“The Bible. The good book. The word. There are 490 references to heaven. 530 references to love. Yet it makes over 1000 references to the earth.”
That’s from the video-introduction of a new edition of Scripture, The Green Bible. On page fifty-seven of this week’s TIME Magazine is an article by the title, The Good Book Goes Green. A color-coded Bible is geared to environmentalists. Here’s an excerpt from this review of this new edition of the Bible,
Green turns through the Bible like a vine. There are the Garden and Noah’s olive branch. The oaks under which Abraham met with angels. The “tree standing by the waterside” in Psalms. And there is Jesus, the self-proclaimed “true vine,” who describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a tree “where birds can next.” He does on a cross of wood, and when he rises Mary Magdelene mistakes him for a gardener.
Now there is a Bible trying to make gardeners of us all. On Oct. 7, Harper Collins is releasing The Green Bible, a Scripture for the Prius age that calls attention of more than 1,000 verses related to nature by printing them in a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus.
Here’s a video from The Green Bible’s home page;
This new Bible printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink has a tree printed on the front. The goal of the publication of this edition of the Bible is revealed in the subtitle, “Understand the Bible’s powerful message for the Earth.”
Thoughtful Christians should ask the question, What are we to make of this edition of Scripture?
Although the subtitle of the Bible is overstated, the question of what the Bible says about the environment is a fine question. All Bible readers should agree – God placed us in the earth as rulers over the earth and stewards of all that God made. Further, the story of Scripture is played out on the stage of the environment that is the earth. But the cosmos is more than just a backdrop. It is cursed when we sin and it is made new when human redemption is complete. The Green Bible people are right, the Bible makes many references to the earth and earthy things. One of my personal favorite references to animals comes in God’s words to Jonah in the last verse of the book named after this prophet; “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah didn’t care enough about the children in that wicked city. But apparently he was supposed to care about the cows as well!
The trouble begins when a legitimate sub point is esteemed as the BIG point of the Bible. By framing this edition of the Bible with a pronounced emphasis on “The Earth,” the publisher has undermined the very ground for the responsibility they seek to foster. The creation derives its worth from the Creator who made it as a home for the image-bearers be made it for. The articles may be fine. I have not read them. However helpful they may be, the narrative of Scripture is not about the stage on which that narrative plays out.
Well, what does the Bible say about creation? While much can be said, the following six points are the most important things we might say about the environment that God created.
2) It’s for humans. Humans were made in God’s image and are the pinnacle of creation. God gave to Adam and his race dominion over the earth, which entails rulership and responsibility. Thus, the “environment” is not an end in itself (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 8).
3) Adam and his race traded the glory of God for the glory of creation. Adam’s greatest sin against creation was to value it too much! He enjoyed the creation the wrong way, placing his hope in the word of a snake. This is what happens when we desire what God has made without regard for the Creator to whom it points (Genesis 3; Romans 1).
4) It’s cursed. As a consequence of the injustice of humankind’s moral and spiritual rebellion, God subjected the physical creation to futility and corruption. Thus, our greatest harm to the creation was brought on by our sin against God (Genesis 3; Romans 8).
5) It will be redeemed. Jesus Christ, the agent of the Father’s creative work, entered into creation to redeem humanity and to redeem some from Adam’s race to a right relationship to God. With the redemption of people to himself, God will also renew creation (John 1; Hebrews 1; Colossians 1; Romans 8).
6) It will be destroyed and recreated. One day, God will complete what he started in Christ when he does away with this present order and makes a new Creation (Revelation 21).
To be sure, Christ’s incarnation reinforces a Christian commitment to the value of creation. God is not removed from his creation as the deist might suggest. Neither is the physical ream evil, as the Buddhist might suggest. God actually entered into what he made. Further, there is a cosmic dimension to the redemption Christ came to provide. God sent Christ that through him he might reconcile “all things” to himself and bring about a new creation.
But Jesus did not enter the earth for the earth. Neither does he redeem humans for the sake of the earth. God’s creative and redemptive purposes are about God’s glory in the praise he receives from those who uniquely bear his image.
In classic fallen form, humans invert the proper ordering of God’s designs and purposes. God reveals to us by his Holy Spirit his redemptive plan in Christ on the pages of Scripture and we put a green tree on front and tell each other how important it is to recycle.
This edition of the Bible is a reminder to those who preach the word to let Scripture speak for itself. We cannot and must not wrap our preaching and our teaching in the soap-boxes and fads of the day. The Bible says many things about many things and the Bible says much about the earth. But the Bible is not about the earth. Both the Bible and the earth are about God and, more specifically, about the God who came to earth as a man in the person of Jesus Christ.
There may be 1000 verses in Scripture about creation, but every verse of the Bible is about Christ and every verse looks forward to the new-creation he brings.