Care of creation and theology

Yesterday at Earth Day Biologos bring back to me theme of “Care for Creation” and as offshoot of this, its relation to christian theology. I read few things that said that doctrine of total depravity originated in the works of Martin Luther, embraced and developed most important by Calvin and his followers, means not only depravity of humans, but also of all natural world.

Alister McGrath, who I respect in many ways, seems to downplay important of doctrine of total depravity in his A Life of John Calvin, while people like Alec Ryrie says that in XIX century Calvinist distaste for the evil, natural world was very alive. For example Alec Ryrie is his lecture The Dreams and Nightmares of Christian Liberalism (28:20 and later) says that after publication of Darwin’s “Origins of species” group of old-fashion Calvinists embraced Darwinian evolution very quickly, as it give them a proof that they were right all along that natural world is rotten to the core.

Question like “Does this view of total depravity influenced Protestant views of how you can use natural world?” is a topic about I can’t tell anything. How Calvinists reconciled begging of Genesis multiple insistence that what God made is good with total depravity is also topic beyond my competence. My point of interest is different. I think that you can’t hold simultaneously view of total corruption of natural world and that creation needs our care and be consistent in your thought. But, we humans can live with our inconsistencies quite long, before they come back to bit us.

I want to ask what people that share view of our need for caring for creation, think about this strains of protestant theology (I believe this is justified context) that insists on evilness of natural world. I guess old-fashion Calvinism is one of them, but you can correct me. This topic is quite important to me, because logical coherence is of utmost importance to me. If christian need care about creation, they must have theology that doesn’t contradict this goal. In long run such internal contradictions must lead to some problem, or even big disaster.

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I wouldn’t say that Darwinian evolution shows that the natural world is rotten to its core. Creation was pronounced good. Of course we need to care for creation. Please see my post about Earth Day.

That may be true. But Christianity is full of tensions. The idea that we must choose one or the other (either total depravity or a good creation) is to sell scripture short. There are other areas this could be applied to – is God in control or does he give us free will? Is Jesus God or human? Is God a God of mercy or justice? Should our actions be a result of intellectual reasoning or of feelings?

But if we had to lean one way or the other, which direction would make us more loving people – focusing on the evil, sinfulness, and depravity of ourselves and everyone and everything around us, or focusing on redemption in the midst of it all?

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I was presenting not my personal opinion, but view about Darwinian evolution that developed quite quickly after publication of “Origin of species” and embraced by current old-fashion Calvinists. You should ask someone else that me, what support that view of rotten nature and why they were thinking that Darwinian evolution is proof of that.

But doesn’t this implies that if we must choose between nature as good creation that needs care or as useless, rotten heap of crap that can be used in anyway you want, is also to sell scripture short? And if we choose to embrace contradictions, why we should insistence that we should be more loving people? In the worldview when contradiction is allowed, we can treat creation like crap and still be more loving people.

This is the type of logical conclusion that worried me every day and puts dark clouds over my vision of future.

I wouldn’t call them contradictions… for me, the word “tensions” implies that not everything is all cut-and-dried and exactly logical to my mind, and forces me to trust God even when I can’t personally make sense of every little thing. What is important to me is how we are to orient ourselves in the midst of it. For example, even though I believe there is a degree of “natural evil” in creation, I still want to move toward redemption and hope. That doesn’t erase evil, but it doesn’t place it on the same level as God’s good creation either.

I don’t know whether I’m making sense or not… but to go back to what you said earlier:

I think that you can’t hold simultaneously view of total corruption of natural world and that creation needs our care and be consistent in your thought.

I would tend to agree with this, if what you mean by “total corruption” is that it’s irredeemable. Sure, if it’s all set for the garbage heap, then why bother take care of it? Maybe that’s partly why I don’t like the term “total depravity” – it implies there is nothing good in something, and that the only good can come from outside of it.

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On the contrary, many of the greatest minds in conservation thinking, such as John Muir, and Rachel Carson, were of a Calvinist upbringing. I’m not a Calvinist myself, but I’d go as far as to say that Total Depravity goes hand in hand with environmentalism, as it recognises the fundamentally negative influence of humanity, and I’m not the only one to notice this.

Okay. IMO If everyone is totally depraved that would include Calvin, which would disqualify him from saying anything untainted by total depravity.

That tends a bit in the direction of (not saying it was intentional) the depressingly common misunderstanding of total depravity, most often found in bad critiques of Calvinism, as “everyone is as bad as they could be”, when it actually refers to is “everything is tainted by sin”.

(I may be being a bit touchy on this point, but I’ve seen a lot of bad critiques of Calvinism that completely misunderstand what it says)

FYI, I’m a Presbyterian.

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I think this term describes pretty well what Calvin think about it. So this is not problem of name, but of the calvinian doctrine.

To check if this is right, we must see how many people from the Calvinist background were among these who wreck most of the havoc in Great Britain or USA. Without theses, such thesis is inconclusive.

I somewhere find this quotation from Luther.

Well, to look at what Timothy said in the previous post:

That may be so, and I haven’t read any writings of Calvin so I can’t say one way or another, but it seems to me that the way we use the word “depraved” nowadays denotes something far more all-encompassing than merely “tainted.” Merriam-Webster defines “depraved” as “marked by corruption or evil, especially : perverted.” It could be that the word has changed enough over time that it no longer accurately explains what it was intended to.

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Then we should call it Partial Depravity, correct?

No, not for the current connotation of the word.

That is better, I think, or “everyone” is tainted.

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I’m not a Calvinist. But I’m not 100% certain where I stand on some of the theological points typical of them. Ultimately I don’t think it makes or breaks a persons idea of environmentalism. I know people who are Calvinist and young earth creationist who does not believe in things like global warming, but they still believe we are polluting the land and that we need to do more to protect it. So I think it’s all to wide of a spectrum for a black or white line being drawn.

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I posted above quote for Martin Luther “He is so thoroughly corrupted that it is absolutely impossible for him to produce good actions. Sin is his nature; he cannot help committing it. Man may do his best to be good, still his every action is unavoidably bad; he commits a sin as often as he draws his breath.”

You can check if this is accurate quotation from his works, since they say that is from Martin Luther, #8: “Werke (Wittenberg Edition), Vol. III, p. 518.” This refers to the edition of Luther’s works, published in Wittenberg: 12 volumes in German (1539-1559) and seven volumes in Latin (1545-1558).

Big question is: can we looks at XXI or even XX century Calvinist and infer from that what Calvinist believed in XIX century and beyond? I suppose not, since according to my knowledge they changed they doctrine a lot since XIX century.

We could. But it would still make little difference. I’m sure the numbers are around 99.99+% of Calvinist never published anything. I’m in the Churches of Christ and I don’t know of any particular doctrinal writing or publication about environmentalism and our role as stewards of the creation but I care a lot about the environment. My career, hobbies and free time are almost all tied up into helping create better habitats for wildlife. There are others in my congregation that does the same and there are even more in other congregations that also adopt roads, adopt streams, and so on.

Addressing the “Problem(s) of Evil”

Briefly stated, the “Problem of Evil” is that if God is All-Wise, All- Powerful, and All-Loving, why does He not eliminate evil in the world?

Ephesians 3:7-20 references all three of these attributes in close proximity.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church , the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you* with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you , being rooted and established in love , 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ , 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

God is addressing the problems of evil in the world showing his wisdom, power, and love, through the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ, working through His body, the Church. If we are serious about addressing the “Problems of Evil” we need to follow Him into the battle.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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