As I am still reflecting on my trip to Bithlo, FL I was thinking about the environmental issues that surround the drinking water that is unhealthy for people, and the unregulated recycling center turned dump. One of the thoughts that I have been considering is- why should the environment matter to Christians? Environmental clean-up and change is a goal for the United Global Outreach Transformation Village project. I think I really like that. So I wrote a biblical and theological rationale for engaging environmental issues. Tell me what you think!
It is true that God desires for people to come to know him and live an abundant life through Jesus (Jn. 10:10).
So the question remains: why be involved in working on the environment as a Christian? Especially when popular pastors, such as Mark Driscoll, make comments like “I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.”
Three simple, yet profound reasons that I have found in reflection and study are 1) God created the heavens and the earth; 2) how creation reflects the glory of God; and 3) humanity’s role as a steward of the earth.
My first reason for engaging in environmental work is that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). This is the first thing that we learn in the Bible. Even if the original message behind the creation narrative in Genesis is to serve as a reminder to Israel that all the gods that were being worshiped for the harvest, seasons, and astronomical events in the land of Canaan were false and incomparable to Israel’s God, the “transcendent, sovereign ruler of the creation” (Baylis), we need to be reminded that nature is not some chance of evolutionary structure that formed from random chemical reactions. God directed creation by his life-giving Word (Jn. 1:1-4). This points to my second reason which is that creation reflects the glory of God (Ps. 19:1-6; Acts 17:16-34; Rom. 1:20). In theological terms, God displays his character through general (or natural) revelation. Theologian Colin E. Gunton argues, “the question of general revelation is closely linked to the doctrine of creation, as it must be if general revelation is the revelation of God through the things that have been made, through creation.”
In relation to creation reflecting the glory of God, mankind was created, “a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet” (Heb. 2:7-8). We were made in God’s image, male and female to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). God intended for humanity’s role to be a steward of the creation. As the church, we have been created by God into “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:15) and we must continue to take on the role of the steward of the environment we have been blessed with, despite the sin and decay that came from Adam’s sin. Our witness relates to the ultimate redemption of creation if we take Genesis 3:15 seriously. “In Genesis 3:15 we see the first note of the promise of a savior, the one who would be king of the kingdom of God, whose salvation would lift the curse and, once again, make the cosmos the way it is supposed to be” (Harper & Metzger).
When we neglect our witness we are not honoring God’s creation or reflecting his glory to those around us. Although, when we do practice good stewardship we can make a positive impact on our community, share God’s concern for people’s physical and spiritual condition, and point towards God’s ultimate redemption which will culminate in a new Heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).
Baylis, Albert H. “From Creation to the Cross.” Zondervan. Grand Rapids. 1996. 30.
Gunton, Colin E. “A brief theology of Revelation.” T&T Clark. London. 1995. 42.
Harper, Brad and Paul Louis Metzger. “Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction.” Brazos Press. Grand Rapids. 2009. 80.