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Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Can't "Save the Planet"

By Justin Edwards

In honor of "Earth Day", I'd like to present a balanced, biblical perspective of what this planet is intended for and our responsibilities as Christians to be good stewards, not earth-worshiping idolaters of a dying world. The following excerpts from Got Questions  provides answers from a Biblical perspective to questions about environmentalism, climate change, global warming, and recycling. Click on each link at the beginning of the paragraph to read each article in its entirety. The bottom line is this: we are called to be good stewards of the property God loaned to us. Efforts to "save the planet" are foolish vanity and point people to worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. While there is nothing wrong with being environmentally conservative, no Christian should hoist the environment as their top priority, which should be their relationship with Jesus Christ and the spreading of His Good News to the lost people of this fallen world. This is earth is passing away, and there's not a thing man can do about it:

As Christians, we should be concerned about our effect on our environment. God appointed man to be the steward of this world (Genesis 1:28), not the destroyer of it. However, we should not allow environmentalism to become a form of idolatry, where the “rights” of an inanimate planet and its non-human creatures are held in higher esteem than God (Romans 1:25) and man created in His image. With global warming, as with any other topic, it is crucial to understand what the facts are, who those facts come from, how they are interpreted, and what the spiritual implications should be.

 There is a difference between the biblical view of the environment and the political movement known as "environmentalism." Understanding this difference will shape a Christian’s view of environmentalism. The Bible is clear that the earth and everything in it was given by God to man to rule over and subdue. "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'" (Genesis 1:28). Because they were created in His image, God gave men and women a privileged place among all creatures and commanded them to exercise stewardship over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6-8). Stewardship implies caretaking, not abusing. We are to intelligently manage the resources God has given us, using all diligent care to preserve and protect them. This is seen in the Old Testament where God commanded that the fields and vineyards would be sown and harvested for six years, then left fallow for the seventh year in order to replenish the soil's nutrients, both to rest the land and to ensure continued provision for His people in the future (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7).

In addition to our role of caretakers, we are to appreciate the functionality and beauty of the environment. In His incredible grace and power, God has placed on this planet everything needed to feed, clothe, and house the billions of people who have lived on it since the Garden of Eden. All the resources He has provided for our needs are renewable, and He continues to provide the sun and rain necessary to sustain and replenish those resources. And if this were not enough, He has also decorated the planet in glorious color and scenic beauty to appeal to our aesthetic sense and thrill our souls with wonder. There are countless varieties of flowers, exotic birds, and other lovely manifestations of His grace to us.

At the same time, the earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet, nor was it ever intended to be. The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever, and we know this is not God's plan. He tells us in 2 Peter 3:10 that at the end of the age, the earth and all He has created will be destroyed: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up" (NKJV). The physical, natural earth in its present form, with its entire universe will be consumed and God will create a "new heaven and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

So we see that rather than trying to preserve the earth for thousands or even millions of years to come, we are to be good stewards of it for as long as it lasts, which will be as long as it serves God's sovereign plan and purpose.

Is there anything wrong with going green? No, of course not. Is trying to reduce your carbon footprint a good thing? Probably so. Are solar panels, wind mills, and other renewable energy sources worth pursuing? Of course. Are any of these things to be the primary focus of followers of Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! As Christians, our focus should be proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, the message that has the power to save souls. Saving the planet is not within our power or responsibility. Climate change may or may not be real, and may or may not be human-caused. What we can know for certain is that God is good and sovereign, and that planet earth will be our habitat for as long as God desires it to be. Psalms 46:2-3, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

The earth itself is winding down in preparation for that cataclysmic event, [of 2 Peter 3:10] one that will cause man’s destructive behaviors toward the environment to pale in comparison. Romans 8:20-22 speaks of a creation which groans in anticipation of the time when it will be set free from the bondage to the principle of decay. This is the end we should be looking to and planning for, and which should make our evangelistic efforts all the more urgent. Soda cans can be recycled; people cannot. Therefore, our greatest efforts should be toward saving souls, not the planet.

In the end, whether or not to recycle is a matter of conscience, but should not to be viewed legalistically. Christians who feel it’s important to recycle should certainly do so. Those who don’t are free not to. But as with all things, recycling should not divide Christian believers from each other (Luke 11:17). Care and concern for one another far outweighs care and concern for the environment.

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