Does God Love Forests More Than Cities?

The God who designed the first garden is also an urban planner. Shouldn't Earth Day celebrate cities, too?

BY: Richard Mouw


The very first Earth Day was held in April 1970. I was teaching at a Christian liberal arts college at the time, and we celebrated the event with a worship service. We read Bible passages that emphasized God's love for creation, and we sang suitable hymns such as "This is My Father's World" and "For the Beauty of the Earth."

To accompany our singing, the student planners had arranged a slide show (no PowerPoint in those days!) of pictures of natural beauty contrasted with pictures of degradation. As we walked out at the end of the service, one of my colleagues observed that all the "nice" scenes were of rural settings, while all the ugly ones were from urban life.

The motives of those who chose the photos were, of course, noble. They wanted to make us aware of the horrible things we humans were doing to God's creation while pointing to signs of God's original purposes for the world. But the visuals were nonetheless misleading, subtly advocating a back-to-nature approach to life—not surprising at a time when many college students still romanticized the "simple life" of the rural hippie commune.

From a biblical perspective, there are real problems with the back-to-nature scenario. As many commentators have pointed out, the Bible begins with God creating a beautiful garden. But at the end of the Bible, we are told that a splendid City—golden streets and all—will descend from the heavens.

The God who designs gardens is also an urban planner. And while the Creator does want us to care deeply about fields and forests and ice caps and woodpeckers, he also urges us to promote signs of beauty and well-being in humanity's crowded places.

Continued on page 2: It's easy to see God in nature. It's harder to see him in the slums. »

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