Rich people and poor people alike worry about the future of the human species on this planet. Is climate change a real threat to our survival? Can God do anything about it?
This kind of fear is not new, of course. Just look at all the apocalyptic images in religious art and literature throughout human history, including the modern Western world!
Apocalypse Again: Confession in a time of Climate Crisis
Apocalypse Images in Art History
Revelation to John: New Testament (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
But this time is different, many argue! Scientists show us the seriousness of the effects of climate change. Technology alone clearly isn’t going to save us. Whether it’s man-made or not, this is no imaginary or overblown concern.
How can religion offer an answer, when religious differences seem to trigger more violence than peace-making? We hear these conflicting views:
- Since God created everything and will restore it, we don’t really need to do anything about it.
- Rich people are doing the greatest damage to the earth, and they (not God) are the ones who must reconstruct what they have destroyed.
- God seeks to destroy the present sinful world to replace it with another Kingdom.
I’m troubled by all of those options.
Different option from the Secret Revelation of John
I ran across a passage from the Secret Revelation of John (one of the texts from the Nag Hammadi collection) that brings God (or ‘Lord’) into it but requires responsible action from people.
‘John’ – the fictional 2nd-century person portrayed in this text as the disciple of Jesus – asks the Lord (speaking to Jesus in a kind of post-resurrection Q&A session) how we can expect to be saved.
What strikes me about this question from John is that he wasn’t asking about what happens after death. He wanted to know how the Lord (Christ) could save people from their present destructions! Second-century fears had nothing to do with environmental destruction, but their fears about cosmic destruction were just as alarming!
• Demons who ruled the cosmos as well as individual bodies, manipulated everyone through passions and bodily suffering. And they attacked rich and poor alike.
• Roman armies and rulers conquered, crucified, and oppressed people everywhere they went.
It was scary enough.
Being ‘saved’ was not a theological argument about post-death experience back then. It was about human survival. It’s the same question today: “Can You save us from this destruction? From the devastation of our planet (or cosmos)?”
John asks: “Lord, will all the souls be delivered into the pure light?” (This is about the present good – security, peace, harmony.)
How does the Spirit save us from our self-destruction?
The heavenly response from the One who ‘delivers’ answers:
Those upon whom the Spirit of the Life will descend and with whom it will be powerfully present,
they will be saved and will become perfect.
And they will become worthy of the great realms….
Then they will not take care for anything except the imperishability alone,
attending to it from this point on (before dying)
without anger or envy or jealousy or desire or greed of anything at all. …
For such as these are worthy of the imperishable eternal life
and the calling,
so that they might complete the contest and inherit eternal life.”
(Secret Revelation of John, 23:1, 4-8, 11-12)
This is a genius blending of both individual and collective responsibility with “the Spirit of Life” at the control center.
I offer a rough paraphrase:
When we welcome the Spirit of Life,
a spirit greater than our own intelligence and willpower,
we will find the way to be protected (saved).
We’ll discover what it means to be worthy of the beauty of this planet.
When we discover the health of the earth,
we discover our own hearts cleansed and healed too.
We refocus on the things that endure forever,
rather than the interests of consumption.
Not even envy, jealousy, or even desire or greed of “anything at all!”
This utter transformation of character enables us to discern what to do
in order to “endure everything” and “bear everything”
so that we can win the contest with self-destruction.
This divine scheme is not confined to the 2nd century. Consider what could happen when our transformation takes place within, and we take care of our neighbors, our plants, animals, water, and air without greed of anything at all! Without anger! Without envy!
- We would struggle together to find ways to conserve the land, water, and air — and all the inhabitants of the planet
- We would find compassion for those whose lives are most threatened by greenhouse gas emissions and take action to help
- We would be more attentive to the needs of frogs, insects, birds, and other forms of wildlife that are threatened to extinction
Maybe it’s not too great a leap of faith to consider that the Creator of the world would be able to revive it (transform it / save it) when we allow the Spirit of Life to transform us first.
Imagine discovering ourselves worthy of this beauty! ‘Earth day’ will be every day.