A Biblical View on the Environment
How is it possible to gain a biblically informed view of our responsibility to God’s creation without neglecting our stewardship duties on the one hand, and not worshipping the creation rather than the Creator on the other hand? How can we care for the environment without deifying it?
Firstly a biblical view of creation is imperative. God’s creation was originally perfect, and it is the result of sin that has corrupted it. Adam’s first task was to tend the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15) and at the close of Scripture the tree of life will bear fruit every month for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). Since the fall of mankind, the whole creation has been corrupted by sin and subsequently creation groans, yet it will be delivered from corruption (Romans 8:19-22). Everything that was created, was made by God and for Him, to the praise of His glory and this includes the creation. The heavens declare the glory of God and the invisible attributes of God leave us with no excuse to deny God’s existence (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20).
Secondly, we must reject a pagan worldview that esteems the creation above the Creator or a view which compromises our priority of being in right relationship with God. History has repeated itself many times over. When Israel committed spiritual adultery with other gods such as the Baals, Ashtoreth’s et al, so often that involved the desire to achieve agricultural success or prosperity and the willingness to appease anything or anyone to obtain it. The term “Mother Earth” should never be part of the vocabulary of the believer. I remember a prayer meeting when one person randomly suggested we should all go and pick up litter, which although that has some value in itself and could be done at an appropriate time, should never encroach on the vital priority of prayer.
We should not be fearful about the long-term sustainability of our planet since God is sovereign and knows the end from the beginning, yet we should recognise our responsibility to be good stewards over what God has entrusted us with. Yes, some countries have destroyed outrageous quantities of their rainforests irresponsibly and for quick profit and it is no surprise that their lands are devastated. Common sense recommends replanting trees on a mass scale rapidly to replace the deficit, and that should be encouraged. Recycling demonstrates good stewardship, cleaning up the oceans is a good example of stewardship, using a push bike or walking instead of clogging up the roads if possible, is considerate and good stewardship.
The problem arises when concern for the environment is slowly transformed into a religion. In the same way that politics should never drive our theology but should be informed from what we learn from God’s Word, concern for the environment should be driven by being good stewards over what God has given us to tend and keep and recognising that the creation is made for God’s glory and it is never to be glorified in and of itself.
Jon Taylor May 2021