[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by A.P.’s staff scientist. He holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington and Auburn University, respectively, with emphases in Thermal Science and Navigation and Control of Biological Systems.]
I recently went to a zoo with my family. While in the amphibian building, we noticed a dated video that was playing on the television monitors located throughout the facility. The video spotlighted a campaign to “save the amphibians,” many species of which were reported to be going extinct. The goal was to raise 50 million dollars for the conservation effort. Amphibian conservationists all over the United States are running to the rescue for our little slimy, hopping friends, even having formally declared 2008, “Year of the Frog.” Several zoos have “jumped” on board this effort. The Nashville Zoo’s Web site says that
Earth is facing the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. After thriving for over 360 million years, 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s approximately 6,000 known amphibian species could become extinct in our lifetime. In response to this epidemic, scientists and conservationists formed an Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP), including research, assessment and conservation in nature. For species that cannot be saved in nature, the plan is to rescue them before they are gone and protect them in captive facilities until the threats to the wild populations can be controlled. Nashville Zoo and other organizations supporting ACAP are participating in a global public awareness campaign, Year of the Frog. The goal of Year of the Frog is to raise awareness among media, educators, corporations, philanthropists, governments and the general public about the vulnerability of amphibians and the extinction crisis they face as well as generate much-needed funds to implement ACAP (“Year of the...,” 2010, emp. in orig.).
Amphibian Ark Communications says that their fundraising goal is to raise 50 to 60 million dollars to save several amphibian species (2010).
Now to the point: Imagine what could be done for the Lord’s cause if people contributed that money to Him instead of the frogs. How many souls could be reached if the conservationists declared 2008, “Year of the Human Soul” instead? Imagine how many missionaries could be sent out with one million dollars, much less 50 to 60 million. How many kingdom-advancing books and tracts could be published? How many television/radio programs could be aired? Imagine what could be done with the man-hours that are being poured into this effort.
Are the amphibians, as well as all living creatures, important to God? Yes. God feeds the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26) and clothes the grass and flowers of the field (Matthew 6:28-30). However, are animals more important than human beings, or even equal to human beings? No. Jesus said in Matthew 6:26 and 12:12 that human beings are “much more valuable” than them. Humans were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), unlike the animals. This is why humans were given a position of superiority over the created order, to have “dominion” over the animals and “subdue” them (Genesis 1:26,28).
Is it true that God would have us to be good stewards of the blessings that He has given us, including the Earth and its contents? Certainly. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches this principle, and the Old Testament gives specific examples of how God expected the Israelites to be good stewards of the land and wildlife around them. For instance, Deuteronomy 25:4 indicates that oxen were not to be muzzled while stamping out the grain from the chaff (Barnes, 1997), that they might enjoy the fruits of their labor (1 Timothy 5:18). Exodus 23:12 indicates that one of the reasons for the weekly Sabbath day was to give the animals a day of rest. Leviticus 25:1-7 and Exodus 23:10-11 indicate that every seventh year the land was not to be sown or reaped for food, but was to be given a year to recuperate and to provide food for, among others, the animals of the land. So, God expected the Israelites to consider the well-being of the animals, trees, and fields of the land. We are to be good stewards of what God has given us. We should not waste or be destructive with what God has given us. However, note one of the primary rationales for why we should be good stewards of the land. Deuteronomy 20:19 discusses the protocol that the Israelites were to follow in besieging the cities that they would be coming up against in their conquest of Canaan: “When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food” (emp. added). Notice that trees that bore fruit were to be left alone in the making of siege equipment. However, what was the rationale for this? They were to be spared due to their role in sustaining human life. Plants, animals, and the Earth are only important insofar as their value to humanity. They are instrumentally good—not intrinsically good (Warren, 1972, pp. 38ff.).
Many in the animal rights, environmental, and conservation movements simply do not have their priorities straight on what should be the appropriate use of time and money. To pump millions of dollars into saving the animals or the environment rather than souls is to miss the point of our existence. When people sacrifice more of their time and money to try to save the world and the creatures of the world rather than to help the cause of Christ in the world—spreading the Word and serving humanity—then those things have become their idol. Regarding unrighteous men, Paul wrote
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25, emp. added).
The rationale of the extremist elements of the conservation, animal rights, and environmental movements is based on a lack of faith in God as the Protector and Sustainer of life—Who is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3) and in Whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). It is based on faith in the Earth as our savior, serving Mother Nature, instead of Father God. This worldly, faithless rationale says, “We cannot count on God! We need to save the world.” It is based on panic and anxiety, rather than on the peace that we can have through faith in God to care for us (Philippians 4:6-7). It is based on human arrogance, confidently asserting that we have the knowledge to save the world when, even if such were possible, we could hardly have the power to do so. Perhaps God in His infinite knowledge desires that some species cease to exist at certain points in history. Who are we to claim we could know such things?
The extremist rationale is carnally minded. We should not treasure the Earth or its contents by dwelling on them or prioritizing them above other more important matters (Matthew 6:19). We should, rather, “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). The infallible principle of entropy treks onward. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that it will win every battle and implies that it will ultimately win the war, regardless of what we as humans do to fight it. Simply put, the “earth will pass away” (Luke 21:33). So, we should set our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
The Lord told us how this Earth will come to an end. Ironically, it will be a form of global warming. However, it will not be man-made global warming:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:10-14, emp. added).
“Amphibian Ark Communications and Fundraising Plan” (2010), Slideserve, [On-line], URL: http://www.slideserve.com/presentation/4878/Amphibian-Ark-Communications-and-Fundraising-Plan.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Warren, Thomas (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).
“Year of the Frog” (2010), Nashville Zoo at Grassmere: Education, [On-line], URL: http://www.nashvillezoo.org/education_year_of_the_frog.asp.