Karl Hubenthal wrote:
For those who imagine the answer to life’s problems is a return “back to nature,” please consider the case of Filippus Sabajo. By God’s grace, Filippus was a Christian, a member of our mission church in Klein Powakka, Suriname. Filippus was an Arawak Indian. He had once been chief of the village. He was very well acquainted with nature and the ways of the wild. He lived without electricity, never drove a car, never had a telephone. He grew his own food with organic fertilizer. He pulled weeds rather than spraying them. He cut his own wood to build his own house. He prepared the roots of Kasava for his staple food, and his wife cooked over a wood fire. Filippus was skilled in using the natural medicines and cures found in the South American jungles. He was accomplished at hunting for game and fishing the rivers. He knew the jungle’s secrets, and he had a keen ear for danger. Some would say that he lived in harmony with nature.
Nevertheless, one morning as Filippus was harvesting Markusa, a highly venomous Makka snake caught him by surprise and bit him three times in the leg. Filippus was able to kill the snake, and made it back to the house. But later he died from the poison. He was 75 years old. Why did he die? He died because he did not live in Eden before the Fall. He died because he lived in a sin-cursed world. He died because he shared in the guilt of his first ancestor. He died because the popular notion of living in harmony with nature is a myth. The back-to-nature people always forget that the whole world is cursed and that there is no escape. Eden does not exist anymore. And it is impossible to ignore the reality that the forest is also a part of the fallen world. It is as easy to be killed in the jungle as in the factory. You are no safer from sin and its consequences on a path through the bush than you are on a super highway. Just ask Filippus’s widow.
The notion that men can retreat to the woods to get closer to God is simply not true. It peeves me to hear people refer to mountains or seashore as “God’s Country” … as if wherever people (made in the image of God) live is not! Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a “retreat” to the wild as much as anyone. But it is not to get closer to God. Have you not read, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live upon it” (Psalm 24:1)? The whole earth, and not just the woods! And yet it’s just as true that the whole earth is cursed, the woods every bit as much as the city. One gets close to God through the Word, the sacraments, and prayer, not through the environment.
To cherish the notion that there is a paradise—a Shangri-La—out there is to deny or ignore an inescapable fact of our history. It is to ignore or deny one of the cardinal doctrines of Scripture—the Fall of our first parents and the effect on their posterity and on the world. And the implication of denying the Fall is the denial of the seriousness and hopelessness of our situation. And to deny that … well, then one is in no position to recognize the only solution that is available, the one God gave. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall never perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Do not look for your deliverance in a supposed return to nature, look for your deliverance in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Praise God, Christ Jesus was the hope of Filippus Sabajo. He is alive and well with our Lord. Truly, the serpent had no power over him.
Rev. Karl Hubenthal was a missionary with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Suriname, South America.