They will introduce heresies and will bring the way of truth into disrepute with stories they have made up.  – 2 Peter 2:1-3

              For a moment try to look at the en­vironment from a different per­spec­tive than normal.  Frame what we see in na­ture with foundational con­cepts that God gives us in the Bible and see how that changes the way you look at your relationship to the environment.

              Let me remind you about some of the basic doctrines of the Bible that many of us learned as young chil­dren.  The Bible teaches that man is fallen, that death and suf­fering en­tered the world because of Adam ori­ginal sin and that God cursed the ground because of man’s rebellion?  If we assume that these claims are true, what does that mean in the physical world today?  Can science measure the conditions that existed before the curse, or are those things only apparent through God’s revela­tion?  By applying these basic doc­trine, we can conclude that “sur­vival of the fit­test” was not part of the original good creation and that the decline of natural resources that we a­re experiencing is part of God’s plan.  This means if we cleaned all our factories and changed our waste­ful habits, we would still be living under the curse.  There would still be the environmental problems.  We would not achieve a utopian life on a South Sea island in the land of milk and honey where there is no toiling, disease or crime.

              We are a people who tend to sep­a­rate our spiritual lives from our dai­ly lives.  The spiritual world oper­ates under one set of laws.  The phys­ical world under another set of laws and so God has no real rele­vance in the daily lives of most people.  He gets our atten­tion only on Sunday and during times of per­sonal crisis.  Since most people ap­proach God from this perspective it is not surprising that most peo­ple find it easier to trust things that they can see and touch even when it disagrees with the Word of God.  It is easy for us to look at the Bible as instructions on how to get to heaven.  It is harder for us to see it as a description of our physical world.  If we are willing to accept the Bible’s advice for the health of our soul, why doubt what it has to say about the health of our planet?  Yet instead of con­structing our view of the physical world around what God has told us about his creation, we act as though the Bible is only accurate for spir­itual not scientific matters.  We measure the accuracy of the Bible against our sci­entific theories and con­sider the in­terpretation of men infallible in­stead of the Bible.

              How does this outlook effect our view of man’s relationship to the phy­sical world and our responsibili­ty as caretakers of the Master’s posses­sions while he is away?

              Today most science is based on the premise that everything which exists can be measured and observed by in­ves­tigating the properties of the physi­cal world today.  But writ­ing 2000 years ago Peter warned:  “you must under­stand that … scoff­ers will come [say­ing] everything goes on as it has since the begin­ning of cre­ation” (2 Peter 3:3-4)  This is not to say that scientific observations are inac­cu­rate.  At a given atmospheric pres­sure and sa­linity, water will al­ways freeze at the same temperature.  That is a scientific fact.  But envi­ronmen­tal­ists are trying to under­stand how nat­ure’s pro­cesses are out of bal­ance by ignoring what God has told us about the history of our world and looking for clues in the rocks.  Because today’s theories do not in­clude God as Creator, we are using flawed basic assumptions for our models of nature.

            These are the things being de­scri­bed when Peter wrote:”there will be false teachers among you.  They will … introduce heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord … and will bring the way of truth into disrepute … with stories they have made up.”  (2 Peter 2:1-3)

              What are the implications of our inaccurate way of looking at things.  We are viewing man as an just anoth­er animal; viewing nature as advanc­ing; studying climate without con­sidering the Bible’s version of historic geolo­gy; leaving God out of the cause and effect events of our three-dimension­al model of the uni­verse.  Nature is cre­ation after being drastically al­tered by the Fall.  If people look at nature and think they see Eden, it is not sur­prising so many cannot pic­ture an all-powerful, good God.  These er­rors distort our image of God.  It would be a universe desig­ned by trial and er­ror, where inno­cent creatures are food for predators and God arbi­trarily sends disease, earthquakes, storms and drought.  What kind of God would have called this precarious “balance” good?

              We should not assume that the bal­ance that we see in nature today rep­resents the good creation that was present in Eden.  Modern science can­not distinguish Eden from the Fall.  People act as though the Pil­grims in­vaded in Eden and any chan­ges man does to the land are inher­ently wrong.  Man is portrayed as a villain robbing helpless nature, as a weed spreading throughout the Gar­den.  Our distorted view of why suf­fering and death are in the world has impaired our ability to see the cre­ation depicting God’s char­acter.  We assume that God created the world just as we find it.  If a world view is wrong, then solutions based on it will fail.  Because men of science don’t recognize that the creation is fallen, they are asking the wrong questions.

              “Saving the Planet” has become a dominant social concern.  People want to do something to help.  We want to serve God, but we want to do it our way.  We project our own perspec­tives upon God.  We have our own image of the good creation and so we fight to prevent nature from being changed, as though we are defending the creation in God’s absence.  But if this is a fallen world, then these modern scien­tific assumptions are not correct.  We cannot assume that what we see today has always been true.  In Matthew 22:29, Jesus told the leaders of his day:  “You are in error because you do not know the Scrip­tures or the power of God”.

              All creation is a tool for God’s purposes.  God’s hand can be seen in ecological events.  God withholds the fruitfulness of the land to get our attention, but we fail to under­stand why our rebellious behavior is being disciplined.  We turn to sci­ence for deliverance from our physi­cal trials and struggle against God’s correc­tion, rather than re­turning to him.  This tells us that our ecological prob­lems are in fact a spiritual issue.  The impacts of our moral and ethical choi­ces are more serious than we would think.  We are now facing the conse­quences of our spiritual fail­ures.  Effects of sin on the world go beyond what is apparent.  We have regulations for industrial wastes, but at the same time we fight restrictions on our own uncleanness, like simply cleaning the outside of a cup, as Je­sus said in Matthew 23:25.

              The principle pollution we bring the world are the things that come out of our hearts.  Our rebellion against God has an impact on nature.  Personal conduct effects the envi­ron­ment. These things seem unrelat­ed.  We ex­pect our behavior to have no conse­quences.  God’s covenant with Israel included both blessings and curses, to make us fruitful when we are dependent on him, and to make our burden greater when we ignore his instruction.  This is sim­ply the law of cause and effect.

              Like us, the Pharisees were also preoccupied with external cleanness, but Jesus admonished them about inter­nal uncleanness.  Today we wor­ry about our health, preventing the chemical pollution around us from getting into our bodies, but the pro­phets rarely rebuked the people for their failures under dietary and hy­gienic laws. 

              The judgments from God that had a severe environmental impact, the curse, the Flood, fire and brim­s­tone, did not come because those peo­ple han­dled chemicals improperly or were es­pecially bad in misusing their natu­ral resources.  God passed judgment on them because of their wicked hearts, their internal, not external, unclean­ness.  How did he judge them?  Nature became increas­ingly degraded.  God withdrew a portion of his blessing of natural resources.  God had told Abra­ham that a dozen righteous people would prevent judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  But when the critical mass was reached there was an end to God’s patience.  What had been de­scribed as a well-watered valley ca­pable of sup­porting five cities was turned to a wasteland.  In a very real sense, we are the salt of the earth.  Like salt pre­vents meat from spoil­ing, it is the Church that provides real environ­mental pro­tection.

              Our laws concerning clean water, clean air, undisturbed wilderness and greenhouse gases, that we hear so much about today, are all merely attempts to clean the outside of the cup.  The pollution having the great­est effect on our global envi­ronment does not have anything to do with chemicals or natural resources.  God withholds his provisions.  He reduces the health and productivity of the land, to cause us to realize our de­pendence upon him and our rebellion against him, and so re­pent and be saved from his punish­ment.  When we get our priorities straight, when we seek the kingdom of God first, (when we make him our joy), then as an added benefit God will take care of all these other things that he had sent to discipline us because of our rebel­lion.

              How should we respond to those who accuse Christians of being unin­volved with environmental issues?  Point to the impact of immorality in the Fall, the Flood and Sodom.  Then ask them to think about what part they play in God withholding the health of the land.

              Our young people are concerned about the health of the world which we are leaving them.  They see our prior­ities and failures as a reflec­tion of our religion.  If they are rejecting Christianity, it is partly because it does not offer them hope.  We need to show that Christianity is relevant, and that a life in rebellion against God is the real cause of the degrading of nature.

By Maurice Hamel                   011201