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ENVIRONMENTALISM—What is man’s responsibility to the environment?

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The question of how “environmentally concerned” a Christian should be has become very popular during recent years. In order to understand our responsibility, it is important to comprehend the original relationship between man and nature.

Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that God created man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over all the earth. This included all the animals that God had created as well as the entire earth. God also charged their descendants with the care for all the earth (Gen. 1:28).

Even after the curse, God never withdrew this responsibility. We must care for the world that God has given to us.

Although Scriptures are in general agreement with many of the ecology groups that man is responsible for his environment, Christians may disagree with them on the question of why the environment is important and how it should be maintained.

For instance, many people in the ecology movement would say that cleaning up the environment is important because the future of mankind is endangered. They point to issues like the ozone depletion and global warming to support their claims (points which many believe are highly suspect).

However, the Bible is clear that the existence of the human race is not in jeopardy. God is in control of our destiny. He has planned the future for mankind. The Bible tells us that the earth will someday be restored by Christ (Rom. 8:21), and ultimately God will destroy it by fire, replacing it with a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10).

The Bible is very specific about the fact that the restoration and ultimate destruction of the earth is God's working and is not related to man's “fine-tuning” of the environment.

Another reason that some people support ecology issues is that they seem to view nature as a form of God; their care for the planet is a type of worship. The “New Age” religion emphasizes ecology and “oneness” with nature. Again, the Bible clearly teaches that this is not a valid reason to care for our world. Isaiah 45:5 states, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.” From this we know that there is only one God. We know that God is the creator, not the created (Col. 1:16-17). To worship nature is equal to idolatry. To care for our environment, as commanded, is obedience to God.

Perhaps one reason that we are commanded to care for the earth is as an illustration of responsibility and stewardship. God placed man over the earth as the crown of His creation. We are to show care, compassion and responsibility in our relationship with creation. In this way, we can appreciate better the special relationship which God has established with man, who was created in His own image. As believers we will show good stewardship by accepting the responsibility that was given in the beginning.

One further observation should be made concerning our caring for creation. Man must learn that our responsibility to the earth is less important than our caring for each other. This lesson is illustrated in Jonah 4:9-11. Here, God reminds Jonah that he has no right to care more for plants and trees and cattle than for the 120,000 people that lived in Nineveh. Now, more than ever, people need to gain God's perspective on what things really matter most. The environment is important, but God is more concerned for the souls of people.

Author: Mark Van Bebber, Films for Christ

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