A Christian’s response to the article on “CRISIS MOMENTS, NO HOLDS-BRING OUT CHRISTIAN TEACHINGS ON ENVIRONMENT!”

A Christian’s response to the article on “CRISIS MOMENTS, NO HOLDS-BRING OUT CHRISTIAN TEACHINGS ON ENVIRONMENT!” posted by Sylvester Ngonga http://www.lteconomy.it/blog/2019/06/11/crisis-momentsno-holds-bring-out-christian-teachings-on-environment/

I have been reflecting on what was written in the article.  As a Christian, I must admit that it gave me a mixed feeling.  On one hand I must applaud it for openly calling the Church as a body to rise to the occasion and help address the environmental degradation in our time.  However it is its call for the church to reinterpret its biblical doctrine that aroused an uneasy feeling.  It is more an issue than just semantics.  The suggestion to revert to the old Naga spiritual tradition may sound appealing but then was the assumptions in the suggestion correct?

I must state my intention.  I am not trying to proselytise here.  My intention is to highlight how a Christian can respond to environmental issues on a biblical basis.  The thoughts I am sharing may not be the last words but I do hope these will provide the food for further thoughts.

Biblical doctrines must put things in the entire perspective of the bible.  Each doctrine cannot be adopted in piecemeal fashion without regards to the overall theme of the Bible.  Re-interpreting theological doctrines of the church will mean finding new or different perspectives.  However I lean towards the perspective that there is nothing new under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 1:9 declared that “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”   In the same refrain, I must submit that there is nothing new in what I am sharing.  I am just trying to put the environmental challenge in a broader biblical perspective.

The blog does highlight the issues that may confront Christians when doctrines are adopted on ad hoc or piecemeal basis.  Doctrines in the bible could be ignored or put aside in addressing more pressing issues.  What the church and its various denominations need to do is to re-examine their current practices and re-establish the foundation of their doctrines.  The evangelicals and the charismatics tend to interpret the bible differently.  There is indeed a need for a council to reach deeper insights.  Unfortunately this is going to be easier said than done.

In a nutshell, the narratives in the bible are all about God’s love.  He is reaching out and inviting man to return to His fold.  What He expects from man is succinctly summarised by Christ in two short Commands – man is to love God with all their heart, soul and mind and by loving their neighbours as themselves.  God wants man to reciprocate His love in obedience not in sacrifice.  “Man” is used generically to mean both sexes.  We thus must to re-establish the proper doctrine on the care of the nature and environment in this context of this overarching love.

The narratives in Genesis Chapters 1-3 are pertinent here.

The narrative in Genesis 1 – God blessed his creation and told them to be fruitful and multiply to fill and subdue the earth.  He made man in His image and gave him the dominion over the fish of the seas, the birds of the heavens and every living thing that moves on the earth.  God provided food for man from plants that yield seed and trees that yield seeds in its fruit.  God also provided green plant for food to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the heavens, and to everything that creeps on earth and has the breath of life. God deemed his creation as very good.

Narrative in Genesis 2:  God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.   God told the man that he was free to eat the fruits on any tree of the garden, except for the fruits on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He warned that from the day man eats from it, he would surely die.  The Lord God noted that it was not good for the man to be alone without a helper.  So God brought every beast of the field and every bird of the sky to be named by the man but Adam could name any as a suitable helper.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh.  God fashioned the rib from the man into a female, and brought her to the man.  Since she was the bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, Adam called her woman.

Narrative in Genesis 3:1-6 – The serpent which was craftiest of beast of the field tempted the woman by arousing her awareness.  It asked her whether God instructed her not to eat of any tree in the garden. The woman replied that they could eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, except for the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden and that touching and eating it would mean death.  The serpent told the woman that she would not surely die.  It suggested that eating the fruit would open her eyes and she would know good and evil, just like God.  When the woman saw the tree, it looked good for food, it was a delight to the eyes and it would make her wise.  She took and ate its fruits and she gave some to her husband to eat.  .

The doctrine – while God gave man have dominion over everything that breath and move on earth, He also tasked man to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden.  The concept of DOMINANCE is not built upon the concept of ruling to be served but on the concept of STEWARDSHIP to serve and exalt the other living things.  This reflects the interplay with two pertinent teachings from Christ together with the 2 Great Commands to love God and to love others.  These teachings are that (1) the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and (2) Christ came into this world to serve and not to be served.

God completed the creation process with Adam.  He was the last to be created but he was given the dominance over other living things.  The task of cultivating and taking care of the Garden of Eden was not only to grow food for himself and all living things in the Garden.  This task must be huge otherwise God would not consider the need of a helper for Adam.

The theology of man’s dominance over creation is probably misplaced when it is considered without the doctrine of stewardship and servant hood.  Once we can see the interplay of these elements, we can see the task for man had to include maintaining the harmonious relationships in God’s creation.

The fall of man did not start with greed but with covetousness.  Covetousness is the desire for the possession of something which something one likes to have.  Greed is a more severe form of covetousness.  It is a selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved. Eve was tempted because she coveted to be more like God and failed to see God’s intention to keep man from harm’s way.

The fall of man, a term as used in Christianity, transitioned the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. Instead of confessing his sin, Adam blamed God for providing the woman who had “helped” him to sin.  This marked death coming upon man and the breakdown of the harmonious relationships among God’s creation.

Man had to struggle against temptation every day.  The pattern of sin runs along this sequence – failing to listen to God the Creator; following our own impressions instead of God’s instructions; and making self-fulfilment the goal.

The only way for us to break the pattern is to reinstate the right biblical doctrine instead of reinterpreting them.  What I wrote is not new.  The fault of man misinterpreting biblical doctrines lies with man not listening to God and obeying His teaching in the Bible.  Christians has to think that they are steward of the world and how to do the right thing instead of making things “right.

The call in the blog for the church to re-examine rather than reinterpreting their doctrine is appropriate.  The church needs to be guided with a more comprehensive doctrine that not only aims to save soul but to love others as themselves.  This must include their welfare and the easing the pain of working in a fractured environment.  The church needs to pay attention to the environment in which the believers live and work in.

However what bothered me is the reference to A. Nshoga, a Naga research scholar and his call as a Naga to go back to their Naga tradition based on a multifaceted religion with the combination of theism, animism, supernaturalism, superstition, shamanism and lycanthropism.  He claimed that the indigenous Naga religion is a belief in the existence of spirits. Every place is associated with a spirit and if there is a place there will be a spirit of that place who is supposed to be feared and propitiated.

Though I have travelled many times to India I must confess that I am not expert on the country.

This is what I found out.  Naga is unique.  Over 90% of its population are professed Christians.  I will put aside the issue on how deep is the faith and the theology of Naga’s Christians.  Yes I am aware not that the residents in Naga are facing challenges from environmental exploitation and degradation.  But then is it not true that the rest of India is also struggling with the same issues.

Please read the following articles:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322532.php

https://www.ripublication.com/ijaes16/ijaesv11n6_21.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_in_India:

http://web.worldbank.org/archive/website01291/WEB/0__CO-15.HTM

 

Here is an abstract:  “There are many environmental issues in India. Air pollution, water pollution, garbage and pollution of the natural environment are all challenges for India. Nature is also causing some drastic effects on India. The situation was worse between 1947 through 1995. According to data collection and environment assessment studies of World Bank experts, between 1995 through 2010, India has made some of the fastest progress in addressing its environmental issues and improving its environmental quality in the world. Still, India has a long way to go to reach environmental quality similar to those enjoyed in developed economies. Pollution remains a major challenge and opportunity for India.”

Many societies outside Naga are not dominated by Christians but by other religious beliefs.  They practice “multifaceted religion with the combination of theism, animism, supernaturalism, superstition, shamanism and lycanthropism” as in Naga traditions.  They are also suffering the same issues on environmental exploitation and degradation as in Naga.

If the rest of India is also facing the same problems as Naga, then this calls into questions the assumptions that reverting to traditional Naga’s practice will help resolve the environmental issue.  Will such a move be something like jumping from the pot into the fire?  Is it justified to put the fault and blame on Christianity?

I am not trying to defend Christianity just because I am a Christian. What I am calling for is an unbiased criticism.  Christianity was introduced into non-Christian societies and the clash with traditional and cultural beliefs would be unavoidable.  When things go wrong, it is often easier to blame on the major change that society had undertaken.  Is this the case with Nagaland?  Unfortunately my research could not provide sufficient information to make a critical comment whether the problem with the environment is unique to Naga or whether it is better or worse off when compared to the rest of India.

However this is what I can lament.  The environmental exploitation and degradation could be a sign that the churches in Nagaland could not have done enough to teach and impart the right biblical values on the stewardship of our environment.  It is not enough to save souls but help their societies to enjoy a better quality in life.

The article is a good wake up call for the churches to response with the right approach!!

8 thoughts on “A Christian’s response to the article on “CRISIS MOMENTS, NO HOLDS-BRING OUT CHRISTIAN TEACHINGS ON ENVIRONMENT!”

  • Stephen Saunders

    Dear Henry, Among the mail items I receive every day, the most volume of paper comes not from environmental groups, nor animal rights groups, nor Veterans agencies, nor etc., but from religious churches and groups. That is not to say that saving a little paper is a priority when we consider the sabotage of the
    environment wholesale such as the Exxon Valdez incident. Paper is a small thing, but after all, we should be trying to save trees too. It just makes me wonder about the priorities of the churches.

    • HENRY KWOK

      Stephen. thanks your response.

      my article was intended to call for a proper approach from the Church as a body. The world does not stand still. Yet we unwittingly we can fall prey to our habits. We must be bold enough to be the catalyst of change in a positive but gentle way. we set the example to suggest the need to change with the changing environment.

  • Sylvester Ngonga

    Thanks Henry for the incisive and articulate contribution. I invite you to look at my follow up blog”Ecological crisis,a crisis of relationships….” which argues for Theocentricity as the true christian position on matters nature. Quoting what you refer to as the “Naga”crusader should not be an issue as the holy book even quotes Satan in reported speech but not necessarily for instructional purposes in doctrinal matters .
    But that notwithstanding ,if at all the misinterpretation of the Christian doctrine on human nature relations has indeed bred such ecologically desastrous attitudes, the way the likes of Lynn White Jnr contends in his 1966 lecture dubbed “The historical roots of ecological crisis”, something has to be done.
    The current ecological crisis is real and the church must provide leadership as oppossed to being locked into old unresponsive paradigm responses in such a time as these. Proactive longterm thinking demands for a solution not indifference through the resturdy of our own biblical and christian roots.
    I tend to follow White’s observation that the desastrous ecological backlash can not be avoided by simply applying more science and technology which he contends have grown out of christian attitudes towards man’s relation to nature .
    Such sentiments calls attention to some fundamental issues that i have to address soberly as a christian apologist. Clearely , the theologian’s task as along term thinker is not merely to restate the doctrine of creation but to spell out the implications of relationships within creation. In these crisis moments, indifference is not an option.

    • HENRY KWOK

      Sylvester

      I am sorry I missed reading your follow up. It would have saved me the effort to response to your original blog

      I have not made it to be an apologist – I am still a simple old fashioned Christian. My post was an attempt to provoke positive responses from Christians within the group that we need to improve on our act and set the example of stewardship of the environment – or at least be a catalyst for change in that direction. I do agree that that indifference is not an option to deal with the problems on environment degradation. This issue will get worse without proper response

      You quoted Lynn White. What he wrote is also controversial. Pl read this comment – https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/theology/research/projects/beyondstewardship/blame/
      The comments raised the following questions and comments. I quote – “Does Christianity lead its members to care for the environment? Does the Bible teach that Christians should preserve the earth? Many would now answer ‘yes’ to these questions, but it is not quite as simple as that! There are critical questions to be explored….” “Some biblical scholars and historians have questioned whether the technological developments that led to nature’s exploitation were really encouraged by the Christian world view. Others have asked whether the crucial texts in the Bible (especially in Genesis 1-2) really suggest the idea of human domination. You can read more about this in Origins of stewardship.”

      Your reference on Lynn White got me curious enough to google who he was and what others thought of his remarks. This led to the discovery that my comments were echoes of the comments from the University of Exeter. I did remark that my ideas were not new!!

      I lean on the beliefs that Science and technology are double edged swords. It is like fire. Handled well, fire will provide warmth to the house, cook the meals etc. Mishandled, it can create havoc and destruction. Thus I have to question whether technological developments led to nature’s exploitation and how factual environmental exploitation was encouraged by the Christian world view. One has to define “Christian” in this context. Thus is it the worldview as in the Bible or as accepted by Christians. If the latter, the fault lies with the Church for focusing on the doctrine on dominance instead of stewardship. I have a slightly different take on the theologian’s task. It is not to restate the doctrine of creation but to expound the relationships within creation to the laity.

      Please accept my apologies. I do not intend to infringe on your ideas but I do hope you take my response in good spirit so that we as a group can move forward more robustly

  • Stephen Saunders

    Thanks, Sylvester, your comment is a little ironic for me. I helped start a popular Public Park but later when a nearby School District interviewed me for a position, they turned me down since the only thing I could suggest was producing a child’s coloring book based on the aesthetics of the park.

  • Sylvester Ngonga

    Thanks Henry, I love your sentiments .nothing to apologise about. Long term thinking is an all inclusive dialogue .You are an astute apologist. No one has a monopoly of long term ideas. Iron sharpens iron. Your robust contribution couldn’t have come at a better time than this. Whatever our perspectives, we are agreed that we need robust reflections on this platform. I agree that we need to provoke positive responses from Christians within the group that we need to improve on our act and set the example of stewardship of the environment – or at least be a catalyst for change in that direction.
    Can’t wait to read more from you…no holds ,bring out the teachings!Blessings

  • HENRY KWOK

    Hi Sylvester. thanks your kind word that i am an astute apologist. i aspire to be one but i do think i need to be better.

    Yes let us encourage the right Christian’s response to the issues with the long term solutions without having to throw our Christian values and beliefs into the face of others.

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