Christians and the environment: Enjoy and Take Care
This year in June my wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise. We had an opportunity to see areas that had not been touched by any humans other than the indigenous tribes who live there. We saw massive glaciers, Sea lions at play, Humpbacked whales and vast wilderness. We saw the beauty of the sunset over the forest on one day, and then the beauty of the sunset over the ocean on the next. We departed from Seattle and the first full day at sea was by far the most difficult. My wife was sick for most of the day. The next day she felt much better. We had a stop in Juneau Alaska on that day, we saw the Mendenhall glacier and we were able to see humpback whales feeding. The next day we went into Glacier Bay. We were able to see porpoise swim around the ship. We saw mountain goats resting on the mountainside and of course, we saw how grand glaciers truly are. The next day we were able to go into Sitka, Alaska, and a day after that went into Ketchikan Alaska, where we saw more Humpback whales. Finally, we headed down to Victoria British Columbia and then back to Seattle.
One day after dinner my wife and I were walking on the deck of the ship looking at the beauty of God’s creation. As I looked out at the sea I thought about the words in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. At the end of each day of creation, God looked at what he had made and said that it was good, at the end of the six-day God look at everything he had made. He looked at all of creation including humanity and said it was very good. I wondered how anyone can look at the beauty of this creation and not see the hand of a Creator. How could anyone look at all of the wonders of this beautiful wilderness and not see God’s design? How could anyone believe that all of this happened because we just so happen to get lucky in the cosmic lottery?
On the trip I had several conversations with the locals, most of them were environmentally conscious although not all to them would have called themselves environmentalist because for some of them environmentalist was a loaded political term. Thinking back on those conversations brought some question to mind. Should Christians be environmentalist? How should Christians use the environment (creation)? As Christians what is our responsibility to the environment (creation)? The first thing that we must consider is that humanity is a part of the environment. We are a part of God’s creation. Is was not until the end of the 6th day when God had finished all his work, including the creation of humanity that God looked around and said that all he had created was very good. Some people have likened humanity to a virus on the planet. We are not a virus, we are an important part of creation. Humanities role in the environment is spelled out for us in Genesis 1:27-28.
27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
The first thing that we should notice is that God tells humanity to be fruitful and multiply. He tells humanity to feel the earth. If humanity is truly a virus upon creation and God is the creator, then why would God allows for his creation to be infected by a virus? The answer is that God would not allow for his creation to be infected by a virus. Humanity is not a virus within the environment, it is not an infection within creation. Humanities is an important part of God’s creation. We do screw up sometimes. As Christians our job to promote fixing mistakes when we make them.
In verse twenty-eight God instructs humanity to subdue the earth. subdue is a very powerful word, it means to subjugate or to take control of, therefore; when God says to subdue the earth, he is telling us to take control of our environment. Human beings are able to use the environment around us. We are allowed to do our best to take control of our environment and use it. We are not allowed to abuse the environment, in fact, although God allows and expects us to subdue our environment, he also expects us to take care of the environment. The word that is used in the text is dominion. To have dominion is to rule over. God is telling us that he wants us to rule over in his creation. It is important that we understand the responsibilities of a ruler. The one who rules has a responsibility to protect and take care of those whom they rule over, therefore; when God tells us to have dominion or rule over his creation, he is telling us that we are responsible for protecting and taking care of this creation.
So what are the answers to the three questions that I ask myself?
How should Christians use the environment?
We are allowed to use the environment to better our lives, but we must use it in a responsible way. We should do as little damage as possible, and when we make a mass we should clean it up.
What is our responsibility to the environment?
Because God has given us dominion over his creation it is our responsibility to make sure that we take care of, and protect what God has given us.
Should Christians be environmentalist?
The answer to this question will depend on what you mean by environmentalist. There are some people would treat the environment with an almost god like a reverence, they go beyond caring for the environment, and they practically worshiped it. As Christians do now worship the creation we worship the creator. If this is what one means when they say environmentalists then no Christian could be an environmentalist.
If one defiance environmentalist as a person who responsibly takes advantage of the benefits of the environment, while making sure to care for and protect their environment from abuse then all Christians should be environmentalist.