"Second Coming Ecology: We care for the environment precisely because God will create a new earth," David Neff
(I'll get back to the sub-title in just a minute.)
As I read along, I was totally with the author. Stewardship is important. God wants us to responsibly manage resources. Christians who don't care about the environment are annoying. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Then, I got to the third page and fell into the ditch.
Now here's where I have a problem. Yes, Romans 8 teaches the universe has been subjected to the law of decay. But it doesn't say when that subjection happens. Christians seem to read into the text that it happened at the fall of Adam, but nothing in the text actually says that. Paul's focus is on when all of humanity and creation will be redeemed- at the second coming of Christ.
But as the apostle Paul contemplates the end of all things in his epistle to the church in Rome, he talks not just about individuals awaiting their redemption, but about the whole Creation as well.The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Rom. 8:20-24
Christ didn't come to save just you or just me—though his ultimate sacrifice assures us of our individual worth. He came to save Adam's fallen race by becoming the Second Adam, the head of a new humanity that will someday inhabit a
new and improved version of the Eden that Adam and Eve were forced to leave. When we remember that a restored humanity in a restored Eden is the crowning vision of Scripture, we come to see ourselves and our responsibilities in a bigger, broader landscape.
That broader landscape will encourage us to engage with the "groanings" of Creation as we are now able to hear them.
My second issue is with Mr. Neff's statement that a restored earthly Eden is the "crowning vision of Scripture." It is? Where does the Bible teach that? The Bible repeatedly uses various analogies to say that this universe will eventually come to an end: it will be rolled up like a scroll, the elements will be burned with fire, etc. (Ironically, science is telling us the same thing; this universe can't last forever.) Then, God will create a "new heavens and new earth." It doesn't say God will "renew the heavens and earth."
That being said, the crowning vision of Scripture is a return to Eden of sorts, but it's a spiritual return. The best way I can explain this is to encourage you to read through the first three chapters of Genesis and the last three chapters of Revelation and record all of the parallel language. It's clear that we are supposed to understand heaven in some sort of Edenic sense. But Eden is a type or shadow of heaven. It was pointing forward to heaven, like the Tabernacle pointed forward to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Earthly Eden isn't something to pined over. We don't pine for the shadow (that's the whole point of the book of Hebrews!). It's gone for good. For our good. We look forward with anticipation to a better fellowship with God for all eternity that can never be lost.
So, why do I bring this up? Because this is a fundamental theological error made by young-earth creationism. And I really think it needs correcting. The Bible does not teach that we should look forward to an eternity in restored Eden. We look forward to a new heaven and a Earth. What will that look like? I have no clue. But I'm sure it will be way better than earthly Eden ever was and than a "restored" Eden could ever be.
Thus I take issue with Mr. Neff's sub-title. I don't care for the environment because God will create a new Earth, as if me trashing the Earth less now makes for less work for God later (I guess that's what he's implying). I care for it because God told humanity to care for it. Isn't that enough?
Speaking of which, I need to go take my girls to the recycle center to turn in about 500 bottles and cans.