Redeeming the time

LutherPunk has started up a new blog less focused on theology and ministry and more focused on crafting a lifestyle of self-sufficience and reduced consumption in what might seem like a not-too-promising location: modern suburbia.

Derek weighs in here and points out that resisting consumerism dovetails with classic Christian virtues like “prudence, temperance, moderation, and respect for the creation.”

Which brings me to one of the, for me, most compelling parts of Michael Northcott’s recent A Moral Climate, which I mentioned briefly here. Although Northcott firmly defends the scientific consensus on climate change, he offers a Pascal’s wager-style argument to the effect that changing our current lifestyle would be a good thing even if global warming wasn’t happening:

action to stem climate change would be prudent even if certain knowledge that it is happening, or about the severity of its effects, is not available or believed. If global warming is humanely caused, then these actions will turn out to have been essential for human survival and the health of the biosphere. In the unlikely even that it is not, then these good actions promote other goods — ecological responsibility, global justice, care for species — which are also morally right. (p. 274)

Northcott deepens his argument with a discussion of the Christian conception of time. Humanity, in the Christian understanding, is not called primarily to seize control of historical processes, but to witness to God’s love and mercy:

Time in modernity thus becomes a human project, and ordering time towards human welfare requires economic and political artifice. By contrast, in the Christian account of redemption the future is hopeful because of the Christ events in which bondage to sin and suffering is undone by the definitive redeeming action of God in time. In the Christian era time is no longer a political project as it had been for Plato, and as it has become again in post-Christian modernity. Instead Creation, Incarnation, Resurrection are teh actions of the eternal, transforming the direction and future possibilities of human existence within time from beyond time. (p. 278 )

In previous chapters Northcott had outlined certain key Christian practices – such as dwelling, pilgirmage and eucharistic feasting – that are in sharp contrast with our technological-industrial world’s obsession with mobility, speed, and utility. These practices aren’t means of engineering history, but ways of dwelling within history, in light of the cross of Jesus:

In these practices Christians take time to order their lives around the worship of God because they believe that they have been given time by the re-ordering of creation which occurs when the Creator dwells inside time in the Incarnation and so redeems time and creation from futility, and from the curse of original sin. In the shape of this apocalyptic event, Christians understand that they have seen not only the future redemption of creatureliness, but the way, the ‘shape of living’, that they are called to pursue between the present and the future end of time. (pp. 278-9)

For Christians, living in a way that minimizes our use of limited resources and impact on the planet isn’t simply a means to reducing envionmental despoilation, it’s living “with the grain of the universe,” to use John Howard Yoder’s memorable phrase. Peaceableness, which encompasses our relationships with the human and non-human creation, is ultimately in sync with the deepest and most lasting reality, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

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