Monday, July 21, 2008

Sermon 7/20/2008 Why Not Mix God and Politics Part One "The Enviroment: What is the Inconvience of the Truth"

Environmental Issues: What is the Inconvenience of the Truth?

Today we are begging a three part sermon series called, “Mixing God and Politics.” Despite being warned in seminary about preaching on political issues, Dwight and I both believe that with the election coming up this fall, it is important for us to have a biblical reference point from which to help determine how we vote. While I do not believe I should force my faith on others, I do believe as a Christian, we should vote according a biblical world view instead of voting down party lines.

In these next several sermons I hope to address three important issues, namely the environment, social issues, and moral issues. In each sermon, I will begin by presenting two views on the subject and then we will see how the Bible as a whole deals with these or other issues like these and to the best of our ability draw some concrete concepts to take with us as we research the candidates in the upcoming election.

Up front I do want to make these commitments. (1) My aim is not to choose one candidate or party and find Scripture to back up this perspective. I will, to the best of my ability, try to be as objective as possible. (2) My goal is to help you have some tools that will help and guide you as you make decisions about which candidate to vote for.

This being said, I feel I should be up front about my own political biases. I was raised as a good republican and I have voted this way for most of my life. At the present time, I would still call myself a republican, but I have been somewhat disillusioned as of late. Due to this disillusionment, I have become somewhat more open to ideas that I used to consider “bad politics.” With this being said, let’s tackle the first issue: the Environment.

The environment has become a very important topic these days with the controversies over global warming and with our dependence of oil resources. John McCain’s website attests the importance of this issue

Our nation's future security and prosperity depends on the next President making the hard choices that will break our nation's strategic dependence on foreign sources of energy and will ensure our economic prosperity by meeting tomorrow's demands for a clean portfolio

Likewise Obama says, “Well, I don't believe that climate change is just an issue that's convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it's one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”[ii]

Global Warming

The issue that both candidates speak of is what we call global warming. In the earth’s atmosphere gases like carbon dioxide are trapped in order to trap solar heat. This solar heat keeps us alive. The problem, according to a lot of scientist is that due to our burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and by clearing forests that naturally convert some of the carbon dioxide into oxygen, there is too much carbon in the atmosphere, causing the rise in temperatures.

This does not sound too bad for those who are always cold, but according to those scientist and Al Gore, this causes a huge crisis for our planet. Here are the implications:

1. The number of large hurricanes will increase with the rise of ocean temperature
2. Glaciers will melt causing flooding
3. Malaria will spread to higher altitudes due to rise in temperature.
4. Extinctions of many animals who rely on the ice and cold
5. More heat waves and droughts[iii]

Another environmental problem that goes with Global Warming is that we are using our natural resources faster than the environment can reproduce them. We are also producing more waste than we can properly store in landfills.

While both of the presidential candidates believe that global warming is a serious issue, other scientist like the founder of the weather channel John Coleman disagrees. Coleman argues that there are two primary ages, the ice age and the interglacial age. The ice age means that everything is frozen and the interglacial age means the earth warms up and the ice melts. He says that for the past 10,000 years, we have been in the interglacial age, which is a good thing or we would not be able to live. Global warming a cooling are natural cycles.

Coleman defends his position by arguing that sense 1998 global temperatures have actually decreased. He also argues that CO2 is natural to the environment and make up only a small portion of the atmosphere. He says that out of 100,000 molecules, only 38 would be carbon. He then argues that this is not a significant amount to change the whole face of the earth.

Coleman then argues that the Global Warming scare has massive effects on us. Due to our concern for the environment, we do not drill oil in America, causing higher gas prices. The use of Ethanol, a corn based fuel; he argues actually increases the cost of both gas and food. He blames our economic crises on our global warming scare.[iv]

The Bible and the Environment

In any survey of the Bible for environmental concerns has to begin at creation in Genesis. After God creates the plants and the animals he calls creation “good.” After he creates human beings, he gives them this charge,

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

On first glance, Genesis seems to be anti-environmental. Notice that humans are commanded to fill up the earth. Some have taken this to mean that the Bible promotes overpopulation which strips the earth of resources. Then Genesis tells us to “subdue the earth” and to “rule over all the animals.” Some Christians have taken this to mean that we are to use and abuse the environment because God has given it to us to do as we choose. As one of my professors says, “You could say that, but you would be wrong.”

Genesis is actually telling us that we are to be responsible with creation. As Walter Brueggemann says, “The task of dominion does not have to do with exploitation and abuse. It has to do with securing the well-being of every other creature and bringing the promise of each to full fruition.”[vi] The Biblical foundation for the environment is one where God gives humanity the responsibility to oversee creation in such a way that we bring out the best in the environment. In the original design of creation, Adam and Eve worked hand in hand with the world around them.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit that God had told them not to eat and thus rebelled against God, everything changed, including Adam and Eve’s relationship with the earth. God tells Adam,

17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'"Cursed is the ground because of you;through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

Not only were Adam and Eve’s relationship with God broken, their relationship with the earth and the animals were broken as well. CS Lewis says, “Man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will.[viii]

The problem we sometimes have as Christians is that we view the environment from the perspective of the fall rather than the way God originally meant us to. In other words, we view the Christian response to the environment as being one in which we have to strip and manipulate the environment to get what we need out of it in order to survive and maintain the lifestyle we believe we need. Therefore we would rather destroy our world rather than go without.

There are some Christians who might disagree with what I have said because they believe that God will take the Christians off this planet and then destroy it. If one were to hold this view, then there would be no real concern for the environment. While I understand this line of thinking, I believe Paul tells us different. In Romans 8 he says,

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God

Paul seems to be saying that while the creation was subjected to decay, the hope is that it will one day be liberated from its bondage. God is not planning on destroying creation; God is planning on redeeming it as God redeems us. This means that we as Christians are responsible to help God in redeeming the world around us as opposed to destroying it.

As you can clearly see, the Bible is pro-environment. As Christians we are charged with making this world a better place because we will live on this earth for eternity. God will redeem the world we live in and God wants to use us. If we destroy our world we are actually working against God’s plan for redemption.

Biblical Principles to Vote For

How should the Bible help us vote on environmental issues? (1) Make sure that candidates support programs that take care of the environment rather than implementing policies that will further destroy it. (2) Sometimes policies that address environmental concerns cause people to have to pay higher prices so make sure that there are plans to help those who will be most effected by these policies. (3) Look for programs that will help individuals take part in helping the earth like recycling etc.

(4) Finally I want to add the “real inconvenient of the truth.” Even if you are a person who does not believe the effects of global warming are series, the Bible calls for us to be good stewards are we oversee creation. We are called to be responsible with the earth’s resources and the amount of waste and pollution we create. The inconvenience is that we are all called to sacrifice. We can all take steps to help the world. We can begin with a simple step of recycling. As a response to this our church will begin a recycling program next week. Our youth will be organizing this so make sure to use the recycling bends here and at your own home.

[v] TNIV Gen. 1:28-32
[vi] Walter Brueggemann “Genesis” Interpretation (John Knox Press: Atlanta, 1982) 32.
[vii] TNIV Gen 3:17-19
[viii] CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Harper San Francisco: New York, 1940) 46.

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