One of the great gaps in the theology of the evangelical and Reformed church is with respect to the environment. In the early days of the movement, radical environmentalists accused Christianity and the Bible of causing the perceived ecological crisis. Christianity for the most part gave the environmentalist movement the platform, ignored the accusations, and allowed it to develop without forming counter arguments or a proper “theology of creation” relevant to the debate.
If we are going to develop a Christian perspective on the environment, the first question we need to ask is, who owns the earth? Since ownership implies responsibility, we are really asking, who is responsible for the earth? It might be assumed that to answer this question one would turn to Genesis chapter one and the “creation story.” But the first passage we need to turn to is Psalm 104 for a number of reasons: first, Psalm 104 “presents a more fully developed picture of the relationship that exists between God and creation” (Michael A. Bullmore. Trinity Journal, Fall 1998, 144); second, Psalm 104 presents a broader picture of ownership through the various stages of the earth’s existence and forms a foundation for a holistic view of the earth. This psalm appears to be a simple recounting of the creation story, and some commentators see the psalmist following the order of the Genesis record:• Day 1, Gen. 1:3–5; cf., Psa. 104:1–2 (light) • Day 2, Gen. 1:6–8; cf., Psa. 104:2b–4 (firmament divides the waters) • Day 3, Gen. 1:9–10; cf., Psa. 104:5–17 (land and water distinct, vegetation) • Day 4, Gen. 1:14–19; cf., Psa. 104:19–23 (luminaries as time-keepers) • Day 5, Gen. 1:20–23; cf., Psa. 104:25–26 (creatures of the sea and air) • Day 6, Gen. 1:24–31; cf., Psa. 104:21–28 (animals and man)
As you consider the psalm as a whole, however, it is clear that the entire span of God’s creative power is spoken of: the first creation in perfection, the post-fall world of catastrophe, death, and hard labour (vv. 21, 23, 32) sustained by His power, and then the time of the restitution of all things, when God will make the new earth (Acts 3:21; Romans 8:18; cf., v. 30) and remove all that corrupts and defiles (Revelation 21:25; cf., v. 35). No matter what order of the creation you consider, the earth is still the Lord’s. He created it, He sustains it, and He will restore it.
Psalm 104 teaches us a number of things. First, it teaches that the earth and all in it is the possession of the Lord: the earth is “full of [God’s] possessions” (v. 24; KJV “riches”). The reason for this, of course, is in the fact the He created it; “how manifold are thy works, in wisdom thou hast made them all” (v. 24). When the Psalmist said in Psalm 24:1, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” he was speaking specifically of the order of creation as we know it—fallen and cursed (Genesis 3:17). There is not a detail of our environment that God does not possess in power and that He is not interested in. He knows the hairs on our heads and every sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29–30), and He rejoices in all His works.