|Taking Every Thought Captive|
A Biblical View of the EnvironmentD. Massimiliano Lorenzini
All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible unless otherwise indicated.
There are many views and opinions concerning the environment representing a wide range of world views. With this essay I intend to present a biblical view of the environment including its origin, present state, and future destiny.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The Bible tells us that God existed before the universe and that He created it. For more details on the creation account read chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis. Scientific Creationism also reveals intelligent design in the creation, thus testifying of an intelligent Creator.1
The purpose of creation is to worship and bring glory to God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Ps. 19:1). See also Ps. 148 and Is. 40:25,26. It also testifies of God's qualities. "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20).
Man is made in God's image. "And God said, Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). (Note: The plural pronoun testifies of the Trinity.) While every created thing has value in itself, man alone is created in the image of God. This contradicts the Eastern monism philosophy which says all is one.2 William B. Badke, author of Project Earth,3 says that the earliest responsibility of man and the only mandate given him concerning interaction with the earth is found in Gen. 2:15 which says, "The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it" (The Living Bible). The Hebrew word for tend can also mean "to serve" and the word for care may be translated "to keep safe, preserve, protect." This mandate has never been rescinded.
God gave Adam and Eve dominion in the earth (Gen. 1:28). This means that the human race is to be in charge of the stewardship of the earth and to nurture it, not dominate and exploit it for selfish motives.
"Historian Lynn White was correct in placing some blame for environmental decay on Christianity. But it is a misunderstanding of the Bible, not God's word itself, that is at fault here,"4 says Tom Sider, professor of theology and culture, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of Evangelicals for Social Action. British author Catherine von Ruhland says, "Christianity is often criticised as being the reason for much of the damage that has occurred on the planet. But we should make clear to the critics that it is not our faith, but a combination of scientific theory and industrial progress among unbelievers and our own wrong understanding of God's Word that has brought about destruction."5
The event that kicked off our present state, both physically and spiritually, is the fall of man. Along with the mandate of stewardship of the Garden, God told Adam and Eve that they had free access to anything in the Garden except the fruit of one tree which would bring physical and spiritual death (Gen. 2:16,17). This was simply a test of man's love and obedience to his Creator. God wanted a relationship based on choice and without the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil man would not have had any choice to please or displease God. Needless to say man ate the forbidden fruit and here we are today.
Sin is the breaking of God's commandment and it is sin that is the major environmental threat. Physical death and the ground being cursed are just two results of the fall (Gen. 3:17-19). By choosing to disobey our Creator and live in sin the Bible says that the land and animals mourn (Hos. 4:1-3). Sin has such a violent effect on the environment that the Bible says the land will vomit out the sinning inhabitants (Lev. 18:25). Sin is what motivates the destruction of the environment for financial gain (1 Tim. 6:10).
But God promises to heal the land if we will turn from our wicked ways (2 Chr. 7:14). (Understand that there will not be complete restoration until God recreates the earth, 1 Pet. 3:13 and Rev. 21:1). By turning to God and being filled with His Spirit we can have the sensitivity to people and the environment that is necessary (Rom. 8). Indeed, sensitivity to others will affect our treatment of the environment. For example, if we know that there are people who live downstream from us and depend on a river we use, we should be careful to not dump pollution into the river so they can have water that they can use. By our sensitivity to the people who live downstream from us, we will change our treatment of the river we use to do what we can to provide safe and clean water for others who depend upon the same river. Matthew 25 shows that insensitivity to people is also insensitivity to God and will bring His judgement.
Tony Campolo also says that since nature worships God, (Ps. 148) ecological destruction interferes with and silences the worship of God.6 He calls this blasphemy.
Ron Sider says, "The first purpose of the nonhuman creation is to glorify God not to serve us."4 The Bible says, "The earth is the Lord's" (Ps. 24:1). We must realize our role in creation is to worship God and to be stewards of the earth. A steward is a caretaker, not an owner.
Unlike monism, which says all is one, a biblical view, while agreeing that in ecology all things are interconnected, says in the spiritual realm there are two orders -- the regenerated and the fallen. The fall that Adam and Eve experienced has carried on over to every human since (Rom. 3:10, 23). But there is hope of regeneration. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).
God is deeply concerned with His creation and this is shown in many passages of Scripture. In Gen. 9:9,10 God made a covenant with all of creation not to destroy it with a flood ever again and He set the rainbow in the cloud to be a token of that covenant. In Job 39:1,2 God shows that He is with the wild animals when they give birth. Matt. 6:25-30 shows that God feeds the birds and clothes the fields. It is by His power that creation holds together or consists as Col. 1:16, 17 points out. Because God is so intimately concerned with His creation He promises to restore it.
"Everything that Christianity hopes for is wrapped up with the ultimate fate of the earth," says Glenn Paauw, author of The Garden of God.7 The Bible teaches that salvation is for all of creation, not just humans (Is. 11, Ez. 47). This world will be burned up with fire (2 Pet. 3) and God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1, Is. 65:17). True physical peace will reign (Hos. 2:18) and God will live with His people on the Earth (Rev. 21:3). Until that day Christians continue to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).
Some may say, "If the world will be destroyed by fire and recreated why should we be concerned about the environment?" Well let me sum up some reasons given thus far and introduce some new ones: 1) Destruction of the environment is blasphemy against God; 2) Stewardship is a responsibility; 3) Other people suffer because of the destruction of the environment; 4) Animals suffer; 5) Creation itself suffers (Rom. 8:19-21); 6) The danger is massive and urgent; 7) Common sense tells us to properly manage our resources to maintain a sustainable yield; 8) and I would like to leave you with an idea from Tony Campolo which may be the most practical reason of all. He says the sooner or later we will all get involved in the environmental movement because sooner or later we will all get hurt because of what we're doing to the environment.6
1. For information on Scientific Creationism see Institute for Creation Research at http://www.icr.org.
2. For more information on monism see James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog, 3d ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
3. Badke, William B. (1991). Project Earth: Preserving the World God Created. Portland, Multnomah Press.
4. Sider, Ron J. (1993, June 21). Redeeming the Environmentalists. Christianity Today.
5. von Ruhland, Catharine (1991). Going Green: A Christian Guide. Great Britain, Marshall Pickering.
6. Campolo, Tony (1992). How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshiping Nature. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
7. Paauw, Glenn (1992). The Garden of God. Colorado Springs, International Bible Society.