Thursday, May 31, 2007

[THO] Inconvenient or Irrelevant Truth?

We watched Gore's An Inconvenient Truth tonight in class, I've wanted to see that one for a while now. Gore does a pretty good job, although he speaks primarily out of a stewardship paradigm, that is the Earth is up to us to manage so that we have something for our children to inherit. He is also quite anthropocentric in his approach, dealing primarily with the potential impact on humanity. But that aside it is a good assessment of the ecological crisis.

But there is one assumption that I think is flawed. He calls us to a moral judgement of our ecological impact. He says that we have a moral obligation to this world, and assumes that the reason we don't respond is because it is highly inconvenient. He is right it is highly inconvenient, but I think there is a worse reason why so many turn a deaf ear to the ecological crisis. Too many see it as simply irrelevant.

Our culture gorges on decline narratives, we love to look at the signs of the times like the ecological crisis and imagine they are speeding along the demise of this fallen world. Why would we want to stop that? This is the danger of the otherworldly view we have of ourselves. We don't see ourselves as residents, but as aliens waiting for the real show to start. This is so incredibly sad.

The reasons for this are quite complex. The mechanised view of the world, the misplaced confidence in our ability to force our way through any situation and other ideologies have overwhelmed our sensibilities. They have blinded us from even getting to the point of inconvenience, we are still stuck on Gore's vision as an irrelevant truth.

5 comments:

byron said...

Yes - good point. I saw AIT again a few days ago and was struck again by how American it is, how anthropocentric it is, and how we can solve the problems without really any radical changes to our lifestyles. How convenient. The solution seemed to be to show that this inconvenient truth wasn't all that inconvenient after all.

Hank said...

...we love to look at the signs of the times like the ecological crisis and imagine they are speeding along the demise of this fallen world. Why would we want to stop that? This is the danger of the otherworldly view we have of ourselves. We don't see ourselves as residents, but as aliens waiting for the real show to start.

In both epistles to the Thessalonians, there is a clear eschatological emphasis. I have regularly read the instructions in these letters (especially 2 Thess) as instructing us not to quit working in anticipation of the Second Coming.

I think this can be applied to the current discussion. Just because the world is heading towards God's determined conclusion, we do not have a license to surrender our God-given trusteeship of His Creation in order to 'help it along.'

The second point, Christians non-citizenship of earth is pretty well spelled out in 1 Peter 2 that Christians are 'aliens' and 'ambassadors' to this world. However, again, this does not release us from that trusteeship.

So how do we present these two apparently disparate views as one coherent whole?

One of Freedom said...

Good question Hank.

I think the problem lies in what we are citizens to. Is it another world or is it of another Kingdom? The problem I find is that we want Kingdom to be a geographical reality (heaven as well) and I'm not convinced this does scriptural notions of Kingdom justice. Kingdom is better understood as an expressed reign. If we are subjects of that reign (both present and coming) then we are indeed not subjects of the existing reign in the world. So our citizenship is not heaven as in an alternate geography, but it is here in the inbreaking of God's reign into our world.

So Peter uses two terms to describe this: sojourner or travellers and aliens (to keep it simple). There is no attachment to the created order here in the text, meaning that it doesn't say we are aliens to the cosmos, but rather it uses terms that talk about the present reality we live in. So in terms of the reality that sin has wrought, we are no longer residents of that reality. But at the same time we are travelling through that reality towards the Kingdom reality, hence sojourners.

I don't think it is a matter of holding a tension which involves the fruitless labour in this world, as if this world were going to be destroyed anyway. But it is a fruitful restoration of creation to the glory that God intended. Of course we don't see the fulfillment until the return, but that does not diminish our work in the world, it orients that work towards hope.

The other notion that you express is trusteeship. I have trouble with that because it implies that God abandons the created order to humanity. I see salvation history differently. God is imminently present in the created order, restoring this order. God invites us into that work, so it is more a partnership than a task delegation. But I also question the notion of stewardship as highly insufficient for our moment in history, so this might take some hashing out here.

Hank said...

"The other notion that you express is trusteeship. I have trouble with that because it implies that God abandons the created order to humanity."

Oh, I certainly didn't mean that as it came across. I hadn't thought about the idea that there is a koinonia involved here, although I certainly envisioned that. No, God is not the "absent watchmaker" that Deists of the late 18th century saw Him as. Everything we do as Believers, we are to do in concert with the leading of the Holy Spirit. I honestly prefer the concept of shepherding to either stewardship or even trusteeship. But even then I can see the objection of God's involvement or apparent lack thereof coming to the fore.

I agree also that the whole kingdom concept is more an awareness of a new reality than a locale ("Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."). But sadly, we as pastors have to introduce people to this paradigm shift and it is very difficult to dislodge them from what they already 'know' to be true. I think that is where the tension lies here.

One of Freedom said...

I hear that Hank. Some of the most helpful voices I find won't take the pain to bridge the gap between the evangelical vision of a "heaven" we are caught away to and the Kingdom of the gospels. They just plunge right into areas that are so uncomfortable for the folks you and I are likely to minister to. That is one of the things I'm determined to tackle in my own theological career, and I know I have my work cut out for me.