As an Evangelical I do not speak as an authoritative representative for all Evangelicals. Although I have mined much of my information from their vast treasury on the subject, the opinions below are my own. I have done my best to stay true to the scriptures, as it is here that I feel the most comfortable.
It is the scriptures that have given Western civilization its basic understanding of creation: not polytheism which denies that human life has any intrinsic value; not pantheism which claims that creation itself is divine; not Gnosticism which declares that matter is evil. These are pagan world views which in my opinion only fog the issue of environmentalism. In the very beginning of the Bible we are told that God (One God) created this world and six different times, “saw that it was good.” But the frosting on the cake was what did He say after He finished his crowning creation MAN; “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was Very Good.”
Psalm 8: 5-6 echoes it so eloquently “For You have made him a little lower than the angels,And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet…”
The Science of Ecology
The science of ecology began in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was at this time that industrialization began to expand rapidly. In a sense it was the worse of times (Child labor, pollution, crowded slum cities, swallowing up good farm land etc…) and the best of times. Industrialization and improved farming now enabled people to live a more fully human life and gain individual security that most had never enjoyed before. The normal hand-to-mouth, existence was slowly fading away; famine was becoming a thing of the past. Machines were replacing horses, enabling farmers to cultivate more land with more efficiency and produce more food per acre. Advances in medicine were conquering lethal diseases like small-pox, tuberculosis, and malaria. And much of this Western knowledge was being shared with poorer nations. Experts tell us that the world can comfortably feed ten-billion people. When our green/ blue planet reaches ten-billion people in 2050, many experts tell us that population growth will level off and there does not have to be any third world poverty
Secondly, fossil fuels like coal and oil which come from below the earth helped save our main natural resource of fuel above the ground, Trees! The elimination of trees as our main fuel source has helped tremendously in the reforestation of our forests. Amazingly, there are as many, some say more, trees in our forests now than there was a hundred years ago. More trees also mean more oxygen in the air. Some say that the production of underground oil saved the whale, which was once our main oil source to light our city streets. When is the last time you bought a gallon of whale oil for your lamps?
Thirdly, Nature left to itself is not the answer to a cleaner, purer environment. Though we all want a more beautiful and healthier green planet, it will not happen by itself. If man does not exercise dominion over nature, nature will exercise dominion over man. A jungle, a wild horse, a flooding river are not much good to anybody, if not domesticated. A beautiful orchard left to itself eventually resorts back to its wild untamed state; only when men work together with nature does it remain fruitful. Hugging trees will never do it!
People Are Not the Enemy
To say that people are the problem, as some environmental extremists say, is to fly in the face of Genesis 1:28 which tells man to, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Any ideology or policy that would put nature above man is anti-human and as dangerous as aiming a cocked gun. What is their answer to the billions of new people expected to be born in the next several decades? The thought is a frightening one. It sounds like China with its one child per family. It makes man a burden rather than a blessing to planet earth.
Mans’ ‘dominion over the earth’ is not absolute; and I don’t think it ever will be. Total dominion over the earth will not happen until Christ returns, due to the fact that terra ferma is under the curse of sin. Big fish will continue to eat little fish and bigger animals will continue to eat smaller animals until the curse is lifted; (Isaiah 11:6-8,65:25) nevertheless as good stewards we must strive to develop our creative powers to make it a better place to live until He returns and lift us from Adam’s curse. Why does God allow earthquakes and volcanoes things that man has no control over? It is an enigma wrapped up in the mystery of original sin that I do not have the answer for. Again, my personal opinion: If man had not fallen under the curse of sin, he would have the creative God given capacity to know how to control clouds, tectonic plates, volcanoes, balance nature, etc…
The answer to our ecology problem is not population problem, is not a food production; it is an economic problem. The evidence is glaring; some countries with high population densities like Japan and Hong Kong are not starving because they have strong economies; other countries with high population densities are starving because they have weak economies. There is no population bomb or food shortage bomb ready to explode, it’s neither one, it’s a shortage of cash flow. The alarmists of the 1960s and 1970s, like Malthus himself in the 1790s, have been proven wrong. Poverty, which shows no mercy for the starving, is the culprit. Due to advanced technology global food production has outstripped population growth. The problem is that the poor countries can’t make the economic leap into the 21st century.
Poorer countries have larger families because it’s their only hope for the future. They want someone to take care of them in their old age. Poor countries have a much higher mortality rate so the average family has to have six children to keep the population steady; whereas in wealthier countries families have three children or less because their future is financially secure and they know that most of their children will survive into adulthood. In fact populations in the wealthier countries of Europe and North America are dropping like a stone and only immigration is keeping these populations at a steady level.
Communism is a case in point that it’s an economic problem.
The right to Private property is the anathema of all communisms. It’s all about collectivism. But history is on the side of private ownership when it comes to producing a better economy and ecology. Property owners take better care of their property and try to produce something from it. Twentieth century history teaches us that communism was bridge to the poor house. Not only were countries like the Ukraine with an abundance of natural resources, the bread basket of Russia now starving, they were also its worse polluters. Most government planning ended up going in reverse gear, penalizing innovations. No great major companies were birthed in garages in Russia or China; but plenty were in North America. As Will Carelton said, “Over the hill to the poor house I’m trudgin’ my weary way.”
The godly Pilgrims tried communism for a short time in early America, but the candle soon blew out on that one. It did not take Governor Bradford long to see why; the lazy people were letting the energetic people do all the work while they stayed in bed. Bradford’s answer was to give each family their own private property and let them enjoy the fruits of their own labors. The lazy people soon got out of bed and started farming their own plot of ground as soon as they realized that otherwise, they were going to starve. Private enterprise solved the problem and the colony prospered.
Only since industrialization has man been able to greatly protect himself from the unkind forces of nature. Water and air and land are cleaner in wealthy countries more than they are in poor countries. Factories no longer defiantly or ignorantly pour their contaminants into earth sea and sky as they once did. The population has too many environmental watchdog agencies for that to happen again. While no perfect system has been found to eliminate all pollutants, it’s better than it has been in decades.
The Final Consummation
Let us care for our creation as a God-given responsibility. Creative minds will help us to do even better. Let us not remember that wealthy nations do it best, the greater the economy the greater the ecology.. Let us not fall for the cliché that ‘government knows best, ’ that it is more environmentally responsible than private institutions. The most centralized countries have the worse track record in this showground. Let us place human beings above nature seeing them as a blessing not a curse. These recommendations will keep the environment issue on the safest path. Vigilance is the price of a good environment.
Our earth began with a Big Bang and it will end with a Big Bang; and that Big Bang is the return of Christ to this earth. He is the ultimate environmentalist. He who now gives us new natures will on that day will give the animals a new nature and nature itself a new nature. He alone will bring planet earth back to its Edenic purity. He will perfect it to its deepest depths and to its highest heights. He says in Revelation 21: 5, “Behold, I make all things new.”
And I look forward to that day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth and as Christians will live in mansions built by the carpenter of Galilee.
to be continued …