Creation Groans

Red deer shoutingLyall Watson, in his fascinating 1995 book “Dark Nature – A natural history of evil”, describes the unpleasant reality of the natural world.

He quotes research which shows that an observer would expect see one of the animals in his study kill another of its own kind every 1,000 hours.

In contrast, the same observer would have to study humans in an urban context for 300 years to see the same event.

Eliciting the comment,

“I suspect if Hamadryas Baboons had nuclear weapons, they would destroy the world in a week.”

Which only confirms what Thomas Henry Huxley said in 1893, that nature is morally bankrupt and stands condemned.

Contemporary evolutionary studies have only sharpened this critique as a recent Professor of biology at the State University of New York noted,

“No one of Huxley’s generation could have imagined the current concept of natural selection, which can honestly be described as a process for maximizing short-sighted selfishness. I would concede that moral indifference might aptly characterize the physical universe. But for the biological world, a stronger term is needed.”

To which Watson proffers the adjective “evil”.

All of which is of great interest for the Christian.

As is often the case, modern science only find itself arriving at the Bible’s understanding of things 2,000 years late!

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:19-22 NIV

This brutal, violent, immoral creation that we experience is a sign and an evidence of the same disorder we find in ourselves. Its cause is the same – our fallen-ness and sin. Its redemption, and ours, depends solely on the one possibility, the death and resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ, He who has removed the guilt of sin and opened up the way of forgiveness, reconciliation with God, with each other and finally, with the created order itself.

We know the story, we’ve read the ending, the Lion and the Lamb will lie down in peace together, the child will play with the scorpion.

After millennia of breakdown, through God’s redemptive self-sacrifice, ‘normal service’ will be resumed.

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Jumping when you should be flying (or ‘Nice is not Enough’)

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Authentic Christianity generally improves people.

Which seems logical enough.

When people commit their lives to He whose nature is love, one would expect this to lead to positive changes in their behaviour.

Historically, Christian faith has also led to social advancement, particularly in contexts of social deprivation.

When those whose lives have been marked by anti-social, or self-centred activity, turn to Christ and start to become conscientious husbands, committed fathers, reliable employees, worthy citizens – their social situation often also improves.

In times of economic opportunity this has historically led to Christians founding businesses, becoming entrepreneurs. Indeed, for many this gave them a platform for Christian philanthropy and social action that impacted their whole society. Look for example at the impact of the Quaker-founded businesses in 19th century England. Suddenly employers start providing decent housing, medical care, schools for the children of their employees etc. etc.

All of which is good and right, yet can have the negative effect of blurring the Christian message somewhat.

It can leave us thinking that as improvement follows conversion, then maybe improvement is the goal?

Following this, we can further note that many different philosophies and models for living can equally bring about improvement in a person – so maybe Christianity is just one approach amongst many?

This would be to completely miss the point.

Improvement is not the goal of Christianity – redemption is.

As its outworking, redemption may well bring improvement to a person – but that is a symptom, a secondary and external effect of an internal transformation, not the heart of the matter.

Lewis reminds us that;

“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine.

God became man to turn creatures into sons : not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”
(C.S. Lewis ‘Mere Christianity’, Book IV, Chapter 10)