Saturday, August 19, 2017

Environmentalism - The New Animism?

Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, care about our environment. But some who care about the environment have gotten a little carried away. They have gone beyond just caring about the health of our air and water to making the earth into an idol. I think that the apostle Paul's insights apply here. He wrote, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." (Romans 1:25) He is, of course, speaking about ancient paganism that worshipped idols that represented created things like the planets (Venus and Jupiter, for example).

An earlier form of earth worship that still exists today is 'animism'. That is the idea that everything is alive and has a spiritual essence. Native American culture was, and still is to some degree, animistic. That is why, traditionally, they did not believe that anyone could own a piece of land. The land was sacred to them. I often shake my head when I hear someone on television explain that some tribe opposes some project on their land. They always make that we "understand" that the land is "sacred" to Native Americans. This is seen as being deeply spiritual and something that we Christians should respect, or even hold in awe.

This is pure animism, and animism is idolatry. Now someone might complain at this point that monotheists has some places that are considered holy as well. Take the temple mount where the Jewish temple once stood. Both Jews and Muslims, with differing claims, say that it is holy, not to be used for common purposes. The Jews have the prior claim and they believe that this land belongs to God. It was a place that God chose to put Him Name and to place His temple. In other words, the land is not holy in and of itself, but because God chose it for a purpose. It is dedicated to the Creator. We should also note that King David purchased that land. It was afterward dedicated to the Lord. That is much different from the land being "sacred" simply because it is part of the earth.

You might be thinking, at this point, 'what does that all have to do with modern environmentalism?' Environmentalists are not worshipping the earth. Perhaps not directly in the old terms of the ancient animists and pagans. Not too many people perform acts of worship when it comes to the earth. But many have "served the creature rather than the Creator". They put the "environment" ahead of human good and human progress. Preserving some plant or animal becomes more important than the benefit that humans might get from not preserving them. So humans become less important than animals or even the earth itself.

I have to note here that sometimes Christians act as if we are here to serve the earth rather than the other way around. God made the earth for man. We are not here to care for this planet. He created it for us. He created a place where we could live and thrive and prosper. That is why He made us last. He had to have a good environment for us to live in. We ruined that environment through sin and I do not mean the fact that we often pollute. We live in a fallen earth which Christ died to redeem and which He will completely renew.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)

Until He does that there will be environmental problems. This is point at which the environmentalists will say that I do not care about the environment and that this view will lead to environmental disaster. But that is not the least bit true. To say that something exists to serve us does not mean that we will abuse it. It means that we have the proper perspective. If a person owns a car, will he let it fall apart simply because it exists to serve him? Not necessarily. Some take better care of their cars and other not so much. (It also depends on how much you can afford to take care of it.)

So, understanding that the earth is here to serve us does not mean that "we do not care". It means that we can make choices about how we are going to care for it. A well-developed country like the USA may have stricter environmental regulations that less developed nations. The less developed nations want more economic development are willing to pollute more to accomplish this. We, on the other hand, already have a greater prosperity and want a better environment. There are trade-offs, and we have to make choices about where we want to come down.

Environmentalists are often absolutists who want to shut down industry and treat humans and human progress as a problem for the earth rather than the reason for the earth existing at all. God did not make the earth for His benefit but for ours. That is why He gave us dominion over it. We simply have to decide how to exercise that dominion.

1 comment:

  1. Could not agree more! Good word on what could be an emotional subject for some.
    Perspective and balance should rule the day.