Caring for People and the Planet
As Christians, we have a call to care for the Earth and everything in it. Caring for creation is integral to loving our neighbors and bringing an authentic presentation of the gospel.
Some years ago, my family visited Rocky Mountain National Park in July when the alpine wildflowers are in bloom. As we reached the top of one of the (shorter!) mountains, we saw that the summit was covered with tiny flowers of yellow and purple. As I looked down in all directions at the alpine meadow, worship hymns flowed through my mind. “All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all—the purple-headed mountain, each little flower that opens.” The beauty and abundance of creation filled me with joy. Such moments point us directly back to the Artist who created this world and owns it. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1).
When I bent down to photograph the tiny yellow flowers, I discovered that nearly each flower had an insect buzzing inside it! These tiny bugs were busy pollinating the flowers during their short growing season. I was seeing not just flowers, but an ecosystem! Multiple species, interconnected, all dependent on each other for life. Damage or harm to one species brings harm to the others.
The Bible calls us to care for God’s handiwork
Early in Genesis, God commissions Adam “to work and take care of” the garden that God planted (Genesis 2:15-16). God called us to cultivate the Earth and keep it, to provide for it and protect it, to be responsible for it. Other scripture passages confirm this call; see our Common Question for more. God also gave us dominion over the Earth, gave us plants for food, and called us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28-29). It is good and right for us to grow food, build homes, and create cities. Yet, we have to be honest—humankind has not done well at balancing our building with care and responsibility.
Species today are going extinct far faster than their natural rate, at over 1000 species a year (read Christian ecologist Rick Lindroth on extinction and loss of biodiversity). Scientists reported recently on the worldwide, massive collapse of insect populations that is threatening both agriculture and natural ecosystems. We hear of fires in the Amazon, coral bleaching, vast islands of plastic in the oceans, devastating droughts causing food shortages, and polluted air and water. While not every instance of environmental degradation can be blamed on people, we are often the source of these problems. We must lament the ways we are falling short of our calling to take care of the garden.
God’s call means responding to the suffering in our own communities, the suffering half a world away, and the needs of the next generation.
Discussions about the environment, like so many issues these days, have become polarized. You’ve probably heard the stereotypes. On the one side are tree-hugging environmentalists who care about animals more than people and want to take away our freedom. On the other side are head-in-the-sand Christians who deny science and see nature as something to exploit. Top Christian leaders show us that this is a false choice! Christian theology actually gives a strong basis for creation care; listen to a sermon from Pastor Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian and the Gospel Coalition). Biblical teaching on dominion actually points to serving others; read an essay from Russell Moore (president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission). Moore writes, “Care and preservation for the creation is not, as some believe, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of dominion. …We see a picture of true dominion in the True Man, Jesus Christ, who did not come to serve his own appetites but to serve others.” Moore challenges us to “cultivate an other-directed, limited, future-oriented dominion, one that preserves and protects ecosystems and cultures for generations to come.”
Polarization shows up nowhere more than on climate change. Even reading the words “climate change” can evoke a strong emotional response. Surveys have found that views on climate change are driven more by politics than by religion. No wonder we have a hard time talking about it! But at BioLogos, we follow Christ, not politicians. Everything Christians do, including creation care, must be done out of love for God and love for others. We don’t adopt environmentalism as a hobby in addition to our faith or (worse) as a religion of its own. Rather, we care for creation because God commands us to. So, it is because of the scientific evidence in God’s creation, not a political agenda, that we accept the scientific finding that the climate is changing due to human activity (read Christian climatologist Katharine Hayhoe and links therein). And it is because of Christ’s command to love our neighbors that we lament the impact climate change is already having on people all around the world.
Loving our neighbors requires caring for creation
Creation care is not just about preserving nature, it is about caring for others. Often those who suffer the most from environmental problems are the poor and the powerless. Did you know that if every person in the world lived like the average person in U.S., it would take 5 planet Earths to support us? That means we are not just using the land, we are using it selfishly. In the U.S., pollution of air, water, and land is often worse in low-income neighborhoods. Around the world, farmers are already experiencing food insecurity due to the changing climate and rainfall patterns (see 3-min video from Christians in Kenya). Many in the global church live in places where climate change is undeniable (see 1-min video or 18min interview with missionary and development worker Jason Fileta).
Caring for creation is integral to loving our neighbors and bringing an authentic presentation of the gospel. Christian biologist Dorothy Boorse writes that addressing environmental problems will only strengthen our witness. “We live out the gospel by meeting the poor and vulnerable where they are, showing them the love of Christ” (for more, see the 2015 booklet “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment” from the National Association of Evangelicals). The Lausanne Movement on world evangelization, founded by Billy Graham and John Stott, has committed themselves to creation care as part of evangelism. See the 2010 Lausanne Capetown Commitment, section 7, “We love God’s world.”
This month at BioLogos, we are addressing the biblical and scientific questions around creation care, ecology, biodiversity, and climate change. If you have followed BioLogos for a while, you know that we often address topics of origins, evolution, and Adam. As our organization grows, we are able to address more issues. Last March, our 10th anniversary conference included plenary talks on many topics—public witness, the doctrine of creation, suffering in evolution, embryos and ethics, life beyond Earth, and creation care. We’ve been addressing bioethics and medicine online and in our podcast, including the promise and peril of gene-editing. Many science topics are urgent in our world today, and BioLogos now has the capacity to address more of them. We are excited to join other Christian voices and organizations addressing creation care.
On each topic we cover, BioLogos brings a bedrock commitment to biblical faith, rigorous science, and humble dialogue. Instead of extreme rhetoric, you will find informed discussion and thoughtful Christian engagement. We bring you quality science you can rely on, presented by believing scientists who know and follow Jesus Christ. We delve deeply into Scripture to better understand God’s Word and what it means for our modern scientific world. We are dedicated to respecting those who hold other views and to humble dialogue. We aim to speak the truth, but always in love. We don’t allow vitriol here.
So, I invite you to join the conversation this month on creation care. Consider the biblical case, consider the scientific evidence. Talk with others about what you are reading—friends, colleagues, students, and church leaders. Have conversations across generations of your family. The conversations may not be easy, but humble dialogue never is. See our advice on 4 strategies for conversations, 5 tips for online exchanges, and 5 ways pastors can shepherd congregations through issues. And spend time in prayer. It is appropriate to lament and grieve the harm done to God’s creation. Pray for the restoration of the planet, for people suffering from pollution and climate change, for scientists working in this area, for the healing of divisions, and about what you might do.
Ultimately we will all need to change our behavior. Environmental degradation and climate change are real and urgent concerns. God’s call means responding to the suffering in our own communities, the suffering half a world away, and the needs of the next generation. Let’s work to overcome these challenges with resiliency and hope grounded in our shared faith. Our Common Question points to practical steps you can take.
As an astronomer, I am often conscious of the Earth as a planet in space. When the Apollo astronauts viewed the Earth from the Moon, it was stunningly obvious that our planet is an oasis in a dark vacuum. Compared to the airless, waterless, lifeless moon, Earth is a lush garden with abundant atmosphere, huge oceans, and an extravagance of life. God has given us a beautiful planet to call home. May we follow Christ by caring for this planet and its people.
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At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.
About the author
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