Happy Earth Day! I hope everyone is celebrating by doing something for the planet not only today, but in their everyday life as well.
To celebrate here I decided to spend the week reviewing several books that are about the Earth and the environment. Firstly, however, I wanted to take today and talk about why I think Earth Day is so important, especially to Christians.
When Christians are discussing the environment, often the first verse that comes up is Genesis 1:28: "God blessed them and said to them, '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.'" Often Christians use this verse to justify human use of the environment in any way we please, especially when God instructs humans to "subdue" the earth and "rule over" the living creatures.
I would argue against such an interpretation for several reasons. Firstly, God gave humans this command before the Fall. Now, I am in no way saying that God's commands don't apply after the Fall, but I am saying that after the Fall humans became broken, prideful creatures without much of the divine understanding that we previously had. Without our previous connection to God, it is easy for humans to subdue and rule in the wrong way (for instance, humans did not begin eating meat until after the Fall--Genesis 9:1-9). Secondly, just because humans have been given the Earth to use does not mean that it is has been given to us as a possession forever. God is quite clear about that to the Israelites, actually: "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine"
(Leviticus 25:23) and "The land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and garner their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord" (Leviticus 25:3-4). (This second verse almost establishes the land as a member of God's covenant as well) Clearly if the land does not truly belong to us, we should use it wisely, in a way that does not result in degradation and suffering--and that is not happening now.
God loves His creation, both human and non-human (Psalm 104:27-30, Matthew 10:29). What is more, because it was created by God, it shows His character to any who look at it (Psalm 8:1, Romans 1:20). I see God most clearly in nature and receive inspiration and encouragement from its beauty and amazing complexity. It is inexusable to destroy that creation, especially merely to have yet more stuff that we do not need.
Environmental degradation does not just affect plants and animals. Pollution, ozone depletion, invasive species, habitat degradation and destruction, climate change, and so many other things done by humans threaten both God's glorious creation and the lives and well-being of humans. Pollution causes diseases, including cancer; invasive species and habitat degradation cause species extinctions, cause ecosystems to change their functioning so that less humans, plants, and animals can live on the same amount of land.
That is unacceptable. We are destroying God's creation with everything we do.