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April 27, 2017

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Eco-friendly evangelicals take it to the streets

Brian Webb

Cross published on Huffpost

Who says a climate-denying cult entrances all evangelical Christians? Brian Webb’s faith has propelled him into pro-science action. He’s a mover and a shaker, an organizational hombre, a managerial mahatma with a Bible.

Webb directs Climate Caretakers, a network founded in August 2015 to mobilize the faithful, and he’s leading a 70-to-80-member team to the nation’s capital on April 29th under the Caretaker banner. They’ll join thousands in the People’s Climate March, then co-sponsor “Acting in Faith: Evangelical Climate Advocacy Days,” along with Micah Challenge, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and the Christian Reformed Church. Trainers are scheduled to coach would-be activists a day after the event and, on May 1st, they’ll fan out to Congressional offices.

The lean, bearded, mild-mannered 39-year-old father of three is the sustainability coordinator for Houghton College, a small Wesleyan liberal arts school in rural Upstate New York, about 65 miles southeast of Buffalo. He lends his spare hours to Climate Caretakers, which reports to Care of Creation, headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. He and other representatives were in Paris at the UN COP-21 talks and cheered its landmark international accord. The network e-mails prayer updates, news bulletins, and action steps.

Full disclosure: Webb reeled in me to write some of the prayer updates.

Think of Climate Caretakers as the opposite of Calvin Beisner’s Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which rallies deniers.

A biblical mandate

Like many environmentalists, Webb censured President Trump’s recent executive Image result for People's climate march 2017orders curtailing Obama-era efforts to stem the climate tide – with a twist: “They are an affront on God’s creation and on all of humanity … They are destructive to our very society and threaten our core Christian values of stewardship, compassion, justice, and humility. Unlike foolishness, which simply lacks forethought, these actions reflected a calculated political strategy to prioritize short-term economic gain for a wealthy few at the expense of those living in poverty, and of God’s creation.”

Few green advocates invoke such religious language. Many are unaware of potential evangelical allies and some bristle at Western spirituality. They’re convinced it smiles on environmental catastrophe.

It’s time for horizon tweaking. A slew of evangelicals have walked Webb’s path, which he described in an e-mail: “I grew up in the Bible Belt of Georgia as an avid Republican who was rather opposed to environmental issues.” He gradually saw “creation care” (evangelicalism’s preferred term over environmentalism) as a biblical mandate: “I started to pursue this calling vocationally out of a realization that the Church needs to act on these issues.”

Like-minded believers have strolled beneath the radar for years. The Evangelical Environmental Network tirelessly knocks on Congressional doors, launches petition drives, and hosts seminars and conference calls; Care of Creation, directed by Ed Brown, was founded in 2005 to color the church green; the Lausanne Creation Care Network has spurred conferences on several continents; Eden Vigil, headed-up by Lowell Bliss, promulgates environmental missions: far-flung ministers meet ecological needs like medical missionaries aide physical healing.

Harmonizing science and religion

Creation Care is one prong in a broader pro-science effort. Literalistic fundamentalists, like Ken Ham, grab the headlines with I-can’t-believe-he-said-that quotes while evangelical seminary faculties – such as Gordon-Conwell, Fuller, Westminster, and Trinity – have long argued for an old Earth. They’re following precedent. In 1873, the world-wide Evangelical Alliance featured a polite floor debate on the merits of Darwin’s theories. All were civil. Theologian BB Warfield (1851-1921), a firm advocate of biblical inerrancy, gave evolution serious thought.

Much of that thinking plowed underground in the 1920’s when fundamentalism reared its head. It resurfaced as a new generation of biblically-centered Protestants emerged from their anti-cultural cocoons in the 1940’s. Biologos, founded in 2007 by geneticist Frances Collins and now headquartered at Michigan’s Calvin College, has boosted respect for science – especially after Bible-bound luminaries such as Tim Keller, Os Guiness, Philip Yancy, the late John Stott, Mark Noll, Joel Hunter, Richard Mouw, and Andy Crouch supplied endorsements.Image result for biologos

The Veritas Forum has fueled scientific prestige since 1986 by featuring talks from believing geneticists, chemists, biologists, astronomers – as well as philosophers and theologians. Britain’s Faraday Institute for Science and Religion does research and offers courses; so does Michigan’s Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. Almost all echo Webb: “In the very first chapter of Genesis God calls his creation ‘good’ six times. The Bible tells us the ‘Earth is the Lord’s,’ that the ‘mountains and hills bless the Lord,’ and that God will redeem all of creation. If anything, the Bible is full of overwhelming praise for the goodness of the Earth and for God’s desire to see it flourish.”

That’s why Mr. Webb is going to Washington.

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April 17, 2017

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When the future invades the present

Note; This is an expanded meditation of Easter’s posting. 

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Jesus was launching a subtle rebellion at his resurrection, the day when Eternity invaded Temporality and Life swallowed Death. He upended the norms of Death and played by his own rules.

He declared one of his norms in Matthew 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last.” He immediately implemented that rule when the sun was barely up: Women were his first witnesses. Many rabbis took a dim view of women generally and rendered their testimony invalid. Citing their eye-witness reports was tantamount to declaring: “I know Jesus rose. The town drunk told me so.”

But Jesus was ushering in the resurrected life, which embraced the truth articulated in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

And it would go on. He would not punish guilt-riddled Peter in the wake of the apostle’s denial. Instead, he would restore him. He would not abandon the apostles who abandoned him at the cross. He would grant them grace. The ways of life would overthrow the ways of death wherever he journeyed. As Peter Chrysologus phrased it, Christ “repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.”

We see the rebellion’s significance when we grasp its first-century backdrop. The Jews longed for a general resurrection. A new age would dawn. Righteousness would reign. The wolf would lie with the lamb and swords would be beaten into plowshares (Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 2:4). The might-makes-right era would be remembered only as a faded nightmare.

Christ’s resurrection was a token of things to come. The future invaded the present and now subversively co-exists with the age dominated by powermongers and alpha personalities. We’re now locked in a clash of epochs, a battle between “this age” and “the age to come” (see the language in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; 5:1-5 10:11; and Hebrews 6:5 – among many other passages), with Satan ruling the present, evil age as a god (2 Corinthians 4:4). Citizens of the future age employ the future’s weapons: Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, God’s Word, prayer in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17), bearing the fruit of the spirit along the path (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: Galatians 5:22-23).

This invasion has actually racked up a slew of victories, mostly missed by power-wooed journalists and historians enamored with this present age. They rarely report on all the indigenous followers of Christ now living in Africa, South Korea, and China. They don’t even see history’s verified, concrete realities: Christians founded hospitals and most of our modern educational institutions. Blood, guts, and scandal have always seduced reporters – and now that’s magnified by television cameras and Youtube.

The resurrected life isn’t a sexy story.

Which signals a warning to politically-minded followers of Christ (I’m one of them): Politics can be a noble calling, but beware. It’s almost invariably soaked in dominance, power, and all the present age’s other seductive trappings. I’ve seen Christians enter politics with the best of intentions – and, in a flash, their faces are frozen with plastic smiles; their words become empty talking points. They’re hollow shells. The same trap is laid for believers drawn to high-powered business, where rivalry and competition reign as the twin holy grails.

Like almost everything, politics and business can be pathways on which the resurrected life – the life of the age to come – is displayed. But pay heed to succulent fruit hanging from the trees along the path. They’re often poisonous.

Always remember: We now play by the subversive rules of God’s kingdom and the resurrected life. We’re beacons of the age to come, showing the dawn of the Earth’s revival.

 

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April 16, 2017

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The Great Reversal

Jesus was launching a subtle rebellion at his resurrection, the day when Eternity invaded Temporality and Life swallowed Death. He upended the norms of Death and played by his own rules. He declared one of his norms in Matthew 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last.” He immediately implemented that rule when […]

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April 15, 2017

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A meditation for Holy Saturday

This is an enigmatic day wrapped in an unpopular doctrine. The day: The Church universal has always remembered Christ’s descent “into Hell,” per the fifth article of the Apostles Creed. The enigma is bound with the question: “Why would God send Jesus to Hell?” The unpopular doctrine is Hell itself.  Perhaps the enigma becomes more […]

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April 11, 2017

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A dim ray of hope in climate change

Perhaps the path to clean skies and calm seas snakes past Washington and toward Sacramento, with California Governor Jerry Brown blazing the trail. Such speculation arises even as activists book buses for the People’s Climate March in Washington DC on April 29. No doubt they’ll brandish signs and rally against the Trump administration’s evisceration of […]

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April 10, 2017

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Hope in the cauldron

I confess. I’ve sometimes joined maudlin evangelical Christians in their fashionable despair. Our tribe seems to have drifted far from its moral, theological, intellectual, and spiritual roots, which once entwined themselves in the great Protestant luminaries and summoned all Christians back to the Bible. The more congenial rolled out the carpet to sympathetic Catholics and […]

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March 23, 2017

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The myth of “open-ness” at PTS

Nothing matches the closed-mindedness of the supposedly open-minded. I say that as the authorities at Princeton Theological Seminary smear gobs of egg off their faces. The school’s Kuyper Center was about to grant its Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness to the Rev. Tim Keller, the soon-to-be-retired lead pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian […]

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March 22, 2017

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Why Churches Are Folding, Book 1,504,002, Chapter 1,354,700,1650,001, 97,000th Draft

I’m weary of dooms-day articles signaling American Christianity’s demise. Salivating secularists hail an on-coming age of light while woe-begone evangelicals prophesy deeper darkness, with the latter writing new books offering innovative solutions. Strangely, the remedies look like repackaged programs from previous eras. Add them together, mix and stir: Sermons should radiate theological depth while emulating […]

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March 21, 2017

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A saint sees the Lenten whole

I stumbled on a quote from St. Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century  Bishop of Ravenna, that eloquently wraps private devotion and public obligation in a bow. Which wasn’t unusual for Peter: He was known for short, theologically rich sermons, understandable to laity and clergy alike. The quote gives us a great perspective as we plow through […]

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March 7, 2017

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Warning: Resistance fighters could sprout marmalade hair

It’s clear. Some of us , me included , should slow dance to Lent’s beat. Be cool. Chill. Stroll through the woods. Hear the water drip. And let’s trim our social media tirades to no more than one every 24 hours (I’d urge replacing all harangues with thoughtful, constructive criticism, but I’d be laughed out of the […]

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