And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
The gospel of Jesus Christ warns against our treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ being plundered by men and their deceptive philosophies (Col. 2:3, 8, 20-22). The philosophy of environmentalism distorts the biblical view of God, of the world, and of man’s delegated place of honor and rule over it.
The Bible announces, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The created world proclaims God’s glorious power, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psa. 19:1, cf. vss. 2-4; Rom. 1:20). David acknowledged and praised God for His works and for placing mankind over His creation:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen— Even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:3-9)
Concerning our environment, God has given mankind the dual roles of dominion and stewardship. God said on the sixth day of creation, “‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’ … Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26, 28). All things have not been created equal. God gave human beings dominion over the world to subdue it for his own provisions and livelihood.
The privilege of dominion comes with the responsibility of stewardship. The world belongs to its Creator, not its creatures (Psa. 50:10-12; Acts 14:15-17). Just as we are to be good stewards of our spiritual blessings, we are to be good stewards of our material things (Lk. 16:8-12). God has given humanity rule over the world’s resources so mankind may survive and thrive. With stewardship comes accountability to Him to be faithful stewards of His goods (1 Cor. 4:2). Societies flourish when earth’s natural resources are used with care and conservation. Societies flounder when this dominion and stewardship is abused through selfishness, greed, indulgence, waste, and violence.
We generally think of environmentalism as the “advocacy for or work toward protecting the natural environment from destruction or pollution.”1 We have briefly outlined the biblical agreement with this basic definition. We ought to protect our environment for its safe use and enjoyment because we have dominion over it and because we are stewards of its resources.
However, radical environmentalism goes far beyond a statement of good stewardship of the earth’s resources. Rooted in pagan theology and the rejection of God, modern environmentalism has formulated an alternate and opposing view of man and nature. It is an ethic based on the assumed rights of nature. As Jo Kwong explained, “Rather than supporting man’s limitless rule of creation in which nature has no reason for existence save to serve man, we need to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures.”2 She continued, “In articles including ‘Should Trees Have Standing—Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects?’ and, ‘Do Rocks have Rights?,’ writers raised legal questions about the rights of nature. Philosophers argued that the ‘shallow ecology’ of mainstream conservation groups is too anthropocentric or homocentric, that is, centered on man, and is aimed only at improving the environment for the benefit of humans. ‘Deep ecology,’ on the other hand, leads to a view of ‘biospheric egalitarianism... the right [of all things] to live and blossom.’”3 Summarizing modern environmentalism’s view of man and this world, Kwong wrote, “The ‘rights of nature’ proponents, then, contend that all things are created equal; they should be venerated as ends in themselves, as intrinsically valuable apart from man; and they have equal rights to their own kinds of ‘self realization (sic),’ without human interference or exploitation. Failure to recognize such truths will lead to our downfall.”4 Devoid of a Creator who grants us privilege and responsibility over the earth, modern environmentalism envisions humans as equal to the rocks and the trees, the sky and the seas. To them, all living things have equal rights. The planet is doomed, they say, unless and until these equal rights are not only acknowledged, but drive our decisions and actions toward the environment.
Unquestionably, radical environmentalism depreciates humanity and deifies nature. While the humanistic rejection of God has played a significant role in developing this philosophy of the equality of all living things, paganism’s part in the rise of radical environmentalism should not be neglected. “Pagan scholar Chas Clifton notes that the environmental awakening of 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, “was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became ‘nature religion,’ as opposed to the ‘mystery religion’ or ‘metaphorical fertility religion’ labels that it had brought from England.” Since then, modern Pagans of many stripes, particularly Wiccans and Druids, have placed a special emphasis on being religions that care for, and have concern about, our natural environment.”5 In effect, these pagan environmentalists tell us we should fall down and worship the earth instead of Him who created the earth and everything in it (cf. Jer. 10:1-16; Acts 4:24).
The Balanced Truth
Exploiting the land, the sea and the sky and their inhabitants with greedy abandon, as if it were our God-given “right” to do so, is an extreme and unbiblical view of man’s dominion and stewardship of the earth. It is also extreme and false to view all living things as equal, with Mother Earth as the giver and sustainer of all life. Humans alone are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). This distinction necessarily demands we use and tend to the earth responsibly, knowing we are accountable to Him who made us and it.
We must develop and maintain some fundamental traits to successfully subdue the earth as responsible stewards of God’s world.
1) Be humble and thankful. Pride leads to actions without thought of God’s sovereignty. He is in charge of His world, not us. We are both recipients and stewards of God’s great earth. Thankful hearts are immunized against disregarding the earth’s gifts and disrespecting the Giver of its gifts. Humility and gratitude respects the earth God has given us.
2) Be content, not covetous. Do not be deceived by the world’s greediness. To be satisfied with God’s daily bread will produce the careful use of what God gives us. We must learn contentment, whether we have a little or a lot (Phil. 4:11-13). Contentment replaces waste with the respectful and careful use of the earth’s resources as we trust the Lord to be our helper rather than covetously disregarding His provisions (Heb. 13:5-6).
3) Refuse selfishness and care for others. We are only on this planet a short while, and then all we have will be left to the care of others (Eccl. 2:18-19; 5:15). Respect for God and caring for others characterized Christ, who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34-35). The Lord’s earth gives us what we need to meet our own necessities and to be able to help others. Environmental stewardship prompts us to work honestly and respectfully so that we can serve one another. Greedy consumption is selfish and thoughtless of the needs of others.
This is our Father’s world. God created nature; Nature is not our god. With respect for God and gratitude for the provisions of the earth’s environment, let us use it and maintain it responsibly. Humble dominion over God’s creation combines with reverent faith to praise His excellent name in all the earth (Psa. 8:9).
March 2019, pp. 28-29
American Heritage Dictionary
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Up in Flames
How quickly things can change. Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral in Paris, France, burned today. The cornerstone of the edifice was laid over 850-years-ago in 1163. The cathedral that took two hundred years to complete was reduced to ashes and rubble in the space of a few hours. One of the most iconic structures in Paris (and indeed, the world) could not survive its material nature.
We are sorry to see this happen. It will take many years and much money to rebuild the cathedral.
As Notre Dame burned we were reminded of the frailty and futility of material things. We should pause and remember that nothing on this earth lasts forever, including the earth and sky (as the Kansas song, “Dust in the Wind” suggested) – and, including us. “All we do just crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see” (Ibid).
“King Louis VII of France (reigned 1137–1180) wanted to build monuments to show that Paris was the political, economic, and cultural capital of France. In this context, Maurice de Sully, who had been elevated Bishop in 1160, had the old basilica torn down to its foundations, and began to build a larger and taller cathedral.” (“Notre-Dame de Paris,” wikipedia.org). But, King Louis died, and so did the Bishop. Now, the great Catholic monument to France is as those who built in – dust in the wind.
We will die, and the things we build will perish, but our spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). This is why we live for eternity – we know the outward person perishes. Yet, the inward person of the Christian is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). We do not lose heart when the works of men pass away – we know they are temporary. We set our eyes of faith on eternal things, and endure momentary distresses for our faith (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Exquisite as it was, Notre Dame was just a building, made with human hands. We know that “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
Where are you laying up your treasures (Matt. 6:19-21)? When death comes, what will they be worth to you then?
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 04/17/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA