Not too long ago, I bumped across an advertisement for the latest Christian publishing gimmick. HarperCollins, a secular publisher that occasionally dabbles in religious material, has released what they call The Green Bible - a version of the Bible designed to appeal to the conservationist in us all. A snippet from the website reads:
The Green Bible is the definitive movement Bible that shows that God is green and how we can care for and protect God's creation.
*Green-Letter Edition: Verses and passages that speak to God's care for creation highlighted in green
*A personal green Bible trail study guide
*An appendix with information on further reading, how to get involved, and practical steps to take
*Recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover
So we have women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, military Bibles, couples’ Bibles, Bibles for teens, Bibles with sports icons on the cover, red-letter Bibles … and now a “Green-Letter Edition”, highlighting all the passages that deal with “God’s care for creation.” And I submit to you that this is, at best, a misguided marketing ploy – an attempt, by HarperCollins to squeeze a little more money out of the Christian 'book stores' by making the Bible ‘more appealing’ to the twenty-something set. I call it a ploy because, if they were really altruistic about saving the environment, HarperCollins would print all their books on “recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover.” But that’s not what this is about. This is, at best, a gimmick … and, at worst, it might be blasphemy. For here we have a Bible version that is primarily concerned, not with the whole counsel of God, but with a select portion of it – a portion, it just so happens, that appeals to a particular segment of society and purports to say what they want to hear.
I’m not a big fan of colored ink in the Bible – even red-letter editions. For if we are going to use red ink, ought not the whole Bible be printed in it … since all of its words are inspired by Jesus? To highlight the words of the incarnate Jesus, over against the words of Moses, or Peter, or Paul, is to make it appear as though some parts of the Bible are more inspired than others; and to add fuel to the fire of those who like to chop the Bible into little bits that are more or less acceptable in their own eyes. So buy your Bibles in all black – the way the prophets and apostles wrote it. Or at least read your copy as though the words were all the same color, remembering that red and green are no more inspired or important than black.
Now at least the red-letter editions attempt to highlight Jesus. But, in The Green Bible, the spotlight falls onto a subject much less worthy of adoration – the creation. And in highlighting creation – indeed, building a whole Bible version around it – The Green Bible fuels the fire of a generation of people who have, in a peculiarly altruistic sounding way, done a Romans 1.25. That is, 21st century Americans are encouraged on every hand to so venerate ‘mother earth’; to be so concerned for the environment; to become so ‘green’ that we have, in effect, “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature [or creation] rather than the Creator.” Sound far-fetched? Go to the public school down the street and you will hear the children singing these words: ‘The earth is my mother, the earth is my mother, she gives me everything that I ever need.’ I've heard it myself! And it's Romans 1.25 all over again. Instead of “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” the youth of today believe ‘The earth is my mother, I shall not want.’ We’ve become a generation of earth worshippers!
So, I guess what I'm on about is something like this ... Do what you can, within reason, to preserve God’s creation. That is biblical and right. But realize, most of all, that God’s distinctive, definitive, perfect strategy for saving the planet is not about human efforts, and community action programs, and government initiatives. No, God is going to save the planet – and its inhabitants – through the blood of His Son. That's what Romans 8.19-22 says. The creation will be redeemed and made right when God's people are redeemed at the last day.
And how are God's people redeemed? Well, at the last day, by the coming again of Jesus. But all that would be of no use to us if we had not been redeemed, by His blood, at His first coming. So God's plan for restoring creation found its crux at the cross. So God’s environmental plan is more red than green. God’s ultimate solution for the groaning of creation is not to urge us to save the trees, but to point us to the tree that saves. God’s solution for the groaning of creation is to point us to the cross of Christ, where both we and the creation have been be set free from the effects of sin. And if we really care about God and His creation, those are the kinds of passages that we will highlight in our Bibles!