April 22 marks the 31st celebration of Earth Day—an effort initiated to increase awareness about environmental issues. The founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson, believes, “The fate of the living planet is the most important issue facing mankind.” In addition, the Earth Day Network (the coordinating body of Earth Day activities) seeks to promote “a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world by spreading environmental awareness . . . .”
While it is laudable to see humans exercising their God-ordained responsibility to care for the creation (Genesis 1:26–28), the above quotes show the prevailing view on environmental issues is skewed, as a proper Biblical foundation is lacking.
First, the fate of the planet is, ultimately, not in the hands of mankind. While humans are responsible for caring for the earth (as per the “Dominion mandate” in Genesis 1:26-28), we are not in control of the earth. Rather it belongs to the Creator Himself (Psalm 24:1), who has made us His earthly stewards.
The fate of the living planet is not the most important issue facing mankind.
Second, the fate of the living planet is not the most important issue facing mankind. Ultimately, this decaying system will be replaced with a new heavens and earth anyway (Romans 8:20–22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; Hebrews 1:10–12). Rather, the most important issue facing mankind is this: will the individual choose to acknowledge his Creator and be reconciled to Him? Romans 1:20 makes it clear that knowledge of God is, at least on some level, evident to all, so those who refuse to acknowledge their Maker are without excuse.
Finally, a proper and balanced perspective on caring for the earth and its inhabitants comes not from merely promoting “environmental awareness” but from following the Biblical framework, i.e. recognizing humans were created by a loving God and given the responsibility to rule over, subdue, and care for the rest of the Creation, once “very good,” but now suffering from the curse of sin.
We need to beware of the tendency to worship and serve created things, as can happen with some Earth Day activities. Instead we should give glory and honor to the Creator and return to the authority of His Word.
For additional articles on Christians and conservation, please visit our Environmental Science topic page.