Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EARTH DAY: IS GOD AN ENVIRONMENTALIST?

                   

By Ada Brownell

The need to care for the earth has awakened in America and now is taught from kindergarten through college. Along with that awakening comes resentment against Genesis 1:28 where God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, 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.”
What is God’s and the Christian’s view?
The Bible not only speaks of dominion, but also of responsibility, respect and stewardship of nature. Dominion can be interpreted to mean “loving care, such as parental authority.”
      Christians often take the lead when it comes to preserving human life, especially the lives of the unborn, but are not noted for being tree and mouse lovers. But most understand we endanger ourselves when we endanger the ecosphere.
      Albert Schweitzer, a theologian/philosopher of the last century, said reverence for life is connected with the individual’s will to live.
      “If I am a thinking being, I must regard other life than my own with equal reverence,” Schweitzer said.”[1]
      The Bible teaches us to respect life. After all, our Heavenly Father—not Mother Nature—created all the ecosystems Himself in the beginning. He gave us guidance in Old Testament laws about how to care for the environment. However, just as nature has natural systems which need to stay in a state of equilibrium and disturbing one element could affect the whole earth, our beliefs about the environment also need balance.
      In Deuteronomy 15-20, we are warned not to worship nature. Making idols of any animal, bird, creature or fish is forbidden. “When you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them.” The Lord condemns such worship as an “abomination.”[2]
      Likewise in Isaiah 1:29, the prophet says “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted.”
In the beginning when God inspected His work, He said, “It is good.”
      Life, indeed, is precious and good. God shows us through His Word to respect it and all of His creation. No matter how we mourn over contamination of coastal waters, the destruction of wetlands, and the tragic loss of wildlife and jobs when there is an oil spill, I am not to elevate nature above God or people.
      But when we have a disaster, I can pray for speedy cleanup and restoration; for wisdom for those involved in the technical aspect of the cleanup; and for those whose lives and livelihoods are affected.

 Ada Brownell, a free lance writer and retired newspaper reporter, has written numerous stories on the environment and with Dennis Darrow received the 1994 Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters first-place environment award for a series that appeared in The Pueblo Chieftain. Her blog: http://www.inkfromanearthenvessel.blogspot.com








[1] “The Ethics of Reverence for Life,” Albert Schweitzer, Christendom,  1936, 225-39
[2] Deuteronomy 17:2-4


HOW THE BIBLE VIEWS ECOLOGY

·         The land is to rest every seven years. “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest” (Leviticus 25:3-4).
·         Don’t cut down trees unnecessarily. “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field men, that you should besiege them?” (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).
·         Be compassionate to animals. “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it” (Exodus 23:5). Jesus tells about the shepherd leaving his flock to find one lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10).
·         Respect birds. “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matthew 10:29NLT). “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young.  You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life” (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).
·         Respect the earth and its Creator. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who stretched a measuring line across it? Who shut up the sea behind doors? Have you ever shown the dawn its place? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal. Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? What is the way to the abode of light? Where does darkness reside? Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered?“ (Selected from Job 38).
·         Turning away from God affects the land. “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites; because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land. There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery. They break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying “ (Hosea 4:1-3).
·         God blesses the crops of the obedient.  “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’” says the Lord Almighty, “’and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit... all nations will call you blessed for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty” Malachi 3:6-12).
--Ada Brownell