“About 135 years ago, well-renowned philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche coined the statement “God is dead”. About a year ago, I found myself drifting to a similar conclusion. It felt like fighting against a current of rationality, intent on convincing me Christianity was a passive, near-obsolete tradition, or a social club with no relevance for contemporary issues and no foothold in modern logic.
I grew up with a Christian faith, but like most children I was more interested in free hot-cross-buns from the teacher than the special Easter-themed lesson he had prepared. Easter Sunday, I assumed, was to give Christians a happy ending after (badly named) Good Friday. Thinking really hard, I concluded Jesus died and rose again so we could home go to some far-away place called Heaven. For a 7-year-old, this reasoning was fine. As a teenager, I began to see that God was powerful, and could answer prayers, but what did that mean for me? What was my job as a Christian? I’d always loved animals, plants and habitats, and had decided to study ecosystems at university, but what use was this for God? My theology hadn’t really changed since primary school, so I assumed that the role of the Church was basically helping as many people as possible ‘escape’ the world.
Arriving at UEA, the intensity of my course began to kick in. I’d spent the previous summer enjoying the sun and sea with some incredible friends who’d added muscle to my faith, but it didn’t take long for questions to start cropping up. Underpinning my scepticism was a fear that protecting the environment was futile. For example, 2016, amidst other disasters, had seen the confirmed extinction of Melomys rubicola – the first mammal lost to human-induced climate change. Surely I was wasting time fighting a lost cause, and should’ve committed to issues of social justice.
Struggling to hold onto my ever-diluting faith, I began investigating some of my biggest questions. I soon found it wasn’t my biology at fault, but my stunted theology. Starting from the beginning, I discovered a God who uses humans to reflect his character through love between each other and over the rest of the environment in stewardship. I found a God willing to suffer by entering humanity and into everything distorted in the world, and a God powerful enough to give the world hope by restoring humanity. God didn’t plan to demolish his world, but to restore it. Jesus enables us to work not in vain, but in his power, by means of ecology, art, architecture, law, medicine and more, until he comes back and expertly finishes the DIY job. And until that time, we have a God vibrantly alive and intelligently working, with an influence permeating everything we know and far beyond that. Responding to Nietzsche’s statement, ironically, God’s death and resurrection may be for us the greatest hope worth living for.
Buying into belief that Jesus was who he said he was, is like being handed a chauffeur-driven campervan. I can list its credentials, say it’s changed my life, rides forgivingly over rough ground, and takes you anywhere. But it’s only when you ignore the stigma, get in the passenger’s seat and ask God to drive that you’ll know you’ve made the right decision, and nothing else could replace what you’ve been freely given.”
- Tim Cross, Second Year, Ecology