The evangelical faith I was reared was full of eschatological predictions. We knew Jesus was coming back. Many expected it to be soon and most expected a radical shift from this material age to a heavenly kingdom. There was little concern with creation because this ‘world was passing away.’ Today, the churches I’ve been a part of still look forward to Christ’s return but there is a greater enthusiasm for creation care. These days the doomsayers tend to be environmentalists and activists warning us about the effects of overpopulation and our wanton use of the world’s finite resources. But does our Christian hope speak to our current ecological predicament?
In Let Creation Rejoice (IVP Academic-forthcoming) authors Jonathan A. Moo and Robert S.White give a compelling argument that we have hope in the midst of our ecologically brokenness. Moo is an assistant professor of New Testament at Whitworth and White is a Cambridge professor of geophysics. Their combined expertise enables them to examine the scientific evidence for overpopulation, the loss of bio-diversity and climate change, as well as biblical passages which address our attitude and responsibility to the created order. Creation groans with us under the effects of human sinfulness (Rom. 8:22). It also awaits the renewal of all things (Matt 19:28).
Moo and White unfold their argument over the book’s nine chapters. Chapter one introduces the topic, various Christian responses to the environment and provides a map to the chapters that follow. Chapter two and three explore the broad scientific consensus around environmental problems such as overpopulation and the loss of biodiversity (chapter 2) and climate change (chapter 3). While climate change (aka, global warming) is controversial among a few, vocal opponents, Moo & White regard it as a given but also attempt to answer the skeptics.
Chapter four provides an overview of the biblical hope–the gospel and the future. Moo & White eschew models that either denigrate the physical world in favor of eternity or seek to replace Christian eschatology with the idea of ‘God’s grace breaking into the present’ (82). Both these approaches are at best, sub-Christian. The value of creation is affirmed in Genesis 1 (God called creation, ‘good’ and ‘very good’) and the gospel presents us with God’s plan to redeem the world in Christ. Our hope is that Christ came and will come again to restore that which has been lost. Models of Christian engagement with the environment which are not rooted in this biblical hope have nothing ‘Christian’ to offer. As Moo and White write:
There are two apparent opposite dangers that we must avoid if we are to be faithful to what the Bible teaches about the gospel and the future. The first danger is to assume that biblical hope is of the “pie in the sky, by and by” variety that limits concerns with this world and shuts down engagement with the difficulties and challenges inherent to living here and today. Such an assumption is often linked to views of the gospel as something all about me, as something that speaks only to my own existential crisis or answers only to my individual plight as a sinner before a holy God. We have begun to see that though this a popular caricature of Christian belief, it does not reflect the biblical perspective of the gospel taken as a whole. . . .The opposite error is equally seductive, however. This is to give up on biblical hope in the face of its despisers, to suppress the reality of our own rebellion against God and our need for his mercy, and to assume that Christian faith can be reduced to a pattern of living in the present that gives no consideration to the future. (94-5).
Chapters five through eight take a closer look at Bible passages which address creation and our attitude towards it. Chapter five examines what the Old and New Testament tells us about Creation’s future–affirm its value and linking its fate to our own (114). In chapter six Moo and White examine 2 Peter and passages that seem to describe the earth’s cataclysmic destruction. They argue that rather then emphasizing the destruction of the created order, these passages lay emphasis on God’s judgement of human sinfulness (122). Our response shouldn’t be to fail to care for creation but to put on the righteousness and virtue befitting citizens of Christ’s future kingdom. If God’s kingdom is breaking in, it should effect how we steward the earth. Chapter seven describes Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 and his coming like a ‘thief in the night.’ Moo and White argue that Jesus’ critique of the rich fool’s greed and self-absorption has implications for own treatment of the environment (136). Chapter eight looks at John’s cosmic vision of the New Heaven and earth and how we find our proper stance toward creation in the worship of God.
Chapter nine concludes the book by exhorting us to have hope, to watch and pray for creation and allow our eschatological hope to inspire us to loving and a joyful response to our ecological crises. An afterward lists several Christian organizations which are working in the area of creation care.
Let Creation Rejoice is an important contribution for Christians wondering how to respond to the environment. I have several friends working creation care, sustainable farming and environmental advocacy (I live in the Northwest, this is not unusual). It is unfortunate that care for the environment requires an apologetic among some evangelicals (my tribe). Moo and White provide such an apologetic building their case scientifically and biblically. I highly recommend this book to environmentalists and skeptics who feel their is ‘no need to polish the brass on a sinking ship.’ I appreciate how even-handed and thorough Moo and White are for such a short book. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★!
Thank you to IVP Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Let Creation Rejoice is due out in June 2014. You may pre-order from IVP or Amazon.