“then I will hear from heaven … and heal their land” – 2 Chron. 7:14

        Bible provides us with God’s view of the creat­ion, our relationship to it, our authorization to use it and our care for it.  An understanding of what God has told us in the Bible concerning nature provides a fresh perspective on the pres­ent environmental debate about “saving the planet.”

  Perspectives Toward Na­ture

        The outlooks that peo­ple hold concerning our relationship to na­ture range from calling it a limitless commodity, to an organism in which we are each a cell, and from a renewable resource, to our mother.  Regardless of the per­spective you use to look at the cre­ation, most of us in the Western world are begin­ning to under­stand that the con­dition of our eco­logy is deteri­orating as a result of our wasteful practices.

        Some people are con­vinced that the threat of a global catastrophe can be avoided.  For many there is the belief that if a proper education and financial security can be provided to all, we can make people behave in a responsible way.  Others are hoping that our tech­nology will provide us with a miracle cure through things like pol­lution-free energy and wonder drugs.

        Desiring such solu­tions is superficial be­cause it would only treat the symptoms, as though our problems will go away on their own like a cold.  Without the world view that God pro­vides us in the Bible, efforts to solve our problems will not be con­fronting the real issues.  Jesus said it is not the things we do that are unclean, but what flows out of our hearts. (Mat. 15:10-11,17-20)  Our be­havior is only part of the prob­lem.

  A Distorted World

        We like to think the best of ourselves, that man’s heart is basically good.  But even those who do not believe in God are seeing that, left un­checked, man will cause the destruction of nature.  We are handi­capped by the fact that we cannot understand all of the creation’s work­ings with­out insight from outside this world.

        The “balance of nature” that we see today seems right because it is all we have ever known.  We tend to assume that God sees reality the way we do, and so do not try to understand what God has already told us in the Bible about a sub­ject.  For example, since Jesus referred to snakes, pigs and thorn bushes as ex­amples of corruption, (Mat. 23:33; 7:6; 7:15-16) it is reasonable to as­sume that not every­thing in nature is part of the “good” creation.  To un­derstand the differ­ence between the original “good” creation and na­ture as we know it to­day, you have to under­stand “the curse”.  Satan has defaced the creation to diminish it’s capacity to display God’s ability and wisdom.  As a result, when we picture death and decay as part of that original creation, we have developed a distort­ed im­age of what God is like.

        People consider this world as a nurturing place, when actually na­ture sustains itself at great cost to its partic­ipants.  In the beginning God gave the beasts every green plant as their food, not each other, but this is no longer obvious from viewing nature.  It is the Bible and not na­ture that reveals this reality.

  Science’s Limitations

        The world that is around us today is all that modern man has experienced.  We have grown so confident in what sci­ence can do, that we have come to trust modern ex­planations of what has happened in the past in­stead of the first hand accounts that have been passed down to us.  Rath­er than being a people of faith, we prefer to live by what we see.  As a result, the Bible is too often con­sidered to be merely myths and parables passed down by an under-educated culture.  Yet, good science has always confirmed a sound inter­pretation of Scripture, otherwise it would mean that God was not infalli­ble.

        Science is about man­kind’s desire to under­stand what God has already engineered and assembled in nature.  But we make the mistake of assuming that the world can be understood simply through its mechanical-ness.  We have grown ac­customed to the idea that science will be able to solve all the problems of humanity.  Faith in sci­ence has caused us think we are masters of our own fate.  Yet in spite of this confidence, it seems that we are al­ways fear­ful over some perceived threat.  We worry about our health and safety as we live with pollution, crime and disease all around us.  We worry about the future of this world and whether we will be deprived of the natu­ral abundance and materi­al prosperity which we have come to expect.

        The glory days of science’s successes, finding a cure for polio, harnessing the atom and putting a man on the moon, are now viewed in the context of the hidden costs to the environment of our progress.  Today we recognize that our trial and error approach to the growth of technology has accelerated the deteriora­tion of the cre­ation.  Will people be able to work together to solve these things as the world advances to a bet­ter state, or will things inevi­tably decay under the curse and the law of en­tropy? 

  Our Concept of God

        There is a growing sense of urgency that we must do something to “save the planet,” but we feel inadequate to help change the destructive habits of our culture.  We are fearful that the things being done to the earth will impair God’s ability to provide our daily needs.  We have allowed our image of God to be reduced to a bene­ficial, but somewhat pow­erless, Mother Nature.  We are left to worry how we can protect our elder­ly mother.

        God has not been caught off-guard by our ecological problems that we face today.  He is not distraught, as though He has lost his control of the creation.  Still, we hesi­tate to put the environmental crisis in God’s hands, doubting that He can help with these prob­lems.  We are too easily persuaded by the “wisdom” of our age and too quick to forget what God has done in the past.  It is clear that Jesus has pow­er over nature to mul­ti­ply loaves, calm the storm and restore the lame, but if God were to restore nature today, fallen men would only defile it once again.

        So then, there is suf­fering, pollution and de­terioration in the world around us because in giv­ing us free will, God also allows us to live with the consequenc­es of our fool­ish choic­es.  Like ungrateful chi­ldren, we do not ap­preci­ate that God is be­ing patient with our openly rebellious behav­ior.  God, our Father, will not allow us to re­main imma­ture children.  He sends us adversity to remind us that even as we are straying from Him, He is protecting and sus­taining us.  But too of­ten we deny that God ex­ists be­cause He is not as gentle as we had ex­pect­ed.  We worry and live fearful lives be­cause we don’t remem­ber how God has pro­vided for us in the past.

        Since we are confused about who we are and who God is, we do not under­stand the cause of our problems.  God limits the blessings and fruitful­ness He provides us in order to draw people back to him­self.  God is teac­hing His children through the abundances and scar­cities that He causes in nature.  The Bible tells us that God is willing to allow harm to His creation for a purpose.  The creation groans under its burden in order to show us the scars our behavior is causing.  It is a remind­er of the cost of our rebellion, in the same way the scars on His hands and feet will be a reminder to us in heaven.

      Do not be deceived into thinking that any­thing we can do will be able to re­store this world into a utopia.  Life is not a peaceful co-existence with nature.  It is wishful nos­talgia to think that man’s heart is pure and the In­dians lived softly on the land as a part of nature.  We do not understand what it means to take care of the earth.  The “bal­ance” of nature that we are striv­ing to preserve has the predator stalking and killing its anxious prey.  This is not the blessing a loving father gives to his innocent chil­dren.  God has sent this afflic­tion into the world to discipline a rebellious people.  

We Are The Pollution

        Some say we want to feel like a part of na­ture again, but our sense of concern for na­ture is really because these creatures were once under our custody as caretakers of the cre­ation.  We con­tinue to fill this posi­tion, but we no longer are equipped with the wisdom and abil­ity we were meant to use.  Each day we further ag­gravate the conditions which cause nature to have less capacity to give God joy or cause Him to be praised.

        The root of our eco­logical problems is real­ly spiritual, not bio­log­ical or chemical.  “We” defile this world, not something outside of us.  The real pollution is flow­ing out from with­in us.  Jesus was com­menting on this “pol­lu­tion,” when He spoke about our uncleanness: “things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adul­tery, sexual immoral­ity, theft, false testi­mony, slander.  These are what makes a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’ “. (Mat. 15:18-20)

        This point is rein­forced by the repeated warnings against corrup­tion and immorality throughout the Script­ures.  God has delivered judgments upon the ex­cesses of evil, even to the point of bringing great ecological damage to the places where im­moral cultures lived.  Consider the magnitude of the environmental destr­uction done by the judgments upon the pre-Flood world or the City of Sod­om.  The creation, which is essentially an inno­cent bystander, suf­fers the consequences when men are being disci­plined by God.  This makes it ap­parent that the environ­mental con­cerns we stress today, although import­ant, are side issues in relation to the real harm we do to nature.

        What should our prior­ities be?  Listen to the direction Paul provides concerning what God ex­pects of us:  “we in­str­ucted you how to live in order to please God …  It is God’s will that you should be sanc­tified [set apart for God]: that you should avoid sexual immo­rality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honor­able … For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1Thes. 4:1,3,4 & 7)

        Notice that in order to please God we are told to be “holy,” meaning that we are to be physi­cally and mentally pure.  It is interesting that in teach­ing us what God ex­pects of us, Paul stre­ss­es our responsible use of our own bodies, rather than our responsible use of the creation.  So then, one of our primary duties is to be faithful caretak­ers of our own bodies, but in terms of morality not just physi­cal fitness.  The princi­ple impurity (i.e. pollu­tion) that we bring the world is not our wast­eful use of nature or our careless disposal of haz­ardous chemicals.  It is our defiling of that part of the creation for which we are personally most ac­countable, ourselves.

        Man’s position over the creation, as taught in the Bible, is the op­posite of the conven­tion­al wisdom of recent years.  In our attempts to find our own solutions for the problems we face, regulations have been made for the handling of hazardous chemicals.  Yet at the same time, we have resisted complying with the regulations that God, the Creator, has given us, as though our defi­ance of these laws had no impact on the environ­ment.  We assume that such restrictions were given for no purpose and that there will be no con­sequences to our im­moral and decadent be­hav­ior.  Like the pol­lu­tion that comes as a re­sult of an unethical business­man illegally dump­ing his waste, if we are deceived by the ap­peal of ignoring “out­dat­ed” mo­rality, the true costs of our actions are disre­garded.  When God’s laws are ignored the re­sult is affliction.  But rather than seeing the scars on the land as an indication that God is displeased with us, the violence of this decaying world caus­es people to question whether there is a God.

  The Cure

        The Church has not played a noticeable role in the movement to “save the planet.”  This has lead people outside the Church to doubt whether Chris­tianity is still relevant in a time of environmental crisis.  Most Evangelicals addressing environmental issues sound no different than their secular coun­terparts.  They have dis­carded the parts of the Bible that our culture finds unacceptable.  Add­ed to this is the fact that at some point most Evan­gelicals have wond­ered, “Why should we work to protect nature when the Bible says all this will pass away?”  Our consid­ering this temporal world to be disposable is a sign that we do not understand our biblical stewardship.  Even if nature is not eter­nal, we are its caretak­ers.

        People will cease to be anxious about the en­vironment, only when they accept that they are the source of the problem and turn their hearts toward God.  God is in total control of the en­viron­ment.  Everything is go­ing according to plan.  We must recognize that it was because of our dis­obedience that we now fear what the future may bring.  The Bible tells us that those who do such things deserve death. (Rom. 1:32)   We have made such an aw­ful mess of things that we now are left to face the conse­quences.  Yet our coming to this real­iza­tion leads us to the fact that Christ allowed the penal­ty for our ac­tions to be exe­cuted upon Him­self in our place.

        The Bible does have something to say about the degrading of God’s creation.  In the past, God has used nature as a tool to disciplined the nations through our stru­ggles against drought, storm and pestilence.  But this is meant as a remind­er that throughout the Bible, God is shown to take pride in proving himself powerful on be­half of those who will trust him.  People will not be able to “save the plan­et” through their political activism.  They need to see that we each have become the wasteful prod­igal son who the Fa­ther is waiting to receive back in repent­ance.  We need to remem­ber that God has promised if we turn to him He will not abandon us.  God calls us to humble our­selves and pray.  Then “He” will heal the land. (2Chr.7:13-14)

By Maurice Hamel