Christians and Care for the Environment – How I Changed My Mind and What It Means for Us Today

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I have a lot of questions when it comes to man-made global warming and the affect humans have on things of that scale. When anything like this gets politicized, I get skeptical.

I can say this – I have changed my mind on the need for Christians to be concerned about God’s creation. When I believed in the annihilation of the cosmos and a purely spiritual (non-physical/material) afterlife in an ephemeral realm above, I didn’t really see any relevant end game to what happened to the earth. 2 Peter 3 seemed to say it was all going to get burned up anyway so what’s the big deal? I had always recycled but by and large it seemed the earth was ours to consume.

All of that has changed for me in the last six years. It changed because my theology took a turn. It took a turn because I came to realize a few things that had influenced my prior view that I was no longer comfortable with.

1 – I realized that my eschatology (what I thought was going to happen when the world comes to an end) was more emphasized by Greek philosophy and cursory Bible study than it was rich, historical theology. I had no conception of bodily resurrection. It was reading N.T. Wright’s tome “Resurrection and the Son of God” that opened my eyes to the fact that the innovation in our thinking was not New Heavens and New Earth and bodily resurrection. The renovation in our thinking came hundreds of years ago when what had been believed for ages by the Jews and the early Christians had been replaced for a more gnostic and dualistic view of the afterlife and the creation.

History is important. Ancient thought is important. Once I saw that the ancient view was bodily resurrection and a renewed earth, I came to understand that my view was not in sync with those alive in Jesus’ day and the New Testament itself.

2 – I realized that 2 Peter 3 didn’t mean what I thought it meant – that to be destroyed is not to be annihilated. The context of that passage tells us so because it parallels the destruction of the earth in the days of Noah with the destruction of the earth on the last great day. The earth was destroyed by water in Noah’s day but not annihilated. If the parallel illustration is to be followed, the earth will be destroyed by fire, not annihilated by it.

3 – I realized that Revelation 21 had more literal elements to it than I understood – a new heavens and a new earth meant exactly that. I couldn’t see that before because I couldn’t read 2 Peter 3 properly. Once I saw 2 Peter 3 in context, then Revelation 21 worked out. What also helped me here was gaining a better understanding of God’s plan in the last third of Isaiah. It was all VERY consistent with a view I had never embraced before. The consistency of the scriptures with a coherent view of New Heavens and New Earth opened my eyes to realize that my view (annihilation of the cosmos) was the outlier.

4 – Romans 8 finally made sense. I had been confused by it before because I didn’t have a theological framework that allowed it to speak on its own terms (consistent with everything above). How can creation grown for its own redemption when it is going to be annihilated? It didn’t make sense – until my view changed.

All of this to say – we need to take care of the creation. This is what Adam and Eve were tasked with. Take care of God’s “good” creation. Creation isn’t bad – to be used up and burnt up. Creation is good. We need to take care of our bodies – God made them very good and God will raise our bodies on the last great day!

Let’s be good stewards of the creation God entrusted us with.

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