Sustainability and the Earth
I recently read an article that discussed sustainability and the earth. The article was about how to reconcile the Christian dilemna of caring for the earth, while at the same time caring for the people of the earth. I think it came from a blog entitled Durable Faith.
So let’s take a look at the Biblical role of caring for the earth:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…..”
So right from the beginning, the Christian belief system is grounded in the fact that God created the earth. It seems to me that this would create a desire to care for it from the outset.
1:22 “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the bird increase on the earth.’”
1:24 “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creature according to their kinds; the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
Again, it would seem to flow that God created these animals in their own kinds and then called them good. It seems that we should be reasonable to protect what our God called good and to protect what He made.
1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
God gives us the responsibility of “ruling over” the birds, fish, livestock and other creatures. I would like to think that this “ruling over” does not mean dominating over nor does it mean abusing. I think this is meant more as a role of ruling over in the sense that we are to manage and protect, yet are approved to use (eat) animals. Other versions replace the phrase “ruling over” to “have dominion.” This conveys a bit more of a duty to manage rather than to abuse.
2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die‘”
Once again, God commands the man (Adam) to work and take care of the garden. At this time, the man only knew the Garden of Eden (as far as we know), so it is reasonable to substitute the word earth for the garden. The Garden of Eden was probably the ideal state of earth. I believe that it was designed as a self-sustaining environment, in that Adam also had a tree at his disposal that was termed the “Tree of Life.” If he were to eat from this tree, he would live forever (Genesis 3:22).
So what I see there is a command by God Himself for us to care for the earth. In some Christian circles, there is almost a rebellion against the green movement or the earth movement. I believe that this is in response to the near religious tone that those movements themselves take on. These “religions” deify Mother Earth and replace God with the earth itself as its god. So there is a bit of a concern in that fact, but should it mean that Christians should abuse the earth? Should Judeo-Christianity not have a component of ruling over/ having dominion over the earth, but as an original commandment from God, not as a replacement for our relationship with the Creator Himself? So it is my belief that we should strive to make this earth as sustainable as possible, yet feel free to use (not abuse) what God has provided as we need. We should strive for that caring attitude toward the earth. Out of simple respect and reverence for what our God has created, I believe that we should cultivate and tend what God created.
God commands us to eat the plants that He has provided for us. He also instructed us to eat the animals later in the Bible. I believe that story was Peter with the gentiles. The permission is actually granted to Noah after the end of the flood of the earth. It is at this point, that I see the okay to be an omnivore. There is a recent trendy book out there entitiled “The Omnivore’s dilemna.” Perhaps I will have more on that at a later date (the book is on my “to read” list). There are ways to have dominion over animals and consume them, without having to abuse them. An example of abuse would be the practice of finning sharks. I this practice, the shark is captured, the main fin (or fins) are cut off, and the remainder of the shark is dropped back into the water to die. Seems like we could catch the shark and use most of the body for food and other products. I have digressed.
Another area where we can have dominion over the animals in a sustainable manner is in the area of farming naturally. This practice allows that animals to be in more of a natural environment and on more natural feed (cows are designed to eat grass, not to be fed a corn based, concentrated diet). Animals are not meant to be raised on concrete and confined to indoor buildings at all times.
I also think it is okay to be a Christian conservationist. There is nothing in the Bible that would encourage us to abuse the resources given to us, or available to us. In fact, God instructed us to care for the land and the animals. This would tend to imply that recycling is better than placing trash into a landfill. It implies that reusing is better than discarding. There is nothing wrong with green energy as a Christian, as God instructs us to be wise stewards (though that would bring up the issue of the practicality and cost of green energy.)
Hopefully this at least provides some food for thought. I often want to challenge those in the Christian circles to embrace the world around us, realizing that God made all of it. God called it good, and we should strive to maintain the good that is all around us.
As an addendum on Fevruary 23, 2013: I was recently pointed toward a Christian Ministry at a church in Indianapolis, IN that is focused on this subject. Hopefully you can click here to see their facebook page.