The question is no longer, "Do you believe in global warming?" but, "What do you believe about the Gulf oil spill?" The BP spill has brought creation care closer to home. Whether global warming is a dire threat or not, human-made or not, we are all now more aware of our relationship to other parts of God's creation.
It goes without saying that one of our main callings is to care for the Earth. The Bible uses a variety of phrases to talk about this, such as "to work and keep" the garden (Gen. 2:15, ESV), to "have dominion" over all the animals (Gen. 1:28, ESV), and to "rule over" "the works of [God's] hands" (Ps. 8:6, NIV). Though some secular critics argue that the language of dominion and rule has led to exploitation, anyone familiar with the biblical context knows these words are about stewardship: We have authority, all right, but it is the authority given to a caretaker to manage things on behalf of another.
The main thing we are to manage is creation's ability to glorify the Creator. The Bible is replete with the idea that all creation—everything from rocks and trees to badgers and eagles—is to witness to divine grace: "Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord …" (Ps. 96:11-13a, NIV).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism put it well when, answering the question, "What is the chief end of man?" it stated, "To glorify God and enjoy him forever." We might add, in light of the biblical calling to steward the Earth, "and to ensure that all of creation glorifies God as well."
The problem with the Gulf oil spill is not just that ...1
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