Naturally Speaking: What Does Creation Really Say?
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
NATURE IS SPEAKING is the name of a campaign to remind humanity of its place in nature, which according to Conservation International is the place of an ant relative to a boot. The warnings from this environmental organization with a genuine concern for the earth frame mankind as planetary parasites, voicing authority through movie stars chosen to portray elements of nature. This project reflects a popular secular environmentalist view today, steeped in Naturalistic thinking, so it’s worth examining from a Christian perspective.
In the project, Julia Roberts plays Mother Nature, Harrison Ford speaks for the ocean, Kevin Spacey portrays the rainforest, Edward Norton is dirt, Penélope Cruz is water (if she married Edward, would they be mud?), Robert Redford is the redwoods (see what they did there?), Ian Somerhalder is a coral reef, and Lupita N’Yongo is a flower. The imagery is breathtaking and the voiceovers are thick with anger and sadness at our destructive attitude toward nature, and in some videos return a destructive attitude toward mankind.
NATURE IS UPSET
Julia Roberts, in her Mother Nature video: “I’ve been here for over four and a half billion years, 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t really need people, but people need me. Yes, your future depends on me. When I thrive, you thrive. When I falter, you falter, or worse. But I’ve been here for eons. I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you. My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests; they all can take you or leave you… Your actions will determine your fate, not mine. I am nature, I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?” (Roberts’ scolding tone here has been compared to the White Witch of Narnia’s.)
Harrison Ford’s lament in a perfect, growly, old-man-of-the-sea voice: “I am the ocean. I’m water. I’m most of this planet. I shaped it. …every living thing here needs me. I’m the source. I’m what they crawled out of. Humans are no different. I don’t owe them a thing. I give, they take. But I can always take back, That’s just the way it’s always been. It’s not their planet anyway. Never was, never will be. … Me, I could give a damn with or without humans. I’m the ocean. I covered this entire planet once and I can always cover it again.”
As a result many label this campaign as “anti-human”. Humanity has definitely caused harm to nature. Conservation International bids us to “change course now, because saving nature is the only way to save ourselves.” There is a lot of truth in these videos. Nature can definitely kill us, and we couldn’t live without it. “We need nature,” and it’s absolutely true that we have an obligation to preserve it, care for it, and live with it responsibly.
CREATION IS CONFUSED
Nevertheless the confusion here is where this obligation to the planet comes from, and where it comes from is important. The secular voices behind this project believe there is no greater force than nature and no louder voice than humanity’s to speak for it in order to save nature and ourselves. Forces of nature are anthropomorphized (animals or objects animated with human qualities, like speech and attitudes) because the clear principals of Naturalism and Naturalistic Evolution behind these films leave no room for anyone else speaking.
The Christian worldview offers clarity to the confusion this project expresses on several points. Starting from the ground up, the filmmakers need God in order for their point to be completely coherent. Without a Creator God as described in the Bible, mankind would be, as these videos imply, just another evolved animal species. As such we would have no moral obligations at all—not even the moral obligation to care about other plants and animals species, future generations, or even ourselves. Even if we are simply after self-preservation, Naturalism offers no purpose or value for life of any kind, including ourselves. But we claim purpose, not just instinct. Even the moral “good” of survival, passing on genes to the next generation, and basic altruism can’t be accounted for by Evolution. Why are these “good” without an objective and pre-existing moral standard for good? At the end of the day, survival and caring for the planet are subjective preferences if we imagine the world without God.
And let’s not forget that creation requires a Creator. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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.” (Romans 1:19b,20) From what has been made, we ought to recognize our world is not the result of the undirected processes of nature, a nature that can’t logically make itself. It was God who shaped the earth, not Harrison Ford’s ocean.
The videos point to humanity as the problem and despise it for neglecting nature. Such humility is a good start, but it’s incomplete on a Naturalistic view. God’s word says that humanity is loved but fallen (Genesis 3). God created a “good” creation (Genesis 1:31), and along with mankind, creation has fallen under the same curse of sin, groaning (Romans 8:22) for a day of restoration. The annihilation of the human race fantasized about in this project and as the theme of many of books and movies is misplaced. Our enemy is not nature or man, but the sin that has plagued both. We desire redemption.
NATURE SPEAKS TO GOD
Is nature really speaking through these prophets of Mother Earth? No indeed. If nature says anything, it declares the glory of its Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
GOD SPEAKS TO NATURE
At creation, it was God the voice of God that spoke nature into existence.
And God said, “Let there be light,” … “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” … “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” … “Let the land produce vegetation…” … “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky…” … “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth…” … “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…” … “Let us make mankind…” And it was so.
GOD SPEAKS TO MANKIND
Our stewardship over the planet is a charge from the Creator.
“Then 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.’” (Genesis 1:26)
“You [God] made them [mankind] rulers over the works of Your hands; You put everything under their feet.” (Psalm 8:6)
This certainly doesn’t mean we have the right to abuse His creation, any more than we have the right to crash a car we borrow from someone else. Stewardship involves responsible care of what God has charged us with. That means we should be right-headed about the environment. We will always clash with each other about what “right-headed” means in terms of what may or may not be affecting the forest and the oceans and the ozone, but it’s critical to know first who the owner of all of that is. And He has identified Himself to us.
THE POINT OF NATURE
Nature is for us. Statements like that often have atheists up in arms about Christian hubris, but this is not to say that man is the center of the universe. We are not; God is. Our ultimate authority, the Bible, tells us that nature is for us to see and then point to its Creator, who is known by His marvelous works. God made the earth for mankind to live in, to care for, and to discover Him through. He created the heavens too, so that we may look in that direction for something greater than us, greater than nature, greater than the sin that causes neglect. Through nature we discover a sovereign Lord who set the earth in motion and reassures us that it will endure until His perfect timing brings its restoration (Genesis 8:22; Revelation 21:1-6). Yes, we absolutely should take better care of the earth, because it’s His. Christians can watch these videos and see our correct place in the world, as stewards of God’s amazing creation. And with the sound muted, we can watch these videos and worship not the creation (Romans 1:25), but nature’s Creator Himself.
[Related post: The Logical Failure of Moral Evolution]