Creation Care - Part One

Creation Care Part One

Creation Care – Part One

When compared with the age of the earth, the span of any human life is microscopically brief – “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). Yet since I was born in 1962, our planet has experienced more environmental devastation than that witnessed by all the generations of our ancestors combined, since the time of Noah. 

If the studies are to be believed, in the span of one short lifetime:

All of this has happened to our planet since I was a boy. The world where my children will grow old is very different from the one into which I was born.

How should Christians react to these changes in our world? Let me suggest three responses that I think the Bible calls us to make. We should respond to news of our planet’s destruction with open minds, with broken hearts, and with undying hope.

In upcoming blogs, I will look at the second and third of those responses. In this blog, I would like to discuss what it means to respond to environmental crises with an open mind.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that many American Christians, particularly Evangelical believers, resist the idea that we are facing an environmental crisis, especially one caused by human activity. A study out of Yale University found that, though Evangelicals are the most likely, among American Christians, to agree that God wants people to be good stewards of creation, they are also the least likely Christian group to think that global warming is taking place.  One Christian organization even denounces environmentalism as a “false religion” that believers must shun because it is “secular and pagan”.

Though there are certainly people in the environmental movement who operate from a non-Christian worldview, it is baffling to think that anyone who views the Bible as God’s inspired word would be in denial about the devastation of our planet. Scripture clearly teaches that, from the moment Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command, the relationship between humans and the created order changed from one of harmony to one of conflict (Gen. 3:17-19). Because of human rebellion, the creation was “subjected to frustration [and to] a bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:20-21).

Environmental destruction is not the exclusive domain of Western culture, as some contend, but has taken place all over the world throughout history. It is the result of human sin. Writing in a non-Western context over 2,500 years before the Industrial Revolution, the prophet Isaiah said: “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth ….” (Isa. 24:4-6a).

Should it surprise us to think that human activity might lead to a depletion of our planet’s resources or to a change in its climate? Human beings were created to “work and watch over” God’s creation (Gen. 2:15), but in our fallen state everything we touch we eventually damage. Everywhere we go, destruction follows at our heels.

An atheist might have a hard time explaining this phenomenon. If all life-forms have randomly adapted to thrive in their environments, why, among the millions of species on planet Earth, would homo sapiens alone have such a devastating effect on ecosystems everywhere? The Bible provides an answer: human beings were uniquely created in the image of God, tasked with caring for his world, but because of our rebellion against divine authority we are incapable of fulfilling our mission (Heb. 2:8b).

The Apostle John predicted that, as the return of Christ approaches, great ecological devastation will take place throughout the world. He writes of the destruction of a third of the forests, the pollution of a third of all bodies of water, and the death of a third of all marine life. (See Revelation 8:7-11.) For centuries, Christians read these prophecies with a sense of foreboding, as dark events of the distant future. Today we can read these words as a description of what has already taken place.

The Apostle Peter predicted that people would one-day scoff at the idea of global devastation, dismissing the idea as ridiculous. “They will say, ‘Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (See 2 Peter 3:3-10.) Peter predicted that these words would be spoken by unbelievers. Surprisingly, however, we hear them today arising from the lips of people who call themselves Christians.

It is time for this attitude of denial to come to an end. An initial (and essential) Christian response to reports of environmental devastation is to receive them with open minds. Though any specific scientific study needs to be analyzed with scrutiny, there is no reason for believers to view such reports as a threat to our faith. In fact, if we accept what the Bible teaches about the fallout of human sin, we will anticipate the kinds of reports scientists are giving us today.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” As followers of Christ, we should honor God by maintaining an attitude of open-minded prudence concerning reports of what is happening in our world.