A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Man's Rule

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

In the scale of relative value, a man—a human being—is of considerably more worth than any of the animals. Jesus said, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a copper coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will…. So, don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows,” (Matt. 10:29, 31; see also Luke 12:6-7). The ubiquitous and commonplace sparrows are of only minuscule economic and other value individually, very much less than a man (and, incidentally, have no “rights” per se). And yet they are not altogether “worthless.” As God’s direct creation, they, like man, have inherent worth and purpose in their existence. So there is this “tension” in man’s relationship with the animals—at one and the same time, they are worth less than he, yet they are not completely worthless.

This principle of valuing human life over animal life is found in the Law given at Sinai: “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned,” (Exod. 21:28a). An animal—a creature subservient to man by God’s design and appointment (Gen. 1:26-28)—that harms its superior in God’s order of subordination, is to be exterminated (see also Gen. 9:4). This same principle may have been involved in the judgment meted out on the literal snake in Eden which was used by—possessed by—Satan (Gen. 3:14) to bring harm to mankind, the crown of God’s creation. It is common practice even in India, where animal life is excessively venerated due to Hindu religious teaching, to kill man-eating tigers, and rightly so. We commonly and entirely reasonably kill animals that pose a real and immediate danger to human life and health—poisonous spiders and poisonous snakes, rabid skunks, feral pigs, dogs and cats, grizzlies and mountain lions, disease-carrying mosquitoes and rats, sharks and more that intrude into human habitat.

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The Malevolence of Nature (A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part 3)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. The series so far.

To hear some environmentalists tell it, the natural world in all its diversity is just one unending delight, pure paradise every moment of every day, all the year round. “Nature good, human bad.” Such a Pollyannaish view is incalculably far from the truth. The natural world is anything but uniformly benign and benevolent. It is all “under the curse” that was meted out to mankind as a consequence of deliberate rebellion against an expressed Divine command. Thorns and thistles are singled out by God for specific mention as part of that curse which frustrates man’s attempts to secure his food supply—his “daily bread”—from the now-cursed ground (Gen. 3:17-19). But it can be reasonably inferred that other unspecified things were also part of that curse, including insect pests, plant diseases, and inclement weather, to mention some of the most obvious. These are a curse, a hindrance to human survival (though with a definite Divine purpose—“for your sake,” v. 17—for “in their adversity, they will seek me early,” Hos. 5:15). And we have only addressed man’s agrarian pursuits. There is very much more in nature that is hostile to man than just these things.

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part 2-2

There have been some “bright spots” in human history regarding stewardship of the land. In his famous book Farmers of Forty Centuries, or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan (1911), F. H. King reported how the fertility of agricultural land in the population-dense Far East was maintained for millennia by the careful return to the land of virtually every last scrap of every kind of organic waste—from crop residues to manures to leaves to ashes even to laboriously dug and spread river sediment, along with intentionally grown cover crops or “green manures,” all in the pre-chemical fertilizer days.

It came to be recognized as late as the 1930s, even in the West (Europe, America) that an extensive, intensive utilization of organic waste of all kinds was essential, even where chemical fertilizers were available, to keep the soil fertile (or, more often, to restore its original fertility). Some pioneering work in this regard was done by Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) whose book An Agricultural Testimony documented the successful use of composting in maintaining the fertility of farmland in India, and is considered one of the foundational works in the modern organic gardening movement. In America, Louis Bromfield (1896-1956), prize-winning novelist-turned-farmer, pioneered modern conservation and restoration agricultural methods on a thousand-acre farm near Mansfield, Ohio. He wrote about his experiences in fully restoring the original fertility in less than a decade in the widely-popular and influential books Pleasant Valley (1945), Malabar Farm (1948), Out of the Earth (1950), and From My Experience (1955).

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part 2-1

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com
The series so far.

Man the taker, man the exploiter

God provided man with a remarkably rich world to inhabit—abundant in edible plants (man and the animals all being originally vegetarian, Genesis 1:29) and land that could be agriculturally extremely productive when worked by human hands. There were great expanses of fresh and salt water for human use and teaming with huge quantities of fish (Genesis 1:20-22). The skies and the land supported vast numbers of birds, mammals and reptiles (Genesis 1:20-22, 24-25), some of which were suitable for domestication. There were immense forests of thousands of distinct species of trees suitable for an endless list of uses (a list limited only by man’s ingenuity), to say nothing of the herbaceous plants, whose species number in the tens of thousands (Genesis 1:11, 12). And the world was richly provided with minerals—in all, more than 100 separate elements, and untold compounds of those elements. From these, man could refine metals, purify or create chemicals, and fabricate an endless number of objects for his material needs, comfort or whim.

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part 1-2

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read Part 1-1.

My qualifications to speak

Before I venture too far into my topic, let me lay out my qualifications to speak with more than an “armchair theoretician’s” authority regarding man’s legitimate use of the world’s resources. Nothing is less valuable in this discussion than the pronouncements of mere theoreticians, who are smugly sure that their own views are precisely correct and the sure remedy to every environmental ill—and are ready to impose them on you—yet who have themselves little or no actual experience in dealing with environmental issues in the real world. My reading on this subject is extensive (everything from Rachel Carson’s alarmist book Silent Spring to Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac to Governor Dixy Lee Ray’s Trashing the Planet to Steve Milloy’s Green Hell and very much in between, besides whatever is in the news on the subject), as is my writing (numerous published articles—enough for a book or two). Yet I am persuaded that my experience is at least as extensive as either my reading or my writing, and quite likely more extensive.

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part 1-1

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com

From time to time, I run across a statement in modern environmentalist literature of the frothy-mouthed extremist sort that summarily accuses conservative Christians of justifying the plundering of the environment—the natural world—by the mandate of Genesis 1:28.

God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” (HCSB, italics added)

The gist of their accusation is this:

See, you Bible-thumpers think you have Divine approval to over-populate the earth, pollute the air and water, destroy the lakes, rivers, fields, forests, and soil, and drive species after species into extinction!!!

Frankly, I have never—not once—read or heard anything by any Christian writer or speaker that suggested in even the smallest way that this verse authorized mankind to exploit and plunder the planet and its natural resources, animal, vegetable and mineral, to gratify his own whims and feed his own cravings, without a thought or care for the consequences to the ecosystems of earth or the effects on subsequent generations. To impute such a view and interpretation to conservative Christians is pure caricature, the strawiest of straw men. In fact, the environmental emphasis of the Bible is one very much to the contrary, one of wise use and long-perspective stewardship, the very thing environmental activists claim to be in favor of (though I suspect that there is another agenda afoot among modern “greens” under this facade).

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