The "Back to nature" movement is picking up steam. At this rate it will soon be rush hour and the freeways will be clogged with city-dwellers headed for more natural surroundings. Which, ironically, will turn it into a kind of city again when they all arrive!

Natural, we are told, is far better than man-made. The environmentalist mantra that nature would be fine if it were not for man is taking hold of our minds. We want endangered species to be able to enjoy their natural habitat. And natural, in this context, means man-free. No people allowed, except the elite environmentalists who will be privileged to watch these creatures in their pristine man-free surroundings.

But, as we saw last time, the Bible uses the word 'natural' to mean "Jesus-free", not "man-free". The natural man is the man without the Spirit (1Corinthians 2:14), humanity apart from Christ. And despite the fact that the Bible is clear that there is no correlation between the concept of "natural" and purity - in fact, all of  'nature' is polluted as a result of sin - Christians are near the front of the line in the "get back to nature" movement. In fact, we even look to that which is natural (as opposed to that which man has got his dirty hands on) as the source of our well-being. Processed foods will harm us, we are warned, but it is hoped that natural foods will give us health and long life. Naturally. Apart from Christ.

If it's natural, it must be good, or so we are told. Take natural childbirth: with a label like that it sounds so good. What could be more unnatural than the alternative: having a needle stuck in your spine? But the reality is rather different. If you want real natural, you could spend the last trimester of the pregnancy living in a mud hut in Africa 500 miles from the closest epidural. Really natural: no internet, no phones, no electricity, no running water. At least, only the kind of running water that you have to run a couple of miles to get - but surely that's OK because running is a healthy natural exercise, right?

That water will be natural. Not coming through man-made pipes. And in that natural environment, the river will be unpolluted by factory effluent a few miles upstream. There may have been a few thousand people urinating in it upstream; but that's only a natural bodily function. And there will be some carcasses of dead animals and fish floating by - but they all died of natural causes, so that's OK. At least it is natural water there that keeps the maternity room clean, not all these dreadful chemicals that have such terrible side-effects.

The only problem is that mortality rates seem so much worse in these natural surroundings than in our chemically sanitized hospitals. The pursuit of the natural would have been fine if there had been no sin in the world. But the fact is that with sin, nature became a hostile place. And having babies, which ought to have been so natural and uncomplicated, became 'natural' in the Christ-free sense of natural: an activity laboring under the effects of the curse (Genesis 3:16). And in such a world, it is the grace of God that has enabled us to come up with some man-made solutions to alleviate the effects of the curse and make life bearable.

Natural is not all good, and civilization is not all bad. Antibiotics artificially created in the profit-driven pharmaceutical companies' labs may help. They may do some harm too. So what are we to do? Our problem is that by going in either direction we are vulnerable to the lure of idolatry.

We may put our trust in science - looking there for our salvation and welfare. This is the idolatry of man: believing that there are man-made solutions, idolizing the scientific advancements of man in all his civilized glory. But man is flawed by sin, and so are all his solutions. However, it is equally problematic to go in the other direction: back to nature. That is to idolize the natural, ignoring the fact that nature is fatally flawed this side of the new creation. In its weed-filled state it is trying to devour us. The earth waits to swallow us up in the grave; it is our enemy, not our friend.

Some place their hope in man's progress in conquering nature; others place there hope in pristine nature by minimizing man's role there. But these are two sides of the same coin. Both are expressions of worshiping the creature (whether man or nature) rather than the creator. Both are idolatry. Both are anti-Christ (alternatives to Christ, Christ-free zones). And whichever way you look at the coin, it is counterfeit money. Attaching value to anything apart from God is idolatry.

Some trust in horses - natural resources. Some trust in chariots - man-made resources. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Ps 20:7). Back to God is better than Back to Nature.


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