Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Creation Care

The exegetical foundation for proxy baptism of the dead is stronger than the exegetical foundation for "creation care" as presently defined.

  1. Both concepts rise and fall on the interpretation of a single statement. The modern environmental concept of "creation care" depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28. Although the Bible makes abundant mention of God's status vis-à-vis His creation—that He created it, rules over it, and retains ownership of it—this Genesis passage is the only suggestion in the Bible, indirect as it is, that man is accountable to God for the climatic health of the earth. The notion of proxy baptism of the dead depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. This verse, unlike the Genesis passage, appears in a New Testament epistle to a church. All other things being equal, drawing exegetical support from a New Testament passage is generally a stronger position than drawing exegetical support from an Old Testament passage, because the questions regarding how the concept might have been affected by the Fall or the Gospel are not in play with regard to a passage in a New Testament epistle.
  2. Major alternative interpretations of Genesis 1:26-28 are available, unlike 1 Corinthians 15:29. Many exegetes will hazard some sort of guess, but when you get down to brass tacks, most will concede that we have no idea what 1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about. On the other hand, a long and distinguished history exists of reading Genesis 1:26-28 as a passage subjecting the earth to human domination, to be employed for the benefit of man.
  3. Other passages in the Bible seem specifically to contradict the notion that human activity changes the climate. Ecclesiastes 1 specifically mentions several climatological phenomena as items unaffected by the "vanity" of human existence, pointedly asserting the indefinite unfazed existence of the earth in the face of human endeavors. In 1 Kings 17-18, Matthew 8:23-27, and James 5:17-18, the ability to impact the weather receives specific attention as a demonstration of the power of God in contrast to the power of mere mortal activity. Apocalyptic passages in both Old and New Testaments seem to teach pretty clearly that climactic climatic cataclysm is God's ultimate intention for the earth rather than a human-induced phenomenon that contravenes His design. On the other hand, although strong exegetical evidence refutes the notion of post-mortem evangelism or conversion, no other passage of scripture anywhere even tangentially addresses the idea of proxy baptism for the dead either to support it or to refute it.

Neither case is strong exegetically. Neither case convinces me exegetically. But the exegetical basis for the idea that I ought to be baptized in behalf of my great-grandfather, weak as it is, is stronger than the exegetical evidence that I ought to be concerned about monitoring my carbon footprint.

One might even say that every time a Southern Baptist argues that pollution is unbiblical, that person has rejected the sufficiency of Scripture and has become a closet Roman Catholic. And every time that person uses religious rationales to advocate governmental imposition of restrictions upon what I can drive, burn, cultivate, manufacture, mine, or pump from the earth, that person has become a closet Pharisee, loving their own rules more than Scripture itself.

Of course, to make such a public statement would be to cast grave aspersions upon those who see things differently and to throw down the gauntlet and call for heated, public, high-stakes debate about the idea, and I do not wish to go quite so far. Rather, I believe that our greener brethren are attempting to address questions arising out of human technological advancement, and are attempting to do so within the framework of a generally biblical worldview. We might be able to come to differing conclusions about environmental matters without ratcheting the level of rhetoric up quite so high. At least that would be my hope.

39 comments:

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: Isn't it a world view that caused Southern Baptists to take a second look at slavery. I would certainly call the Civil war a world view. Isn't it a world view that caused the church to stop telling women to be better wives and return home when beaten? Isn't it a world view that caused the church to take pedophilia seriously? IOW are all world views something not to be listened to? I don't know if I would go that far.

volfan007 said...

Bart,

When you said, "One might even say that every time a Southern Baptist argues that pollution is unbiblical, that person has rejected the sufficiency of Scripture and has become a closet Roman Catholic. And every time that person uses religious rationales to advocate governmental imposition of restrictions upon what I can drive, burn, cultivate, manufacture, mine, or pump from the earth, that person has become a closet Pharisee, loving their own rules more than Scripture itself," then you could not have been more truthful this fine day. It is legalistic for Christians to call things sin which the Bible does not call sin. I am always amazed at the thought pattern of those who would tell you that it's sinful to drive an SUV, or to have your thermostat on 70 instead of 78, because you're using so much energy.

God did give us this Earth for us to use and enjoy. And, God gave us cheeseburgers to eat and enjoy. And, God gave us the technology to have a/c down here in the South, so that we could not burn up every Summer. Oh, the blessing of a/c.

Debbie, I would agree that we ought to consider all things in making the wisest choices, and to live in the best way...but, for some to talk as if it's sinful to not be involved in environmental causes is a legalistic, Pharasaical approach. Dont you agree?

David

Bart Barber said...

David,

I advanced that language specifically to refrain from it (paradoxical, I know). I think that it is too harsh to brand as Catholic or Pharisaical what is merely a faithful attempt to read the Bible and apply it. Sometimes issues arise, not precisely addressed by the Bible, that press with a moral urgency to be addressed. The further we construct moral scaffolding to get from the biblical text to the issue that we are confronting, the more reticent we ought to be in the process, but we do not have the luxury of abandoning the application of biblical principles to modern questions.

With regard to climate change, the very question of whether it is a real or contrived issue and whether human beings can or cannot do anything about whatever may or may not be happening to the global climate is an open one, yet the culture advances the question with a zealous urgency nonetheless. Because of that zeal, we find that we must address the topic of climate change whether we have anything to say or not.

I do not fault anyone for trying to reach a sound answer, and I am specifically refusing to go so far as to apply those words to zealous advocates for specific reactions to the current discussions about the climate.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

I do not respond, because I do not understand what you are saying.

Dave Miller said...

I think I get it, because I regularly read the blog that I think this might have been written in response to.

If my suspicion is correct, I think that it brings a great point to the fore.

We all have a tendency to become extrabiblical in some areas, and need to be careful to make sure that our teaching comes from scripture, not from either tradition or culture.

We also need to be careful to refrain from loaded words like "closet Roman Catholic" or "closet Pharisee."

It is also interesting. I agree with this blog on this issue, and NAF on the other issue, so I failed to see the offense in the words he wrote (for which he has apologized).

I guess I need to develop a senstitivity to see offense in words I agree with just as much as those with which I disagree.

Dave Miller said...

I think, in regard to climate change, eschatology might have a role in beliefs on that. As one of the last dinosaurs around (pre-mil, pre-trib) I see prophecies regarding extremity in nature before the end as coming to pass. Someone who takes another eschatological view might see my view of global climate change as irresponsible.

Bart Barber said...

Dave,

Of course, I am responding to Nathan Finn's most recent post on alcohol. Nathan is a good man and a gifted scholar, but he overstepped himself with that post (as he himself acknowledges). I just thought it ironic that someone who views himself as helping to undo what he regards as the wrongful intrusion of a nineteenth-century social movement upon theology is, himself, working to inject a twenty-first-century social movement into our theology today.

And I wanted to use that to object to his over-the-top wording.

Dave Miller said...

You are way too subtle for the blogosphere. It is more of a "beat your brains out" form of communication, isn't it?

Bart Barber said...

Dave,

I am capable of a "beat your brains out" sort of discourse, but Nathan is not a "beat your brains out" sort of fellow, now is he?

CB Scott said...

So, Bart,

You do not want to monitor your carbon footprint.
OK, that is fine.

Will you at least go on an expedition to find BIGFOOT?

cb

CB Scott said...

Or, maybe the LOCH NESS MONSTER:-)

CB

Bart Barber said...

C.B.,

Glad to help.

volfan007 said...

I believe that my oldest son is Bigfoot. He has shaggy hair and sports a beard, and he wears a size 15 shoe.

David

CB Scott said...

Vol,

I am sorry. I had it all wrong. All of this time I have been telling people your son was the:

"WORLEY" BOOGER

:-) :-)

cb

volfan007 said...

CB,

:)

David

Dave Miller said...

Bart,

I would pay a subscription fee if you and Nathan would start a joint blog to discuss issues in the SBC.

Include David Rogers in the discussion and I would double my payment.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: In the interest of truth in information, he wrote another post to explain further. He has not changed his view as far as I can see.

Debbie Kaufman said...

He meaning Nathan.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Debbie, I would agree that we ought to consider all things in making the wisest choices, and to live in the best way...but, for some to talk as if it's sinful to not be involved in environmental causes is a legalistic, Pharasaical approach. Dont you agree?

david: I am sorry I just now saw this. You are absolutely right in your statement. I would totally agree.

Now you owe me some bbq as agreed upon right?(Just kidding).

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

I didn't say that he had changed his mind. I said that he acknowledged that he had overstepped himself. Offered, you know, for the sake of truth in information.

I Mitchell said...

Bart,

Nathan is a very Humble Man and not Prideful, wouldn’t you agree?

Wayne Smith

Bart Barber said...

Wayne,

I have yet to encounter the human being devoid of pride and perfectly humble. Nathan is a fine man.

I Mitchell said...

David / Volfan007 and Bart

Title: The Nelson Study Bible
Author:

Psalm 104
InDepth—Psalms on Creation Psalms 104
The poets of the Old Testament loved to describe the natural world. Like all people in that ancient time, they lived closer to nature than do most of us. They enjoyed nature’s beautiful and fascinating manifestations. They observed the ways of birds and badgers, the flowing rivers, and the pulsing of the waves. In this respect the biblical poets have much in common with many other poets throughout history. But in two important ways the biblical poets were different from their neighbors in the ancient Middle East. First, they resisted the temptation to deify nature. Their neighbors did not merely rhapsodize about birds and trees, hills and seas—they worshiped them. The biblical poets learned to do
something truly new. Namely, they loved nature but did not bow to it. They enjoyed nature but did not worship it.
The second distinctive of the biblical poets was their identification of “nature.” For them, nature was always “creation.” The word nature does not itself deify the world, but it still implies that the world has its own sense of being, its own power, and its own dynamic. On the other hand, the word
creation is a term of faith. It expresses the belief that everything that exists is made by God. All the beauty and splendor of the universe comes from God’s creative hands.
In some ways, the modern emphasis on “Mother Earth” is simply a revival of the goddess cults of the ancient Middle East. However, the authors of the creation psalms have the right perspective. We can express our enjoyment of creation without worshiping it. We can love the earth because we first love its Creator.

We can rejoice in the marvels of nature—the sparkling waterfall and the soaring eagle—because we know they are the handiwork of God.

Any efforts to “save” the earth should arise from our worship of its Creator and our knowledge that we are called to responsible stewardship because everything God created is a gift from Him.

Wayne Smith

Bart Barber said...

Wayne said: "Any efforts to 'save' the earth should arise from our worship of its Creator and our knowledge that we are called to responsible stewardship because everything God created is a gift from Him."

1. Did God create carbon dioxide?
2. Did God create the Human Immunodeficiency VIrus?
3. Did God create plutonium?
4. Did God create petroleum?
5. Did God create fire ants?

How is it that we are so willing to eradicate some of these creations of God? What does it mean to be a good steward of the Ebola virus, this gift of God that He has created? How is it that we are so quick to acknowledge some of God's creation as a gift and yet so reluctant to do so with other things?

It seems to me that God has assigned us the task of subduing the earth and having dominion over it. That means destroying some things, using others, and preserving yet others. The criterion is that we employ the resources of the earth to glorify God, not to preserve the earth. At least that's the way I see it. But I'm open to listening to any carefully thought-through philosophy of biblical "creation care" that you wish to offer for consideration. Please begin by telling me how it addresses the questions I advanced above.

Thanks.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

Is it a good thing to dump toxic chemicals into our rivers and lakes and kill fish and pollute drinking water? Is it a good thing to pump pollutants into the air making it difficult to breathe? There are some things that are just basic. Whether or not all of this pollution is causing global warming is worthy of debate. Whether or not we should take care of the resources that we have been given is not.

By the way, you should add Genesis 2:15 and Psalm 24:1 to your list of verses on the Creation. If before the Fall Adam and Eve were to take care of the Garden, then after the Resurrection does it not make sense that we should care for the earth? If the earth is the Lord's, then does it not make sense that we should be good stewards of what is God's?

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should take care of it, right? In the same way, the fact that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it seems to imply that we should steward His creation. We can use its resources because they were given to us by God, but some wisdom should be employed.

"Everything is permissable - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissable - but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others." 1 Cor. 10:23-24.

I think that that passage could be reasonably applied to conscientious stewardship of our environment as well as many other things.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

I am against the poisoning of lakes and streams, although not necessarily against the placement of "toxic chemicals" into water—the inclusion of the very toxic chemical chlorine into water has, according to one health expert's testimony on a TV show I watched recently, saved more lives in the twentieth century than any other medical advancement.

So, I'm against poisoned water. I'm against poisoned air. I'm against poisoned soil. I think we use too many pesticides. I think we pump too much water for irrigation out of our aquifers. I think we water our suburban lawns too much. I think older vehicles run dirty and release too much gunk into the atmosphere.

I just have the good sense to realize and confess that not a single one of those opinions arises from any portion of the Bible.

Bart Barber said...

But again, to clarify, I do think that those things arise generally out of a Christian worldview.

Alan Cross said...

Bart, by toxic I mean harmful or poisionous.

How do you seperate a Christian worldview from the Bible if it is truly Christian? How can any part of a Christian worldview NOT arise from Scripture and still be considered Christian? It seems that if you admit that caring for the earth arises from a Christian worldview, then you are de facto admitting that the view is Biblical and must therefore arise from Biblical text. If not, I am very confused as to where you derive your Christian worldview.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

To be blunt, pithy, and to exemplify rather than define:

I will vote for John McCain in November because of a Christian worldview, not because of a command from the Bible.



The difference is one of proximity. How many steps of philosophizing between the biblical command and my action? For "creation care"? Quite a few. The Bible simply commands no such thing. Period.

On the other hand, a biblical worldview inspires one to value what God has created, although it inspires one to value the creation of humankind above the other aspects of creation. That sense of value toward creation might motivate one to one position versus another regarding any particular climatological issue. But such things simply cannot claim the kind of authority that we have when we confront a topic ACTUALLY ADDRESSED IN THE BIBLE.

I Mitchell said...

Bart
Disciples Study Bible
Author:

GENESIS 1:26-31
Stewardship, Management—All of creation is God’s work and reflects His character. Therefore, it is good. All people are special, for He made us in His image to represent Him in the world. As humans, we hold a special place of importance and service in God’s perfect plan. God placed humans in charge of
His material world to manage and care for it. Under God’s authority we must fulfill His purpose in our lives. Being a manager for God is the foundation of
stewardship. See note on 39:2-6. Sin, however, corrupts God’s perfect order. It distorts our likeness to God. It causes us to try to take over God’s primary
ownership and authority.

Wayne Smith

Bart Barber said...

Wayne,

Someday you and I are going to have to sit down so I can show you that little line in your Bible that demarcates where sacred writ ends and somebody's study notes begins.

Alan Cross said...

Bart, but it IS addressed in the Bible. You listed one place. I listed another in Genesis 2:15. I would also posit that Psalm 24:1 has some pertinent implications.

But, thank you for explaining from whence you derive your Christian worldview. I understand better and accept your answer.

And, by the way, I have thoroughly enjoyed our debate tonight on a couple of fronts. I miss the rolling battles across multiple blogs like we used to have back in '06 and '07. Sigh. It has been some time sense the blogosphere erupted in any type of challenging way. I am quite intoxicated by it, actually. :)

God bless you tonight, brother.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

Yes, it has been invigorating. Perhaps it is Wade's departure that frees us all to talk about other things. That was Nathan's speculation somewhere, I think. Or maybe it was Tim Rogers's. I forget.

OK, back to the Bible.

Genesis 1:28 says we are to subdue and rule.

Genesis 2:15 says that Adam was to labor (עבד…I'm not sure whether it will put those left-to-right or right-to-left, so I hope it makes sense) in the garden of Eden and to keep (שמר) it. Your best point, I think, would be in the meaning of "keep" to use it to suggest some sort of accountability between "keeper" and "owner." But there's a good bit of inference there. And then there's the fact that God cast Adam out of the garden he was keeping in chapter 3, and specifically commissioned him to the labor without mentioning the keeping.

Psalm 24:1 says that the earth belongs to the Lord, as well as all of its contents. It contains not the slightest hint that I am accountable to God for the mean temperature of the polar ice caps. Saturn belongs to God, too. Am I accountable to God for its climate as well?

What you really need here is a verse somewhere that says "Give a hoot. Don't pollute." I think that's good advice, and I'm glad that I heard it often in my formative years. It stuck. But it certainly doesn't belong in my preaching. Because I give a hoot about that duty, too.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

You state your case well and I am digesting your argument.

I would disagree in saying that the Bible speaks a great deal about the majesty of God's Creation. God's glory is displayed through it in many ways. The Psalms tell us that again and again. It seems that, when possible, a stewardship of God's Creation is a positive act as God's people. God created everything in the world and called it good. If through our actions, species that God created are becoming extinct and the earth is being polluted, then it seems that we are polluting God's good Creation. Isn't that what our sin does?

Thanks for the discussion. I am sleepy and am going to bed. I'll check back tomorrow, but if there is nothing left to say, I think that I understood you.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

You said: "It seems that, when possible, a stewardship of God's Creation is a positive act as God's people."

I agree with that.

I think that the Bible might very well imply that.

I'm simply saying that the Bible doesn't come right out and say that.

Wayne Smith said...

Bart and Alan,

God Created a Perfect World which was in Balance and placed Man in charge. God gave man self-will and man has exercised it in making a Mess of God’s Creation. God has allowed man to cause an Imbalance in His Creation and we are having to pay the CONSEQUENCES .

GENESIS 1:26-31
Stewardship, Management—All of creation is God’s work and reflects His character. Therefore, it is good. All people are special, for He made us in His image to represent Him in the world. As humans, we hold a special place of importance and service in God’s perfect plan. God placed humans in charge of
His material world to manage and care for it.

Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith said...

Bart,Title: Hard Sayings of the Bible
Author: Brauch, Manfred T., Bruce, F.F., Davids, Peter H., and Kaiser, Peter
H. Jr.

EXPLOITING NATURE?
(GENESIS 1:28)
Does the blessing pronounced by God in Genesis 1 encourage us, the human
race, to treat the environment in any way we choose? Is the present ecological
imbalance observed in so many parts of the world the result of our orthodox
Christian arrogance toward nature, as Lynn White Jr. charged in his famous
article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” (Science 155 [1967]:
1203-7)?
At long last, it is generally accepted that Western scientific and technological
leadership must find its roots in the biblical revelation of the reality of the visible
world and the fact that the world had a beginning. (The idea of a beginning was
impossible within the framework of the previous cyclical notions of time.)
Moreover, the Judeo-Christian heritage fosters such science-advancing concepts
as uniformitarianism, a concept that was instrumental in the Scientific
Revolution of the seventeenth century and the Industrial Revolution of the
eighteenth century. But the academic community has given this recent
recognition very grudgingly.
No sooner had this battle been won than an accompanying charge was
leveled, which is to say that the Bible taught that “it was God’s will that man
exploit nature for his own proper ends” (White, “The Historical Roots,” p. 1205).
What we had lost, ecologically, according to White, was the spirit of pagan
animism that says that every tree, spring, stream and hill possesses a guardian
spirit which has to be placated should any intrusion be made into the
environment by cutting down trees, mining mountains or damming brooks.
Christianity overcame primitive animism, so White argued, and made it possible
to exploit nature with an attitude of indifference for all natural objects. Genesis
1:28 could be cited as the Christian’s license to do just that.
However, this schema is a distortion not only of this verse but of Scripture as
a whole. Indeed all things are equally the result of God’s creative hand; therefore
nature is real and has great worth and value. The only difference between
humanity and all the rest of creation is that God placed his image in men and
women and thus gave them extra value and worth and set the whole creative
order before them for their stewardship.
The gift of “dominion” over nature was not intended to be a license to use or
abuse selfishly the created order in any way men and women saw fit. In no sense
were humans to be bullies and laws to themselves; Adam and Eve were to be
responsible to God and accountable for all the ways in which they did or did not
cultivate the natural world about them.
True, the words subdue and rule over do imply that nature will not yield
easily and that some type of coercion will be necessary. Because the created
order has been affected by sin just as dramatically as the first human pair were,
the natural created order will not do our bidding gladly or easily. We must exert a
good deal of our strength and energy into our efforts to use nature.
But such an admission does not constitute a case for the rape of the land. It is
a twisted use of this authorization to perform such a task with a fierce and
perverted delight. Only when our iniquities are subdued by God are we able to
exercise this function properly.
God is still the owner of the natural world (Ps 24:1), and all the beasts of the
forest and the cattle on a thousand hills are his (Ps 50:10-12). Mortals are mere
stewards under God. Under no condition may we abuse and run roughshod over
the natural order for the sake of quick profits or for the sheer fun of doing so.
Indeed, even Job was aware that the land would cry out against him if, in God’s
eyes, Job abused it (Job 31:37-40).
Not even in the renovation of the new heavens and the new earth is there a
total break and a complete disregard for the present heavens and earth. Instead,
the final fire of judgment will only have the effect of purifying because “the
elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid
bare” (2 Pet 3:10). Even so, the earth will not be burned up!
Lynn White felt we would be better off if we asserted, as did St. Francis of
Assisi, the equality of all creatures, including human beings. This would take
away from human beings any idea of a limitless rule over creation.
But such an equity fails to comprehend the concept of the image of God in
persons. Trees, ants, birds and wildlife are God’s creatures, but they are not
endowed with his image; neither are they responsible to God for the conduct and
use of the creation. What limits humanity is the fact that each must answer to
God for one’s use or abuse of the whole created order.
Should you ask, “What, then, happened to the cultural mandate given to the
human race in Genesis?” we will respond by noting that the mandate is intact.
However, it is found not here in Genesis 1:28 but rather in Genesis 2:15. There
Adam is given the task to “work” the Garden of Eden and to “take care of it.”
That is the cultural mandate.

Wayne Smith
Here is some more for you to chew on(Food for Thought).

Bart Barber said...

Wayne,

Thank you for the continued stream of men's opinions.

volfan007 said...

Peace, everyone. I'm hugging a tree right now, and I'm demanding that the town of Cooterville water it every day. Come and join with me. I also have some puppies with me that some mean man wanted to exterminate down at the dog pound. I call on all my PETA brothers and sisters to come down and help me fight the "man." Also, could someone bring some puppy chow. These puppies are hungry, and I dont have any food for them. The city of Cooterville ought to buy these puppies some puppy chow! So, all of you cool cats out there who want to help me hug a tree...c'mon on down here. Quit worrying about blogs and resolutions and actually do something to help.

Peace out,
David