Simple Reminder Series: Whose World Is This Anyway?

Note: This post is a bit of a departure from the sort of devotional fare I usually serve up on this site. It’s part of a series called Simple Reminders, in which my goal is to remind us all that the Bible speaks very clearly into the cultural debates of our day.

This world is a strange place, and if we aren’t aligned with the One who is always true north, we can quickly find ourselves upside-down.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

David once sung, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1), but I think David was selling the glory short. It’s not just up in the sky. It’s in the breeze swirling and slicing through the branches of a maple tree on a fall day. It’s in the roar of a startled mama bear and the bark of a faithful dog. It’s in the gulp of a cool drink in the heat of summer and the delight on a child’s face at the sight of falling snow. It’s wrapped around us and spread out underneath our feet. It’s in the air we breathe and baked into the food we eat.

All that is to say, this world is good—very good, in fact. God said so (Genesis 1:31). He gave this place to us. Its bounty provides for our physical needs, and its beauty has the power to restore us when we are weary. It is our home, created to suit us perfectly as God’s beloved children. And we are responsible for its care. The Lord told Adam and Eve, “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” (Genesis 1:28).

The word translated “subdue” is often skipped over in discussions of faith and ecology. Worse, it’s sometimes magically transformed to mean its opposite, something like “preserve.” But the Hebrew word behind our English translation is a military term, and a rather violent one at that. It means, “bring into bondage.”[1] God wants us to conquer this wild earth and bring it into submission.

Suddenly, the picture we’ve all imagined has changed. We were never meant to leave the earth untouched, as though we are intruders who can’t afford to leave behind clues we were ever here. Rather, we are to subjugate this planet and bend it to our will so that it serves the good of all humanity (i. e. loving our neighbor). The world outside of Eden is not paradise, and it never has been. It is very good, but it is also fierce. We have been commissioned by our King to rule over it, to bring it into alignment with His purposes.

I realize this might sound shocking. We’ve been told that good stewardship is the same as modern environmentalism, but that simply isn’t true. We have been led to believe that the only thing we can do to “save the planet” is shut down all the coal, oil, and natural gas production in the world. We need to shift to wind, solar, and geothermal, they say. We need electric cars, not gas guzzlers, they demand.

Innovation is wonderful. We should celebrate any new methods that use less fuel or produce less pollution. But let’s be clear about what’s really being argued for: they’re asking us to trade in the building blocks of the modern world for a new infrastructure that simply doesn’t work—not yet anyway. The battery in that Tesla isn’t charged by good intentions. On top of that, even if we were to cut off all carbon emissions right away, it would barely have an impact on the overall temperature of our planet, certainly not enough to reverse the doomsday predictions of climate alarmists. And since climate is among the most complicated areas of scientific study, it would be nearly impossible to measure the impact we would be making with any accuracy.

But let’s get back to doomsday for a moment. Climate change is almost always framed as an existential threat, which is hubris at its finest. We were told that, by 1985, the pollution in the atmosphere would be so great, the amount of sunlight reaching the earth would be reduced by half. By 2000, population growth was supposed to result in a global famine. By 2014, the polar ice caps should have melted away, causing the oceans to rise so high that coastal cities around the world would be underwater. Meanwhile, in the name of preventing the apocalypse, we have given undue power to bureaucracies and tyrants, and we have hurt the poorest of the poor with rising prices, delayed development, and rolling blackouts.

As God’s vice-regents on planet earth, we must care for creation—no doubt about it. We must make sure the water, air, and soil are kept clean for future generations. And we would be fools to blot out the beauty all around us with concrete slabs and ugly buildings. But God has indeed called us to build and to mine and to develop as we go. Our task is not to leave the earth exactly as we found it but to give it back to God as a place that reflects His beauty, creativity, and mercy at every turn.

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 461.

2 thoughts on “Simple Reminder Series: Whose World Is This Anyway?

  1. Amen !! God is

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice departure, I’m glad you did it!

    Liked by 1 person

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