Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Man is not the enemy of creation. . .

The little Swedish climate change advocate has certainly made waves.  She has become fodder for ridicule by those opposed to her radical vision of how the world should look and she has become the visionary for those who believe this is the cardinal doctrine of the future.  There is no denying her basic premise that man has not been a good steward of the good earth God has given.  We have squandered the resources God has supplied, sullied the beauty of His creation, distributed its gifts unevenly and unjustly, and scarred its landscape in the pursuit of progress.  For this we need to repent for this is sin every bit as much as the immoralities that afflict our culture as normal today.  Those Christians who refuse to see this are blind and their lack of repentance is telling.

That said, the basic principle underlying the whole agenda of climate change activists and those in pursuit of a more radical environmentalism is flawed.  They see man as the problem.  Everything would be hunky dory if there were fewer people and more responsible people and it would be even better if there were none.  In this view man is the interloper and the natural world is its own perfect system of balance, order, and life.  But this is a fundamental lie that no Christian can accept -- unless that Christian has abandoned all sense of Scripture and its eternal truth.

The problem is this.  According to Scripture man is not simply part of creation but its lord, not simply curator of its wonder but the one for whom it was made and the one who was meant to benefit from its gift.  Man was not an accidental part of this world but God created the world with man in view and for man to live to God's glory and in His service.  

From the first verses of the Bible, man is front and center within God's whole creative work.  He is blessed in the role God has assigned and given the command to be fruitful and fill the earth -- the earth which existed to support man's fruitful expansion.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:28-31).

Man was created to live within creation not simply as a consumer of its goodness but with the authority of a steward and the responsibility of a manager.  He is not simply to reap the harvest of the earth but to subdue it.  Note the Hebrew used here: kabash (subdue). To subdue means to bring something wild into submission, to tame it and to impose upon it a certain order.  Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it (Gen 2:15).  Note here that the Garden did not live on its own with man living a live of leisure but man already had been given from the beginning the work of cultivating and keeping the Garden, imposing upon it the order designed by God.

Of course sin screwed it all up.  Even creation groans under the weight of all that went wrong.  But these words spoken before Original Sin were not negated by that sinWithin Eden and its paradise, there was an order to be undone but not erased and after Original Sin the original responsibility was not narrowed but expanded.  Even after the Fall, man had the responsibility to work with God in the ongoing work of maintaining God's creation and managing all its resources for His glory.

The reality was that Original Sin did not simply hurt the relationship of man to God but distorted and harmed all of creation.  In his address to Adam, God said: Cursed is the ground because of you; through toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it will yield for you, and you will eat the plants of the field (Gen 3:17-18). Yet within the shadow of the worst that sin wrote for humanity and the world in the flood, God reiterated the responsibility of man and the role of man with respect to creation:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the air, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you; just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you all things” (Genesis 9:1-3).
It is impossible to reconcile the full agenda of those who agitate against climate change and radical environmentalism with the Scriptures and a Christian worldview.  In fact, this green movement has become a religion which discards one of the most basic truths of God's creation -- man was intended to occupy the center place in it all and to enjoy its fruits while subduing the earth.  Man is not an alien in God's creation and the goal is not reduce his presence in that creation.  Of course, man owes his Creator far better than a landscape littered with his rubbish and scarred by his failures (most of which are related to that Original Sin of desiring to be his own God!).  But redemption was given not to repair the earth but to replace it with the new heavens and the near earth filled with the glory of God in a humanity redeemed and restored never to be stained by sin or darkened by death again.  When churches forget this in order to pursue a cultural agenda that may well be popular with the people, they abandon the very reason for their claim to be the people of God.

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