Man and His Environment: The Creationist Perspective
Ralph E. Ancil
The creationist recognizes that man was originally created perfect and placed in a perfect, friendly environment designed to be his home. He does not see agriculture as destructive of nature but remembers that God intended the earth to be cultivated (Gen. 2:5, 15). In this perspective, everything in creation is recognized as having its own rightful place. God pronounced that all His creation was exceedingly good (Gen.1:31). Therefore, respect for the Creator requires respect for His creation. It is thus with a sense of respect, humility, gratitude and obligation that the creationist assumes his role as steward of his Master's estate and cares for God's handiwork, not to please himself with personal comfort, but to please his Creator and to have fellowship with Him.
By accepting the Genesis account for the simple historical truth it is, the creationist acknowledges man's unique position as a steward: he rules creation and yet is himself created. The evolutionist also recognizes this unique position but cannot fully understand it. As Rene Dubos so aptly observed:
We must learn to live with a paradox inherent in the human condition. On the one hand man is still of nature, but he has lived outside nature in artificial environments since the agricultural revolution. Human ways of life must of course be compatible with natural lows, but they cannot be the ways of nature.1
In other words, from the evolutionist's view man is a product of nature, but unlike any other "animal" he has evolved to a point where he stands outside of, and in opposition to, the very nature which supposedly produced him.
The evolutionist faces this contradiction because he defines nature (including man) in terms of itself. This seems analogous to a violation of Gödel's Theorem.2 Man and nature can only be fully understood in terms which are not natural or which are supernatural. In other words, man and nature cannot ultimately be understood apart from God. The creationist perspective, unlike the evolutionist, is fully rational. This allows man to understand himself and nature and explains his unique position in it: he is natural (or physical) like all other creatures, but he is also trans-natural (or spiritual) in that he is created in the image of God and so has the power to comprehend and rule over nature. The closer that image is to God, the better his understanding and rule of nature will be. The more intimate his fellowship with his Maker the better he can care for what is made. Thus, man's dominion is reflected in his relationship with God. It is an avenue, a primary activity, whereby he can become more like his Maker for it requires him to exercise his highest faculties. It is then God's dominion over man which necessarily defines, delimits and rationalizes man's dominion over nature. Thus, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul are harmonized into one. Instead of an inexplicable "paradox" the creationist recognizes a marvelous duality. ~
C. S. Lewis likewise seems to have recognized this principle, for he writes:
As long as one is a Naturalist, "Nature" is only a word for "everything." And everything is not a subject about which anything very interesting can be said or (save by illusion) - felt. ... And then, because we falsely take her for the ultimate and self- existent Fact and cannot quite repress our high instinct to worship the Self-existent, we are all at sea and our moods fluctuate and Nature means to us whatever we please as the moods select and slur. But everything becomes different when we recognize that Nature is a creature, a created thing, with its own particular tang or flavour.... It is not in her, but in Something far beyond her, that all lines meet and all contrasts are explained.
Lewis later adds:
The Englishness of English is audible only to those who know some other language as well. In the same way and for the same reason, only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn around, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature's current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see ... 3
Of course, the original Edenic perfection no longer exists. Nature can be harsh; life is not always pleasant. The creationist understands that the single biggest reason for environmental degradation is mants sin. The willful disobedience of man spoiled the original perfect harmony. Because manis relationship to God was thus tainted, his ability to rule the earth wisely was also spoiled. In order to become reconciled to creation, man must become reconcilad to God. This reconciliation occurs through the medium of Jesus Christ. The harshness of nature is, therefore, not a justification for ruthless reciprocity but a reminder of sin and a call to repentance.
As an alternative to conventional evolutionism, the creation concept has two fectures, closure and theism. By closure is meant the idea that God created a complete, perfect and purposeful universe, with a definite beginning and end; it has temporal-spatial boundaries. By theism is meant the belief that God, though external to His creation, is nevertheless everywhere immanent or transcendent, lovingly sustaining and operating the worid.
These two fectures are noticeable also in the moral sphere. The creationist believes that God has given man a set of moral values which are final and complete and serve as an external standard of human conduct, thus providing moral boundaries. Furthermore, God's loving care and sustenance are necessary for the continuous moral and spiritual life of man. By contrast the non-theistic evolutionist holds moral issues to be without closure or bounds but open-ended and subject to continuous change. Man must sustain himself, he must save himself.
Creationist scientists have demonstrated environmental awareness. For instance, one of the founders of the conservation movement was a creation scientist. While Charles Darwin and others were seorching for materialistic explanations of life in the 1850's, America's best known scientist, Louis Agassiz, was lecturing at Harvard University on the need for conservation of our land resources.4 How long was this form of environmental concern, initiated by a creation scientist, delayed because of a preoccupation with evolution and materialism?
Certainly Christians have not always lived up to biblical standards, and to the extent they have not, they have contributod to environmental problems. This is especially true of liberal churches which have led the way in compromising Scriplure with evolutionism and other secular ideas. But the biblical basis for environmental concern is there. By recognizing the historicity of the Genesis account, the Bible-believing Christian has a firm foundation for articulating a sound philosophy of ecology. It is a philosophy which does not suffer from the extremism of "doom and gloom" projections which demand radical social change, nor from "hysterical optimism' in technology as man's omnipotent savior.
The creationist reclizes that there are severe environmental problems which require his attention. He knews man's primary purpose is not the pursuit of material comfort or the service of nature; rather, it is to be obedient to his Creator and Redeemer in all things. He recognizes that true prosperity is a gift of God, not ultimately of market mechanisms or government control, and that when individuals or nations serve Him He blesses them richly. The creationist welcomes technological and industrial development, but not at the expense of Godis creation, for stewardship is part of man's duty to his Maker. It is a philosophy which allows him to prioritize and ameliorate many environmental problems while preserving biblical Christian values.
Instead of pointless, endless social evolution the creationist sees purpose, completeness and constancy in both the moral and physical worlUs. Salvation comes neither from man nor nature but from the Creator and Redeemer of both. Indeed, the conservation of biblical principles and values is indispensable to the conservation of creation.
1. Quoted in G. Tyler Miller, Jr.. Living in the Environment: Concepts, Problems, and Alternatives (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1975), p. 40.
2. In 1931 Kurt Goedel gave a mathematical proof that a system of axioms can never be based on itself: in order to prove the system's validity, statements from outside that system must be used. This concept has been applied science, i,e., science is possible only within a larger context of non-science issues and concerns. See Victor F. Weisskopf, "Frontiers and Limits of Science, American Scientist 65(4): 405411, July-August, 1977. See also Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman, Gödel's Proof (New York University Press, 1958). From the foregoing definition, a violation of Gödel's Theorem wouid involve an attempt to prove or define a system in its own terms, i.e., using statements from inside the system.
3. C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,lnc, 1947), pp. 65-67,
4. J. Edwin Becht and L. Beizung, Worid Resource Management: Key to Civilization and Social Achievement (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975), p. 35. 4