Premise: Until Christianity (and other major religions) views salvation as more than a personal journey the Earth and all future generations will be condemned by those who ignore or contribute to environmental degradation. From almost any spiritual perspective, the Earth is sacred, yet how we treat it is profane. In my view, the outcome of personal salvation is death, both spiritually and literally, if a person does not atone for environmental sins and alter their relationship to the Earth. All the major religions of the world should be rushing towards achieving a sustainable relationship with nature.
The following is a brief twitter exchange between this author and “C” a Christian for whom Jesus is Central to his life. We can’t be afraid to talk about religion and the environment regardless of our personal beliefs or religious affiliations. The fate of the planet may depend our ability to communicate across religious and cultural boundaries. Start here. Share your thoughts and ideas then start a conversation on your own blog. Time is of the essence.
C: Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice! Phil 4:4
B: God created the Earth, pronounced it good, so we should rejoice in the Earth from which we’re made also. What do you think?
C: If by rejoice in the earth you mean to thank God for His gifts and to cherish them and use them responsibly, then yes, I agree
B: We attend to our relationship to God and each other but ignore our relationship to the rest of creation. Doesn’t seem right. God so loved his creation, even before man, that he proclaimed it good, but Christians today seem so estranged from the Earth. If you love God and your neighbors yet poison the stream behind your house how can you expect to be welcomed into heaven?
C: Well, our welcome into heaven depends on our relationship with Jesus Christ, but I hear what you are saying
B: Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, they are the same, they are the One, right? We don’t have separate relationships with each. I just don’t see how someone can harm the Earth yet be right with God. Why isn’t this a bigger part of salvation theology? Is degrading the environment a sin? If so, where is our atonement? If not then does God not care about his creation? In short, why aren’t Christians leading the environmental movement? I don’t understand.
C: It does not matter if it is a sin or not. We will not be judged on the basis of our sin or relative righteousness…. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile sinful Man to a Holy and Just God. If being sinless was our responsibility to salvation, then we would all die separate from God. The question is then, what will you do with Jesus?
B: Accept Jesus and He saves you from sin and separation. But don’t we have to change our ways? Can’t keep sinning, right? If salvation through Jesus means turning away from sin, we still have to know what is unacceptable to God. We have choices. Therefore it does matter if degrading the environment is a sin. I tend to take this question literally via Matthew 7:16.
B: From a Biblical perspective the catastrophic impacts of climate change is the wrath of God for ignoring or abusing his creation.
C: God judges based only on our relationship with Jesus, not sin, not environmental responsibility, just Jesus
B: Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit all being one makes your statement confusing.
C: One God, but 3 distinct and eternally separate persons, and yes, it is confusing to our limited minds
B: True, but the particle wave nature of light provides at least some analogy for understanding the trinity. How might God judge if you accepted Jesus in your heart on Sunday and dumped toxins into the river on Monday? We must change!
C: Read Phil 3:3-8. Our righteousness is rubbish (“dung” in the KJV) in the eyes of God. It is not what we do, but what He has done.
B: Three lines later verse12: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own…”
B: My larger point is that what Christian’s do or fail to do in this world after they are saved matters in the final judgment. You can’t affirm life in the hereafter if you are not life affirming here and now. The Christian communities should be on the front lines of environmental protection. If we condemn all life on Earth we are ourselves condemned, here and in the hereafter. This is an urgent spiritual matter.