Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Christian View of Nature

I'm sure that volumes have been written on this topic over the ages, by men far better than me.  The only reason that I bring it up at this time is what I see as a disturbing trend. I have also used "A Christian View" rather than "The Christian View" because I recognize that other Christian views might exist. 

Throughout history he Church has always adopted and absorbed non-Christian ideologies.  It is human nature, no pun intended.  Many of these ideologist are not bad in themselves. Some of them can be, especially if the individual doesn't understand the roots to the beliefs that they hold and worse if they assume those beliefs are Christian. When belief becomes actions it the becomes fads or cultural mores. Mores place intense pressure on all people to conform.

 I'm bombarded by pop American culture, including Christians, who promote a view of nature that I don't think is Christian in its roots.

The most popular view of nature at this time in America and the West in general, is Rosseauian. In a gross summary, it is the belief that nature, it its raw form, is good . . . actually perfect.   Additionally, any intrusion into nature by humans is always, and intrinsically, evil. For example, in my line of work (medicine) these people who follow this popular philosophy believe that if their disease cannot be treated with herbs, food and vitamins, then you leave the disease alone and the suffering was what nature intended for you.  You would never use medications (Jesus wouldn't use medications would he . . . so they think) because that is human intervention.  I don't know why processing and bottling herbs is not human intervention but in their view it is not.  Part of the reason they draw this distinction is the manipulation by the billion dollar supplement industry.  The billion dollar pharmaceutical industry can likewise over-promote medications.

So I want to briefly look at the basic of Christian beliefs when it comes to nature.

1) God created nature and humans and said that it was all good.  In that good state, God gave man domination over nature.  That role was not to harm nature (and a pre-fallen man would never harm nature) but to manage, use and nurture it.

2) Sin entered the universe and both man and nature suffered the consequences.  Neither were decimated but tainted.  There is still much good in nature and in humans. Also, different than a view expressed by Plato an adopted by much of the early Church, God didn't create nature as inferior to the spiritual realm but along side it. Scripture teaches that our future is not in a mystical Heaven, but a real, physical new universe.  This not a totally new, as created totally different from the one we see now, but a "fixed" earth and universe. This isn't some far out idea but is part of the traditional protestant and catholic views.

3) Now, nature in its raw state is good, but not completely good.  Nature can cause great evil (earthquakes, floods and etc.). Nature is not safe. Think about the fact that 99.99% of all human suffering comes directly from nature. In the case of cancer, less than ,01% comes from :man-made sources, such as toxins in our "industrial society." Instead it is natural forces such as genetic defects, background (natural) radiation from our own sun and the breakdown of elements in the ground (radon) and from plants such as tobacco.

4) Fallen humans can also cause great evil (wars, abuse of people and nature).  Humans still have domination over nature but humans can't be completely trusted with it.  But that doesn't mean (like Rousseau believed) that every time humans influence nature, they harm it.  Humans can and do improve nature and are capable of doing great good.

I will add two other view points of nature other than Christian. I will make these distinctions simple.

Atheistic View: Nature is a freak of Nature, pun intended.  All that is, came out of a complete accidental freakish event without intention or purpose. There is no meaning. There can be no value. Destroying all of nature with a toxic explosion is just as meaningful as preserving nature in a pristine condition. Both actions are meaningless. Anytime an atheist injects meaning into nature, they are being disingenuous and escaping their own philosophical orientation through emotional gymnastics.

Pantheistic: Western cultures, as well as the Christians within those cultures (in error in my opinion), also draw from pantheistic ideologies. The true pantheist sees nature as not a created substance outside of God, but part of God Himself.  Therefore all that nature is, is good.  You can't shake your fist at an earthquake (unless you practice the same emotional and irrational mental gymnastics as the atheist) and scream because the earthquake is part of God.  So while the warm and fuzzy feelings might be felt when you think a mountain or tree is part of the being of God, but you must accept that a tsunami that kills tens of thousands and leaves a million homeless, is part of God. 

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