I have finished my courseload for my PhD and have started working on my dissertation proposal. While the title is yet a work in process, the essence of the dissertation will be looking at justice in the Global Christian Church as it relates to the economy and the earth. The requirements for the literature review for the dissertation is one hundred and fifty writings from different authors. That is a HUGE amount of reading to do. At this time, I’m about 1/6th of the way through the 150 readings.
This past week, I read two books: one by Jonathan Wilson called, God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation, and the other by Edward Brown called, Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation. There were a number of “aha” and “amen” moments as I read these books. One phrase that particularly caught my attention is that creation is both a temple and a choir. I love this phrasing. I had to put the book down for a while and just think about the implication of those words. Creation is a temple. It is a worship space that is sacred, where we meet God and He meets all members of creation to be in relationship with them. Hear this from Psalm 148:7-13:
Creation is also to be a choir, a participant in the worship of God. We are to join in leading the choir to worship the one true God. We help the plants, animals, and all the resources that we use from creation be able to worship God. We are to help fix creation – to restore it to how God intended. God gives many instructions for how we are to care for the earth in the Old Testament. But Brown laments that, despite the hymn that says, “This is My Father’s World, O let me ne’er forget…”, we have indeed forgotten. We have allowed consuption and convenience to trump our care for this creation. We are afflicted with “affluenza” in many parts of the world. He goes on to say that nothing is more important than the care of the environment, because without a healthy environment, almost nothing else matters. People, animals, plants, and relationships all suffer.
None of us are able to play our instruments correctly in this choir and orchestra except through Christ. Creation groans and is unharmonious (Romans 8:22). We need a lot of practice in order to play well. And the place where this practice can happen is in the church.
Wilson writes that Christian theology began to abandon the doctrine of creation about 250 years ago when science began to come up with answers that the Church could not compete with. Theologians began to recast Christian convictions in terms of our inner life or about “the heart.” He goes on to say that the doctrine of creation is primarily about the nature of the God who creates. The God who creates cannot be known apart from the God who redeems. Moreover, he says, the doctrine of cration is primarily not about the origin but about the end. Yes!
He says, “One of the greatest tragedies of theology’s neglect of creation has been the church’s complicity in the destruction of the natural world and thus also of conditions that contribue to the flourishing of life. An even greater tragedy or an even greater sin has been the voices in the church that have resisted and mocked the passion for life that leads to care of creation.”
I love this! To find theologians who back what I have been saying and thinking is thrilling. And they put it so much more articulately than me.
Our reason to love creation is not about the current crisis (that we may or may not believe exists), but rather because of God and our love for what He has created for us. The environmental problems that we face are essentially a result of sin. And if it is a result of sin, then it is a spiritual problem. An if it is a spiritual problem, then the Church must be involved. The Church continues to be the institution that can best deal with the complexity of this problem.
Theologian Christopher Wright wrote that, “It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has a church for his mission in the world…mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.”
And so some of my questions for my dissertation have to do with why the Church comes to this table so late with significant divisions, and why the Church does not speak more loudly on how to be a harmonious contributor to this choir? Why do we continue to not respect or affirm those who contribute to the economy in terms of their work being an act of worship? How we find a way forward, joining the voice of the Church (the highest populated religion in the world) to the efforts of 170 nations who have committed together to protect the dignity and flourishing of human life, as well as the protection of the earth?
Thomas Aquinas said, “Any error about creation also leads to an error about God.”
Thankfully, for me, this is a topic I’m passionate about and it is something that Discipling Marketplace Leaders is passionate about. That makes the reading and the research much more enjoyable! If you have any books or articles that you think would be good for me to read, please feel free to refer them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.