Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saving the Planet

Environmental issues have often been characterized by extremes, both for and against. And it is therefore easy for those on each side to stereotype the other. It does not help that environmentalism has gotten caught up in our modern apocalyptic mentality. Ecological disaster is second only to the atom bomb as being the potential source for the end of the world. It also can be a source of extreme legalism. It is ironic that many who have deserted traditional morality have found here the basis for a new moral code, often more strict then the traditional one. Whenever I see something plunging toward severity or panic, it puts up warning signals. But we do not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and ignore legitimate concerns.

The Scripture does give human beings a stewardship over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15; Psalms 8:3-8). Now in Scripture, any sort of authority is to be exercised for the benefit of those subject to it (Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27; Ephesians 5:22-33). Nor are we permitted to simply pursue our own benefit and monetary gain with no concern for the consequences (1 Timothy 6:5-10; Matthew 6:24; Colossians 3:5). There does, nonetheless, seem to be a real distinction made in Scripture between human beings who are made in the image of God (Genesis 5:1,2; 9:6; James 3:9) and the rest of creation. But being made in God's image should inform how we treat the things under our charge. We also must remember that God is separate from His creation and that nature is not God (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 40:18-25, 66:1,2). This must inform how we see our relationship to nature.

But once we lay down the basic principles, we are left with a bewildering variety of questions. It is often difficult to decide dogmatically what the answer is to all of them. But we should steer clear of the extremes. We should not see ourselves as simply working for our own profit and benefit, with no concern for the long-term consequences. Nor should we allow ourselves to panic or be pushed to extremes. Both greed and legalism are destructive in the end. And in all this, we must put science in perspective. Science is a useful tool, but it is just that, a tool. It enables us to do things more efficiently, both good things and bad things. It is a poor god, but it is not the devil, either. And I suspect that the tendency to vilify science comes from its failing to be the total solution to all human problems. The truth is, it cannot ultimately overcome the curse on creation that came as a result of sin (Romans 8:18-25; Genesis 3:17-19; Revelation 22:3). But it can be a useful servant in the present age to help improve our lives. If we use it responsibly.  


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