Thursday, February 23, 2012

Standing Room Only

We live in an apocalyptic age, which sees the end of the world as just around the corner. This not only affects the Christian church but the world at large. I have considered having a T-shirt made saying that I have survived the end of the world so many times. But I have lost count. One obvious source for this is the atomic bomb. But there is a deeper issue. Two World Wars and the Cold War have destroyed the naive opinion that saw the future as unbroken progress. From the Christian perspective this is a good thing. But the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. We have gone from unbridled optimism to the assumption of immanent total disaster. And environmental disaster has come to accompany the bomb as one of the great bugbears.

I do not want to oppose all environmental concerns; we do have an obligation to be good stewards of the earth (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:6-8). Also, the command to love our neighbor (Romans 13:8-10; Luke 10:25-37; Galatians 5:14) forbids us from using the earth's resources with no consideration for the consequences. Nor should we be ruled by our desires for immediate gratification or the amassing of wealth (Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:9,10; Matthew 6:19-24). But environmentalism shows the same trail of exploded predictions of disaster as predictions of Christ's Second Coming. From my youth I remember repeated predictions of looming catastrophes that never occurred. One of the most blatant of these issues is overpopulation. This concept seems to have been originated by Thomas Mathus (1766-1834) as a justification for oppressing the poor. It has since been used to advocate killing the unborn, the aged, and the infirm. The whole result of this idea is to see human life as insignificant because there are too many of us. This is in direct opposition to the value Scripture puts on human life (Genesis 9:5-7; Exodus 20:13; Psalms 139:13-16). Now earth may have some sort of carrying capacity, but technological advance keeps increasing it and we are not there yet. But we must not allow this hypothetical limit to encourage us to commit atrocities against those currently in existence. Now there are people starving in the world. But this is due to poverty, oppressive governments, and lack of access to modern agricultural methods (poverty again). After all, we pay farmers in the United States not to grow food.

Now we need to evaluate these issues carefully. The problem with ignoring the boy who cried wolf is that this time there might be a wolf. But we also need to consider the past track record and not be panicked by the latest cry of disaster. The end of the world will come when God decrees it (Matthew 24:36-51; Acts 1:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). But this is no excuse not to manage the planet properly until that time.  However, neither should we be stampeded into carrying out extreme measures that are not necessary. 

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