by R. Scott Rodin, MTh, PhD
An intersection in north Spokane was once surrounded by tall Ponderosa pines. I always loved arriving at this intersection. It gave me the feel of being on a forest service road deep in the woods. One day several large, yellow pieces of earth moving equipment arrived and over the following weeks diesel-belching machines managed to bulldoze and dispose of acres of forest. Not one tree was left. This once pine-laden piece of nature became the new home of yet another strip mall.
I shared my disappointment and frustration with a fellow brother in Christ who shrugged off my concerns with the flippant comment, “those are just scrap pines anyway.” I had never heard that term before – scrap pines. It was clear to me however that by giving them this label my friend was able to excuse their destruction.
The idea that we can devalue an item in nature in order to justify our actions brings into question the biblical understanding of the goodness of creation. There are three views that are commonly offered as ways of understanding what God meant when he pronounced all of creation as “very good.”
The first, “human–centered” view states that because humanity is the crown of creation, the goodness of the created world lies solely in its usefulness for our happiness. This view is usually supported by three legs. The first is an interpretation of God’s command to the first couple to “rule over and subdue” as a license to exploit and dominate an earth whose sole purpose is to supply us with all of our needs and wants. The second is an eschatology that holds that the entire earth will ultimately be destroyed. Why then would we work to conserve and preserve that which God will burn up in his wrath at the second coming? The third is a Platonic view that believes that material things are inherently evil, and so our focus should be only on the individual, ‘spiritual’ soul. These three legs have provided a stool that has propped up a broad section of conservative Christianity with a justification to ignore the responsibility to care for creation.