Printed on recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover, the Green Bible is the project by HarperCollins to bring environmental responsibility and the teaching of Scripture in to one beautiful package. Within the text of this edition of the NRSV, verses that are about the earth and the environment are printed in green ink to highlight the Bible’s comments on taking care of the planet.
Yet under this cover is a message that arguably undercuts aspects of the overall message of the Word of God. What’s the harm in putting two good concepts together, you may ask? Should Christians not be concerned about the environment, it being God’s creation and all?
No doubt that when God commissioned Adam and Eve in the Garden to care for what he had made, he did not mean to plunder and destroy it to reap every scrape of natural resource. He did mean to care for it and King David agreed much later in Psalm 8. God has created a beautiful world, and the irony is that what we see is a world that is fallen, and its beauty cannot compare to the paradise that God created earth to be.
And isn’t that just the point? The whole world is fallen, a result of Adam’s sin. Death and disease, war and conquest each testify to the presence of sin and its stronghold in the human soul. I do not know about you, but my own struggle against sin tells me that even if we were able to leave no carbon footprint and were able to find a completely clean renewable source of energy, this would still not be a place to spend eternity.
In a sense, the thrust of environmental action is to make the world a better place, and when that work is sanctioned by the Bible, it becomes a holy work. Not coincidentally it puts me in mind of Jesus’ critics. The Jewish people in the first century were under the rule of the Roman Empire. Time and time again leaders would rise up to rebel against that authority, and fail. They saw Christ as yet another leader, but they saw him as one who was sent by God to establish his kingdom.
And establish his kingdom he did. But notice what he says about it to those who looked for him to overthrow the Romans:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Environmentalism and Stewardship
Should we be “home-wreckers” in the world that God gave us? Surely not. We need to be good stewards, which means respecting what is here, keeping things clean, and generally caring for what has been entrusted to us. But when the message of the Bible becomes one of conservation and environmentalism the emphasis is not properly placed.
We cannot redeem our world any more than we are able to redeem our own souls. Christ is the only one who saves, and save us he shall. The earth will not be cleaned enough to make it a place that is pleasing to God. On the contrary, Scripture teaches that the world itself will be redeemed and remade. It is not our duty to make the earth squeaky clean, just as we cannot rid our lives of every bit of sin.
Christ alone saves, and it is Christ alone we trust to redeem us and our world.