Although this blog won't get posted until next week, I'm sitting down to write on "Earth Day." It's the day we celebrate our duty and allegiance to "Mother Earth." I can't believe how quickly it has morphed into a full-blown religious festival. If we would go to India's Ganges River during one of the high holy days of Hinduism, we would find a great deal of commonality. People bring gifts, gather in reverent commemoration, and offer themselves as loyal servants to divine mystery. Their traditions have developed over thousands of years, but ours in only forty.
Am I suggesting that Christians can't set aside a day to consider how we might better conserve and protect the natural environment that God has given us? Certainly not. God gave Earth to Adam; more specifically, He gave him dominion over it. The Lord put him and his descendants in charge of this big blue and green orb to enjoy and manage its vast and rich resources. This floating sphere produces and provides the food, oxygen, fresh water, shelter, and ground we need for continued sustainable life. We better take care of it.
If I were on a life raft adrift in the ocean, I would guard it diligently from puncture or tear. It's a matter of survival. But our stewardship of planet Earth is really more than just self-preservation; it's a commission. The Lord told the newly created newlyweds of Eden, "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." Creation was firmly in their hands and under their God-given authority.
But Earth Day is a celebration of planet Earth itself as an autonomous life-giving entity, the womb of all living creation. Earth Day celebrations never take us back to Genesis to commemorate our duty and dominion over creation as an act of worship and service to the creator. On the contrary, creation is extolled while the creator is ignored. In fact Earth Day is the Genesis-mandate turned on its head. Instead of celebrating our God-given stewardship in authority over nature, we are beckoned to serve "Mother Earth" in submission and faithful devotion. The planet receives a type of deification as its celebrants are coaxed into a type of Earth-worship. At its core, it is spiritual.
It's funny (strange) how this is merely the rebirth of a very old problem. Paul saw the same forces at work almost 2000 years ago when he wrote the book of Romans. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things" (Rom 1:22-23). Creation-worship has been around a long time. As a nation we're simply catching up to the idolatrous history of the world and its current exchange of glory from heaven to earth.
Ironically, if nature could talk, it would say "Praise the Lord." Paul wrote, "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). The entire natural world, in other words, is waiting for one unique and glorious event, the day Jesus will return with His saints and reestablish the universe in its intended order. Right now the creation is groaning and laboring under the weight of sin, but there will come a day when that burden is lifted. Planet Earth, the Sun, the stars, and the whole universe are anticipating as it were, the day Jesus will reconcile creation back to himself. "Mother Earth" cries out not for its own adoration, but for us to bend our knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The heavens declare His glory.
Earth Day is not a celebration that declares the glory of God. It is a day to admire, exalt, and even worship nature, as we dedicate ourselves to its service. We can and should be environmentally responsible, protecting the resources that God has placed into our stewardship. But we can never cross the line and enter into Earth worship. Earth Day as it is currently defined and celebrated by our secular culture is not a day for Christians to esteem; it assigns no glory to God for His handiwork. In fact, He is removed from the equation completely as all praise goes to the planet.
There is too much confusion surrounding this issue in the church today. I've actually heard pastors endorse "Earth Day" in an apparent attempt to show their contemporary convictions. But they're wrong. The environment is ours to administer, even with delicate responsibility, but our respect can never be systematically removed from the greater context of scripture and God's overall plan for our lives. Hug your kids, not your trees, and take care of creation to the Glory of God.