Summary: Lewis shows us a profound view of the divinely ordained human stewardship of nature. Are we courageous and responsible enough to accept our role?
Prince Caspian: Our special connection to nature
In the last decade over 1000 species of animal were discovered in the Mekong jungles and wetlands of Asia. That averages to a species a week. Among them were never before named types of:
• Snakes • Fish
and the list goes on. There are also new discoveries of reptiles in the Rain Forests of Tanzania, ironically, discovered as the forests were being leveled.
The Bible says volumes about animals as livestock, as symbols of God’s kingdom, as wild beasts, and as examples of human behavior. We have a basic, prescribed relationship to nature, set out in the original covenant between God and Adam:
In the book Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis goes to great lengths to show the dependence of Narnia on the responsible leadership of humans. Deterioration is shown by the disappearance of talking animals and the silencing of the trees. The coming of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy is the beginning of setting things right.
Lewis and his circle of friends were very much aware of nature, so much so that they are thought to have been out of touch with their times. They were accomplished naturalists and against industrialization. They saw in nature a reflection of the human condition.
There are a number of implications at work in the Genesis passage:
• The man was put in the garden, not just to eat from it, but to tend it. Work is not part of the curse, but painful toil in work is. Work was always a part of being human, even before we were fallen
• Adam was the first gardener, the easy name we have for the practical botanist or horticulturist
• Humans were originally vegetarians
• There have always been restrictions on what we could do with nature. The first one was the prohibition against the conscience tree.
• Work was made better by the introduction of a helper
• The animals were originally without names, till Adam named them, thus he was the first linguist
• He was also the first biological taxonomist
This last point is important because taxonomy is the science of naming and organizing the names of various species of living things.
In this short passage, Adam is introduced to us as a working scientist. All through the Bible we see God’s references to the human relationship to nature. For example, God is clearly presented in the Bible as caring about the well being of animals:
• Noah was told to save animals as he turned humans away from the ark
• Part of Solomon’s wisdom was his understanding of plants and animals (1 Kings 4.33), and he admitted that he didn’t know what happened to the spirits of animals
• Jonah was reprimanded for not recognizing God’s care for Nineveh’s people and her animals
• Jesus said that the way God cares for the flowers and birds is a signal of how much He cares for people
• Many references to the eternal, peaceful kingdom are references to animals with instinctive animosity toward each other. We have no reason to think that this is simply symbolic, the picture is just as likely representative of prophetic fact
God’s choice of animal sacrifice to represent human atonement does not devalue the animal but enhances its significance. God’s mercy is not just toward humans but toward animals too:
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
(Psalms 36:6 TNIV)
Solomon takes it a step further and says that a righteous person’s behavior is reflected in his treatment of animals:
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
(Proverbs 12:10 TNIV)
In other words, a righteous man can be spotted by the way he cares for his animals. It takes, perhaps, a bit more insight to think of plants.
It was, in ancient times, and still is today in water deprived regions, a curse to have someone come and cut down the trees.
When Dawn and I were in Kenya, it was an interesting thing. For about 2 hours every day, the local deep well near an oasis would be pumped into cisterns all around the area. It was often difficult to get the local people to allow the cisterns to fill before they turned on hoses to water the trees. There was enough water to do both, but in their minds the trees had priority over their own drinking needs.
In our world, we sometimes blind ourselves to the limited nature of our environment. We waste resources, pollute freely, neglect and thoughtlessly abuse nature. This is against the command given to Adam, and by extension to us, by God.