I’ve been wondering about this question for a long time now. How much can we mess things up? Will God always keep thing in line, or can people mess things up totally? Was it theologically possible that the world could have been destroyed by nuclear war during the 60’s and 70’s? Is it possible that humans can destroy humanity through global warming? How much can we mess things up?

See, the pragmatist in me say that reality is that we can mess things up really really bad. Maybe totally is too big a term, as 11th hour say, it’s humanity that is in trouble, not creation. Humans may become extinct, not creation. So let’s ask this question: Can humanity really mess up humanity? Can we wipe out humanity, or would God always keep humanity intact? (OK, until the second coming if you would).

On the other hand, the tradition in me say that God created and cares for humanity (good theist that I am), God will always keep the 7000 that serve God in place (1 Kings 19), God will never again destroy the earth by water (Gen 9).

Sitting in a class yesterday someone used the Missio Dei to say that we should sometimes relax, knowing that God is in any case working in the world, whether we are doing something or not. Now, I have some thoughts on the Missio Dei, but decided not to take part. I have my doubts whether we can say this, when I read the gospels and Acts it would seem like we are sent to the world, that caring for the world is a task given to the church.

What this illustrates, I think, is the danger of the extreme of the view that God will always keep thing intact (no, my classmate did not take this to the extreme), is passifism. On the other hand, I think the extreme of the pragmatist in me might be humanism (I’m not always sure that humanism is a bad thing, but as theologian I’m sure that as a believer there is more in following Jesus than you would find in humanism).

So, help me here: Theologically, would God always keep humanity intact, or can we mess thing up really bad? Is this a journey between the extremes of passifism and humanism? Is humanism the extreme?

burn in hellTurn or Burn T-shirtWe’ve all met them. The “turn or burn” type evangelicals. Those who give evangelicals their bad name. Those who drive the idea that faith is about a fear for hell. But time has passed, most of us don’t take them very seriously, few people I know actually still try this take on evangelism, and even with someone like Kimball that still try to make hell and important concept, it’s important that hell should not become the motivating factor for evangelism.

But more and more we are getting the “turn or burn” message with global warming as well. Those angry liberals (and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep moaning about the conservatives (and yes, I think this is stupid labels) who only worry about heaven (and more often than not more about hell than heaven) and is of “no earthly good” now have there own hell. It’s a hell on earth. And if you don’t turn… well, you will burn. If you don’t change your ecological lifestyle then you will have it hot in a couple of years time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I feel very strong about the ecology. I accept what scientists tell me about global warming (yes, I know that there isn’t consensus). I took a lot of trouble this year to make global warming a larger part of the Engineering curriculum at the University of Pretoria (OK, it’s just one week’s worth of ethics lectures more, but I tried!). Sometimes I even think an extremist like James Lovelock might be right!

What I’m concerned about is when the motivation for change become fear, which just cause people to again react against it (what I think underlies a post like this). Global warming should be feared, but when that is all that motivate the changes we make, then I doubt how deeply we really change.

Now, those not converting people by making them afraid of hell, could either tell them of the utopia of heaven, or tell them about a story by which to make sense of life. This isn’t a post about evangelism, so I’ll not go into that too deeply. Point is that I believe that there is some deeper reason to change why we do things the way we do. Not because of our fear of a hell on earth, neither because we are promised an earthly utopia when we do change. Rather because there is a way of making sense of our lives which call us to live different.

Our Green Spirituality should be based on respect for creation, on a love for creation. If ever we do find ways of undoing every bit of damage we do to the earth, would that give us a pass to do whatever we want? If fear is all that drive us, then yes, it will. But if we live life in a way which search for harmony with creation, then a different approach is needed. Oh, and with harmony we obviously need to remember to humans are part of creation, so human extinction projects is not what I’ll be proposing.

As followers of Jesus we should talk about ecology, but then remember that there is a positive motivation for change. Global Warming seem to be the result of humans not living in harmony, not the motivation for changing our lives which is not in harmony. And this can be true whether Global Warming is the issue or not!

This post is a part of the June Synchroblog on “Green Living and Spirituality.” 

Other bloggers:

Is it All About the Green? by Phil Wyman
Rediscovering Humanity’s Primal Commission by Adam Gonnerman
Bashing SUV’s for Jesus by David Fisher
Little Green Man by Sonja Andrews 
Saints and Animals by Steve Hayes

A few weeks ago I was talking to Magriet, a very close friend, someone I’ve been journeying together with for the last 16 years. Now, she’s not the scientific type, won’t be reading scientific journals, don’t really know what CO2 is, or any of that. However, she do love the earth, do believe that it is possible that we human being can really mess things up, and that she would not like that. We got onto the ecology thing at one stage, and she said that if someone would just tell her what to do to do her part, whe will do it. Give me a list of 10 things which I could do, and I’ll do it, she said.

I’ve been thinking about that as well a lot. More and more of us are becoming aware of the ecological realities, but it’s just so complex, that we don’t even know where to start.

So, here is a list from Time you might want to look at, you can find a summary of the list here. Some things which you might try out in 2008. Personally, I just realise that what is needed is still more radical than what I’m willing to give, and what is needed is going to cost me more money than I earn. But let’s start out trying.

Which of these would you consider practical, and which important?