Jesus is Coming! To Hell with "Being Green"?

"It turned out…that many conservative Christians in the area, and more importantly just to the south in the United States, had been urging that since we were living in the end times, with the world about to come to an end, there was no point in worrying about trying to stop polluting the planet with acid rain and the like. Indeed, wasn’t it unspiritual, and even a sign of lack of faith, to think about such things? If God was intending to bring the whole world to a shuddering halt, what was the problem? If Armageddon was just around the corner, it didn’t matter—and here, I suspect, is part of the real agenda—if General Motors went on pumping poisonous gases into the Canadian atmosphere." ~ N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
As often is the case, N.T. Wright is often onto something here.

If you believe that Jesus is coming, and is coming back very soon (if not within the next few minutes, possibly within your lifetime), then why should you care that much about what happens to the environment if He is simply going to destroy heaven and earth at some point in the not too distant future?

If Jesus is returning soon, wouldn't efforts made to save the ecosystem, and fighting such things as global warming, be a wasted and futile endeavor?  Shouldn't we instead simply be about the business of saving souls and filling up heaven with as many people as possible?

That is without a doubt how an increasing number of scholars and theologians are starting to characterize "Left Behind" flavored systems of theology.  And indeed, such a characterization isn't entirely unfounded.  There are a lot of Christians who actually think this way.

However, I feel that while there are some Christians who actually think this way, such a highbrowed characterization is ultimately an unfair one.  It's akin to saying that Left Behinders believe that since Jesus is returning soon, that we should just empty our bank accounts and sit on roof tops waiting for His return.

Of course, history teaches us that there have actually been those who have done exactly that, and thus, this characterization doesn't exist entirely without reason.  Especially since at random times throughout church history, various groups have contracted what is known as "millennial fever," and have done some rather bizarre things in the name of Christ's imminent return.

But very few, if any Left Behinders that I know of today, refuse to have things such as savings accounts, because they believe Jesus is coming sometime soon.  And for the life of me, I can't remember the last house I drove past here, in the heart of the Bible belt where I live, in which a local church was having a prayer meeting on a rooftop as they faced the Eastern sky, waiting on Jesus to step out of heaven.

And there is very good reason for that.

For such would be a very bad practical pastoral application of pre-millennial theology.  And, as somebody such as myself, who considers themselves a deeply committed pre-millennialist (of the post-tribulational flavor), I believe that even though there is a chance that Jesus could come back in my lifetime, I still do things like save, invest for retirement, and make long term plans for the future that don't involve the world burning up with fervent heat.

Oh yeah, and I do things like recycle too!

Left Behind theology is no more code language for "Jesus is coming back, so to hell with the environment!" than it is "Jesus is coming back, so don't open a savings account, build a nice house, plan for retirement, or invest in future generations of leaders!"  So I would plead for scholars and theologians such as N.T. Wright to stop looking at it as such.  Such simply isn't true representation of this theological perspective, even if it is the attitude of a misguided few.

To say that this "escapism" mentality is the practical pastoral application that pre-millennial theology teaches is simply nonsense.  And to rhetorically cast it as such, simply so you can make room for your own preferred eschatological flavor of ice cream, is some sneaky behavior unbecoming of somebody who claims to be a Christian theologian.

Yes, I believe Jesus is coming back one day, and that one day the heavens and the earth shall pass away in a fiery judgment...


I also believe that I am called to be a steward of all of creation, and that the call that God placed on Adam to tend the garden that he was placed in, is still something God calls us all of us to fulfill today, wherever we are at.

And if it was so with the first Adam, how much more is it so with the first coming of Jesus Christ, whom the apostle Paul calls "the last Adam!"  If God wanted the first Adam to care for the earth, I don't think the last Adam or His sons and daughters are exempt from that care in the present dispensation!

(And yes, I just used the word 'dispensation,' but not quite like that...)

If anything as Christians who believe that Jesus is coming soon, instead of polluting the earth and making it a toxic dump that smells similar to the sulfurs of hell, I believe it is God's calling on us to give this world a taste of the good things of the ages to come here in the present.  And if God is going to make the world a lush garden once again, then prophetically, to the degree that we can, we should share with this present world a taste of what that future world holds.

And if the world in the ages to come is to be a beautiful place and a paradise, full of things bright and wonderful and green, then as Christians we should be a people who plant oasis's in the desert, as a sign post of what the future holds in store for all of those who look forward to our blessed hope.

Our world is in very much needs a taste of the world of the ages to come.  And as a result, our pre-millennial theology must be a green one in its practical, pastoral, and prophetic applications.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your invitation to comment, Jimmy.As a minister my calling and my pulpit is: ministering to people through God's creation, and ministering to creation through God's people. Historically "educated and scripture-versed people" missed Jesus' first coming because of preconceived notions about the Messiah saving them from Roman oppression. What are our preconceive notions about stewarding God's creation? Did God create the plants and animals for us to do with as we please? He created them to show his glory. We are just caretakers, who are allowed to partake of the fruits of our labors. He told Adam to "tend and keep" the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew word translated as "keep" is the same word used in Numbers 6:24, "may the Lord bless you and keep you."Perhaps we should be "keeping" the Earth in the same way we want God to "keep" us. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, felt shame, parented one child who killed the other, and made the animals run in fear. With salvation we are able to bring these relationships back into godliness by loving God, valuing ourselves as his handiwork, treating others like we want to be treated, and caring for (stewarding)the rest of creation.Why do we keep forgetting this fourth one? Anyone who has read the Bible knows that God is not our Afluenza Father. We cannot interpret end-time and millennial scripture to say, "use up the old Earth any way you please. I'll make you a shiny new one." God said to steward it. Stewardship is serious business with God. Ask the guy who buried the one talent he was asked to invest.I can support an environmental stewardship view with scripture after scripture,but basically it goes back to simple Bible basics. Steward what God has given into our care until He returns. Love what He loves, even if it is a sparrow. Help the poor by sharing resources (instead of using 90% of the world's resources and only leaving 10% for everyone else.) Conversely, we will find rest for our souls and joy in our hearts as we tend the earth, for God created all creation to sing his praises in one glorious symphony. It is interesting to note that Jesus warned man that if he did not praise God the very rocks would cry out. Personally, losing my seat in creation's choir to a rock is humiliation I don't want to think about. But answering the Holy One on the Judgment Throne about how I abused and destroyed those things he asked me to tend and keep, is something that should shame me even more.
    Ask any Christian his perspective on homosexuality or abortion, and he will give you an answer (perhaps not the same view)supported with Chapter and Verse. Ask most Christians their view on Environmental Stewardship, and they will tell you that's the business of humanistic tree-huggers. We have abdicated, given up our position of power, over keeping the earth. We threw it away in Eden, and didn't pick it back up at Calvary. Most of us have a 7917 mile diameter hole in our Gospel. One day we will have to account for it. Sadly, in the meantime we are missing out on one of the most beautiful relationships God has given us-caring for the world that was made to show His power and his glory.
    Some say they are doing the "serious" work of the Gospel by saving souls, and that humans are far more valuable to God than sparrows. I don't argue that, but the two are not mutually exclusive, they are part of the same work. Saving a man who lives in the garbage heaps of Cabarra is a good thing. Teaching a man how to transform the garbage heaps into a garden through the redemptive work of Christ in his heart is part of the Gospel. Working out our salvation is progressive as we open our hearts to loving Him, ourselves (inner healing), others, and creation. God placed man in a garden. That's where we grow best.