Question: “Should Christians be concerned about ecology and the environment? It seems like all the environmentalists I see are wacko tree huggers. Weren’t we given dominion over the earth… and doesn’t it mean the earth exists for us to use for our benefit?” (R. in Pennsylvania)
I understand the feelings of R. We often see odd things happening in the name of environmentalism. For example, many times it seems like people and human needs take a back seat to owls, dragonflies and slugs. “Save the environment!” is the cry, even if it means harm to people, jobs and the economy. Along with this concern there is another legitimate danger. Often what is called “environmentalism” is simply a mask for a certain political agenda, or even advancing pagan and Eastern mystical ideas. As a result, ecological concerns have often been the target of strong criticism by Christians. And Christians who are interested in the environment are dismissed as “liberal” or “wacky.”
I think that there should be a middle ground somewhere… something between being an “environmental wacko” and having no concern for the earth at all. God did indeed originally give mankind dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:6). The Lord gave the earth to mankind as his proper home and domain (see Psalm 115:16). But along with mankind’s charge to have “dominion” and “subdue the earth” came a responsibility to care for this world (cf. Genesis 2:15). While man is highest in the created order, and God has put “all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6), we still must remember that we do not own this world. For the “earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1, cf. Psalm 89:11). We are stewards of this planet. And so we will answer for our use of the earth.
I personally have no problem with using the earth for our benefit. We are allowed to eat plants and herbs (Genesis 1:29-30), to eat the animals of the earth (Genesis 9:2-3), to till the ground and use the resources God has placed on this planet. God gave us this world for these purposes. But we must do this responsibly and appropriately. After all, it is God’s world we are using. To abuse this planet is an affront to God. It is showing disdain for the Creator, and not honoring the Maker of all things. That is why the Bible says that God will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). God takes the care of His world very seriously. So should we.