“Environment”

“Environmental” [1] concerns are nothing new. The Israelites entered a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 13:5; 33:3; Lev 2:24; Num 14:8; Josh 5:6). Canaan was called a “good land” (Deut 6:18; Josh 23:13), a land cared for by God (Deut 11:12), even a “very, very good land” (Num 14:7). Deuteronomy 8:7-9 cites a cornucopia of products: fountains, springs, wheat, barley, olive trees, and vines.

By the end of the Old Testament, however, the picture changes. What was once considered the wealth of a nation is described as barren, depleted, and defiled (Jer 2:7). Deforestation caused by war (Jdg 9:46-49; 2 Kg 3:19, 25; Jer 6:6), overgrazing (Jud 6:5), even idol worship (Jer 10:3). Laws regarding agriculture (Lev 25), horticulture (Lev 19:10, 23-25), and forestry (Deut 20:19-20) were ignored.

While some would want to rush to judgment against industry and business, Scripture indicates that so-called “environmental” problems began as a disintegration of the relation between Israel and God (Jer 9:12-13; Mic 7:13). God chastised His people using weather which caused crop failure and drought (cf. Ps 78:47-48; Jer 14:3-6; Amos 4:7-8). The decay of God-centered earth-keeping set the stage for misuse and abuse of the creation through a human-centered view of the earth.

Following God’s commands for earth-keeping, however, provided nourishment for all. “Give careful attention to your herds” (Prov 27:23, 27). Even during captivity the Triune God commanded “plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jer 29:5) building prosperity for individual and nation alike (29:7). Obedience to God and fruitfulness of the land was intricately tied together (Lev 20:24; Deut 11:17). The new earth will yield its plenty when people are changed toward their Maker (Ezek 36:25-30).

Prosperity produces the possibility of private property development (cf 1 Kg 4:25; 1 Chr 27:25-31). Love of the soil spurred Uzziah’s land development providing work for people and cultivation of the land (2 Chr 26:10). Ownership provides for a flourishing economy (cf. Jer 39:10; 40:10; 41:8). However the person who worships production over the Possessor is called a “fool” because their view of this life was not governed by the next life (cf. Luke 12:6-21). Indeed, the coming kingdom on earth is marked by “every man sitting under his own fig tree,” a sign of prosperity (Mic 4:4). [2]

“Creation” is a better term for which Christians should reference The Creator’s world.  Mark a big fan of enjoying “all of God’s creation” (1 Tim 6.17).  Dr. Mark Eckel teaches at Capital Bible Seminary (first written for an ACSI enabler on biblical integration in 2002).

[1] Environment means a web of interconnectedness.  Biblically this is a troublesome word since humans are not “one with the earth” where all things are simply seen as one giant ecosystem.  People are vice-regents of God responsible to cultivate and conserve the earth (Gen 2:5, 15).

[2] A tremendous resource for Christian interaction with “environmental” science is Caring for Creation in your own Backyard: Over 100 Things Christian Families Can Do to Help the Earth by Loren and Mary Ruth Wilkinson (Ann Arbor: Servant, 1992).

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