by Adventist Today News Team
Next week Adventists around the world will focus on current environmental issues and related Bible principles. The Sabbath School lesson published by the denomination is on “Creation Care” and will be discussed in local groups at the end of the week on Sabbath, February 25.
“How should Christians relate to the environment?” is the focus of the study. “What should we, as Seventh-day Adventists, think about the environment, especially because we know that this earth is corrupted, will continue to be corrupted, and will one day be destroyed, burned up in a great lake of fire,” the Adult Study Guide Standard English Edition introduces the topic. “We have sometimes struggled with how to relate to environmental concerns.”
Where the most popular Christian tradition places the afterlife in heaven, Adventists believe that ultimately human destiny is on this earth. The “lake of fire” will “cleanse” the earth and God “promises to make it over, to re-create it, to make a ‘new heaven and a new earth.’” It is on the renewed and healed earth that Adventists see the eternal future of humankind and the natural environment. And “that’s hardly an excuse … to abuse or exploit the environment,” the study guide states.
A search of the Sabbath School lessons in the General Conference Archives indicates that this is the first time that the denomination has focused on this topic, although there have been related studies. The lesson for the week of April 22-28, 1984, was about “Knowing God Through Nature.” In August 1999 there was a week devoted to “The Fall’s Impact on Creation” followed by a week on “Was There Death Before Sin?” All of these largely skirted potentially controversial issues that will be explored in the coming week.
Many Adventists may be surprised to find that in 1995 the denomination issued an official position paper on stewardship of the environment which expresses concern about “megalomaniacal destruction of the earth’s resources, resulting in widespread suffering, environmental disarray, and the threat of climate change.” The statement concludes that, “The ecological crisis is rooted in humankind’s greed and refusal to practice good and faithful stewardship within the divine boundaries of creation.” It is republished in the Sabbath School lesson for this coming week.
The lesson focuses on Bible study, specifically the texts used in the 1995 position paper—Gen. 1:1, 26; 9:7; Psalm 24:1; 100; James 5:1, 2, 4, 5; Heb. 1:3—and Rom. 1:25, 2 Pet. 3:10-14, Gen. 2:15, Neh. 13:16-19, Matt. 22:37-40 and a number of others. Questions suggested to start the discussion in Sabbath School classes begin with, “How would you respond to the person who says, ‘Jesus is coming soon, so why should I care about the environment?’” This is an attitude often brought up by those who accuse Adventists and other conservative Protestants of being irrelevant to contemporary realities.
Adventist Today would be interested in hearing how the discussion unfolded in your Sabbath School. Are adult groups able to discuss this potentially volatile topic without resorting to angry or accusatory statements, labeling those they disagree with, or talking past each other? Were the discussions rooted in Scripture and a serious attempt to lead Christ-centered lives or largely informed by current politics and media