Copyright 2019 by Joan Berry
Although the Bible was not meant to be a book on natural science, it contains the wisdom of God and how the ancient Hebrew people obeyed Him in caring for the human and nature’s ecology. Professor of Philosophy Holmes Rolston, III, (1996), at Colorado State University, looked to the Bible to study how the ancient Hebrew people, who were in better and closer contact with the land than modern people, cared for the lands from which they drew their substance either as pastures for livestock, or as field crops. Furthermore, he had an interest in learning how human nature relates to the Bible, and as to how it works and how it should work in regard to human values. Unlike science, Rolston said, humans must have morals to make their ecology perform correctly because they have a conscience and do not live well with other people without the love of God and their neighbors.
Rolston approached human ecology from the human nature aspect rather than the scientific view. He attributed the Hebrews with knowing that in each seed and root, there was the possibility of reaping a crop. He also acknowledged the wisdom of Abraham’s realization that he and Lot needed to save their pastures from destruction from overgrazing. He made the ethically ecological decision that he and his nephew should separate their herds of goats and sheep and find other grazing lands.
An ethical and moral situation that Rolston also addressed was that 80 percent of the world’s produce was eaten by 20 percent of the population which meant that 80 percent of the people were forced to eat the meager 20 percent remaining. This was and is a horrible ratio that became an ethical problem. There was only so much available land on which to grow food and this also created a human ecological problem that ended up being centered on ethics instead of science. It became a matter of morals and loving your neighbor. According to Rolston, Isaiah 5:7-8 is a metaphor of greedy land owners who have acquired adjoining lands until they have gained it all. He posits that no intelligent human ecology can happen until the people learn to use the land justly and charitably.
Rolston further said that the Hebrews adhered to the laws of God because they believed their fertile lands were a gift from God as their creator and whom they must obey to flourish in their land. One of the laws was to have one of their fields lie fallow every seventh year. This allowed the soil to recover its minerals and become fertile again, and remains a practice even today. Rolston regards the Bible as being about longevity and keeping the earth sustainable and is a separation between what exists and what should exist.
Harking back to the days of Adam and Noah, Rolston reminds his readers that God reestablished his covenant with Noah to save animal species for future generations and mankind was to repopulate the earth in its kind and not to be a threat to the animals. Adam and Noah, he said, were appointed trustees over creation and by extension ourselves as stewards of the earth. He pointed out how Job rejoiced over God’s creation of fauna and flora with the psalmist of Psalms 104 proclaiming the same (Job 38, 39, 40 NKJV). The ancients, while not having the scientific knowledge of today, realized the ecology of the earth was special and needed to be respected.
The Bible writers have proclaimed from cover to cover God’s creative work and we are directed to obey Him and to love and live within the natural world because we are intertwined and we are intricately dependent upon nature to exist. It behooves us to respect and care for the ecology of all concerned. Humans must place a high value on the natural world that God provided for us and we must become the good stewards as God commanded. Rolston again reminds us that the story of Noah makes us aware of the various forms of life “and to the biological and theological forces producing them. What is required is not human prudence but principled responsibility to the biospheric Earth to God,” (Rolston, 1996). Rolston concluded that the Bible directs people how to live among each other in love and justice within the natural world that he created just as the Hebrew culture saw themselves living in harmony with nature.
NKJV Study Bible. (2007). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Rolston, H. (1996). The Bible and Ecology. Interpretation, 50(1), 16-26. Retrieved from http://library.gcu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true e&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000908036&site=ehost-live&scope=site