Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 1 "Serving with" Our Creator -- Article #3 Knowing His Heart

Our recent Oikonomia entries on “Fundamentals of Conservation” have emphasized that biblical environmental stewardship, or “biblical conservation” is truly “con-service” or serving with creation. But to serve with creation requires a knowledge of and obedience to what matters to God based upon knowledge of His Holy Scriptures.  In our May Oikonomia, we emphasized that those who would practice biblical conservation must share a child’s eagerness to learn about the world and to submit eagerly to God’s plans for creation as revealed in Scripture.  But, how can we develop and apply child-like faith in God’s Truth in a world that seems increasingly antagonistic, particularly toward Judeo-Christian truth claims?   The answer lies in Christ’s instruction to His disciples and to us.

Before His death and resurrection, Christ prayed for His disciples and all of us who would follow Him later:  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17: 16-17).  Although we are in the world, we can pursue God’s truth through prayer and meditation in His Word.  Without it, our thinking and our actions toward creation are distorted and limited in ultimate value.   Unfortunately, increasing numbers of people deny that the Bible has anything to say about the origin, purpose, and destiny of creation.  Therefore, it is important that we emphasize in this entry that conservers of creation must ultimately be “obedient conservers of Truth.”

Jesus Christ, the Creator, has already come into His creation full of grace and truth (John 1: 14b) to bring us Eternal Life through faith both here on Earth and in our Life to come on the New Earth.  Therefore, would-be steward conservationists should recognize that every act that is intended to do good toward the Earth should be done with the reality that unless the contributor has individually reconciled with God and accepted His atonement for sin, he or she is on a path to eternal Hell.  Such a path is quite divergent from the path of the Earth which has a much brighter future.  Therefore, it stands to reason that God-pleasing stewards of creation must know something of God’s heart for the creation and be able to express His will in words and in acts of conservation.
Smokey Bear poster (1944):  We are beginning to
recover from this false view of land stewardship.

Today as a case in point, many are wondering about the “State of the Earth” and what actions we should take as stewards to conserve the life support system of Earth.  But the more we study the biosphere the more complex we realize it is.  Conservation efforts once thought to be wise—e.g. saving forests by preventing forest fires, saving wildlife populations by restricting hunting in the absence of natural predators, or saving wildlife populations by importing alien species to control them—all have produced some unintended consequences.   One would think such consequences would be cause for humility in our science.

I am concerned that the increasingly politically driven efforts to thwart the alleged human-caused climate change may end up as yet another set of unintended consequences.  Most scientists would agree that “there is no such thing as ‘settled science’.”  Yet today, in spite of scientific evidence on both sides of the question of human-caused climate change, each side of the argument seeks to silence or ignore the other.  Many scientists find it difficult to resist the strong and tempting offers of large research grants which lead to more publications and professional advancement.  A scriptural approach to this temptation is to insist on open dialog among those whose data contradict, perhaps because they have taken different research or because they use different assumptions in their climate models.  A true scientific understanding of creation requires open, honest dialog, rigorous hypothesis testing, skepticism, peer review, and avoidance of overstating conclusions.  We have called this good science.”

The scientist Johannes Kepler described science as "thinking God's thoughts after Him."  It ought to follow that obedient conservers of creation use “good science” as a means to accurately “speak” on behalf of their Creator about His creation.  We might liken this relationship based on truth to a good speechwriter who seeks to capture a sense of the values and passion of the one he or she serves.  For example, Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, the “great communicator” in the early 1980’s.  In her 2001 NY Times bestseller, When Character Was King, Noonan attributes Reagan’s commitment to truth and truth-telling as the basis for his effectiveness as the world leader credited with the eventual fall of Soviet communism.   She writes:

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

Ronald Reagan loved the truth.   We all do or say we do, but for Reagan it was like fresh water, something he needed and wanted.  He loved the truth for a number of reasons, a primary one of which is that he thought it…uniquely constructive.  He thought that by voicing it you were beginning to make things better.  He thought the truth is the only foundation on which can be built something strong and good and lasting—because only truth endures.  Lies die.  (When Character Was King, p. 200)

Peggy Noonan illustrates how the power of spoken truth through President Reagan brought change to people, governments, and the world.   Unlike many American leaders during the era of Soviet domination of much of Asia and Eastern Europe, Reagan spoke the truth about Soviet totalitarianism without apology.  His message reached the Soviet prisons where Russian dissidents began to hear it whispered by their guards, or through radio broadcasts.  Noonan shares the testimony of one Russian dissident, Anatoly Shchransky:

Sometimes he and other men would empty out the toilets and the sinks and whisper to each other through the pipes.  Sometimes they used code, from cell to cell.  And there were other ways he didn’t want to talk about.  But he wanted me to know that there were times when Ronald Reagan spoke that the gulag would explode with a great racket of taps, knocks and whispers as they heard what he said and passed it on.

Some of Reagan’s words of truth that were whispered and tapped through Soviet prisons were probably ones he spoke to the British Parliament, on June 8 1982:   Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas:  individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God.

Eventually, the iron curtain was torn open, the wall came down, and cell doors holding political dissidents swung open to provide freedom from the oppression of Soviet communism because of the words and the actions of Ronald Reagan and others who spoke the truth.  Although today the scourge of totalitarian governments under communism and Islamic extremists threaten and destroy individual freedom and plunge civil societies back into darkness, there still exists within the hearts of many who have not been broken and discouraged the desire to be free and to participate in a society of the self-governed. 

And mankind can no more create and maintain responsible government by the people than he can function effectively in the larger sphere of trying to practice conservation of the planet.  At least, not unless he understands the truth that our rights and privileges come from above, from Almighty God, Who has made us stewards, serving at His behest. 

And how can we serve God, and keep (serve with) creation without walking in close obedience to God through His Word?  Just as a speechwriter must know the mainspring of truth that drives her boss in order to help him communicate his or her convictions, so we must know the heart of God through His Scriptures if we are to do anything worthwhile and lasting toward our neighbor and the Earth.  Out of this intimacy of relationship through the Word of Truth, we can both serve God and serve with creation—and do so with the right motives, passion, and purpose whispered and tapped into our souls by our Heavenly Father.

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