A wrong understanding of the gospel leads to an undervaluing of the earth. A wrong understanding of the gospel leads us to thinking that the sole purpose for our existence is to “win souls” and that nothing else outside of humanity matters to God. This is not the gospel of the Bible! While it is important to proclaim the word of God to all people, there is also more.
Prior to my time in seminary, I had never heard anyone speak about how all-encompassing the gospel truly is. It is the story of redemption. It is the story of God restoring everything that was broken, distorted, or impacted in any way by the Fall. In Genesis chapter one we read that God created everything and that it was “good”. In fact, after declaring that what God had made was good six times, chapter one ends by saying that “it was very good”. In this good creation, God made mankind in the image of himself and gave him stewardship over all the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). These verses alone point to the three fundamental relationships that human beings have. First, he has a special relationship with his Creator whose image he bears. He also has a special relationship with other humans as fellow image-bearers. And last, mankind has a special relationship with the earth, which he was created from in Gen. 2:7 and told to have dominion over in Gen. 1:28.
Unfortunately, God’s good creation did not stay so good. In chapter 3, we read about mankind’s rebellion against God and the ramifications of this fall. The result of our sin is that the three foundational relationships were broken / distorted. Our relationship with God is broken (we have turned to idolatry), our relationship with other people is broken (we have become self-centered), and our relationship with the earth is broken (rather than care for it, we exploit it for personal gain).
The rest of Scripture tells the story of how God is restoring his good creation to its original goodness. The central figure in the story is Jesus Christ, who came to this earth as a sacrificial offering to atone for the sins of humanity. The curse of the Fall could not end without a sacrifice to pay the penalty. Christ died in order that we may be given new life and once again have the relationship with God we were designed to have in Genesis 1. This restoration also makes it possible for us to have relationships with other people as we were intended to have. This is where Christ’s command to love God and your neighbor as yourself fits into the entire story of Scripture.
Christ did not die solely for humanity, but for all of creation. Romans 8:19-23 reads:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV)
These verses tell us that the entire creation longs for the day it will be set free from the curse of sin. All of creation groans, along with mankind, for restoration. The ending to the story of the Bible is that God wins! He eliminates the curse of sin and he restores his creation to its original goodness. Revelation 21:1-5 reads:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (ESV)
The story of the Bible is Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration. In the end, God removes the curse of our sin from his creation and makes “all things new.” It is a beautiful story. God became man to die for our sin, but he did so not only restore us, but his entire creation. If he loves his entire creation this much and has in his plans its ultimate restoration, should we not as Christians have a deep love for all of creation as well? The gospel is bigger than us and it has implications for all of life.
Exactly right. What is the most beautiful garden you have ever seen? No matter how beautiful it is, it doesn’t begin to compare to the Garden of Eden, which God Himself created. Your ideas of what God has in mind for a restored creation are really energizing.
The second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is running down, wearing out, and dying, is simply the scientific name for the Curse.
I think a lot of Christians think that getting involved in reclaiming culture and our environment is like maintaining the shine on a sinking ship! Does having more than two children mean that parents are polluting the environment? Dr. Barry Walters wrote an article suggesting that families who have more than two children should be charged an annual “carbon tax” for each child! Ideas like these will become more controlling if we do nothing.
Our churches need to become more involved by operating on the two rails of our Divine Mandate to be Salt And Light.
We are to take the glorious Gospel of Christ to the World and be Salt effect change in our communities.
I’ve run out of precious time. Gotta go to work. Trash and recycling apprehension and abatement detail-you know.
Blessings … 🙂
Jon – I agree. Many Christians do think that reclaiming culture and the environment are simply “maintaining the shine on a sinking ship”. I think it is a result of not having a broader understanding of God’s redemptive plan. We emphasize the salvation of souls, but what about the salvation of creation? I also agree that having a better understanding of God’s plan to restore not only me, but also all of creation is indeed energizing!
Thanks again for the reply.
You’re right, it’s sin that got us into this mess. We chose to separate ourselves from God. However, I believe that God’s Love for us that eliminates sin goes deeper than our mere behavior, it goes to the core. I’m a sincere believer in the ‘inside out’ principle. Sin started this mess, but God’s not just going to clean up our behavior. The issue is much deeper, it’s in our decayed hearts. Though I realize sin got us in this problem, it’s corrupted us beyond just a simple quick-fix. I think that God’s forgiveness reaches so much deeper, and his healing touches us in the deepest parts of our hearts- the ones that cause us to sin.
The scripture says ‘Guard your heart, for it is the Wellspring of your life’. The way I see it is this: Our core, our character, our soul- is the wellspring. If the well is bad, then the water bottled out of it is bad. I think that God doesn’t just filter the water, but he transforms the inside of the well. He doesn’t just clean up our act, he cleanses our soul. It’s our wounded detachment that causes us to sin in the Present day, and I believe that God sanctifies us through his transformation, not his ‘shoulds’.
It’s so nice to have someone respectfully bat something back and forth, without judgement or high-emotion bickering. Kudos for being understanding!
Feel free to reply back on my site.
You’re absolutely right! I think we’ve both reached a point of realization. I love your analogy of the disease! Our actual ‘sin’ is the symptom of the inner sin nature we have, what I call our brokenness and detachment. It really doesn’t matter what you call it.
The bone I had to pick in my most recent blogs was with the uber-conservative churches that dominate my area of Tennessee “The buckle of the Bible Belt”. They domineer people with nothing but ‘should’ and ‘should nots’. Not that there aren’t things that we ‘should’ do, it’s simply the fact that changing our behavior won’t save us.
I have a passion for communicating eternal principles in modern ways resulting in earth-shattering change. That may be why my perspectives and jargon may be a bit different.
Tim, I do want to thank you for this discussion. It’s been very insightful and it’s proved to me that there’s still some people out there that can communicate in an effective and intelligent manner, without dumping on the other person’s opinion or character. I praise you for being awesome!
God bless you, your family, your church, and all of your works and doings and beings for all of your days.
Feel free to reply back on my site,
I wish you’d just say what the gospel is.
I think I have defined my understanding of the gospel pretty well in this post: https://theologicallyspeaking.com/2008/12/02/the-gospel-its-bigger-than-us/
Sorry, I should of taken the time to read more of what your position is.
Still not seeing the gospel, just part of it, must be me.
What would you say is the rest of it?
Yes, He died for our sins on the cross, your right. But there’s more. He was buried, and rose again the third day. The power of the gospel is the power God used to raise him up from the dead. It’s where we stand for salvation. If you leave him up on the cross, people think that’s all that happened. Kinda like at the end of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” , the end of the movie is Jesus is dead. No resurrection, the most important part. But enough of this, I’ll close.