The Crossroads: Earth Day
The Crossroads is a biweekly installment where Christians of differing perspectives have an opportunity to voice their respective opinions on an issue. In the spirit of promoting edifying dialogue within the Body of Christ we encourage you to add your voice to the discussion. May our conversation be uplifting for the Church and point us all to a more clear understanding of our Savior.
Question: What Should a Christian Think of Earth Day?
What is Earth Day? It is a day set aside to reflect on the beauty of the earth and to make efforts to preserve it, and has contributed to one of the largest movements of our time: environmentalism. It also has the potential to be one of the most aggressive affronts to Christianity and the Biblical worldview.
According to its founder, Gaylord Nelson, the mission of Earth Day is to recognize that the fate of the living planet is the most important issue to mankind. According to the Bible, the mission of our days on earth is to recognize the depravity of man and this physical world and that our need for a savior is the most important issue to mankind.
It might seem like the two paradigms can coexist, that there is no need to quibble over definitions because we can live out our faith while enacting policies that preserve the world in which we live. But this isn’t true for two reasons. First, environmentalists are dramatically unbiblical in their philosophy and efforts. Second, environmentalism as a first priority subverts the ability to adequately reach the poor and lost with the message of salvation.
1) Environmentalists propagate the myth that the earth was here before us and will remain after we’re gone: humans are visitors, trespassers exploiting the earth. This is completely unbiblical, yet the Mother Earth mantra forms the foundation for much of environmentalism. In truth, God is the Creator, the Provider, the one who allows us to master the elements to procure sustenance: the earth exists for mankind.
In fact, the earth is hostile. If we didn’t work to subdue it, as God called us to, it would overwhelm us. But just because something works against us does not mean we are able to utterly dismiss concern for it. After all, God loved us while we hated him, living in sin (Romans 5:8). We ought, then, to approach the earth with the intention to manage it well, and most efficiently use what God has provided.
This makes the case against a minimalistic view regarding earthly consumption, which is a popular phenomenon. Numerous Christian groups even exist with the purpose of accomplishing such ends. Indeed, a “Green Bible” was released a few years ago, literally highlighting every passage that references creation care. It is an interesting concept, yet it risks being culturally relevant at the price of doctrinal integrity.
Some Christian environmental groups exist and, while perhaps well-intentioned, go too far in advocating for actions not supported in Scripture, or even truncate passages to support the integrity of their purpose rather than that of the Bible. Placing any policy goal above accurate representation of Scripture instantly raises an alarm. If God’s word must be maligned to support a Christian organization’s creed, something is amiss.
2) It is important to remember that God does not call us to make heaven on this world; he calls us to reach the lost so that they may join believers in the world to come (i.e. heaven). When creation serves to enable that process, it should be celebrated, not forbidden.
Jesus himself, through whom all was created and is held together, cursed a fig tree. He did this not to destroy but to make a point that would bring life (Mark 11). By Christ’s example we see that the earth serves to provide lessons befitting a spiritual eternity. The problem with mainstream environmentalism is that there is no reference point by which to make value judgments. For Christians, it is the Bible.
Regarding environmentalism, Christians often don’t know how to address it. On a spiritual level, we may feel uncertain how to Biblically connect faith-filled living with concern for creation. On a social level, we may be unsure how to live out our higher calling in the secular world with strategy, tact, and Christlikeness. These are legitimate concerns that are difficult to resolve. But believers, by our inaction, have ceded one of the areas where we ought to be the strongest.
It is important that believers recognize the wondrous creation around us, remarking as David did in Psalm 104, “In wisdom you made (all creation).” Though creation is depraved and cursed to bear the burden of death (Genesis 3), and can therefore never be redeemed by the efforts of man, the marvels of God are enough that they alone can draw people to Christ (Romans 1). Yet creation serves as a means not an end. That’s the key difference between environmentalism and Christian stewardship.
- Chip is a regular contributor to FaithfulPolitics.org and works at a think tank in Washington, D.C. This post was drawn from a previous article.
As Christians fight tooth and nail defending the creation of the universe by an intelligent designer they also fight against care and concern for that same creation. As Christians read Bible verses riff with metaphors comparing God’s characteristics to the natural world he created they at the same time defend the destruction of these areas. As Christians sing worship songs from slides with background images displaying natural wonder, these same areas are slowly being poisoned.
The very first act of God recorded in the Bible was the creation of the world; an act which he said was good (Gen. 1:3). God then put us on this earth in charge of it to be its stewards and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). We are to put the earth to use, we are to use its resources and not just exist on the earth without touching it. However, that is not an invitation to participate in its destruction. When we learn that mountain top mining, oil spills, and destruction of habitats is damaging to the earth we cannot continue and use our stewardship over the earth as an excuse for our participation in its destruction. God said that when we are faithful with little he will give us much (Matt. 25:21). I cannot imagine that our stewardship for this world invites us to be offered stewardship over the new earth.
Our calling to reach the lost and care for the poor is not an invitation to discard all other things in place of this new goal, instead it is to effect all areas of our life. When habitats are destroyed it affects not only the plants and animals that are there but also the humans that have made their homes there. The destruction of food and water sources has huge implications for the poor and lost of the area. While some can afford to gain access to clean food and water many are stuck with what is available to them: dirty water or poisoned food. Our concern for them should cause us to be concerned about the area in which they live.
Let our love of God’s creation be a sign of our ultimate love for the one who created it and the one who came to redeem it.
- Keane is the cofounder of FaithfulPolitics.org and a graduate of Wheaton College. He is a designer for Crossway Publishers and lives outside of Chicago. This post was drawn from a previous article.
*Organizational affiliations are for identification purposes only. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the organization or of FaithfulPolitics.org.