There are three polar opposite popular opinions these days as to what it is the Christian is called to do. The first is that the Christian calling is to do essentially nothing. This is the view held, in whole or in part, by the vast majority of those who identify with the Reformed Church tradition, convicted as they are by the doctrine of God’s Grace. These folks’ understanding is that God is in complete control of the outcome of society, and so they are at best incidental to His Sovereign decision.
Some who hold this opinion share it only up to a point, insisting that spreading the Gospel of Christ is the true Christian calling, which they read as applying to themselves in Mat 28:19-20.
The other opinion is that Christians should “work” for the righting of society’s wrongs, be they racism, child trafficking, spousal abuse, drug abuse, or,…fill in your favorite societal pathology. This opinion also includes climate-related causes, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, tree planting, trash clean-up, etc. These people are persuaded not so much by Biblical commissions but rather by their well-founded belief in the advent of the “New Heavens and New Earth” at the Eschaton. If there’s going to be a “New Earth”, they reason, then they should be about its preservation until that day.
What these popular opinions seem to fail to appreciate is what Jesus actually called us to do[i]. Let’s unpack what they’re missing.
I’ve written elsewhere about the unfortunate side-effects of the Reformation’s near-exclusive focus on God’s Grace as the principal motive actor in our Universe (Sola Gratia). Now they are substantially correct in this view. It’s just that God’s Grace is not an independent actor, as they have formulated it. Rather, God’s Grace is the enabler of His children to act on His behalf[ii].
But in the average Reformed believer’s understanding, they were saved by this Grace, and that’s all they need to know or do. They were chosen by God for His salvation (“elected”), and so they are, in their minds, guaranteed eternal life with the Lord irrespective of any further action on their part. This is most likely a correct interpretation, as far as it goes. But it selfishly ignores the admonitions to them for how they are to live their remaining lives, which Jesus painstakingly laid out in great detail[iii].
Many of today’s believers, most of the Evangelical Christian persuasion, believe they have been commissioned by Christ to:
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inb the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This command was addressed to Jesus’ disciples – the twelve (or, at the time, eleven). But certainly, it has some transitive application to all Christians as Paul exhorted in Romans 10:14. Obviously, not everyone has the gift to preach God’s gospel. But it’s understandable why some, gifted or not, feel they are commissioned to do so.
Advocates of Preparing the “New Earth”
I think I should first explain that there are at least two major subdivisions of this group – those that are purely socially-focused (i.e. doing “good things” is the Gospel), and those who are focused on acting as agents of Christ in ushering in the New Heavens and New Earth.
Many in the former group aren’t even Christians, sadly. Their only intention is to do that which is “good” to them, without counsel from the Word of God. But our focus here is on the latter group.
These people think that because there will be an inauguration of a “New Heavens and New Earth” at Christ’s return, they have some obligation to Christ to preserve the old earth. This is understandable. After all, if there’s going to be a New Earth, shouldn’t we endeavor to preserve the old one so that the transformation doesn’t have so much work to do?
From just this brief introduction, I hope you can see how fallacious this attitude is. In their estimation, God needs just a little help from us to inaugurate His New Earth.
Of course, our efforts to sustain our planet for secular reasons is not the issue here. Of course, we should endeavor to sustain it; its biodiversity; the health of its flora and fauna, and, to some extent at least, the health of its glaciers, and climate in general.
But this has nothing to do with Christ or His redemption of the earth.
Christ’s return will inaugurate the instantiation of a New Heavens and New Earth. Will He need our help in this endeavor? Hardly. Presuming that Christ needs our help is a kind of blasphemy, born, perhaps, of a secular hubris that conveys way too much capability and value on ourselves.
He is the King. We are His subjects. And if we presume to provide something He needs us to deliver, then we are guilty of at least hubris, if not blasphemy.
Christ, on His return, will rehabilitate the earth, without our contribution to this enterprise. The One who is Omnipotent doesn’t need help in effecting a physical and spiritual renewal of Creation. He has planned this from the beginning; Is 65:17:
 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
“I create”. Not “you and I create”.
This is, perhaps, a minor point, and one that the vast majority of true Christians accept unequivocally. But many seem confused by it. So we endeavor to clear up that confusion.
[i] Recovering the Gospel – II