I first want to apologize for the delay in posting this article, but I’ve just finished a visit to my church’s wonderful orphanage in rural Cambodia, where I was too busy with the tasks at hand to spend much time writing or on the computer.
It is now time to shake things up a bit, for as promised in Climate Chains: Part One, we have come to the article that will tackle the issue of human government and environmentalism. As Biblists, our allegiance is to Scripture, and not to the whimsical, ever-changing thinking and philosophies of fallen humanity, for these always lead in the wrong direction. Instead, we must build our thinking upon the solid Rock of truth (John 17:17), for truth always leads thinking in the right direction, and that direction must be our course of travel come what may.
If something finds acceptance in mainstream thinking, the rule of thumb is that it is contrary to Biblical thought and the will of God. A few such ideas currently in vogue are the Theory of Evolution, the rightness of abortion, the appropriateness of the forced redistribution of wealth and the assumed morality of open borders. Our modern, rabid, militant, debilitating government-mandated environmentalism is another, and is a textbook example of the lethal combination of poor thinking and good intentions. While an in-depth treatment of this issue will have to wait for the book I hope to soon have published, we can certainly cover the basics of Biblical thinking in this regard here, and so we shall.
The first issue of note is that God always intended our planet for private ownership by humanity, who are its rightful lords (Genesis 1:28). To further cement this idea, when Israel conquered the Promised Land much later in history, every square inch of it was then deeded to private Israelite citizens by Divine direction (Joshua 13-21). However, since God ultimately owns all of Earth (Psalm 24:1), this meant that each person or family was to act a steward of their portion of it, which in turn meant that they were answerable to God for its care, use and development, as stewardship is defined most simply as caretaking by another on behalf of the true and rightful owner.
It is vitally important when considering this topic that we understand that the idea of human government was imposed upon humanity beginning only in Genesis 9:6, long after the principles of private ownership and stewardship had been established by Heaven. Furthermore, as we have been studying in previous articles, the powers of government are clearly and strictly enumerated thereafter in Scripture (essentially leaving it a small and well-defined entity), and nowhere in the Bible is government given oversight of the environment, for it was something meant to stay in the hands of individuals.
For instance, Israelites were commanded to set aside every seventh year as a year of Sabbath rest for the land, during which the land was to lie fallow and be rejuvenated (Leviticus 25:4), but what is thoroughly overlooked is that there was no stated penalty in the Law of Moses if this environmental recommendation was not observed. Instead, God Himself took up the cause of the land, and exiled Israel for the seventy years of rest she had neglected to give her land (Jeremiah 25; 2 Chronicles 36). The clear implication here is that each Israelite had the absolute right to do with their land as they desired; they were ultimately not answerable to any human law for how they used their land, but rather to a holy God Who expected good stewardship of it.
Good earthly stewardship (which is true environmentalism) was therefore always designed to be a personal choice unshackled by the demands of government, which has more important things to oversee and whose mandate and purpose is entirely different. This leaves each person free to do exactly with his or her land as they see fit, with the understanding that they (like the Hebrew National hotdog commercial of old) must one day answer to a Higher Authority. Effectively, this makes the path to appropriate environmentalism travel through the human heart, and it will therefore find its best and deepest expression in the lives of those who truly know and love the God from Whom all Creation sprang.
But without government, it may be asked, how can we protect our environment? Sadly, in our thought-starved world, this is a question in need of answering, for we have become an enslaved people who think that all good things can be accomplished only through the regulations and oversight of government – a ridiculous and dangerous notion to entertain. It is true that there will be some who will use their freedom to despoil their portion of Earth, but they must be left free to do so, for they will answer one day to their Judge, Who will deal with those who destroy Earth (Revelation 11:18b). But we must always remember that every power granted government is a freedom lost to its people, and this power was nowhere in Scripture granted to human government. Government has neither right nor business here, and we must never give up a freedom not sanctioned to it.
Instead, the best answer to the propensity to use our freedom to despoil our land is actually more freedom, but in this case it is the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. We all have a stake in the health of our environment, and the best way to ensure good stewardship of it is to keep ourselves informed about how others are holding up their end of the bargain. No one likes bad press or for long can withstand it, especially if it is true.
It is at times painful, and has no guarantees, but freedom works. What we don’t need is the Early Paleolithic Agency driving us relentlessly into environmental slavery.