Is Christianity anti-Environmental?
by Rich Deem

Introduction

The charge has been made that Christianity is anti-environmental. In fact, there are those who blame the ecologic "crisis" on the "Judeo-Christian tradition."1 Much of the misinformation that Christianity is anti-environmental came from some widely publicized statements by professing Christians. For example, James Watt, who became U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, in his article, "Ours Is the Earth,"2 and other articles, made it clear that he viewed the earth as "merely a temporary way station on the road to eternal life...The earth was put here by the Lord for His people to subdue and to use for profitable purposes on their way to the hereafter."3

God's involvement and pleasure in the earth and its creatures

Should Christians be Environmentalists?However, none of these charges of anti-environmentalism stand up to scripture found in the Bible. The Bible begins with a description of the events of creation. God's personal involvement in the process is evident from the second verse, when God came to earth to personally direct its conversion to a world suitable for living creatures.4 One of the features of the creation account is God's pleasure at each step of the process. Six times God affirmed that the creation was good in His sight.5 The idea that man is free to destroy God's creation is at odds with God's obvious enjoyment of His creation taught in Genesis one.

The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord, not humans

Both Old and New Testament affirm, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."6 According to God, "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.7 I find it amazing that God personally knows every creature, not just every human.

God cares for and provides for the needs of His creatures

Not only does God own everything and know every creature, but He cares for and provides for the physical needs of His creatures. For example, Psalm 104 says that God provides the water from the mountains for "all the beasts of the field and the wild donkeys [to] quench their thirst."8 These waters provide for nesting places for birds, grass for cattle, and food for man. The psalm goes on to describe the "trees of the Lord" and the "cedars of Lebanon that He planted." Also described are the stork, wild goats, lions that "roar for their prey and seek their food from God", and the creatures of the sea, large and small, that exist "beyond number." After listing all these creatures, the psalm goes on to say that they all rely upon God to "give them their food at the proper time" and that "they are satisfied with good things." Psalm 104 indicates quite clearly that God cares for the earth and His creatures.9 Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus affirmed that God loves His creatures and provides food for them.10 In addition, when God was about to judge the city of Nineveh, but the people repented, he expressed concern not only for the fate of the people, but also for the fate of the animals, who would have died during the destruction of the city.11

God gave humans dominion over the earth to care for it

At the creation of man, God commanded that humans in Genesis 1:28 take control over the earth and rule over the animals.12 Having dominion doesn't mean to pillage and plunder, but to take care of the earth and its creatures and resources. Immediately after creating Adam, God put him into the garden of Eden that He had planted and put him to work in "taking care" of the garden. The Hebrew verb translated "to take care" (shamar - Strong's number H8104) is also translated "preserve", "keep", "watch", "maintain", "defend", and "attend." The nature of man's dominion of the earth is clarified in Psalm 8, which says that man is to have dominion over all of God's works on the earth, including the birds, domesticated herds, and the wild beasts of the field, and the fish and other life of the sea.13 Protecting God's creation is not just the responsibility of secular organizations, but should be the responsibility of evangelical Christians, as well. According to the National Association of Evangelicals:

Just as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out to the lost, we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for his creation. Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human suffering caused by bad environmental practice...14

God will judge those who destroy the earth

The Old Testament indicates that the animals and birds have perished because the people who live in the land are wicked.15 The Bible says that Jesus will return to earth to judge people for their sin. What most people don't realize is that part of this judgment is going to be executed against "those who destroy the earth."16 God cares very much for His creation and will judge those who have no regard for it.

Conclusion Top of page

Cherishing the Earth: How to Care for God's CreationThe Bible declares God's pleasure in His creation and His care for all the created things on the earth - both plants and animals. God has given man the task of caring for and protecting His creation on the earth. The Bible says that those who destroy God's creation will be judged and destroyed themselves. Therefore, the Bible encourages wise stewardship of the earth, its resources, and its creatures. Many Christians have reacted against the environmental movement, probably because of the tendency by many environmentalists not only to protect the earth and its creatures, but to actually worship the creation instead of the Creator. This kind of misdirected loyalty by many environmentalists is clearly condemned in the Bible,17 since we are to worship God alone.18

As Christians, we should be doing everything Jesus commanded, including taking care of our families and all the resources He has given to us. Personally, our family recycles glass and plastic and we try not to waste energy (turn off lights, close doors, etc.). I am currently involved in a fight with Vulcan Materials, who want to tear down our local mountains in the San Gabriel Valley (Southern California). If you live in the San Gabriel Valley, please join us! I want my three boys to be able to enjoy nature the way God created it. I enjoy hiking in the wilderness and am saddened when I see litter, burned out areas, and other acts of carelessness by people. God is a God of order and beauty. Take a look at the description of heaven (Revelation 21). It will be great to be there someday - there is no pollution there.



References Top of page

  1. White, L., Jr. 1967. The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis. Science 155: 1203-1207.
  2. Watt, James. Ours Is the Earth. Saturday Evening Post (January/February 1982): 74-75.
  3. Wolf, Ron. 1981. God, James Watt, and the Public Land. Audubon 83(3):65.
  4. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
  5. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4)
    God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)
    The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12)
    to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:18)
    So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21)
    God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)
  6. The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
    for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." (1 Corinthians 10:26)
  7. "Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." (Psalm 50:7-12)
  8. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth: (wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-- living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:10-28)
  9. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
    Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (Luke 12:24)
  10. And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
  11. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:11)
  12. The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)
  13. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.  LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9)
  14. For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility from the National Association of Evangelicals
  15. How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, "He will not see what happens to us." (Jeremiah 12:4)
  16. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth." (Revelation 11:18)
  17. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--Who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25)
  18. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:3-5)

http://godandscience.org/apologetics/environment.html
Last updated July 7, 2009

 

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