R4E130717 – Ecology by Douglas Jacoby
1. What’s ecology?
Ecology is a study of the relationships between organisms and the environments in which they live. The earth comprises many ecosystems, each delicately balanced. Over-farming, air pollution, water pollution, over-hunting and so on can have drastic consequences, such as the extinction of species, severe erosion, and dangerous spikes in greenhouse gases.
2. How do humans relate to nature?
Where do we as humans fit into the scheme of things? Genesis 1-2 (esp. 1:26-27, 2:7) indicate our natural origins (“day six” creation along with the other beasts, made from dirt). Yet there is also a divine origin, and humans are tasked with bearing (or being) the divine image. (This is not “speciesism”!) Thus we are in both worlds. We should be honored to be God’s children, yet humbled by our earthly origins.
3. What duties, or obligations, if any, do humans have toward the natural world?
According to Genesis 1:26,28, 2:15; Psalm 8:6; and many other passages, and in line with extensive Judaeo-Christian reflection on passages such as Luke 16:12, 19:17; 1 Corinthians 4:2 we have a responsibility to care for the creation. That is, ecology is part of spirituality. One clear example of ecological responsibility is the Sabbath principle in agriculture (Exodus 23:10; Leviticus 26:34-35; 2 Chronicles 36:21).
4. What about the Green movement?
This does not work if there is no God, or if, as many New Age thinkers opine, we are only part of nature. For in that case what argument could be made that we shouldn’t trash the planet, kill the weak, commit adultery, and so forth? With biblical monotheism there is a warrant for ecology; without it, such talk turns out to be mere smoke of opinion. Either we are only part of nature (like the other animals, and thus without moral responsibility), or we somehow transcend nature, as Scripture says (and thus are responsible for our ethics — environmental, familial, business, sexual, social, etc). This the Green movement falls for short, for it fails to achieve the insight that this is God’s world. (Psalm 104 powerfully attests to this fact.)
5. But isn’t it all going to burn?
Whether or not the fire of 2 Peter 3:10 is taken literally does not matter, since the Lord tells us to care for his creation (now) and to expect — in some sense we can only dimly grasp — a new creation at the end (2 Peter 3:13). Dismissive attitudes like “Our planet will indefinitely renew itself,” or “All I care about is my standard of living, not whether my company poisons the water,” or “Why does it matter, if everything’s gonna burn?” should not be found among those who fear God and believe his word.
6. What’s the vision?
As believers in the scriptures, we should all embrace the biblical vision of a creation released from its “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:18-22).
7. What should we do?
- Strive to develop ecological sensitivity.
- Talk about environmental issues.
- Take ownership of the creation. We are not only stewards; in a sense, we are “gardeners.”
- Don’t litter — ever.
- Ask your “green” friends why ecology matters if there’s no God, and explain why ecology follows naturally from the mandate of Genesis 1.
- Appreciate nature: enjoy the great outdoors, read works in the natural sciences, be awed by the creation.
- Perhaps take a peek at Rolston’s interesting article.