Why Christians should care about the earth
This week American culture observed Earth Day.
For some, this is a high holy day on par with, say, Mother’s Day (naturally, with “Mother Earth” and all that). For others, it is so much secular hogwash: again, Mother Earth.
However you feel about Earth Day (and I don't have strong feelings one way or the other), if you are a Christian your care for creation ought to be on par with the most ardent environmentalist—not as a political matter but as a spiritual one. And the reason is simple: that’s how God cares for it.
In the beginning, God created the earth.
Amidst all the controversies about climate change, evolution, environmentalism, etc., we cannot lose sight of this fundamental fact: the earth is God’s creation. Sometimes it simply seems to be turf that’s fought over in culture wars, collateral damage in an endless battle. This should not be.
The earth is God’s creation, and He has a rather high opinion of it. The refrain that echoes throughout Genesis 1 after each day of creation is, “And God saw that it was good.” Fish and fowl, flora and fauna, sea and sky—all are regarded by God with equal satisfaction and delight. Finally, when all is said and done, the Creator renders His final verdict: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1.31).
His original opinion has not changed, for all the fallout since. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24.1). Indeed, one way of understanding redemption is God acting to restore His fallen creation—not only humans, but the whole cosmos.
For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1.19-20)
This was His plan for “the fullness of time”: “To unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1.10).
Insofar as the creation was infected with the original curse (“Cursed is the ground because of you,” God tells Adam in Genesis 3), it is also a beneficiary of the restoration. So in Romans St. Paul insists that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8.21). When Christ returns, not only humans will be resurrected and glorified but the entirety of God’s world, so that it will be “very good” once again.
This vision of creation renewed is picked up repeatedly in the Psalms and prophets, especially Isaiah. For instance, in Isaiah 55 the prophet writes:
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55.12)
And finally, in the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World,” Isaac Watts brings all these strands together:
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy…
No more let sin or sorrow grow
or thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as the curse is found…
Earth Day can be overblown.
Some of the talk of environmentalism borders on idolatrous. And the persistent penance for your eco-sins is simply silly. But don't let these abuses dissuade you from caring about creation, because it is God's creation—despite those who would either demonize or divinize it.
And when our Lord Jesus returns, and the New Jerusalem descends from on high, this good-but-fallen creation shall be reunited with Heaven and made very good once more. "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new' " (Revelation 21.5).
So Christians, more than anyone else, ought to care for creation: we know both its origin and its destiny.