“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19, ESV)
Around 25 years ago, I served in an interim pastorate in a small church in Savannah, Georgia. I was also working full time as a manufacturing manager in a printing plant located in a papermill complex. One Sunday, we had a guest visit the congregation who seemed happy with everything. However, when she heard that I worked at a papermill, she became upset and left the church. As I understand it, she believed the papermill was destroying the environment by cutting down trees to make paper.
I had hoped to speak with her about this, since one of the things that I had to do in my position was to develop an environmental impact statement for the printing plant. The majority of pulp used in the paper making process came from pine trees that the corporation farmed and recycled paper. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to discuss any of this with her.
Now, I am not bashing people who care about the environment. Moreover, I do understand that many companies throughout history have exploited the environment, causing damage. I also realize that we should take steps where possible to restore areas that have been damaged. In my lifetime I have seen the Delaware River cleaned up so that many of the fish species returned that were once virtually gone.
However, we need to understand something about the environment, the creation. Paul indicated that the creation was subjected to “futility” by one who subjected it (v20). Due to the fall of man, God extended a curse upon all because of Adam’s sin (Gen 3:17-19) Thus, regarding the creation and its decay, we need to understand two key things. First, even apart from man’s exploitation, the Scripture tells us that the entire creation is subject to corruption. Prior to the fall, there was nothing in the creation that would hurt man. Decay, death, disease, environmental catastrophe, pollution and the sin of man that adds to the destruction and decay of the creation all came about after the fall.
Second, there is a time coming when God will end the curse and recreate the heavens and the earth (v21; Isa 65:17; 2 Pet 3:13). No man or environmental movement can reverse the curse. It is not that these efforts are bad, but they can only have minimal influence to restrict the adverse effects of man’s sin on the creation. Only God can and will return the heavens and the earth to a pristine utopia that will be free from corruption.