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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Green and Gold: Principles and Priorities of Responsible Dominion

Biblical Christianity is the "Greenest" ideology and worldview there is.

What?!

Ok, Tyler's finally gone off the deep end. See? That postmillennial stuff really does lead to leftist, social gospel, earth-centered capitulation to worldly values. He's lost all sense of divine interventionism and doesn't realize how much of the Green movement is just a political power play.

Let's hold on a second.

First of all, I confess I am not an expert on the subject of Christian perspectives on ecology and environmentalism. In fact, I don't even know much at all about what's been written on the matter. I haven't read any books, or attended any conferences that address the matter in any detail. I have only had a general exposure to the secularized western culture's Green movements on the one hand, and the remnants of reactionary 20th century Christian fundamentalism's response to such movements on the other hand. And I have found, in categories of thought from historic Reformed Christianity--particularly in its more postmillennial expressions--some important principles that could mediate a way forward, and hopefully encourage more thoughtful engagement between Christians and the secular Green movements.

So here I want to share and briefly describe four very broad, over-arching principles from biblical teaching that are relevant to Christian thinking about ecology and conservation. They are as follows:

1) God's plan for the world is good

2) Human beings are good (don't freak out, fellow TULIPers; context and definitions are key)

3) God is good

4) Science is good

We will consider these one at a time, although there will inevitably be much overlap.

1) God's plan for the world is good

As I have ranted about before in many other places, in concert with others who have come to the Reformed faith (or even other alternatives to pessimistic dispensational and other forms of futurist eschatology), the West has been plagued for almost two centuries with the widespread unbiblical notion that according to New Testament prophecy, the world as we know it is going to hell in a handbasket before the Second Coming of Christ and the "future establishment" of an earthly kingdom under His rule. The Great Commission, whether it is explicitly admitted or not (and in places it has been admitted by these writers), will be a dismal failure, and Christ will have to personally return to put things to rights before there is any true and widespread renewal on earth.

Apart from the fact that this ideology has only been popularized because of the aberrant theology of John Nelson Darby and his successors in the 1800's, and the success of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 1900's, it is unbiblical. The most responsible forms of this doctrine are not heretical in the sense of denying any of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith agreed upon in the early ecumenical creeds. Nevertheless, it is false doctrine that is poisonous to the Church's completion of its mission on earth to effectively disciple entire people groups (and that is its mission, see my blog post Commission Ambition: Teach All Nations ). Grace comes through faith, and there is no reason this should be seen as different on the large scale of the Church's mission efforts. Does Christ's bride believe that He, the king, rules the nations and is in the processing of subduing His enemies (through love and through judgment)? Does she believe He has enabled her to carry out the mission effectively and effectually?

The fact is that God's Word promises gospel victory to the Church in the world. Notwithstanding a substantial Satanic rebellion before the very end (Rev. 20:7-9), the Bible gives every reason to believe that every culture in the world will be transformed radically by the gospel in this age. The New Testament writers viewed the preaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God being at hand during His ministry as continuous with the majestic promises of the Old Testament about the Messianic kingdom--the Jewish expectation of a glorious new age of freedom and prosperity. Now, of course there is also discontinuity with general Jewish expectation: the Messiah died to win the victory, and spiritual battles are primary. Moreover, the kingdom is now a multi-ethnic priesthood rather than being identified with a single, Jewish political state. Nevertheless, Christians are not to deny that even physical blessings and political progress toward true freedom and godliness among the nations are inevitable results of the rule of the Messiah--the rule which has begun.

Some relevant Scripures to this theme of the kingdom, its nature, and its present existence by virtue of Christ's completed work:

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab. 2:14)

"Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him." (Dan. 7:27)

[Yahweh, to the anointed King (ultimately the Messiah)]: "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession." (Ps. 2:8)

Acts 2:22-36 (Definitely go read this, even though I'm not posting all the text here. It explicitly describes Christ's resurrection, ascension, and session at the Father's right hand as a direct fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant--God's promise to David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne of God's kingdom).

"For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." (1 Cor. 15:25) This describes how Christ defeats all His enemies from heaven before His return, save for the last enemy death, which whom He will deal personally when He comes.

"He spoke another parable to them, 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.'" (Matt. 13:33) This shows the progressive, non-dramatic nature of the growth of the kingdom through the influence of the gospel.

We see from these and many other Scriptures that God has a kingdom, over which He rules through His Messiah and His saints--His covenant people. And the kingdom has already been definitively inaugurated by Christ's completed work on the cross and resurrection, ascension and session at the Father's right hand in heaven. All of this is directly connected to the Great Commission Jesus is recorded as giving in Matthew 28. His followers are to incorporate all the nations into this kingdom, making all peoples disciples of Jesus, living under and reflecting His rule, following all His commandments. This is the beginning of an utter restoration from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. And now we can begin to understand, just what does any of this have to with ecology??

This kingdom inaugurated by Christ is God's program to ultimately redeem the whole world--not every individual person--but every people group, every area of human culture, and even the earth itself. This "redemption" is a redemption from not only slavery to sin, but also from the consequences of sin, including the consequences the whole human race has faced for the sins of our first parents. When Adam and Eve gave way to temptation in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, God pronounced curses on Adam, on Eve, and on the earth itself:

"Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:17-19)

Work is inherently a good thing. But by the curse of God in response to human sin, it has been made frustrating and almost futile. Apart from God's blessing, man is perpetually faced with the impossibility of exercising effective dominion over the rest of creation. We will speak more of this later. What we must see for now is that the whole earth is affected by human sin and its consequences. When man fell, all of creation--at least all earthly creation--fell with him.

However, there is hope for creation. This is because in the same breath that God gives the curse, He also gives the first, seed-form promise of the gospel. In Gen. 3:15 God promises that there would be a descendant of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent--the devil who had deceived Eve--although His own heel would be bruised in the process. Later on, most explicitly in Gal. 3, we learn from Paul that this singular "seed," while corporately referring to the people of God gaining victory over the kingdom of Satan in the world, ultimately refers to Christ the fundamental Victor, who by His own death and resurrection definitively defeated Death and Satan. By taking the curse upon Himself (Gal. 3:13) as a perfect sacrifice, Christ rendered the curse powerless over all those who would trust in Him for salvation and be united to Him by faith.

Moreover, He exhausted the curse's power over the whole creation! He--whose resurrection interestingly occurred in a garden (Jn. 19:41)--and all those who are made new in Him are said to be partakers of the beginning of God's new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). And God's new creation ultimately includes all of the cosmos (or at least all the earth), as we see vividly portrayed in Revelation 21-22. Some Christians (particularly many amillennial and premillennial believers) believe the more cosmic aspects of this new creation will not appear in any sense until the Second Coming. But much of the language in Isaiah 65 and similar passages in the prophets seems to indicate profound blessings during the Messianic age that even include physical blessings, short of the full eradication of death and sin (cf. Is. 65:20). As we will see in a later section, it makes good sense for Christians to expect progressive divine blessing on the whole created order as they progressively extend God's kingdom and apply His ordained means of godly dominion, in the completion of the Great Commission.

God's original creation was good. It fell because of sin. Yet it retains dignity as God's creation, and even has a bright future ahead as the redemption promised and effected in the gospel of Christ is progressively--and one day consummatively--applied to it. The earth is the divinely ordained context for the human worship of God, and for God to dwell with His people. This Garden-City-Temple will be a fully perfected reality when (and only when) Christ returns (cf. Rom. 8:18-24 and Rev. 21-22). Yet we as the Church press forward to that end today. And that includes consciousness of the ecological aspects of gospel prosperity. God's plan of redemption for the whole world is good.

2) Human beings are good

Or are they? Human beings, as originally created, were good in every sense. Immature and looking forward to glorification, perhaps, but good in every way. They, male and female together, imaged God perfectly (Gen. 1:26-27). But as we know, they fell. Tragic consequences ensued, one of which was the total corruption of their natures, such that every faculty they and their offspring possessed was contaminated to some degree (indeed, a severe degree) by sin. So severe is the corruption that the "natural man" is said to be unable to accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14) and those who are according to the "flesh" are not even able to submit to the law of God, nor can they please Him (Rom. 8:7-8). Only God can reverse this situation by His Spirit drawing people to Christ.

Yet man still images God today, although the image is distorted by sin now. For this reason, after the Flood, God instituted the state and gave it the power of the sword--the power of capital punishment, ultimately. And man as the image of God is what justifies the institution: "Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Gen. 9:6, my emphasis). More than this, though, those who become united to Christ--the ultimate and now glorified man--by faith are conformed more and more to the image of Christ whose human nature images God perfectly like Adam was supposed to (Rom. 8:29). So while all human beings, even unredeemed fallen ones, retain dignity as image-bearers, Christians particularly are progressively being restored to the "goodness" and wholeness of Adam and Eve before they fell (and one day will partake of even greater life--the kind of eschatological, resurrection life Christ alone has now).

It is in these latter senses that human beings are still to be seen as "good." Human beings are magnificent creations of God, uniquely designed to bear His image, ruling with justice and goodness over the rest of creation, under Him. Therefore, more human beings is a good thing for the world (especially in light of the optimistic and biblical eschatology advocated above)! Ever since the Fall of Man, Satan has attacked this notion with his lies. God commanded Adam and Eve to fill the earth with image-bearers who could subdue and rule over it (Gen. 1:28). Yet culture after culture has found pious excuses and proud, self-righteous veneers to justify limiting or killing children. From ancient warrior cultures who in spirit worshipped Athena and therefore ruthlessly discarded weak or sickly infants; to the modern Chinese government which worships Mammon and so limits urban couples to one child; to modern American culture which worships Aphrodite and brutally sacrifices its pre-born children on the altar of sexual and reproductive "freedom," Satan has been at work all throughout history, to murderously rid the world of those who bear the image of the ultimate One he hates.

Abortion and the definition of marriage are two of the most heated political issues of our day, at least in the West, at least in America. And should we be surprised? The two most fundamental creation gifts of God--the marriage covenant between man and woman, illustrating Christ's love for the Church; and the bearing of children, illustrating God's life-giving nature and parental love for His children--are utterly necessary for the completion of the cultural mandate (the Gen. 1:28 command). Therefore, Satan strikes hard at these, and causes confusion through his lies, under the guise of the promotion of things like "equality," "love," and "freedom" (defined unbiblically, of course).

It is noteworthy, though, that apart from these two precise issues, many secularists even in America advocate things like limiting children per household (besides advocating for the continued legality of abortion), for environmental concerns of overpopulation. Pious or Satanic? We must let God speak on the matter of children: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps. 127:3). "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," (Is. 5:20a). But if things stay the way they are ecologically, isn't it obvious that we'll eventually run into serious problems when we're up to 8 or 9 billion people alive in the world?

No matter the answer to that question, as Christians we must continue to affirm human beings as the supreme creation of God, and attribute supreme created dignity to them above the animals and plants and elements, etc. This is a non-negotiable Christian distinctive. The gospel is fundamentally and centrally concerned with the salvation of human beings, rescuing them from spiritual death so that they can worship the true and living God, and in so doing, find ultimate joy in the fulfillment of their original created purpose. But we may just find, in continuing to keep the physical and spiritual welfare of human beings (which cannot finally be abstracted from their wider natural environment!) as the highest priority of the Church, missiologically, that redeemed humans--more and more of them, together--will be able to use their created and Spirit-given gifts to address with greater and greater effectiveness and innovation all the ecological concerns we have today about other species, climate change issues, and everything else necessary for the continued life and health of the earth and its inhabitants. God created human beings to take dominion over creation; therefore the more of them that exist and take up that responsibility under Him, and do it according to His commandments, the better creation will be cared for and sustained in good health. But I get ahead of myself again. For now, we must recognize that, in the aforementioned senses, human beings are good.

3) God is good

One of the other big problems with secular Green movements, ironically, is that they tend to be humanistic. That is to say that while they often view human beings negatively because of the problems human civilization causes for the rest of the natural environment, they simultaneously view themselves--or humanity, in general--as having the inherent capacity to, of its own accord and effort, reverse the negative effects of the human footprint. As in all other areas of life, they fail to take God into account. Specifically, they fail to take into account humanity's covenantal relationship to God.

Whether believers or unbelievers, all people are in covenant with God. They are either in Adam, and thus live as children of wrath, because of their sins and their identification with Adam and his sin; or they are in Christ, and by grace through faith alone, are given the forgiveness and righteousness earned on their behalf by Christ's death and resurrection. This latter covenant, called the "covenant of grace" in the Reformed tradition, speaking in systematic-theological terms, is a covenant by which God relates to His people fundamentally in terms not of their performance or execution of good works that earn His favor, but rather in terms of His own gracious promises that are received by merely trusting in the Lord.

However, the covenant of grace does not nullify, but rather establishes, Law (Rom. 3:31). That is, the grace which God gives in covenant--particularly in the New Covenant in Christ, the fully fulfilled expression of the covenant of grace--is grace which not only covers sin, but provides for escape from its enslaving power. It obligates and enables. Those who relate to God in terms of the covenant of grace are obligated to covenant fidelity; they are commanded to obey God's Law. It is not a burden any longer, but rather a privilege!

We see this vividly in the giving of the Law at Sinai after the Israelites were brought graciously out of Egypt (cf. Ex. 20). They were slaves, and then they were freed for the express purpose of sacrificing to Yahweh in another place. Yes, Sinai and the Law are sometimes spoken of negatively in the New Testament in terms of condemnation and inability; this is because 1) the Law component was very prominent under the Mosaic Covenant and no sinner can be justified by Law-keeping and 2) although gospel grace was available under Moses via ceremonial sacrifices and other types and shadows which pointed to Christ, only a remnant of Israel was ever saved before Christ (because only that remnant truly believed the promises of God which would be purchased by Christ). Nevertheless, the pattern is always divine grace proactively coming to sinners to free them to obey God--and this obedience to God's statutes and commandments is a good, healthy, and joyful thing for redeemed human beings (cf. Ps. 119).

And what did covenant fidelity result in for God's redeemed people under the Mosaic Covenant? Of course, it resulted in divine blessing on all areas of life. We must see continuity between these dynamics and the covenantal dynamics of the Church under the New Covenant. But we must guard against several errors before we look at the blessings:

1) I am not saying that we can in any sense "earn" God's favor or blessing by obedience

2) I am not saying that physical or financial prosperity is absolutely guaranteed for any individual or family or church in the gospel in this age

3) I am not saying that there is any institution today that is fully identical with the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant who should expect absolutely identical divine blessings

Okay, now onward.

Once we understand that Moses and Christ, and the respective covenants they mediate, are same for substance though they differ outwardly in many ways (cf. Heb. 4:2; Rom. 10:8; Col 2:17), and once we understand that the promise of an inheritance of bountiful land has not been abrogated nor repeated word-for-word in the New Covenant but rather has been expanded to include the whole world (Rom. 4:13), and once we understand that the Church--made up of individuals who are united by faith to Christ, the true Israel(ite)--is the fulfillment and New Covenant analogue of Old Covenant Israel (cf. Gal. 3:29; 4:26; Eph. 2:11-16; 3:6; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 12:22; Rom. 2:28-29; 4:9-11), we begin to wonder why the following promises made to Israel of old wouldn't apply at least in some way to us today:

"If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new" (Lev. 26:3-10).

"Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them. Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle" (Deut. 7:11-14).

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth...Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock... The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow" (Deut. 28:1, 4, 8-12).

It should not be difficult to imagine what the opposite consists in--what kinds of curses God pours out on a land when His people are disobedient and unfaithful to Him, not walking in His statutes, evidencing hearts of high-handed rebellion and ultimately, unbelief. Such curses are laid out in as much detail as, if not much greater detail than, the potential blessings, in Deuteronomy. The general point is this: in covenant with God, man's faithfulness or faithlessness has supernatural ramifications for his wider created environment--either divine blessing or cursing. The poor state of some eco-systems of the world is not due to man's activity alone, but is rather due to divine judgment and cursing (either generally, extending downward through history from the original curse in response to the Fall, or also specifically, in response to some group of people's rebellion against the Lord). After all, Romans explicitly says that God Himself purposefully subjected the whole creation to futility. But He subjected it in hope that it would one day be fully set free from corruption, and enter into the glorious freedom of the children of God, who at the Last Day will have received resurrected bodies and been completely sanctified (Rom. 8:19-23).

Some of this will carry over into the next section, but we can look at this covenantal dynamic from a couple of different angles. On the one hand, we can emphasize the fact that there are powerful, invisible, supernatural forces at work in the world, particularly, God's power (mediated through angelic beings at times, perhaps), favoring God's people when they are faithful to the covenant. This is an utterly different picture of reality than the Green secularist (often a materialist/naturalist) has in mind. On the other hand, we can understand obedience to God's Law as an ordinary "tool of dominion" (as some theologians put it), by which, because of the inherent "natural" processes of the world which God has created to always (or almost always) work a certain way, human beings can experience all kinds of blessings, ecological and otherwise.

Then again, we probably ought not make too much of this distinction, because even the "standing" and generally reliable "laws of nature" established by God are not laws He simply set up to run on their own apart from His continual application of power (as in Deism). Rather, the God of the Bible, the living and true God, is always and ever intimately involved with His creation such that He personally administers all the workings of what we often refer to as "natural processes." God personally causes every sunset. As we will see, He also uses means and secondary causes; still, as Christians, we must maintain a supernatural worldview when addressing ecology and conservation. This includes the moral, covenantal aspect of faithfulness and obedience to God's Law. God is gracious, but He is also good and just, and rules over His people with righteousness. This issues in divine responses of (at least disciplinary) cursing for disobedience, and blessing (though gracious in a sense) for covenant obedience. God, and the Law which expresses His character, and by which humans are to image His character, are good.

4) Science is good

It doesn't take a genius to see that the relationship between Christianity (and religion in general) and science has had a rocky history. And it is easy at this point to anticipate the cry of the secularists in response to what is written above: "Look! See? All the Christians have to say once again is all this theological mumbo-jumbo, and capitulation to a science-killing god-of-the-gaps who is alleged to perform 'miracles' of divine 'blessing' and 'cursing' and this is supposed to be the suggested solution to all our environmental problems. All they can say is, 'God has to fix it.' Useless!"

This response would be profoundly wrong, on two accounts. First of all, none of what is said above is useless in any sense at all if the Christian claim is true. And the Christian claim, at least from the Reformed view of epistemology, is that only a biblical worldview can make facts, meaning, and our experiences of reality intelligible at all. Demonstrating this is for another time (many times, that is). But if Christianity is true, and there is a sovereign God who made men and women in His image for the express purpose of exercising a representative dominion over the rest of creation, by way of covenant, then all we have said above stands as true and critically important. Nevertheless, more can be said.

The secularist response would also be wrong on this account: the supernatural character of the Christian worldview does not do away with science and human innovation/exploration at all, but rather establishes them! Far from being a mere "god-of-the-gaps," the Christian God is a sovereign God who, though ultimately mysterious in His ways and who is free and powerful enough to work without, above, and even against ordinary means of providence (see the Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 5 Sec. III), normally does make use of means, and promises explicitly in His Word significant continuity and order in nature (cf. Gen. 8:22; 9:8-17; Ps. 104:19; 2 Pet. 3:4). For this reason, because Christians believe in this God who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), and keeps creation in order according to certain causes and effects He Himself established in order to bless His creatures (rather than the universe being one of mere chaotic matter and energy with no organizing principle or force), Christians have an adequate presuppositional basis for not only confidence in scientific discovery and technological advancement, but also for the moral imperative of such endeavors (especially in light of Gen. 1:26 and the notion of general revelation as expressed by Paul in Romans 1 and the Psalmist in Psalm 19, etc.). Because God doesn't just "zap" things into being one way or another, but rather makes use of a potentially huge number of levels of means, human beings have indefinite work to do in discovering the natures of those means and the processes in which they engage. These discoveries aid knowledgeable and responsible human dominion over the rest of creation.

This would of course include the sciences of ecology and environmental conservation. Of course, for now, these fields are dominated by secular evolutionists. But Christian scientists with a biblical worldview have every reason to become more involved in these fields, recognizing that part of godly dominion over the rest of creation includes thinking very deeply about how certain aspects of human civilization and technology--as it now exists--affect the wider natural environment, positively or negatively. Christians of all people, as stewards of God's good creation, and as His would-be vice-regents over it, ought to seek continual improvements in understanding of eco-systems on small and large scales, innovations in technology that does not harm the wider natural environment (one thinks particularly of energy issues), and less politically-reactionary engagement with difficult questions of human contribution to climate change.

Science from a Christian perspective is the study of creation and the normal processes which its constituent parts undergo. In order to take dominion over creation more fully (in the positive sense of stewardship and development, not in any negative, "domineering" or destructive sense), Christians must engage in science. From this angle, science is a biblical necessity. In any case, we must see science, including ecology and environmental concerns (kept in perspective with all the qualifications listed above), as fundamentally good.

To sum up my humble attempt to outline some Christian categories of thought, from a Reformed and postmillennial perspective, related to ecology: God is good, His creation (including human beings) is good, His redemptive plan for creation is good, and biblical Law and science as means by which human beings can apply gospel redemption and dominion to all of the earth are good. Much more must be said, by way of clarification, application, and (probably) also correction. One area that definitely needs further exploration, though (and I'm sure some theologians have written about this elsewhere), is the idea of contemporary Sabbath rest for the land. Old Covenant Israel was commanded to rest from work (including working the land) one day per week, the land was given rest for a full year once every seven years, and an additional "Jubilee" year came once every 50 years (besides other Feast Days that also functioned as special Sabbaths). This was partially to give rest to the people, but it was also to give rest to the land, particularly in the case of the Sabbatic year every seven years (cf. Lev. 25:4). Surely there is wisdom here for our greedy, fast-paced Western business culture.

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