Confessing To Plants

What if I were to tell you that we are to confess our sins to plants? That all the wrong we do to our environment needs to be atoned for and we must confess these things to nature? You may not think I am being serious, but I am. Union Seminary (a seminary connected to Columbia University) had their students do just that in a recent chapel service. On their Twitter page they posted a picture of their altar with plants all over the ground. In the picture is a student sitting on the ground with a microphone confessing to the plants in front of them. The caption read, “Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor. What do you confess to the plants in your life?”
As you can imagine, it sparked a lot of reaction and controversy. They came out with a thread explaining the reason for doing this. The seminary stated it was in line with the class, Extractivism: A Ritual/Liturgical Response. They stated that, “We are in the throes of a climate emergency, a crisis created by humanity's arrogance, our disregard for Creation.  Far too often, we see the natural world only as resources to be extracted for our use, not divinely created in their own right—worthy of honor, thanks and care. We need to unlearn habits of sin and death. And part of that work must be building new bridges to the natural world. And that means creating new spiritual and intellectual frameworks by which we understand and relate to the plants and animals with whom we share the planet. Churches have a huge role to play in this endeavor. Theologies that encourage humans to dominate and master the Earth have played a deplorable role in degrading God's creation. We must birth new theology, new liturgy to heal and sow, replacing ones that reap and destroy…”
So is this legitimate? Are we to confess our sins of damaging the environment? Of misusing God’s creation for our own selfish benefit? Should we be willing to swallow our pride and admit that we have been harmful to what God has created? Maybe, but not in the way that Union Seminary is suggesting. Let's take these arguments by Union one at a time here.

Confession: The Bible is very clear that we are to confess our sins. Where this seminary is misguided is where that confession is directed to. We are to confess to God (Psalm 32:5) and to each other (James 5:16) i.e. humans. Nowhere are we told to confess sins to plants, animals or any other creation. The bible is clear that when we sin we are sinning against HIM (Psalm 51:4). What is sad in this entire dialogue from Union is that they never once thought to confess to the creator of the creation. 

Worthy of Honor: The seminary argues that creation is worthy of honor in their own right. This is absolute heresy. We are to look to creation and honor God. Creation does reflect honor and glory, but to the One who created them, not themselves (Psalm 19:1). The Bible is clear that God will not give His glory and honor to anyone or anything else (Isaiah 42:8). The picture they posted is very sad. You see them worshiping creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

Unlearning Sin: Part of the reasoning for confessing to plants, the seminary argues that we have to “unlearn habits of sin and death”. Again this is not biblical. God has made clear to us that you can not “unlearn” sin. He has revealed to us that sin is a nature (Psalm 51:5 & Romans 5:12) and therefore we can not change our sinful behavior on our own (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The only way we can turn from sin is through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-23).

Theology: The seminary claims that we must “birth new theology” and create “new spiritual and intellectual frameworks”. But our theology and intellect should be framed by God’s Word. Theology is the study of God. To know Him, we must learn from what He has told us about Himself ie the Bible. If we create a “new theology” or a different theology, that is heresy. That would be a man made religion and not the truth of God Himself. 

Creative Order: The bible is also very clear that when He created, He created in a hierarchical order. That all of creation is created for specific roles and purposes. This principle is lost in Union’s argument. The bible states that humans have dominion over creation and have the right to use it for our living on earth (Genesis 1:26). Creation is subject to humans, not the other way around. Now are we to be responsible and good stewards with His creation? Yes! But if we are irresponsible with what He has given us, we should confess that sin to Him. We need to seek forgiveness from the Creator, from the one who gave us this responsibility. We are to seek forgiveness from the only one who can grant it to us.

The seminary admitted that this may seem weird and uncomfortable. They argue though that we need to be willing to try new things and not be afraid of change. In their final statement they say, “We must lean into this discomfort; God waits for us there” But He does not. He is not specifically waiting for us in confessing to plants. He is waiting for us at the cross. He is waiting for us to repent and confess our sins to Him, not His creation.

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