– By Clete Hux
“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:22-23; 25)
It should come as no surprise to the spiritually minded that America has become increasingly pagan over the last few decades. Political correctness, moral relativism, religious pluralism, and dissatisfaction with the Judeo-Christian worldview have helped fan the flames of this religious shift. For some time now, there has been a huge movement of humanity away from the patriarchal God of the Bible towards goddess worship and the worship of creation or Mother Earth. After all, Earth Day has been recognized as a calendar holiday for quite some time.
The basic worldview which has influenced us in this direction is pantheism, the belief that all is God and God is all. It is the teaching that all is divine by nature. This is the worldview of Hinduism. It is also the basis for the New Age Movement and influences the Neo-pagan worldview of Wicca which is based on ancient fertility cults. In ancient Greece, the earth itself was known as the mother of all living things. Gaia, the Greek goddess of the earth, soon became recognized as Mother Earth or Mother Nature.
Ancient religions that worship nature are manifested not only in these specific religious movements like Wicca and the New Age, but have also been profoundly influential in the radical women’s movement and in what could be called the green to extreme ecology movement.[i] In this article I will trace the development of the influence of goddess worship and offer a brief biblical response.
Goddess Worship and the Environment
Many believe it began in 1972 when James Lovelock, a British scientist, came up with his Gaia Hypothesis. He maintains that Gaia is Mother Earth, that she is immortal, the source of all life, and the Mother of us all, including Jesus. This hypothesis views the earth as an actual living organism, continually evolving and growing, and controlling the geological and biological evolution of all things.[ii]
Another such evolutionary pantheist is Rupert Sheldrake who said the modern “Green Movement,” growing all over the world, is committed to the same ideology. In fact, the environmental activists in politics are strongly influenced by such ideas. Sheldrake stated that there are thousands of adherents throughout the US and Western Europe. Accordingly, Gaia has almost become the official ideology of Green parties in Europe and it naturally appeals to undiscerning individuals who worry about the environment.[iii] For example, many of the concepts and ideology of this nature worship made its way into former Vice president Al Gore’s bestselling book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. No doubt many people have read this book gaining not only a concern for the environment but a neo-pagan justification for it. This can lead people to intertwine ecology, health and spirit in their own lives. As one New Ager stated,
The earth is not dead matter. She is alive. Now begin to speak to the earth as you walk. You can speak out loud, or just talk to her in your mind. Send your love into her with your exhalation. Feel your heart touching upon the heart of the planet. Say to her whatever words come to you: Mother Earth, I love you. Mother Earth, I bless you. May you be healed. May all your creatures be happy. Peace to you, Mother Earth. On behalf of the human race, I ask forgiveness for having injured you. Forgive us, Mother Earth.[iv]
Other influential proponents of the Gaia hypothesis have included Maurice Strong, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Stephen Rockefeller. With the help of the United Nations, these leaders did what they could to make sure this hypothesis motivates environmental action. With this end in view, they advocated the implementation of the Earth Charter by every nation. Since its drafting in 1995 by Strong and Gorbachev, the Earth Charter is a document designed to translate the Gaia hypothesis into various principles which underlie international environmental law.[v] For example, there is the goal to have every student study the charter just as they have been required to study the International Declaration of Human Rights. Commenting of the charter, Gorbachev said, “My hope is that this charter will be a kind of Ten Commandments, a ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ that provides a guide for human behavior toward the environment in the next century and beyond.”[vi]
Comparing the Earth Charter to the Ten Commandments is no mere point of rhetoric. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg is evidence of this. Weeks before the start of this summit, the Earth Charter was delivered with rituals and celebrations aimed at setting the tone for the global conference. The Charter is housed and carried in the Ark of Hope, made to mimic the biblical Ark of the Covenant which held the tablets of the Decalogue that God gave to Moses. The Ark of Hope is transported by its devotees with worshipful reverence. Accompanying the Charter and the Ark are the Temenos Books (small books of prayers and affirmations based on the principles of the Charter), and earth masks (masks of animals and other environmental icons), and other written affirmations for global healing and peace drafted by New Age mystics.[vii]
Since 1992, charter committee members have been holding Earth Charter summit meetings to get their global message across. That message is contained in the Preamble of the Earth Charter:
We are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature. . . .[T]owards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.
. . .The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life , and humility regarding the human place in nature.[viii]
Elsewhere in the document, we are told that we should “recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which we all are a part.” It is easy to see the New Age and neo-pagan concepts contained in these statements.
The biblical text quoted at the beginning of this article gives us what God thinks of Earth worship. It is an exchange of truth for a lie, a worship of the creature rather than the creator. In particular, the Earth Charter movement, with its Ark of Hope, represents a disturbing and blasphemous trend in this regard. As one apologist points out, “a re-inventing the Old Testament’s most sacred treasure and presenting it to the world as a pagan icon comes close to the kind of abomination one might expect” in our pluralistic, post-Christian world.[ix]
One of the points Paul makes in Romans 1:22-23;25, is that when mankind decides not to recognize the God of creation, people don’t stop worshipping. Humanity has a built in spiritual appetite due to being made in the image of God. The truth is that people can’t help but worship something. Instead of becoming atheistic, they become polytheistic or pantheistic. So, as Paul explains, they worship creation. So we should not wonder that so many are pushing all the cultures of the world to love Mother Earth.
Of course, worshipping the creature rather than the creator engenders the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). Moreover, it is futile. All pagan religion, including goddess/Earth worship seeks peace and harmony with nature, thinking that this is the solution to all of humanity’s ills. But, it ignores the fact that the problem really lies in the human heart. Trying to save the environment will not save our souls or bring about a utopia. Human beings are inherently wicked (Rom. 3:10-18). Only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit graciously offered in Christ can lead us to the promise land.
Clete Hux Rev. Clete Hux is Director of the Apologetics Resource Center (ARC) and Partners in Asian Missions both are headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. A Teaching Elder in the PCA, he has pastored churches in Alabama and South Carolina. He holds a M.Div. from Birmingham Theological Seminary (BTS) where he teaches Comparative and World Religions, Contemporary Cults and New Religious Movements, Apologetics and Personal Evangelism, Christianity and Competing Worldviews, and other related courses.
[i] James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1998), 208.
[ii] See http;//www.watchman.org/profile/godspro.htm.
[iii] See http://www.icr.org/articles/print/363.
[iv] See http://www.watchman.org/profile/godspro.htm.
[v] See Berit Kjos, “The Earth Charter’s Unholy Ark” online at http://www.crossroadtoarticles2/2002/ark.html.
[vi] See William F. Jasper, “The New World Religion,” The New American 18:19 (September 23, 2002), found online at http://www.thenewamerican.com/tna/2002/09-23-2002/vo18no19_religion.htm.
[ix] See Berit Kjos, The Earth Charter’s Unholy Ark.”