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We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Walking through a London train station yesterday I had to weave my way through hundreds of protestors.  Their favourite placard seemed to be this one:

photo from here

The message reads: Our climate is in our hands.  And at least 20 000 gathered in the capital to remind us of this: we've got the whole world in our hands.

Maybe it's coincidence but it's pretty close to a Guardian headline this week that said, regarding Copenhagen,  "Our destiny is still in our hands."

Wouldn't we love that to be true!?  How we long to be this world's solution!  And therefore, however costly it might be, we are eager to cast ourselves as the problem.  (See this former post entitled 'Anthropogenic')

The cost we seem willing to pay to keep ourselves at the centre beggars belief.  The Spectator reports the cost of making good on pledges agreed at the G8 summit:

A high global CO2 tax starting at $68 could reduce the world economic output by a staggering 13% in 2100 - the equivalent of $40 trillion a year.  That is to say, it would cost 50 times the expected damage of global warming. (Bjorn Lomborg, The Spectator, 5/12/09)

But hey - that's the price you pay when you take your destiny into your hands.  And you pay it willingly and with self-righteous zeal.  Because you are coming of age.  To this you were born.  We are the ones we've been waiting for, and all that.

But Christmas tells a different story.  He is the One we were waiting for.  And the government is upon His shoulders. (Isaiah 9:2-7).

Yet whenever we turn from Him we become slaves to the devil's lie: 'Be like God'.  And the result is a captivity to fear and an incessant struggle to make the world work.  We end up as slaves and we willingly pay for the honour.  Eventually in blood.  But no cost is too dear in order to secure our own messianic delusion.

I don't know about the science involved here.  But if you ever wonder whether a skeptic's approach to the debate could  account for the so-called scientific consensus on warming or why people would be willing to pay so much if it's unnecessary - I think the gospel has ready answers for this.


0 thoughts on “We’ve got the whole world in our hands

  1. Chris Oldfield

    I'm tempted to say "Amen", but I fear where this post is going.

    I know we can have a bit of postmodern fun here (oo look at the power agendas behind the "so called scientific consensus" *pah*), but PLEASE be careful not to turn a humerous shrug into a sneering "humbug!" this Christmas. Isn't Isaiah 9 precisely news that helps us both to care & to hope (if God did not take full responsibility for homo rapiens onto his shoulders, we in power & wealth would cease to (a) care and (b) hope for the vulnerable & suffering. Copenhagen really is too important to get turned into a postmodern joke.

    I'd be interested what you think of this public discussion back in 2008: The Selfish Green

    My hunch and fear is you'll look at that and say, no we can never ever start by agreeing with them, we need to prosecute their whole systems of thought as meaningless and futile without Christ. (I say this is my fear because I think that would be a misunderstanding of what it is to "start")

    I would find it much more helpful to say, aren't they right? aren't they right to see hope in the comparison with slavery? aren't they right on the bankruptcy of consumerism? aren't they right to call for conversion (to an unknown god) & a sense of objective value? but aren't they harrassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd?

    I suggest the last thing we should do, when non christians are prosecuting the effects of sin and crying out for hope & repentance is to decry them & say it's all a humanist agenda looking for hope where there is none? Shouldn't we say there is no hope in homo rapiens, but hope in a God who remembers his creation (Gen 8), and in a new kind of man who's taken responsibility for the world, and that hope transforms our common grief into hopeful action?

  2. Chris Oldfield

    Besides, I'd argue that there is a strong sense in which the world has been given into human hands, a sense which actually grounds all exploitation as sinful joyriding. A word search on hands in Daniel is revealing. I'll mention just one.

    Daniel 2
    34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

    36 "This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

    ..."after you...the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

    I'd suggest the problem is not the world being in our hands, but humility before the God from whose hands all power, wealth and responsibility are derivative (Daniel 5)

    Nebuchadnezzar: But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.

    Belshazzar: You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

  3. Si

    The thing that grinds my gears the most is the religio-political baggage attached to the science. The Independent this past week called Bjorn Lomborg and David Davis, both of whom are pretty much scientifically convinced that AGW is going on but don't feel that we have to stop it, climate change deniers - because they don't want to stop it by wearing hair shirts, flagellating ourselves and paying indulgences in the form of carbon taxes/trading.

    It's odd how those who wear the label "progressive", like the Guardian and Independent, are so petrified of change. That the most secular (and anti-religious fervour) newspapers are the ones peddling salvation-by-works through alarm and panic about the end-of-the-world as we know it, demanding that we repent, that we need to do penance, that we need to get our hair-shirts on to save ourselves.

    Then there's the "there's too many of us on the planet - we need about half the population" and then get really upset about the fact that coastal areas will flood, more people (well I assume more - they only gave future figures) dying of certain diseases and so on. There's some wanted future genocide (normally babies), but a real dislike for people dying - kind of inconsistent with their life ethic.

    The Independent a couple of years ago decided to go with an editorial stance that we're past the point of no-return and that there wasn't much we can do. They changed their tune after about a week when they realised that it wasn't what people wanted to hear and that there was no ground for the legalistic rituals that they want people to go through.

    There's some good things in neo-greenism - be good stewards of the environment, consumerism is a problem, the poor shouldn't suffer, that the world is messed up, etc. However it get lots of things wrong - that we can save the world is the most destructive wrong thing - it's the anti-gospel and, because it is, we cannot subscribe to it.

  4. Glen

    Hey Chris,
    I'm glad you comment here. Always good to interact.

    I see two areas we disagree on. But I might be misunderstanding your stance so do correct me.

    First I see a difference between these two stances:

    * 'The world, in its better moments, asks roughly the right questions but needs Christians to give them the right answers'


    * 'The world does not know the questions to ask, and needs Christians both to ask and answer the right questions.'

    I see you saying the former and myself saying the latter - would that be fair?

    Second, there's the issue: Who is the man into whose hands creation is committed?

    Humanity in its better moments? A truly humbled Nebuchadnezzar perhaps?

    No, the Rock breaks to pieces the kingdoms of this earth and fills the world with something from beyond. The Most High has appointed the Lowliest of men to rule (Daniel 4:17). This does not mean a contrite David Milliband. It means Christ.

    I agree with Si's analysis of the good things in neo-greenism - "be good stewards of the environment, consumerism is a problem, the poor shouldn’t suffer, that the world is messed up, etc."

    I disagree strongly with what you admire in it - "to call for conversion (to an unknown god)." Whilever they worship an unknown god they try to 'serve with human hands'. It's a barbarically cruel slavery. And they will pay dearly to be these slaves. Therefore, if we care for them, we must declare to them what they do not know. "We should not think" in these ways (Acts 17:29).

    In this way we care for them as sheep without a Shepherd. We 'teach them many things' (Mark 6:34).


  5. Chris Oldfield

    Did you watch The Selfish Green?

    Please do. If so, are you saying there's no way we can agree with them? not at all? So rather than getting involved in stewardship and identifying with the unseen unheard vulnerable human & animal populations whom we are condemning on the other side of our national fuelbills, the first thing we want to communicate is "we're right, you're wrong:
    - you're wrong to say consumerism is bankrupt
    - you're wrong to point back to the aboliton of slavery as a reason to hope here (what was that by the way?)
    - you're wrong to say we need to find but haven't found a way to ground an objective value for our environment
    - you're wrong that we need to believe things not just say things
    - and you're wrong to say whole ecosystems and nation states are at risk of extinction due to the irresponsible loveless tyranny of (sinful) man.

    Of course there's a million ways we must challenge, but like the unknown god, these are points of departure, not as points of arrival! It's called being involved in, rather than laughing at the conversation.

    Absolutely, the man is the man Jesus who died and rose and took responsibility for the planet which is now groaning while it waits for the true human beings. But are you saying there's no sense in which the world is in our hands? We may not see everything under our feet any more, (at present we do not see him but we see him, namely Jesus). Again, re Daniel, of course there's more to be said, but surely not less than that God does (or at least did, and not just to "pre fall" Adam) give the world ("mankind, the beasts of the fields, the birds of the air") into human hands?

    To go technical: I'm saying precisely because we do know the questions God confronts man with, precisely because we do know the gospel answers those questions man faces implicitly in his very nature, we should be able to recognise when man in his ignorance is hitting on something real. Schaeffer repeatedly distinguished this from rationalism:

    “As Christians, we really do have the answers to the questions posed by reality. But we have not thought up these answers – we know them from God’s revelation...My observation is that most students graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions”

    I'm saying at that point, in Pascal's words, we persuade that the solutions are beyond us.

    Who will unravel this tangle? ...Man is beyond man...Be aware then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourselves! Humble yourself, powerless reason! Hear from your Master your true condition of which you are unaware. Hear God!


  6. Glen

    Hi Chris,

    First of all I don't see myself as making jokes here. I might be using irony but there's quite a difference.

    And I'm certainly not laughing at anyone who's arguing that consumerism is bankrupt or we must protect the vulnerable etc, etc. In agreement with Si, I tried to make that clear in my last comment. (btw this debate is not about whether we want to help the poor of the earth or leave them to their doom! Casting it in those terms is yet another unhelpful caricature).

    If I am 'laughing' at anyone (and I think my post makes this abundantly clear) I'm laughing at those who cast themselves as messiahs born at just the right time to save us from apocalypse. And I think *those* bubbles desperately need bursting.

    I think Daniel works against your desire to put Adamic humanity in the driver's seat. The Rock is in total distinction from the statue. The Lowliest of men in distinction from the kings of the earth. The Son of Man in distinction from the beastly rulers.

    And when He comes, all authority in heaven and earth is given to Him... Therefore go make disciples...

    Governments can keep the peace and punish the evil-doer etc (and ok let's have some responsible use of the environment in there). But they can't save the planet. That job's taken.

    And "the people" have an effect on the environment. But as your video makes abundantly clear - they need to be "converted". They need to be converted from self to live sacrificially. Of course. But please let's not convert them to environmentalism. Let's do what Jesus has called us to do as a church and preach the gospel.

    And if the government or 'the people' step into Christ's shoes then we need to take them down a peg or two.

    You write:

    "the planet... is now groaning while it waits for the true human beings."

    Who are the true human beings? Do you mean the sons of God at the end? Rom 8:19?


  7. Chris Oldfield

    hi glen
    thanks for that.
    Apologies for casting your views as postmodern fun - I've recently encountered christians who really do look down on the Copenhagen, with postmodern "look, *climategate* shows it's all a big conspiracy after much for *so called scientific consensus*", but it turns out yours was more of a shrug than a "humbug!", so I was reading denial/indifference into your posts too hastily.

    On the apocalyptic language and surrogates for salvation, I agree (that knowing Daniel 2,7) we should stand with John Gray in a healthy pessimism about human utopianism, but we must be careful not to throw out the Copenhagen baby with the rhetorical bathwater it's couched in.

    I'm glad you find plenty of points of agreement with what attenborough, dawkins, leakey & co are saying. The reason I put the questions as starkly as I did was off the back of previous discussions about the possibility of shared points departure.

    Of course ultimate power is not in human hands - power to save, to judge, to recreate. But to say that Copenhagen is not in human hands is in some way to buy the apocalyptic utopianism (only to reject it of course). If we dont fall for the surrogate salvation offered (ie what John Gray says lies behind most political activism), then we can surely say that we have derivative power in our hands. I'm not calling for "Adamic" man (not sure what that means, I'll take it to mean human beings who aren't yet in Christ) to "be in the driving seat". I'm taking Nebuchadnezzar as an example of human majesty: he had been given dominion into his hands (cf Gen 1, Ps 8), but instead of finding meekness before his maker's majesty, he was dehumanised, stripped of his majesty, UNTIL he recognised that the most high reigns...and then his wisdom and his majesty & splendour were restored to him and his kingdom became even greater than before.

    in much the same way, we are called to be wise, and believe the gospel (Dan 4:27 esv), and just as the ground was waiting for man to work it in Gen 2, so now the whole creation is groaning waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (of whom Jesus is the firstborn - ie sons of God = many in the likeness of Jesus, the true human being). That's how I read it.

  8. Heather

    The Green Agenda folks are right.

    Man IS what is wrong with this planet. Only, there seems to be a lot of blame-shifting going on and it's always someone else's fault--kind of like Adam and Eve did in the Garden, eh?

    The real problem with this world is unrepentant humanity. And until God says "Enough!" we will continue to experience symptoms regardless of what unrepentant humanity does to try to fortify it's crumbling kingdom.

    The simplicity of the naked truth is shocking, no?

  9. Pingback: Environmentalism – the new religion « Christ the Truth

  10. Tim V-B

    Few months ago I was at some local event at which a school choir was singing (a church school, mind). What did they sing? "We've got the whole world in our hands.
    We've got the whole wide world, in our hands." etc.


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