Differing responses to Steve Heinrichs’s ‘green gospel’ column
Re: “Peter’s Letter to Canadian Christians,” Sept. 24, page 7.
I don’t object to anyone taking a passionate stance regarding environmental issues, but please don’t misapply Scripture to support those views.
Let’s look at the questions columnist Steve Heinrichs poses: “Is there hope? Can God move us out of climate darkness and into a measure of light? (I Peter 2:9) Will a remnant of the church join the bruised and battered who are standing up for Sister Earth?”
First of all, the darkness spoken of in I Peter 2:9 refers to spiritual darkness, not “climate darkness.” It’s a spiritual darkness for which the only solution is the light of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save those who are lost.
I’d like to ask, “Where in Scripture do we find a mandate for a remnant of the church to join ‘the bruised and battered’ who are standing up for ‘Sister Earth,’ an earth that, according to God’s plan, will be burned up one day and replaced with a new earth
(II Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 21:1)?”
God’s mandate for the church is to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). I find that this message gets lost when churchgoers become involved in environmental affairs.
I am also bothered by the suggestion that enduring suffering as a result of challenging the “forces of the fossil economy” will bring us “the approval of the One who raised Christ from the dead.” According to the gospel of Jesus Christ, only a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that endures to the end will meet with God’s approval on Judgment Day.
—Elaine Fehr (online comment)
I want to thank Steve Heinrichs for his creative re-imagination of what Peter might have to say to us today in our context of climate change and other compounding ecological crises. It is an important message to the church in a time when our desire for unlimited consumption fuelled by cheap oil threatens to spin God’s beloved creation out of the balance that enables us to live in our common home.
There is much to say here, but I would just refer to the reformed theologian Steven Bouma-Prediger, who says, “Creation care is not the whole gospel, but without it the gospel is not whole.” That, in essence, is what it boils down to, to say that we believe in God the Creator who created this world very good.
The other issue at stake is a question of genre. Clearly, this is a creative and contextual reimagination to help us read an old and maybe too seemingly familiar text in a new light given a new context. Heinrichs correctly highlights the many political themes in Peter’s letter and translates them into the current context. It is not a claim to definitely determine the meaning of First Peter once and for all, but rather a specific interpretation in time, just like any good sermon is.
I wonder if those who paint Heinrichs as a “heterodox” preacher of a “green gospel” might benefit from an actual conversation with him, whom I know to be a dedicated follower of Jesus who understands the cost of discipleship.
—Benjamin Isaak-Krauss (online comment)