Treebeard the Ent

Treebeard the Ent

For much of the beginning of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ents are assumed to be mythological creatures – something the people of middle-earth had heard about in nursery rhymes or tall tales but had never seen or heard.

Ents, as the young hobbits Pippin and Merry discover, were real and acted as the shepherds of the forest – it was their responsibility to care for the health and welfare of their forest homes and of trees in particular.  They were stewards that held dominion over the forests of Tolkien’s universe.

Orcs, on the other hand, despised all living things and treated the trees as resources to be exploited rather than cultivated.  At Saruman’s command, the orcs destroy significant portions of a forest in order to fuel the machinations of their evil master.

Ents are described as tree-like beings that cultivate, shepherd, and steward resources.

Orcs are described as revolting creatures that exploit, butcher, and destroy resources.

Several weeks ago in a Sunday Morning Bible Study class at Cross Church, my friend Chris Martinez taught from Psalm 148 and focused on these verses:

Psalm 148:7-10 (ESV)

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
    creeping things and flying birds!

As good teachers are prone to do, Chris examined the scripture and asked a question that reflected keen insight: how is it that sea creatures, beasts, livestock, creeping things and flying birds are able to praise the Lord? After all, these creatures are unable to sing praise songs, they don’t gather for worship, nor are they able to expound upon God’s words.

The creatures described in Psalm 148 praise God by fulfilling their created purpose. Birds praise God in their flight, in their song, in their care for hatchlings.  In other words, birds praise God by being a bird.

Fish praise God by being fish.  Cows praise God by being a cow, and so on and so forth.

Creatures praise God by doing exactly what they were created to do.

Unfortunately, humans have the ability to violate creatures’ created purpose.

In Genesis 1:28, God gave humanity the responsibility to shepherd creation when he said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

There is a belief that the dominion granted in this verse grants permission to exploit the resources of the earth. This is an all-too-orcish misunderstanding of dominion.

When Christians think of dominion, the first thing that should come to mind is Christ. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus reveals that he has been granted dominion over all of creation, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Russell Moore explains that dominion is christ-like when it is expressed through servanthood, not exploitation, “Biblical dominion is not,… ‘pharaoh-like,’ but instead is Christ-like. Jesus, the One who fully restores human nature in his person, does not come to serve his own appetites but to serve others” (576).

In following Christ examples, we must shepherd creation.  Therefore, we need to cultivate, shepherd, and steward resources well.

This issue is not ent-like in the sense that it is not a fairy tale issue.  There are contemporary examples of the need for Christians to act upon creation care issues.

One contemporary example is found in New Jersey (of all places) in what has been dubbed, “Chris Christie’s Pig Problem“.

This article is also helpful in understanding the problem: Christie Vetoes Pig Crate Bill In Controversial Move.

The article describes what the pigs have been subjected to:

“The crates, which are so small that pregnant pigs can’t turn around in them, have been criticized by animal welfare activists as cruel. Pigs can spend years in them, and advocates say they don’t want their use to spread.

The bill had overwhelming support from Republican and Democratic state lawmakers but would have had little to no impact in New Jersey, whose roughly 300 pig farms don’t regularly use the crates.”

Who cares about pigs?

Creatures praise God by doing exactly what they were created to do.

Humans have the ability to take away creation’s created purpose and thereby deny a creature’s ability to worship.

Every Christian should be concerned with creation care since it is one of the first God-given commands to humanity.

Ents cultivate, shepherd and steward resources.

Orcs exploit, butcher and destroy resources.

Which Tolkien creature do you want to be more like?

You may be asking yourself, what does it matter since creation is doomed (2 Peter 3 style) anyway? I’m glad you asked – the future of creation will be a blog post in the near future.

Quotes originate from this source:

Moore, Russell D. “Heaven and Nature Sing: How Evangelical Theology Can Inform the Task of Environmental Protection (And Vice Versa),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57 (September 2014): 571-588.