Earth Day 2013

I didn’t realize today was Earth Day until I started seeing comments on my Facebook page. As a Christian, I’m torn on how to approach this minor holiday. On one hand I’m in awe of God’s creation and the amazing home he’s made for us. The earth is finely tuned for life- it’s the right distance from the sun, has the right gravity, speed of rotation, magnetic field, and ozone level, among other factors. The earth is robust and is able to bounce back quickly after natural or man-made disasters have damaged it. Its beauty and wonder is incredible- just watch an evening sunset or sunrise in just about any setting. The animals that inhabit it and make up the ecosystem are fascinating and remarkable.

But on the other hand the holiday is surrounded with secular and political underpinnings that border on worshiping the creation rather than the creator, impede progress, and may even be harmful to man-kind.

Earth Day, celebrated in over 192 countries, was founded by Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes- although Ira Einhorn (also known as the “Unicorn Killer”) also claims to be a founder. These environmental activists have sought to promote environmental issues, support environmental protection, and encourage policy changes. The holiday also focuses on global warming, which is highly controversial, even among scientists.

In the book of Genesis, the Bible provides us with a revelation of God’s creation. During his act of creation, God pronounced it to be “good”, and then after creating man in his image, he proclaimed all that he had made to be “very good”. Further, God blessed man and said, “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.”

Some people have mistakenly thought that the Bible’s use of the word “subdue” means that it’s okay for man to abuse the earth, but this is not so. Man was supposed to be the caretaker of God’s creation and work the land and tend the animals to make the earth the perfect home for man. However, after “The Fall”, man fell into sin, and God cursed the ground, saying, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow  you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Today we still have the mandate to care for the earth and tend the animals, but now it’s harder and much more difficult to do so, therefore man’s sinful nature tends to abuse the earth and animals, which is against God’s command. I believe it’s important to be good stewards of the environment, and the church has a responsibility to do this- but not at the cost of human life. What I mean by this is that many of the environmental issues activists attempt to promote are not in the best interest of man; they’re meant to protect the earth from man, which is not what God had in mind. God intended for man to “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth,” but much of the environmental activism doesn’t recognize God or his purpose for man and the earth. So there is a clear conflict when Earth Day arrives.

For the Christian, the question becomes, “How do I address environmental issues and concerns in light of Scripture, and what should we do about Earth Day?” I think the answer lies in promoting good stewardship of God’s creation by reasonably conserving our resources and responsibly allowing man to access the resources he needs, and by worshiping God, the creator, instead of his creation.

But does celebrating Earth Day mean that we’re worshiping the earth? No, not necessarily, but we do need to be careful because it’s easy to fall for the secular underpinnings and conform to that way of thinking, especially if we’re not regularly in God’s Word. It’s important that we understand what Earth Day is all about, and how we should react to it, and I think that it’s by giving glory to God.

Here’s a song that many sing on Earth Day. Notice the adoration, which implies worship or honor to a deity.

Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradise
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world

I’ll close with Psalm 24, which gives the glory to God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

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