Do Christians need to be concerned about the creation? Isn’t it all just going to burn up anyway when God recreates it anew? Aren’t all those climate fanatics just being a bit, I don’t know, fanatical? Douglas and Jonathan Moo have written a book to encourage God’s people to care for his creation “by showing that the created world remains important in God’s purposes throughout the story of redemption” (126).
The book has three sections:
(1) Queuing the Questions
“What role does the non-human creation play in God’s plan?” (23). How does it relate to our proclaiming the gospel, and why should we be involved? The Moos write that through our involvement we (1) address current challenges facing creation, (2) serve as witnesses to God’s kingdom before the members of the world, and (3) confirm Scripture’s witness of our vocation as “keepers” of God’s creation (26-27).
Biblical theology summarizes and synthesizes “the teaching of the Bible using its own categories and with attention to its redemptive-historical movement,” it’s books make up one book, and it addresses people in today’s world (35). But along with the Bible’s teaching, we are also influenced by culture and science. The goal of theology is “the formation of Christian character and the practical living out of biblical values” (42). Culture can help us see things that we have taken for granted or haven’t noticed in the biblical text (it can also make us blind to what is there), and science can help inform us on how God’s creation “keepers” can care for his creation.
(2) Arriving at Answers
God created the world as “very good,” but he is the divine Creator and the “very good” world is the non-divine created. This does not give a lowly status to the world. Relationships where one person idolizes the other and treats the other as a god/goddess are harmful. So dethroning the creation from a divine status shifts people away from pantheism and toward being able to know the creation and to live in it as God’s creation. We are not gods who can use the earth according to our whims.
“In what ways do we prevent others from perceiving creation’s testimony to God when we fail to care well for creation, to enact justice, and to ensure that the abundance of the earth is shared with all?” (60).
Some say God surely wouldn’t allow creation to crumble because of our doing. Is it unreasonable to think that he wouldn’t allow humanity to suffer for the consequences of trashing his creation? Israel was put into exile for not giving proper rest to God’s land (God just let Israel use the land, Lev 25:23). The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day told Israel that neither famine nor sword would come. The people continued sinning, and in the end judgment did come (111-112). The suffering of creation, as with us, is only temporary, and it will end when Christ returns. But he hasn’t returned yet, and it’s been 2,000 years since he left.
“The incarnation furthermore reveals a God who binds himself to all of his creation” (115).
As the Moos note, in the tenth edition of the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report in 2014, they (speculatively) estimate “that between 1970 and 2010 the total number of wild mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped fifty-two percent….The decline of terrestrial animals alone was thirty-nine percent” (199). This is “speculative” because it is hard to be so accurate with animals species and just how many animals there are, but the fact remains that even if the number were down to twenty-five percent, that is an astounding—a shocking—figure. Out of all the earth’s years, in just 40 years we have lost 25%, perhaps even 52%, of all our animals due largely in part to the ways of globalization and consumption.
But isn’t it all going to burn anyway? Doug Moo refutes that idea by spending some time leading the reader through 2 Peter 3. He briefly goes through some Greek and determines that verse 10 should read (as it does in the ESV, NIV, NET, and CSB), “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” The day of the Lord will not burn everything down but will expose the earth and the earth-dwellers to the majesty and terror of God. Nothing will stand in his way from seeing them in all their hatred for him (see Is 26.21).
The heavens and earth will not be destroyed and made brand new, but like us when we receive our resurrected bodies, it will all be renewed. The authors say, “The imagery we should have in our minds is not a log consumed in our fireplace but the piece of ore turned into a precious piece of metal” (164).
Even if the world is going to burn and be completely recreated, the one whom we serve created it all. Playing a small part in letting half of his animals die is to say, “We don’t care about your animals,” even if the Psalmist does. Psalm 104.21 says, “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” In fact, all of Psalm 104 is about God’s delightful (even if also terrifying) creation.
(3) Reflecting on Relevance
Douglas and Jonathan Moo have given us a great theological work on caring for God’s creation. They give practical examples of how interconnected everything is, such as how a demand for beef, biofuels, and animals feed causes trees to be cut down for cattle farms or other means. The lack of trees means a decline in biodiversity, increased risks from erosion and extreme weather, and the climate changes due to the “loss of moisture-enhancing trees.” Forests seize carbon dioxide, and losing forests means large concentrations of carbon-dioxide rise into the atmosphere, which brings changed weather patterns and acidification.
Coral reefs give life to a quarter of all marine life. Due to pollution, fishing techniques (like trawling), warming seas, and acidification (from the air-riding carbon dioxide, a quarter of which is absorbed into the oceans), projections say coral reefs could disappear by 2050.
Will we ever see a direct result of our careful, caring actions? Possibly not. But, as the authors point out, at the height of the slave trade numerous Christians refused to buy or use sugar that had been made at the cost of another human’s life (226). None of those acts ended the slave trade, but it may have been one of the proper ways to follow Christ at that time. Paraphrasing Alister McGrath, instead of merely looking at creation, knowing and believing and that all of the earth belongs to God, we can behold it. We can appreciate his artistry and care for the earth, the animals, and for us (179). Maybe you’re on the fence about climate change. Perhaps you’re adamantly opposed to it. Maybe you’re all for it. In either case, pick up this book. Something needs to be done. Or, when Isaiah told him that the Lord would bring judgment, should we be satisfied as Hezekiah and think, at least there “will be peace and security in my days”?
- Authors: Douglas and Jonathan Moo
- Series: Biblical Theology for Life
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan (February 27, 2018)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.