Evangelicals have much evaluation and rethinking to do concerning ecology and environmental stewardship. As Christians, we should acknowledge the need for sound environmental stewardship and never treat the natural world as worthless or secondary, since we are under a divine mandate to care for the earth as stewards.
Deuteronomy 10:14 affirms God’s ownership: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.”
Psalm 115:16 affirms man’s stewardship: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s: but the earth hath He given to the children of men.”
Nature has its place in a genuine spiritual worldview; it is much more than something to be used and discarded. In the beginning, God ordained man to “be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:28).”
Nature has its place in a genuine spiritual worldview. It is much more than something to be used and discarded
God then placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. To dress means “to work” and to keep means “to preserve”. This sounds much like Jesus’ parable of the 10 talents, where a nobleman delivered his wealth to servants who were told to “occupy” until his return. Occupy carries the meaning of trading and dealing in the wealth committed to them. They were stewards of the nobleman’s wealth.
As Psalm 115:16 says, creation is a gift given by God to man to occupy — to exercise godly stewardship. As the steward responsible for the garden, Adam’s sin plunged the entire creation into chaos. The ground produced thorns and would not yield its fruit without the labour and sweat of man’s brow. Eventually, the Fall caused creatures to fear man, withdraw from him, or attack him. The New Testament says the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now (Romans 8:22).
Throughout the medieval period, the church adopted a neo-platonic view of the physical universe, which taught that the purely spiritual elements of life — like prayer, worship, celibacy, and refraining from any earthly enjoyments — were most important. They considered the physical world an evil hindrance to spirituality and obtaining heaven.
In the 16th century, the Reformation released the shackles that the Roman Catholic Church had placed on the Bible and gave Scripture back to the laypeople. As people read the Bible, they discovered that all of life had meaning, and that spirituality encompassed every aspect of life — both on earth and in heaven. True spiritual living involved marriage, raising children, working, and doing everything as to the Lord and not unto men.
Modern science and the industrial age were products of the Protestant Reformation. The faith-based science of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and many other giants of scientific history led to the modern age. You can try to ignore or explain away the spiritual beliefs of these men, but you can’t deny them. Newton alone left a legacy of nearly 1.5 million words on theological and other religious themes, and he was completely comfortable with faith and science.
As Jesus said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” This truth-derived freedom has many applications, and the greatest application is that, outside of sin, all of life is spiritual service. Jesus made true spirituality as simple as giving a cup of water in His name.
Creation care is different from environmentalism because it has a different point of beginning. Environmentalism begins with the creature, whereas creation care begins with the Creator. There may be similar concerns between the two worldviews about pollution, endangered species, or preservation of natural areas and resources, but with the question, “Why are we concerned?”, the two views become dissimilar. Man is the steward of the earth, but not its saviour.
Creation care is different from environmentalism because it has a different point of beginning. Whereas the latter begins with the creature, the former begins with the Creator
In our environmental awareness, we must also remain loyal to the Creator, Jesus Christ, and remember the importance of Biblical inerrancy as it relates to conservation and science. Our lives and witness ought to bear the truth of the hymn “This is My Father’s World,” and, by doing so, we can avoid the confusion caused by Darwinian evolution and the worship of the creature rather than the Creator.
It is interesting to observe that the people of any nation that has been established not on Biblical principles, but rather on false religion or political theory, is oppressed by poverty and fear.
There are specific Biblical principles for gardening, animal husbandry, and land management that we should consider and actively apply, as stewards of the abundance that God has entrusted to us.
Here are a few relevant passages for consideration:
Leviticus 25:3-5 — The land, orchards, and vineyards were to be prepared and the fruit gathered for six years. The seventh year was a year of rest for the land. In contrast, the practice of continual usage of farmland exhausts the nutrients necessary for good growth and production.
Exodus 25:29-30 — The land of Canaan was to be taken by Israel a little at a time, “lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee”. Animal population control is part of man’s stewardship. Huge herds of buffalo in the American West were killed and left to rot just for sport. This is wrong. However, contrary to the belief of many in the Save The Planet movement, the earth was not given to the creatures to control.
Proverbs 12:10, Deuteronomy 25:4 — Animal husbandry and the general treatment of animals is addressed in these verses. What does it mean to regard the life of a beast but to meet its basic needs and treat it kindly? There are many applications to this verse, but it ends when regard turns to idolatry.
How should Christians respond to the destruction of the earth’s natural resources by greedy entities? We must embrace the truth of Romans 8:19-21 — that the whole creation is waiting in anticipation for its release from the bondage of the curse. We understand that redemption includes all of creation.
God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth that will be more glorious than we can imagine. Let’s do the best we can with what we have and take proper care of the gift God has given us until the time of redemption. Soli Deo gloria!
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.