Sunday, October 09, 2011

Genesis 1:26-31 - What about environmentalism?

Italy from space
Opening thought
In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day." The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”
He was right -- that generation didn't have the green thing in its day. Back then, people only returned milk bottles and soda bottles to the store which sent them back to the bottling plant to be washed, sterilized, and refilled so it could use the same bottles over and over. They didn’t know they were recycling.
But the green thing wasn’t around back in the day. People walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
They didn't have the green thing in their day. Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in a 220 volt, energy gobbling machine. They used wind and solar power to dry clothes before the government announced it was a good idea. And kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. More recycling.
But there was no environmental responsibility back in their day. Back then, home had one TV or radio in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, people blended and stirred by hand because no one had electric machines to do everything for us.
When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to mow the lawn. There were actually green-friendly push mowers that ran on human power. And everyone exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But that clerk was right. People were not into creation care back then. They drank from water fountains instead of using cups or plastic bottles every time we had a drink of water. They actually refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But there was no environmental concern back then. People took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. There was only one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And no one needed a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
While the self-righteousness of youth, when we are still young enough to know everything, can give us fits, it is true that the interaction of the generations can call our attention to important blind spots in our culture as well, and one of those areas is the care of Creation. Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention says that people “from all areas of the globe and all walks of life, including Christians, have been involved in ecological carelessness. The Western world, which is often noted for being founded on Christian traditions, has been a leader in misusing God’s creation. But, this should not be the case, for there is a clear biblical directive to support environmental care,”[1]
Today the issue before us is environmentalism – being green. Is it Biblical? Is environmentalism something that Christians should be involved with?
Some of you might be asking the question: “Why would you be preaching a message on environmentalism? You ought to stick to the Bible, you ought to preach messages on the Gospel and on this and that but not on things like global warming!” Friends, we have grown too accustomed in the world today to not look at God’s Word and what it has to say about the issues of the day. It was common in the past in this nation to preach on current events. For example, here are a few sermons titles that come from the history of this country. When things would occur pastors would preach on it because believers turned to their pastor so they could know what God’s word had to say about the events of the day. One pastor preached a message on the great fire in Boston the Sunday after the fire. Another pastor preached a message on a solar eclipse that occurred on June 16, 1806. Can you imagine preaching on that subject? But this pastor preached a message about a solar eclipse because people wanted to know what God’s word had to say about the solar eclipses. Another sermon was on the moral view of railroads, and it is about connecting the country and the impact that would have on the moral discourse of the nation. There was also a sermon occasioned by the hanging of Henry Blackburn. How many sermons have you heard preached on executions?

The point is that in the early history of our nation, God’s people turned to the Bible and to their pastors to find out how to interpret the events of the day. And we need to get back to that practice because God’s word has application to every aspect of life. And that includes the issue of creation care or environmentalism. Before we buy into all the hype that Hollywood has pumped into this issue, and swallow Al Gore’s doomsday scenarios and run around with our hair on fire and in a panic, before we demand for the government to save us and end up in worse shape than we were before all the hysteria, we need to take a deep breath and consult the Scriptures and look at what God’s word has to say about this issue.
Contextual Notes:
In Genesis 1, we see God exercising his creative power. By merely speaking, he brings the universe into being. His focus is on planet Earth which he carefully shapes to support life and then populates it with living creatures. The crown of his creation is men and women made in his own image, and he places them in authority over His precious Creation. While his awesome power is displayed in Creation, the clear focus of God’s loving concern is the human beings he made and placed in responsibility.

Key Truth: Moses wrote Genesis 1:26-31 to teach Israel that humanity was created in God’s image and thus are the crown of creation, and were then given authority over creation by God Himself.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about caring for creation.
Pray and Read:  Genesis 1:26-31

Sermon Points:
1.   God created humanity as the crown of Creation (Gen 1:26-27)
2.   God blessed humanity with authority over Creation (Gen 1:28-31)

Exposition:   Note well,

1.   GOD BLESSED HUMANITY AS THE CROWN OF CREATION (Gen 1:26-27)
a.   Gen. 1:26 – The privileged position of human beings is seen in the deliberative decision that the Trinity makes in an important conference. “Let us make man” indicates a solemn decision emphasizing something new and important is happening.
b.   Man is a completely new creation, essentially different from all the other creatures. The master commentator Leupold said a century ago, “He is to be allied to heaven as no other creature on earth is. He is to be related to the eternal Being himself,” but he quickly adds the relation is not in matter but in form, not in essence but in resemblance. Man is not God; he did not spring from deity as some myths teach and thus be divine himself or even half divine. Rather, he was purposely formed in the likeness of his Creator, in a spiritual, not a material conformity. Like God, we think, speak, will, and act.[2] Like God, we are three in one, body, mind, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23).
c.   APPLICATION: The value of every human life, then, finds its bedrock in its creation in the image of God. No matter the circumstances of the conception, no matter the mental or physical state of the elderly patient, no matter the abilities or inabilities of a person, every person has value and a purpose and a plan because each person is made in God’s image. This is why life is precious. This is why we build hospitals and have a health care industry. This is why we are pro-life. This is why we oppose abortion. This is why we oppose the killing of innocent life. This is why we oppose policies like China’s one-child policy. This is why we oppose the early termination of life in the elderly. This is why we oppose war unless it is absolutely necessary to protect life, to protect the liberty of life, and to protect civilization that embraces the value of life. This is why we oppose stem cell research and production from human embryos. This is why every person should have dignity in life and dignity at the end of their lives.
d.   Evolutionist environmentalism is a denial of God’s sovereignty. It is a denial of God’s sovereignty. It is humanism and the church, Christian leaders, are buying into humanism. That we must save ourselves. We have to save the planet. How can we save the planet when if we worry we cannot add one-inch to our stature? How arrogant is that. God created the earth and He alone sustains it. Genesis one chapter one says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Al Gore may have created the Internet but God created the heavens and the earth.
2.   GOD BLESSED HUMANITY WITH AUTHORITY OVER CREATION (Gen 1:28-31)
a.   And let them rule – Now the relationship with other creatures is defined, and that definition is responsible stewardship. And in verse 28, the Lord by His sovereignty grants authority to men and women on the planet over all other animals. God has specifically established the fact that He is the owner and true ruler of the earth (Ex. 9:29, 19:9; Is. 45:12). Everything comes from God, so He is the ultimate owner. Yet, as Psalm 115:16 states, “the earth [God] has given to man.”[3]
b.   APPLICATION: The sway and responsibility of man ought to be for the good of the planet and its animals, not because in some evolutionary way we have no more right to earth’s resources than animals do, but because we have been given authority and stewardship and care for creation by Divine fiat from the Throne itself. With a formal grant with one exception (Gen 2:17), man was granted authority over the plant kingdom, and Adam’s vocation, his calling, was to work the earth “and take care of it” (Gen 2:15).
c.   APPLICATION: How foolish it is, then, to worship the earth or anything it contains. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, says Psalm 24:1. Global warming environmentalists want to deify “Mother Earth.” Yes, we should take care of God’s beautiful creation. We need to take care of it. But we are not subservient to creation nor should we worship it. We are not here to serve the earth. The earth is here for us to use. Jeremiah railed against the idolatrous worship of the Queen of Heaven in chapters 7 and 44.
d.   Genesis 1:28 - The first command in Scripture is to be fruitful and increase. Gen. 1:28 makes it clear that God intended a sinless Adam and Eve to have children and “increase in number.” The second command is to rule (radah) over creation and to subdue (kabash) the earth (Gen 1:28). This mission indicates that the first way in which all of us can glorify and serve God is by reproducing and caring for his creation.
e.   APPLICATION: This blessing protects us from devaluing human life. Most people don’t realize it, but a key part of fighting global warming is population control. Now what is population control? It’s abortion, China one-child policies, It is limiting the number of children. Humanism sees people as the problem. They compete with other living things for natural resources. In the eyes of those that are fighting global warming they need to reduce population. That means we must cut down on the sizes of our families. They want to dictate the size of families. They want to export abortion around the globe from the United States. They want family planning which again is abortion and contraception to limit the population. But people are not the problem. God says be fruitful and multiply. There was no time expiration on that statement that God gave to us. Be fruitful and multiply. The birthrate in Europe has dropped drastically to about 1.5 births per female because of this message of overpopulation. That rate cannot sustain their present population, and population is declining in Europe. America’s rate is 2.1 births per woman, which is a minimally sustainable birthrate that will keep the present population. Russia’s rate is much worse at 1.1. Meanwhile Muslim birthrates are almost 4.5 per woman. Within the next 50 years all of Europe will be dominated by the Muslim faith.
f.    God designed us to care for creation. “This pattern from the creation account is continued throughout the Scriptures. God developed specific laws for His people in the Old Testament in order to ensure that they care for nature. He established laws of Sabbath rest and land resting to promote the health of the people, the land, and the animals and to prevent all from being overworked (Ex. 23:10-12). The book of Leviticus promotes proper sanitation and provides legislation against improper disposal methods. Even in times of war God demanded that the fruit trees not be indiscriminately destroyed5 (Deut. 20:19-20).”[4]
g.   Note that man was not permitted to dominate each other. Since we all bear the image of the Creator, we are instead to serve others (John 13:13-14; Gal 5:13; Eph 5:21). For food, God supplied plants and fruits, indicating that men and animals were originally vegetarian. Only after the Flood at Gen. 9:3 are we permitted to eat other creatures for food.
h.   Gen 1:31 – God evaluated each of the first five days and said that his creation was good (Gen 1: (Gen 1:4, 10, 18, 21, 25), but the sixth day when he created man was “very good.” He does good things (Mark 10:18; Rom 8:28). Richard Land says, “The reason for man’s abuse of nature, like all other negative aspects of humanity, is because of sin and the Fall. When God created the heavens and the earth, He deemed all of creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). In doing so He created land, water, plants, animals, and humans, and the entirety of creation worked together in a perfect ecosystem. Because of the Fall, however, nature changed from working in perfect harmony with man to a developing struggle between man and the land. Due to the curse of sin, Adam was forced to toil with the earth (Gen 3:17-19).”[5]
i.     Have you noticed Satan always counterfeits what God has established? Jesus said you need to be able to read the signs. We need to be like the sons of Issachar who can discern the times in which we live. But there are those who are trying to twist the events that are occurring around us to tell us something else. This is what is happening with environmentalism and global warming.
j.     FALSE CLAIMS OF GLOBAL WARMING - First, let’s analyze what the global warming theorists say. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says these following things are going to occur because of global warming that is man-made. They say there is going to be an increase in temperature, an increase in sea levels, erratic and more extreme weather. They say that there will be about a 1% increase in the temperature between now and 2030. Now on average over the last several centuries the temperature has risen by about one degree. Now some of you might remember this back in the 1970’s there was a fear that we were entering a new ice age. They were fearful that the temperatures were turning colder. And so the world was moving into an ice age, there was concern. Now just 30 years later we are in the hype of global warming. But according to the logic of the global warming crowd (based on evolution), there should be an incremental and inexorable move up in the average temperatures. But we don’t see that.
k.   Dr. Don Easterbrook at Western Washington University is not so sure about global warming -- for the next 30 years at least. Here’s his conclusions: (Larger image here.) Rather than drastic global warming at a rate of 0.5C (1F) per decade, historic records of past natural cycles suggest global cooling for the first several decades of the 21st century to about 2030, followed by global warming from about 2030 to about 2060, and renewed global cooling from 2060 to 2090. […] Recent solar changes suggest that it could be fairly severe, perhaps more like the 1880 to 1915 cool cycle than the more moderate 1945-1977 cool cycle. [In 1998, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPPC) predicted that CO2 emissions would cause global warming of 1F every decade until 2100, causing global catastrophe.] Now a decade later, the global climate has not warmed 1F as forecast by the IPCC but has cooled slightly until 2007-08 when global temperatures turned sharply downward. In 2008, NASA satellite imagery confirmed that the Pacific Ocean had switched from the warm mode it had been in since 1977 to its cool mode, similar to that of the 1945-1977 global cooling period. The shift strongly suggests that the next several decades will be cooler, not warmer as predicted by the IPCC.Easterbrook's conclusion: Global warming (i.e, the warming since 1977) is over. The minute increase of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere (0.008%) was not the cause of the warming- it was a continuation of natural cycles that occurred over the past 500 years.
l.     Scientists have shown that the earth moves in 1,500 year cycles of warming and cooling. In 1,500 year cycles, the earth warms, and it cools. By the way NASA reports warming on Mars, Jupiter and Pluto and the Titan moon around Neptune as well so there is warming going around in the whole universe and beyond, so it looks like the Sun might be responsible for warming. All you have to do is work outside one day in the summer to figure that out.
m. Then the government saw an opportunity. A report coming out of Washington, D.C. states, “global warming called security threat. For a second time in a month private consultants to the government are warning that human driven warming of the climate poses risk to the national security of the United States.” The report recommends that “climate change be integrated into the nation’s security strategies and says that the United States should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that would avoid significant destruction to global security and stability.” Such events are less akin to global warming and more akin to the end times in which we are living. Luke 21:7-11: Jesus says there will be an increase in extreme weather events and there will be great earthquakes in various places. He says there will be famines, pestilence, and plagues.
n.   There are several Misguided Views of the Environment here.
                     i.        Materialism is a belief that nature simply exists, energy is unlimited, and humans can solve any world problem through science and technology. This view believes in humanity’s basic goodness and ability to solve its own problems. It is purely anthropocentric (man-centered), denying the existence of God as a Supreme Being and Creator. Materialism is misguided because it places the focus on man and his ability to reconcile environmental problems, though it was man who caused the problems. Also, materialists believe that most environmental problems stem from the maldistribution of resources (read: socialism). They believe that if others were simply educated on the need to redistribute the resources and care for the environment, all would be better. No educational system and technology will ever completely heal the environment, because as Paul declares, nature is groaning and waiting for the holistic regeneration of the earth that will take place when Christ returns (Rom. 8:22).
                    ii.        Pantheism: Pantheism is the belief that all things are God or God is all. Thus, nature is revered because it is divine. Because pantheists believe that nature is divine, they desire not only to protect it from destruction and misuse but also from being used for human improvement and human purposes. They put humans on an equal level with nature because all is God. Consequently, pantheists abhor the way man uses nature, because they believe man has no right to dominion over nature and instead should be a servant of nature. Pantheists are clearly mistaken because nature is not God.
                  iii.        Dualistic and Defeatist Christianity: Dualistic Christians claim that the natural and physical world is evil and it cannot be redeemed to something good. Therefore, they believe they are free to treat that which is physical with disrespect and keep the focus of good things only on the spiritual. Along with dualistic Christianity, some also cling to defeatist Christianity, which is a belief that since this world is wasting away it does not matter what one does about the current earth or environment. Schaeffer calls this “poor Christianity, saying it is explicitly out of line with God’s revealed Word. God purposefully called His creation “good” and “very good.”
Invitation:
Global environmental catastrophe may come, but that is not what you should fear. There is only One you should fear, and that is the Lord. If you have not repented of your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior you need to live in fear that you will meet God unprepared. If you have settled that one thing you have nothing else to fear because God is our refuge and our strength. Would you respond to him right now?
Sources:
Tokunboh Adeyemo, Africa Bible Commentary
F.F. Bruce, International Bible Commentary
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: Andy Lewis, “Policy Statement on Global Warming,” http://erlc.com/article/policy-statement-on-global-warming/, 2005; “The Bible Speaks on Ecology,” http://erlc.com/article/the-bible-speaks-on-ecology/, Jan 24, 2006; “Environmental Stewardship: A Theological Model for the Environment,” http://erlc.com/article/environmental-stewardship-a-theological-model-for-the-environment/.
Evangelical Environmental Network, http://creationcare.org
H.C. Leupold, International Critical Commentary: Genesis, 1:65-75.
Tony Perkins, “An Uncomfortable Truth: Global Warming or God’s Warning?” Luke 21.
Larry Richards, Bible Reader’s Companion


[1] Richard Land, Environmental Stewardship: A Theological Model for the Environment, http://erlc.com/article/environmental-stewardship-a-theological-model-for-the-environment/
[2] H.C. Leupold, International Critical Commentary: Genesis, 1:68-9.
[3] http://erlc.com/article/environmental-stewardship-a-theological-model-for-the-environment/
[4] http://erlc.com/article/environmental-stewardship-a-theological-model-for-the-environment/
[5] Richard Land, “Environmental Stewardship: A Theological Model for the Environment,” http://erlc.com/article/environmental-stewardship-a-theological-model-for-the-environment/