To me, our world sometimes seems like a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the next. There was a time when the pendulum swung towards globalisation and free trade between countries (especially after WWII). In the last year or so, however, we have seen nationalist (more protective) movements gaining momentum, such as, the election of Trump and the decision for Brexit in Great Britain. It almost seems like our world is constantly reactive, rather than proactive. We throw the baby out with the bath-water when things don’t seem to be going well. Thankfully, as Christians, we have the Bible. The beauty of the Scriptures is that they contain timeless truth, and we can anchor our lives according to this truth in each and every season, fad and era of this world.
Our world has not only swung to extremes in the arena of economics and politics, but also in the natural arena as well – the environment. But what does the Bible teach about the environment? At the fundamental level, the Scriptures teach us that God has made us in his image, and that we are to steward and rule over the earth (Genesis 1:26-27). Here is the relationship: God-humans-earth. Secularism has tried to push God into the private sphere and simply state the relationship in this way: humans-earth. But our world has begun to realise the damage that the secular view has caused. Secular science has generally approached the world and the creation as if it is lifeless matter to be dissected and harnessed for our purposes. Man over matter. Unfortunately, in the quest for human domination we have polluted the earth and some of the most conservative experts believe that we are facing an ecological crisis. Alan Roxburgh, a Seminary professor and author comments, saying “Saving the planet has usurped the place of the peace movement. Environmentalism has become more than just an issue; it is the frontier for human survival”.
Today, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction. The world has started to respond to this damaging human-over-nature framework by breaking down the divide. We see an example of this in the new-age movement, which suggests that we are one with the divine universe. Although this might correct humanity’s abuse of the earth, it seems to displace humans from their special place in creation. Animals and humans become equals, and you hear people say things like they’d rather save their dog than their neighbour if they had to choose to rescue one from a burning building. This is a destructive error.
We must recover the biblical view: God-humans-creation. We’re all linked. It’s not just about the ‘spiritual’, we have a responsibility to care for the earth as well. In fact, God’s plan is to restore the earth. Our hope is not for some ethereal, spiritual resting-place. Our hope is physical. We believe in the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) and the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21). As we recover this view, I believe we will be positioned as a church to provide solutions to the new generation – to be able to speak into their particular concerns for our world.
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)
Grace to you,
Roxburgh, A. J., Reaching a New Generation: Strategies for Tomorrow's Church. Vancouver: Regent College, 1998.
WWF. "Living Planet Report 2016." Pages. Gland: WWF International, 2016.