A student from a Florida university asked to interview me for her environmental science class. She needed a religious figure to interview. Here is my response to her interview questions. Its a small book.:
Greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
My name is Pastor Joseph Spurgeon. I am the head pastor of Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, Indiana. We are a reformed, protestant and evangelical church. Our church is a part of Clearnote Fellowship, a small conservative Presbyterian denomination.
Question 1: How does your faith and philosophy view the relation between humans and the natural world? Where do we fit in and why?
We believe that the 66 books of the Bible are God inspired, holy, inerrant and infallible. This means that there are no errors in what that the Bible teaches on any subject matter. The Bible is absolute truth. Therefore, it is our highest authority on every aspect of life including the view between humans and the natural world. The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." The triune God is the one who created all the we see. There is not one molecule in the universe that He did not create. Nor is there one molecule outside of his control. We believe that God sustains the natural world every second of every day. If God were to remove his sustaining hand (not as if God has a hand but we speak about God sometimes in anthropomorphic terms to better understand him), the world would cease to be.
The Bible also says that God made man in his image. Unlike the rest of creation, man is created in the image of God. Man is meant to represent God on earth, to be his viceroy over the earth. Genesis (the first book in the bible) says man is to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Man is created to rule over the natural world as a faithful steward of God’s creation. A steward is someone who has limited authority over the property of another to oversee it and care for it. Man is meant to exercise authority and care over the world. Man is meant to use the natural world to glorify God, to provide for his family and to care for others.
Genesis says that "God made man, both male and female in his image." There are two and only two human sexes and they are different. The man was created first and was meant to go forth, tilling the earth, that is to use the natural resources to improve himself and his family. He was given authority to do so over God’s creation and this means that man is to exercise that authority for the benefit of those under his care and to the specifications of the one over him, God. Woman was created for man, not the man for the woman. The man needed a helper, one who could care for the part of the world that the man had already subdued. By design, the woman is to be geared toward the home. Since she is a helper, she is to submit to the authority of the man in her task. If man is the viceregent of God, then woman is in a sense the viceregent of the man. And together, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
God has never rescinded these commands and therefore mankind is still set over creation. We are still meant to be fruitful, that is both to have children to populate the earth and to make use of the natural resources God has provided to create, to build, to provide, and to care for others to the glory of God. Humans are not just animals. We are image bearers of God. We are made male and female and God creates each person specifically either male or female. Man and woman are not interchangeable, nor do they have the same roles, tasks, responsibilities, talents, and skills. Furthermore; the world was created for mankind and not necessarily the other way around.
Finally, mankind in the Garden rebelled against God. They stepped outside of the bounds of the authority God gave them and ate the fruit of a tree that was forbidden to them. They were tempted to this rebellion by the enemy of mankind, Satan. This rebellion of man, led to what theologians call “the fall.” That is man fell into sin (evil) and more rebellion. Each person inherits from the first father, Adam the first man, a nature corrupted by sin and bent towards sin. The creation itself was placed under a curse as the result of this fall. The work to subdue the earth would become much more difficult. Death entered the world along with decay. Disease, natural disasters, birth defects, and other harmful things entered the world as a result of this rebellion of man.
Also, as a result of this fall and the sinful nature passed on to each person by their parents, other evils such as murder, adultery, theft, rape, idolatry, sexual perversions such as homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia, and even neglect and abuse entered the world. Women began to be eager to usurp the authority of the man, longing to rule over him. Man was bent towards either an abuse of his authority or an abdication of his authority. Rather than faithfully subduing the earth and caring for it as a faithful steward, mankind also abrogated that responsibility. They either use the natural world with no care for others or they seek to worship the creation. Some become so concerned with the environment that they end up placing it over mankind. They begin to idolize nature so much that they hate humanity. They despise the call to subdue the earth and take dominion. They begin to despise the command to be fruitful. They see children as a curse upon the earth, rather than a blessing from God. Women reject their God-given femininity and ability to have children. Rather than being caretakers of the home and raising up godly children, they come up with creative ways to prevent conception or to kill the child that is conceived before it is born.
Now, the good news is that God is a graceful and merciful God. He could have wiped out the entire creation including all of mankind. Our rebellion against God is deserving of his wrath and judgment. But God with great patience has borne with fallen humanity. After the first humans fell into sin and he cursed the earth, God gave them a promise. He promised them that one day, one would rise from the seed of the woman to destroy the enemy of mankind and restore mankind along with all of creation. As history unfolded, God made covenant (a vow or contract between two or more persons) with his chosen people. This covenant was a promise to them and their descendants that he would save them from sin and his wrath by sending one who would atone (to make amends) for their sin.
God kept his promise and 2000 years ago sent Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin named Mary. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He lived perfectly obedient to the law of God. He healed the sick, he raised the dead to life, he exercised authority over the creation by walking on water, calming storms, cursing trees, multiplying food, and other miracles. He traveled proclaiming the good news that there was a new kingdom which he was establishing. He called all people to repent (turn from their sins) and to trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
He was hated. Evil always hates good. Because Christ Jesus exposed the evil of the people, they hated him. People in our day often think of Jesus as a hippie that got along with everyone. This could not be further from the truth. Jesus was full of love and compassion, but he did speak to the sins of people. He did call them to forsake their evil ways and desires. He also professed to be God. The leaders of his day hated him. They plotted and unjustly arrested him. They had him flogged and mocked. They nailed him to a cross. It was a painful, humiliating and shameful death. Earlier, I had written that not a molecule of the universe was outside the control of God. This is true of the cross. God controls even the willful decisions of man. What these evil people intended for evil, God had predestined to be used for good. The cross was God’s wrath being placed on Jesus Christ. The judgement that the sin of God’s people deserve was placed on Christ.
There was a great exchange that happened on the cross. The dark, dirty, nasty, shameful, wicked and evil deeds of sinners like you and I were placed on Christ as if he had committed them. And the righteous, holy, godly, and miraculous deeds of Christ Jesus were given to sinners like myself as if I had done them. Christ was buried but because his death had atoned for the sin placed on him, Christ was declared righteous. He could not be held in the grave because death was meant for sinners. Christ rose from the dead. He was seen by up to 500 eye witnesses alive and proclaiming forgiveness for sins. He then ascended into heaven where he climbed the throne room steps of God and sat down at the right hand of God.
He now reigns over the earth as King and he commands people everywhere to repent. Those who repent that is turn from trusting in their own understanding and turn to him as Lord are given right to be children of God. Their sins were paid for on the cross. The Holy Spirit is given to those people to change their hearts and given them a new nature different from their sinful one inherited by birth. This new nature wars against the old and causes them to begin to be obedient to God. These believers return by faith to the original command to take dominion over the earth. They begin the process of fighting evil and growing toward the good. They see their sexuality as something to be obedient to God with. They embrace their masculinity or femininity as God intended. They leave behind sexual perversions such as homosexuality. They see creation as something to use for God’s glory and to care for as God intended. They also proclaim the good news of this new king, Jesus Christ to others.
As people repent and trust in Christ, the kingdom grows pushing back the curse and restoring the creation but this task will not be complete fully until Christ returns. He will return defeating death once and for all. He will restore the creation to paradise. There will be no more death and no more sin. He will judge those who have committed evil. Those who have not trusted in him, will be sent to hell where they will pay for their sins for eternity. Those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will inherit a kingdom that will never end. They will reign with him as fully restored image bearers.
Question 2: What duties, or obligations, if any, do humans have toward the natural world? How are these justified or explained?
Having laid the foundation in the answer to the first question, this question will be easier to answer. Mankind has the duty to subdue the earth. That is mankind has been given the responsibility and authority to use the natural resources of this world to glorify God by building, creating, and making products for the betterment of mankind and the world. Mankind gets food, water, and shelter from the natural world.
In addition, mankind makes culture from the things around us. Culture is a word that comes from the same root as cultivate. We create culture by cultivating the things of the world God has placed here. We create music, art, literature, and industry. Learning and developing disciplines such as mechanics, chemistry, biology, aeronautics, and physics are all ways that God intended for mankind to glorify him. Humans have the obligation to continue to develop these disciplines and skills using ingenuity and hard work. Furthermore, mankind is to use all of this for the glory of God. We glorify God by loving him and our neighbor. These disciplines are not meant to be used to lord over our neighbors or to harm our neighbors but rather to benefit our families, neighbors, and communities.
Mankind is given the inherit right to private property. When someone takes the natural resources of the earth and improves them by labor and ingenuity, they are given the right to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Private property is protected in 2 of the 10 commandments. Stealing and coveting another's property are forbidden by God. Mankind has the authority to do with their property as they see fit, free from government interference unless they use it to harm the life or property of another. A person may hire others to help them with their own property. One of the natural rights we have is to our own labor and skills that God has given us. Each person has skills and talents given to them by God. No two people are alike in this. Some people are more talented and skilled. There is no natural equality of talent and skills among people. Yet, all are called to use what they have to glorify God and to help others. Therefore, a person has the right to hire out themselves and their skills to another who is willing to pay what is agreed upon.
Mankind also has the responsibility to be wise in how they use their talents, skills, and property. Proverbs 12:10 & 11 says "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense." These verses are very instructive. A righteous man will care for life. He uses the things God has given him to care for others and that includes even taking care of his livestock. A righteous man uses the natural resources and isn’t lazy. He isn’t afraid to use the creation, but he also cares for it. He doesn’t treat his property as a garbage heap. He doesn’t poison himself or his neighbor by carelessness of creation. He sees the world as something to be cared for wisely. The wicked man on the other hand even misuses compassion. His compassion is cruel. Here are two examples of this:
1. The wicked begin to worship the earth and as they do, they begin to hate mankind. They see men using natural resources as an attack on the earth. Now to be fair, they often rightfully point to real abuses. There are real ways that people abuse the world. The wicked person, however, turns this justified concern into more wickedness. They seek to get civil government to interfere in ways it has not be designed to do so. They seek to heap up regulations that will have the effect of harming the innocent. Large corporations, for example, love government eco-friendly regulations. Large corporations have the resources to do all the paper work and hire the right people to ensure they meet the regulations. Large corporations often are able to hire lobbyists to help write the regulations in a way that help them the most. In the meantime, the competition is snuffed out. Startup businesses are unable to complete regulation costs to get going. Small-time businesses do not have the manpower or finances to deal with the regulations, so they go out of business. The large corporations can tout their going green as being merciful, all the while giving kickbacks to politicians who write the regulations. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
2. Another lie that is being propagated, especially in college environmental classes, is the myth of overpopulation. This myth going back to the eugenics movement in the late 1800s was that the reason there is poverty is because there are too many people to feed. Therefore, the merciful thing for them was to work to curb the population. The eugenics movement saw itself as helping “evolution” along. They saw eugenics as a way to remove “human weeds” as Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood called them. They would encourage breeding in the upper classes but work hard to control the births of the lower classes. They thought that if the wealthy and naturally skilled would give birth and the ignorant and poor were prevented from giving birth, poverty would be eliminated. Overpopulation and a lack of food is a myth and was then as well. With ingenuity and creativity given by God, we can feed the world several times over now. Yet it is still used as an argument for supporting birth control and in particular abortion. Planned Parenthood in its mercy still targets minorities and poor people with abortion, the murder of innocent children. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
To summarize, man does have the obligation to take dominion over the earth. He is to do this to the glory of God in a way that cares for his neighbor. God has not left us to our own devices either in this. His word, the Bible, tells us how to love our neighbor and how to care for others. His word tells us what is good and what is evil. We cannot claim to be merciful while violating his commands.
Question 3: How is your faith responding through action and practical programs to the environmental crisis, from local issues to global warming?
The first two questions are really instrumental in answering the third. When you say environmental crisis, we need more information. There are many myths that float around. Furthermore, anything that is contrary to the word of God is incorrect. So, when we say environmental crisis, we need to think through what is being said. Is there a particular crisis like a local oil spill or chemical spill that needs to be taken care of or are we speaking in a larger generic term that is ultimately pretty nebulous and unhelpful? We must realize that we have a duty to care for the world, but this does not mean that we resort to fear mongering.
Our faith respects science. In fact, we argue that apart from the biblical God, there can be no foundation for science. Modern science arises from the Christian worldview historically. Famous scientists like Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Bacon, and Pasteur among others were all believers in Christ and saw that science arose from their biblical worldview. Because the universe is created by a God of reason and order, the universe is orderly and can be discovered. The Christian faith and only the Christian faith can provide the necessarily preconditions for science to work. An atheist worldview with an uncreated world cannot provide a foundation for science. Why would there be order in an uncreated world formed by random processes? How can we have induction a necessary component of science in an atheist worldview?
Our faith accounts for and respects science. Yet, we do not consider natural science to be the ultimate arbitrator of what is true. In particular, we know that scientists can and do err. We know that they have a sinful nature that they inherit from birth. We also know that there are people who seek to use science for their own gain to the detriment of others. I say all of that to say that when it comes to issues like global warming, now called climate change, we don’t want to fall into a ditch one way or the other. We are skeptical of scientists who work for civil government constantly speaking about crisis all the while the crisis keeps changing. First, it was global cooling back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Then it became Global warming in the 90’s and earlier 2000’s. Now, we are talking about climate change. We are very hesitant to trust the constant warnings of crises especially when many people stand to benefit from such crises. Many scientists rely on government funding for their research and in order to get the funding they must find ways to push the importance of their research. Furthermore, as we mentioned in the second question, there are groups who stand to gain financially while knocking out their competitors with such crises.
Does this mean that we do not take any concern with the environment? No. We preach and teach the commands of God which require faithful stewardship of the earth. We educate our congregations on the call to subdue the earth and care for it. Many Christian churches adopt regions of highways or other areas to pick up trash and keep clean. Many Christians have been embracing permaculture and other ways to provide natural and wholefoods. We also know that there are Christians who are serving in the different scientific fields and are working on ways to produce renewable resources. Finally, our church in particular seeks to help orphans and widows. These are two groups of people who have been the victims of the cruel mercy of the wicked. We work to protect the preborn children from murder. We visit those in nursing homes who are often neglected for the same reason, the myth of overpopulation. We also have many large families in our church. The birth-rate in our country is far below the replacement rate. It is the lowest it has ever been. If it continues, this will become a very large environmental and humanitarian crisis. We are doing our part to instruct on the beauty and value of human life and to encourage men to be men and women to be women.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with you and its ramifications for the environment. I apologize if this was too long. I hope it is helpful and that you get a good grade on your assignment. Can I get a copy of your final report? I would love to share it with our church. Thank you.