A problem with our ecology

Jim Adams concludes

I think that Christians would have more positive influence on the environment if they laid aside the language of creation and concentrated on personal and collective responsibility. In other words, I think that we would be more effective in our defense of the planet if we stressed morality rather than theology. Nonbelievers rightfully expect religious people to take moral positions on public policy, which is something we can do without using God to justify our conclusions. We would not be doing violence to the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself if we stretched the obligation to include future generations and other life forms.

What he has taken exception to is a church declaration on the environment that sought to bear witness to the wider church and the world. Adams said

While the Declaration might be convincing to believers, I doubt if it would make much sense to secular people.

The primary objection to the declaration likely to be raised by secular people centers on your claim that God’s original design of creation was one of “order and perfection” (Declaration 8) and reflected “God’s original love and harmony” (Declaration 10). Instead, any careful observer of nature is bound to find ample evidence disorder, imperfection, cruelty, and discord. Charles Darwin expressed this observation most clearly when he wrote to a friend:

“I own I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd. wish to, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae (a family of wasps) with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

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Adam's article is a classic illustration of what happens when we in the church talk just to ourselves. We can end up, with the best will in the world, talking apparent nonsense. While the declaration may want to say something of the wonder of creation, "order and perfection" is not a good description of what we see in the world. Institution of "a Fall" to account for this seems ad hoc, if not extra special pleading. We know there never was a time which was perfect and idyllic.

Talking outside the church does two things. First, it is actually what is known as evangelism! It also does something else. It improves our bullS*&t detection, and stops us making asses of ourselves.

Oddly enough, few people really are against a search for deeper reality. My son's computer desktop is a poster from Flickr which is a spectacular and wondrous photo of a distant galaxy. The text says "Nobody really knows where all this sh*t came from. But I think I'd rather trust the dudes in lab coats who aren't demanding I get up early every Sunday, to over dress and apologize for being human."

If anything, we apologize for not being human, I want to say to him. But I am too much in sympathy with the poster. So much we say and do a church is just plain silly in the eyes of the world. Not because the world is stupid or unspiritual, but because it is silly. If we'd only talk more, we'd realise this. And it would help our reflections on our experience of God, and bring us closer to whatever God is... and it would help others take God seriously (even if they feel we are a little weird!)


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