We continue our series on ‘Environmental Hero’s of the Faith’ with…
Noah was thrust back into our homes in 2014 through the relentless advertising that comes with a supposed Hollywood blockbuster. I missed it in the cinema, but kept an eye on the reviews which overall didn’t seem too hot. I have seen it since and actually quite liked it. Sure, the director Darren Aronofsky took some license with the story, with cool rock monsters and explosions and such like, but we can get over that one. One of the stand out bits of the film for me was when Noah and his family, were all stowed away in the boat and he was explaining the creation story to each of them- not to ruin the film but this then cut away to essentially show an evolutionary process within which God was present. In the context of the film, it works really well, whether you believe in an evolutionary process or not.
Irving Finkel, keeper of the Middle East department in the British Museum reports that the age old story of a flood that consumes the earth, in which human and animal life is saved from extinction by a (500 year old (Genesis 5 vrs 32)) man in a boat, is almost universal in the worlds treasure chest of traditional literature. Finkel goes on to say that flood stories have been documented in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Syria, Europe, India, New Guinea, Central America, North America, Australia and South America. By any account, that is a pretty good spread across the globe.
If you were brought to church by dutiful parents as a child, you will have first come across the story in children’s books in Sunday-school. Thinking back, it is actually quite hilarious. We totally fluff it up, “oh…look at Noah building his massive Ark, he’s handy isn’t he…oh…and look at all the animals serenely walking two-by-two, not bothered by the others below them in the food chain…isn’t that nice”. I have often thought of my place on the Ark, if I was lucky enough to be one of Noah’s sons. I reckoned the comfiest place would be nestled between the Lions and Wolves, although it probably wouldn’t have been the safest. But essentially this story is brutal. It is about wiping the majority of the human race from existence, and Noah saving his family and the animals, under the instruction of God. There was no mercy for others, no life raft, no mountain peak to cling too, just a watery apocalypse.
God chose to save Noah, his family and the animals. I have always thought it strange that God chose to save more animals than humans, created in his own image. Many theologians have tried to delve into the reason why, but I don’t have the knowledge or experience to even start to give an answer. However, one thing is clear. God asked Noah to care for his creation and he did it. Noah was obedient in this call, even though this meant witnessing the rest of humanity being wiped out. At this point in history Noah was only 9 generations removed from Adam (see previous blog), who’s mandate was to ‘tend the garden’ so for such an obedient decision to be made we can only assume that creation care was an obvious choice for these guys.
It is sad to say, however, that this choice to care for creation is a lot less obvious today. The established church has been woeful at engaging membership in the creation care narrative. The church has been good at providing help to the most vulnerable in society through the provision of nursing homes, food banks, social services etc but why have we not been buying up land, farms and special places to show society at large that our ‘tend the garden’ mandate means something beyond words. Thankfully A Rocha (Christian conservation charity) have been doing just that, but for this to become main stream Christian living the church needs to weigh in.
In what has become known as a farewell book by author John Stott, he writes about creation-care as one of the key components of ‘The Radical Disciple’. In it he quotes Chris Wright saying;
“It seems quite inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God, to be disciples of Jesus, and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership. They do not care about the abuse of the earth and indeed, by their wasteful and over-consumptive life-styles, they collude in it”
In short, what we need is a revolution. Start in your back garden, today.