Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What the Theologians SHOULD Be Saying

One of my old seminary professors comments on the opening chapters of Genesis:

“Man was to rule (radah) over fish, birds, cattle, creeping things, and all the earth (1:26, 28). The word means tread upon, subdue, rule over. It seems to connote absolute sovereignty. Man was to be fruitful (parah), multiply (radhah) and fill (malaʼ) the earth. God created the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18). Man was to subdue (kabhash) the earth. The verb means to bring under one’s control or take possession of a hostile country (Num. 32:22, 29), enemies or slaves (2 Chron 28:10; Jer 34:11; Neh 5:5); to assert one’s superiority of power or wisdom over another. Several of the twenty-four passages where this term is used in the Old Testament suggest that the dominion should be exercised with great care. The text suggests that it is through multiplication of his race that man is to carry out his command to subdue the earth (1:28). What are the implications of this creation mandate? Man is the crown of creation. Everything was made for him. God intended for man to develop all the potentialities of the earth.”

This is the theological data for deciding questions about the environment – at least for those who have not abandoned the historic Christian faith.  While it is not permission to destroy the earth, it is clearly a mandate to use the earth for the good of human beings.  It is permission, even an obligation, from the Creator, for humankind to make more of themselves and to develop the potential of the physical universe.

In the last post we reviewed the views of an Environmentalist.  That word is capitalized for a reason, which we will come back to later.

There is what has become almost a ‘standard view’ - even among some Christians - that humans should not use the planet, but keep it just the way it is.  Theologically speaking, this is heresy.  It is the revealed will of God that we use the planet, and change it in the process.  To re-work something Jesus once said about those who put the Sabbath before human welfare, “The planet was made for man, not man for the planet.”

No matter how non-religious some Environmentalist commentators might think they are, they reveal what is essentially a religious perspective when they worry about things like ‘carbon footprints’ and climate change.  That assumes that humans should not change the planet.  (I don’t think we in fact are changing it in the ways some of these people worry about.  But my point is that it wouldn’t matter if we were.)

For example, the so-called ‘Wilderness Society’ emails me constantly urging that we keep more and more land ‘pristine wilderness.’  As nice as that sounds, it means ‘untouched by human activity.’  From the theological data presented above, it is no stretch to conclude that in the eyes of God, ‘wilderness’ is NOT better than a house, or even a suburb.  People live there, and from what He has said, God likes people.

One suspects that, even for those Environmentalists who have not already declared themselves so, there is more than a hint of pantheism behind all this:  a view where God and nature are conflated and confused, and a view that has little relationship to the Christian faith.

In the end, Environmentalism is at odds with the Christian faith.  It is unfortunate that more Christians do not recognize this.

No comments: