Friday, March 20, 2009

The Gospel According To The Green Bible

I just became the proud owner of the recently released Green Bible. Thanks to Amazon.com and a recent trip to the USA, I was able to procure my very own copy of this latest study Bible. After thumbing through it, I can only conclude that the Green Bible is a tragic statement on where some segments of the church are today. Now every mom who has ever told her kids to eat their green vegetables, can now also rally the family around the Green Bible for family devotions, as the family contemplates everything green—including a green God.

Now I need to preface what I am about to say with a couple of qualifiers: First, I certainly support and believe that every Bible-believing Christian should exercise diligent stewardship over the creation God made and then entrusted to man (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:1-7; Psalm 8:1-9). Admittedly, there are many things advocated by the eco-evangelists of our age that are not necessarily wrong, like recycling for instance. On the contrary, what I am about to disagree with is the underlying eco-apocalyptic ideology that so-called evangelical environmentalist have bought into. In short, what the Green Bible proves is that today’s eco-evangelists have just borrowed the world’s radical categories for everything green and have baptized them with some Christian labels while sprinkling in a few Bible verses, emancipated from context, for good measure. In this, the proponents of evangelical environmentalism show little originality.

Here are but a few of the soul-warming features of the Green Bible which are suppose to give rise to a more eco-friendly devotion:

• For starters, the Green Bible (GB) is constructed of eco-friendly materials: The cover is made from cotton/linen, the pages are recycled paper, and the ink is soy-based with a water based coating. All of which should lead to many hours of guilt free Bible study and devotion! Does this mean that once the GB is no longer usable as a Bible you can throw it into the compost pile instead of the trash?

• The translation the promoters of the GB chose was the New Revised Standard Version. The NRSV is not one of the strongest translations on the market. NRSV translators relied on aspects of dynamic equivalency, this, in turn, led to the gender-neutral tone of the final product. It is noteworthy that the NRSV is renowned for being theologically deficient in the areas of Bibliology and Christology, which makes the NRSV a good purveyor for the eco-gospel.

• One of the unique features of the GB is that, instead of the standard red letter edition most Christians have come accustomed to, the GB highlights in green all passages that are some how related to the environment. There are over 1000 passages that are highlighted in this manner. As I looked at many of the green verses it was not apparent what any of this had to do with all the doom-and-gloom scenarios seen in the popular promotions of modern day environmentalism. In fact, there are many green passages that are actually prophetic in nature and relate to God’s judgment on Israel due to their disobedience to His direct commands for them as a people and a nation (Deuteronomy 28). In accordance with Deuteronomy 28, God either blessed the promised land and all that was in it, or cursed it. The blessing and the cursing in the Old Testament were always in proportion to Israel’s obedience or lack thereof. It is never asserted that Israel was punished because they failed to take care of the environment. The destruction of the land God had promised and provided the Jews was always a result of their failure to love and obey Him.

• Another feature of the GB is the green topical index at the back, which is a lot like a green concordance. Then there is a Green Trail Guide, so the green disciple can lead his or her own Bible study exclusively centered around environmental issues. There are even guidelines on how to become a “Deep Green Family”.

• In the front of the GB, there are a number “inspirational” essays written by several of scholars, most liberal and some quasi-evangelicals. More popular names like N.T. Wright, Calvin De Witt (a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison), and emerging church guru Brian Mclaren headline these green essays. Therefore, it is not surprising that the GB is a truly ecumenical enterprise which includes liberal protestants, professed evangelicals, Roman Catholics including the Pope, and Jewish clergy.

• The forward to the GB pretty much says it all. Fresh from his recent save-the-whales campaign, the former Arch-bishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Desmond Tutu, regales GB readers with his save the earth serenade. Tutu is a noted liberation theologian who denies the deity of Jesus Christ as well as the inerrancy of scripture. In other words, he doesn’t really need the Bible, or the God of the Bible. It is all downhill from there. Here is one Tutu excerpt based on John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." From this passage, Tutu enthuses, “As if in this cosmic embrace, Jesus would wish to enfold all that God has created, the entire universe, into unity. His supreme work is to reconcile us to God and to one another, and to reconcile us to all God’s creation.” To be blunt, this esoteric drivel sounds like something Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lama might say. Christ is making a statement about the cross and His subsequent resurrection, which will pave the way of salvation for those who follow Him! Jesus was not making a statement about the environment, but about the sinful estate of man and the remedy for that sin, which is found exclusively in the cross. Only through the cross is fallen humanity reconciled and restored to a holy God.

• Then there are the secular endorsements from the God-fearing Sierra Club and the Bible-thumping Human Society of the United States. When the world approves of your message you must be doing something right? Right?

• Interestingly, not one climatologist endorsed the GB. The closest to expert testimony they could get were a couple of medical doctors. While physicians might know quite a bit about the human body, most MDs know about as much about climatology, and the issues surrounding climate change, as a Jack Rabbit knows about playing ping-pong. In some cases the Jack Rabbit has a better grasp on ping-pong. Even the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change was able to round up a dietician and an herbalist as part of their expert panel on climate excathedra!

• Some of the titles to the essays in the GB are a good indication of what the real agenda of the GB is all about:

The Power of The Green God by J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D.

Reading the Bible through a Green Lens by Calvin De Witt. So we also have another hermeneutic to consider when interpreting the Bible—the green hermeneutic. I wonder if one’s hermeneutical abilities are enhanced when studying under the luminescence of a compact florescent bulb?

Jesus Is Coming—Plant a Tree! By Dr. N.T. Wright, Anglican Bishop of Durham. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but my title would probably look something like Jesus Is Coming—Confess Your Sin!

Loving the Earth Is Loving The Poor by Gordon Aeschliman, editor of the publication Green Cross. And all the time I thought that loving God led to loving my neighbor, which includes the poor

• In the back of the GB there is a section entitled Action Ideas for Churches which includes suggestions ranging from hosting green Bible studies to setting up a booth at a local Earth Day Rally. Then there is a section detailing 50 Practical Tips to Get Started, which covers a variety of common sense ideas that many people already practice as good stewards, like turning off the lights or an appliance when you leave the room, or insulating both your attic and your hot-water heater.

Some of their ideas, however, are just plain silly, like cutting back on soft drinks by drinking tap water, or no longer eating at fast food outlets. On page 1237, the GB advises readers to “Consider vegetarian alternatives, which cause less pollution.” This, despite the green light given by God in Genesis 9:3 to eat meat!

Well, once the green machine gets all the climate change legislation passed, the eco-food-patrol won’t have to worry about my soda-drinking ways or my occasional visitations to McDonalds, as most of us won’t be able to afford soft drinks, fast food, or meat. Why? Because of the tax burden placed upon us by Fabian socialists, who are using this issue to float Big Government and exert Big Brother like control over us. Exorbitant taxation and penalties for those who use too much energy will be the result of draconian governmental eco-laws imposed by the new eco-imperialists. All of this will be enforced by the eco-Gestapo, of course.

One potential GB suggestion conspicuous by its absence is “the need” for churches to own a church building. Think of the money and resources a church could save by forgoing ownership of their own building! Instead, what if churches rented or leased an existing property? Our church has been in a rental facility for 8 years now and functions quite well without owning a building that would only get used a couple of times per week. It would be nice to have our own building, but where is it written that it is an absolute necessity? Why didn’t the GB editors include this suggestion? One wonders how the architects of the GB could miss something so patently obvious?

So, what, in summary, are the egregious errors of the GB?

1. The GB is driven by the same basic liberal ideologies and crass assumptions that the drive the secular environmentalists. At times, many evangelical environmentalists border on pantheistic tendencies—God is all, and all is God--as Desmond Tutu’s quote above demonstrates. This whole approach makes God a convenient means to an agenda driven end—eco-topia! As if mere man can usher in the Kingdom age apart from the coming of the King by merely curbing CO2 emissions. In this whole scheme God is incidental to the plot and plays a support role that aids the agenda driven end.

2. The brand of environmentalism used in the GB plays fast and loose with scripture. Sound exegesis of passages is often replaced with eisegetically (reading ones assumptions into the text) derived meanings as real meaning is substituted for desired meaning. A classic example of this is John 3:16, which is highlighted in the verdant green hues of the GB. This familiar passage reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The question is to what or to whom does the term “world” (kosmos) refer? Evangelical environmentalists will see in this the inclusion of the material universe. But sound exegesis and a literal hermeneutic, not the deconstructed postmodern hermeneutic of the eco-interpreters, clearly indicates that all of humanity, not just the Jews, is included in the redemption that only Christ provides.

3. The promoters of evangelical environmentalism have a very hard time believing in the sovereignty of God. Oh, they will quote with great redundancy Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” But by their desperate rhetoric and radical emphasis they deny what they profess with their lips. They really think the polar icecaps will melt and the seas will rise submerging vast tracks of land while the rest of the earth bakes into a drought saturated wasteland. They have believed the lie that CO2 drives temperature, when it is actually the other way around; temperature drives up the volumes of atmospheric CO2 through water evaporation.

Obviously, many eco-evangelicals have no confidence in the preservational power of their God to keep His creation from being utterly destroyed. Though man can significantly harm the environment, we can’t completely and irreversibly destroy it (Though I must add, this is no justification to wantonly abuse creation). Colossians 1:16-17 is wonderful testament to this fact, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

The sky is not falling and the earth is not coming apart at the seams. In the end, when the Lord returns, He will fully restore the earth as He reverses the curse. Until then, we must maintain it as best we can for God’s glory, without becoming too indifferent, or wildly irresponsible like those behind all the warm-mongering rhetoric of the man-made global warming cult. Sadly, the proponents of the GB fall right in line with all the climate-change drama queens of the day, believing all the pseudo science that masquerades as fact. Where is their faith? Is it in God, or man? What is their authority, the Bible, or some research project that finds its grant funds dependent upon proving man is responsible for climate change?

4. Finally, because of the undue emphasis of the GB on environmentalism, it demeans and devalues the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the primary message of God’s word. The priority of the gospel gets sidelined by an important, but lesser issue. One can host all the environmental friendly Bible studies one wants, but apart from the gospel, no one will ever come to Christ. You might impress some secular warm-monger with your eco-emphasis, but he will leave your eco-study seven fold more a child of hell. Clearly the GB marginalizes the gospel message. An unsaved person who picks up the GB could easily conclude that they are well on their way to glory because of their recycling ways, which amount to works righteousness. This is nothing less than another gospel, which Paul so vividly and forcefully addressed in Galatians 1:8-10:

“But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”

The gospel of the eco-evangelist is an entirely different gospel whereby one merits favor with God through the sacraments of creation care, whether it is forgoing soft drinks, eating a carbon neutral diet, or insulating your hot-water heater. The over-arching message of the Green Bible is just another in a long-line of distractions and diversions that detract from keeping the main thing (the gospel) the main thing. To slight the gospel, as the GB does, is to slight Christ, because Christ epitomizes the gospel! The color of the cross is blood red, not green.

Before coming to Christ I never had the slightest interest in preserving God’s creation. Once saved, I realized God was and is the sovereign maker and owner of all that is. It then dawned on me that I had an awesome responsibility to take care of that which reflects His glory, power, and majesty. But my reasons and motivations for creation conservation are entirely different than those being offered by the eco-shamans of evangelical environmentalism. It isn’t the scare-mongering tactics of radical-secular greens that is driving me to pick up after myself. It is my desire to please God that gives rise to my motivation to properly care for His creation in a balanced and reasonable way.

In the end, scripture asserts in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” Upon close scrutiny, the Green Bible fails that test. It does not teach things which become sound doctrine. Therefore, be a good steward of what the Lord has entrusted to you and don’t waste your hard earned cash on the Green Bible. You would be better off using your money to buy a soda. Better yet, buy a Happy Meal for some hungry child!

2 comments:

Janelle said...

Very well done dad. I can't believe some people actually believe in the garbage that the Green Bible promotes . Don't people (mostly Christians who believe in global warming ) know that God is in control of the weather and not man. So that disproves man-made global warming as man can't control the weather only God can. So that's what makes global warming even more false.

Horatio said...

Though I think you may be spittin' into the wind on this one, I can appreciate your passion for the truth, and your desire to dissuade indiscriminate (immature?) saints from swallowing (hook, line, and sinker) all that the taxman would like to throw their way. That said, I would like to make one suggestion - just by way of a casual reader, very much in your camp. You might more carefully consider the tone of your posts. Your post at times drips in condescending sarcasm and you sound angry or frustrated. That may well be the case, but some of your more casual readers may not be as sympathetic to your position as, say, I. It would be a shame for them to stop reading after the first paragraph - not because of what was written, but because of how it was written. Its the old maxim about attracting bees that I would humbly bring up. Otherwise, Mr. Watchman, Radical ... great post! I long, with you, that more saints would agree! And that, indeed, more might be made saints by His sovereign grace ... SO THAT they COULD agree!

Richest Blessings to You in Your Labors for the Master ... "from the Dawn to Setting Sun!"

-Horatio