Sunday, January 16, 2011

Which Is More Important – People, Animals, or the Earth?

Man’s desire to worship something is seen throughout history. It would be a rare thing to find a period of history that was devoid of man putting his faith and desires into something – the God of the Bible, a carved god idol, the earth, other people, animals, man himself, etc. The desire to set something up as a higher authority must be innate in mankind.

The current prevailing philosophy of our culture is to downplay the Biblical pattern and place the good of “the earth” above all else. The roots of environmentalism go back many years, but the trend seems to gain followers every year. Al Gore and the concept of global warming may be damaged goods, but our society has not replaced the radical environmental movement with anything much different than what has gone before. Indeed, whether the fear is global warming, or the coming of a new Ice Age, the environmentalist cry is still the same – mankind is messing up the earth, and should be stopped.

I was very disheartened to read the following editorial in our local paper last week. I think it is indicative of a spirit of misunderstanding that troubles our nation:

Dear God, when you told us to “be fruitful and multiply”, did you intend for this multiplying to go on, unchecked, forever?
Perhaps it’s time for new orders, like “Stop! Enough with the multiplying! I gave you brains to figure out family planning. By now you should have had the sense to use it.

“You humans are spoiling my beautiful planet. You’re using up all the resources and filling the land and seas with garbage. Your wars wreak havoc on everyone and everything in their paths. Your greed and your sheer numbers are pushing my other creatures into extinction. Enough, already!

“You could have limited your numbers humanely, but you chose not to. Now I’m turning this over to Mother Nature, who will reduce your numbers the old-fashioned way – through war, pestilence, famine and disease.”

We have seen a lot of wars, famine and disease lately, along with earthquakes, floods and tornados. The threat seemed a little light on the pestilence, but now, here come the bedbugs. (The Fort Collins Coloradoan, January 12, 2011)
All of this makes me want to ask the writer a few questions:

1) God told us to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28) He has given us no instructions to do otherwise (in fact, He appears to counsel against “family planning” in the Bible – Genesis 38:8-10). So, what makes the writer think that God now has new orders to give? Who decides when it is “time for new orders”?

2) “You humans are spoiling my beautiful planet.” To me, using natural resources to make goods and to improve our living state is exactly God’s design. What does the writer mean by “spoiling”, and by what authority do we choose “spoiling” above “stewardship”? Is drilling for oil inherently “bad” when the result of energy exploration is fuel to keep people warm and the ability to move great distances – in minutes or hours, on only a few gallons of gasoline? If, instead, the resources were to stay in the ground forever, and man decided to live in cold caves, eating uncooked vegetables – is that better for everyone? Is that what we really want?

3) The author of the editorial seems to feel that too many people are getting in the way of some greater good – the common myth of population explosion. So, whose children does the writer propose to eliminate? Mine? The children of the person reading this article? Their own? Where would they start? Is human life really that cheap? So cheap that they would place it below the worth of creatures and the environment?

To truly answer the question about what is more important, we have to realize that someone must have authority over the decision. Mankind cannot and will not ever agree on the hierarchy of worth between man, animals, and the earth. Is the ultimate authority going to be me, my congressman, or the President?

For me, the only answer to this question is that there is one, and only one, ultimate authority – God – and His words on this question are the only ones that matter. Mankind may try to argue that someone else has the authority. For the Christian, the answer must be God. And if we choose an authority – God – we must endeavor to find out what He thinks about the value of human life versus the value of animal life or the environment.

1) God set up man to be above all creation - Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:2 and Psalm 8:5-8 make it clear that man is above the earth, and only a little lower than the angels. If God placed us over the earth, then I have faith that He gave us ample resources to survive until He decides to send His Son back for us. He even left many “closed-loop systems” in place to compensate for our resource use – systems which are self-sustaining, such as the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen by trees and algae, and the obvious observation that trees and plants can spring up and grow anew from where they have been harvested. Scientists continue to “discover” and marvel at how resilient and self-repairing our ecosystem proves to be. They should – God made it that way.

2) Preserving the earth is not the ultimate goal of God - Ultimately, the earth will be destroyed. 2 Peter 3:10-11 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives”. God has not intended for the earth to survive in some model, pristine way for all eternity. He has something better coming. He intends to destroy by fire all of these resources that our society holds so dear. The fact that He will destroy the earth, but take His people to live with Him for eternity, is clear evidence of God’s priorities. We do not abuse or show poor stewardship of this planet, but we keep it in perspective to God’s eternal plan.

3) The purpose of man is to honor GodRevelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” See also Psalm 86 and Psalm 16:5-11. So, it stands to reason that having more people on earth brings more opportunity to glorify God. Conversely, limiting the number of children born into this world is simply a way of removing glory from our God. That is a hard concept to swallow in today’s culture. But God told us to “fill the earth and subdue it”. He has not yet told us to do any differently. Why would we presume to know better?

The increasing population of the world is not the cause of death, destruction, famine or pestilence as our editorial author suggests. The cause is sin. God has provided us with resources to use for His glory. Bringing glory to God is the one, ultimate goal which overwhelms everything else. I wonder – would our culture like to see that concept printed in our local editorial section? We need to pray for a world that is still trying to function apart from God. Without Him, all we would have left is people, animals and the planet. Hmmm….


If you want to read more about how environmentalism has replaced God in our culture, please visit my Radical Environmentalism series.

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