Suppose you were reading a book. Early on, a character happens across a muder scene. This character– who is perhaps a detective– states that the ground itself is crying out.
About halfway through that book, some other hero– perhaps that rare ethical politician– has been speaking to people to people about their lousy decisions. Part way through his speech to the people, the politician speaks to the land itself. He tells the land it has been mistreated. He paints a word picture of how amazing it will be for the land when people start acting right.
Then, near the end of the book, somebody else is talking about how messed up everything is. This character says that it runs deeper than just people wanting healing. Suppose this guy went so far as to say the universe itself is crying out to be restored.
I think many people would begin a rant that would go something like this, “Those evil leftist neopagans are pushing foreward their pro-environment agenda, trying to turn everyone to their new age philosophy which suggests that the earth itself is divine.”
Maybe you saw through my little mental exercise and recognized that the book described above is the bible. When Cain slays Abel, God describes how the Earth is crying out with his blood. Three quarters of the way through Ezekial, the prophet switches gears. He is no longer rebuking the people of Isreal. He appears to be talking to the land itself. And in the New Testament, Paul tells us that creation itself is groaning in anticipation of Christ’s return. (These, by the way, are not isolated examples.)
I am not suggesting that we ought to go out and actively worship the trees themselves. I am not denying that people smuggle their metaphysics into what they say and do and think. (Sometimes on purpose.)
I am saying that God is an environmentalist and the issue of where nature ends and God begins is a complicated one.
It’s often marveled at, the idea that God would make himself vulnerable by coming down to Earth in the form of Christ. I agree that it’s an amazing thing that God made himself vulnerable. But I think that this assessment is off by several thousand years.
Taking on the flesh of Jesus was just an object lesson, a personification, of what had gone on before. In the garden of Eden, God made himself vulnerable. God loved us, and he opened himself up to being hurt by us. He trusted us, and he opened himself up to being betrayed by us. He tried to teach us, and he opened himself up to the possibility of us missing the point.
Can you imagine a knight taking a hammer to his armor, and saying “I’d like to make a chink in it, right here? I’ll choose this weakness.”
Or a tank driver. Going at his tank, saying “I’ve modified things. Now, if somebody shoots us right here, our tank is going to blow up.”
What God did is more over the top. Because he is so much greater than a knight or a tank driver. He set the stars in motion. He created the black holes. He started the stars burning. He set the planets spinning. He created space-time. He made us.