Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Our Missional God 16

posted by xscot mcknight

Is care for the world a part of the mission of God and, therefore, of our mission in this world? Chris Wright’s The Mission of God is one of the very few — and you might be able to count them on one hand — books on mission that involves God’s concern with the earth as part of the mission of God in this world.
Again, would you consider creation care as inherent to the gospel work of God? Why or why not?
This chp (12) has two major sections: one defending the theme of the earth as part of God’s mission and the second on the missional-earthly mandate for Christians.
Creation is good and has intrinsic value. Creation has a sanctity (not divinity). The whole earth is the field of God’s mission and ours as well. God’s glory is the goal of all creation, not just humans. (The closing scenes of The Narnia books comes to mind.)
And Wright also draws our attention to Isaiah 65-66 and I must quote some of it:

65:17 ?Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 ?Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,? says the Lord.

And of course Romans 8:18-21; 2 Peter 3; Rev 21.
Now six themes for praxis:
1. Creation care is an urgent issue.
2. Creation care flows from loving God and obedience to God.
3. Creation care exercises our priestly and kingly role.
4. Creation care tests our motivation for mission.
5. Creation care is a prophetic opportunity.
6. Creation care embodies a balance of compassion and justice.



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Rick

posted September 18, 2008 at 6:12 am


Interesting take. We are hearing more and more about evangelical involvement and interest in the topic (especially since the NAE statement last year).
However, it is usually framed in terms of “stewardship”, rather than “mission”. That may be hair splitting, but it may also cause a difference in mindset, especially in regards to defining the problems, priority, and action.



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Daniel

posted September 18, 2008 at 7:24 am


While I don’t believe our goal is to “save the earth”, there is, as Rick mentioned, an obvious command to be good stewards of that which God has given, and as you (Scot) mention there is a sanctity in God’s creation (excellent word there). So, while environmentalism may not be our goal, a proper view and care for the environment God entrusts us with is important!
One thing that I wasn’t clear on – You quoted Isaiah, an excellent passage…but I wasn’t clear on your purpose in quoting it. Did it have to do with #5 in your list? And if so, how?



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Brother Terry

posted September 18, 2008 at 8:27 am


I think many Evangelicals have a mindset that says, “God’s going to burn up the world anyway, so what’s the point of environmentalism.” That’s wrong. Less extreme, but also mistaken, is the view that we are simply to be “good stewards” of creation.
The imperative of the Kingdom is to carry on the work of Christ, which is the reconciliation of ALL creation back into fellowship with God. Only the things that remain corrupt will be destroyed when Christ returns to finally [as N.T. Wright would say] “set things to right.”



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Daniel

posted September 18, 2008 at 8:46 am


Terry #3 – Which works of Christ were (and maybe a poor choice of words here) “environmental?”
Come to think of it…one of the most anti-environmental acts (by our definition) was done by God when He cursed this earth. In the Romans 8 passage we see this cursed creation groaning and under bondage. But just as our salvation and freedom from sin is wrought at God’s hands, so the curse can only be lifted by God’s hands. Or to put it simply – There’s nothing we can do to lift the curse of sin on creation.
Now to balance – That does not give us liberty to ignore that which God implicitly told us to be stewards of. It’s not “simply stewardship”, it’s a God given stewardship, which also means that we seek to be good stewards by God’s standards and not by PETA’s standards (for example).



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Phil the heretical youth pastor

posted September 18, 2008 at 8:46 am


Like Brother Terry, the comments received from the dispensationalists l seem to be surrounded with is it’s going to burn. Quoting that Isaiah passage they would interpret that we can do what we want, one day God will destroy it and make a new Heaven and earth when we can go to “heaven”:>)



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Cam R.

posted September 18, 2008 at 9:50 am


Daniel #4,
I agree with you about God being our source for salvation and freedom for us and the earth. It isn’t something that we just labour on our own.
But I wonder if reconciling all things includes the earth then isn’t that part of God’s mission? And then just as we partner with Him in a ministry of reconciliation for people wouldn’t we partner with him in setting the earth right?
Doesn’t Col 1:15-20 give a glimpse of the scope of God’s mission in Christ?



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Friar_Tuck

posted September 18, 2008 at 10:10 am


I think creation care is important, but have a hard time putting creation care as something separate or more important that care of people.
Creation care is done best when done relationally as a Christian. Out of love for others and God.
Many in the environmentalist world see creation care as a end in itself, instead of a means to an end.



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Kathy Khang

posted September 18, 2008 at 10:47 am


Creation care is an urgent issue? Yes!
My kids have grown up with recycling as part of their everyday lives. They were taught about the importance of recycling and caring for the environment since their preschool days, but generally the slant has been more from what Friar Tuck might call the environmentalist worldview.
However, the urgency for us as parents has been teaching them to understand it from a missional perspective. Caring for the earth, being aware of how our choices impact those around us are not community service projects but part of our daily connection with God and how His Kingdom come flows not just out of our mouths but how we relate to others and our surroundings.
Believe it our not our move to, of all things, compost has lead to many wonderful discussions about our faith with neighbors. Did we start composting as a way to share the gospel? Hardly. But after about the third conversation it made sense.
(Besides, composting is a great way to reuse those coffee grinds!)



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Dianne P

posted September 18, 2008 at 11:09 am


This may seem a bit simplistic to some of you theologians here, but for me, I have never understood the stereotypical evangelical approach to creation care (or whatever term you choose to use) –
It’s all going to be destroyed anyway and probably soon, so it’s just not a priority.
What about NOW? and tomorrow? and the day after that?
What about our lives today and the lives of our children? And our grandchildren? and so on…
That makes about as much sense as saying –
Why fix the bed because we’re just going to sleep in it tonight?
Why care for my health (or care for my child’s health) because we’re all just going to die anyway?
And when Noah was told to build that ark – he didn’t just turn his back on the whole thing, or make some token attempts, because God was going to destroy the world anyway – he gave it his all… his all.
Caring for the totality of the creation that God has blessed us with – that is my priority. That starts with me and my family and just moves continually outward to embrace my neighborhood, my town, my country, my earth. As one of my favorite pastors used to say “God doesn’t care about your spiritual life, He cares about your whole life.” I understand that same concept to mean “God doesn’t just care about your/my little world, He cares about the WHOLE world.” If He made it, it’s my blessing to enjoy, share, and care for.



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Travis Greene

posted September 18, 2008 at 11:23 am


Daniel @ 4,
I think what is happening in Genesis 3 is not God cursing the ground as some kind of vengeance for Adam’s sin. He’s simply announcing that the ground (earth, world, environment) has been cursed by Adam’s sin.
God declared the world good, and then he declared that it was cursed. And then he set about redeeming it, and us. It never stopped being good. It suffers under the curse of sin like we do, but one day it won’t. The curse has been and will be lifted by Jesus Christ. But one of the ways he’s performing that redemption is through us. Which means set out the recycling bins, ok?



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Paul M.

posted September 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm


Aren’t we creation too? It seems at times we humans take an over/against stance against the rest of creation. But we are dirt with the breath of God, aren’t we? We are uniquely linked by our createdness to stars, trees, even the cockroaches. Everything in creation shares a common future. Everything in creation owes itself to the sovereignty of God to make it all happen and continue.
God sets us in creation as eikons, as God’s representatives to creation. Our stewardship is how God puts his likeness in our world. We care for what has been entrusted to us because of the way that God cares about us, the created ones. God shares creating power with us humans to subdue and produce fruit from it. This is where we often go astray, believeing that creation is here to serve us when we are placed here to serve all that God has created just as God serves us.
The resurrection is something God has done to creation, all of it, not just us. Colossians 1: 15-20 comes to mind for me here. Christ is the firstborn of creation, of things in heaven and on earth.



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Daniel

posted September 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm


Only time to respond this for now:
“It seems at times we humans take an over/against stance against the rest of creation.”
All of God’s creation carries with it a special sanctity, not to be taken lightly. However, there is one very special creation, one created in the image of God. This special creation was the primary beneficiary of a special relationship with God…which was broken…and then restored through Christ. Christ did not die to save the planet, but the lost. Does that mean that the planet doesn’t reap any benefit? Probably not…but it wasn’t the primary beneficiary. There’s a balance to be found here, however balance is not an equal importance to the soul of man and a tree.
On another quick note responding to what could be taken as a condescending quip from Travis #10 (“Which means set out the recycling bins, ok?”) – I see in the not to distant future a new type of legalism emerging from the environmentalist side of the spectrum. In some further left groups it’s already there (you don’t recycle? You should be fined and scorned). Beware…Christ came to save sinners, even those who *gasp* might drive a car that uses fossil fuels. (the last part of that, btw, was meant to be sarcastic)
Dominion / stewardship is found in the plain reading of the scriptures, and as mentioned before, as a direct mandate from God makes it very important. Environmentalism ( -ism denoting a world-view), especially that promoted by the political left, IMO has to be put in scripture from a 21st century view point.



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Daniel

posted September 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm


P.S. Scot, I agree for the most part with you six statements:
1. Creation care is an urgent issue. (Because God commanded it)
2. Creation care flows from loving God and obedience to God.
3. Creation care exercises our priestly and kingly role. (Kingly ok…priestly…I’m not mediating between God and a tree…but that was my impression possibly not your intention)
4. Creation care tests our motivation for mission. (And our desire to obey God in all things)
5. Creation care is a prophetic opportunity. (still not sure what exactly you mean by this)
6. Creation care embodies a balance of compassion and justice. (I agree, though I’d be interested in how the “justice” aspect plays out)
Go Creation Care!!!



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Cam R.

posted September 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm


Daniel #12,
You have brought an interesting point. Is how we (humans) are reconciled to through Christ the same as trees or lions are reconciled? I don’t know.
Seeing it from a kingdom of God viewpoint helps from me. What would life look like if God was running how we interact with creation? Would we recycle, reduce nonrenewable energy use, build and create for sustainability?
I am not for recycling legalism or judging over how creation care is being worked out. This is one of those times where we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Isaiah 65-66 quote brought some more questions. If we are to be partnering with God in creation care should we be trying to get lions to eat straw?? :)



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Travis Greene

posted September 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm


Daniel,
Didn’t mean to be condescending. I do, however, think how we treat the environment is a spiritual matter. How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator. Frankly, if you can’t be bothered to do something as simple as recycle (I’m not asking you to eat dumpster food or make your own clothes out of grass), you should be challenged by your community. With love, not scorn, of course.
But I think we’re disagreeing on more than the relative importance of ecology. You say, “Christ did not die to save the planet, but the lost.” I think you’re wrong here. Christ did die, and was resurrected, for the entire creation. We really do, in some mysterious sense, mediate between God and a tree. All creation waits for the sons (and daughters) of God to be revealed. Read Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis, for an idea of how humanity acts as priest to the rest of creation.
I’m not saying a tree or a bird is as important as a human being. Jesus tells us God loves us more than these. But in doing so he assumes that God loves the grass and the birds, and takes care of them. And so should we, if we want to act as his agents in the world that he made.



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Daniel

posted September 19, 2008 at 8:07 am


Cam (#14) – “If we are to be partnering with God in creation care should we be trying to get lions to eat straw?? :)”
Seems logical :-) That will be quite a day when all creation has been freed from the stench of death.
Travis (#15)”How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.”
That, my friend, is an excellent point! As long as that is clear I can accept your premise in your second paragraph. The third paragraph is also dead on. The focus must be on the creator! A shift to the extreme puts us in danger of fulfilling Romans 1:25.



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