The Earth and its resources belong to God “the land is mine” Lev. 25:23. “Whatever is under the heaven is mine” Job 41:11. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” Ps. 24:1. “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours.” Psalm 89:11. “The world and its fulness are mine.” Ps. 50:9-12. Since this is the case, we should first consult the Lord regarding the use and habitation of His property. This being the case, it’s noteworthy that . . .
The Earth and its resources have been entrusted to people “And God said to them (Adam and Eve), ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish . . . and over the birds . . . and over every living thing . . . on the earth. And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant . . . that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree . . .” Gen. 1:28-29 The word translated “subdue” means to tread down or bring into bondage like a conqueror. And “dominion” means to prevail over -the idea of being victorious. We read further in 2:15: ”The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it.” The word ”work” means to serve, while the word “keep” connotes the idea of preserving. This covenant is renewed with Noah and all subsequent generations in 9:1-4. The point is that we are not simply part of the natural world, but also apart from it. As Norm Geisler said, “Man is not merely a peasant in creation; he is king over it.” We are duty bound to serve and preserve the earth -it is a huge part of what it means to be human.
For this reason, people have a sacred responsibility to care for the earth and its resources with the same diligence that God cares for it. (Ps. 65:5-13; 104:1-22) His covenant people are told of His special concern for their land: “the land that you are going over to possess is a land . . . that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are wlways upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” (Deut. 11:11, 12) God gave His people several commands regarding proper care for and use of the land (Lev. 25:1-12), the animals and wildlife (Duet. 22:6; 25:4), and the trees (Deut. 20:19-20). As we have already seen, Adam tilled the ground (Gen. 2:15). He also named the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). Never before have humans had the technology to exercise so much power over creation as today. Forests can be cleared in a day, rivers can be tamed by dams and levees, and crops can be planted on land never before considered arable. This incredible capacity to do great harm or wonderful good to our earth must be anchored to our great calling to operate as God’s representatives both serving and ruling over the Earth as His image-bearers. But this is not always easy since . . .
The Earth and its resources have fallen into decay at the Fall and so have its caregivers. Romans 8:19-22 tells us that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory fo the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” In other words not only did we fall at the Fall, but creation fell as well. The fact that creation is fallen means that it requires even greater stewardship. Sadly, due to our sin nature, benevolent stewardship of the earth has not always been practiced. The industrial mind-set that allows companies to virtually rape global resources is not hard to find -even today when the cry of “loving Mother Earth” is louder than ever. And Christians are not immune to such accusations. Contrary to what some would have us believe, however we do not understand the Bible to teach “that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.” Some have interpreted the command to “subdue” the earth as a license to exploit it for selfish gain. Too many Christians believe, at least in practice, that the earth is not worth saving since our ultimate hope is the new heavens and earth, not this old one. We are all to blame. As the classic Pogo cartoon said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” If we accept that we Christians are as much to blame as anyone and we want to do better by our home, how do we wade through the agenda-filled, biased research since . . .
Environmental debates are an arena filled with hyperbole and misinformation. Topics such as deforestation, topsoil loss, toxic wastes, greenhouse gases and melting polar ice caps routinely fill newspapers and newscasts. Are we to believe Al Gore’s claim that 100,000 species become extinct every day? Or those who claim that it closer to 4,000 a year? Or those who claim that only 1,033 species have been documented extinct since 1600? I don’t claim to have all of the answers here, but the general operating principle is that as truth-loving people, we must be relentless fact-checkers. (For some recent reliable information, may I suggest Wayne Grudem’s chapter “The Environment” in his Politics According to the Bible.)
Before we go on, we may want to ask:
1) Should we as Christians care? Pesticides have been found in the fat of Antartctic animals. Environmental problems are a global issue. If you are breathing and your brain synapses are firing, you should care, and we should not be scared off by the fact that quasi-pantheists have run with the conversation and the effort to utilize our earth wisely.
2) Does God really care about these issues? I taught pre-schoolers -1st graders today the story of Noah’s ark. In this story, God cared enough about the environment to preserve the Earth’s creatures from the flood (Gen. 6-7). He cares about land conversion and habitat destruction: Isaiah 5:8-10; He cares about land degredation: Leviticus 25:2-4; He cares about resource conversion: Ezekiel 34:1. Yes, God cares. Get over your fear of entering into an evolution debate and do something about this issue that God clearly cares about.
So what is the solution? It is certainly multi-faceted. I don’t claim to have cornered the market on answers, but here are a few things to consider:
1. Understand that God is not only the Creator of the Earth, but also the Sustainer. Hebrews 1:3 teaches that Christ “upholds the Universe by the word of his power” and Colossians 1:17 says that in Christ “all things hold together.” Bottom line? Don’t freak out when the alarmists sound off. He will allow the Earth to survive as long as He wants it to.
2. Nature should not be worshiped (as in pantheism). God is not one with nature and neither are we. Killing animals and cutting down trees are not only permitted but encouraged if they serve good purposes (and these good purposes can be as trivial as decoration. Solomon used Elephant tusks in this way).
3. Progress is not the highest goal and technology should not be used to destroy the environment (as in Ayn Rand’s naturalism). Though nature exists for man, man also exists for nature. You cannot have one without the other. To love the progress of man, you must exercise care for his environment.
4. Money and patience should be used to treat the land properly. As Schaeffer asked, “Are we going to have an immediate profit and and immediate savings of time, or are we going to do what we really should do as God’s children?” The general principle is that we should strive for a balance between mankind’s obligation to reproduce and nature’s -without one overrunning the other.
5. In this day and age of lightning speed transition it is all the more important to study what the Bible has to say about stewardship of resources. Sadly, recent studies show that the more one attends church, the less one understands and respects ecological relationships. Study it and pass it on to the next generation before they learn the ”Mother Earth”/globalism junk taught in our schools and media.
Of all the great religious and philosophical systems, none gives greater dignity to the material creation than does the judeo-Christian tradition. Both Testaments support the contention that the physical universe is good (though fallen), and that it reflects the glory of its Creator (Ps. 19:1; 1 Tim. 4:4). We must face the fact that not to love our environment is to not love one another. To quote Geisler again, “Am I my earth’s keeper? If I am not the earth’s keeper, then it is becoming increasingly evident that neither am I my brother’s keeper. This is my brother’s earth, and if I do not keep it, then it will keep neither him nor me.”