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Dokdiek - A Christian's double assignment on earth

Project: Ekologie, Category: Nuus

A  CHRISTIAN’S  DOUBLE  ASSIGNMENT  ON  EARTH  .

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the Ecology Task team’s Goal Statement (“ Doelwitstaat “) I was tasked with compiling and updating a source document on all matters relating to a Christian on the Environment (read  “the Earth”, read “Creation”) . The first such document was complied and approved during 2012 and placed on the internet in a Dropbox File (called S.Granger, dated 26.3 2013) including all in and output of the Earthkeeper’s Conference, held in Bellville and Pinelands in March 2013.In the interim much increased interest and writing was published, part of which now needs to be added to the above source document.

At the same time the additional material is so compelling and worthy to be made known much wider, so that this document being compiled here will also serve as a source document for my other task allotted to me by the Ecology Task Team, i.e. the monthly news item “Dokdiek talks from his heart” on the website www.kaapkerk.org , already ongoing for 27 episodes. Finally, it will be a base document for a layman’s sermon to my own congregation I belong to , viz. the Strand Dutch Reformed Church, in Afrikaans.

The main source for this added information (list of references and discussion of essays and position paper) is The Green Bible and Peter Harris’s (of the international A Rocha organisation) updated position paper, both received about November 2014.

However, it is first necessary to connect to the Earthkeeper’s Conference, and especially to the messages of the two prominent and knowledgeable and brave systemic theologians, professors Ernst Conradie and Klaus Nurnberger. Their message ( two totally different sources writing as one voice : we acknowledge here and now that for over 2000 years the Church’s systemic theologians have misled the Church and all Christians) i.e. I quote :

“Our bad theology  manifests itself in the fact that the Christian community in the world over…does not seem to make any difference to where humanity is heading”. (Klaus Nurnberger)

“What is needed is nothing short of an ecological reformation of the Christian tradition.”(Ernst Conradie)

I believe that their proclamations of “God’s vision of comprehensive optimal wellbeing that translates into God’s concern for any deficiency in wellbeing in any dimension of life “ , that “Believers are people who have been invited to participate in God’s redemptive project”  and that we should be “Allowing God to involve us in his redemptive project for creation as a whole”   did have a profound impact on those of us attending the Conference. This has trickled down through the concept of eco-congregations in the Western Cape; the development of the Green Anglicans in the Western Cape and beyond; the call by the Dutch Reformed Western Cape synod in August 2014 for congregations to plant trees during the first week of September (also at the DR church at The Strand); and possibly other reactions not yet fully documented. BUT, yes, but, this reaction is not enough-when you hear the rest of this message of this paper you will realise that God has a much larger role in mind for his children than being carried out at present :this paper shows that God has given each one of us a double assignment  here on earth!

As basic text I will regularly refer to Romans 8, as attached in a specific modern translation, but here at the beginning I refer you to the early text of Genesis 9, which is wrongfully headed: The Covenant with Noah. The fact is that in the verses it is repeatedly stated that this covenant is between God and every living creature, between God and all life on earth.

(Read here in your Bible Genesis 9: 8-17).

Why were we so led astray over millennia? Thomas Berry (1999) refers back to the fourteenth century, when between 1347 and 1349 a third of the world’s known population died due to the Black Death. Godly leaders of this and subsequent times could only conclude that humans had become so depraved that God was punishing the world.  The best thing to do was to intensify devotion and seek redemption out of this world. Henry Ward Beecher (in Peter Harris’s paper) openly states that even our much admired evangelist D.L.Moody, in the theology of his time, has misled us: “He thinks  it is no use to attempt to work for this world. In his opinion it is blasted-a wreck bound to sink- and the only thing that is worth doing is to get as many of the crew off as you can, and let her go”. The world at that time, supported by the Church, adopted an anthropocentric mindset-everything we do is primarily for the human good, ending in the present consumer society where as much is taken for ourselves as possible, without any thought of consequences for the earth.

The Green Bible(2008) by HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 (www.greenletterbible.com) contains the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible in which  over a thousand references to the earth and caring for the earth are highlighted/printer in green, especially passages or single verses which demonstrate how God and Jesus interact with, care for, and are intimately involved with all of creation; how all the elements of creation-land, water, air , plants, animals, humans- are interdependent; how nature responds to God and how we are called to take care of creation. The special value to Christians of this Green Bible is found in the 14 essays which precede the Genesis book of the Bible, and the 4 guides and indices following the Revelations book of the Bible. Together this document is a complete guide to the forgotten task –the first assignment to each one of us-to Care for Creation.

Peter Harris confirms in his position paper that there is a recovery of creation thinking taking place the past decade or 15 years (much of which has not reached our ears yet!). Writers such as Colin Gunton, James Houston, Vinoth Ramachandra, Chris Wright, Loren Wilkinson and NT Wright are only a few names mentioned.

NT Wright is Dr. N.T.Wright, Bishop of Durham, in England.He contributed one of the essays in The Green Bible, and titled: “Jesus is coming-Plant a Tree!” And bases this on our (DR Church Die Strand) commitment ( “Onderskeidingsteks”) text --Romans 8: 14-30.

(Read here in your Bible Romans 8 : 14-30 ).

  1. Wright starts his essay by pointing out that today’s Christians have embraced the belief that the ultimate destiny of God’s people is “heaven”, seen as somewhere detached from earth”. Stefan Joubert (Beeld,  Goeie Nuus, 27.12.2014, and well known to us in Die Strand congregation) puts it even stronger-we are not supposed to be sitting and waiting in a virtual spiritual airport for the next flight to a place called “heaven”. (The original Afrikaans reads: “Ons nuwejaarsplan vir 2015 mag nie wees om op die een of ander geestelike lughawe te sit en wag op die volgende vlug hemel toe nie”.) The Early Christians in Paul’s time did not at all have this belief in their hearts-they strongly believed that Jesus would come back to earth in their time to establish the new creation, new heaven and earth joined together, and the resurrection of their bodies as new  human bodies in a new world. Dr. Wright reasons that this is the more accurate view and interpretation of verses 18 and 19 when God’s people are finally rescued and we are given our resurrection bodies. We will be set “in glory”. Glory means, amongst other things, rule and power and authority, so that as God’s image-bearing children, we will exercise sovereign rule over the whole of creation. It is the culmination of God’s wish for His creation when God created humankind in his own image “to be fruitful and to look after the garden”.

In Romans8 Paul uses the image of the birth pains of an expecting mother to the groaning’s of the whole of creation, and of ourselves, and of the Spirit within us to show us how tormenting the process is for all of us living on earth, but that us as humans, assisted by the indwelling Spirit, can have a profound participation in accepting our responsibility to share God’s rule over creation. When we thus pray, we simultaneously analyse God’s creation as one that was initially good but over time radically spoiled but still is anxiously awaiting redemption.

Thus it is that the inheritance, to which we are entitled, is not some place in the clouds, which we have started to call heaven, but it is the whole, renewed restored creation-“the whole world is now God’s holy land”. Dr. Wright maintains that with Easter, with Christ’s offer and resurrection this new creation has already begun. We become, in accepting Christ as our personal Saviour, God’s Agents of Renewal, practising Christian holiness, i.e. reflecting our image of God’s children into the creation in wise stewardship. Romans8 urges us to live in the present as far as possible as we are going to live ultimately in the future. Undeniable and unnegotiable, this means that a Christian must have a passion for environmental work. One must never lose sight of the fact that (Ephesians 1: 10) “God’s purpose from all of eternity was to sum up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” . In the most astonishing Christian poem in Colossians 1: 15-20 Paul boldly declares that all things were created and reconciled through and for Christ.

  1. Wright explains the “heaven place” as being another dimension on earth. We find many passages in the Bible showing that Jesus is not far away. He is in God’s dimension , a different sphere of reality that overlaps and interlocks with our sphere in numerous though always mysterious ways-as if there is a great invisible curtain hanging across the room…One day the curtain will be pulled back, and the two spaces or spheres will be put together with Jesus at the centre.
  2. Wright finally points us to 1 cor. 15: 58, where, in a long chapter on resurrection, Paul says: “With all of this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground and don’t hold back. Throw yourself in the work of the Master, confident that nothing that you do for him is a waste of effort”.

So, fellow Christian, plant a tree, do recycle, maintain a vegetable or flower garden, save on water and electricity, live humbly before the Lord---the work we do on earth is never in vain.

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