Worship: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power or an act of expressing such reverence; a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
So first off, not all men are religious (or women either, believe it or not). In order to be religious, a person must believe in the existence of a God or the supernatural. I don’t. I am not religious. Second, there seem to be two main ways that the word “worship” can be used. The first has religious connotations and is directed to a deity. The second has no religious connotations whatsoever and involves “respect” or “admiration” or “devotion to an object of esteem.” I think that Phillips is likely playing fast and loose with these two meanings, using the word “worship” not in the sense of respect but rather using it to imply religious connotations.
Even so, there is a grain of truth in what Phillips says. All men have ideals and things they value and work towards, whether they are religious or not. Some people, both Christians and atheists, serve only themselves. I personally am a humanist, which means that I believe in human potential and improving the world for humankind. I would prefer to serve my fellow humans rather than to serve some sort of imaginary deity. There are, however, also Christian humanists, who believe that God values humans and wants them to use their abilities to make the world a better place for all of humankind. So while we all do have ideals and things we value, it is nowhere near as simple as “all men either worship God or they worship the creature.”
In the 18th century, many (you can’t argue with “many”!) began to worship the mind.
That god is the earth.
Now, rationalism and science have not “failed” as Phillips claims. In fact, rationalism and science are what brought us vaccines, modern medicine, and fertilizers that increased crop yields and cut down on starvation. God never brought us any of this. Rationalism and science did.
As for “statism,” it is true that many humans have turned to the state to fix problems that we see. And you know what? It’s worked a whole heck of a lot better than looking to God. The state has curtailed child labor, guaranteed equal rights for all (Brown v. Board of education anyone?), brought about universal schooling, decreased poverty through welfare and other programs, decreased the infant mortality rate, and, in many countries, provided citizens of all stripes with health care. “Statism” has not failed (and I don’t think it’s fair to give it an “ism” anyway). If they’re referring to communism when they say it was a “harsh taskmaster,” I would point out that the Soviet Union suffered from totalitarianism more than anything else, and no one ever thought totalitarianism was a good idea.
Finally, mankind has found a new “god,” and that “god” is the earth? This makes no sense whatsoever. “God” is a supernatural concept; the earth is the physical place we live on. There’s a difference there. Mankind did realize at some point that the earth was something that we could destroy, and indeed were in the process of destroying, and that this was a bad idea. Seriously, we had rivers that had so much trash in them that when lit on fire they burned for days. Smog so thick you couldn’t see ten feet in front of you? Environmentalism is about protecting the earth so that we can live healthy lives and so that our civilization can survive, not about “worshiping” it or making it into a “god.”
21st-century men are earth worshipers. They are sanitized pantheists. Of course, they don’t call themselves pantheists or earth worshipers, but religious devotion to the material world is the essence of this modern faith.
This religious devotion to the material world as god comes in many shapes and sizes, but it has become ubiquitous in our culture. The new pantheism is at the heart of the green movement. It is reflected in the priorities of Hollywood, in the agenda of politicians, and in the curriculum of the government schools. It is found in the marketing campaign of Madison Avenue, in the reality TV shows of cable television, and sadly, even in pulpits across the nation. The worship of the creation has become a defining undercurrent in our culture, even as it is reshaping many of the cultures of the modern world.
And this is one reason why this Friday, April 22, millions of people (perhaps billions) representing the countries of the United Nations will stop to celebrate the high holy day of this religion as they pay homage to the earth God. Of Earth Day, evolutionary anthropologist Margaret Meade once explained that:
Nice quote mining. I do agree that one thing that is cool about earth day is that it unites everybody. Most holidays are specific to a religion or a location or a nation. Earth day is about the universals that bind us all – such as the earth that we live on. And I think we can all agree that the earth, which provides us with food and warmth and everything else, is something that we need to protect. Or at least I thought so until I read this article.
Should Christians care about the earth? Not only must we care about it, we have a holy duty to engage the earth. The difference between the objectives of biblical Christianity and radical environmentalism can be found in the religious assumptions of both groups.
Four Lies of the Radical Environmentalist Movement
Four Christian Assumptions About the Earth
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. In the end, they will worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
Earth Day, and the radical environmental movement that spawned this high holy day of pantheism, are at war with the Gospel because they perpetuate false worship. The Christian response to the idolatry of Earth Day might be reduced to this simple thought: Jesus Christ is the Creator, and He alone is to be worshiped. He created man as the pinnacle of creation and determined that humans would be the only part of creation to be made in the very image of God, and that man as the image-bearer of God would rule over the earth.
On a practical level, this means that Christians need to stop allowing the radical environmentalist movement to define the issue. We must cease from being the tail and become the head on the question of our duties, privileges, and responsibilities vis-a-viscreation. The Bible has a great deal to say about our use of the resources of the world and our relationship to the earth. Of all people, Christians who honor the Creator should have a passion for creation. We are losing the debate through subversion, silence, lack of vision, and because of the Christian community’s fear of the God-ordained, perpetually valid, creation precept called “The Dominion Mandate.” This mandate directs man to rule over the earth, subduing it and taking dominion over it for his benefit and for God’s glory. Implicit to the Dominion Mandate is the duty of man to cultivate, wisely manage, and carefully steward the planet.
Finally, man’s problems will never be solved through the elevation of human reason, the power of science, or the interventions of the state. Nor will rescuing the biosphere of planet earth save man or ensure him a future on this planet. You cannot save the earth. But human beings can be saved. And the only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ — the Creator! It is this Creator through whom we live and breathe and who by the very power of His word holds the worlds together. He will someday establish a new heaven and a new earth and will bring all of His people into Glory.
I do think, though, that we find another main root of the conflict here. Phillips doesn’t care about the earth, because it will someday be gone. In fact, he believes that God will someday destroy the earth and make a new one, and that God has in the mean time given humankind the earth to use, to meet their needs, and to satisfy them. The earth is temporary and unimportant. It does not matter. All that matters are invisible human souls.
Environmentalists, in contrast, care about the earth very much, because without it we die. Environmentalists don’t put their faith in the assumption God is about to return and make us a new earth. Environmentalists are instead aware that this is what we’ve got, and we had better take care of it responsibly. They understand that humankind’s good is inextricably linked to the health of our home planet. This isn’t about “worship” or a “new god.” This is about being aware of reality and acting responsibly.
There is also a fundamental conflict here between humanists and fundamentalists. Humanists believe in man’s potential; fundamentalists say man has no potential and is crap. Humanists believe in reason and science, which have time and again improved the life of mankind; fundamentalists believe in superstition, in a stone age religious text riddled with errors and atrocities, and in attempts to petition the aid of an invisible deity. Humanists believe that man’s life in the here and now matters and that we should work to improve it for everyone; fundamentalists don’t give a crap about man’s life in the present, as we’re going to have a glorious afterlife after we die. I am a humanist, and as a humanist, I strive to do what I can to make life better for all people in the here and now. One of the ways to make life better for people is to protect the environment. Destroying the environment has disastrous consequences, and climate change may lead to the starvation, disease, death, war, and upheaval. I’d like to avoid that if possible. This isn’t “worshiping” the earth, this is compassion, altruism, service, and love.
Let me finish with a question for Christians. Can you say for sure how long it will before Jesus returns and destroys the earth and makes a new one? No? Then isn’t taking care of the earth in the meantime, and making sure that the earth has a healthy future, a good idea? The reality is that Christians have been forecasting Christ’s eminent return for the past two thousand years. It hasn’t happened yet. What if Christ waits another two thousand years? Scientists have predicted that the effects of human-induced climate change will be seen in the next few hundred years, and that the effects will be disastrous as ecosystems are destroyed, cities are inundated with water, droughts spread, and new diseases proliferate. Do you really want to bet on Christ returning within the next fifty or a hundred years, knowing what your descendants will face if he doesn’t?
Environmentalism is not about religion or lack of it. Environmentalism is about valuing human life and wanting to ensure the survival of future generations. Somehow, Vision Forum has completely missed that. You see what I meant in my introduction? Vision Forum would prefer to set up and knock down straw men of their opponents’ views rather than actually engaging real arguments and issues.
Note: Since Incongruous Circumspection disagree on anthropomorphic climate change, I wanted to add some links here regarding this topic. I don’t want this post’s comment thread to turn into a debate over climate change because that’s not the point, so if you have questions or concerns, take them to these sources rather than to me.
The EPA’s Climate Change Page
NASA’s Climate Change Page
The United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change Page
On the scientific consensus behind anthropogenic climate change, see here and here