Dr. Matt Godshall joins Mark and Rex to explore the important topic of how theology positively or negatively affects our view of environmental ethics.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host, Mark Moore, and I’m your co host Rex Gurney. I’m Rex today on the podcast, we’re excited to have a conversation about something I think is really important. And it has theological implications and practical implications. We’re going to be looking at how our theology affects our practice, specifically, our view on environmentalism.
And it’s an important topic to talk about. It really is, and I think we have a wonderful guest this morning that will help us process
renew we, Professor Matt Godshall has been on the show a few times press are New Testament, teaches an environmental ethics class here at Jessup. And so we’re excited to have this conversation. hope you tune in.
Well, today’s episode, we’re going to look at the idea of how theology affects our practice. And particularly, I think we want to zoom in on how theology maybe even particularly, eschatology, which is just a fancy way of saying how you viewed the end times are the end of the world as we know it. How your eschatology I’m feeling fine. Yeah, that’s good. That’s a good reference. How your eschatology affects how you view the environment, and maybe how that that position you take on care of the environment, and just environmental ethic issues in general. And, Rex, I know that this issue has been really kind of big in your life and gun owner, you deal with it a lot in classes, so kind of throw the ball to you. First on, we also have Matt Gaucho with us. Professor of New Testament, we decided we need an expert. That’s right. He also teaches a class on environmental ethics for Jessup. And so we’re excited to have you on the show again, man. I mean, you’re a definite friend of the show. And I am excited to say like it might happen t shirts are in the world brand of the show t shirts are in the works. They’re gonna be at a local Walmart near you. Coming soon, find a Walmart yeah. Oh, yeah, exactly. We can bring in, but yeah, no, Rex, we’ll start with you. Because it kind of is
so on your heart. Um, I mean, the whole issue and actually have something in front of me right now. This is no arms and it will like Christian perspective class. One thing we do is kind of do a theology once over just to talk about what most Christians most of the time, most places have thought about God and mankind and redemption and soteriology and eschatology, that big word, but not to try to, you know, just go over doctrine and teach doctrine, but just to show how that actually has. And I don’t like this term, but I don’t know of another term, sort of a cash value, okay, in how you live your life and how you look at things, how it affects your worldview, right. And so we’ll talk about eschatology, and how your view of in times or how that impacts contemporary history, and what’s going on around you really can affect some things like who you vote for, what you vote for, what policies you vote for, even when you don’t think about it deliberatively it’s sort of theology of the gut. And I just try to get students to make a connection between those things, but it also affects the environment. So for example, and I’ll just give one I have had relatives and they’re actually not in this place anymore. So they have I believe grown in this area, right. But but for a while they they refuse to recycle. And they actually had sort of a almost a religious Christian reason for not right and right as they were dedicated to a pre millennial dispensational view of in times. And so, you know, the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. That’s just the way it is. You can read it and Daniel and Revelation, right, and so since we’re not going to be around much anymore, and since there’s nothing we can do to positively impact the future, because I think I already mentioned the hell in a handbasket. Then, actually, why would you recycle? In fact, if you even look at it and think about it, it’s almost like recycling would be an act of bad faith sort of this right. Which is just totally well, frankly foreign to the way I personally feel and yeah, people I know feel but at least I sort of admired the consistency in that I mean, know that least they had made some connections. You know, no matter Yeah, I felt about those.
Right, right. Yeah. You felt it was a good connection are not they were they released maybe living out of that. But yeah, it’s really interesting when you have kind of clear examples of that kind of connection. People can make of like, hey, if I if I believe we’re going to be gone. Why would I try to make the earth a better place? And and would you say with that, that it’s probably also a. So you had kind of the premillennial, dispensational, sarees. And all the words you’re gonna get your dictionary. Of course, that’s not the only view. Yeah, yeah, not the only view but but a predominant view in kind of conservative evangelicalism. Right. Definitely in the 80s. Early.
Yeah. Used to be it’s really interesting. Yeah, like that was supposed to save us. In fact, I remember that, that that eschatological view was explicitly linked to saving the authority of the Bible. And right, I heard right. I think that some corners of contemporary evangelicalism have actually found a new thing, to sort of save the integrity of the Bible. Yeah, that might be another podcast. But yeah, it’s sort of interesting how the connections there right, actually, right.
But yeah, if you had in that, and, and kind of growing up, I heard kind of very similar idea. Now. It’s interesting, you know, Indiana, was probably a later addition to the recycling world, then California. And, and so it wasn’t really, you know, necessarily an issue that someone took a stand on, When, when, when I was growing up. But I could definitely see how the theology are being taught, especially maybe a theology of how the world was going to end would affect then your direct application of, Okay, why would I then take the time? Why would I maybe spend more money to care for this? And and I think it’s important for us now, and I think one of the reasons why we wanted to do this show is to kind of help our listeners understand, right? Hey, like, there’s sometimes we make a direct connection like that. But there’s a whole lot of other times that we just have a theology, and then it just kind of flows out into our actions. And we’re maybe not realizing like, oh, wow, I’m, I’m not doing something because I think the world is positioned this way. And so we have to kind of step back and say, Well, how is my theology affecting my direct action? And I know in your with your class, you kind of get to tackle these issues and environmental ethics. What are some of them? Maybe, yeah, some of those issues of theology and environmentalism that you kind of see.
I think, yeah, Rex, you’ve already touched on. Big connection is eschatology, how we view the end of the story definitely shapes our participation in that story now, so one of the first steps is to help students rethink what the end is, right? Regardless of millennial positions, we don’t get into those now. But we have charts on our social referencing them right now in front of you have perfect so I can pronounce them anyway. So but if you view the end as somehow including a restored creation, a new heaven, yeah, meaning sky in space and a new earth, a restored creation made new creation, right. That’s a very different ending, then a lot of students and myself included growing up was was taught about the end of the story, as Rex you hinted at if God’s gonna destroy it anyways, in the end, let’s just live kind of helping that along. Now. Why?
Or if you don’t want us help it along, which, which actually has some policy implications, but at least get as many people into the lifeboat as you can? Yeah. Which is a real incentive for evangelism. It’s not the only incentive for evangelism. But I understand how it really is an incentive for that, right. Yeah,
I remember going to church as an undergrad student, and the pastor there was, you know, opened up the Second Peter three, and his conclusion was, God’s just gonna destroy it all, you know, more, oh, we should just, you know, go along with it. And not to worry too much about caring for now, which, at the time, I thought, Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Okay. I don’t need to worry about caring for the right environment, I can just let it go, whether it’s recycling or other things. So I think the first thing though, is that, at the very least, to say, God’s actually cares about the world. He may Yeah, when Paul talks about restored creation in Romans eight or revelation 21, envisioning God making all things new, that includes more than just humans, right. And so if that’s the end, how do we as people who Paul would say are people of the end, storytellers at the end? How do we reflect that? So that’s kind of the first step is to try to get students to think how to my actions now in relation to the environment in which I live. Yeah, tell the story of God’s renewal of all things. Now. There’s a lot then that comes into that. What does this mean for certain policy issues as you’re saying Rex or my practical everyday living gets into some pretty difficult Yeah, That’s when the that’s where the debates and challenges really come is like, how do we tell that story, but we at least need to start with, we should be telling that story or that is the story we are trying to tell.
Yeah. So I mean that maybe that first step is just realizing whatever theology you hold of, of, of the end, how that will affect your actions, like even just starting there and recognizing, and then maybe start taking those next steps of, hey, what what does, what does scripture say about the end? And I like how you highlighted this idea of restored creation, right? Because I mean, that was the one thing that I, I would say, I didn’t really hear a lot growing up. And then the more I studied a more looking at it, this idea of New Heaven, New Earth, and it’s like, whoa, whoa, wait, it’s really not I was just going to heaven was his new Earth aspect. And, and now you add that in, it’s like, oh, wow, like, yeah, this, it highlights God’s care for that. And then I think your language is interesting, too, because a restored creation brings up the original creation. Yeah. Right. It kind of takes you from the end of the story, all the way back to the beginning, which is why remember Genesis one, I could be wrong here. But I think God pronounced it as as good. Good. That’s right. I think if I’m, you know, applying my awana knowledge, okay, I think it was good. I think I have a badge. That’s a good says the athlete good badge. And yeah, the so it kind of connects the whole story, right? Don’t get, it’s not maybe even just what you think of what’s going to happen at the end. But what happens at the beginning and, and, and all of that, no matter your take, because we we’ve talked about this, there’s different Christian takes on how it’s going to end. And there’s different Christian perspectives on how it all began, in a sense. I mean, God’s still being creator and at the center. But But no matter maybe what position you take on that there is that one overriding, overriding theme, that God is the Creator and that God cares for his creation, and, and that God wants to eventually restore and renew his creation,
and if we are bearers of the imago dei, and that means anything. Yeah, that has implications for us.
Yeah. Yeah, we’re being restored to the imago dei now as we live in Christ, and which would the very least be reflecting God in his care for the world at least last conversation? If God loves the world, we probably should do that seems pretty logical framework. What could I go back to a passage of scripture real quick about eschatology? Would that be alright? You’re not allowed to read scripture and he’s got a Baptist upbringing. Speaking of conservative. So what’s fascinating was first Corinthians, Paul, throughout the letter challenges, kind of the Corinthians worldviews often related to the end, ran right and he sees their actions in the present is very much reflecting their eschatology. So in chapter six, he quotes the Corinthians their slogan was, food is for the stomach, stomach is for the food, God’s gonna do do away with both God’s gonna destroy him. So yeah, that’s eat what we want, do what we want with our bodies, God’s gonna destroy him. And Paul corrects them to say no, but our hope is resurrection. If God cares for our bodies now, or God cares for buys in the future is going to restore them, we should do the same in the present. So don’t become addicted to certain ways of living and eating or trapped in the sexual and moral lifestyle. So yeah, so Paul sees that connection very explicitly. If this is how God’s going to act in the future. You should practice that or reflect that in the present. not perfectly not. We’re not there yet. Right. That’s, that’s, he saw that link between the Yeah, and the present very clearly.
Yeah, that’s a really good kind of connection that he is able to see and make very early in this story, right? Yeah, that’s right. And it’s like, Whoa, whoa, whoa,
if I can add up just sort of a historical Christian sort of perspective. I’m a history guy. One thing that I guess the church and it’s not just the church, because it’s outside of the church has always struggled with his his Gnosticism or, or just kind of, I don’t know, a skewed view of platonism. And that, that that ends up sort of diminishing one’s respect for material things and for the body.
Yeah, this idea that spiritual is good and material bad apple.
Yeah, Matt, you know, a mentioned that that, as I believe that the scripture does teach the resurrection of the body, but it’s interesting that when I’m mentioned that actually, it, it throws off some students because they will push back that says, No, Scripture teaches the immortality of the soul. And that’s a very different thing. Yeah. And I could just sit here and say, you know, try to give them reasons how that snuck in. And this and that, and this and that. Yeah. But they also have different implications, you know, and if you sort of devalue the material world for whatever, because, yeah, then that does have certain implications. I once read a book and it was it was written by Harold bloom, he actually just died a few weeks ago, I think he was the guy that wrote the western canon, whatever sort of literary critic, but he also had a very high view of his ability to be a critic of everything. He wrote, yeah, he makes him a good critic. Exactly. He wrote a book called The American religion. And when I was reading it, it was really interesting book, but but he basically concluded that the, the American religion is Gnosticism. Yeah. And I was reading it. And and he uses two institutional examples. And one was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And so I’m reading those chapters, and I’m going, you know, the Baptist boy that I am. Yeah, I get that. I get that. Right, that. But his second example was, of course, the denomination that I grew up in. And, and I was like, No, that can’t, that can’t possibly be until I remember some things that I didn’t even think about, that were sort of taught from the pulpit, that I can see how that can influence the way people think about the material world and, and all sorts of things. And even though I was offended by some of his examples, I had to admit that Yeah, I heard some of that stuff, too. Right. Which is really interesting.
Yeah. And that I think, if we’re honest, as Christians, which I try to be, I think that we do need to recognize our maybe complicity is too strong of a term, but the world we’ve had in providing theological or what we might think of as biblical justification for poor treatment, and neglect of the world in which we live. So whether it’s implicit, like you start we started the show with but or just explicit coming from the pulpit or books, like we have purported and continued on this narrative that says, our actions toward the rest of creation don’t really matter in the long run don’t really matter to us as spiritual beings made in the image of God, that’s not that important in. And so there is a sense in which Christians now as we least there is a little more movement toward caring for the earth and trying to promote care for creation. We should also practice repentance, and apologizing and saying, Yeah, we’ve, as a community, have not told the story. Well, and we’ve actually Adam purpose, but at least implicitly supported just this on on federal consumption, consumption of the earth and its resources and very little disregard for the
implications that we can even end up getting. Not necessarily theological, but ideological. Although I believe the ideologies that via theology, yeah, for example, you know, environmentalist, of course, are Indian, you start just naming every cliche that you can hear, right, they’re Neo pagan, they’re tree huggers. Right, as Christians, we can’t get anywhere that nature worshippers and we also, that’s the kind of stuff that the Bible invades against all along. So you just you can tend, because this is kind of the environment, at least I partially grew up into, they have to understand this is like 67 days, you know, what, I’m in Sunday school, and right and right, later on, he started don’t want to get near that because once you start walking down that path, you know, you end up being a tree worshiper or something that’s like this inevitable sort of thing. And so, unfortunately, because of your distaste for the the image that you have in your mind, which is anti christian, or whatever, and frankly, some of that language was not exactly sympathetic towards organized expressions of Christianity, there may have been some reason for that, and or not, right? But you just sort of don’t want to go there because you don’t like those people. And you don’t want to become like those people. Even if what some of those people say if you thought about it, actually might be more biblical than you think it is. Right
now. The ability to listen to others is something that could help us as we navigate this as Christians.
Yeah. And that seems to be kind of the the, the maybe the sad twist in all of this and how it’s happened. is it’s kind of become a us versus them within, especially within issues of environmentalism. I feel like within the church, that it became, oh, we can’t support that, because that’s what they do. And we’re us. And we’ll even go see that
I think there’s this there’s this, you know, narrative, which is a great word, Matt, that that posits scientific consensus against, I don’t know, biblical faith or something, as if there’s this vast gulf between it. And some of that actually, is because of the battles over origins and things like that, I understand how this ends up in the in the conversation, right. Because of that, you know, sort of divide there. You. If, for example, the scientific consensus is and then we argue about what that is, or rust or whatever, but let’s just say for, you know, purposes of conversation that the scientific consensus is, you know, that there is that climate change is, is real, in some sense, and that perhaps there’s a human contribution to it. And I think it’s a very complicated thing. But if you sort of distrust science, because scientific conclusions go against the narrative you’ve taught has to be true, then you are more likely to sort of dismiss that, right. And so we have with a phenomenon that we have among many conservative Christians, and I understand where that comes from. And actually, I don’t even want to go there or down. But I think that that’s sort of what we talked about the difference between embedded theology kind of theology, the gut, you know, in theology of the world deliberative theology, right. And I think some of the embedded theology would be, well, if, if, if this is the consensus, but they also conclude this, and I’m against, then I’m suspicious of this, right. And then we end up, of course, in interesting positions, where we have a significant number of conservative evangelical Christians that that believe the scientific consensus is wrong. Or worse. Yeah, and that’s really interesting, that situation
that seems to expose kind of that, like you’re saying that deeper issue of of that divide or mistrust between people of faith and science, and we’ve talked about that a little before. Yeah, as it’s a can’t be friends, and they can’t work together. And yeah, and then it causes us to our conservative Christians to maybe disregard things from the scientific community, because of this mistrust. And that and, and maybe causes us not to realize the role that we’ve play in care for the environment, or the role that we haven’t played and what we should. And maybe that’s a case of, of where we’re not letting our theology guide our actions. Because that might be the other side of this coin, like, so. And one side of the coin could be your theology, especially the times if you think it’s all gonna burn. But many would probably say they agree with, that God created and it was good, and that he gave us stewardship of it, and you have it, but then maybe we don’t really live that out of actually being stewards of the earth and caring. And so it’s kind of interesting that they both kind of work that in some ways. Our theology doesn’t influence us enough as we as it should. And frankly,
you know, since we are just talking about the imago dei, you know, um, you know, that’s the Genesis one than Genesis two, three talks about the fall and no matter how that is interpreted, or, or thought about, I think, as, and I would say, Mark Twain, but honestly, I’ve heard from all kinds of people that will say, you know, person x said that, right, right, that, you know, original sanely empirically verifiable doctrine in the Bible. Right. So yeah, it for whoever said that, yeah, just look around, actually look in the mirror. But, you know, there, there are not just policy implications, or something being something that we need to biblically care about. But right, so personal lifestyle things, there are economic consequences. And I understand the hesitancy. You know, I’m just trying to I’m just trying to live my life and provide for my family. Right. You know, if I’m really serious about this, and I support these policies, then, you know, what does that mean about, you know, my job in the steel industry or whatever? Yeah, I get that. Right. That, yeah. That shouldn’t be the end of the conversation, but right. It’s like, I can understand how complicated that can be for Yeah,
yeah. Yeah. That is that Challenge, I think to actually, what how do we live this out? I mean, yeah, I think it’s, we still need to start with theory and grasping the theology and in least buying into restore creation. Practice now. Okay, we get there. Yeah. Now it’s the So what? Yes. How do we practice? Yeah, how do I actually practice and right? This is where at least in the class I teach it. Students actually have the hardest time myself included. But we go, we can get so far down in the conversation that we almost think I can’t eat anything like anything. It’s hopeless. And yeah, that’s then the other challenge for students to help them think through. We’re not there. We’re not in the restored creation. Yeah. So we’re there. We still live with the effects of the fall ourselves and the world is broken and tainted by sin. Yes, that’s so when we’re there. So let’s the language I end up using with them is to the best of our ability. So maybe it starts with something simple. I’m going to change a purchasing habit. Yeah. And whether it’s a food item, or stop buying certain plastic items, or whatever, reduce plastic use, let’s say, and then over time, you kind of realize I can live with your dad or changing the way I did that, and you can add something else. So there are ways of doing it. But it’s also a challenge and I think this is where Christians we need to give each other grace. Yeah, as well. So might be a practice I say, Hey, I’m gonna do my best not to use my dryer the house we’re gonna hang dry our clothes even a winter. No, yeah. At least in the spring and we’ll hang use the leaves the line outside and dry our clothes saves me energy. But if I then was to put that on a brother and sister in crisis a you have to then that would be going outside at least biblical ethics. I think they’re to say, yeah, let’s talk about this. Let’s encourage each other. Let’s hope and long for that new creation. But let’s give each other grace to as we’re struggling.
Yeah, that’s right. I
had our financial advisor, I even hate having one but close to where I start thinking of right? Yeah, yeah, people my age. And it’s kind of scary. You all know that, folks. My age, I’m a middle baby boomer are the less prepared and the less save for retirement of any generation? We’ve had for a long time? I don’t know what’s supposed to happen, right. But we’ve tried to be proactive. And when he was going over the stuff, it actually was, well, I guess we’re in better shape than we thought. But that actually opened up a question because some of that, that we’re depending on his stocks in a certain company. And that becomes an issue. Yeah. Right. Because it’s, and here’s why I have to give myself grace, and I’m just gonna show my colors as someone that’s still on pilgrimage. It’s really good stock, and it’s performed wonderfully well. But yeah, it’s 20 years, but right. I would rather not think of the ethical implications of it, because darn it, I’m gonna have to live off the right stuff in five years, you know, and so I i understand a complicated that gets Yeah, but I, I’m obviously thinking about it wasn’t even mentioned. Yeah. Yeah.
I think for me, it kind of has to come down to you got to have a reason or reason behind your actions like Britta something I mean, like, because anything you try to do in life, like any, you know, resolution or things like that. Like, you have to have a pretty substantial reason, or why that sustains you. Right? And I think that’s where trying to help people make these connections between the theological foundation for their actions, and kind of helped them see both sides were like, hey, part of your theology, like the Corinthian people is like, hey, if you just think it’s all gonna burn up, do whatever and Paul’s like, no, that’s actually not you know. So you need to see that side of it, but then also see the side where, hey, this is God’s Earth and God’s creation and he has called us to care for it. And so then that adds another little element right? Okay, my choice to recycle or not. Now that is a conversation that involves my spiritual life and my theological life as well not just a practical like, hey, should we or should we not or I don’t associate with those people who do but it’s like, no, what is what is God calling me to do? What is God calling me and, and starting it there that can lead us into these more specifics about you know, what, what God might be calling like, hey, yeah, maybe stop this or stop buying this or, and, but, but I think For those actions to be sustained, you know, it’s got to we’ve got to build a stronger theological foundation that gives us a bigger why we
also need a supportive community in some ways, you know? Yeah, I think that’s really important. And I that’s kind of the sticking point in some of this actually from from, you know, I hate using this language. But since I sometimes talk about sociology, and what sociologists will say about religion as a sociological phenomena, even though I obviously believe it’s more than that, right, right. But it is that too, you can study it that Yeah, yeah. But what once you start going down that road, then you start talking about, you know, tribes, and actually, I belong to a tribe, I grew up in a tribe that can be studied, you know, it’s a pretty big tribe. And actually, for a while, we thought it was like the only tribe. And even if I’ve moved on from some Cardinal, you know, assumptions of the tribe, I can’t deny my heritage as being part of that tribe. Right, right. But then it gets really interesting when your theological and I believe, biblically grounded convictions are not shared by a lot of folks in that tribe. And a tribe that you don’t want to necessarily disassociate yourself from, because that that makes all sorts of other implications and statements that you don’t want to make or don’t right over there. Yeah. And so finding community that will that will, because this is hard stuff to do. Yeah, I mean, yeah, it’s hard stuff to do. And so you need some support? Yeah.
Yeah. And you can also, it’s the advantage of talking and brainstorming together. And when you share life together with people, you know, they do that I could do that, right? Or, oh, that’s how you do that. Sometimes it just seen it, right. You can envision your life a little differently. Yeah, in light of what other people are doing.
I know, when especially was just a couple years ago, when you started teaching the environmental ethics class, I remember. And now when I’m doing different stuff, or bringing something to lunch, I’m always like, oh, man, I have this, I gotta do this part of accountability. It’s right, and it’s good. But you will see what I bring, and you’re like, falling off falling off the wagon. Well, this is obviously a much larger conversation. And we’re excited to in our next episode, we’re going to have one of our science professors on to kind of hit this from a scientific angle that I think will really add to this conversation. But as we kind of, as we kind of wrap up, I mean, we can hit a lot of things. And it seems like, for me, the the point behind maybe an episode like this is for one just to get us to start thinking about, hey, our theology does affect whether whether we make that direct connection or not, whether it’s deliberate or embedded, it affects our actions. And so we need to then pause and be like, hey, what are we dwelling on? theologically? What are what what foundation have we built? And and how is that affecting me? And then I think, like, would you guys were just ending on being finding a community that can help you process that. And, and, and look at, hey, what are ways that man, we can help each other? do our part, do the best we can? Yeah, in this world of doing our part to to help and care for God’s creation known, we’re not going to be able to make it perfect on our own. But there are things that we can do. And then theologically as we’re getting deeper into it, there are things maybe that we should be doing right, that there’s that there’s a bigger reason why behind that, that it should be something we think about should be something we try to act on.
And one thing we’re doing, I assume in these podcasts actually for, you know, whoever’s listening to them, apparently, there are some folks that yeah, these conversations we’re having in here are about important things to have conversations about. And so these conversations are just to open up further conversations with Yeah, our listeners and among ourselves. Because this is this is something we all not just with what we’re talking about specifically today. But the things we’re talking about are things that affect all of us and that we all should be talking about.
Yeah. And that’s great. You’ve kind of bring up conversation because people can have conversation with us via email, they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you. Yeah, we’d love to hear from you. Your thoughts on these topics, thoughts on topics you you want us to kind of hit to bring up those kind of deeper conversations. But Matt, thank you for being on the show. Again. You’re a good friend of the show. Thanks for having me again. And And you’re always encouraging me to be a better steward of his earth. And so I appreciate that. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup thing.
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