Recently members of the JRI met to discuss a theology of the environment. During that time it was clear that the environment is central in all six of Scripture's major themes or era: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus, post-Pentecost and the New Heavens and Earth.
During the course of the weekend I was in discussion with Sir John Houghton, a well-known Christian scientist whose speciality is climate change, and a joint founder of the JRI. He has recently been involved in convincing leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals in the USA to covenant to take this issue seriously (see the JRI website). One thing we discussed was China. Two facts were counterposed:
We believed it would be good if this influence were to make China a leader in the care for God's earth rather than being a leader in destroying it. God's Name would be honoured.
How God's people engage in national debates and influence their nation is determined by the type of theology they hold. Therefore, if the Chinese Christians have a theology in which care for God's creation is important, then their influence is likely to be good. On the other hand, if Chinese Christians have a theology in which it is assumed that the earth will be obliterated (and so we should milk its resources while we can) then their influence is likely to be in the direction of destructive climate change.
Sir John suggested that I investigate the possibility of holding a Bible Study among overseas students to look at these issues from a Biblical point of view, in the hope that such students might be convinced of the importance of this issue as central rather than peripheral to their Christian faith, and I am progressing this.
However, in considering your project of a website to help Chinese Christians, it occurred to me that it might be good if it could either (a) include something of a theology of environmental care, such as espoused by the JRI, or (b) include links between its content and such a theology.
There are two additional reasons beyond those set out above why such an inclusion or link might be of benefit to the Agape Chinese Christians' website. One is that a persecution-orientated theology will become less relevant when persecution is removed, and then the Chinese Christians will replace it with some other theology. I am talking about practical theology rather than just academic theology, of the kind expressed in the statement, "What I have to do for Christ here and now is X". In a persecution-orientated theology the 'X' is often a variant on ".. to remain faithful to him, despite all that happens, and he will rescue me from this evil world." But when persecution lessens, this 'X' will be replaced by some other. I can think of two main possibilities:
(I fear that the former is the more likely because it is tempting to slide from 'being faithful to Christ in suffering, and looking forward to his rescuing me' to 'God rewards me for being faithful, both here with prosperity and in heaven'.)
The other benefit is that our responsibility to the rest of God's creation can be a major aid in evangelism, though perhaps more likely among people who have some inkling of global problems. For example, James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool recently shared his experiences with 16-19 year-olds, who were in this category. I have elsewhere shown how the Campus Crusade and Evangelism Explosion outline presentations of the gospel differ, not in the main steps (we are sinners, Jesus died for us, we need to respond) but in their introductory steps. And they therefore appeal to different people (EE to church people not sure of their destiny, CC to unchurched who want "a wonderful plan for your life"). But neither CC nor EE answer the question on the heart of many: the global problems. For this I have replaced the first step with "We are responsible before God for what happens in his creation" (and call it GG, 'Green Gospel'!).
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Created: 3 August 2005. Last updated: 24 July 2008 link corrected.