So I meant to do a blog post on the topic of how the global warming narrative stacks up against the gospel narrative. I originally timed it for publication between Easter and Earth Day. Well, it turned into five blog posts and now it is so like not even Easter on the liturgical calendar. Suppose I got excited. Anyhow, I’ll be posting this series throughout the week. And yes, it does reflect a bit on my experience as being part of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, but nothing here necessarily reflects any official position of Y.E.C.A. whatsoever. Just my own thoughts that I want to contribute to public discussion.
Back in the beginning, God separated the waters, filling the oceans with all kinds of fish and great sea creatures and filling the clouds with all kinds of birds and other winged creatures. From the oceans, God separated the dry land from the seas, blanketing the dry land with vegetation, livestock and wild animals.
God looked upon all that had been made, and saw that it was good. It was an achievement in-and-of-itself. The creation glorified the Creator. God could have, I suppose, stopped there.
What happens next, however, is that out of the dust of the earth God created humankind. God created them male and female, in God’s image, in God’s likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea, rule over the birds in the sky, and rule over the livestock and wild animals. Dominion was not domination, rather, being made in God’s image meant that (among many things) when the fish and birds and livestock and wild animals saw humankind, it would be as if they were gazing upon God himself. The Creator entrusted the creation to the humans, to us.
(According to Genesis 1:29, these first stewards of creation were actually vegetarians. Go figure.)
God looked upon this arrangement, this role and responsibility that the humans had been given, and God saw that it was not just good, but very good.
But for the humans, for us, very good wasn’t good enough. We wanted more, more, more.
[lyrics and a tune for this moment are available here]
There was one simple rule for the first man and the first woman to follow. “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
But they did. Eve couldn’t blame the serpent any more for being a tempter than Adam could blame Eve for being a temptress. The deed was done, and God kicked them out of Paradise. God sent the humans to go and work the earth from which they came. Yet God did not give up on the humans, nor did God give up on his plans for the planet.
Over the millennia, God worked quietly, humbly and tirelessly among all the people made in God’s image. In what would later be known as South Asia, God put upon the hearts of a people made poor and oppressed by caste the story of a resurrected king who they did not know but who they called Baliraja. To a prince named Siddhartha, God gave the wisdom to see that there was more to life than wealth and rank, in addition to the gift of a voice that could preach this small lesson to the subcontinent’s masses.
Meanwhile, for the people who lived in the New World before the New World was new, there were glimpses of a life being sewn with some sort of common thread. The tree, the raven, the human — all were siblings before the same creator. All had hunger, all had health, all had something of value to provide, all would eventually die. These people were not only able to see themselves as part of a larger picture, but saw that in the big scheme of responsibilities that they had a pivotal part to play, not just to the world around them but to future generations.
And we mustn’t forget those who lived on that peninsula-slash-archipelago that juts out into the eastern Mediterranean sea. These Greeks could count upon their ranks some of the era’s biggest nerds, some clever men young and old who tirelessly pondered the possibilities of justice and beauty and truth. Their insights would not simply shape the nature of society and culture in the local polis, but much of western civilization and even the young and vibrant Christian religion.
And so we know that God has been faithful and true, sticking with the original mission even when humanity was too burdened with pride and shame to see goodness in its fullest.
But God’s quiet work across the world needed a focal point. A particular place in which all this effort could be tied together.
So God initiated what would become the Israel project, a story that spanned centuries, filled with an incredible cast of characters. It began with Abram, a nomad turned patriarch through covenant. Then there was Moses, a Jewish orphan turned Egyptian prince turned Egyptian exile turned visionary leader, who led his people out of oppression and gave them a code of holiness to live and glorify Yahweh by. And there was Rahab, a prostitute who found her way into a foreign god’s plan and choose faithfulness over resistance, choose to give up her city so that a nation may build its home. There was Deborah, prophetess of God and judge of Israel, a commander-in-chief whose triumph against oppression led to forty years of peace. There was Hannah, a barren, pious woman who boldly asked for Yahweh’s favor and received a son, a precious treasure she immediately had consecrated to a life of temple service. There was David, the second king of a nation where the first king hadn’t gone so well, who truth be told had a weakness for a woman’s allure but to his credit also could not stop pursuing the heart of the Lord Almighty. There was Jeremiah, a prophet whose heart broke in pieces as God’s people refused to heed the warnings and were conquered by an unruly empire. And there was Esther, a queen for the Babylonian King Xerxes and a double agent for her exiled Hebrew people. Never mind people like Judas Maccabees and Judith, whose stories, while historical, did not make the director’s cut of what we now call the Old Testament.
The story does not end there, because then the incredible happened, and the Creator of the universe took on human flesh. Took on the flesh of an infant child, born of a virgin Israelite girl living under Roman occupation. This child, named Jesus, would grow up to be favored by religious authorities, favored until this Jesus got too smart for his own good and started demonstrating his own authority through radical teachings and miraculous healings. Then the religious authorities banded together and conspired to defeat this threat to their status quo, seeing to it that the so-called King of the Jews was crucified, his throne a cross, the man sitting at his right hand a deviant and the man sitting at his left hand a thief.
And if things were not already unbelievable enough, this Jesus who suffered a brutal death and was buried in a sealed tomb, this Jesus rose from the dead in new bodily form. This Jesus appeared to his disciples and many others before being taken into heaven. This Jesus triumphed over sin and death, and just as the trespass of Adam and Eve resulted in condemnation for all people, so also this one righteous act of Jesus resulted in justification and life for all people.
I often wonder why God did not skip right ahead to this critical redemption step, and far be it from me to know the mind of God, but I believe these rank up upon some of the reasons for the Israel project: first, that no attempt to save the world, no matter how divinely inspired, will succeed without cultivating the grassroots network beforehand; second, that God wanted to give us a story to live into instead of rules to live by; and third, the Israel project, moreso than the rather nomadic ministry of Jesus and the disciples, was able to highlight that redemption is not just about restoring our relationship with God and relationships with each other and our relationship with ourselves, but God’s mission is also about restoring our relationship to the land that is God’s creation.
But that is a question for another time. Because we now live in the next chapter of this great story, a story that begins with the book of Acts and continues up until the present day. It is the story of the church, God’s people across all tribes and tongues and nations and generations, a story filled with its own wild cast of characters that somehow have come together in worship and mission. We, the church, are a bride busying herself in eager anticipation for her groom to return. And what a glorious day that will be.
This story is the story of the gospel, the evangel which we live in and proclaim and invite others to live in and proclaim as well.
Do we believe this great story?
And how does the story of global warming fit into the great story of the gospel?
Tomorrow, Part 3: The Gospel > Global Warming.