Posts tagged ‘environment’

July 27, 2015

Who Owns the Earth?—“The Earth Is the Lord’s”

by Aaron Dunlop

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.

read more »

August 21, 2012

Exercising Our God-Given Dominion over the Earth

by Aaron Dunlop

A few months ago we dealt with the question, who owns the earth? In that article we considered the words of the Psalmist—“The earth Is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1). You can download the PDF of all three articles on environmentalism here.

The second part of the answer to this foundational question is that the earth belongs to mankind; it is his “domain.” In Genesis 1 we read that the first assignment the Creator gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden was to “subdue [the earth]: and have dominion.” Man was given the earth to live on and he was to make it his home in the same way a tenant makes his apartment his home.

In Psalm 8:6 the psalmist states clearly that although the Lord is the sovereign, yet He has graciously endowed mankind with the honour of being vice-regent over the earth. In this psalm the psalmist celebrates in poetry what the author of Genesis records using other literary techniques. In Genesis, immediately after giving the account of creation in chronological order (1:1–2:3), Moses begins another account of creation. This second account of creation has an ingenious layout which focuses on the creation of man and his environment. Had Moses been interested in man only he would have simply rehearsed the work of the sixth day, but instead, he breaks into his subject at the beginning of the third day (1:9) after the universe was created but before the plants and herbs and animals were created: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew” (2:4–5, emphasis added).

This important arrangement of the text highlights the place that mankind has as the apex of creation. But it also focuses on the environment in which man exists with the reference at the beginning to the vegetable kingdom (vv. 4-5). This reference to the plants and vegetation highlights the fact that all the activity of the first five days of creation was preparatory for the creation of man—the Lord was building an environment for him.

If the earth was created for the benefit of mankind as we have seen, it is not surprising that when man was created, God “blessed him” and gave him the command to “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 moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). There are three distinct elements in this first assignment to the newly created humanity: first, fill the earth, which addresses the population of the earth; second, subjugate the earth, which was the command to make the earth subservient for survival and comfort; and third, rule the earth, which was the command to rule that which is conquered.

Leaving aside for now the closely related subject of population—for this is a big factor in the mind of the environmentalist—let us consider the God-given command to subjugate and dominate the earth. This is a very potent command and it is not surprising that some environmentalists see it is a threat to their movement—for it is indeed a threat. The word subdue means to bring into subjection or into bondage (as in Nehemiah 5:5) to the needs of mankind, or to force (see Esther 7:8) the earth to serve mankind. Dominion is the result of this subjugation; having prevailed (Lamentations 1:13) over the earth, mankind is to rule it. 

read more »

April 28, 2012

Who Owns the Earth?—“The Earth Is the Lord’s”

by Aaron Dunlop

If there is in the evangelical and Reformed church a gap in its theological teaching, it 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.

read more »

April 25, 2012

Six Reasons Christians Need to Be Environmentally Aware

by Aaron Dunlop

1. Christians need to be environmentally aware because the problem is obvious.

It is evident that many of the economic gains we enjoy have been at the expense of the environment. The recent technological revolution is “The Third Wave” in a series of revolutions that have successively taxed the environment with pollution and the increased demand for fossil fuel and other natural resources (the agricultural and industrial revolutions being the first two). The issues became prominent in the 1950s and 60s—the smog in London in 1952 killed four thousand people with the result that in 1956 the Clean Air Act was passed to help reduce the air pollution in Britain. This same pollution is evident around the world—in Tokyo the smog is so bad that oxygen vending machines are available for pedestrians.

2. Christians need to be environmentally aware because Christianity is blamed for the environmental crisis. 

In Genesis 2:27 the Lord told Adam to “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 moveth upon the earth.” There are two words here that are germane to the environmentalist debate—“subdue” and “dominion.” I will not take the time here is deal with these in detail, suffice it to say that man, as the apex of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26) is commanded by God to bring the earth into subjection and rule over it in order that it might supply his needs while he lives on it. Some environmentalists however have taken these words of God as a stick to beat Him with.

“The Biblical creation story of the first Chapter of Genesis, the source of the most generally accepted description of man’s role and powers … in its insistence upon dominion and subjugation of nature encourages the most exploitative and destructive instincts in man, rather than those that are deferential and creative. Indeed if one seeks license for those who would increase radioactivity …, employ poisons without restraint, or give consent to the bulldozer mentality, there could be no better injunction than this text.” (McHarg, Design with Nature, [Doubleday, New York, 1969], 26).

Another writer (Lynn White, Jr.) said that Christianity claims that “it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends …. Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.”

3. Christians need to be environmentally aware because environmental science is more a form of religion than it is scientific.

Environmentalism is an issue that many have sold their souls to with religious devotion. The Oxford Dictionary defines science as “a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of an experiment with phenomenon.” Modern “science,” however, is not objective. It is evolutionary in its basic premise and it no longer states facts but preaches a belief system. Its first leap of faith is the belief that the earth evolved without a creator and that leap is followed by a second, the prideful belief that man can preserve the earth in the present state of that “evolution.” Paul identifies this as an act of worship when he says that men have denied the Creator and instead worship the creation.

read more »

Tags:
April 20, 2012

Earth Day: Christians and the Environment

by Charles Barrett

Sunday 22nd April is designated Earth Day. In this article Dr. Charles Barrett gives some Christian perspective to the environmental issues facing us today.

It is difficult to read or watch the news for long and not come across something that has to do with the environment. Environmental issues have even become political, and therefore, divisive. Unfortunately, the divisiveness of the issue serves only to confuse and to heighten rhetoric which only fuels more division. And given human nature’s tendency to be reactionary (and Christians are certainly not immune to this tendency), we often find ourselves with strong opinions on the matter without having given much thought at all to the issues. It is easy to even dismiss the issue as being irrelevant solely on the ground that those with whom I may differ politically think it important. As with most things, the issue calls for balanced realism and thoughtfulness. The issues of environmentalism are broad and variegated, and the subject carries complexities. I do not presume to act as though I am qualified to speak directly to many of the scientific areas of environmentalism. The purpose of this post is simply to point out a few biblical observations that have either direct or indirect application on how we view the material world in which we live. These observations, I hope, will encourage you to think about the environment biblically and to be good stewards of God’s creation.

The starting point for a Christian view of the environment is creation. God created the material world and rules over it (Genesis 1 and 2). He is sovereign and in control of it (Nehemiah 9:6). The earth is His and all those who live in it are His (Psalm 24:1). No matter what we think about the environment, we must acknowledge that it is not ours. It is God’s. He owns it by virtue of His creation and providential rule. The second biblical viewpoint is stewardship. Scripture not only explicitly states God’s direct involvement in creation, it teaches that God commanded human kind to have dominion and to steward creation (Genesis 1:26–28; 9:1–7). Stewards do not own; they manage what belongs to another. Humankind is to take care of God’s created world in a responsible manner. Third, the message of creation informs us as to how we go about responsibly managing God’s creation as wise stewards. God’s creation testifies to His divine power (Romans 1) and declares His glory (Psalm 19). We are to steward God’s creation in a way that maximizes God’s glory in His creation. We are to take care of and cultivate the earth, not exploiting or desecrating it. To destroy something that is not ours is criminal. We must be conscious that pointless destruction of God’s creation fails to glorify Him. Fourth, while God’s creation does glorify Him, the natural, non-human environment is not the apex of His creation. Humanity is the focal point of the created order. This guards us against the popular notion that saving a wildlife species is more important than saving a human life. Christ, when teaching His disciples not to worry but to trust their heavenly Father, used an argument from the lesser to the greater. He tells His followers to look at the birds and to consider the flowers of the field (both environmental objects). We are to see how God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers in beauty. And then we are to conclude that if He does that for birds and flowers (the lesser), then He will feed and clothe humans (the greater). This truth balances our stewardship by providing for us a biblical hierarchical structure (also see Genesis 9:2–3).

Scripture also teaches us that we are to use our resources wisely and not be wasteful. It also teaches us to be grateful and thankful to God for the resources we have. Another biblical teaching offers us balance and perspective as we hear almost apocalyptic-type rhetoric regarding humanity’s tyrannical and disastrous presence within the environment. The reality is,

read more »

%d bloggers like this: