News: February 2020
For those of us who still remember all of the angst about Y2K it is hard to believe that we have reached this milestone. One thing is certain, however, even though the fears of a technologically driven meltdown of our economy and society that drove the Y2K narrative never materialized (Still have any freeze dried meals stored in your garage or basement?) our capacity for being duped by the purveyors of bad news still has the power to distort nearly every conversation and drive fear deep into our hearts.
If it isn’t our predicted descent into fascism courtesy of Donald Trump, it is the certainty that we face imminent climate catastrophe (more on that in a minute), the continuing decline of the middle class in the USA, or the threat either economically or militarily posed by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and who knows who else down the pike. According to the chattering class doom is imminent unless . . . . You fill in the blank.
It is gloomy out there. There are days when the darkness descends in such a way that it seems to blot out the light. On those days, as I must constantly remind myself, it becomes imperative, however to respond to that darkness in a manner consistent with what we know to be True. Sadly that is concept out of favor in much of the church today. The world, especially in academia, long ago lost any belief in ultimate Truth. Sadly, however, I sense much the same loss disabling the church.
We just don’t believe the Bible that much anymore; certainly not as much as we believe the experts constantly spouting their thoughts on the 24/7 news (and I use the word news lightly) shows, in books, in questionable research and weighty (at least in the opinions of those experts) white papers and other public pronouncements. We are bombarded with opinion and assertion based on the results of research that we are told is unassailable and must therefore never be questioned.
It’s a bit like that scene from the Wizard of OZ when Dorothy and her companions have returned from successfully ending the reign the Wicked Witch of the West. The Great and Mighty OZ is then unable to keep the promise he has made to return Dorothy to her family in far away Kansas. After confronting the Witch, Dorothy is no longer intimidated by the Wizard who, it turns out, is really a charlatan. I love that statement during their confrontation when Toto begins pulling the curtain aside, “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.”
In essence that is what so many pundits try to do when people raise questions about the assured results of the research that shape so much of the conversation about so many of the issues we face today. Sadly, unlike Dorothy, we tend to go along even when those assertions based on those assured results conflict with what we discover in Scripture.
Here is an absolute, foundational biblical Truth. One day the current earth will pass away to be replaced with a new, one minus the deadly infection of sin. As Paul reminds us the “creation groans” and one day God’s work of redemption will restore creation to its original state. (see Romans 8:18:25 and Revelation 21:1-4) Underscoring that Truth is this one: God created the earth, God sustains the earth, God redeemed the earth in Christ, and God will one day return, in his own time, to complete that work of redemption.
You and I have been given a stewardship responsibility to oversee God’s creation until Christ’s return. That task was made imminently more difficult by the fall. Not only do we have to contend with thrones and thistles but we have to deal with the darkness of man’s heart; especially those who simply look for ways to squeeze as much profit from their efforts as possible with no thought about the consequences of their decisions and actions. This is not a new problem. Human history is filled with examples of poor stewardship.
And make no mistake. People are hurt, often badly, by such behavior. In the end, however, it is the owner and not the steward who will decide when enough is enough. Knowing that Truth does not, however, relieve us from our obligation to exercise wise stewardship of this planet on which we dwell. We must do all that we can do in every area of life to reflect the image and glory of God. What that Truth should do, however, is to keep us from jumping into the abyss with all of those who claim we can put an end to what God has been and is currently doing on this planet. That’s his decision not ours and he will make it in his time.
In a recent issue of World Magazine (if you don’t subscribe you should) columnist Mindy Belz helps bring this challenge into a more biblical focus.
“Yes, our planet appears to be in a period of warming. But why have the children been dismissed from school with homemade posters to go ‘on strike’ ‘in protest’ over it? Why are students sent into city streets to ‘raise awareness’ on a topic any child already knows?
Because politics and grievance are the cheap substitutes for cultivating young minds when meaning and theology have left the build. Activism replaces wonder and God-centered inquiry.
Now here is something that I am certain you did not hear in the media. “In September (2019) the Finnish secretary-general of the World Meteorological Association, Petteri Taalas, said climate change ‘is not going to be the end of the world.’ The expert criticized ‘doomsters and extremists’ for making its real challenges harder with radical calls for zero emissions and zero childbirths.’”
As Belz then notes, “We have a God who ordered a universe to generate life – a starting point that makes global warming more complex and more hopeful.” In short, the world isn’t going to end tomorrow, or next year, or the next decade. It will end at the time and in the manner that the Creator determined long before any of us was born. Again, that reality doesn’t give us an excuse for poor stewardship. It does, however, call us to a more biblically informed response to all of the hysteria that is being unleashed in our world today.
Thus it would serve us well to remember two things. First, as the Apostle Paul reminds us we must be constantly renewing our minds or we will find ourselves squeezed into the mold of the world system. Second, prudence requires us to carefully evaluate and even question the assured conclusions of any research.
A Final Thought to Ponder
In the 7th century BC Sennacherib, ruler of the Assyrian empire moved his army south toward Judah, with the intent of conquering Jerusalem. As his army approached he sent envoys ahead with a message to Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. It’s intent: Ensuring both the King and his people that their utter destruction was inevitable. Here is a bit of that message:
“Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting that you endure the siege in Jerusalem. Is not Hezekiah misleading you [telling] you, ‘The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria?’”
That envoy then goes on to assure the people that their situation is hopeless that death and destruction is inevitable.
“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you out of my hand.”
So what actually happens? In a single night God slays 185,000 Assyrian soldiers encamped around the city, Sennacherib is forced to retreat in to his capitol city, Nineveh, where he is soon assassinated for his failure. You can read about this event in both 2 Chronicles 32 and 2 Kings 19.
But the real point of this story can be found in Isaiah 14:24-27. Here Yahweh speaks words that still resonate to this day.
“The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, Surely, just as I intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, to break Assyria in My land and I will trample him on My mountain . . . That is the plan . . . and who can frustrate it?”
This planet will end when the LORD of hosts decides that it will end and not a day before.
Now if you read those passages in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles you will see that Hezekiah did everything that a wise ruler should do to prepare Jerusalem and its people for the coming invasion. He understood, however, that the future belonged to Yahweh not to Sennacherib. Might I be so bold as to suggest that we, as followers of Christ, should at least consider adopting Hezekiah’s posture of personal responsibility and absolute confidence is LORD; the same LORD of Hosts not only created the world for life but will continue to sustain the world for life until Christ returns to rule over all of creation.
Honestly, I’d vote for the Creator before any political party or technological innovation.
In His grace,