By Delroy Brown
Among the major precautionary steps being taken is the establishment of an international seed bank by more than 100 countries. Millions of seeds are kept in what is commonly called the Doomsday Vault to preserve them in the event of a global catastrophe. It is the largest seed bank in the world, and is located on the remote island of Spitsbergen in Norway.
This Noah’s ark of plant life illustrates the seriousness with which the environment has catapulted onto the world stage, which has an impact on the church. With the emergence of “green” churches and growing concerns among some Christians, it is
essential that a biblical perspective be articulated.
As the environmental movement looks to science for its epistemology, Christians must look to the Bible for their source of knowledge and understanding of the current environmental issues.
While there is no formal presentation of biblical ecology in the Scriptures, there are however, attitudes and inferences that affirm nature as a significant proof for the existence of God. Nature showcases the invisible things of God and speaks of his eternal power and authority (Romans 1:20).
Nature teaches two main purposes of God. First, God created and fashioned nature for the dwelling place of humans. As such, God gave mankind the authority to rule, subdue, exercise dominion, and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28-30; 2:15). This reveals not only God’s goodness, but also man’s stewardship of the earth entrusted for its care and progress. For instance, in ruling over the earth, Adam and Eve were given the role of caretakers. The second purpose is that nature is to glorify the Creator (Psalm 19:1-14). Further, nature provides a lesson on order and regularity. God’s message is inescapable in the seasons and reproductive systems of the environment: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22, English Standard Version).
When our family traveled through Europe in the spring some years ago, we encountered the spectacular mountains of Austria and Switzerland displaying their magnificent beauty—a testament to their maker. The sky above seemed to echo the words of the psalmist who wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Looking at God’s handiwork, seen all over the world, mankind is without excuse not to believe (Romans 1:20). Although limited in its teaching scope, the natural world has not failed to lecture us about God’s existence, goodness, and glory.
Unlike the claims of pantheism that drive much of the current environmental movement, nature does not teach us that nature is God. Pantheism holds that everything exists as part of God; no distinction is made between the creature and the Creator. Years ago the London Zoo put on a special exhibition by placing eight British people half clothed in a cage with some animals. Their interaction was designed to make the point that animals are the same as human beings. This is contrary to what Scriptures teach—that man is created in God’s image, and animals are not (Genesis 1, 2).
Because the environmental movement is largely driven by pantheism, it spiritualizes the environment and seeks to replace the God of the Scriptures with the religious notion of Mother Earth. This notion is gaining wide acceptance in popular culture. For instance, when the State of Queensland in Australia (where this writer lives) experienced major flooding a year ago, the media focused primarily on the power of Mother Nature, as if Mother Nature was a real being with a personality of its own.
It has been pointed out, “Today’s futurists and visionaries tell us that spiritual connectedness to the earth is our only hope of survival.” The current push to preserve the earth is therefore based on a pantheistic worldview that gives nature the status of a god to be worshipped.
In reality, nature serves the needs of the human family. Nature does not teach us that it is an end in itself, nor does it teach that God is aloof and absent from his creation, as some opponents of the Bible argue.
Years ago, an aboriginal elder from the north told me that as a youth growing up in his community, he and his people believed there was a Great Power who created everything, including the mountains. They didn’t know who it was, but when missionaries came, they could easily recognize their Great Power as the God of the Bible.
Although nature’s revelation of God is limited, it unveils sufficient evidence to prepare hearts for God’s fuller revelation through the Scriptures, which reveal his ultimate expression of himself in Christ (Job 38; Habakkuk 3:4; Hebrews 1:1).
When a team of tradesmen came from America to help us construct a church building in Australia, they required tools and materials to build. When God made the universe, he required nothing. He simply spoke his creation into existence. In effect, all he had to say was, “Let there be,” and “there was” (Genesis 1).
In addition to seeing God’s power in creation, it is important to recognize that God is also the preserver of nature. In other words, God did not create the earth, winding it up like a clock and then leaving it to fend for itself, as some opponents would argue. As A.W. Pink reminds us, “No creature has power to preserve itself.”
God’s power may also be seen in his protection of nature. A walk on the seashore clearly shows how God is protecting the land from being covered by the sea. In his dialogue with Job, God reminded Job of his pronouncement to the sea: “This far you may come, and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11, NIV).
Respect and Care
As science seeks solutions to the problem of climate change and steers the environmental movement toward an uncertain future with a stockpile of millions of seeds in preparation for a global calamity, what should Christians do? They should articulate their biblical mandate as stewards based on the reality that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1, ESV). God states, “for the world and its fullness are mine” (50:12). Since nature belongs to its Maker and we are its stewards, we’re not obligated to join the environmental movement, or become greenies, or invest in seed banks; but we may simply respect and care for the environment because it belongs to God and because our Creator has made us caretakers.
Delroy Brown is the founder and minister of Toowoomba International Christian Church in Queensland, Australia.
What Is Pantheism?
Learn more about the attraction and dangers of pantheism in our culture in four talks by Ravi Zacharias
titled, “The Spurious Glitter of Pantheism.”