Observations on life; particularly spiritual

What the Bible says about nature

Hopetoun falls, Queensland AustraliaNature is made up of atoms and molecules that we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. It is essential for living, providing such things as air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and materials to use from farms, mines, forests and factories.

Nature is a part of creation. The definition of some terms used in this article is given in Appendix A.

God created everything

God “made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24-28NIV). “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3). So God is the sole source of all that exists. “Everything God created is good” (1 Tim. 4:4). Jesus is “the author of life” (Acts 3:15), “He made the universe” (Heb. 1:2). “All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31) – Eden was paradise.

“For this is what the LORD says– He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa 45:18). So, creation has value because God made it and owns it.

God designed earth and its physical and biological systems to be robust, resilient, stable and self-correcting. They are not fragile or unstable. According to recorded history, they have endured for thousands of years. Consequently, life thrives on earth.

Creation is separate to the Creator. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).

God owns creation. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).

The awe and beauty of nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 8:1; 19:1; 97:6). Nature reveals God’s glory. “Thank you [God] for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it” (Ps. 139:14NLT). “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20NIV).

The relationship between God, people and nature can be summarized as follows. God is infinite and personal. People are finite and personal. Animals, plants and machines are finite and impersonal. So, humanity has special value, we share personality with God. We were made in God’s image, and people still have some of God’s image (Gen 9:6). Also, God came to earth as a man. So the Bible says that humans are both a part of nature (but not on the basis of biological unity), and apart from nature (like God). Nature is not our Mother, it is our brother and sister (as we are both created things).

Coral reefGod sustains everything.

God not only made it all, He also sustains, maintains, and preserves His creation. The Bible says that Jesus is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). He protects it from harm and provides for the needs of His creatures. And Paul said, “In Him [Christ] all things hold together” (Col. 1:17) and “in Him [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb. 4:13). So the Bible teaches that God sustains natural processes. The creation is dependent on the Creator for its continuing existence.

This includes the forces that hold things together (such as nuclear forces and gravity). Without Him all things would fly apart! God also cares for birds and vegetation. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt. 6:26). “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” (Mt.6:28). “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” (Mt. 6:30).

God’s power and presence in nature is like electricity that flows through a wire. The wire is not the electricity, but it can be the vehicle through which the electricity flows. God is not nature and nature is not God. To think that would be a to think like a pantheist and not a Christian. But in this sense, God is in nature.

Through all the relationships and feedback mechanisms in ecosystems, God’s creation is self-sustaining in many ways. And it’s more complex than we can imagine. Each year scientists discover more about it.

God uses nature.

According to Deffinbaugh (2004),
“God not only controls and sustains nature, He uses nature to accomplish His purposes. He uses it to bless and to curse His people (Dt. 28). God employed nature to judge the Egyptians and to deliver His people from their bondage (see Ex. 4-15). God used the forces of nature (like hailstones and bees) to defeat Israel’s enemies (Josh. 10:9-11; 24:12). In the Great Tribulation period, God will temporarily let nature run randomly, rather than in the order God designed for it. The results will be chaotic and traumatic, bringing God’s judgment on sinful humanity (Isa. 13:9-13; Joel 2:30-32; Amos 8:7-9; Rev. 6:12-17; 8:12).”

The purpose of nature

Although it is impossible for us to understand God’s decisions and His ways (Rom. 11:33-34), the Bible says that:
“For from Him [God] and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Rom. 11:36NIV), or
“everything comes from Him [God] and exists by His power and is intended for His glory (Rom. 11:36NLT). So God is the source (creator), means (sustainer), and goal of nature. Everything in the universe is from God, by God, and for God. God is the center of nature.

God’s purpose in nature is to show His glory forever.

The gospel – good news about Jesus

The gospel is the good news, which addresses the bad news. God created a perfect universe, but because of the fall into sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the universe is now flawed. To fix the situation, God sent Jesus to enable redemption and restoration. Those who accept what Jesus did are promised eternal life in the new heaven and new earth, while those who reject it face eternal punishment.

The big picture of what’s happening in our worldIt’s good to be able to see the big picture of what’s happening in our world. According to the Bible the big picture is:

Creation – In the beginning of time, God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. And it was perfect without sickness, pain or death.

Fall Into Sin – Adam and Eve’s disobedience caused the creation to become cursed. Life now involves struggle and suffering.

Jesus Christ – Jesus came to a sin-filled world as our Savior, to save us from our sins.

New Creation through Jesus – Beginning with His followers and ending with a new heaven and a new earth, which will be perfect, God is in the business of making things new.

Let’s consider the past, present and the future aspects of the gospel message.

The past

The fall into sin led to disease, suffering, injustice, decay and death (Gen. 3; Rom. 8). Genesis 3 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible. Because of human sin God cursed not only people, but also nature. This explains the problem of evil in our world, in both humanity and in nature. It’s the ultimate cause of environmental problems. We live in a fallen world, different to the original condition of “very good”. Nature is abnormal, and it can be destructive. Environmentalists try to stop death in the environment. The fall into sin explains death.

The present

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. God had a rescue plan for mankind that involved sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to restore our relationship with God. The outcome of this plan will not be finalized until the end of time. Christians are already redeemed or healed spiritually, but not yet physically. Today we live in a world whose suffering Paul described this way: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:18-23NIV).

Paul’s “present sufferings” are contrasted to “the glory that will be revealed in us.” Like Paul, we suffer from sicknesses, and these will not be totally healed until our bodies are resurrected, which is the final phase of our salvation – our deliverance from suffering. We look forward to God’s promised deliverance from sin and its effects.

Paul persevered in suffering because he had the hope of the resurrection: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Although the process of physical decay was going on continuously in Paul’s life, his suffering was not the most important thing in his life. Instead he focused on the unseen things like the resurrection body, the splendor of heaven and the triumph of the Lord at the Second Coming. The pattern for Christ was suffering at His first coming, and glory, honor and praise at His second coming. Likewise, the pattern for believers is present suffering and future glory.

The future

Christians are part of a new creation, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Through Jesus, people can be reconciled to God. The biblical visions of the kingdom of God are visions of people in harmony with nature. The Bible teaches that the effects of the curse on nature will end and nature will be restored to its original splendor (it will be a sinless, deathless paradise, reconciled to God). Nature will also enjoy with Christians the effects of redemption. So all of creation is looking for redemption by God; not by people like us (Rom. 8:18-23).

Our bodies and the physical world will be transformed one day (like Jesus after His resurrection). The restoration will be through Jesus; “to reconcile to Himself [God] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). “Heaven must receive Him [Christ] until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). When God judges the ungodly, the earth will be destroyed by fire and replaced by a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pt. 3:7-13). And we “are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

God will then live with mankind as in the Garden of Eden, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:1-8). See more about God’s new creation in Appendix B.

Animal diversityAttitudes towards the physical world

There are three possible attitudes toward the material or physical world: we can idolize it, despise it, or use it to honor God. Let’s look at each view and its consequences.

Idolizing the material world

Ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun and the Nile River as gods. There were also sacred animals such as the cow and the crocodile. Remember Aaron’s golden calf (Ex. 32:4)? There have also been sacred mountains and trees, and some people have even worshiped images and shrines.

Most of us do not idolize such things today, but materialism dominates the thinking of many. For example, many believe that the physical world made itself; so there was no separate Creator. Also, many consider possessions and pleasure to be their goals in life.

What does the Bible say about this? According to Paul, people who worship idols have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” It also says that “although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:25,22 NIV). This means that rejecting the Creator-God is a lie, and living for possessions and pleasure is a lie. Such people are “worshiping” creation instead of the Creator, and adoring what is made instead of the Maker. They are foolish, living for something they cannot keep (Mt. 6:19).

We should not “run after” material things nor live for money and possessions; instead we should be content with what we have (Mt. 6:31-32; 1 Tim. 6:8, 17; Heb. 13:5). God knows our needs. As our time on earth is short, we should not be taken up with the things in our lives (1 Cor. 7:31).

What is the consequence of this way of life? Living for possessions makes it difficult to follow Christ (Mt. 19:23-24). Such people use excuses to reject the gospel (Lk. 14:16-19). It also crowds out the Christian’s chance of maturing (Lk. 8:14). Unfortunately this is evident around the world today. As in life we harvest what we plant, these behaviors are often a result of being devoted to the material world (2 Cor. 9:6).

Warnings about our attitude toward money can also be applied to the material world: “The love of money [or the material world] is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). So idolizing the material world is a great source of evil. Christians should always remember that Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money [or material things]” (Mt. 6:24).

Despising the material world

The opposite view, that of despising the material world and looking down upon it, can be traced back to Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived about 400 B.C. He valued the soul and mind much more than the body and nature. Then in the first few centuries A.D. the Gnostics thought that all matter was evil. They only valued the unseen spirit and believed that the body was worthless. They minimized contact with the physical world.

Christianity in the Middle Ages also concentrated on the heavenly realm, so nature was absent from their art. This view of the world has crept into some forms of Christianity today, where the only interest is in heavenly things, in saving the soul and getting to heaven. Little emphasis is placed on the proper pleasures of the body or the proper use of the intellect. Bodily senses and pleasures are despised and regarded as being evil.

What does the Bible say about this? Colossians 2:20-23 describes such people as living under many rules and regulations. They have long lists of don’ts: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (v. 21). These are merely the wisdom of sinful people (v. 22), not God’s intention for us today, as the New Testament gives us general principles, not detailed rules. Remember, the Jews had the best set of rules in the world, but they couldn’t follow them! These rules may seem good. They may appear to make you love God more and to be very humble and to have control over your body. But they don’t really have any power over our desires (v. 23). They only result in pride.

The consequence of this way of life is a list of useless rules. We are driven internally, not externally. It is the attitude of the mind that is evil, not the material world (Mt. 15:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:10). Remember, everything that God created is good (1 Tim. 4:4). “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood [the material world], but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). So the material world is neither evil nor against us; it is with us, sharing both our suffering and our longing to be released from the influence of sin (Rom. 8:18-23). And don’t confuse the material world with the sinful world (Appendix C).

Using the material world to honor God

If the material world is not an idol to be devoted to nor an evil to be despised, then how should we view our material world? As created by God, it was very good; and although now spoiled by sin, it still belongs to Him. So it shows God’s unique power (Rom. 1:20). Also, it is sustained by God: “In Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

Adam was to work the material world, take care of it and receive food from it (Gen. 2:15-16). As a consequence of the fall into sin, this work is difficult and many struggle to survive (Gen. 3:17-19). The thought of needing to work for our food is repeated in the New Testament (2 Th. 3:10). Paul thanked God for food before he ate; likewise we should be thankful for the physical resources that God provides for us (Acts 27:35).

People still have some of God’s image, which gives them extra value (Gen. 9:6). God loves all people (Jn. 3:16), body, soul and spirit. In fact, God loves people more than anything else in the material world, and to demonstrate this Jesus healed their diseases (Mt. 4:23) and died for their sins.

Jesus had a body and lived in the material world (Heb. 2:14). Our bodies and the physical world will be transformed one day, like Jesus was after His resurrection (Rom. 8:18-23; Phil. 3:21). The believer’s body is like a temple where the Spirit lives – “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you … Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So we should use our bodies to honor God (1 Cor. 6:20). Our bodies and senses should be used and appreciated for God. The same principle can apply to the physical world of which our bodies are a part. We should honor God as we interact with and appreciate the physical world.

We are urged to give our bodies to God (Rom. 12:1), and are told, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God … and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). So the body and the physical world can be viewed as an instrument (or tool) which can be used for good or bad purposes.

This means we should honor God in our way of living in the material world. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we need to work out what this means in the various areas of our lives such as: work, housing, transport, care of our bodies, recreation, sport, how we use our money and possessions, nature and the environment, art, music, literature, movies, TV and social media. What are our dreams and goals?

Plant diversityDoctrine of Stewardship

God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen 1:28). “Subdue” (“kabask” in Hebrew) means to conquer. “Rule” (“radah” in Hebrew) is generally used to describe the righteous and loving rule of a good and kind king. For example, King Solomon “ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree” (1 Ki. 4:24-25).

God told Adam how this rule is to be carried out. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (“abad” in Hebrew) it and take care (“shama” in Hebrew) of it” (Gen. 2:15). Elsewhere “abad” is translated to “serve” (e.g. “we will serve the Lord”, Josh. 24:15) and “sharma” is translated to “keep”, “watch” or “preserve” (e.g. “The Lord bless you and keep you”, Num. 6:24). God keeps His people in such a way to demonstrate His great love and care. All this was given before the fall of man, so there is no suggestion of evil or exploitation of nature here. So, Adam managed the garden of Eden. Before the fall there was perfect harmony between humanity and the environment.

As God owns the world, Christians can be seen as His stewards (or managers, a delegated authority). A “steward” is a manager of a household (e.g. Lk. 16:1-9). Peter also used it as a metaphor for believers, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pt. 4:10).

Stewardship means caring for creation as God would. And we are accountable to God. For example, in the Old Testament there was a Sabbath rest for animals and a Sabbath year rest for agricultural land (Ex. 20:10; 23:10-11).

Managing God’s creation

Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation after everything else was created. They were different to the other animals because “God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Gen. 1:26). According to the NET Bible, “In the Book of Genesis the two terms [“image” and “likeness”] describe human beings who in some way reflect the form and the function of the Creator. The form is more likely stressing the spiritual rather than the physical. The “image of God” would be the God-given mental and spiritual capacities that enable people to relate to God and to serve Him by ruling over the created order as His earthly vice-regents.” Since people are made in God’s image, they are all worthy of honor and respect. Like God, they were to rule over the rest of creation. They were delegated by God to manage His creation. For example, Adam took care of the garden and named the animals (Gen. 2:15, 20).

Adam was put in the Garden of Eden, “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). According to the NET Bible, “Note that man’s task is to care for and maintain the trees of the orchard. Not until after the fall, when he is condemned to cultivate the soil, does this task change”. They were to care for God’s creatures and use them in the service of God and humanity. They were to care for them and not exploit, waste or spoil them.

After the fall, people worked hard to cultivate the land (Gen. 3:17-19, 23). In the next generation, Cain grew crops and Abel kept animals.

David described the role of people poetically. Addressing God, he said: “You [God] made them [people] rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (Ps. 8:6-8).

And the psalms also say, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16).

As God’s representatives on earth, people were given dominion over the rest of creation. They are to manage God’s creation. That’s what it was like for Adam and Eve. But Hebrews says, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them [people]” (Heb. 2:8). Since the fall into sin, people’s rule over nature is limited and they struggle with the impact of sin and death. But through Jesus this dominion will be restored. When Christ comes to rule on the earth, He will restore God’s design for mankind and all creation.

Scripture encourages the ethical treatment of land and animals. Throughout the Old Testament law, rules were given regarding the proper treatment of livestock and of land. We need to remember that creation was designed and created by God; it belongs to God, and is valued by God. And we have obligations to Him as our creator.

How Christ used the material world

It is instructive to be reminded of how Jesus Christ used the physical world in what He said and did, teaching spiritual principles and helping others. Parables, metaphors, similes, and illustrations from the material world were used liberally in His teaching of the disciples and the people. In this way, people had a visual impression of the truth being taught and they would have been reminded of it whenever they came across the object or situation in everyday life.

Christ healed diseases, calmed the storm and fed the hungry – for the benefit of people. He taught that God knows all about our circumstances and will provide our material needs (Mt. 6:33; 10:30). Likewise, we should remember to use the material world and life’s circumstances to teach spiritual principles. Helping to meet others’ physical needs is part of being Christ’s ambassadors on earth (2 Cor. 5:20).

Cobbold gorge, Queensland AustraliaOur responsibility

Christians are part of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). We share the gospel message (the good news about Jesus) with many people, even though we know that probably only a few will respond. Likewise, we ought to be willing to care for creation, even though we know we can’t bring full restoration. It’s therefore right to care for the natural environment, provided it does not conflict with another Scripture principle. Too often we waste and misuse God’s possessions, like the manager in Luke 16:1 wasted his master’s possessions.

Paul said that believers should be “eager to do what is good” and “be ready to do whatever is good” (Tit. 2:14; 3:1). Caring for God’s creation can be an example of doing good. It can include anything that benefits others in society.

All believers are expected to treat God’s creation with respect. However, we can do this in a range of ways. I think that how each person implements this principle is a debatable matter that we shouldn’t quarrel about (Rom. 14:1-15:12; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-11:1). For example, one person may feel strongly about eating vegetarian, recycling, or reducing carbon impact. Another believer may also care about creation, but not adopt these practices.

The questions to ask regarding matters of secondary importance are.
Will it honor or dishonor God?
Are we acting in love?
Are we accepting one another regardless of their views on such matters?
Will it help or hinder the harmony of believers?
Are we judging believers on such matters?
Will it hinder the spiritual progress of a weaker believer?
Will it promote order or disorder in the local church?
Let’s apply these New Testament principles to the debatable maters in our daily lives.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). When God replays the video entitled “This is your life,” our lives will be shown for what they are (1 Cor. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10). Will we be assets or liabilities for Him? Will there be much evidence that we honored Him in our material world? Will His life be obvious in ours? (2 Cor. 4:11).

Dual citizenship

Although the Bible says believers are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we presently live on planet Earth. Our time here is relatively brief and our planet has a finite future (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12). Considering our destiny, we can be pictured as strangers visiting Earth (1 Pet. 2:11).

The physical world is not an idol to be devoted to; this is a lie that results in evil behavior. Also, it is not an evil to be despised; this attitude results in a list of useless rules. The Bible shows us that the material world should be valued and used to honor God.

Conclusion

Nature is our life support system. God created nature and continues to sustain it. This explains the goodness of nature.

But nature has a greater purpose than this! God is the center of nature because its purpose is to show God’s glory forever!

Because of humanity’s rebellion against God, nature is now abnormal and can be destructive. But like those who are part of God’s new creation, in the future nature will be restored to its original condition.

Nature is not to be idolized – it is not divine, which is pantheism. And nature should not be despised because it is part of God’s good creation.

People should honor God in how they live in the material world and how they view and use nature. As God’s representatives on earth, they should care for nature like stewards or managers. This means treating nature with respect and not exploiting or destroying it. And being thankful for the physical resources that God provides for us.

Let’s care for nature and honor and serve the God behind it.

Appendix A: Terminology

In this article, “nature”, the “physical world” and the “material world” are synonymous.

“Creation” includes “nature” and the invisible unseen world of angels and demons. So nature is the visible part of God’s creation.

Appendix B: God’s new creation

Let’s go to the end of history. While creation is important for our well-being, we are also taught it is temporary. At the end of the Bible, God promises a new creation (Rev. 21:1 – 22:5). He calls it a new heaven and a new earth, which is a new universe. It’s not a remodelling of the old creation like what happened during the flood. Instead, it’s like God’s original creation in the garden of Eden. It says:
– God will dwell with His people (Rev. 21:3).
– “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old [sinful] order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
– God said, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5). It will be a radical change.
– Because there is no sin, “No longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 22:3).
And no one in heaven will be banned from God’s presence.

Christians have a wonderful future. They’ll live in a new city, called the New Jerusalem. And they will continuously experience the presence of God. It’s different to Eden because there will be more people – it’s a city to house the redeemed. There will be no problems like today. There will be no conflict, or hostility, or suffering, or decay or death (Rev. 21:4). And no environmental problems. And no social problems. And no personal problems. In fact, there will be no problems anywhere in heaven.

This new creation is made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection. “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Jesus], and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile to Himself [God] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His [Jesus’] blood, shed on the cross [His death]” (Col. 1:19-20). To reconcile means to bring back to a former state of harmony. The relationship between God and people will be restored.

Meanwhile, Paul said that creation is still under the curse of Genesis 3. But the curse will be removed in the new creation (Rom. 8:18-23).

This world is handicapped by the curse of God. That’s why there are thorns and weeds. Maybe creation is also groaning because people worship it instead of seeing evidence of God’s power and glory (Rom. 1:20). One day God will lift the curse. That is one of the effects of the death of Jesus upon the cross. In that day believers will have new bodies and will no longer need dentures or glasses or doctors or medications. In that day there will be no crop failure. Meanwhile both believers and the creation look forward to this new creation (2 Pt. 3:13).

The Bible says that God is going to renew and restore His creation. It also says that believers are already part of this new creation. They are commanded to love one another. This includes not exploiting and degrading creation so that the next generation can experience it like we can.

Are you a part of God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)? Jesus is the only way to acceptance with God (Acts 4:12).

Appendix C: The material world is not the sinful world

Sometimes the Bible uses the words “earthly” and “world” to describe the sinful nature. For example, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2,5). “Do not love the world or anything in the world” is explained as referring to sinful craving, lust and boasting (1 Jn. 2:15-16). Also, “earthly” wisdom is described as “unspiritual, demonic” (Jas. 3:15) and “jealousy and quarrelling” as “worldly” (1 Cor. 3:3).

This is an example of metonymy – the rhetorical technique of using one thing to represent another thing to which it is related in some way, such as “crown” instead of “king.” It is a figure of speech, like a metaphor, where words do not take their literal meaning. Here the words are linked because sin entered the world via Adam and Eve who were created from the physical world (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:47). So when “earthly” and “world” are used in this manner they mean “sinful,” not “material.” They are contrasted with “heavenly” which is used metonymically to mean “divine,” as Christ came from heaven to bring divine life (Phil. 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Confusion regarding this distinction can lead to falsely despising the material world and considering it evil.

Reference

Deffinbaugh B, 2004, Nature’s Part in God’s Perfect Plan (Psalm 19; Romans 8:18-25; Isaiah 65:17-25)

Written, August 2022

Also see: Living in a material world
Environmentalism: Idolatry or Stewardship?
What about Climate Change?
Nature psalms

4 responses

  1. funny how the bible shows just how ignorant the humans who wrote it were. Alas, for the bible, stars aren’t little lights in a dome that can fall on the earth, the moon doesn’t give off light, and hailstones aren’t stored in magical warehouses.

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    August 12, 2022 at 10:16 am

    • Thanks for the comment clubschadenfreude.

      The creation of the stars is described in the Bible from the viewpoint of a person standing on the earth – Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one [sun] to govern the day, and the smaller one [moon] to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth (Gen. 1:14-17NLT). We use this terminology when we say “the stars in the sky”. The word “firmament” used in the KJV means the expanse, the atmosphere or space of the heavens. So the stars are in the sky, not in a dome.

      Four verses in the Bible mention stars falling (Isa. 34:4; Mt 24:29; Mk. 13:25; Rev. 6:13). According to Faulkner (2018), “Clearly these prophetic passages are apocalyptic, and their interpretation should be considered in terms of other similar passages. Collation of the relevant biblical passages, along with careful study of the Hebrew and Greek words used in these passages, indicate that in most cases they likely don’t refer to a literal fall of literal stars (as understood in the modern sense) to the earth. Rather, I consider it most likely that the stars are prophesied to dim, along with the sun and moon. This dimming will be perplexing, or else what kind of sign would that be?”.

      You say, “the moon doesn’t give off light”. There are several places in the Bible where the moon is described as a “light,” even though, as we know, the moon does not produce any light of its own. But if the moon didn’t “give off light”, we wouldn’t be able to see it! Since the Bible was written, we have discovered that the light which illuminates the moon comes from the sun either directly or indirectly (via planets).

      The Hebrew word otsar (Strongs #214) is used in the Old Testament to describe storehouses of God for rain, snow, hail, wind, sea (Dt. 28:12; Job 38:22 twice; Jer. 10:13; 51:16; Ps 135:7; 33:7). These natural processes are said to be caused by God. The storehouse (or source) of these phenomena is said to be the atmosphere – “The Lord will open the heavens [atmosphere], the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land” (Dt. 28:12).

      I assume your comment about hailstones relates to Bible verses such as, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (Job 38:22-23NIV). In this passage God is asking Job whether he could explain the phenomena of snow and hail. Of course the answer was no! Such atmospheric processes have only been discovered in recent times. In the language of the day the hail is said to be reserved in storehouses, like the weapons of war, to be summoned when required by God. In this context otsar refers to God’s “ammunition dump” where He stockpiles hail. So God inspired the author to use the word “storehouses” (which they understood) to describe a process they didn’t understand (the formation of hail). And they were told that it refers to the atmosphere (Dt.28:12), not to “magical warehouses”.

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      August 12, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      • I’ve read the bible, and am familiar with the Greek and Hebrew. You’ve made quite quite a pile of lies here.

        The bible literally says that the stars are small lights set into a solid dome, and that these stars can come loose and fall on the earth. You’ve already failed but let’s go on.

        Yep, ignorant authors claim that stars fall and they don’t ever fall. Now, you try to lie and claim that these places must not be meaning it ‘literally”, but gee, you claim other parts are indeed literal, so yet one more excuse fails. Those verses do literally mean stars, the little ones in the dome. I know this thanks to an actual careful study of the languages, and knowing the culture of the ignorant thousands of years ago. Stars don’t randomly dim either. We know how they work.

        As for prophecies, since not one has ever come true, you have a while to wait.

        Yep, the people who wrote the bible were ignorance and yep, thought the moon made its own light. It does not, and your bible is wrong again, reflecting human ignorance and no god to be found.
        The heavens are not the atmosphere, that is something you’ve added which isn’t true for the culture. And yep, hailstones are claimed to be stored, not things that are made by the weather that causes storms right there and then. No god needed at all.

        You are right, the people who wrote the bible were ignorant. No god inspired them at all, only their ignorance. It’s always enjoyable when a Christian has to pretend his god isn’t able to make people understand but for some reason must use the same ignorant nonsense as humans do.

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        August 13, 2022 at 10:21 am

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