By / Sep 1

If God is so good, why is there evil in the world? If you are a Christian, chances are you have been asked that question many times, and if I am being honest I haven’t always had an answer. Even now I am not completely sure. There are a lot of questions about God that are impossible to answer because we simply are not God. He is outside of time, space, and matter. We are his creation. However, there are some questions that I think God does gives us an answer to and in fact wants us to know, such as how did it all start, or why is the world the way that it is? 

Daniel Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, reveals where the answers to these questions are found in his new book, The Characters of Creation. He also answers how we can find meaning and purpose in a broken world. Darling takes readers through the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and highlights how it is not just a story but God’s living Word to humanity. Below, he talks about how his book can help us rest in God’s providence. 

Joshua Martin: I found it interesting how you pointed out that if we were in the same situation as Adam and Eve, we would have decided to partake of the fruit, causing sin to enter into the world. How was it possible, if the first humans were in perfect communion with God, to disobey him? What does that say about our nature? 

Daniel Darling: Humans walked in innocence, but were not necessarily sanctified, as Christians redeemed by Christ experience and will experience in full at the end of the age. The innocence of Adam was tested and found wanting in the Garden. Of course, the innocence of the second Adam was tested and found worthy in Jesus. The way God’s sovereignty and rule coexist with our moral agency to commit sin against God is a mystery that theologians have wrestled with throughout the church age, but it is clear that God created human beings with a conscience and moral agency, which means humans can make choices which can go against their Creator and for which they are accountable. 

JM: If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we long for community with others. In your book, you emphasize that we can see from the very first book of the Bible that we ultimately long for community with the One who created us. Does that give us any indication of what Heaven will be like? 

DD: I think it’s profound that Moses paused the narration of his description of God’s creation of humans to make a statement that “it is not good for man to be alone.” This is the only part of God’s creative acts that was declared not good, because it was unfinished. Humans were created for community as a way of imaging the community experienced by the Triune God. I think we saw this during the last few years, as the pandemic forced a worldwide social experiment that I think reminded us that we were made for community, made for togetherness. We learned that while technology has thankfully allowed us ways to interact and communicate without being physically present, there is no substitute for embodied presence. In many ways, this is how the church can minister in a digital, isolated age. The ancient and often analog rhythms of church life can in many ways serve as a respite for digitally exhausted people. 

Our longing for togetherness, for community, does, in many ways, give us a glimpse of Heaven. Heaven is not just me and a thousand mansions and Jesus. Heaven will be, as described in Revelation 5 and 7 and other places, God’s gathering of his people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. It will be perfected fellowship. Humans are embodied people, not merely souls on sticks. And by design, we grow, we find joy, in our life together. The new Jerusalem will have all of the goodness of life together as humans, absent all of the ways in which life together can be corrupted and destructive. 

JM: You state that “Sometimes we assume that the battle between God and Satan is a fight among equals.” Why do we sometimes believe this, and what dangers does this present? 

DD: There is a natural sense, even among those who are not professing Christians, that the world is a battle between good and evil. We see this in the stories we tell, from the superhero genre to the ancient tales to even the cliched Hallmark movies at Christmas. This stems from, I believe, the Christian story where God prophesied to Adam and Even an epic battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, which runs as a thread throughout Scripture, culminating in the cross where Jesus cried it is finished, and in the empty tomb, where death, the final foe, was defeated. Satan walks around as a lion today, powerful, yes, but toothless against the people of God. 

And yet, this epic struggle is not an even one. Genesis and the story of Job and other passages remind us that Satan is a created being. He is a mere fallen angel. He does not do anything that is not allowed by God and is not worked, in God’s inscrutable and mysterious way, into God’s plan from before time began. As Christians this is important to understand. We can underestimate Satan’s power in that we foolishly tempt him and think we can beat him on our own (we can’t). But we can overestimate Satan’s power, who is no match for the all powerful I Am. 

JM: In our day and age, truth gets misconstrued, and Satan’s words in the garden, “Did God really say?” do not seem so foreign. In what ways do we act like the serpent in the garden and question God’s Word? 

DD: The same whispers the Serpent uttered to our first family in the garden are uttered today, the temptations to question God’s Word, twisting it to fit the moment and our desires. At the heart of this is the lie that Satan managed to get Eve to believe, this idea that the Creator of the Universe, the one who fashioned her from dust and breathed into her the breath of life, was somehow holding out on her. We are tempted to believe the idea that our Father is not a Good Father, that we would be better gods than God, that we are better rulers of ourselves than the one who made us. All of this only ever leads, not to “being like God, ” but actually being less than human, succumbing to the animalistic instincts of the tempter. 

JM: In Genesis, Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” From God’s response and other verses in the New Testament, we see that the answer to that question is unequivocally yes. What does it actually look like to be our brother’s keeper? 

DD: That’s such a great question. At the heart of it is a kind of disjointed view of what it means to be human, the seeds of the expressive individualism we see championed today. Cain’s conceit was that he could find his way to God with his own self-righteousness and that by eliminating his brother, he could hide from the Creator, who sees everything. Cain falsely believed he could sin in isolation, that his hubris and pride would not affect the rest of the human family. But that’s always the case. Sin is always a public event. And God sees every act of violence, every time humans try to advance at the expense of other humans, every time we see those made in God’s image as disposable. We are our brother’s keepers, whether we admit it or not. Cain’s ethic was the exact opposite of Jesus’ ethic which tells us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and reminds us that our neighbors are the people we least likely want to be responsible for. 

JM: What is your response to people who question, If God is so good, why is there evil in the world? How do you point them to hope? 

DD: At the heart of that question, I would say, is a conception of who God should be if he were to exist. In the mind of someone who asks that question is the idea of a God who is sovereign and big and good enough to reverse what is evil and prevent what is bad. And in a sense this is the story the Bible tells, that there is a God who is renewing and restoring creation, who is making all things new, who is making all that is broken right again. 

Personally, like Naomi, like Job, like Habbakuk and Paul and millions of believers down through the ages, I have wrestled with a God who seems to allow things I despise, to allow things even he despises. But I’ve found it more comfortable to believe in a God who is in control, to know someone is at the wheel, than the alternative, which is that life has no meaning, no purpose, and no grand plan. When I lay my head on the pillow at night, when I send my kids out into the world, I take comfort in knowing that there is a God who is big enough to control what I cannot control and who is gathering history to himself. That doesn’t mean I always like what God allows. But I trust the God who allows it. 

By / Jan 25

In 2021, leaders from around the world gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss ways that countries can help to prevent some of the more catastrophic predictions related to climate change. The meeting culminated in several declarations of promises and plans, but few details of how to achieve these goals. Some criticized the meeting for all the jet fuel expended to get everyone to Scotland, and others have taken aim at groups that have wrongly advocated fewer babies as a means of fighting climate change. However, the goal of stewarding creation is worth considering, not out of fear for the future or making an idol out of the Earth, but out of care for what God has given to us. Southern Baptists articulated this in a 1990 Resolution on the topic: “We . . . are charged by our Creator with caring for creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), and are called to be faithful stewards of that which is entrusted to us.” Creation care was part of the first command given to humanity (Gen 1:28) and should continue to be part of our work even after the fall. 

Creation care is rooted in confidence not fear

At the core of much of the discussion about creation care, at least in its secular version of environmentalism, is a fear that verges on apocalyptic. Instead of the Four Horsemen of war, famine, death, and pestilence, there are scientists warning about a temperature limit and the increased incidence of extreme weather events. Rather than watching for wars and rumors of wars, people are looking at rising sea levels and the melting ice caps. This has reached the point where some media outlets no longer speak of “climate change” but use “crisis” and “emergency” in their articles in an effort to alert people to the approaching doom. As one New York Times writer says, “It’s coming for you, wherever you are, and we need to do whatever we can to limit the damage.” Even if things change, they say, it may be too late to prevent the coming catastrophe that they predict.

Instead of fear, Christians should recognize that calls for creation care within the church arise from God’s Word, which has bestowed on us the obligation to steward and cultivate the Earth as God’s agents. We should not dismiss these concerns about the environment as unimportant or throw up our hands in panic. Rather, we ought to set about the task given to us by God to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). 

Part of the task of exercising dominion is the act of taking responsibility for and exerting proper authority over the creation. In contrast to those who work out of fear, Christians recognize that the demands of today are the same as they were in Eden: stewardship and cultivation. And as we care for creation in a fallen world, we look forward to the day when God renews everything (2 Pet. 3:13). That should give us both a sense of security and peace as we look at the world around us and hear the constant rhetoric of fear and outrage. This does not mean we are resigned or apathetic about sin’s effects on creation. But it does mean that we can go about our work while full of hope and resting in God’s sovereign hand over all things.

Creation care is partly rooted in cultivating and stewarding God’s creation

As Christians take steps to steward the environment around them, they work not out of a sense of self-preservation, but a desire to fulfill the task given them by God of cultivating the environment (Gen. 2:15). At the heart of creation care are the linked, but distinct, goals of cultivation and stewardship. Cultivation is about doing all that is possible to maximize the flourishing of an item. For example, when a farmer cultivates the land, he prepares it before he plants by clearing the debris from the field and tilling the soil to ensure that the seed will be placed in the best environment possible. The farmer does not just cast his seed about, but rather does all he or she can — such as crop rotation to give the land rest or using better seeds — to maximize the return. Similarly, humanity is called to cultivate the earth and do all that is necessary to maximize the potential for flourishing. This could mean sustainable farming and fishing practices which look at ways of minimizing the effects of pollution on the environment or the development of crops that can grow with less water. These are all ways of maximizing the earth’s production and are in line with Scripture’s call to cultivate and care for the planet.

At the same time, Christians should keep in mind that the goal of cultivation is not just our own enjoyment. Rather, the Christian must give an account for everything that is done (Matt. 16:27), and this includes the stewarding of God’s creation. Part of what it means to steward is to cultivate, but to do so for the benefit of the owner. Christians recognize that we do not own the world, even though we have been called to care for and subdue it. So as we go about the task of cultivation, we bear in mind the responsibility that comes with the knowledge that it all belongs to God, and as the psalmist declares, it all testifies to God and his glory (Psa. 19:1). We wish to show ourselves like the servants who faithfully managed their master’s money and were able to give him a return on his investment (Matt. 25:14-30). It’s not that God needs more from us — he owns it all anyway — but we work to care for what God has given us because we want to honor him. 

Creation care is ultimately bounded by the fallen reality of the world

In John Steinbeck’s classic novel East of Eden, he opens not with a description of the major families or even a nod to the ways that they will fight, fall, sin, and be redeemed throughout the novel. He begins with a description of the land that they will farm and develop and which hems them in. The most stunning descriptions are of the flowers that cover the valley floor: blue lupins edged with white “so that a field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine” and poppies that are “a burning color—not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies.” Just as important as the characters of the novel is the environment that shapes and which sustains them. However, in the midst of the beauty is the reminder that the characters are East of Eden, which means estrangement and a cursed ground that produces thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-18). 

And this truth grounds the task of creation care. We do not live in a world that is free from the taint and corruption of sin. So every action we take must reckon with the limits of what can be achieved, as well as the recognition that the earth will pass away. This does not mean that we should do nothing, for it is clear cultivation and stewardship are part of what it means to be human. It does mean that we do not give into the false belief that humanity is able to control nature and bend it entirely to our wills. We are finite creatures, made all the more so by the corruption of the fall. So we must not give in to the delusion of thinking that we can overcome all limitations, problems, and results of sin’s influence in the world. We fight against it. We push back where we can. But we do not give into despair when we don’t see the end of brokenness this side of creation’s redemption as it groans for its release from sin (Rom. 8:22). 

While the 2021 Glasgow meeting did not likely mean the end of dire predictions of Earth’s imminent climate apocalypse — as there will always be predictions of some impending apocalypse, whether Mayan doomsdays or computer glitches and Y2K — Christians should take this opportunity to consider the environment around them. And as we see both the beauty and brokenness of creation, may we be the people who seek to steward the world around us as an act of obedience to God, and for the flourishing of others.  

By / Sep 6

Genesis 1 shows us that God created the world by working. After creating the world, God gave Adam and Eve the “Creation Mandate,” instructing Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and take dominion over it (Gen. 1:28). In this verse, God instituted work as a way for humans to care for creation and steward his gifts. 

Unfortunately, ever since the Fall, the relationship between people and work has been cursed and broken. One of the ways this is evident is in our view of work. Sin has led many of us to see work only as a means of self-fulfillment and individualism instead of a way to serve others. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller claims that this view of work “crushes people . . . and undermines society itself.” 

As Keller points out, we must look to the Bible to reacquire a biblical view of work. Since Scripture discusses work often, I will focus on three of the major things the Bible says about work.

The Bible says work is part of God’s design for his creation

One common perspective today is that work is a necessary evil. Many people work simply to pay bills while waiting for the weekend, and they despise their jobs. There has been a big push to make life as easy as possible and avoid work. And though much of work is hard, cursed by humanity’s sin (Gen. 3), Keller argues that an avoidance view of work is self-destructive and harmful to society. To move away from an individualistic view of work, we must see how God’s Word demonstrates his good plan for work. 

God’s extensive use of work throughout Genesis shows us that it is part of God’s design for creation. Throughout Genesis 1, God works to craft the universe and declares it “good,” indicating that it’s exactly as he desires. Since all of creation is a direct result of God’s work, we know work is an integral part of creation. Additionally, the Creation Mandate occurs before the Fall. Thus, the introduction of sin did not introduce work; instead, it has affected work with difficulty and fruitless labor. The mandate from God also shows that we are not created merely for leisure and time spent in idleness. Rather, humanity was made to work, cultivate, and create. 

Remembering that work was given to us by God so that we could enrich his creation and reflect his nature is a critical part of renewing our minds and recovering a biblical view of work.

A pattern of work and rest is essential for our well-being

While God created us to work and take care of creation, he also showed that rest is necessary for us to flourish as humans. After working to create the world over six days, God rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3). Genesis 2:3 says, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in Creation.” God sets the example by taking a rest day after creation, though, unlike us, he does not grow tired and weary (Is. 40:28). And in Exodus 20, he the Israelites to take a day of rest. In verses 8-11, God draws from his examples in creation and establishes the Sabbath as a day of total rest, dedicated to him. 

While we were created to work, we still need time to rest, worship God, and trust in his provision. Resting can counter the tendency many of us have to tie our identities to our work. In a culture such as ours where productivity and busyness are often our ways of defining success, the scriptures continually remind us that we are finite and must rest. Even Christ in his earthly body slept (Mark 4:38). The rhythm of rest and work structures our life and keeps us between the extremes of laziness or idleness on the one hand and frenetic activity on the other. Most importantly, a set pattern of work and rest in our lives teaches us to rest in our God and his work on our behalf. 

Work is a way to serve your community and spread the gospel

The Bible also commands us to use our work to serve others (Matt. 23:11). And Christians have been commanded to share the gospel and make disciples throughout the world (Matt. 28:19-20). God has called each of us into specific careers and paths, and our jobs are where we spend most of our time interacting with our community. This means, as Andy Mills has argued, that if we have a biblical view of work, we should be doing our work to the best of our ability so that what we produce can serve others and represent Christ well (Col. 3:23). Focusing on serving others with our work, advancing the kingdom, and glorifying God (1 Cor. 10:31) can break us out of the self-serving mindset that sees work just as a means of self-fulfillment and enrichment.

The Bible is clear that work is a good part of God’s plan for creation. Through our work, we steward God’s creation and serve our neighbors. At the same time, we weren’t created to work nonstop. God has established a rhythm of work and rest that we might know he is the source of our provision and strength. We can fight the sinful tendencies to despise our work and to use it as a means of individualistic self-enrichment by embracing it as a gift from God. May he strengthen us to work hard for his kingdom and to rest in his care.

By / Jul 23

D.A. Carson discusses the origin of ethnicies and what that means for diversity in the Church. 

By / Nov 20

In September, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in conjunction with the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Clapham Group, released Every Living Thing, an Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals.

The statement modestly points out that it is not “a doctrinal end and it doesn’t prescribe specific action.” Rather, it is intended to provide “a framework for conversation about the redemptive work of God’s grace.” This is an important conversation for the contemporary church to have. As Russell Moore explains,

Our treatment of animals is a spiritual issue. The Bible is clear that our being created in the image of God does not lessen our responsibility to steward the physical world well, but heightens it. This statement is a reminder that the gospel transforms our use and care of animals as we see all of God’s glory reflected in his good creation.

As tempting as it to credit Moore and the other signatories with being pioneering visionaries, the fact is that the statement is not adding to Baptist legacy, but rather, reclaiming it. And perhaps no voice in Baptist history has weighed in more boldly or more passionately on the issue of animal welfare than the “Prince of Preachers” himself, the nineteenth century Reformed Baptist, Charles Spurgeon.

Following a couple of highly-publicized cases of animal cruelty, in 1873 Spurgeon published the article “A Word for Brutes Against Brutes” in the magazine he founded, The Sword and The Trowel. The article begins by describing these two horrific instances of abuse, one involving a coachman who drove a horse for miles on bloody and broken feet, the other involving a businessman who pricked out the eyes of birds with a pin to make them into better songbirds.

Of the first case, Spurgeon exclaimed, “If there be no law which would award the lash to such a fiend incarnate an Act ought to be passed at once, or Mr. Justice Lynch might for once be invoked to give the demon his reward in an irregular Manner.” The second case, the cruelty to birds, even tempted Spurgeon to reconsider his considered rejection of the death penalty: “if we were not averse to all capital punishment we should suggest that nothing short of a rope with a noose in it would give him his deserts.”

Like the evangelical reformers who came before him, including the evangelical abolitionists William Wilberforce and Hannah More, Spurgeon considered humane treatment of animals to be an issue central to both personal morality and civil society. Spurgeon was adamant that active opposition to animal cruelty is the duty of all good citizens:

Cruelty to animals must be stamped out. Each case must be earnestly dealt with. Where the laws are violated humane persons must undertake the unpleasant duty of prosecuting the offenders, or must at least report them to the proper authorities: and where no law exists to protect the 'unhappy victims, instances of cruelty should be reported by the press, that shame may be aroused and a right public sentiment treated.

But even more than mere good citizenship was at stake for Spurgeon. He viewed animal welfare as a matter of spiritual welfare for human beings:

It is not only for the sake of the creature subject to cruelty that we would, plead for kindness, but with a view to the good of the person causing the pain; for cruelty hardens the heart, deadens the conscience, and destroys the finer sensibilities of the soul. The most eminently spiritual men display great delicacy towards all living things, and if it, be not always true that "he prayeth best who loveth best both male and bird and beast," yet the converse is assuredly the fact, for the man who truly loves his Maker becomes tender towards all the creatures his Lord has made. In gentleness and kindness our great Redeemer is our model. …. In proportion as men decline from the highest standard of goodness their sympathies become blunted, they lose delicacy, and tenderness, and becoming more selfish become also less considerate of others. He who dwells in God has a great heart which encompasses all creation, and as it were lives in it all like the soul in. the body, feeling akin with all, yea, one with all life, so that it joys in all true joy, and sorrows in all sorrow. The man of dead heart towards God has a heart of stone towards the Lord's creatures, and cares for them only so far as he can make them minister to his own wealth or pleasure.

Because we in contemporary America no longer (openly) countenance the forms of  animal cruelty that were rampant in Spurgeon’s day (such as bull baiting, cock throwing, dog fighting), we are lulled into thinking the problem no longer persists.

But as a recent news story reveals, systemic animal cruelty persists in our culture today. Undercover video footage taken at one of Hormel Foods’ suppliers, according to the Washington Post, depicts

… pigs being dragged across the floor, beaten with paddles, and sick to the point of immobility. By law, pigs are supposed to be rendered unconscious before being killed, but many are shown writhing in apparent pain while bleeding out, suggesting that they weren’t properly stunned. "That one was definitely alive," a worker says.

Rather than taking place openly in the village square as blood sports once did, animal cruelty continues, now hidden in the recesses of industrial farming operations that produce much of the food we eat. It’s easy to turn a blind eye, because it seems, like other systemic wrongs, to be a “necessary evil.”

Considering how neglected animal welfare issues have been within modern American evangelicalism, it is almost astonishing to learn that Spurgeon went so far as to tie true Christian conversion to care for animals, boldly declaring that,

…. we will go the length of affirming that no person really penitent for sin can be cruel, that no man who feels the love of God shed abroad in his heart can find pleasure in giving pain, and furthermore that wanton cruelty to an animal may be that last deadening deed of ill which may for ever leave the heart callous to all the appeals of law and gospel.

Spurgeon’s words in the nineteenth century are just as relevant to the church in the twenty first century: how we care for and steward animals is a gospel issue because the gospel applies to every aspect of the believer’s life and the witness of the church body.

By / May 26

Where did feminism start? ERLC's Lindsay Swartz sits down with Courtney Reissig to discuss her newest book The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design

By / May 6

Dan Darling interviews Joe Rigney about his book "The Things of Earth" and why we should enjoy what God has made.

By / Apr 22

Here we are again. It’s Earth Day and, if you’re anything like me, I suspect you wrestle with how to make some sense of the day. Chances are we’re not about to go out on a Greenpeace expedition or going to retrofit our cars to run off used cooking oil. But does the gospel have anything to say to how Christians think about the environment? We see twin pitfalls. On the one hand, we must reject any worldview that idolizes the creation and fails to worship the Creator. On the other hand, we must reject a miniaturized Christianity that implies that King Jesus makes no demand on how we steward his creation.

First, God made us to care deeply about the entire created order. On the sixth day, God finished his work of creation by forming man in His own image. Part of this image-bearing identity was inextricably linked to the first man’s charge to exercise “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

Moses also points out that prior to man the created order was incomplete because “there was no man to work the ground” (Gen. 2:5). After forming Adam, God then placed him in the garden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Before sin ever entered the world, God made humanity to exercise care for the earth, to cultivate it, and care for it.

While secularized forms of environmentalism seem to suggest otherwise, the Christian story understands that it’s not presence of human beings per se that are the problem with the created order, as if to suggest that everything else would be better off without us. Instead, Scripture is quite clear. Humankind was created and placed in the Garden in large part to care for and to steward the creation. Presumably, Adam and Eve’s righteous labor would have yielded fruitfulness and blessing for flora and fauna alike!

In part, that is why we experience such joy at seeing the earth give up its fruits.

We can’t all be skilled gardeners, but we experience something of the joy of our first parents when we find pleasure in cultivating the earth, when we delight in seeing new crops sprout up and give of their fruit for our own provision. God made us that way. And it is good and right for us to care for the earth and exercise a godly dominion over it. We don’t abuse it, but neither do we worship it. Instead, the Christian worldview liberates us to delight in and care for nature, but also to recognize that it is all a gift and a signal, pointing us to the Creator himself.

Second, the entire created order has been deeply affected by the fall. This becomes evident immediately after Adam and Eve’s sin. In fact, God pronounces a curse that involves the earth. The ground itself is now cursed because of that primal sin such that it will now be cultivated with difficulty, even bringing forth “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18).

The Apostle Paul understood the pervasiveness of sin, extending its devastating reach even into the created order. He even described it as a “groaning together” because of its “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21-22). So we shouldn’t be surprised to conclude that the earth has been profoundly affected—even at the subatomic level!—by the fall. Our theology of sin and the fall must be appropriately large enough (and biblical) to make sense of what we observe. Not one molecule has escaped the lethal and corrupting effects of the fall. And if that’s the case, then we have a renewed ancient way of interpreting the ecological destruction, degradation, and disaster we see around us.

We can be tempted to so compartmentalize our human existence that we fail to recognize just how far-reaching and devastating sin has been in the cosmos. That first sin in the garden had ramifications for everything in the creation. In other words, the problem of ecological degradation is far worse than we realize. And the secular worldview falls short of understanding just how bad things really are. Water and air contaminants, unsustainable farming practices, and strip mining certainly do have damaging effects. But they’re just symptomatic of a more insidious and devastating reality–sin has damaged and corrupted everything. And if the problem is that much more profound, the solution will have to be much more than government policies, changed behaviors, or new technologies. None of those can remedy the core problem.

Third, in the “already not yet” Christians should promote a biblical vision for caring for the created order.

So how does the gospel animate our care for creation? Or does it at all? Clearly it must. We are not materialists, concluding that all the “stuff” around us is all there is and is just to be used as we see best. Christians recognize that this world has been fashioned by God himself and that it exists to bring glory to him. We confess with the Church throughout the ages that the incarnate God-man, the second Adam, walked on this earth, lived a perfect life, and died a substitutionary death to provide atonement for all who would believe. And we recognize that Jesus Christ’s saving work is about the redemption of a blood-bought people for God’s own possession. But that has implications not just for spiritual realities. Instead, the gospel changes everything.

Perhaps one of the closest parallels is how we think about money. The world tells us that if you have it, you can spend it (never mind the debt crisis). Even in the church, this can seep into the way we think about our finances. “I’ve earned it and saved it, so it’s mine to spend as I wish,” we conclude. But the Christian worldview recognizes that we are merely stewards of our financial resources, that they have been entrusted to us by God to use for His glory. So just because it’s in our bank account doesn’t mean we aren’t called to steward it.

In similar fashion, Christians must be careful of failing to see their ongoing responsibility as stewards of the natural resources God has entrusted to us. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s best for us to slash it, burn it, drill it, or mine it. Instead, we start from the foundational question: what would glorify the Creator? Christians can and will disagree on a whole host of policy questions in this area, but we should all agree that our starting point must be God-centered.

Fourth, Jesus will one day consummate his Kingdom and the entire cosmos will be renewed.

The gospel frees us from worshiping the creation and gives us a renewed vision for our role as God’s image bearers who exercise loving dominion. But it also propels our vision forward. Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and is indeed sitting at the right hand of the Father as king over the cosmos. But we look around us and see a world that still seems very much under the curse of Genesis 3.

But throughout the Bible, God continually promised a coming day when he would create a “new heavens and a new earth.” Isaiah prophesied of this long ago, declaring the word of the Lord and making clear that God’s salvific purposes for his people would also be linked to a new created order, one that would not just be a recovery of Eden, but would even surpass that original perfection (Isaiah 65:17-25).

The New Testament continues this expectation. The Apostle Peter wrote that this new heavens and new earth will be one “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 2:13). The vision is perhaps at its clearest in John’s Revelation. He now saw what had been prophesied by Isaiah: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1). And what is distinctive about this new order? God makes his full and perfect dwelling among his people. His presence is now full and comprehensive, driving away suffering and death, grief and pain, “for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Just like Kermit said, it’s not easy being green. But the gospel reminds us that the path of Christian discipleship never is. Perhaps Earth Day can be a helpful day for us as followers of Christ to give thanks for God’s power, mercy, and skill as the Creator. Perhaps it can prompt us to self-evaluation to explore ways in which we have been shaped more by the culture than the gospel. And perhaps most significantly, it can prompt us to praise God for his work of redemption in Jesus Christ.

Matthew J. Hall is vice president of academic services at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky)