Red Light, Green Light: Minimizing Harm

I just re-read my post from April 15 entitled, “A Case for Suffering.” Hmm. An interesting date on which to publish that post! We are now concluding July, and the summer is nearly over. When I was a child, we would not have viewed summer as nearly over at the end of July! School didn’t start until after Labor Day, but now schools begin earlier, and they take a few more breaks during the year.

Our theme today (which certainly applies to following tax laws and to getting an education) is that their is wisdom in paying attention to red lights and green lights so as to minimize harm both personally and collectively. (Is this too obvious of a wisdom, or does difficulty stalk application?)

In the April 15 post, I quoted Dr. Frame’s definition of theology: “the application of God’s Word by people to all areas of life.” When I first read his most wonderful book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, I thought it strange that he would shape his definition this way. The prepositional phrase, “by people,” seemed unnecessary. Sufficient would be “the application of God’s Word to all areas of life.” Who/what else but people can apply the Word? Cucumbers? Puppy dogs? Obviously, people!

Scripture is  written to His image bearers who have been endowed with rational, reflective, and moral thought — to those with awareness of self, others, the world, and God. “By people” is the obvious. But then I realized that it is not the obvious. In many circles, in many eras, the Word was the domain of a professional group, a subset of people. Thus, theologizing was the work of scholars, priests, pastors, and Christian educators (heavy on the cerebral, lighter on the application). Frame’s claim is that every Christ follower is a theologian. (Every person on the planet is some kind of theologian, but other authorities besides the Scriptures provide direction — a spinning array of directions.   All roads lead to. . . .)

So we have concluded (if you are with me) that all Christians are responsible to pursue an understanding and application of Scripture to every area of their lives. What about this idea of every area. Does this include areas that may not at first glance connect to the Bible and the God of the Bible? What? There are some areas of life that are disconnected from the Scriptures or from God? What would these be? If the Scriptures claim to be a sufficient guide for life and godliness, then how can they be in some way insufficient?1  If God is the “First Cause,” what cause can be birthed without Him? If all things, both visible and invisible, both matter and the laws controlling matter, emanate from Him, then where can there be a disconnect?2

The disconnect is with us. We compartmentalize areas, often unintentionally. We jump ahead, assuming we know God’s will in an area and proceed. Maybe we think it’s an area where God has no particular will — like whether we should plant impatiens or marigolds.

Certainly, God does not care which we chose. On a moral level, this is true. On a science level (all science is God’s science) this is not true. God has not designed all flowers to flourish is full sun. Some need shade or part sun and part shade. Some need lots of water daily while others merely need a weekly drenching. Knowing the characteristics of the specific plant, even hybrids which work within the divine design for plants, becomes essential for successful horticulture.  So, God has a will via His laws of nature which human desire cannot override. Wisdom works from knowledge — knowledge of Scripture in tandem with knowledge of God’s natural and material world.

So, what’s the red light, green light issue for us to consider today?  It’s an issue that has pestered or plagued me for decades. How do I apply principles from both Scripture and science in this area? “Without knowledge, people perish.”3  Well, we all die at some point, but many of us are slowly perishing for lack of knowledge, for misinformation, and/or for willful ignorance. It’s a miserable way to go. Willful ignorance at some point faces retribution: you reap what you sow. However, naive ignorance also reaps similar recompense: even if you don’t know any better, you reap what you sow.4

Here’s my point. It’s the issue of personal health (which necessarily is extrapolated to environmental health). To the degree that we understand God’s “fearfully and wonderfully” design, to that degree we are able to pursue health. This is the science component: biology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and kinesiology. To the degree that we understand the biblical principles of personal accountability, stewardship, Lordship, and “templeship” (we are God’s temple), we are responsible to apply that knowledge. Yes. God holds us responsible to apply both biblical and scientific knowledge for our welfare and the welfare of others — for His glory (to accurately showcase the good character of God).

God placed Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden for specific purposes: to cultivate it and keep it (Genesis 2:15), to use its resources to nourish themselves via  plant life and the fruit of the trees (Genesis 1: 29; 2:9), and to be fruitful themselves, filling the earth, subduing the earth, ruling in a caring way over the earth (often called “the dominion mandate”) (Genesis 1:28).

Okay. Do you prefer Bible references in the text or as footnotes?

However, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we see Christians abdicating their responsibilities to care for their own health, let alone the health of God’s creatures and earth’s habitat, divinely designed and given.

Most personal pain or health issues provide red lights which should cause us to pause and ask questions. Seek answers. Often, we haven’t found answers, or some of the answers have been misguided. We overlook many helpful answers because the answers seem too ordinary to offer clues. These answers are so much in our faces that we are blind to them. At least, that’s happened to me. I will tell some of my story in coming posts. The point is that God has designed the body to respond with discomfort or pain to stop us like red lights, so that we’ll seek green light answers. Good is God’s design.

I’ve heard these kinds of remarks: “I wanna eat what I like. Ya gotta die sometime!” “I don’t read the label, because it tastes so good, I don’t want to know what’s in it.”  “Yeh, I sit too much but then, I’m getting old. I’ve paid my dues.” “What do I have left to enjoy? I hurt so much, at least I can enjoy my decadent desserts!” “The rapture’s coming, so why should I recycle, why should I be concerned about our water quality or supply….? It will all burn.” “The Rapture’s coming, so eat dessert first.”

Rapture theology, abused, has provided many Christians with cop-outs, rationalizing away poor stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to us. It does not matter how long we live or this planet continues under the rule of The Fall. We are responsible to oversee wisely the care of our health and environment, as settings for godly living and gospel talk in anticipation of the kingdom to come.

Red light. Stop. Seek the truth in God’s Word and in God’s creation. Green light. Proceed in line with God’s directives. It’s a broken world, this present cosmos in which we dwell, but it’s still God’s world. God has provided a way through the brokenness to the wholeness on the other side. His way will minimize harm in the present while maximizing our kingdom preparedness. Within the broken cosmos, avail His blessings.

Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.

Psalm 94:12

1. II Peter 1:3. The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that no textbooks on specific topics are needed! The Bible is our singular authority through which life and all studies are viewed by the Christian. Scripture and true science go hand in hand because they have the same Author.

2. Colossians 1: 16; John 1:3; Heb. 1:3.

3. Hosea 4:6.

4. Galatians 6:7.

Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Red Light, Green Light: Minimizing Harm

  1. Anonymous

    This came to me In a timely manner for I have been hit with back spasms and have to reevaluate my day and perhaps week. I was complaining and should have been seeking the Lord, so thanks for the refocus 🙂
    (I like the scripture with the text )

    • kltolsen

      Thank you for your reply! May the Lord show you how to respond to your back spasms, what is behind this, what to do to relieve them, and how to strengthen your back, etc. I’ve been working with a physical therapist/trainer who uses the Egoscue method. This has really helped me with musculoskeletal issues. Your answers may be simpler (maybe pacing and stress management), but no matter, may the Lord give you the insight and follow-through that is needed. Let me know…!

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