Protecting the Environment
Politicians, actors, musicians, and even sports stars claim the leading problem of our age is global warming or, more recently, "climate change." It's seen as a man-made problem, so it's up to man (and woman) to repair the damage. If only we could get nature back to its original state, would all be well once more?
Before we can answer that question, let's back up and answer what mankind's relationship to the natural world is supposed to be.
Caring for the Created World
The Bible tells us that on the sixth day, God created man, charging him to steward the Earth. And all He had made was good. Man's job was cultivation, enabling what God made to flourish.
But things didn't work out that way. Man sinned against God, leading to a broken, fallen world. Death, disease, deterioration, and destruction are part of what the Bible calls a "futility" or "frustration" man's choice brought upon creation. (Romans 8:20)
Despite the toil imposed as a result of the original sin, mankind is still responsible to protect the Earth. The Bible describes it as a stewardship amidst thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18) until Christ's return, when the Earth will be made new. (Revelation 21:1)
In Psalm 8, King David marvels at the Earth and all God has made. He praises God, saying, "You have given him [mankind] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas." (Psalms 8:6–8)
Dominion is a word that might sound old-fashioned to our modern ears. But its original translation meant to have power or supreme authority over something for the good of that thing.
Since the Garden, people have continually neglected to steward the Earth's resources or even exploit them for selfish gain. Pollution, exploitation, and desecration of the natural world continue to result in unimaginable human suffering.
On the other extreme, some treat the Earth as more than it is, worshipping the Earth as if it is God. Paul describes this error in Romans 1,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him… Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…." (Romans 1:22-23, 25)
Worshipping objects and animals or confessing our sins to plants are just a few of the more extreme examples of misplaced faith in our confused culture.
Yet we are not without hope. In this life, we care for our created world—not because we worship it as a god, but because we worship the God who made it. When we take this responsibility seriously, humankind flourishes. Where we see evidence of decay and destruction, we should work to reverse the damage.
Inhabiting a restored Earth is the hope of every Christian who waits with expectation for Jesus' return and a new heaven and Earth. (Revelation 21:1–4) Until then, we press on and do our best to govern and safeguard our natural resources—just as our first ancestors were instructed by the Creator Himself so long ago.