Rev. Ben Lowe is the author of multiple books and has over a decade of experience engaging faith communities around social and environmental concerns. He is currently completing a doctorate in global environmental change at the University of Florida and serves as the chairperson of A Rocha USA and the co-chair of Christians for Social Action.
Since 1970, over 15 percent, or more than 347,000 square miles, of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been cleared, an area more than twice the size of California. Since 1979, 1.2 million square miles of sea ice has melted, more than four times the area of Texas. In the past half-century, monitored populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined an average of 68% globally.
We receive these facts with a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, determination, and despair. As Christians, we may also wonder, “What hope does this gospel offer for the groaning earth and its future?”
In their book Let Creation Rejoice: Biblical Hope and Ecological Crisis, Jonathan Moo (who we serve together with on the board of the Christian conservation organization, A Rocha USA) and Robert White describe a range of possible responses to our planet’s predicament, from “ignorance is bliss” and denial to problem-solving and despair. The path forward involves not ignoring or discounting our various emotions but recognizing and facing them together. For some of our faith traditions—particularly much of white evangelicalism—this means (re)learning how to lament, repent, and bear prophetic witness in the face of denial or despair.
The Bible warns us, Moo and White write, of the ways human behavior can harm the earth. But, “the Bible also sets out clearly . . . the sure and certain hope that we have in Christ for restoration and a setting of all things right in the new creation.” We see promise of this throughout the Bible, especially in the writings of Isaiah, Paul (Romans 8), and the apostle John (Revelation).
Hoping for Christ’s kingdom can seem foolish and even dangerous, considering our present reality. Humans have really screwed many things up. Doesn’t trusting that God will make everything right absolve us of responsibility to fix the problem ourselves? Does it give us permission to sit back and do nothing, waiting for God to intervene? How do we keep biblical hope from turning into Christian complacency?
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Source: Christianity Today