[Photograph of the Valley of Desolation, South Africa, 2017]
And 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
For eight years of my life, I lived in Australia. Although I learnt a lot about environmentalism at school, most of that message was shunned by the church, which left my confused teenage self in a dilemma. People who would actively combat climate change were classed in the dreaded category of “leftie.” Lefties were apparently anti-God, anti-family values, and pro-secularism. The local megachurch did not want to be seen as part of that. I remember preachers often mocking environmentalists from the pulpit, sarcastically making comments like, “Save the whales, save the snails!” The crowds would roar with laughter.
The overall assumptions here were generally based on a false dichotomy between those who care about the here-and-now physical stuff (i.e. those dirty secularist lefties), and those who care about higher spiritual stuff (i.e. pure and holy Christians).
Not only is this binary division based on heretic gnosticism, but the Bible clearly states that God loves the earth. He created it, and he said that it is good! For God, the physical stuff that he makes is important to him.
More than this, God continues to care for it and sustain it:
“You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.”
When God created the earth, not only did he say that it was “very good”, but he also entrusted us with looking after it. While he is the ultimate creator and sustainer of the universe, the earth was given to us to toil and have dominion over. This comes with responsibility.
Most Christians know the doctrine of the Fall pretty well: creation is fallen because of us. However, we also know that God has a redemptive plan. We usually employ a rather anthropocentric view, assuming that this redemptive plan is purely about human souls. This is not what the Word says. God plans to restore all of creation:
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” – Colossians 1:19-20
Let’s be people who care about what God has made. Let’s take our responsibilities seriously, and look after our earth.
For individuals, I recommend my friend Francesca’s blog: https://ethicalunicorn.com/. She is a passionate environmentalist and social-justice warrior who also loves the Lord. You will find a tonne of handy everyday tips in how to better live sustainably and ethically.
For churches in the UK, I recommend you check out EcoChurch: https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/.