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In recent times, I have noticed a subtle, perhaps even deceptive schism which is building within the Christian community due to the recent Covid-19 virus. The schism mirrors the generational issues surrounding the virus as well. The issue, in my mind, seems to be so subtle that I believe many Christians are failing to notice the effect that they are having on their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, the issue is causing the Christian community to become isolated spiritually, just as the virus is causing us to become physically isolated.
The subtle issue that I am writing about is often couched in terms of how different Christians react to the closures of churches and the variety of ministries that are postponed or cancelled as a result of suggestions by our government officials.
On one hand, I see Christian social media posts and hear Christian conversations that suggest that such closures, cancellations, and adherence to government officials is nothing more than a sign of fear: a fear that is often linked to a lack of faith. Some Christians will use Bible verses like Matthew 6:24-38 and 2 Timothy 1:7 to justify an (almost) defiance in the face of the current events. This defiance is not, I believe, done with malice. Instead, this defiance is likened to a faith that sees beyond fear. In fact, let’s call them the “beyond fear group.”
On the other hand, I see Christian social media posts and hear Christian conversations that suggest that such closures, cancellations, and adherence to government officials is not fear, but is done in a measure of caution for others, thus is likened to love. Those who are proponents of these precautionary measures will use Biblical verses like Romans 13:1-2 and Luke 10:27 to support their position and to encourage others to follow suit. We will call them the “love/authority group.”
The problem with these two opposing positions lies in this: that we are using God’s word to justify our behaviors while condemning the behavior of the other group.
For instance, the language of the “beyond fear group” leads one to believe that the “love/authority group” is not trusting in the Lord because they are not throwing all caution to the wind of God’s will. This group is often the same folks who will bulk at locking the doors after the church service starts, requiring mandatory child training sessions each year, and putting financial procedures in place. This group indirectly believes that what happens, good or bad, is the will of God and must be accepted.
The irony of the “beyond fear group,” is that the very thing they accuse the “love authority group” of, which is lack of trust, is exactly what the “beyond fear group” suffers from. They suffer from a lack of trust in the authority of the government God has put in place: they suffer from a lack of trust in someone else being in control: they suffer from a lack of trust in even church leadership to make decisions. The “beyond fear group,” often lives in the fear that they rile against.
Unfortunately, the “love/ authority group” fares no better. In calling for a respect of governmental authority and a call to love others as themselves, they often portray themselves as self-righteous when compared to the “beyond fear group.” “I mean, after all,” I have heard implied, “if they really knew about love then they would not open the church, or hold ministries, or even meet with people. I mean, what kind of example are they setting about the church and Christianity.”
Like the “beyond fear group,” the “love/authority group” ironically allows their language to reveal that they do not love or respect authority. For they look down on their brothers and disrespect their right to not give up meeting. By their attitudes they scoff at their fellow believers and hint that their Christianity cannot be as strong because they are not loving in the same way as they have chosen to show love. By their proclamations the “love/authority group” suggest that unless you close, you can not possibly love God or your neighbor.
Now, perhaps, these are overstatements, and the best intentions are meant; however, that is, where I believe the subtleness of this conflict rests. Without even realizing it, our language has staked us in one camp or the other. Without even thinking about it, Covid-19, and the fight for our position, has turned us against each other and isolated us.
So what is the fix for this subtle mess? Might I suggest the following:
We are nowhere near the end of this situation; however, we should recognize that it is not Covid-19 virus that is tearing Christians apart, but it is ourselves. And because it is ourselves, we can choose to end the conflict.
Should the Christian Be Concerned about Climate Change?
If you have watched the news for just a brief time, you will hear about the issue of climate change. For many Christians, the words climate change can bring a strong reaction. Some Christians hear the science behind climate change and bulk, while others listen intently and ask what they can do to preserve God’s earth. Some Christan, like dispensationalist would say, “well, we are getting raptured anyway, so what does it matter,” while the amillennialism would argue that Jesus’ Kingdom is here and we need to take care of the earth until He comes back.
These doctrinal differences can bring a diverse opinion about what role man plays on the earth. Is mankind supposed to subdue the earth, controlling, using (or even) misusing it for the proliferation of our species, or our way of life? Should we, in the words of Governor Sarah Palin, “drill baby drill,” or should we be fighting for space for the hawksbill turtle, the amur leopard, or the dugong. Should we raise a ruckus for the rainforest, the marshlands, and the prairies?
The primary question cited above seems to surround two important words as we consider man’s role and responsibility when it comes to “creation care.” The first word is anthropocentrism. This is a word that defines the belief system that mankind is the most important creation on the earth, and as such, anything that mankind desires he should have because he is supremely entitled to anything they want. This means that any mineral, any material, or any habitat that we want is for the taking, even if that means harm to another creature.
The second word we need to define is biocentric. Biocentric defines the belief that there is inherent value in all living things. The people who hold this belief would understand that all life is living in cooperation with each other and therefore higher beings need to care for, and respect the diversity of, nature.
So what are we supposed to do? In my opinion, the latter is a more Biblical approach than the former: Christian should practice biocentrism. Christian should take care of the earth. Christians should accept that climate change is real and seek to encourage renewable energy. Christians should plant gardens. Christians should set up bird feeders and help the bee population. Christians should ensure the waterways are free from plastic garbage and pollution. Christians should encourage wildlife management efforts. Christians should hold corporations accountable to keep the air and skies clean. Christians should become educated on the animals that are endangered and work with governments to protect all species. In a word, Christians should care for the environment.
So what is the Biblical evidence for that opinion? In Genesis 2:15, we are told that God placed man in the Garden of Eden and told him to take care of it. God gives us “dominion” over everything: the fish, birds, and all the beast. After Noah departs the boat he plants a vineyard. Cain tilled the land. Many of Jesus’ parables deal with allusions and the land. We are even created from the dust of the earth so that we are a part of creation.
We know that the Hebews were an agrarian culture that relied on the land and saw the use of it as a partnership with God. Time and time again, we can cite many examples in the Bible about the use and care of the land. And for centuries, people did this very thing. They cared for the land.
So when did that change? While this brief blog is not enough space to explore that question, I would suggest that the beginning of the feudal system, the industrial revolution, and the introduction of the capitalist system would be a good start. With the introduction of land ownership as a means of making money, mass production, and the ensuing pollution, and the desire to make more money, opportunities came up to misuse the land. While I am not suggesting that the capitalist system (which I would include in feudalism) and the industrial revolution are solely to blame, prior to such innovations, people depended on the land firsthand and knew that without the land they would not survive.
While some Christians do see the importance of land and game management (hunters, farmers, etc), more Christains have come to depend on their survival outside agrarian employment, and have become politically polarized in a stance against-what is deemed and framed as- “excess” care of the land.
Now part of that care is to recognize the role pollution plays on the climate and the environment. This involves understanding and accepting the reality of climate change. Yet, this acceptance seems to want to come slowly. I have heard Christians advocate for withdraw from the Kyoto Agreement, the Paris Accord, and any other agreements which seeks to reduce pollution at the expense of capitalism
So why the rejection of climate change science? I tend to think that evangelical churches lean right in their politics, and rejection of climate change trends in the more right leaning parties. Pew Research showed these stats:
White evangelical Christians in particular are, on average, more likely to question whether human activity contributed to the Earth’s warming, with research by Pew suggesting 28 percent accept this view, compared with 64 percent of those without a religious affiliation, 56 percent of black Protestants, and 41 percent of mainline Protestants. Over a third of evangelical Christians say there is “no solid evidence” that climate change is happening.
With all that stated, the last question I would present to you for your consideration is this: With all the science, with all the physical evidence, the fact that we were created in God’s image to care for the Earth He created, and with all God’s word tells us about taking care of the land we were created from, is taking care of this place that God has created, and all in it, a moral imperative? How we answer that question may determine if our perceptions of whether or not the Christian should be an environmentalist.
This week we spoke about the Bible and how it is God breathed, or God inspired. This raises the question, did the Gospel writers, and the writers of the epistles consider their writings to be God breathed? Click here for an article that discusses that subject.
This past week we took a look at the 1st epistle of John, chapter 5. In that chapter John writes: "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death."
Now the natural question from John's statement is, "What sin leads to death and which sin doesn't?" Because if I am going to commit a sin, let it be the later (the non-death one).
Three theories have been suggested (and since John does not give details about which sin is which, we can only assume that the people he was writing to knew the difference.)
1. Moses' sin- These would be sins that Moses, in writing the inspired law, would have said were sins whose punishment was death. For instance, murder. In Genesis 9:6 we read this, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." In Leviticus 24:17 we read this, "Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death." So the sin of murder would bring about your own death.
2. Apostasy- this would be turning away from God and denying the faith. The sin of apostasy would lead to spiritual ruin and a spiritual death, much like we see in the Cain and Able story. Such a death would cause a rejection from a relationship with God.
3. Heretical Sin- This would be spreading false narratives about God and causing others to fall into a false belief. As the author of such sin, you would be held responsible for that, and, as Jesus said, it would be better to have a millstone tied around your next and to be thrown into the lake.
Since John is discussing number three to the people he wrote to in his letter, some commentators have stated that John is saying that the sin of spreading false information and causing others to follow a heretical path leads to your death. I would tend to agree.
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