Moral Monday is a weekly blog by Josh Bryant on ethical issues facing Christians and churches.
by Josh Bryant
I'm not interested in debating global warming. I'm don't really want to talk about climate change. These issues have been so highly politicized that it is really pretty difficult to determine what the truth is. Both sides of the debate accuse the other of lying for votes. There is a lot we could talk about ethically as a result, but we'll save that for another day.
God doesn't lie. There is much in God's Word that speaks directly to this issue. First, we know God has commanded us to subdue the earth and rule over it (Gen. 1:28). This commandment was given before sin entered the world, so even in that state of perfection the earth needed to be ruled and God appointed us for that job. When sin entered the world it just made the job more difficult.
And He said to Adam, "Because you listened to your wife's voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'Do not eat from it': the ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you wre taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.
As a result of sin, the ground - the earth itself - was cursed. There will be harmful things for us in this world because of sin - earthquake, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, disease, illness, drought, flood, famine, cow farts, global warming, climate change, and death. We must work hard and painfully in life because of Adam's disobedience (and our subsequent disobedience). Sin did not nullify God's command; this cursed world is what we must subdue and rule.
How do we do that? Are we to rule over the world in such a manner that it is more harmful for us than God intended it to be? Or are we to improve upon it and make it better? I think the latter is true. God told Adam - humanity's representative at that time - that we would eat the plants of the field. We would take what was wild and grow crops. Adam's son Abel was such a farmer. This was an improvement for humanity.
We must also remember to whom this world belongs.
The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD: for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.
Since this world belongs to God, we should do what we can to be good stewards of it. We are only His managers; He is the owner. One day, God made flesh - Jesus - will return. What will He return to? A world that His stewards have trashed or one that we have responsibly subdued and exercised dominion over for our good?
The trajectory of humanity in eschatological (the study of end times) is an improvement.
Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look! I am making everything new." He also said, "Write, because these words are faithful and true." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End."
God is the beginning and the end; He is making everything as it was. This is what we call the restoration. One day everything will be made back as it was before sin; it will be made perfect. With that as our goal, we should also look to provide a little slice of it on earth in the here and now. Should we utilize earth's resources to help make life more comfortable and convenient? Absolutely. Should we do so haphazardly or recklessly? I don't think so. It is a good thing to reduce our dependency on material things that will only fill our landfills. It is a good thing to reuse what resources we can, and to manufacture things such that they can be reused. God is a compassionate God. It is good for us to keep our air breathable and not pollute it with things that cause COPD, asthma, and like ailments. It is good for us to keep our water drinkable to prevent cholera and other water borne illnesses. It is ok to try and reduce your carbon footprint and waste.
God gave us the earth to subdue and manage. We should long and strive for what He intended for us - an Eden. We should take care of the planet. That doesn't mean we should stop mining minerals and fossil fuels or growing genetically modified plants for food. It means we should do so responsibly.
by Josh Bryant
Many a pastor has heard the phrase "we're married in God's eyes" as a justification for cohabitation outside of marriage - at least cohabitation prior to a wedding ceremony. The argument is that Scripture does not describe a wedding ceremony and thus it is not required. All that Scripture requires is a commitment to be married. Although it is claimed that this line of reasoning is based on Scripture, it ignores an overarching theme of the New Testament.
Marriage in the New Testament is clearly utilized to depict Christ's relationship with the church. Jesus described the Kingdom of God in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22:1-14). In that parable, the King throws a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent servants to summon those who were invited, but the did not come. In fact, the invitees mistreated and killed the servants. The King instructed the servants to go into the world and invite everyone to the feast, and the banquet was filled with guests. Paul expands on the parable in a much more practical sense in demonstrating how marriage reflects Christ's relationship with the church (Eph. 5:22-33). John described the celebration after the defeat of Babylon as a vast multitude saying "Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself... Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" (Rev. 19:6b-7, 9b).
Clearly there is soteriological and eschatological significance in marriage. Couples often are forced to invite people they barely know and rarely see to their wedding. Likewise, we are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, to invite everyone we meet to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Inasmuch as there is no salvation without a public confession of Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:8-10 "If you confess with your mouth...you will be saved...one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation."), there is no marriage without a public confession of one man's and one woman's confession of their commitment to lifelong fidelity.
Additionally, the church is the original arbiter of biblical marriage. Government involvement in marriage is a relatively new creation. In 1215, the church created the "banns of marriage" which required a public proclamation of the marriage from the pulpit. It wasn't until the 14th century that the church conscripted governments to help enforce the banns of marriage by requiring governmental permission to get married - a marriage license.
Now in the 21st century, government's role in marriage and marriage-like relationships is starting to deteriorate. Most scholars agree that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), has ended the notion that cohabitation outside of marriage is a crime. Common law marriage and "palimony" still enter into the picture when a relationship ends that does not involve a wedding ceremony. Marvin v. Marvin, 18 C.3d 660 (1976). All that remains is the different tax treatment of lawfully married couples. Some legislatures have even taken up legislation that would remove the government from the process all together after Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage across the country. As such, the church is likely to be the sole arbiter of marriage; legally the institution seems to be losing favor.
All that to say, marriage without ceremony is no marriage - at least not in the biblical use of the word. Pastors should not shy away from arguments that a couple is married in the eyes of God. Without the church, that is not biblically the case.
Did you know that forcing a woman to have a baby and give it up for adoption isn't human trafficking? Not yet anyway. A lot of people have tried a number of ways to make the practice of coercing a woman into having and adopting away her child fit neatly within existing human trafficking statutes. It just doesn't. The human trafficking statutes were designed to stop modern day slavery and the sex trade. You really have to stretch the current legal definition of human trafficking to make forcing an adoption illegal.
That's about to change. HB 1488 in Arkansas extends the definition of human trafficking to recruiting, enticing, soliciting, isolating, harboring, transporting, providing, maintaining, or obtaining a pregnant woman for the purpose of causing her to to place the unborn baby up for adoption the use of or threatened force, or benefiting financially from any of those things.
Arkansas - tell your representatives and senators to support HB 1488!
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.