On Ecodisobedience

Greg Dickison


" human life has no more intrinsic value than an individual grizzly bear life. If it came down to a confrontation between a grizzly and a friend, I'm not real sure whose side I would be on. But I do know humans are a disease, a cancer on nature."

Dave Foreman, Earth First! founder

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion...over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:2628).

A day seldom goes by without the newspaper reporting on the latest efforts of environmentalists on behalf of "nature" in its battle against man. We are bombarded with ideas such as those of Mr. Foreman, that is, that man is a disease that is quickly destroying the environment, and that he must be removed from the environment if it and he are to survive. The necessity of a biblical response becomes more urgent as this philosophy is pressed upon government agencies and becomes implemented as government policy. How should Christians respond to environmentalism?

Environmentalism is first and foremost a religion. All ideas are religious in nature, and the ideas regarding man's relationship to the rest of creation are no different. Environmentalism must be evaluated by Christians just as they would evaluate Buddhism, Islam, or Mormonism. If it conflicts with Scripture, it must be rejected. Thus, environmentalism is something Christians are not permitted to embrace to any degree if it is not grounded in truth.

The premise of environmentalism is that "nature" (what the Bible refers to as "creation") is the ultimate truth and the final reality. "Mother Earth" is source of all life. Everything that exists sprang out of the same organic whole, and the highest state of being is "oneness" with that whole. Everything which exists within the whole has equal moral validity with everything else. Thus, any part of the whole which asserts a moral hierarchy (i.e. man) is perceived as a threat to the achievement of oneness and must be held in check.

In this scheme, man is an animal in essence like all other animals, with the exception that man has the capacity to reason. Reason is dangerous because it gives man the ability to claim moral superiority over other creatures which merely exercise instinct. Man then uses his perceived position of moral superiority to exploit his fellow animals, thus upsetting the oneness of the whole. He basically rebels against the parent who begat him. To prevent this, those who know better must restrain the reason of the unenlightened.

We do not need to read far into the Bible to discover where God placed man in the creation order (Gen. 1:26-28). Man has been given dominion. Not only is man uniquely created in the image of God, but he was uniquely placed in creation. Man was commanded to fill, subdue, and dominate the earth. Far from being a disease or a cancer, man's place is that of caretaker. The earth needs man in order to fulfill its Godordained place in creation.

It is therefore contrary to Scripture to take a "hands off" approach toward the environment. Creation is not to be left alone with the attitude that it will be better off without man's interference. Man's obedience to God's mandate of dominion is necessary if creation is to thrive.

The earth provides for man's sustenance. Initially, God gave to man every herb bearing seed upon the face of the earth, and every tree for the provision of food (Gen. 1.29). After the flood, God added animals to man's diet. (Genesis 9.3). Some animals were declared unclean in the law given through Moses, but these prohibitions were removed by Christ, who declared all foods clean (Mk. 7:18-19). Thus, there is no moral restriction to raising and killing animals for food. That is partly what they are for.

The creation account, in its very nature, reveals a fundamental truth which is at odds with environmental philosophy: it refers to an intelligent act of creation, not the result of millions of years of random events. If evolution is true, as environmentalists believe, then the environment really is a delicately balanced thing that must be carefully preserved lest some chance event tear it apart. And man, as just another random event, has no more right to claim superiority than an animal, a plant, or a rock. The very concept of "rights" becomes absurd. Evolution, however, is not true. The universe was purposefully created by a wise and powerful God, who preserves it and sustains it for His good purpose. He placed man over the earth as a blessing. Man has a responsibility in that position, and that which has been placed under him is accountable for its rebellion. (Genesis 9.5). While man can certainly do harm to the environment (Genesis 3.1719), he can do no harm which has not been decreed by God. Man can no more undo what God has done with creation than he can ascend to heaven and displace God from his throne. Man could not destroy the environment if he tried.

Does this mean that we have carte blanc, and that we may do with the earth whatever seems right in our own eyes? Absolutely not. We will not be able to exercise dominion to the end of subduing the earth unless we do so in submission to God. We must obey His commands concerning creation. But this truth applies universally. An environmentalist who seeks to "manage" the environment by letting it run wild is disobeying God's command to fill, subdue, and exercise dominion over the earth.

All ideas have consequences, and the consequences of environmentalism are becoming more and more apparent. Human life becomes less and less valuable. Man is removed from his Godgiven role in creation. The creature is worshipped and served rather than the Creator. Dave Foreman is not an extreme environmentalist; he is a consistent environmentalist.

The consequences of environmentalist philosophy are disobedience to God in the short run, and a true environmental disaster in the long run as the consequences of disobedience manifest themselves in creation. Droughts and famines do not come upon a people who are obedient, but they are promised to those who disobey. An earth left to itself will only yield thorns, thistles, disease, and decay. If Christians are to be obedient to God's dominion mandate, they must oppose the rebellion inherent in environmentalist government policy.

Credenda/Agenda Vol. 3, No. 5