10 Key Characteristics of God’s Kingship from the Psalms

Psalms 29, 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, and 99 are Royal Psalms that speak to the kingship of God.   These eight psalms reveal and emphasize ten key characteristics of God’s kingship: 1.) God is Lord over all the waters; 2.) God is Lord over all the earth; 3.) God is Lord over all the nations; 4.) God is Lord over all gods; 5.) God has a coming judgement over all; 6.) God is just and righteous in his coming judgement; 7.) God’s enemies will face God’s wrath at his coming judgement; 8.) God’s people will receive his peace, strength, blessing, and protection; 9.) God has worked the salvation of his people; and 10.) The proper response to the royal reign of God is for all to praise him.

Over the waters

First, we see that God is Lord over all.  This is seen in Psalm 29:3: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.” He is over the waters, because he made them.  As their creator, he owns them.  (Psalm 95:5) Psalm 93:3 depicts flooding waters in anthropomorphic terms, referring to the raging floods and lifting up their voices, their roaring voices. Psalm 93:4 however proclaims that the Lord is higher in might than the raging flood waters, exclaiming that God is “Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea.”  Going back to Psalm 29, verse 10 states, “The Lord is enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”  The flood is the Flood of Genesis 6-9. This shows that God is sovereign in judgement against evil.  Despite the destruction that comes from the raging waters – the Lord sits enthroned over the flood.

Over all the earth

Second, God is Lord over all the earth.  Psalm 47:2 calls God “a great king over all the earth.” Later in the psalm, in verse 7, this kingship is repeated with the words, “God is the King of all the earth.”  The most intimidating land feature due to its sheer height and difficulty to cross is likely the mountains of the earth, yet before the Lord, Psalm 97:5 says, “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord.”  In the same way that God is Lord over the waters due to his status as their creator, so too the Lord is over the earth because “his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:5).

Over the nations 

Third, God is Lord over all the nations.  Psalm 47:8-9 says, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.  The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.”  Just as the waters and the lands belong to God, Palm 47:10 reveals that “the kings of the earth belong to God” too.  Though these psalms do not state it, it’s clear from the rest of Scripture that the kings and the nobles of the nations belong to God – in fact all people belong to God – because God is the creator of us all; we are all his creatures.  Though in many times and in many places the rulers of this world wield much power and authority over the lives of their subjects, Psalm 99:2 makes it clear that the Lord “is exalted over all the nations.

Over the gods

                Fourth, God is Lord over all gods.  In this world, there are many gods that even kings will bow down to and submit their authority.  Above the waters, above the mountains, there are the heavens, where in various ways the gods of men have been envisioned to dwell – sometimes more often perceived to be present in a spiritual realm animating our physical realm or dwelling in another dimension outside our senses, yet able to impact our plain of existence.  These gods however are “worthless idols” according to Psalm 96:5, because “the Lord made the heavens.”  He is above all that we can conceive and above all the idols that men fear, love, and trust above God: careers, love, money, family, comfort, pleasures, entertainment, food, success, power, sex, and fame, and the list could go on and on.  God is Lord over all these so-called gods, because as Psalm 95:3 proclaims, “The Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods.

Coming to Judge

Fifth, God has a coming judgment over all.  Both Psalm 96:13 and Psalm 98:9 reveal that “he comes to judge the earth.”  As before his judgment upon all the earth and flesh came through the Flood, this coming judgment will descend through fire.  Psalm 97:3-5 depicts this judgment and its totality as follows: “Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.  His lightenings light up the world; the earth sees and tremblesThe mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.”

righteous judgement

Sixth, God is righteous and just in his coming judgment.  Though to us it might seem as unjust for God to allow evil to persist in our day and age, and we likely even think that his coming judgment is too harsh when it does come – for God to scorch all his enemies and to cause even the mountains to melt seems a bit extreme – we should be reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah that parallel the language of these Royal Psalms of God’s kingship: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Above all is the Lord and his coming judgment will come “with equity,” “in righteousness,” and “in faithfulness” (Psalm 96:10,13).  This is the type of judgment we should expect from God, when we grasp the reality of Psalm 97:2 that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”  Psalm 99:4 tells us this nature of his coming judgment, as well, “The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.”

God's Enemies Get Smacked

Seventh, God’s enemies will face God’s wrath at his coming judgement.  In support of this description of what to expect from God’s kingship, I’ve already quoted Psalm 97:3 that declares, “Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.”  This psalm gives insight into who these adversaries are; they are all of those who do not worship him as Lord of all.  Psalm 97:7 warns, “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!”

Peace

Eighth, God’s people will receive his peace, strength, blessing, and protection. Psalm 29:11 says, “May the Lord give strength to his people!  May the Lord bless his people with peace!”  Psalm 95:6-7 remind us of previous points of God’s kingship, that he is our maker and God, and as such, we are given the comforting image that “his people we are occupants of his pasture.”  Being the people of his pasture, we have the Lord’s blessing and protection, and in response Psalm 99:3 tells us the response of his people: “Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O Lord.”

Cross_Chasm_300
“Chasm” by Danny Martinez – This image appears in my book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True.

Ninth, God has worked the salvation of his people.  Psalm 98:1-3 give the good news that the salvation of God’s people is not contingent upon themselves, their own personally earned merits of righteousness before the righteous king who is enthroned above all, but God himself has worked their salvation:

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.  He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

As God’s people sitting on the right-side of the timeline of Jesus of Nazareth’s death and resurrection, we understand that Jesus is the right hand of the Lord who has worked this salvation:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Praise

Tenth, the proper response to the royal reign of God is for all to praise him.  Psalm 47:1 gives the following exhortation: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”  The Psalm also exhorts, “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! (verses 6 and 7).  Psalm 95:7 gives the following invitation: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” Finally, Psalm 98:4 exclaims, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 

These Royal Psalms of God’s kingship make it abundantly clear that the Lord is over all things – all other gods are worthless!  God alone made everything that exists.  His creation is not able to be moved.  The proper response of creation is to worship the Creator.  Those who don’t will be judged – they will be moved (removed) by their Creator.

All glory and laud be to the Lord, our King, forever, and ever.  Amen.

Please visit my website, Contradict Movement, for more resources and products that can be used as evangelistic conversation starters. 

The Increase of Mothers in the Workforce is Tied to a Misunderstanding of the Equality of the Sexes

In the book, Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Williamon, there is an account of a church that sought to serve its community through the creation of a preschool that would ultimately function as a daycare for families with both parents working full-time.  The book presented a woman who asked hard questions about how our cultural norms in American society can seep into our church community’s services.  Her thought was that parents should be raising their kids and not childcare facilitators/teachers who are overseeing all the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of multiple kids, often times starting as young as six weeks old, for 8 to 12-hour time periods.  if people are doing this anyways, it seems reasonable that the Church can provide the childcare and thus ensure a Christian environment, but the lady in Resident Aliens challenged her church to say to hell with reason – don’t encourage parents to pawn their kids off so they can have more material goods!

Women and Men Roles

In 1948, only 17% of all married mothers were in the workforce.[1]  By 1985, this percentage rose to 61% and by 1995, it was at 70%.  In 2011, 68% of all women with children under 6 in America were working or looking for work.[2]  Another way of viewing this rising trend in working mothers who is to look at the changes that have occurred in childcare practices.  Today less than one-third of all children have a full-time stay at home parent, but in 1975 over half of all children had a stay at home parent, who was usually the mother.[3]  Almost a quarter of all children under 5 in America are in some form of organized child-care system.[4]  The point in giving these statistics is demonstrate that in American history it is a relatively new societal norm to have both parents working with their children being raised and cared for outside of the home by people who are not relatives, and from experience I know that this is a very common work and childcare dynamic found among Christians.  In response to this working trend, many churches do have all-day preschools/daycares – and so the hard question raised in Resident Aliens deserves attention – are these churches encouraging and propagating an American societal norm that is against God’s design for families (families in any society that is)?

Acknowledging that there are many diverse reasons as to why many families have shifted away from a single-income for their family to have both the father and the mother working full-time, in this paper I seek to pinpoint one error that I am convinced is the underlying core reason for the trend of mothers with young children to enter the workforce along with their husband, and that error is a misunderstanding of what it means for men and women to be equal.  In their article, “The History of Womanhood That Feminists Don’t Want You to Know,” the Botkin Sisters debunk four common myths about the goodness of feminism for women, and the first myth is the notion, “Before feminism, women were not as valued and did not have as many rights.”  Their answer is rarely spoken, even among Christians, so it might seem startlingly to read:

Before feminism, the Bible declared men’s and women’s equal standing and value before God – and in fact teaches this more consistently than any other religious or secular doctrine. In Scripture, man’s work and woman’s work are equally valid – wifehood, motherhood, homemaking, and femininity are not belittled, and women are not guilt-manipulated into living and acting like men. On the contrary; woman’s distinctiveness from man is praised and honored, and her unique role is held vital. Women were to be protected and cherished, to “attain honor” (Prov. 11:16) and be “praised in the gates” (Prov. 31:31). It wasn’t until the advent of women’s “liberation” that women were told, “Your value as a woman is determined by how well you can perform as a man. Being a woman is no longer enough.[5]

They further counter this myth by pointing out that long before feminism, “the Bible also gave the world strict laws to protect women from abuse, rape, incest, abandonment, injustice, and more. Moreover, it gave women something our legal system doesn’t: a whole system of provisions for women who end up in hard circumstances.”[6]  And finally, they put a nail in the coffin of the myth that men and women are equal in value because of feminism by pointing out the reality that:

Speaking historically as well as theologically, Christianity is the only social, spiritual, and political force that gives women true value and rights. It is the anti-Christian religions (including Marxism, Islam, and feminism) that demean, undervalue, and exploit women; throughout history, it was the Christian societies that truly valued women, protected women, and honored women (insofar as those societies were faithful to the Bible’s actual teachings).[7]

Their list of anti-Christian religions was far from exhaustive, but I would like to add another anti-Christian religion to their list, Hinduism.  When someone from the West who is largely operating from a Judeo-Christian influenced morality, even if she is not Jewish or Christian, looks at the value and rights of women in Indian society influenced by Hinduism throughout history all the way to present day and sees the complete devaluing of women, and after doing that takes a good hard look at Islamic countries and the value of women – it should become pretty obvious that women around the whole world are indebted to the value and rights of women taught in the Bible.  Just as scientists practicing the scientific method must steal from the Christian worldview to justify the validity of their repeated experiments, feminists must steal from the Christian worldview to justify their claim that men and women are equal and that women have the same rights as men.  Rights, after all, if they are to be inherent in all humans in all places and in all times, must come from a higher source than humanity; they must come from God.  And it is in Christianity that we are clearly told that the first man and the first woman were both created in the image of God, both created in his likeness. (Genesis 1:27) It is from this creation narrative that we understand that men and women have equal value – both being created in the image of God.

The error in understanding this equality is that equality has come to be understood as equal performance, or equal outcome, or the potential for equal performance and equal outcome in all facets of life.   Men and women are thought to be equal in every way.  This misunderstanding of equality is what has given rise to more and more women with young children in the workforce leaving their six week old infants into the hands of another woman[8] for the majority of their waking day. Equality has come to be understood as equal performance, or equal outcome.  This is why we hear the common mantras, “A woman can do anything a man can do” and “Whatever a man can do, a woman can also do.”  Then there is the truly woke mantra: “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better.”

The 30-second sound bite to refuting this misunderstanding of equality as sameness is to point out that by God’s design a woman cannot impregnate herself or another woman, and that I as a man am horrible at giving birth and breastfeeding, as are all men.[9]

For a longer answer, I want to first offer a math equation as an explanation of how two things can be both equal and not the same at the same time, before giving a Biblical foundation for the uniquely God-given roles of men and women in society and within the family.

2 + 2 = 4.  This is an extremely simple equation.  Both sides have the same value, 4.  In value, they are equal.  However, if I added categorical values to each number, such as, 2 men + 2 women = 4 men, I have maintained an equal number of humans, but on each side there are now differences that make each side unequal in potential outcome and abilities.  If the goal was to win a 4 x 100m race, the side with 4 men has the vastly distinct advantage.  If the goal was to colonize a new planet, taking 2 married couples[10] would be of much greater value to the objective of procreation and building a society on a different planet than taking 4 men – due to obvious reasons of biological differences.  Both sides still have four humans created in the image of God and are equal in value in that sense, but due to the created differences between the sexes they are different in operational value depending on the role and expectations placed upon the two sides.

The appeal I’m making to different God-given roles for each of the sexes can be found in the curses God gave to the man and to the woman after the Fall into sin in Genesis 3.  The woman was cursed to have pain in childbearing – a role that was uniquely given to her and not to man.  The distinguishing glory of womanhood is now cursed.  She also was cursed to desire her husband’s headship over her.  By being created first, man was given the place of headship over the woman.  In addition to being created second in time, woman was created from man.  What was built and designed by God within his order of creation is now cursed… woman will now desire the place of headship (leadership, provision, protection, and the ultimate accountability and responsibility before God for the safety and well-being of families and societies).  The role built into creation for man is now also cursed… his work (care and stewardship over creation and within his family) shall be painful.

Paul is very clear about this created order in 1 Timothy 2:12-15.  The created order is why he does not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man within the church – even if she is capable of teaching better than all the men in the congregation.  By Adam being created first, he was by his created order put into the position of teacher.  He named the animals before Eve was created, and within the creation narrative of Genesis 2, God gives him the commands not to eat of the forbidden fruit, as well as the command to procreate, but God does not give these commands to Eve.  Adam was thus thrust into the position of teacher by God.  By the nature of his created order, Adam taught Eve the names of the animals and taught her God’s commands.[11]

What is quite ironic then is that now that women have ascended to manhood, by “holding any position a man can hold in society,” women are now doubly cursed.  They have taken man’s curse of labor in provision for the family upon themselves, while still holding to their curse of bearing children in painful births.  As women struggle in pain for the headship of man within their marriages and families, more and more pain comes upon both the man and woman as the headship of the man is constantly challenged by the wife who is intentionally and constantly going outside of her God-given and designed role within the family and society, often times under the blessing and encouragement of her husband.

As I stated at the outset, I understand that there is a plethora of reasons why many families have both parents working full-time with their young children being handed off into the entrusted care of someone else, but the desire for women to be like men and to get their worth through such endeavors of work is seriously hurting women, men, and their children.  Both men and women are immensely valuable in the eyes of God – both were created in his image.  In Christ there is no distinction made between male nor female in the economy of salvation – all are saved by grace through faith in Christ.  Our work does not merit us any extra value before God… whether it is done in the home with children or in the fields of labor.   However, following God’s design and intended will for his creation is a sign of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance, and in our day and age to do such within the family is truly a sign of faith and love and holiness – and this true faith is attacked relentlessly by our own sinful desires, the world, and the devil.

I want to close with an example of the obvious pain and frustration that arises from going against God’s created design through the distortion of the God-given roles of men and women within the family order.   The following is a post that a Christian lady made when she first went back to working full-time after having her first child:

A couple of weeks ago, a well-meaning friend at church asked, “Do you have to go back to work, or are you able to stay home?” And in that moment, my immediate response was the truth, “I GET to go back to work.” I don’t take that for granted. I’m grateful that I have a husband who supports my drive and passion to work outside of the home. I’m grateful that we believe we have found the best solution for childcare for our family. It’s not that I HAVE to go back to work, but that I GET to go back to work. To do something that I care about. Something that I believe will make me a better mother.

Of course it’s bittersweet. I’ve spent the past 11 weeks caring for my son day in and day out. And I believe that no one will be able to do that like I do. But here’s the thing: Matt and I are still raising our son. It doesn’t matter who takes care of him during the day – WE are his parents. And I have to trust that he will always know his mother’s love and I trust that God has a plan.

I also believe that my son will see me doing this, and will know: that women can do this – women are intelligent and are leaders in the workforce. Maybe someday, he’ll be an even better colleague and employee himself because he saw my example and what I am capable of. That’s my hope.

In the meantime, can I have it all? Can I be a Godly woman, a wife, a mother, and a boss? Time will tell. Look at Ps. 37:4. It does NOT mean that God gives me everything I want. I’m praying that I earnestly seek His will in this – and that if I truly am, He will make sure that everything else falls into place.

There are many points of concern in her post.  First, she says it doesn’t matter who is raising her son.  I’m sure that’s not how the nanny feels about her position and value – just anyone can do my job?  For real?  Second, she is leaving her 11-week old son in the hands of another woman, to not see her child for long periods of the day.  This cannot be good for her son in his most formative years.  Third, he does not see all that his mom is doing for him.  He just knows that she drops him off and picks him up, when he should be with her.  He does not know what she is capable of, but he does know what she is not capable of, and that is taking care of him during the day when he still has no words to speak, when he still is completely defenseless.  Finally, she acknowledges that she isn’t sure that she can have it all?  She isn’t sure that she can fulfill all the roles she has taken upon herself, and in her case this is purely by her choice; it’s what she wants and it is what she GETS to do.  If she can’t have it all, which of these roles will she drop?  If she doesn’t drop one of them, which of the roles will suffer?  Which of the roles are already suffering?  All of them?

The following is her most recent post, less than nine months from the one I just shared, accompanying a picture of her holding her infant son tight against her chest while he is sleeping:

I wish it was this way all the time.  Working motherhood is getting the best of me. “He likes the nanny more.” “I only get 3 waking hours a day with him.” …and on…and on. He’s a daddy’s boy right now, and my heart aches. I want to work. I love working. I also love my sweet baby boy and miss him constantly.

[1] “Trends in Labor Force of married mothers of infants” https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/02/art2full.pdf

[2] “More Mothers of Young Children in U.S. Workforce” https://www.prb.org/us-working-mothers-with-children/

[3] “Fact Sheet: Child Care” https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2012/08/16/11978/fact-sheet-child-care/

[4] Ibd.

[5] “The History of Womanhood that Feminists Do Not Want You to Know” by the Botkin Sisters https://botkinsisters.com/article/the-truth-about-women-that-feminists-dont-want-you-to-know?fbclid=IwAR3dsoO3-swCB0vt5n7UmFtLL_kgHUJtY3guB5_BHFOZGZS9UnK_EH88atw

[6] The system of provision that they list from Scripture includes: “the gleaning system, the kinsman redeemer system, the family provision system, the poor-tithe system, the handmaid system, and more. Biblical Law presupposed that there will be sin and irresponsibility in every society, and that the true victims must be protected.”

[7] “The History of Womanhood that Feminists Do Not Want You to Know” by the Botkin Sisters

[8] I know I just assumed the gender of a daycare worker, and I’ll also assume that in most situations she will be watching more than one infant.

[9] But now that men can be women and women can be men in woke culture, women do have penises and can impregnate other women, and men do have menstrual cycles.  But this leftist progressive absurdity is the telos of the eradication of the distinction between the sexes to the embrace of the sameness of men and women view of the equality of the sexes.

[10] Two traditionally married couples – husband and wife, man and woman.

[11] Some of this is assumed into the narrative, but it is likely what Paul is alluding to when writing to Timothy, directly stating that Adam was first formed, then Eve, as the reason for why men should teach in the church and not have authority held over their heads by women.  Also Paul directly points to the role given to women in this passage as being the role that women should stick to within the family and within the church as the continue in the faith and love and holiness.

How to Live as Creatures in God’s Creation

In the secular world of Hollywood and in the politics of the D.C. Beltway, environmental doom is not only very real, but very immanent.  Leonardo Dicaprio upon winning his first Oscar took the bulk of his speech time to virtue signal through lip service about the need to fight climate change – never mind his gas guzzling yacht exploits and private jet flights that astronomically raise his individual carbon footprint.[1] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman congregational starlet of the Democratic Party, boldly proclaimed that the world will end in 12 years from climate change if we don’t take drastic action now[2] – as proposed in her New Green Deal this state of emergency demands a rail system to be constructed in the next ten years that will make all plane flights unnecessary.[3]  Never mind that Al Gore made this same doomsday claim in 2006[4], while also personally raking in millions through his climate change politics, while at the same time, flying privately and using 20 times more electricity than the average American home.[5]  I could continue for days on the virtue signaling of the leaders from these two camps who cry that the world is ending while living in hypocritical opposition to their claims.  On the flipside, the Church has an entirely different response (from my experience) that is largely a complete disregard for creation, an approach that ignores the goodness of God’s creation in a poo-pooing of the physical material world in which we live and are a member (of which our Lord Christ became a member too through his Incarnation) to reduce Jesus’ saving work almost exclusively to the souls of men and not their entire personhood and the entirety of the creation that he loves.  In such respect… the Church in many ways has taken a “to hell with this world” approach to creation with the view of death as a final escape into goodness – regardless of the fact that we’d be missing our bodies!  Clearly these are two extremes, both of which tend to be hypocritical and inconsistent in their proclamations and living witness to those proclamations.

Into this fray, enter Norman Wirzba with his book, From Nature to Creation, and Jonathan R. Wilson with God’s Good World.  As Christians, their focus is on correcting the Church’s fall into a batch of Christian believers living as functional Gnostics, living as people who have lost our place in the proper Biblical perspective and appreciation of our creatureliness and our God-given role of participation in Christ’s work of redeeming all of creation.

Wirzba takes more of a philosophical and experiential approach to this end (goal) by recognizing that we have fallen into idolatry and have essentially deified ourselves or have deified creation, which he says has been able to happen wholesale in the Church through the Church’s embrace of modernity’s disconnecting impact between humanity with the rest of creation.  Such an impact has led even Christians to place their highest trust in the bedrocks of modernity, such as, “scientific reductionism, the autonomous self, instrumental reasoning, unencumbered individualism, technophilia, and the dis-embedding of communities from life-giving habitats.”[6]  To wake us up from this idolatry, Wirzba is advocating that we regain “an imagination for the world as created, sustained, and daily loved by God.”[7]  Essentially, his definition of imagination is getting to the point of being honest with ourselves that we are not the Lords of the universe that we pretend to be, but instead live as the lowly creatures we are.  As such, we need to be more patient and attentive to the world upon which we are dependently interconnected – which should lead us to see the world as a “gift” that we “need to “appreciate and affirm” and see it all as “a miracle that is itself an expression of divine love.”[8]  The process to regain this imagination is to recognize our idolization of nature, properly perceive nature as creation, not as nature, and then to practice the art of living a creaturely life, that finally leads to giving thanks to God, recognizing that “to be genuinely grateful is to experience the world as the place of God’s blessing and to participate in life’s fullness and abundance.”[9]

I like Wirzba’s approach.  Essentially, I’d sum up his main course of suggested action to be “get back to the dirt!”  From dirt we came, and dirt we still are, and form dirt all the animals created on Day Six came and still are too.  He words this connection as follows: “Respect for human bodies and respect for lands go together and are intimately tied to the understanding that soil and the many processes of life and death are sacred.”[10]  To do this, we need to all start gardens on some scale, any scale.  We need to get connected to our food sources – and if it’s not by some level of personal working involvement in that process – it’s getting connected to the local farmers who do the work for us.  Wirzba suggests that churches should use their land for “growing food and flowers for parishners and the community” and to use their kitchens for “teaching people the arts of preparing and preserving food grown with their own hands.”[11]  For the most part, Wirzba’s approach is operating under the assumption that we know the truth of creation and our place within it, but we’re not living it – we’re living the Satanic lie that we are each our own god.  We’ve all reduced creation down to nature, but if we can get into nature, get connected to it, we’ll begin to awaken to the awe of what nature really is – God’s creation.  This will point us to God and let us experience what we do confess but rarely live and practice – that we are creatures and that nature is really creation.

Wilson takes a different approach to the Church’s Gnosticism and idolatry problem.  Unlike Wirzba who points us to natural knowledge (what can be known about God and ourselves through what God has created), he makes us re-evaluate our doctrine of Creation derived from revealed knowledge – the knowledge directly handed us by God in his written word, the Bible, that tells us specifically who God is and who we are and what we are not – namely we not God.  He suggests that the solution to our current problem is to “emphasize the necessity of always keeping creation and redemption together in our thinking, teaching, and living.”[12]  He points out that one of our biggest errors in this respect is in our thinking that “we can address the many pressing issues of our times – the degradation of Earth, what it means to be human, the use of technology, and more – without a robust doctrine of creation grounded in witness to Christ.”[13]  When we do this it makes us more than what we are – it elevates us above the creatures that we are to put us in some sort of god-position – thinking we can fix the world and heal the world by our own devices.  But when our doctrine of creation is connected to Christ, we see that God became connected and one with his creation in Jesus of Nazareth, and in seeing this “coming together of God’s work of creation and redemption for life [in Jesus], our vision is directed forward to the new creation.”[14]  Without this proper doctrine of Christ redeeming and working to restore all of creation, our salvation narrative is diminished to looking forward to death and escaping the current world of ruin… how Gnostic of us!  Wilson does a good job of fighting the lies of Gnosticism and our idolatry with the truth of Scripture, honing in on the restoration and salvation of all things taught in Scripture with highlights of the creation narrative focusing on Revelation 21-22, Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 8, John 1:1-18, and a sprinkling of Scripture’s Wisdom literature.

I think Wirzba’s approach and Wilson’s approach go hand in hand.  Wilson’s approach of focusing on Scripture is focusing on the 2nd article and 3rd article work of God in the Apostles’ Creed of which we too play a role as the Church as the instruments by which God works to redeem creation.  Wirzba’s approach is to live in the 1st article gifts of the Creed – to embrace creation by being creatures.  Wilson’s approach is more “Right-Hand Kingdom,” Church work, preaching and distributing the sacraments.[15]  Wirzba’s focus is more “Left-Hand” Kingdom,” society and creation work, being a good neighbor, not just to our human neighbors, but all of our creaturely  neighbors as well, and to the land, the waters , and the vegetation that support the life of all living creatures of flesh and blood.

I think both of these books, working in tandem, have sparked in me an appreciation and thankfulness for the little things in life… the little things that I am interconnected with and dependent upon on in some way, some fashion.  For the first time, I rethought spiders… I didn’t kill the spider; I didn’t destroy his web.  The spider is one of my fellow creatures, and I thought, maybe it’s got a point in God’s design and care for me and all of creation for being right there, right on the guard railing of my steps.  I don’t know what exactly that might be – maybe a reduction in flies or mosquitoes, but for once, I let the spider live.  For once, I’m rethinking the gardening scheme.  It might cost me more financially and it might exhaust more of my labors to grow some herbs and vegetables, but it will bring about a better awareness of all the food I eat and the processes that went into getting each meal on my plate.  It might – I know it will – make me more appreciative.  With joy, I took a picture of a lovely leaf that my four-year-old daughter asked me to take – it looked like a butterfly, and in fact, every leaf on the tree looked like the shape of butterflies with open wings.  I wouldn’t have noticed it without her, and instead of being annoyed, I took pause, and enjoyed not just taking the photo, but looking at the leaves with her.  I took my one-year-old son to the zoo with a new intent – not just to entertain – but to love my fellow creatures and to be in awe of them and how God has created them.  I’ve looked closely at people… and I have marveled at the thought that out of the billions of people on this planet, God has made us all unique – even identical twins don’t have the same fingerprints.

To move forward with practical things that the Church can do for our bodies, for our houses and homes, for our gardens and yards, for our church buildings and schools, for our neighborhoods and communities, and for the whole of creation, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has prepared an excellent report called, Together with All Creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth, with more than enough ideas to get us started in our local congregations on all of these fronts to do exactly what the title of the report says, “Care for all of God’s living earth.”

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2016/03/01/leonardo-dicaprios-carbon-footprint-is-much-higher-than-he-thinks/#599d71a82bd5

[2] https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/426353-ocasio-cortez-the-world-will-end-in-12-years-if-we-dont-address

[3] And recognizing the real danger, she knows we must stop cow fart emissions – https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline

[4] https://www.historyandheadlines.com/may-21-2011-10-times-people-predicted-the-end-of-the-world-and-were-wrong/

[5] Snopes claims it’s not as bad as the Tennessee Center for Policy Research reported.  Instead of 20 times the national average, Gore only used 12 times the national average.  However, Snopes has also been proven to be left-leaning.  https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/al-gores-energy-use/

[6] Wirzba, From Nature to Creation, p. 8.

[7] Ibd. p. 3.

[8] Ibd. p. 3-4.

[9] Ibd. p. 131.

[10] Ibd. p. 100.

[11] Ibd. p. 128.

[12] Wilson, God’s Good World, p. ix.

[13] Ibd. p. 50.

[14] Ibd. p. 53.

[15] He even ends Chapter 1, “Missing Creation in the Church”, with a call to recover the practice of baptism and the Eucharist.  Instead of referring to the sacraments as “the practice of” I’d rather say “the gifts of” and instead of “practicing them” I’d rather say “receiving them.”

3 Damaging Impacts of the Church’s Neglect of the Doctrine of Creation

The doctrine of creation is crucial for the Christian story in three ways: in the initial creation (God made everything that exists and it was very good), in the liberation of creation (Jesus came to redeem and save the world – that is all of creation that was utterly wrecked by the Fall of Man), and in the restoration/correction of creation at Christ’s return (God is making all things new! – Revelation 21:5).  Creation is a key component in the Christian story in the beginning, middle, and end. 

Revelation 21-5

I think this doctrine is neglected the most within the Church in our teachings concerning the final act of Christ’s full restoration of creation in which all things will be made new.  Having this doctrine intact radically changes the “salvation package.”  Often times because of the neglect of this doctrine in this key part of the Christian story of salvation, the presentation of the Christian message is relegated to the two-fold imputation of justification – the teaching so excellently explained in Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws:

1.) God loves you and created you to know Him personally; 2.) Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love; 3.) Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love; and 4.) We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.

As a Lutheran, I recognize that the individual reception of Christ is done through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:12-13), but other than that distinction, these “Four Spiritual Laws” pretty well summarize the way I have presented the Gospel to people – and as many other Lutherans I know have done as well – except that we, as well as many other Protestants, would add some little tidbit about when we die we’ll be with the Lord forever! End of story.  Yet the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all creation at Christ’s return is the true end (or do I say beginning?) of the complete and final hope Christ has in-store for us! 

The neglect of not having a fully developed endgame of Christ’s return in view is damaging in three ways: it makes us think death is a good thing for the Christian, it leads Christians to function as Gnostics, and it diminishes the hope we have in Christ. 

First, it makes us think of death as our friend.  Even my four-year old daughter has picked up on this false-narrative.  She recently heard that someone’s grandmother died, and she immediately said, “Well death is good, because then we get to see Jesus.”  It’s true that we get to be with Christ when we die in faith, but that death is not good!  I’ve even emphasized the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return with my young daughter, but she’s still picked up on this placating view of death.  Our spirit would be with Christ at death, but that’s not who we really are – we are body and spirit – and even at that moment of being with Christ though disembodied – much more is still wrong in the world that is not yet restored to its sinless glory.

Two – focusing almost exclusively on the salvation of the spirit, and not the full humanity of spirit and body, has in some ways led Christians to function as Gnostics – valuing the spiritual over and above the physical.  Obesity runs supreme in the Church (at least in some states or regions) and no one bats an eye about it – while we keep offering donuts as the “snack” at Church.  Online churches are now a thing – along with a special designated pastor who is called the Online Pastor.  We likely don’t think so much about the care of God’s creation either – one example – the number of chickens slammed into a shed with artificial light stacked on top of each other in in cages crapping on the ones below, getting vaccinated relentlessly against the new diseases that emerge from their environment, and if the chickens get to walk out on a concrete patio for some sparse minutes each day, they can be labeled as “free-range.”  Probably not the best stewardship of chickens and our source of eggs – in fact I know it is not, but I don’t really care, because I can get my eggs cheap!

Third, and finally, maybe most devastating is that we have lost sight of the greatness of the hope that we have in Christ, a full and total restoration of creation, a making of all things new again.  The good gifts of God in this life should be expected to be present in the world to come.  The things we love to do in this life that are good, we should expect to partake of them in some way in the life to come (most of them at least).  We’re going to be stewards of God’s re-creation – the new creation at Christ’s return that will be without sin, without curse, and with God visible and in direct relationship with us while we tend to what he has made.  What Jesus has in store for us at his return is so much more to live for than that cheap image of floating on a cloud with a harp or singing praise songs forever and a day in an eternal worships service that is so often pitched to us due to the woeful neglect of the doctrine of creation in our Christian story.


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