Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Western Colorado



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 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.

My adopted grandson
      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.”  God’s people knew that meant not to worship them.
Here are some of the biblical views of 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. However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls” (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 “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).
·         Respect the earth and its Creator. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s
My granddaughter on the mountain that overlook Albuquerque
foundation? Who stretched a measuring line across it? Who shut up the sea behind doors, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness? 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, or seen the storehouses of the hail? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it. Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? “ (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. 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.  “’You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 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,” says the Lord Almighty.
·         Nations who support Israel:  “Then all the nations will call you blessed for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 6:3-12). “For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
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 careful we are  to prevent pollution, sometimes environmental contamination occurs. We can mourn an oil spill, dumping of harmful chemicals, and sometimes help with cleanup. Nevertheless, we should not worship the earth or our environment.
      But when we have a disaster, we can pray for those involved in cleanup and restoration; for wisdom for those working 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.















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