Petrology 101

Rancor about energy has risen as quickly as its prices. Political rhetoric has grown nauseating. Entrepreneurs capitalize on fear and confusion. Environmentalist outcries near pathological proportions.
What are Christians to think or do about this supposed “global energy crisis”? I submit three broad responses. Perhaps we could assume that energy policies have nothing to do with faith in Christ. Therefore, I can worship God on Sunday but am free to curse the government or “Big Oil” or Saudi sheiks on Monday. God should stick to getting me into heaven, but I’ll take care of concerns at the pump. If not careful and prayerful the Christian can get swept up into a this-worldly mentality of desperation. Worse yet, we could adopt a wholesale secular mindset that assumes my attitude at the pump has nothing to do with my attitude in Christ.

Secondly, we could buy into the notion that Christian faith is Christian environmentalism. We should reclaim our creation mandate to steward the earth’s resources with doxological care. Therefore, we should create voting blocs and lobbies to baptize environmental concerns. How can the church claim to care for souls if she doesn’t even care for creation, right? How can we look forward to a new earth when we’ve managed the old one so poorly? While I don’t espouse abuse of creation, I don’t suggest it needs “saving.” It’s groaning for its own resurrection (Rom 8.19f.) and we are free to enjoy it as far as it can be enjoyed.

Or thirdly, Christians should develop a “petrology” that guides our individual consciences and families in light of a robust biblical theology. We should maintain the primacy of our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3.20-21) as the “rule of law” that shapes our view of energy concerns. Rather than divorcing the city of God from the city of man or merging the two cities, Christians should interpret their earthly citizenship in light of their heavenly citizenship. Imagine two enjoining circles where in the shared area the Christian’s heavenly citizenship is entwined with his earthly citizenship.

How should our heavenly citizenship inform our approach to any supposed energy crisis?

1. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand” (Prov 19.21). We must refuse to assume our next President will cure the pain at the pump. Aside from the President’s political limits (we have three branches for a reason!) his plans are derivative, not authoritative. God will have his way and do whatever he pleases (Ps 115.3). Our next President will do only what God intends he do, whether or not the President knows God controls him.

Christians need not wring their hands in desperation but rejoice that our God will do what is good for us. It may not look all that good to unbelieving onlookers, but we trust our God far more than our executives. And if God should allow gas prices to fall under a particular President’s administration we must not be tempted to worship that President.

Whether gas is $1 or $10 per gallon, the Christian’s worldview remains the same. We’re citizens of heaven, sojourning for a time, seeking other weary travelers to join us, and waiting for the day when wine and milk are free (Is 55.1). High gas prices are no threat to our joy and are merely the costs of living in a fallen world.

2. “If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them” (Ps 62.10c). There is something that I’ve yet to hear from any talking head, pundit or preacher. Having gas and using oil are not rights that we have. They’re privileges (much less low prices for the privilege). In other words, we act like driving SUVs, flying in planes, heating and cooling our homes are rights that government is bound to protect. We assume oil-rich nations and companies owe us lower prices.

We’ve set our heart upon riches and God said don’t do that. Scripture is full of those who received riches as blessings from God, but soon assumed a spirit of entitlement toward them (Samson, Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, etc.). Blessings for which they should’ve been thankful became rights God owed them. And such is the heart’s journey from humility to pride.

Take Hosea’s Gomer (Israel), for example. Eighth-century Israel became so accustomed to free-flowing wine and bumper crops that they didn’t care they’d “played the harlot” with foreign gods (Hos 2.5). It was Yahweh who gave them these gifts, but they used them in the service of Baal instead (Hos 2.8). They deserved their indulgences and cried “Foul!” to any prophet who suggested otherwise. They set their hearts on riches and God said don’t do that.

Might we’ve adopted the same attitude towards oil? God created it; therefore, it’s useful for our benefit and ultimately to serve God’s glory. But have we used it to bolster our own indulgent lifestyles? Even worse, has it replaced God himself? In America, we assume we can’t live without oil as though it sustains our life. We assume we have to live the way we do or else. In our “wisdom,” We’ve exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for strategic oil reserves (Rom 1.21-23).

Suggest that someone get rid of their car and they’ll say, “But, I have to drive to work!” Do you? Or does the lifestyle you want to lead demand that you do so? “But, I have to heat and cool my house!” Do you? Is central heat/air a right or a luxury God affords you because he’s a kind, compassionate God?

I hate paying $4/gallon as much as the next guy. In fact, I recently sold my beloved F-150 and bought a Maxima in light of it. But no one forces me to live as I do. I’m not sure what my life would look like on minimal oil and its products (I’m not very crafty or handy). But I do know that God promises to meet the needs of those who seek his kingdom and righteousness (Mt 6.33). This does not mean, however, he’s obliged to sustain my middle-class lifestyle. Worship God and not oil and we’ll find God is much more necessary than oil.

3. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’ “ (Lk 12.15). Does my demand for cheap gas reveal a greedy heart? Do I want cheaper gas so I can spend more on other indulgences (which have become rights I deserve)?

Perhaps we may piously assert (in public at least) that we’d give more to God’s kingdom if gas was cheaper. Really? Then go without your cable or satellite bill. Eat out less. Buy fewer clothes or buy them at Goodwill. Stop smoking and drinking Starbucks. Then we’ll see how pious we really are. We’ll follow our treasure straight to our heart. We may find that high gas prices really don’t prevent giving more to the kingdom; they cut in on our greedy action. (In the interest of full disclosure, I speak hypocritically here. We have a satellite dish, eat out too much, drink too much Starbucks and have way too many shoes.)

Jesus said to beware every (Gk. pases) form of greed. This means there is more than one form of greed (corporate usury). And we may find one of those forms sneaking up on us at the pump.

As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we’ve been made privy to a new economy. It’s one in which God is our treasure and it’s from that treasure that he sustains us. It’s one that revolves around his gifts of grace. If he didn’t spare his own Son will he not freely give us all things (Rom 8.32)? The next time we pay “the man” for his gas, may we erupt in worship that God has given us far more than oil. He’s given us Jesus and one day we’ll strike it rich with him.

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