Solomon once observed that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Men frequently like to think that their generation is different than those which came before, their life experiences unique, and their understanding is wiser: being more modern and up-to-date. Yet a casual study of history shows that the problems facing men today are the same problems men have always struggled with; which is why the Bible is perpetually relevant to men. God wrote it knowing the struggles and issues men would deal with in this world, and those struggles and those issues remain the same.
A case in point: Union Theological Seminary, in New York, held a recent chapel in which the students confessed to and prayed to plants, and then bragged about doing so on a social media platform. Lest you think this to be an exaggeration, their statement was as follows: “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.” When more than a few people criticized their worship as being heretical (which it was), the school issued a defense of itself, explaining that Christians needed to repent of their violence to plants, and that the church needed “new spiritual and intellectual frameworks by which we understand and relate to the plants and animals,” and a “new theology, new liturgy.”
Yet, despite this school’s vanity in thinking they are fashioning some new theology, they are merely engaging in an ancient form of paganism called nature worship. Praying to plants, animals, rocks and even the weather has been going on for thousands of years; there is nothing new about it. Pantheists and animists are eager to welcome the students and teachers of U.T.S. into their fold. And, as men rush into their folly, the Bible will continue to contain and proclaim God’s opinion on the matter, for, as already observed, there is nothing new under the sun, and the things men think of as being new are just variations on the same things they have always been doing in rebellion against their Creator, and God has spoken to these things time and again.
The Scriptures explain the process by which men turn away from God, saying, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! (Romans 1:21-23, 25; ESV)” Men today, failing to properly honor God, remain as futile in their thinking as their ancestors ever were.
When God gave the Law to Israel, the first commandment was, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and the second commandment warned against making idols, saying, “you shall not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:3, 5)” Praying to plants, by almost an reasonable understanding, would be worshipping an idol, and the creation of a false god. In point of fact, within the Law, the Israelites were specifically warned about worshipping trees, and were told not to do it (cf. Deuteronomy 16:21). Apparently there were other cultures and peoples in the vicinity of Israel who were doing exactly that. Incorporating plants into worship has been going on for a good, long time, and God has always been rather clear as being against it.
Because people have a tendency to think that their ideas are new, and because there is a school of thought, common to man, that believes new is always better, it is necessary, upon occasion, to point out that not only are certain ideas not new, but that these ideas are as bad today as they have always been.
The faithful believer in God understands that it is God, and God alone, who is worthy of worship and thanksgiving. To the extent that plants “sustain” mankind, they do so only as an instrument of the Father’s wisdom and it is God who gets all the glory. Specifically, concerning this point the Bible teaches that it is in God that “we live and move and have our being,” and it is God, through Christ, who “upholds all things through the word of His power (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3).” If anyone is going to get credit, Christians need to give it to God, “giving thanks for all things to the Father, through the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17b).”
When someone tries to tell us that what Christians need to start doing is praying to plants and confessing our sins to plants, we should recognize their doctrine for the old, old paganism that it is, and, remaining true to God’s word, soundly reject it. And, while it may seem a silly sort of issue to pontificate on and meditate on, the fact that it is an issue that has been popping up for a few thousand years reminds us that men can frequently be quite silly in matters of religion.
If you are interested in worshipping God in spirit and in truth, the church of Christ invites you to join with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions, including subjects you might like to see addressed, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.