The Comforting Whirlwind Paradox

So I’ve been reading and re-reading Bill McKibben’s book, The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation. It’s one of the assigned readings for the AU Leadership Roundtable this summer.

McKibben thoughtfully uses lessons from the book of Job to explain our responsibility to take care of the environment. The book is an easy read, but will challenge your thinking and behavior.

It started my thinking about a Christian paradox. We know that the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10); yet God created the earth and commanded us to care for it (Genesis 1:28). Some Christians think that since the earth is going to be destroyed, it doesn’t matter what we do to it now. We have more important things to do; no time to think about the environment.

Yet if we destroy the earth, or even greatly reduce our contact with nature, we are destroying one foundation of our faith. “The images of God’s power that help us locate ourselves on an axis with the divine come largely from nature. It is no accident that many of the best-loved hymns of our faith draw on this emotional power” (McKibben 62); hymns such as How Great Thou Art.

When God spoke to Job he did not reveal Himself; He revealed His works. … Event the most committed doubter can often e shaken by the transcendent pleasure of sitting in a field of native flowers or standing on a wild beach. The sense of rightness, the intuition that the experience is more than the sum of its parts, is both profound and common. When such experiences begin to vanish (as the wildflowers grow less wild, and the beaches reflect our carbon emissions) their religious meaning will fade as well (McKibben 64) .

Thinking that we don’t need to care for the earth because it’s going to be destroyed anyway is like not washing the dishes because they are going to get dirty again. It doesn’t matter if as one person we can’t change the course of a materialistic society. We can and should do our part. It doesn’t matter what we know about prophecy, about the end of time. It isn’t futile to care for the earth now because it will be destroyed later. We should obey God and take care of His creation because He commanded us to. Just like we obey the 10 Commandments because He said to; we should care for His creation too. Not just care for it; but take time to immerse ourselves in the natural grandeur that reminds us of our smallness and God’s greatness.

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