Is God Green?
Can tree hugging save your life? It did for one snow skier in America. But, no, it wasn’t because he was an environmentalist – often referred to as “tree huggers.” This man narrowly escaped death by bear-hugging a tree as snow rushed over him during an avalanche. While in this case three of his fellow skiers were killed by an accident of nature, more often nowadays we find that it is mankind that is intentionally destroying nature.
When we observe indiscriminate destruction of the beautiful plants and animals that God created, we might wonder why He doesn’t do something to stop it. Interestingly, the Bible tells us that He is going to do something about it. To understand the how, when and why, we need to review the Bible’s record of God creating the world and the history of humanity since then.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we read that God created the world (see Genesis 1:1–25) and then created man and woman (Genesis 1:26, 27). In chapter one and verse 28 the Bible says, “So God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ”
There was complete harmony between the man and the woman, as well as between them and the animals. In Genesis 1:29 we see that God originally gave humankind a vegetarian diet; no animals were killed for food. The next verse (Genesis 1:30) records that God also gave animals a vegetarian diet, so no animal killed another animal for food. Because of this, they didn’t fear mankind or each other.
The world just after creation had a very different weather system to that which we now experience: it didn’t rain, for example, as the earth was watered with a mist (Genesis 2:6) and the temperature was consistently comfortable.
There were no plant or animal diseases and no pests. Plants flourished under these conditions, as evidenced by the huge coal seams buried deep underground all over the world.
Furthermore God planted a special garden, the Garden of Eden, for His newly created beings that contained “every tree . . . that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:8, 9) and then He gave them the task “to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
Adam and Eve were the world’s first “Environmentalists,” carefully tending the natural world that God had created for them. It is interesting to note, however, that many among the modern environmental movement reject the biblical account of creation and even express hostility to Christianity, in particular the moral principles outlined in the Bible.
The Effects of Sin
From the moment sin entered the world, we find changes in both the natural world and in mankind. God “cursed the ground for man’s sake” (Genesis 3:17,18) and “thorns and thistle” or weeds (Genesis 3:17,18) became a part of nature. But how could cursing the ground with weeds be for “man’s sake”? Well people now had to work to grow the food that they would need to feed themself and their family. This meant that those who were evil could not spend all their time in sinful pursuits, which were often at the expense of others’ freedom, property or life, or to the detriment of the natural world.
But despite this, after a time the Bible says of mankind “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” and “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:5, 6:11 NLT). In order to save those who still believed and followed God from the possibility of being completely wiped out, God sent a massive flood. He provided a way of escape for those who trusted Him in the form of the ark.
After the flood, the weather had changed, with earth now experiencing rain and storms, heat and cold. Now mankind had not only to work to provide food, he had to work to provide himself with shelter from the elements. History reveals that it wasn’t long before the exploitation of
people and the environment started again.
The truth is, the only reason that our world hasn’t been completely destroyed before this is that humans have not had the capacity to do so. You can’t level a mountain with a pick and shovel or decimate the ocean’s fish stocks with a canoe and net. It is only in our recent times that we have developed the technology to destroy the earth in seeking our own selfish gain. We now kill off fish populations, level mountains and destroy forests. It is interesting to note that in Revelation 11:18, Jesus is described as coming to destroy those who destroy the earth. Is the fact that we now have the capacity to destroy the earth a sign that we are living just before Jesus’ promised second coming.
The Earth Renewed
When Jesus came and died for our sins He not only provided a solution for the effects of sin in humanity, He also provided a solution for the effects of sin in the natural world. The Bible says when Jesus comes back for His people that the earth will be purified with fire (2 Peter 3:10). At that time He will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1) and, as at the time of creation, it will be without massive expanses of ocean.
If you could imagine a perfect world, what would it be like? Would it have a comfortable temperature all year round? Would it be free from pests, disease and death? Would it have an ample supply of delicious food that could just be plucked from tree or vine? Would the people have the capacity to live in peace with each other? Would people be able to explore and create? Would animals be fearless and friendly? Would the ruler be loving and kind, seeking the best good of His subjects? Well, this is exactly what the New Earth is going to be like. This is the restoration of God’s original environment for His people. The Bible says that in that earth made new we will once again care for his creation.
While the environmental movement might be dominated by those who discount God as being the Creator, the ultimate environmentalist is one who not only cares for the earth we currently possess but also leads people to an understanding of the perfect environment of the New Earth yet to come.
The beauty of nature as we know it is but a shadow of what God created in the beginning and what He will recreate in the future. The Bible says, “eye has not seen or ear heard what God has prepared for His people.” To be saved and live in heaven is not to sit on a cloud playing a harp. Rather, it is enjoying the perfection of God’s original creation, both in the restoration of God’s image in man and in the natural world as God intended it to be.
So is God “green”? His promise to create a New Earth “in which righteousness dwells,” shows us that He is not only green, in the truest sense but also a God of grace and love, and worthy of our devotion and worship.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are taken from the New King James Version. Used by Permission.
Cover image: © www.istockphoto.com/TommL