I read an article* that suggested that one of the reasons Christianity is struggling today is that it’s ‘humanity focus’ (the article said ‘anthropocentrism’) is increasingly at odds with the world views of the last 500 years. With Copernicus we now orbit the sun which means that planet Earth and thus humanity are no longer at the centre of everything. With Darwin and the development of evolutionary biology (though I think it is the geology of the 19th century that is more foundational) humanity is regarded as the ‘latest product’ and at a biological level humanity has so many things in common with so many other living things. Today’s transhumanism looks to accelerate human development so that the boundaries of consciousness, technology, life and death are becoming fluid. (I wrote about transhumanism in my ‘blurb’ on Easter Sunday 2017.) And – this I hadn’t appreciated – apparently there is a growing view that while the sun has approximately another 5 billion years to shine, humanity does not for we are more at risk of annihilation now than ever before (so say some scientists).
My hunch is that as more and more about the world and the universe are known, as the boundaries of knowledge ever expand, so the God who previously might have filled the gaps of our knowledge has less relevance or importance for many people. Humanity’s view of itself gets smaller and smaller in the big scheme of things. That is a long way from the ideas that human-ity is the apex or centre of reality – having dominion over all we survey. A criticism of Christianity is that it is so forgiveness or salvation focused that it really doesn’t care about what people do in or to the world because Christians believe they are going somewhere else. There is such a concentration on the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed that people forget that there is a 1st Article about God and creation. There is an accusation going that our religious attitudes have helped create the environmental crisis we now face. And in response to all I’ve just mentioned there is an increasing call for religions – all of them – to work at environmental solutions.
I don’t read anything in the Bible that suggests, says, or even promotes the idea that I can leave the planet in a worse state when I leave it. I don’t sense I’m contributing to the endangering or extinction of species. As I live quite a way removed from producing my food or securing my water – I purchase them – as I’m not tied to a plot of land for sustenance and livelihood and because I can travel quite easily – it is easy for me to have a consumer approach to living in the world. I don’t litter or seek to be cruel to creation nevertheless my ignorance about many things in this world possibly does contribute to me not living ecologically as well as I could. I can make excuses of busyness or conflicting scientific opinions leading to inertia all I like. I’m sure I could improve my footprint on the planet and walk ‘lighter’. It will boil down to me doing what I’m told by someone I trust.
But why should I bother? I’m a nobody in a world population of 7 billion. Me and my species might indeed be becoming ‘smaller’ in the universe, nevertheless I operate – know myself (sins, flaws, weaknesses – well, many of them – and what I can do reasonably well) from the perspective of being unique (in creation) and being loved (salvation) by the God who serves. This God entered this world – was born, lived, died, and lives again – to serve us and then leads his followers to live in service to others. That’s the ‘game plan’ and while I’m never perfect at it, I have an identity and meaning in life. If our future is secure, then we can concentrate on making this world today somehow better than yesterday.
* Junghung Kim, (2018). ‘Christian Anthropology in an Age of Science: Between Anthropocentrism and Non-Anthropocentrism’, The Expository Times. Vol. 129 (12): 547-553.