The Environment

Regarding the environment, the starting point for those of us who hold the Biblical Worldview, immediately sets us as odds with the surrounding culture.

We start by affirming that the world has been created. It’s not the product of random impersonal forces and thus ultimately without meaning and purpose, but the creation of a personal Creator of unsurpassed genius and creative ability.

Biblically our view is grounded in the historical record of the early earth found in chapters 1-12 of Genesis, and a myriad of statements all throughout the Bible supplementing this record.

Jesus was not just a great builder from Nazareth. He is the builder and sustainer of the universe. The one who both made it and holds it together moment by moment.

A number of things follow logically from this starting point that the universe is a creation.

1.  The world, as a creation, belongs to the Creator. He made it and thus owns it, and can do what he likes with it.

2.  If the world is to be maintained, to keep going, to hold together, to be sustained, he is the one responsible for doing this – is in fact the only one capable of doing it.

Part of the arrogance of modern environmentalists is that they think the continuation of the world depends on them.

Jeremiah says 10:23 “I know, 0 LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”

If man can’t direct his own life, why should we think the world depends on him?

It’s not our job to ‘save the world’ even if it was necessary or actually possible for us to do so, which it’s not. We’re on it for the ride and it’s beyond our control. But just because it’s not our job to ‘save the world’ doesn’t mean we don’t have a job to do as regards the creation. Or that because we don’t run it, we can trash it.

3.   Because the world is the result of thought, planning and design, we would expect to find evidence of these things in the world. All things that are built have ‘fingerprints’ on them, so if the world has been made we would expect to find fingerprints all over it, which indicate it’s the result of thought. And we do find fingerprints everywhere, though these are denied by many people today as either being fingerprints, or pointing to an intelligent, personal, Creator.

Richard Dawkins says; “Science is the study of things that look like they were designed…’.

The fingerprints are acknowledged but dismissed. He says, “Yeah, things look designed but they’re not.”

4.    A characteristic of good design and construction is that what is made, works and keeps on working. If the things made are to operate in different environments, maybe from easy to harsh conditions, then the anticipated variations in the environment will be allowed for in the design and systems built-in so new conditions won’t stop the thing working. We could say they’re ‘robust’ in their design, rather than ‘fragile’ and ‘vulnerable’ to catastrophic failure.

Often times all that’s necessary to cause catastrophic failure of a complicated system is for one thing to fail – and it can be a very small and apparently insignificant thing.

John Britten was a brilliant young Kiwi engineer who built in the garage of his Christchurch home, the astounding, world beating Britten V1000 motorbike. The first time they took it to Daytona, a premier US motor sport meeting, against all odds, it was up with, and beating the top bikes in the world, bikes backed by massive firms, huge support teams, and multiplied millions of dollars. As a bit of a show off, they even did wheel stands alongside the leading opposition at very high speed – you can see the clip on youtube. But despite the bikes incredible performance it lost the race because one tiny electrical part failed. One part failure and the bike could not fulfil its designed purpose, no matter how brilliantly all the other parts could potentially perform.

The world created by God is not a fragile, vulnerable world. It’s been made to both work and last so the purposes it was made for can be realised. Consequently it’s able to absorb significant shocks to the system. It’s robust in design. Some parts of it have built in redundancy so that if one part fails, others can take up the task. Feedback corrective mechanisms have been built in to keep the world around the optimum conditions for its purpose…so that it will do what it was designed to do. Thus all the hullabaloo about a tiny temperature increase being the precursor to runaway catastrophic global warming and the end of the world takes no account of the fact that the Creator has installed corrective mechanisms which kick in if the temperature gets too high – or too low.

If you want to talk climate change of catastrophic proportions, the Bible records the single greatest climate change event in the history of the world – the Flood described in Genesis 6-9 during the time of Noah. In that event, and resulting from it, there was global habitant and biosphere destruction accompanied by global climate change far beyond the wildest imagination of present day eco doomsayers, or apocalyptic movie makers.

And since the Flood there have been historically recorded fluctuations. Droughts have occurred, and there have been excessively wet seasons. The last thousand years has seen first of all the so-called ‘Medieval warm period’ from about 1000 to 1500AD when temperatures were above average and Vikings farmed Greenland. Then came the ‘little ice age’ – roughly 1500 to 1900AD – where conditions in Europe got significantly colder than average, and the River Thames in England froze over periodically.

Yet despite the Flood and all the fluctuations that have gone on since then, the world is still here and over-all, it’s OK.

Fluctuations in climate may make oceans rise and fall.  If ocean levels rose we may think it disastrous, particularly if we own seaside properties. Our beachfront holiday cottage would be gone if the sea level rose a metre or two, so what at present has for us astronomical resale value would be worthless — probably beach. Actually, all existing ports in the world would be unusable if the sea level came up a few metres and nations would no doubt think that disastrous, but it would just be within the range of known fluctuations. Such disasters would primarily be in terms of monetary loss, and really shouldn’t even be called ‘disasters’ or a ‘catastrophes’ because they would most likely take a few hundred years to happen. Hardly life threatening.

A created world then is by and large, and overall, a stable world that can cope with huge shocks to its system. It’s not fragile as the eco doomsayers make out. The genuine among them are led astray by their false evolutionary faith and misplaced trust in con-men who just want to get money, status, power or political advantage out of the panic they cause.

5.    Because it’s a personally designed world we live in, it’s also a moral world, meaning that the Creator, who is a moral being, has built into his world a reflection of his moral character.

This moral aspect of the creation affects the environment. The Flood which I’ve mentioned, was an environmental judgment brought on the world because of the wickedness of the people of that time. It’s recorded that the Lord brought drought as a judgment on Israel. Conversely, the Lord promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would provide the early and later rains necessary for their crops to flourish. He said he would turn the land into a dust bowl or make it blossom like the rose, depending on whether the people obeyed or disobeyed him.

It’s a personal moral universe we live in rather than one of impersonal, undirected, and amoral forces. While we may not have a clue about the reasons for rain or drought, Biblically these are not just independently acting forces which affect us, but provisions of our kind and gracious Creator – who at times may use his world in specific ways to reprimand those who rebel against him.

Now drawn from Genesis 1 there are two critical points regarding our place in the scheme of things.

Firstly, we’re part of the creation, as much a part of it as everything else. Thus there is a unity between mankind and all other creatures grounded in our createdness. I’ve heard a number of people give testimonies as to how they came to adopt New Age ideas. Central to New Age/Eastern mystical thought is the idea of monism, which says that everything is finally one. At the end of the day there’s no diversity and no distinctions, only unity. Only the one, not the many. These testimonies involved the person having some experience that made them feel one with the universe, or recognizing the unity of everything.

I’ve had such an experience and while it wasn’t earth shattering for me, it was an insight strong enough for me to remember where it occurred. Did I become a New Ager out of this experience? No I didn’t. What I came to understand with perhaps more force than before was my createdness and thus my connection to all other creatures. Some of the New Age experience could very well be simply a misunderstanding of a genuine insight regarding this unity we have with the rest of creation.

At one level we share a raft of similarities which connect us with animals. Our bodies are effectively made of and run on the same stuff and even the design of it has things in common with a lot of other creatures. For example the famous pentadactyl – five bone – design of our hands and feet corresponds to the same overall design of hands and feet in monkeys and primates, and horses hooves, and bats wings, and seals flippers. Evolutionists take this common plan found in different organisms, to normally (though not always), speak of descent from a common ancestor. Creationists rather say the common plan speaks of a common designer using variations of a basic plan in different organisms – the same way I’ve built different kinds of doors in houses, bird cages, rabbit hutches, school halls and dog kennels. The doors have no evolutionary/ancestral relatedness but are connected through being the product of my mind and express a common idea used to achieve related ends.

We share the same genetic code – although with different information written on it. We eat the same or similar food, drink the same water, and breath the same air. It stands to reason that if we’re going to live in the same world as other living things, that we’ll face the same environmental challenges and energy requirements and so will most likely be made to deal with these things in similar ways – in the same way cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes and push bikes all use wheels because they’re all made to go on roads of some sort.

Of course we share similarities to animals. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this. But what does that similarity mean? That we’re only an animal?

At this point we part company and are in total conflict with evolutionists because we say “No, we’re not just animals. Humans are in a category all of our own as apparently the only part of the creation made in the image of God.”

At the level of creature, we are in the same category as all other creatures, with only God in the only other category, the uncreated.

However, if we change the categories to things which are personal and those that are non-personal, then God and humans and angels are in the personal categories and all other creatures are in the non-personal.

Being made in the image of God makes humans unique among the of creatures on earth, giving them a higher status than anything else, a uniqueness intuitively recognized by all people, even though the philosophies some may hold deny it. As I said, most modern day environmentalists, though evolutionists, see man as responsible for saving the world.

This only makes sense if man is unique in the world. Why don’t we say that lions are responsible for saving the world, or slugs, or sea lice? Why should we be responsible? Are we unique or are we not? They may claim we’re the most highly evolved, but even if that was the case – and who’s to say – why does it make us responsible?

Environmentalists insist stridently on an environmental ethic which makes us responsible. But an environmental ethic is just a sub-category of ethics in general. If there are no ultimate meaningful ethics in an evolutionary world, which is the case, then there’s no basis for an environmental ethic either.

Within the Biblical framework, this call for us to be responsible is totally consistent, and brings us to the second of our two points. We were created to:

…rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

We have some responsibility for the earth because that’s what we were made for. We were made to rule the world and all its life forms under God.

This entails the idea of stewardship.

We don’t own the world, God does. But he’s made us stewards of his world and thus we’re responsible to him for that stewardship. The eco-worshippers, whose philosophy provides them no moral basis for their environmental concerns, flog capital from the Biblical worldview with their demands we care for the world for its own sake, or for the sake of future generations. We’re not answerable to the world or to future generations, but to the one who made the world and gave us responsibility for it. These demands are a stolen and corrupted version of the Biblical idea of stewardship. Should we reject a true view of stewardship because someone peddles a counterfeit? Of course not – no more than we should stop using money because some make fraudulent bank notes.

A steward is responsible for taking care of the property and concerns of the one they serve. And thus to charge the Bible with allowing Christians to rape the world, as many eco-worshippers say, is a straight-out lie. As the proverb says, ‘A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,’ There may have been people who go under the name of ‘Christian’ who have treated God’s world in ways that are disrespectful to both God and his world. But that does not mean Christian theology supports such actions. It does not.

Stewardship wrongly exercised was graphically illustrated by the Lord Jesus in his parable of the unjust steward.

In explanation to Peter about what the parable meant, Jesus said:

Luke 12:42 … “Who then is the faithful and wise manager (or Steward), whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming, ‘ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. “That servant who knows his master ‘s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.

In Tolkiens ‘The Return of the King’, the Lord of Gondor had delayed his coming for a long time and the Steward of Gondor had come to think of himself as more than a steward, in fact as the rightful ruler of Gondor. As a self-exalting steward he refused to recognize his Lord when he turned up at the critical point in Gondor’s history…as it was being assaulted by the greatest army it had ever faced. The steward withdrew to his throne room to gorge himself on sumptuous food. In total defeat he neglected the defense of the people and the Capital of the realm, and set about attempting to kill his unconscious son, and finally died in flames spawned from those intended to consume his son.

The misuse of the stewardship we bear stems from the ‘fall’ of man. Mankind in rebellion against his Maker, can’t get at God directly to violate him, so gets at him indirectly through his creation in a multitude of ways, two of which are the selfish misuse of the stewardship given him at his creation, and the worship of the things he’s meant to be steward over.

In response to mankind’s initial rebellion, God judged the earth, apparently to make it a suitable place for rebellious creatures to live. And so the earth is no longer in the ‘very good’ state in which it came from the hand of its creator. It’s no longer the universally benign environment man was made to live in and rule as steward. Now in many ways it’s his enemy and he has to eke out sustenance from it by the sweat of his brow. The lion does not lie down with the lamb, but eats it instead.

We are stewards of the greatest King ever. His world is valuable and not to be treated casually, nor wantonly destroyed. He charges us with using the world, developing it, nurturing it, caring for it, for his glory not for ours. But man in rebellion against the King, like the Steward of Gondor, thinks the world is his to be used to the glory of himself. Selfishly and short-sightedly, he despoils the world in many and varied ways.

Modern eco-fanatics rebel against their Maker another way by refusing his charge to rule the world, and worship it instead. Often times, while they plead for the environment, they see mankind as the enemy in need of culling, promoting abortion  as one means to do so, devaluing and destroying the one creature which carries the image of God. Of course it’s always others that need to be culled, never themselves.

But how about you? And how about your place?

What message is being sent to your neighbours by the piece of earth the Lord has entrusted to your care and keeping – if you have such a piece? Perhaps it’s just a small residential section in town. Is it beautiful or a bomb site? It doesn’t take much to plant flowers by your front door or a tree or two. But flowers and trees can’t grow if they aren’t in the ground, and of course you will have failures and need to learn about it if you’ve never done it before. Nor does it cost much to tidy the rubbish away, or put it in one place in preparation for being removed so you can tidy up the rest of your property.

Shouldn’t those who acknowledge the glorious Creator of the universe, surround themselves with things he has made to remind themselves and others of his glory – a silent unspoken witness of his majesty to neighbours and any who walk by? Does it glorify God to live in a self-imposed desert? I’m not talking here about an idolatrous competition between neighbours for the most beautiful garden in the street, but that surely the beauty of the one we say has captivated our hearts should be seen in the surroundings over which we have some control. Edith Schaeffer termed it ‘hidden art’.

Her husband Francis Schaeffer in his book Pollution and the death of Man, tells of an instructive situation he faced.

‘I was lecturing in a certain Christian school some years ago. Just across a ravine from this school there was what they call a ‘hippie community ‘… Across this ravine on the other side, you see trees and some farms. Here, I was told, they had pagan grape stomps. Being interested, I made my way across the ravine and met one of the leading men in this ‘Bohemian’ community.

We got on very well, as we talked of ecology and as I was able to speak of the Christian answer to life and ecology, and he paid me a compliment (and I accepted it as such) of telling me that I was the first person from ‘across the ravine’ who had ever been shown the place where they had their grape stomps, and the real pagan image they had there (the whole thing set against the classical background of Greece and Rome) which was the center of the grape stomps.

Having shown me all this, he looked across to the Christian school and said to me, “Look at that, isn’t that ugly.” and it was! I could not refute him. It was an ugly building, without even trees around it. The thing was ugly!

It was then that I realized what a horrible situation this was. When I stood on Christian ground and looked at the Bohemian people’s place, it was beautiful. (These people had even gone to the trouble of running their electricity cables under the level of the trees so that they couldn’t be seen.) Then I stood on pagan ground and looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness. That is horrible.’

Some pages later he goes on…

‘It is always true that if you treat the land properly, you have to make choices. The first is in the area of economics. It costs more money, at least at first, to treat the land well. For instance, in the case of the school I have mentioned, all they had to do to improve the place was to plant some trees to shield the building they had put up. But it costs money to plant trees, and somebody decided that instead of planting trees they would prefer to do something else with the money. Of course the school needs money for its important work: but there is a time when planting trees IS important work.’

I wonder if someone actually made a decision not to plant trees, or more tragically, if the thought to plant trees never even entered their heads.

Perhaps you have a farm. It seems a great idea for parts of the farm to be planted out in trees and shrubs to give wildlife a place to make their homes, or to add colour and artistic texture to the countryside. I think this should be consciously thought about and planned for as a part of your stewardship of your land. If you have wet lands, don’t just drain them, though there is nothing necessarily wrong in doing so. But wet lands are important habitats for some of God’s creatures so if you own some perhaps you could develop it and enhance it and beautify it to the glory of God.

And shouldn’t we at times get out into the wilds, away from the concrete jungle and the man made environment that normally surrounds most of us. Since our kids were small we’ve taken them tramping. It’s wonderful to get away into the glorious New Zealand mountains or coastal areas, to appreciate as a family something of the wonders of God’s world. Yes I’m aware, not every one is blessed with living in New Zealand, pocket wonder world, but wherever you are, beauty will exist not far away.

A hymn I sang when I was younger has the line, “Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen.” Nice thought, easily sung, potentially right, but in practice, and tragically I fear, for most it’s not true. Shouldn’t those who profess they’re being transformed into his likeness, take on at least some of his character as the great artist who has made the ever changing audio-visual-tactile mobile we’re immersed in?

So…get a grip on these ideas. Become informed about them, which is a process that should never stop. And live them out in your life day by day, to the glory of God.