focused on the science. Specifically, Davidson presented two very thorough evidences for an old earth, while Snelling rebutted these and argued that a catastrophic interpretation was perfectly consistent with the record. It was a fascinating back-and-forth. You can read an extended outline/review of this talk in my post: Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth.

Bioethics – Genetic Enhancement 

Gary Alkin(? his name wasn’t in my program) presented a paper on genetic enhancement and whether it is morally permissible. Essentially, his argument was that while as Christians we are obligated to heal diseases and help others, we are not obligated to try to become superhuman, and indeed are perhaps prohibited from doing so. He countered numerous arguments for the notion that we should continue to try to ‘enhance’ humanity. It was an interesting paper. I have since written an extended examination of his paper here: Genetics and Bioethics: Enhancement or Therapy?

Whose Moral, Which Axiom- The Transforming  Virtue of Sub-Creation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mythology

Thomas Provenzola presented a mind-stretching paper on how Tolkien’s use of myth helps us to think about care for creation. It was a fascinating look into philosophy and literature.

The Metaphor of Divine Repentence

Rob Lister of Talbot School of Theology presented a paper in which he argued that we must understand language about God both literally and analogically. He argued that open theists often err too far towards creating an anthropocentric concept of God, rather than understanding passages about God’s repentance in light of clear statements about His being. I was so fascinated by this talk that I went and got his book on the topic afterwards. I look forward to reading it.

Other Voices in Interpretation Panel Discussion: An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity, Part 2: Application to the Ongoing Discussion on the Trinity

Kevin Giles (Victoria, Australia), Steve Tracy (University of New Brunswick), Mimi Haddad (Christians for Biblical Equality), and David Malick (CBE) participated in a panel discussion on the evangelical statement on the Trinity. I was surprised to see how contentious this talk was, but unfortunately there are people who are undermining the Trinity by eternally subordinating GOD the Son. This discussion went beyond an egalitarian/complementarian debate and essentially touched on how we must not distort the Trinity for our own purposes.

The Stars Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the Synoptic Gospels

N.T. Wright, who needs no introduction, presented a paper arguing that the cosmic language used for the destruction of the temple is not so much due to an end of the space-time universe as it is because the Temple was the center of the universe for Judaism.

The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity

Kevin Giles presented a paper arguing that orthodoxy on the Trinity does not subordinate the persons. Rather, the distinctions made between persons according to the orthodox faith are made according to generation (the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son). He stressed the importance of drawing implications of the Trinity from the Godhead and not from humanity.

An Examination of Jesus’ View of Women through Three Intercalations in the Gospel of Mark

David cogently argued that we can look at the narratives in the Gospels to see what Jesus’ view of women was. Because we can see with clarity how Jesus elevated women’s roles to that of equal to men, he argued that we should interpret hard passages in light of the clearer passages. This paper was very clearly argued and extremely compelling. I hope more work is done in this area, because the argument was very tight, and there is much development to come from it.

Complementarians, Egalitarians, and Unicorns: What are they, and do they exist?

Walker argued that the categories we are using to identify people in the gender debate reflect a genus/species fallacy which essentially drains them of all meaning. It may be helpful to develop new terms to make the distinctions more clear.

Biblical Theology and Creation Care

I must confess that I only went to this one because there weren’t any others going on. I’m very pleased I did, because this plenary talk proved to be one of the most interesting discussions that I attended. Moo argued decisively that we must not cause Christianity to lose credence due to clinging to faulty science. Furthermore, he argued that it is our duty to take care of creation. He traced an interpretive strategy through Scripture and argued very convincingly for the use of the hermeneutic he was pressing for looking at Christianity and the environment. I wrote an extended post on this paper and the following panel discussion: Caring for Creation: A dialogue among evangelicals.

Panel Discussion on Creation Care

Following Moo’s plenary talk, there was a panel discussion with Moo, E. Calvin Beisner, Russell Moore, and Richard Bauckham. This panel discussion was highly contentious and the audience clapped for their favored party numerous times. Beisner seemed to be the odd man out, as he did not deny climate change, but rather argued that we don’t yet know conclusively that it is anthropogenic (caused by humans). The other panelists argued that the science is convincing and that we do cause people to look with wariness upon Christianity. It was a very invigorating debate.

Body-Soul Interaction and the Theism-Naturalism Divide

Ryan West presented a paper arguing that many of the arguments raised against substance dualism are essentially faulty once one grants theism. He further argued that naturalistic dualists (of which there are few!) would be better off embracing theism, for their view is in extreme tension given the arguments he presented. It was a brief paper that was very well argued. The Q+A was great.

How Much Evidence to Justify Religious Conversion? Some Thoughts on Burden and Standard of Proof vis-a-vis Christian Commitment

The great apologist John Warwick Montgomery presented his paper on religious conversion. Essentially, the argument was that given certain benefits and a low price of commitment, people should commit to Christianity assuming the standard of proof has been carried. It was a fascinating paper, and Montgomery’s presentation style was both engaging and endearing. It was a huge pleasure to get a chance to talk to him briefly after the talk.

Taking a Stand Against Rand: A Biblical Evaluation of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism

I’m not very interested in Rand, but this paper by David Kotter was interesting enough to get me interested in the topic. He noted both good and bad portions of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and argued that ultimately, her perfect man has come to fulfillment in Christ. He presented a critique of a number of her views, while arguing that some things are worth looking at for Christians and the government. A truly engaging paper.

Miscellaneous Extras

Throughout the conference I had numerous pleasures of running into fellow bloggers, friends, and huge names in philosophy and theology. I enjoyed lunch with Matt over at Well Spent Journey and stayed with Kurt over at Real Clear Apologetics.  I was so delighted to meet Holly Ordway from Hieropraxis and engage with her in some great discussion. Other examples include running into Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe, socializing with William Lane Craig, however briefly, and bumping into numerous others (Jerry Walls, David Baggett, Nabeel Qureshi, and more). I also enjoyed interacting more with David Malick of CBE. What a blast!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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