Christianity, Creation and Climate Change

This piece comes in the wake of the First Reformed movie review and is my attempt to think through some of the themes and questions raised by that film, as well as gather my own thoughts on the issue of Christianity and Creation care.  

This is not about Climate Change

The question of the Christian’s responsibility to care for creation is much too often conflated with the debate about climate change. That is a sad and unfortunate distraction. One quick aside—I am not a sceptic or denier; I take the scientific consensus on climate change pretty much on face value. Perhaps this disqualifies my voice for some readers, I hope not. I want to show that regardless of your position on this debate, you, as a Christian, have a responsibility to care for creation. On the issue of Climate Change, and in my experience, on many other issues, Christians allow themselves to be led into partisan boxes, deftly distracted from the real issues and the greater concern for the common good. Because of the misbehaviour of some black lives matter activists, some right wing Christians feel justified in dismissing the entire movement as evil or the entire cause as a hoax. Or again, because some women in the Me Too movement were uncovered as false accusers, those same Christians cast suspicion on the entire movement and the entire cause. Precisely this problem afflicts discussions about Christian creation care. Because some Christians are sceptical about climate change or unhappy with the rhetoric or tactics of some activists, it is impossible for them to think about this issue as a Christian. This is the key. How can we think about the political, economic and social issues of our time, not as reactionaries, or as partisans, but as Christians? If we recognised, first of all, the Christian duty to love our neighbour as ourselves, then perhaps we would be less focused on our ideological and partisan tribes and more focused on the common good. We would care less about what a “conservative” or “liberal” position on climate change or race relations is, and more about what would benefit humanity. We would be less interested in belonging to a tribe, and more interested in seeking dialogue, and common understanding with those we normally disagree with. Christianity is not about winning the culture war, sticking it to libs, or avoiding certain issues because your political tribe won’t like it, it’s about faithfulness. Christ, at the cross, frees us from having to “win”, or having to conform, instead he calls us to take up the cross and follow him. And in the end, a Christian who is truly faithful to the way of the kingdom, will find himself radically at odds with all political tribes.

To turn this back to the issue of creation care, we should be able to transcend arguments about climate change as beside the point for Christians. While the question of climate change will often result in furious debate in certain circles, there are several things most reasonable Christians should be able to agree on. First most of us agree that nature, as God’s creation is a source of spiritual and material enrichment for human beings. All of us value creation. Second, most of us agree that we shouldn’t seek to damage or destroy vulnerable ecosystems or natural environments, more than we must in order to survive. Most of us recognize that we cannot and should not endlessly pollute and destroy nature and that we should work to preserve natural environments to some degree. Third, most of us agree—even if we don’t agree on anthropocentric climate change—that humans have damaged nature in various ways: through pollution of water and air, deforestation, landfills, etc. Most of us agree that this is not a positive development and that we (or someone) should probably do something to fix it. It could be that I am assuming too much, but I think these three points should be relatively uncontroversial and that most rational people, would, upon reflection, agree with them. That would be a good start, but I think we should go much further. More on that later.

Climate change is not the reason we should care for creation

If a dismissal of environmentalism based on ones climate change scepticism is a right wing temptation, the left wing temptation is to adopt a sort of consequentialism: The reason Christians ought to care for the environment is because of the looming existential threats that we must address. The reason we care for the environment is because of what will happen if we don’t. We are environmentalists because we are concerned about our future. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines consequentialism as follows: “The view that the value of an action derives entirely from the value of its consequences.” An action is good (and should therefore be perused) only if it leads to good consequences. Or to state it in the reverse: the only measure of a good action is the consequences. To put it most starkly: the consequences of an action are the only consideration that matters when making a moral decision. In my view, a consequentialist approach to environmental ethics, and ethics in general, is deeply problematic. I think this for several reasons.

In the first place, the consequentialist runs into similar problems to those I discussed above. The case for environmental action stands or falls on the debate over climate change. The consequentialist finds herself having to get into the nitty gritty details of climate change, arguing not only that it is human caused, but also that the effects will be devastating enough to warrant concern and that a given policy proposal will be the most effective in combating it.

I don’t mean to suggest that these not defensible positions, rather, my point is that the consequentialists has her work cut out for her. Because for her, the only reason one ought to be concerned about the state of the natural world, is because of the looming environmental threats, she must convince sceptical audiences that this really is something we should be worried about. The right winger who thinks climate change is just a government hoax, will not be persuaded by her arguments and there will be no possible common ground between them: As soon as someone disagrees with her position on climate change, the conversation can only devolve into argument. Furthermore, a consequentialist argument is particularly difficult to make with the issue of climate change. For something as abstract, far off, and intangible in the here and now as the consequences of climate change, the rhetorical force of a consequentialist argument for taking action against climate change can be hard to feel. Everyone knows the consequences of not eating for a week, but the consequences of a global rise in temperatures in the upcoming decades, are much harder to comprehend.

My second point is much more direct: Consequentialism is the antithesis of a Christian ethic grounded in the cross. What the cross as the centrepiece of Christian ethics reveals, is that consequences do not determine right action. The cross, is antithetical to the “ends justify the means” logic of the word, and it flips that logic on its head. For the Christian, consequences are secondary or even incidental to faithfulness to the way of the kingdom of God. This is an ethics that demands patience; the fruit (what the consequentialist would call the “positive outcomes”) do not come in an impatient, worldly way, but instead in a upside down, Resurrection kind of way.  The fruit come, in unexpected ways, with the passing of time, or perhaps, in the life of the age to come. The Christian formed by the ethic of the cross then, is patiently faithful, and leaves the consequences in the hands of God. For indeed it was God who raised Jesus from the dead. This sort of consequentialism ends up trying to create an ethic out of exactly the same instrumental stance that brought us into the environmental crisis to begin with. The world as a machine of forces to be tinkered with, knobs turned, dials adjusted to maximize our pleasure. When it turns out that we may have had “over-adjusted” and now have an environmental crisis on our hands, the consequentialist returns to the knobs and adjusts them in the other direction; never repenting from the instrumental, objectifying stance that brought us the mess in the first place. A genuinely Christian stance and ethic, rejects this, because it sees in Creation something intrinsically good, worth preserving and loving for its own sake.

It should be recognized that behind a lot of the Christian complacency on environmentalism lurks a kind of consequentialism or Gnostic Christianity. The Christians who dismiss any kind of creation care with, “oh God will fix everything in the end” or “what does it matter if we’re all going to heaven in the end,” are falling into this same consequentialist trap. They are equating the moral value of actions, with the outcome of those actions. By assuming that there is no connection between our creation destroying actions and the ultimate future of the world in heaven, they relativize those actions: it is neither good nor bad to destroy creation. This is a strange, twisted, worldly logic that, if applied consistently, would relativize all Christian ethics. If we are saved by grace and not by works, there is no connection between our actions and our ultimate destiny, therefore, on this consequentialist logic Christians should be relativists. “What does it matter what I do? God will let me into heaven anyway.”

Just as the good works Christians perform are not about earning our way to heaven; the future state of the world is not the reason Christians treat God’s creation with care and respect. Rather, Christians should care for creation, because that is what faithfulness demands. We have been given work to do in God’s Kingdom and the life we are called to should be one that is qualitatively different than the life of the world. The sad state of the natural world is ample evidence that Christians have not been faithful to this calling. What does a Christian view of creation look like? We turn to this next.

A Christian view on Creation

The Christian view of Creation, begins, of course with the recognition that it is creation. The natural world and everything in it, was made by an act of overflowing Love by the Triune God. It was created out of sheer love and not to fill any lack in the Creator. The Creator’s continued sustenance of Creation in being, is a continuous reaffirmation of his love and care for all living beings. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis draws on the sayings of Jesus to describe the paternal Love of God the Father for all of his creation:

In talking with his disciples, Jesus would invite them to recognize the paternal relationship God has with all his creatures. With moving tenderness he would remind them that each one of them is important in God’s eyes: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.’ ‘Look at the birds of the air: They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’

Because Creation is God’s creation, it is not our creation. That means that Creation is forever somewhat wondrous and mysterious to us, it is beyond our control, follows an order we must negotiate with, and ultimately, it is God’s and not ours. Indeed, while we stand in some sense, above creation, partly because of our advanced frontal lobes, and partly because we need creation to survive, we are ultimately creatures too. Our very lives are gift. In our dealings with Creation we can never forget that we are not God and that Creation is not ours, but a gift. Like in the parable of the Talents, we have been “entrusted with His property.” It is ours to use, enjoy, and reap from, but we must one day pass it on to the next generation, and give account of how we have managed it.

We read in Genesis that Humanity and the earth share the same origin in God’s speaking of creation into being. Man, formed from the dirt and brought to life continuously by the breath of God, is deeply and intimately connected to the earth. Each human being comes formed from a particular place, culture, time, family and history, and if the dignity of the human is to be upheld, we must honour those ties, as well as work to preserve them. The Human being can never be abstracted from the earth or the community that constitutes him: from the dust we come and to the dust we will return. The health of the earth then, cannot be separated from the health of humanity, the fate of both, are intertwined. Genesis tells us that to be human is to be rooted in the earth, with our hearts open to the infinite in the heavens above. We are most fully human when we exist in harmonious relationship with God and the Earth. This is reaffirmed in the incarnation, when God deems to become man, the infinite is revealed in the particular and God is found among the lowly. We see, by the light of the incarnate God that all of God’s good creation is enflamed with the Spirit of God and all of creation and all of Humanity, participates in God. As Paul affirms: “In Him we move and have our being.”

Our connection with the earth is a source of wisdom, awe and an encounter with the grandeur of God: “Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of His Glory.” Through the created world, we come to know the Creator, and delight in His handiwork.

As part of the created cosmos, all of us together, man, beast, fish and fowl, languish under the same bondage to Sin, Death and the Devil. This captivity to powers that oppose God’s good creation is the source of the estrangement and tension that exists within the created world and the brokenness of the cosmos. And yet, in the Resurrection, we are given the first fruits of new creation, and the certainty that the icy grip of Sin, Death and the Devil on creation has been forever broken, and that there is a new age coming, and breaking in. All of us together then, man, beast, fish and fowl, share the same ultimate future of a restored cosmos.

We are told in the scriptures that Creation groans for the coming of the sons of God. Creation, along with humanity, is groaning in expectant hope for the restored humanity. A humanity, freed from its bondage, and restored to its vocation as the Image of God which can truly “tend the garden of the world.” The ultimate hope is the coming of the Kingdom of God where the Edenic peace and harmony of creation restored. A time when God is all in all, and the peace and Glory of his reign fill the whole earth. As Isaiah so beautifully writes: “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”

As Christians, we are called, as those who find ourselves caught in the net of the kingdom, to be faithful to the witness of that eschatological reality. Christians then, should be exemplary in their care for the land, in their harmonious existence with an abundance of creatures, in their delight at the natural world and in their tender regard for all of God’s creatures. The worldly domination of creation, exploiting it for our own pleasure is an inversion of the way of Christ. The crass pollution of the air, water and land, the abuse and objectification of animals; this is nothing less than an affront to God the Creator. Those who persist in their exploitation are aligning themselves with the powers opposed to God and His creation.

The Christian’s fundamental orientation in the world is the way of the cross. The way of the cross is the giving up of power and selfishness, in a spirit of humility, meekness and childlikeness, to bring life and new creation to the world. This is the way of Christ: “For the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This Spirit of weakness should transform our entire lives, all our ways of being in the world and all of our relationships with nature and our fellow human beings. There is then, no room for colonization, exploitation, compulsion, lies, greed, or violence, in the lives of those of us who claim to follow this crucified God.

The implications of this should be clear. In our relationships with others, we must love them as we love ourselves. And in the same way, Christians in their shared life with creation, with whom we share the same origin, affliction and ultimate future, must also follow the pattern of the cross. Yes, we depend on Creation for our survival—both materially and spiritually, and yes—we must, in this fallen world, protect ourselves from the ravages of nature. As creatures made in the image of God, we, as God’s representatives on earth, stand, necessarily, above nature and can exercise dominion over her. However, as people of the cross, our relationship with the created world, should, if we are to be faithful, be one of mutual give and take rather than one of colonization and exploitation. This entails two things.

First, we cannot take more than the land can give, and we must in turn, care for the land to ensure her health. The healthy relationship between humanity and creation is analogous to a healthy marriage. If healthy, a marriage is life giving and life sustaining. The farmer plants the seed, and the land bears fruit. Like any marriage, this relationship must be maintained; the farmer must care for the ecosystems, the soil health, the wildlife, the water, the air and so forth. Pope Francis expresses this point with the biblical mandate to “till and keep” the “garden of the world:”

“Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing, or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and protecting. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.

Second, we must respect the dignity of creation as creation. Genesis depicts an image of human and animal flourishing, in which the waters are teaming with fish, the skies filed with birds and the land filled with animals. God has made the world an abundant place, where an abundance of creatures can thrive and flourish. Like humanity, God’s creatures have been given a mandate to “be fruitful and multiply: And God blessed them, saying “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on earth.” There is a created order here that makes the mandate to be fruitful and multiply possible. The fish are given the conditions for thriving that they need in the seas, the fowl in the air and the beasts in the field. The creatures have their place and their habitat, and this is what allows them to thrive. If humanity is to thrive alongside God’s creatures, our flourishing cannot come at their expense. We must ensure that the creatures around us are given the means, the space, and a healthy environment to thrive and survive. Furthermore, the creatures that we domesticate cannot be deprived of their dignity as God’s creation. This means that animals are to be treated as animals, and not as machines. Joel Salatin, a pig farmer who has developed a new ways of raising animals in a way that closely mimics their natural environment, describes how factory farming demeans the glory of pigs:

Today’s industrial food system treats pigs as mechanical objects—as mere inanimate protoplasmic structures to be manipulated in whatever clever ways human hubris can think up. Once we find the pig’s stress gene, for example, we extract it from the pig’s chromosomes to enable us to demean the pig’s habitat even more—after all, now the pig won’t care…A pig is a living being created by God. Life, as we know, responds to life. Pants respond to human touch—and to music!—and this is even truer of animals. When I step into my pig pasture, the pigs naturally come toward me, warily at first and then more boldly…Within a minute they’re snooding on my shoes, chewing on my belt, and looking for a belly rub. I’ve never washed my car and had it snoodle on my shoes. The steering wheel sure doesn’t ask for a belly rub. That’s the point: Mechanical things have no personality, no communication. To think we can treat living beings like so many machines, to grow them faster, fatter, bigger, and cheaper without moral thought or consequence, is to demean this magnificent creation god made…

As Salatin puts it, we must value the “pigness” of the pig. We cannot deprive our domesticated chickens, pigs, cows, or other animals of the habitat, and conditions that they need to thrive: we must treat pigs like pigs. This is why factory farming is, at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, simply immoral: the animals are not being treated as God’s good creation. The mandate to have “dominion” over God’s creation, does not give us the right to treat God’s creatures as objects for our pleasure or exploitation. This point is brought home in an extra-biblical saying from Jesus, who chastises a man for beating his animal. “Do you not hear how it groans and cries out?” Jesus asks. It is a question that echoes down the ages and confronts us in our own time:

It happened that the Lord left the city and walked with his disciples over the mountains. And they came to a mountain, and the road which led up it was steep. There they found a man with a pack-mule. But the animal had fallen, because the man had loaded it too heavily, and now he beat it, so that it was bleeding. And Jesus came to him and said, ‘Man, why do you beat your animal? Do you not see that it is too weak for its burden, and do you not know that it suffers pains?’ But the man answered and said, ‘What is that to you? I may beat it as much as I please, since it is my property, and I bought it for a good sum of money. Ask those who are with you, for they know me and they know about this.’ And some of the disciples said, ‘Yes, Lord, it is as he says. We have seen how he bought it.‘ But the Lord said, ‘Do you then not see how it bleeds, and do you not hear how it groans and cries out?’ But they answered and said, ‘No, Lord, that it groans and cries out, we do not hear.’ But Jesus was sad and exclaimed, ‘Woe to you that you do not hear how it complains to the Creator in heaven and cries out for mercy. But threefold woes to him about whom it cries out and complains in its pain.’ And he came up and touched the animal. And it stood up and its wounds were healed. But Jesus said to the man, ‘Now carry on and from now on do not beat it anymore, so that you too may find mercy.’

In the end, the Christian concern for the created world comes down to a stark and radical dichotomy. It comes down the battle between two Spirits, two allegiances, two modes of being. One Spirit delights in creation and seeks its renewal. The other Spirit is opposed to creation and seeks to exploit it. In the Gospels, Christ claims that these two Spirits cannot be reconciled and that we can all choose to serve either one, or the other:

 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Mammon is the spirit that stands forever opposed to the Creator God and His good ends for His creation. Mammon is the spirit of lust which surveys creation with a greedy, objectifying gaze. Mammon is the spirit of greed, which takes and does not give. Mammon is the spirit of control, which slurps the life from creation. Mammon is how Sin, Death and the Devil keep creation in bondage, and crying out to the Creator for mercy. In a piece written in 1924, German Theologian and Bruderhof co-founder, Eberhardt Arnold describes how Mammon is just another name for those powers that stand in opposition to the kingdom of God:

We would not be able to understand the term mammon unless we knew the other names by which Jesus exposes this spirit. He calls it the “murderer from the beginning” and “the father of lies,” and refers to its emissaries as “unclean spirits” Mammonism is its nature, murder its trade, lying its character and impurity its face. To the moralist, these four traits may seem unrelated but in truth there is no fundamental difference. Mammonism is the covetous will: to seize, possess, and enjoy. Thus, these apparently different designations—mammon, lying, murder, and immorality—disclose one and the same spirit, one and the same god. The reality around us shows the enormous power this god possesses in the world.

How different is the way of the Creator God! He gazes at creation with care and love rather than lustful objectification. And he calls us to a lifestyle of simplicity, ensuing wealth. A lifestyle of service, ensuing control. A lifestyle of self-restraint, ensuing greed and lust. A lifestyle of truth, ensuing lies. A lifestyle of peace, ensuing violence.

And in the end, a Christian environmentalism is, despite the great powers it fights against, ultimately hopeful. It is a patient struggle against the forces that hold Creation captive—be it factory farming, unjust laws or greedy corporations—tampered always by the hope of the Resurrection. It is a struggle, that is not violent, nor does it attempt to beat the powerful with even greater shows of power, rather, the struggle is the patient struggle of the cross: the strength made perfect in weakness. A Christian environmentalism does not despair but knows with certainty that despite all the suffering, injustice, and exploitation, there will ultimately come a time when Creation is freed from its bondage, and Sin, Death and the Devil, are finally overcome.

Modernity and the Technological Society

We live in a world enslaved to Mammon. Modernity in its quest for greater and greater knowledge of the world is fundamentally motivated by the desire for power and control. Science increases our knowledge and Technology is the embodiment of that knowledge, the power that science makes possible. The more we know, the greater our power and control. Modernity has a totalizing, colonizing tendency. It wants all of reality, all of nature and all of humanity, underneath its microscope and under its thumb. It likes reality map-able, understandable, controllable. This bias towards rational understanding and predictability means that Modernity has a machine view of the world. It objectifies the whole world and can’t help but treat women, human beings, and the natural world as objects to increase our pleasure. It lives on the assumption that all can and should be manipulated for maximum efficiency, maximum predictability, to create a world of maximum pleasure. Predictability is the mark of ‘realness’ for the machine world, because what is predictable is reducible, understandable and controllable.  Thus Modernity discards what it cannot understand, and therefore, not control. There is no place for God, faith, art, choice, tradition, disability or all else that is essentially human in its conception of reality. These anomalies cannot be accounted for rationally, and cannot be controlled, and for that reason, cannot exist. They must be snuffed out, hidden or argued away.

There is a double movement that happens in Modernity: The construction of a false reality and the alienation from the real. All of the activities that characterize humanity, are mediated, reconstructed or re-imagined by Technology. Instead of real connection with other human beings we have social media. Instead of good work, we have automation. Instead of living in nature, we live in concrete jungles. Instead of culture and tradition, we have the amorphous blob of entertainment. Instead of preparing and enjoying a meal we order takeout. We are increasingly enmeshed in an artificial world and alienated from community, tradition, faith, and the natural world. When the recent COVID-19 crisis called for people to self-isolate and practice social distancing, one had to wonder if that is so different from how most of us live our lives on a daily basis.

The reality that Modernity constructs and the technological society it brings into being is fundamentally unreal. It is a world constructed in the clouds, with no roots in the earth. This leads to a sense of alienation from reality: unpredictability, danger, ugliness, wildness, terrifying beauty, freedom, the supernatural. This is the choice that is presented in the movie, The Matrix, the choice between the red pill and the blue pull. On one hand an unreal world of pleasure and un-freedom, on the other, reality and freedom in all its pain and love, beauty and ugliness.

There is, in the end, no room for Nature or Humanity in the machine world, nor is there any room for freedom. It is a world of choice and pleasure—but not freedom—for those who can accept the reality that the machine world brings into being. This is not difficult since the technological world shapes us to think of this fake reality as the Real. We come to see ourselves as abstract individuals, the world as a configuration of atoms, pleasure as the end of life, freedom as the abundance of choices, tradition as slavery, technology as fundamentally good, science as truth, progress as inevitable and the past as dark. What Modernity calls “progress” is an increased alienation from the real and the growth of this fake world. The “normal” human is the one who is able to live in this reality, without questioning it and without feeling the pangs of alienation. Some of us crack and can’t take the strain. We have a category for these people too, they are “mentally ill,” because they can’t deal with the “normal”.  But what if “normal” isn’t normal?

This fakeness, this false reality is a giant buffer from the Real, and a continuous assault on it. Like in the Matrix—which is literally powered by extracting energy from humans—it is made possible, by exploiting, colonizing and sucking the life out of humanity and nature. On one hand there is the existential exploitation that we have already discussed. The irrational and unpredictable, that which makes us human, has no place in the machine world, and this is extracted from us. On the other hand, the false reality is made possible by physical exploitation: inequality, mental illness, environmental destruction, and yes climate change. We have built a system that abstracts us from the consequences of our decisions. We buy jeans made in a third world country sweat shop. We build homes with wood from destroyed Amazon forests. Our plastic cups end up in heaps buried under the earth. We cover up our unhealthy farming habits with more pesticide and herbicide. And the list goes on and on. We live in an unreal world where we don’t even have to face the consequences of our actions.

But Climate Change is a threat that we cannot ignore. Reality has broken a hole in our technological buffer and a consequence of our abstracted exploitation threatens our entire false reality. Will we change something fundamental about how we see reality and how we live? Or will we reach for a “Technological Solution,” patch the hull, keep the status quo and make Climate Change a mere blip in the great narrative of progress? Continue until fakeness is all in all and humanity and nature lie dead, gain the whole world and loose our soul?

Climate Change exposes Christian unfaithfulness

Christians have been unfaithful. We have allowed ourselves to be pulled into the allure of mammon, and have neglected the way of God the Creator. We have become so infatuated with wealth and worldly power, that we no longer see how radically contrary that is to the teachings of Christ. We have become consumers and capitalists, and have been overtaken by greed. We have given ourselves the right to abuse God’s creation. We have objectified God’s creatures. We have clogged the skies, contaminated the seas, and decimated the earth. Our marriage with the earth is abusive, and now, we are facing the consequences.

In his own time, Jesus proclaimed the coming judgement that would befall his contemporaries if they did not repent from their way of revolution and follow his way of peace. The coming judgement that Jesus was pointing to, was not so much a lightning bolt from the sky, as it was the natural consequence of the destructive path of his contemporaries. NT Wright, in his book, Jesus and the Victory of God, describes the apocalyptic warnings of Jesus to his contemporaries:

Jesus consistently and continuously warned his contemporaries that unless Israel repented—in the sense we studied above, i.e. gave up her militant confrontation with Rome and followed his radical alternative vision of the kingdom—then her time was up. Wrath would come upon her, in the form not so much of fire and brimstone from heaven as for Roman swords and falling stonework. In particular, Jerusalem herself, and especially the temple and its hierarchy had become hopelessly corrupt and was as ripe for judgement as it had been in the days of Jeremiah.

We see the new significance of Jesus’s lament for Jerusalem, and his anguish that his contemporaries cannot see the things that make for peace. I wonder if this situation could be seen as an instructive parallel for the environmental devastation of our world, and apocalyptic event of climate change. In this sense, we could, if we wished to piss people off, call climate change the judgement of God. (I am starting to wonder; hearing the talk from certain quarters, weather this rhetoric of God’s judgement has become too hopelessly tribal to be of any use.) Again, not so much a lightning bolt from the sky, as the natural consequences of our lack of faithfulness. We too, are ripe for judgement. What can be done to see the things that make for peace? Choose, God or Mammon. Repent and believe in Christ.

The featured painting is called Psalm 85, by John August Swanson

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