There is no doubt about it; we are in a bit of a pickle in terms of our collective stewardship of planet earth.
With human induced extinctions at a new epoch of record levels, human induced climate change still rising and as for the latest scare micro-plastics polluting the oceans and infecting our human food chains; it’s truly alarming. So, predictions of doom and gloom abound, Armageddon and the end times is common in news stories, it is all so hopeless, isn’t it? So where do Christians come in.
Surprised by Hope
In Christ, we have Hope in all situations, but I am going to need some help to unpack that succinctly to apply it to the current state above. Tom Wright a Pauline (of St Paul’s Gospels) biblical scholar and retired Bishop of Durham, wrote a meaty tome called Surprised by Hope using his biblical interpretation skills to answer some of these big questions, nonetheless his views are not mainstream so can appear controversial. I’m not going to do a book review, as space doesn’t permit it, but this is my take on it:
Wright challenges church members (not the public) on their understanding of huge topics like – Pentecost, crucifixion, ascension, life after death and the second coming. If surveyed, he asserts that many would have found biblical doctrinal answers but in some areas less so. Take for example ‘life after death’ and ‘ heaven and hell’, most would agree that after judgement some would proceed to heaven which is up there somewhere (hopefully not also with the expectation of gong to fluffy clouds, harps playing and an elderly man with a long beard).
After Jesus was resurrected he had both a spiritual and a physical side – he ate fish. Wright contends that there is sound biblical thinking for heaven to be a new earth, perhaps even building on our own paltry efforts. As one home group leader said in discussing this subject; if God created the garden of Eden as initially a perfect example for humans, it is not beyond belief that this again could be part of the heavenly realm. We do get glimpses of heaven on earth as we plead daily when saying the Lord’s prayer. Wright continues in art, music, social justice, inspiring landscapes and natural encounters.
So why is this important?
As I understand it our mission work is not in vain to see lives transformed by the love of Christ and to see that this can manifest itself practically through social justice and caring for creation, which due to the eco-system services it provides, is important. As this is God’s fingerprint, that should be motivation enough to look after the planet. However if what we do now will be celebrated and added to, in ways we can only dream of, when heaven and earth meet then it adds another dimension to caring for creation. Wright calls this Life before death service (Christian Aid credited).
Finally, ’life after, life after death’ another catchy term. Eternity is portrayed by the church as a wonderful worshipful place with bright lights, and so it should be. But Wright says it is not inconceivable it will also include those glimpses of heaven we experience on earth as we wait in anticipation. The best examples of community, fellowship, practical caring for each other and all of creation.
Creation Care Team