As part of my academic and spiritual pursuits, I am deeply interested in reconciling a care for creation within a faith tradition that has generally ventured beyond negligence and into the realm of disdain for nature. There is much tension within popular Christianity regarding the ecological movement and the church’s involvement in environmental issues. It is my goal to explore and wrestle with our understandings of scripture, our relation to creation, God’s relation to creation, and how the synthesis of the three influences our theology, actions, and our understanding of the Gospel in light of ecological concerns.
I’d like to commence my blogging on GCM with a poem by St. Basil that exudes a deep care for creation, both human and non-human. This poem will serve as a foundation for exploring our relationships to God, to creation, and to ourselves–the stuff of the Gospel.
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things,our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of humankind with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life
At the heart of Basil’s first stanza is a deep reflection upon the ministry and work of Jesus. An enlarged sense of fellowship marked the experience of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The socio-economic and purity barriers that dominated Jesus’ first century Jewish experience in an occupied state are torn down by Jesus’ ethic of inclusion and “enlarged sense of fellowship.” Nowhere else is this more richly displayed than in the healing stories and meal pericopes which exemplify non-judgment and inclusion into deep hospitality, communion, and life sharing.
In the second half of this first stanza, Basil humbly asserts the equality of life amongst human and non-human creatures. He says that our home is their home, too. We share the common space of the earth with a vast amount of non-human creatures. Humanity inhabits less than 2% of the earth’s surface. Considering that there are roughly 1.7 million identified differing species living on the planet (this number includes both animal and plant species), it could be more accurately said that they share the earth with us.
The relationships envisioned by this first part of St. Basil’s poem redefine conceptions of our separation from the rest of creation by challenging himself to not simply experience and benefit from creation, but to relate to it. This can be conceived in terms of shifting our understandings of our relationships to all of life–human and non-human–away from I-It patterns and into an I-Thou paradigm. This is the relational model of the Gospel.
If we can humbly redefine our place within the created order (read: rethink our understanding of what dominion means in terms of theology and praxis; more on this next week) to that of sisters and brothers, servants and keepers, shepherds and shepherdesses, then does our call to love our neighbors extend to the broader earth community? Through this we can image God in the reconciliation of all things spoken of in the rich Colossian poem (1:15-29).
We’ll continue with St. Basil’s poem next week.
(Posted by Joel Beeke)
“And God said, Let us make man….” ―Genesis 1:26
Thoughts on this passage: We often come to Genesis 1 with a kind of inquisitiveness about creation. Instead, we ought to come in a spirit of worship, bowing before the glorious majesty of the God who has created the universe and given us life and breath and all things. Then we will recognize that He has revealed Himself so that He might practically affect our lives.
The first practical effect Genesis 1 ought to have on us is to help us recognize the primacy of God over all of life. If God is the subject of creation, that is, if He occupies a place of primacy in the universe, then the simple logical corollary is that He must occupy the same place in our lives, both individually and corporately. That, indeed, is how God intends us to live. Jesus put it this way: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33a).
We run into all kinds of trouble when we don’t embrace this practical principle of bowing before the primacy of God over all of life. For example, think of the primacy of God in our planning. Too often we first decide what we want to do, then approach God for confirmation, hoping that our desires will be acceptable to Him. But the biblical principle is “In the beginning God.” That means before we make any plans, we should recognize the right of God over all of our lives. If we truly believe that God’s initiative is the foundation of all of our plans, we will understand that our position is to seek grace to discern His will and good pleasure, then to do it, no matter what self-denial that calls for.
When God becomes primary in our plans, situations often change. Difficulties, even seeming impossibilities, are overcome. Doubts are dissipated; deliverance is received.
For those that are reading this, are you seeking to bow to the primacy of God in every sphere of your life? Are you surrendering your limited time, your limited money, your limited energy to the will of God? Do you really want to live by the principle, “In the beginning God”?
[Posted by Dan Cruver]
To be adopted by God is to be in union with Christ. You can’t have one without the other. When God adopted us, He adopted us “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6). There is nothing that is more life-changing or destiny-altering than the reality of being in union with God’s Beloved Son — and that is a gross understatement!
Jesus changes everything for us, not the least of which is our prayer life. Have you ever considered the fact that when you pray to your Father, you literally pray in union with Jesus?
To pray in union with Jesus means that your prayers are not carried to God by your merit. If God’s reception of our prayers were dependent upon our merit, our prayers would crash and burn before they could even be formed in our minds. No, our prayers are carried to the Father by the altogether lovely and acceptable merit of Jesus.
“If you could see what your prayers looked like to God [because of Jesus], no one could stop you from praying” (Brian Habig, quoting an unnamed theologian).
[by Timmy Brister]
Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Because heaven is a prepared place, our Christian lives should be characterized by rejoicing and anticipating being with the Lord. Because heaven is for a prepared people our Christian lives should be characterized by repentance and turning away from ourselves. Therefore, the Christian life is both one of rejoicing and repentance, at the same time. In fact, it could be said that, though we mourn over and hate our sin, our repentance should be joyful knowing that God has promised bring to fulfillment that which he began in us, namely the glorification of His Son in us. There is no genuine joy without thorough repentance, and genuine repentance ought to bring about increasing joy as sin is displaced and we draw nearer to Jesus.
We often call Christians “believers”. “We are a gathering of believers . . .” but Christians are also “repenters,” so why don’t refer to a gathering of repenters? Our response to the gospel at conversion is both – a repenting faith or believing repentance, and our response to the gospel from that moment on is the same. The more we behold Jesus by faith as seen in the gospel, the more we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another. If there are no degrees of glory being experienced on earth, then what, pray tell, would such a professing Christian claim to experience in heaven? The very degrees of glory we experience in the daily transformation of our lives through repentance and faith are meant to be a foretaste of the fullness of glory to be seen when we are “taken up into glory.” To miss it here is to forfeit it there.
J.C. Ryle, in his book Old Paths, explains it this way:
“Our hearts must be in tune for the employments of heaven, or else heaven itself would be a miserable abode. Our minds must be in harmony with those of the inhabitants of heaven, or else the society of heaven would soon be intolerable to us. . . . I would never have you ignorant that if you went there with an impenitent heart, heaven would be no heaven for your soul. What could you possibly do in heaven, if you got there with a heart loving sin? To which of all the saints would you speak? By whose side would you sit down? Surely the angels of God would make no sweet music to the heart of him who cannot bear saints upon earth, and never praised the Lamb for redeeming love! Surely the company of patriarchs, and apostles, and prophets, would be no joy to that man who will not read his Bible now, and does not care to know what apostles and prophets wrote. Oh no! no! there can be no happiness in heaven, if we get there with an impenitent heart.”
In heaven, whom we have treasured by faith will become sight. But if we fail to look upon Jesus by faith, turning from ourselves and our idols, then we have no reason to expect our eyes to behold the one whom our hearts failed to treasure. No, heaven is for a prepared people whose hearts have become fertile soil for the gospel where idols and rivals to Jesus have been crushed by repentance and the reign of Jesus established by faith in all that Jesus is for us in his life, death, and resurrection. For when we are raised with him in glory to be united forever, we will recognize a people who have become like the one whom they have beheld as gospel-inducing repentance has, step by step, degree by degree, taken us homeward on the journey to glory.
(Posted by Joel Beeke)
“The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” ―Genesis 2:8
The garden of Eden is a microcosm of the loving, detailed, wise, and lavish provision of God for man as the crown and glory of creation. The world God prepared for man included:
● Physical provision. God gave man food to eat from the trees of the garden (Gen. 2:9), and He has been supplying food ever since. God also supplied man with physical work. He put Adam in the garden “to dress it and to keep it” (v. 15). Work is a pre-fall gift of our Creator. We were created to be industrious. Lack of discipline and laziness are results of our fallen condition.
● Spiritual provision. God gave man the Sabbath for his spiritual profit and physical rest. God wove rest and work into the pattern of His creation by His own example (vv. 2–3). The Lord offers the Sabbath as the day in which we meet with Him, learn of Him, enjoy Him, and commune with Him. In this communion, we find our highest work and chief glory. Do you know the Sabbath joy of communing with God?
● Moral provision. Having set man in the bounty of Eden, God told him what he must and must not do (vv. 16–17). Without this moral stimulus, man would have remained less than man. This moral requirement of man is often caricatured as only prohibitive, but God did not put man into the garden and say, “Now don’t touch,” like a parent warns a child going into a department store. Rather, God said: “The entire garden, with all its trees, is for you, except one, so that you might learn obedience to Me as your perfect Creator and Father. You will remain free and happy as long as you live in obedience to My holy commandments, which are good and perfect. My commandments are not a burden to be carried but a blessing to be embraced.”
● Aesthetic provision. God provided trees “pleasant to the sight” (v. 9). Eden’s trees were not just useful; they were beautiful.
● Social provision. God met Adam’s social needs by providing a helpmeet for him (v. 18). He provided a marital relationship that was complementary (v. 18) and exclusive (v. 24), creating another means by which man could give God glory.
That is lavish provision, indeed! Still today, God, in and through Christ, meets all our needs as He sends us into the world to live for Him. But our true freedom and full humanity can be realized only when we live within the boundaries of His perfect will. We become fully developed as God’s creation when we live in obedient faith to our Provider and pursue His glory with all that is within us.
As many of you who know me, know that I am getting married this coming weekend, (October 10th) which is in a few days! Due to that, and… schooling, planning, working, I am taking a leave of absent from the blogging until Oct. 20th. However just because I will be gone, doesn’t mean that the blog will stop. I have gathered a list of the Gospel-Centered brothers that I respect to post for me while taking care of my wedding duties and while I am off on my honeymoon (Oct. 20).
Joel R. Beeke was my advisor and mentor during my M.A.R. degree in Theological Studies at PRTS from January of 2007 to May 2009. He serves as President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Church History, and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been in the ministry since 1978 and has served as a pastor of his current church (HNRC in Grand Rapids) since 1986. He is also editor of the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. He has written, co-authored, or edited sixty books and contributed over fifteen hundred articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. His Ph.D. (1988) from Westminster Theological Seminary is in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology. He is frequently called upon to lecture at Reformed seminaries and to speak at conferences around the world.
Tim Brister a Christian, Husband, Father, Minister, Photographer, Cyclist, and Blogger. To which of these he likes best, I have no idea. But I know which one I appreciate the most, his Blog “Provocations and Paintings” and is as Gospel-Centered as they come, and for his work there, I am in much debt.
Tim Challies and I became friends through the internet, work, website jobs, book-publishing, and conferences. Through all of that – keeping in contact Tim has been a great aid in ministry from time to time when in need. According to Amazon there is only one Tim Challies in the world. He lives in Canada, he reads voraciously and writes constantly at his Web site (www.challies.com). He is also the author of the book, “The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.”
Dan Cruver a mentor of mine during my college years, but even more a friend and a best one at that. Before directing Together for Adoption, was a college professor of Bible and Theology. He has also served as a pastor of family ministries. As one who has been adopted by God and has adopted two children, Dan founded Together for Adoption to equip churches and educate Christians theologically about orphan care and horizontal adoption. Dan regularly writes and speaks about the Gospel and its implications for earthly adoption and the care of orphans. He recently wrote the foreword to Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Dr. Joel Beeke. Dan is available to speak in churches and other groups interested in adoption. Contact him at dan.cruver (at) TogetherforAdoption (dot) org.
Nick Rundlett a friend of mine that has been through the thick and thin throughout the last 7 years of my life, especially during my college years when times were rough. A roommate, a video-gamer that played NCAA College Football constantly (still does) and is the Middle School Director of Student Ministries at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina.
Ben Thocher a co-worker in the summers of 2005 and 2006 in camping ministries Ben and I became better friends when learning about each other’s passion for theology and knowing the Bible deeper than what we had been taught. Ben is working towards his Masters of Arts in Religion focusing in Biblical Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary while working full-time for the Westminster Bookstore.