Many people have been turned off to environmental issues by extremists. Environmentalists often seem to have more concern for whales, snail darters, and owls than they do for people. Some of them try to make us feel guilty for being alive and using air.
Christians actually have special insight into this controversy. We know that the present world is temporary. The elements will someday melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10, 12). Although this gives Christians perspective, it is certainly not a license to abuse the earth or to be arrogant toward it. Scripture gives us two specific commands in this regard:
The first command, sometimes called the cultural mandate, is found in Genesis 1:28. "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." The first part of the command is being fulfilled, with a current world population of more than five billion people. The subduing of the earth involves rulership. We have been placed in charge of the earth as stewards. The earth does not belong to us; it is the Lord's, including everything in it (Ps. 24:1). We are to care for and manage what has been given to us, and we are responsible for the results.
A second biblical command appears in Genesis 2:15: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." This was Adam's job description, and it is also a general model for us today. Hebrews 2:8 states that God has put all things under our feet; we are still in charge. To work and care for the garden, or “dress and keep” it (KJV), meaning to make it orderly, productive, and beautiful. The clear conclusion is that we should indeed be concerned about the deterioration of the environment. Only the Christian has the proper foundation for understanding people's true responsibility to care for the earth.
Consider some of the common objections to environmental concern:
"People are more important than things." This is true. There is no profit in gaining the whole world and losing one's own soul (Mark 8:36). Presenting the gospel must have priority. If we love the Lord, however, we will not turn our backs on his artwork and gifts in the creation. The creation gives powerful testimony to God's glory; caring for his works is our responsibility. The environment is important because people are important. Their health and well-being depend on it.
"Why should we be concerned with a temporary, dying world?" In spite of sin, the creation remains a rich testimony to God's goodness. Stewardship of this silent witness is an act of worship. Our bodies are also temporary, but we care for them. Our minds will someday be made perfect, yet we spend our lives studying and exercising them. The same arguments apply to caring for the present, temporary earth.
"Environmentalism is just a form of the social gospel, or even worse, it is New Age pantheism." True environmental care is respect for God's handiwork, not a return to idolatry. Stewardship is the recognition of humanity's high created position, not a pantheistic ruling out of our responsibility before God.
"We are told in Genesis 1:28 to subdue the earth." Our dominion should not be harsh; this verse is not a proof text to condone littering! To subdue means to cherish and bring out the full potential of the creation, not trash it.
Environmental issues are a major concern of our day. Christians should do their part to help the earth glorify God. After all, we know the Creator. Of course, we must also spread the gospel message, telling others about the Creator of heaven and earth.
Author: Dr. Donald DeYoung, Ph.D. (Physics) as excerpted from Weather and the Bible, pgs. 140-142, published by Baker Book House
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