Monthly Archives: April 2020

Hope in an Age of Despair

“Hope in an Age of Despair”

A reflection for the 50th ‘Earth Day’, 22nd April 2020,

for St Luke’s Church, Claremont St, Newcastle upon Tyne

Dr David Golding CBE

In talking about “an age of despair”, I’m not thinking only of the alarming impacts of the Coruna virus pandemic, although the infection and the illness it causes are certainly the source of immense distress, and the economic and financial effects which lie ahead may well be even more so.

Our age drives people to despair for many and various reasons, many of which are truly alarming, so much so that Sir Martin Rees, the former President of the Royal Society and one of the UK’s leading and most sober-minded scientists, has stated that, “there is only a 50% chance that civilisation as we know it will make it through the present century”.

As some of you know, the climate and wider environmental crisis is one which has occupied much of my attention for nearly 15 years – and with good reason: “We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it, the worse it is going to get,” says Sir David Attenborough.

The science is as clear on this, as it is on the reason for the current health crisis: the world is hitting record-breaking temperatures, and the poorest communities are being impacted first and hardest. The devastating decline in wildlife is set to wipe out a million species. Our oceans are choking in plastic, our children are breathing toxic air, and we are feeling the impacts. This is not a future problem: the time is now.

And then, along comes the Corona virus and its threat to the global economic system – we don’t have to look far for reasons which drive many to despair.

My title is, in fact, taken from a book published by IVP entitled, “Hope in an Age of Despair – the gospel and the future of life on earth”, by Jonathan Moo and Robert White. The authors are an American theology professor and a professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University, respectively – both of them evangelical and reformed – and they are eminently well qualified to deal with the book’s subject. I’ve produced a ‘Digest, Commentary & Critique’ of it. [Me being me, ‘critique’ was bound to feature somewhere!]

The authors acknowledge that the Bible’s teaching on care for creation and care for the poor have clear lessons for our response to the environmental crisis, but they’ve opened up a highly original vein of biblical teaching, pointing out that Christ at his coming will make ‘all things new’, and discussing what that means for our lives now, for which they cast a compelling vision. It is this hope – what is called the ‘ultimate’ or assured hope – which should indwell and empower us, and not some misguided, pseudo-pious, and unfounded optimism about the future during this present age.

What they are saying, in essence, is this: there’s a glorious kingdom coming, in a new creation, and it will be characterised by complete shalom – peace, health and justice – in the relationships between God and humanity, between human beings, and between humanity and the rest of creation. But the kingdom is here right now, albeit in its infancy, since it was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus, and believers are members of it right now! Similarly, the new creation is here right now, albeit also in its infancy, since we are “new creatures in Christ”.

Consequently, imbued with an assured hope of our participation in the coming kingdom, in the new creation, we should personify the values of that coming kingdom, and exemplify the characteristics of that new creation, in all we do right now!

These considerations inevitably provide a devastating indictment of the attitudes and behaviour which we have shown to date: our casual selfishness in how we use the world’s resources, and in how we treat our global neighbours. Our grotesque abuse of God’s creation, and our gross oppression of the world’s poor in consequence, are, according to Moo and White, “revealed for what they are: an affront to God, an abrogation of the responsibility given to us and a rejection of our identity as his children in Christ”.

The world looks very broken indeed sometimes, but Jesus reminds us that the smallest seeds can grow into trees that bring shelter to many. Every small part of our daily lives can restore relationships, bringing justice and abundant life to all – and doubtless those of you listening will encounter many opportunities for just such acts of ‘kingdom living’ in the months to come.

Philippa Strickett, a Tearfund supporter, has described how, “Being a Christian changed our eating habits! [Exclamation mark] We have eaten a lot less meat, etc.”, and concluded by saying, “We certainly fail sometimes [join the club, Philippa!], but step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.”

Isn’t that wonderful?! I was particularly struck by that bit where she says, “Step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.” “With a spirit of generosity and grace” – please help us to exemplify such a spirit, Lord, even in current, trying circumstances!

But suppose we start to personify the values of the coming kingdom, and exemplify the characteristics of the new creation. What if not enough people do that and, anyway, the governments of the world continue in their current wicked folly, what then?

I’m convinced that anything we do right now to reflect the values of the coming kingdom, and to exemplify the characteristics of the new creation, is of lasting significance! Such lives are “not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15.58). In ways we can barely imagine, lives lived now which reflect the character of the coming kingdom, in the renewed creation, have enduring value and their echoes will sound on into eternity.

Prayer:

“Help us, dear Lord, to live such lives and to do so, like Philippa Strickett and her lovely family, “With a spirit of generosity and grace”. Amen!

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England.

d.w.golding@talk21.com

david.golding@ncl.ac.uk

 

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Banks Mining Company still peddling the same, discredited arguments for its shameful proposals

NEWS RELEASE:

Banks Mining Company still peddling the same, discredited arguments for its shameful proposals

… ‘either profoundly ignorant’, or ‘blinded by money’

“Shameful”? “It would be shameful were the UK to open this new coal mine” (Sir David Attenborough, 2nd February, 2019)

“’Either profoundly ignorant’, or ‘blinded by money’”? “The individuals pushing ahead with the proposals are either profoundly ignorant of the risks of climate change, or so blinded by money as to be a menace to our children and grandchildren.” (Professor Sir John H. Lawton CBE FRS, Former Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution)

NEWS RELEASE:

Banks Mining Company has ‘changed its tune’ in its justification for a new opencast coalmine at Highthorn, near the beauty spot Duridge Bay, but is still hopelessly ‘off-key’. Initially, it based its proposal on the need for coal for electricity generation, but since this argument was refuted (indeed, denounced) by a body of distinguished scientists at Newcastle University, and elsewhere (including Sir David Attenborough), it has claimed the coal is required for the manufacture of steel and cement.

However, the Company’s argument has not really changed at all, being based on the assertion that it is better to produce the coal in the UK, rather than importing it. Superficially plausible, this argument is seriously flawed, since every new mine will, almost inevitably, increase the total amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when the coal is burnt.

Consequently, it is NOT preferable to source the coal in the UK if this means creating new mines, since this will, almost inevitably, increase the total amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when the coal is burnt!

Banks attempts to burnish its green credentials by drawing attention to the CO2 emissions involved in the transport of imported coal, but this argument is also flawed: first, the carbon cost of bulk transport is minor (about 1% of the footprint of the coal) and, second, the carbon costs involved in creating a new coal mine are substantial.

Professor Sir John H. Lawton CBE FRS, Former Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, states that  “The threat of climate change is now so obvious and so deeply worrying that we need to be closing coal mines as quickly as possible, not opening new ones.”

We do indeed, since the vast majority of coal reserves SIMPLY MUST be left in the ground if we are to avoid the worst excesses of climate change. So how are we to proceed, given industry’s continuing need for coal in the short term? We need to run down the extraction of coal, both at home and abroad, as a matter of urgency, whilst, in parallel, reducing the need for it in the ways proposed by Professor Rebecca Willis et al. (“The case against new coal mines in the UK’, Green Alliance, January 2020)

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England.

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