The Green Bible

22 02 2009

green-bibleI’ve been engaged for sometime in an protracted discussion with a number of people with varying perspectives about the ‘Green Bible‘. What is the “Green Bible?” is it is a published bible that focuses on the theme of God’s love and care for the creation. It contains a number of articles and notes that support the ‘green theme’ of the bible. I am typically a protagonist in these conversations since I have taken a decidedly negative stance to this bible. So to collate the recent conversations into a short article here I will attempt clarity and proposing what is wrong with this publication and more widely what is wrong in our world to permit and accept such a publication.

First- Presuppositions

This bible is a presupposition in search of a text, though the contributors will never tip their hand to this fact. Here is how it works, most Christians throughout the ages have presupposed- that is have approached the bible with the understanding that it is God’s inspired, error free, self revelation about himself to mankind. In it he discloses everything he wanted us to know about him. To what purpose? That man could properly asses himself, turn to God and by God’s plan of reconciliation and follow his plan for our lives. Again for what purpose? That ultimately God may receive glory and honor forever and that we may be participants in that glory, honor and love. This presupposition is an organic sprout out from the Scriptures not read back into them.

The Environmentalist presupposition goes something like this: A-The world is facing a serious and detrimental crisis brought on by the wanton use and destruction of natural resources by man kind. Accelerating rates of extinction and global warming are two bell weathers popularly referred to as evidence for this problem. B- Mankind is simply one branch in the tree of life and has no unique claim to the world that justifies our use of it’s resources at the expense of other species.  C-Until such a time as the Homo Sapien population is brought back into natural equilibrium with the surrounding natural world, it is expected that mankind’s presence on earth will be deleterious and harmful. D- Mankind is ultimately a parasitic presence in this world whose current forms of habitation and exploitation need eradication.

How did the bible get mixed up in this? Let me admit and even agree with proponents of the green bible who say that Scripture has a lot to say about the environment! John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church noted in his sermon series on Genesis that the entire hydrological cycle is represented in the oldest history contained in the bible. There are reference sprinkled throughout the Scripture that attribute all of creation to the work of God’s hand. If God created it does he care for it? Absolutely! But equating the presuppositions of environmentalism with the care that God has for his universe is intrinsically deceptive! God is not an environmentalist!

Here is the logic that I use to make that last statement. Whereas environmentalism sees humanity as an  plague needing to be checked (Footnote 1), God sees humanity as a blessing to the creation and gives mankind command to increase and multiply (Genesis 1:22). In other words God so loved the world (humanity) that John 3:16 happened. Frankly environmentalism is a slap in the face of God by calling those creatures whom God loves, a curse! Because of incompatible presuppositions Environmentalism and Christianity can only be combined through some unholy copulation that should is not to take place.

Many will counter that the bible does speak of mankind taking care of the earth, ect. This is true! In Genesis man is given the mandate to subdue the earth, pull from its resources nourishment and to seek from it provisions for the needs of life. This is the idea of Biblical Stewardship and is again totally in contradiction to Environmentalist thinking. As stewards of the natural resources given to us in creation, we are to manage this world as the property of another- that is the essence of stewardship. The owner, God- has told mankind to use it. We therefore are to derive a philosophy on environmental management that honors 1) God as ultimate owner and creator of the universe and 2) honors the intention of that creation and His subsequent choice of mankind as its managers. Here is what I believe is a Christian worldview on the environment…

“Mankind is to responsibly use the resources of this world for the provision of resources to meet the needs of the greatest number of people for the longest possible time.”

Let me state the implications clearly

  1. Natural resources were created WITH the intent that mankind would use them.
  2. Natural resources were created to meet the NEED that mankind had.
  3. Natural resources are to be consumed by the greatest number of people for the greatest benefit to mankind.
  4. Stewardship implies ownership of another who may return to exercise his ownership and remove the stewardship of mankind. A good steward returns the property of the owner in good condition. Therefore mankind has the moral responsibility to manage the earth so as to return it to it’s owner in like new or better than new condition. This is what ought to be in mind when we as Christians speak of ‘sustainability.’

Second- Purpose

The purpose of the green bible is to remove the wall between environmentalism and the bible. It attempts to demonstrate that the supposed differences between current ‘green’ thinking and biblical teaching are not as numerous nor as insurmountable as people like myself would argue. It accomplishes this with a tool of trickery. By highlighting supposedly environmentally themed passages in green it draws the readers attention specifically to those passages without regard for the surrounding literary construction within which those green passages are found. In other words it leads readers to take green passages out of context so that the bible reads as an environmentalist friendly handbook. The message produced by this effect is further legitimized by applying the validating seals of academia and faith via environmentally themed articles penned by such notable figures as Desmon TuTu, Brian McClaren, and others. Thus it has the power to reshape a persons understanding of Scripture using an dubious approach that is further legitimized by noted scholars.

Now that I think about it, the green bible is probably more dangerous that I previously thought because it does more to muddy the clarity of Scripture by denigrating the original intent of biblical authors for the purpose of marrying Holy Writ with secular Environmentalism.

Third- Results

This is the most painful element of this discussion for me because the Green Bible adds confusion and misinformation to an already bewildering world of false Christianities. I have responded to people who are excited about the ability of the GB to reach out to disenfranchised, disillusioned, offended people and to draw them back into the church again. I wrote to one. “I beg all of you who are thinking about returning to church because of the influence of the green bible NOT TO!!! For if you find a biblical church you will find little in common between your green bible and pulpit exposition. If you find a church that is accommodating to your environmentalist ideals, then I fear you have not found a church at all, despite the name on the sign out front.

Conclusion

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells Christians that we are the ones who are to take every thought captive, that includes the thoughts presented to us by the Environmentalist. Biblical Christians have for too long failed to work at a holistic Christian Worldview that carries with it the weight of divine authority. This is what Carl Henery first laments in “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” and more recently Nancy Pearcy chronicles in her massively important “Total Truth“. The green bible is not the result of some advancement of Christian thought. It is the flotsam tossed up by the ceaseless wave tossing of this world sucked into our presence by the vacuum that Henery and Pearcy lament. It was inevitable that there be a green bible because the hole in Christian thinking demanded to be filled. It is lamentable that there was a hole to begin with.

In short the Green bible represents an unholy copulation of unbiblical Environmentalism with the Scriptures. It is a dishonest endeavor that muddles the clarity of Scripture, has the power to deceive its readers and stands as a rebuke to modern Christianity. Like the shatted wall of Jerusalem stood as a rebuke to the Jews in exile so too this bible represents a rebuke to bible minded Christians. My hope is that others, when considering what this bible represents, will be moved  to take upon themsleves the burden of building and defending a Christian Worldview and therein repair the walls of Christian thinking which have for so long been laid in ruin while pagan thinking has carried off our values and perspective into a cultural captivity which few of us recognize.

Footnote

1. I know scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line … we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth…. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (source: “Mother Nature as a hothouse flower,” Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 22, 1989, p. 10.)

-David Graber, biologist, National Park Service

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