Earth Day: A Chrisian Perspective
by Herb Drake

Copyright (c) 2018, Herb Drake.

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While all the neighbors are celebrating Earth Day, one might ask whether Christians ought to be out there joining the fun! Or is Earth Day an opportunity to present a Christian witness? A few reflections on the subject might be helpful. There are three ways that the Earth might be viewed.

Mother Earth

This is the way the pagans have worshipped Earth. After all, the “planet,” as modern pagans like to call it, is the place on which all vegetables grow. While this might be particularly appropriate for vegetarians, even carnivorous pagans can appreciate that meat is just as dependent on the earth, but higher up the food chain.

Use of the word “pagan” is not intended in a derogative sense -- it simply means “non-Christians” in the theological lexicon. But one can find earth worship among the ancients. In the Old Testament, the earth is the consort of Baal, who can expected respond to Baal worship by sprinkling the earth with rain. The sexual aspect of the male Baal serving to fertilize “mother” earth cannot be ignored, as it underlies the ancient thinking that the union of the god with the earth is necessary for abundant crops in the fields. It also explains the presence of temple prostitutes the ancient pagan worship.

One image that illustrates this can be found in Stravinski's famous ballet The Rite of Spring, the first of the two movements being titled “The Adulation of the Earth” and (in its original staging) featured the dancer in the role of chief elder bending over to kiss the ground.

Understanding the Earth as “Mother Earth” in this fashion is a Christian heresy.

Habitat for Humanity

This line of thinking recognizes the earth as the creation of Yahweh for the purpose of supporting the abundance of all forms of life. Humanity was created in God's image and is the ultimate object of God's creative work. Humans are the only created beings capable of having a relationship with God, which is arguably the intended meaning of the word “image,” and the Earth is simply a creation out that was a necessary object to support humanity. Do you sense the hubris in this interpretation?

This approach to the earth greatly limits our understanding of the Creator. It also encourages the notion that humanity's “dominion” over the earth in Genesis Chapter 1 as license to pillage the earth with strip mining, pollution, and the wanton slaying of God's creatures for sport. It is hardly a good Christian witness.

Biblical Earth

The witness of the book of Job make it clear that God created the Earth, and all of the life on it, for His own enjoyment. Even critters regarded as dangerous to humans are treated by God with joyful language.

Humanity was created, we are told in Genesis 2, to be a gardener in order to arrange the various created objects and animals to create beauty for God to enjoy. The first human was even given the privilege of naming the animals as a part of the process of understanding each species, its needs, its value, and how it best fits into the garden. Therefore the command that humanity have “dominion” over the earth is a command that involves responsibility, sensitivity, and care.

This biblical understanding of Earth is often missed in the modern church. The Christian witness is best served by honoring not the earth, but the God that created it. Perhaps Earth Day is a time when believers can be a proper witness to God's work of creation and to give Him the honor and respect that He deserves.

HCC Magazine