FORT WORTH, Texas – April 22, many will celebrate Earth Day in an effort to bring attention to climate change and to reduce our carbon footprint. The secular event serves as a good reminder about caring for the earth, but how you look at Earth Day will differ depending on your worldview.
If you have a biblical worldview, then you believe something similar to the following: 1) God created everything and gave mankind the command to exercise dominion over creation; 2) mankind fell, sinning against God and suffering the consequences of sin; 3) God sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem mankind through a substitutionary sacrifice on the cross paying the penalty of sin and conquering death through His resurrection; and 4) Jesus will return one day and eventually create a new heaven and a new earth.
From a biblical worldview, we take care of the earth as a matter of stewardship. God has given mankind the stewardship to exercise dominion, but part of that stewardship includes leaving the earth better than we found it for the next generation. We should not selfishly use resources for ourselves because that does not demonstrate a love for God and His creation or loving our neighbors as ourselves … even those neighbors in the next generation.
Stewardship forms our primary motivation because we recognize that eventually a just God will judge us all. The eternal continuation of the earth, however, does not compel us because we believe that God will create a new heaven and a new earth one day.
If you have a secular worldview, then you believe something similar to the following: 1) the earth evolved over time resulting in mankind; 2) all reality and life centers on human beings; 3) as mankind gains knowledge and understanding, humans can evolve to become better in each generation; 4) once a person dies, who knows what happens?; and 5) if humanity fails to care for the earth, then mankind will cease to exist.
From a secular worldview, mankind takes care of the earth to ensure the continuation of the human race. If climate change continues, then eventually the earth will become uninhabitable and the human race will cease to exist. While there is a sense of stewardship, the primary motivation comes from an obligation to the human race to preserve mother earth for future generations. It is a responsibility not to God, but to humanity.
There are some from a biblical worldview who overlook the secular founding and support Earth Day. Those who support Earth Day focus on a Christian’s stewardship of God’s creation. Those who reject Earth Day focus on the new heaven and new earth that will be created and a perceived human-centered perspective in the secular movement.
I want us to recognize the opportunity to further the gospel no matter what you think about Earth Day. Christians have an obligation to love God by demonstrating good stewardship of His creation, and an obligation to love others by sharing the gospel message with them. Conversations about Earth Day can lead to a gospel conversation that includes Jesus’ death, resurrection and future creation of a new earth day – an earth that won’t have problems with carbon footprints.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thomas White is vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at http://thomaswhite.wordpress.com.)