Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Alter What God Has Made Perfect?

Today I read this sentence, “The very idea that man could alter what God has made perfect is ludicrous.”

(Here's the column in full.)

The author, Mike Hall, is the Springfield News-Leader’s “From the Right” columnist. His column today was intended to argue against the climate change (cap-and-trade) legislation now before congress. He was intending to argue that the earth warms itself and cools itself as needed, and that human activity has no impact upon it.

I should say that I love reading conservative columnists. I love to dig into a rational, insightful, well-written point of view that is different from my own that challenges me and makes me think. David Brooks is my favorite, I really like George Will and Kathleen Parker, and I read anything John Danforth writes and wish he would write more. Reading their ideas helps me formulate my own, and I truly appreciate what they have to say.

And I have many conservative friends, and many of you who read what I write on Enter the Rainbow are conservative people, also. I really appreciate your respectful, grace-filled comments over the years that I've written this blog. And so I’d like to have some respectful, grace-filled dialogue about Mike Hall’s idea that I read today.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it one of the fundamental premises of the Christian faith that humanity did, in fact, alter what God created perfect? Isn’t that kind of what we call “sin”?

Is it not the case that God sent Jesus to the world to right the very wrong that is being categorically denied in Hall’s argument? Doesn’t Christian orthodoxy go something like: God created it perfect – we screwed it up – God sent Jesus to make it perfect again?

To be sure, there is “science” on all sides of the global warming conversation. I find myself convinced by the science that says human activity has an impact on the earth’s climate, and so we ought to do all we can to lessen that impact.

And there is also “theology” on all sides of the global warming conversation. I find myself convinced by the theology that says human activity is the result of free will which is itself a gift from God, and so we ought to respond to God’s gifts with activities that care for God’s creation rather than destroy it.

In his column, Hall goes on to argue that passage of the cap-and-trade legislation will drive business overseas, where factories unregulated by the EPA will spew pollution into the air in what he calls “planetary suicide.” So, in his own column he actually contradicts what he has affirmed earlier, and seems to end up saying that humanity actually can alter creation.

(Not to mention that he seems to affirm that the EPA’s regulation of pollution is actually a good thing, which may actually run counter to his position against what he sees as government interference with private business. But I digress.)

In the end then, maybe even Mike Hall doesn’t quite believe his own theology. I happen to believe that it is absolutely true that humanity is quite capable of altering God’s creation. I think that’s actually a pretty good definition for sin, in fact. And salvation is the restoration of God’s creation, setting things in order again, reconciling the world to God.

So what do you think, readers? Does Hall's idea accurately represent theology "from the right?"

And deeper than that: Can / did / does humanity “alter what God has made perfect?”

How do you balance the sovereignty of God with the free will of human beings with regard to environmental issues?


Kory Wilcox said...

I think one of my favorite scriptural descriptions of our relationship with the earth is that of tenant. God is the landlord, this is his land, we are the tenants. We have a self-beneficial responsibility to the land. In short, if we let it go to shit, we might very well get kicked out. If we do what's best for the land, God might very well send people to help us out from time to time... perhaps to change a lightbulb or replace the leaky faucet.

And perhaps part of being a tenant is learning how to manage the planet... maybe God knows that someday we will venture off of it, and he's not about to sell us another one of his fine worlds if we keep screwing up the one he lent us.

I am always skeptical of people who force God to take responsibility for problems they know they've helped to create. I would ask Mr. Hall: If this world is perfect, then this world must be... paradise! Is the earth the place where you would like to spend eternity? Because I'm kinda hoping for a new creation, and I want God to know that he can trust me to be part of that business.

sparklesax said...

I have seen "altar" misspelled "alter" several times in the last few months.

While you use it correctly (which makes me happee), the altAr/altEr thoughts with the talk of sin took my mind on a tangent about what we ALTER (change) and what we put on our ALTARS (the slab found in a lot of worship spaces where things like the Bible and candles can be found, the place that is a central focus of our worship).

My musings led me to ask: Is there anything on our personal altArs (the center of our beings that we -hopefully- present to God) that needs to be altEred to be in right relationship with God, creation, and each other?

(and interestingly, my comment "word verification" looks a lot like the word cherish)

Chris said...

I believe that there are several issues here that you bring up and to try and tie the political spectrum of Cap & Trade in with the world in which God created is a difficult task.

I think that humanity can and does alter the world in which we were given. I also think that God also provided the resources that our mother earth provides, including oil, coal, natural gas, limestone, lead, gold, etc. Have we been, in the past, the best stewards of these resources? Only time will tell, but I do know that God also graced many people (i.e. Norman Borlaug) with the intelligence to develop the resources we have by minimizing their overall impacts on the earth (aka pollution). We continue, as a human race, to evolve and move forward.

So, are we reaching a good balance in this country with regards to environmental issues? I believe we are much farther along than many other countries. Does that tie back in to the Christian faith of the country? Is the lack of care of the environment in other countries (i.e. China) mean that there are less Christians there that have the desire to lessen the impact of humanity on the earth?

While I somewhat agree with your theory about human activity impacting the earth's climate, I'll also say that humans have been around for a LONG time and from a science standpoint, it's hard to define what was going on with the earth's climate before the 16th century.

Good topic!

Larry B said...

"The very idea that man could alter what God has made perfect is ludicrous.”

In my opinion, the statement is intended to point to a logical contradiction similar to asking the question - Can God make a rock so big He can't move it? In that sense writer can claim ludicrousness because it's contradictory.

But the writer provides no argument for supporting the idea that we live in a state of perfection, and you provided evidence for a rebuttal to that point (being that we live in a fallen condition known as sin) and therefore any argument he makes from the standpoint of perfection is unsupported and wrong in my opinion.

As for whether this represents theology from the right, I think it represents a strong bent in "right" leaning theology to believe that God's providence over us is sufficient for all our needs. In my opinion, "right theology" holds a certain resistance to the idea that God's providence needs help from us to continue his providence. So I can understand his frustration (although I think inadequately expressed) when there seems to be a rush to proclaim that somehow humans must rescue something that is thought to be under the providence of God.

At the same time, I think a "right leaning theology" also would dictate wise uses of resources and doing our part to use our energy and waste products judiciously should be within it's purview as well.

Poppy said...

There is no question that God provides. There is also no question that many of us use more than our share of the bounty. If true, those statements do not lend themselves to a right or left perspective. Rather, there is considerable religious teaching the plain text of which abhors greed and admonishes against the witholding of resources from those in need. And yes, it is quite possible for the forces that balance this planet, independent of moral law, to shrug off a few hundred million of us just to get the scales righted. If that's true, there is little perspective (political or otherwise) capable of changing it.

bob said...

Arguing against Cap and Trade doesn't make a person someone who wants to destroy the planet. I don't think the planet is as dirty as it was when I was a child in sixties. Sensible legislation lowered pollutants and helped produce cleaner air and water. The problem with C&T is that ignores the economic ramifications to both businesses and consumers. At a time when the economy has slowed to a point where aprox. 10% of the population can't find work we don't need to hinder business growth.