Protecting our Good Earth?
On Signposts, Ben mentioned that he is reading a collection of essays by one of my Kentucky neighbors, Wendell Berry. It reminded me of something I’d read recently in USA Today, and that I had intended to write about before Christmas, and never got around to until now.
Of course, I lost the actual newspaper article, and USA Today charges $4 to download single articles, so I’m going to have to generally reference the topic.
On December 20th, USA Today ran an article discussing recent Supreme Court decisions, and issues challenging the High Court in 2007. The writer focused on the role to be played by the two newest justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. They are expected to nudge, if not shove, the court towards fulfilling the agenda promised to evangelicals by the Bush administration. Two major points of emphasis in question are abortion and ecology. The Republican party in the past two decades has a solid history on these matters.
Pro-life and pro-business.
I applaud the efforts of the Republicans to protect the sanctity and value of human life. I believe abortion steals life from a helpless child. I believe euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide is a horrifying concept, because like abortion, it requires doctors to violate the spirit of their oath to “First, do no harm.” Capital punishment, by contrast, places the proper value on human life. “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.” I know these ideas seem paradoxical, but one who values only his own life, and treats the lives of others as worthless in comparison, ought to be shown just how valuable life is. Again, I applaud any and all efforts to revere the life-blessings of God.
However, because of that very desire, to revere the life-blessings of God, I cannot applaud the “conservative” stance on ecology. I believe its theological underpinnings in popular, millenial, LaHayeist, Rapture doctrine to be false and indeed totally opposed to the rule of God on Earth.
One might begin by noticing that Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15 ESV). While this is indeed foundational to our understanding, Wendell Berry believes it will only give us a limited understanding, because the Garden was not given to a fallen people. In fact, care of (even access to) the Garden was forbidden to fallen humanity. Instead, he looks to Deuteronomy, where Moses expounds on the great gift of God to Israel, the Promised Land of Canaan. This is a conditional land-gift to a fallen people, so how God expects them to care for it (and the promised and fulfilled penalties for dishonoring God’s gift) have great validity for us today. Let me simply list Mr Berry’s points.
1) The land is a gift because the people who are to possess it did not create it (Deut 8:17)
2) The land is not a permanent gift, but only given for a time, and only as long as it is properly used. (Deut 10:14; cf. Lev 25:23; also Deut 11:12, Num 14:21; Rom 8:21)
3) The land is not given as a reward, but “as a moral predicament. Having failed to deserve it beforehand [because they are a ‘stiff-necked people’], they must prove worthy of it afterward.”
4) They must prove themselves worthy by being faithful, grateful, and humble; they must remember that the land is a gift. (Deut 8:10)
5) They must prove themselves worthy by being neighborly; the land is “an inheritance,” the community that possesses it “exists not just in space, but in time. One lives in the neighborhood, not just of those who now live ‘next door,’ but of the dead who have bequeathed the land to the living, and of the unborn to whom the living will in turn bequeath it.”
6) They must prove themselves worthy by practicing good husbandry, thus to preserve the inheritance with which they have been entrusted (Deut 22:6-7; cf. the Sabbath and Jubilee laws of land rest)
God loves his creation (Jn 3:16). God’s creation IS good (Gen 1-2). He declared it good, and it will always be good. His patience with it, shown in his actions to retard the progress of evil (Gen 3; Gen 6-8; Gen 11), prove his love and unwillingness to part with it. More than anything, God’s willingness to clothe himself with his own creation (Jn 1) proves the goodness of this gift. Let us covenant with him to protect and preserve this precious gift. Paul writes that its redemption is wrapped up with our own in the rulership of God (Rom 8:21).
in HIS love,